This piece is the second part of a special feature on Phillies Nation examining the 10 most painful Phillies losses of the recently-concluded decade. You can read part one here.
No. 5 – Aug. 23, 2019, at. Marlins
Final Score: Marlins 19, Phillies 11
This loss was just as ugly as those monochrome player’s weekend uniforms.
The Phillies took a 7-0 lead into the middle of the third. Their lead evaporated by the end of third and by end of the game, the Phillies found themselves losing once again to the National League East’s last-place team by a touchdown and a two-point conversion in front of a whopping 9,065 fans.
The Marlins lineup combined for four home runs on a night in which fan-favorite Sean Rodriguez was the team’s best arm out of the bullpen. Not even Tom McCarthy could hide his disgust for what he saw play out on the field that night.
All the talk coming into this game was that the Phillies had to at least take two-of-three from Miami to keep pace in the Wild Card race. Considering the team came into the series with a 6-7 record against the Marlins and were swept by the Fish at Marlins Park in June, the task wasn’t going to be as simple as it should have been.
The Phillies were only two and a half games back of the last Wild Card spot following the devastating loss, but after watching this trainwreck of performance, it seemed increasingly clear that this team had no chance of playing baseball come October.
No. 4 – Oct. 20, 2010, NLCS Game 4 at Giants
Final Score: Giants 6, Phillies 5
It’s time to break into the liquor cabinet, if you haven’t already. We are now getting into the worst postseason losses of the decade. There were seven of those in total. All seven losses were by three runs or less with five of those coming by a slim one-run margin. They were all painful per se, but for the sake of brevity, we chose four heart-shattering games.
With the Phillies down two games to one, they had to steal a game in San Francisco. Getting a victory would have put the Phillies in good shape to take a series lead back to Philadelphia with Roy Halladay scheduled to pitch in Game 5. Joe Blanton faced future October legend Madison Bumgarner, who was merely a rookie making his second-ever start in the postseason.
Charlie Manuel’s decision not to start Halladay on three days rest backfired when Blanton gave up the game’s first run on a Buster Posey two-strike single. Posey, who currently has a career .351 batting average against the Phillies, came through again in the third with a double that went over Ben Francisco’s head in left field.
The offense finally got going with an RBI single by Shane Victorino. Victorino could have gotten two ribbies if it wasn’t for former Phillies cult-hero Aaron Rowand’s outfield assist that gunned down Carlos Ruiz at the plate. That didn’t stop the Phillies from continuing the rally with two outs.
Two batters later, Placido Polanco split the gap in left-center, scoring Victorino from second base and Utley from first base. Polanco would then score on a wild pitch from Santiago Castilla, putting the visitors up 4-2 in the middle of the fifth. A huge victory awaited if Blanton and the bullpen could hold the lead.
That didn’t happen.
11-year veteran and postseason rookie Aubrey Huff drove in his second RBI of the season to make it 4-3 in the fifth. An inning later, Pablo Sandoval, who came into this game with only one postseason hit, ripped an RBI double that scored the other former Phillie-turned-Giant – Pat Burrell – and Game 1 hero Cody Ross.
A Jayson Werth double in the eighth tied the game at five apiece. Manuel got creative and sent Roy Oswalt – who threw 111 pitches three days prior in a Game 2 victory in Philadelphia – to pitch the bottom of the ninth. What transpired was an inning that’s still a painfully frustrating memory for Phillies fans everywhere.
Back-to-back singles from Huff and Posey gave the Giants first and third with one out to put the Giants in position to take a 3-1 series lead. Juan Uribe, who made an unbelievable stop at short in the bottom half of the ninth, drove a ball deep enough to left field to score Huff from third for a walk-off sacrifice fly.
Uribe’s name will come up again.
No. 3 – Oct. 2, 2011, NLDS Game 2 vs. Cardinals
Final Score: Cardinals 5, Phillies 4
Perhaps the decade of Phillies baseball would be perceived much differently if the Cardinals didn’t put up a three-spot in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the 2011 NLDS. Things would also be different if the Phillies offense didn’t disappear after teeing up on Chris Carpenter to begin the game.
Lee came into this game with a 2.13 ERA in 10 career postseason starts. Roy Halladay was solid after a shaky first inning in Game 1, but for the most part, the offense carried the team to victory. The Phillies could have used the version of Lee that dazzled Rockies hitters in the 2009 NLDS.
