There has long been a narrative that the Philadelphia Phillies made a mistake sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the final series of the 2011 season.
On one hand, they knocked out a division rival and set a new franchise record with 102 regular season wins. On the other hand, they opened the door for the St. Louis Cardinals to make the playoffs, and eventual upset them in the NLDS en route to winning the World Series.
A fan on Twitter recently suggested that Charlie Manuel made such a big mistake in keeping the team’s foot on the pedal in the final series that it may have cost arguably the most talented team in franchise history a chance to win a World Series. Manuel responded, and got into a debate with another Twitter user:
With the benefit of hindsight, the Phillies probably would have preferred to face the Braves in the NLDS, as opposed to Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. Perhaps they could have laid down for a game or two at the end of the season, but then if then you risk coming out sluggish in a best-of-5 series. You also wouldn’t have set a new franchise record for wins in a season.
The reality is that the Phillies should have defeated the Cardinals in the NLDS. They won Game 1 and Game 3, and Cliff Lee was spotted a 4-0 lead in Game 2, one he should have been able to hold onto. Manuel could have brought Roy Halladay back on short rest in Game 4, but it’s hard to fault him for starting Roy Oswalt, one of the best pitchers of the era. And it goes without saying, but Halladay limiting the Cardinals to one run in eight innings in Game 5 should have been enough for a win, but instead the Phillies were shut out by Chris Carpenter in one of the most painful losses in franchise history.
How the often-magical 2011 season concluded will probably never sit well in Philadelphia. That’s because regardless of who the Phillies played in the NLDS, they had the most talented roster in the sport, and probably the best in franchise history. Anything short of winning a World Series in 2011 would have been a disappointment.
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