Instead, Lee looked like the version of himself who lost his last two postseason starts as a member of the Texas Rangers. Despite giving up three runs in the fourth, Lee pitched into the seventh inning. The real dagger-in-the-heart came when two-hole hitter Allen Craig led off the seventh with a triple off Shane Victorino’s glove. Albert Pujols drove him in on a line-drive single to right.
After a convincing Game 1 victory, the Phillies saw their home-field advantage in the series vanish. It was reasonable to question whether it was the right decision to let the Redbirds, who finished September with an 18-8 record and were the hottest team in baseball, into the postseason. If the Phillies had a do-over, they sure would have let their guard down against the division-rival Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on the last day of the season.
No. 2 – Oct. 23, 2010, NLCS Game 6 vs. Giants
Final Score: Giants 3, Phillies 2
As someone whose birthday was the day before, I can say with confidence that this was the worst day after my birthday in my life.
In typical Phillies postseason fashion, all was well until it wasn’t. The Bank was rocking for an elimination game, as you would expect. Both the offense and the crowd took advantage of Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez’s inability to stay in the strike zone in the first. Polanco scored on an Utley double to right field after walking on four pitches. The crowd was screaming, “Sanchez, Sanchez!” in between pitches.
The Fightin’ Phils would add another in the inning on a Jayson Werth sacrifice fly. Once again, a reliever was getting loose for the Giants in the first inning. Maybe the Phillies struggles on offense were finally behind them.
Unfortunately, two runs was all the Phillies could muster in this critical game. Position players failed the team both in the field and at the plate. Victorino almost made a Rowand-esque basket catch in center field in the third inning but dropped it. He made up for it two batters later with an outfield assist to prevent the second run from scoring on a single from Huff. A Polanco throwing error tied the game.
But ultimately, the narrative of the series prevailed in its final game: the underdog Giants unsung heroes came up big when it mattered. Juan Uribe was the man in Game 4, and he came up with the hit of the series in the eighth inning of Game 6. Against Madson, who had yet to give up a run in the 2010 postseason, Uribe caught a first-pitch cutter and drove it into the first row in right field, ending the Phillies season.
Howard had a chance to tie it at the end with a man in scoring pitching, but he got the short-end of a borderline strike three call. Closer Brian Wilson and Posey embraced in front of a stunned crowd who wanted to see their team force a Game 7.
The year before, the fireworks blasted as the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” played after the final out against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. This time around, the National League’s other California team celebrated their upset victory. At least the fans got to see the benches clear after Utley threw a pitch that hit him right back to the mound.
We all thought it would end with a celebratory Ken Rosenthal interview with Doc. Instead, FOX opted to put Huff on a pedestal as the scrappy veteran who finally made the postseason after almost 1,500 career regular-season games without October baseball.
No. 1 – October 7, 2011, NLDS Game 5 vs. Cardinals
Final Score: Cardinals 1, Phillies 0
Arguably the most painful loss in Phillies history, this was more than just a massive upset. This defeat signified the end of the heyday of Phillies baseball.
As previously mentioned, The Big Piece was the last man up for the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS. It all came down to Howard again in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS. It was hard to watch him stare at a called strike three to end the 2010 season. It was even worse to see him writhing in pain on the first base line.
Without mentioning Howard’s injury, there’s no doubt that this loss to the Cardinals was more painful than the previous year’s NLCS defeat. The Phillies came back with the best rotation on paper in recent history and roster built to bulldoze their way to the team’s third World Series title. Sports talk radio hosts were talking about how boring it was to watch a team that won every day in September.
The championship window closed when Howard’s achilles tore.
Howard and the core were never the same, and just two years later, the team managed to win only 73 games. 2011 was the perfect opportunity to dominate the postseason and usher out the most exciting era of Phillies baseball with a title.
Carpenter deserves a lot of credit for the gem he threw. The 2009 Comeback Player of the Year went all nine innings, allowing only three hits and striking out only three Philadelphia hitters. He overshadowed Halladay, who only gave up a first-inning run through eight innings of work. It’s also painful to think about how Doc didn’t win a damn thing that year.
Just to put into perspective how monumental this upset was, NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury observed Victorino ripping up his World Series ticket stubs at his locker in the clubhouse. The 102-win 2011 Phillies were supposed to steamroll the Wild Card team that just barely made it into the playoffs. Instead, we’re all left with some heartache that we’ll never be able to shake off.
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