Facing the Phillies at home in the second half over the past few seasons has not exactly been a walk in the park. It's been more like a run. Lots and lots of runs for the Phillies.
The Astros sure didn't make it look too hard this week. They held the Phillies to seven runs in four games, as they swept the four-game series from Philadelphia, which isn't cruising as easily to the postseason as they did in 2009, when they won the National League East without much of a fight from the other four teams in the division.
The fans let their displeasure be known, as according to the Phillies radio broadcast, a good amount of the fans in attendance on Thursday were already gone by the ninth inning of the 5-1 loss to the Astros.
This year the postseason is anything but a lock. The Phils sit a half-game back of San Francisco for the Wild Card, and three games back of the Braves for the National League East lead.
If the season ended today, Philadelphia wouldn't make the playoffs, which would be absolutely shocking considering the main core of the team that went to the World Series last year and won it in 2008 has stayed intact, doing nothing more drastic than swapping Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay in the rotation.
Since the All-Star break, the Phillies, who are notorious for going on blazing-hot second-half runs, are 23-17. They've been solid, but certainly not spectacular, which has a lot to do with injuries to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino, among others. They've benefited from neither the Giants or Braves going on a run, but if the Phillies continue to play inconsistent baseball, they'll miss the postseason for the first time since 2006.
"I don't know what to say," manager Charlie Manuel told the Phillies official website after the Phillies' 5-1 loss on Thursday afternoon. "All I can say is we have some guys, (Ryan) Howard and (Chase) Utley who need to get their timing."
Utley returned on August 17th from thumb surgery and is hitting .235 with no home runs and three runs batted in since his return. Howard returned from an ankle injury just six games ago, and has just three hits in 24 at-bats with no home runs and one run batted in.
Life will not get easier for Philadelphia anytime soon. They head to California to play three games each with the Padres, who just happen to have the best record in the National League, and the Dodgers, who just swept the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Luckily for the Phillies, they still have six games remaining against the Braves, who have just refused to go on a big run to leave Philadelphia in the dust. They do not face the Giants or Cardinals again, which means if it comes down to "Wild Card or bust" for the Phillies, they'll have to take care of their own business, then look up at the out-of-town scoreboard and hope.
Rest assured, the playoffs are not a long shot for the Phillies. But for the first time in a few years, there's probably just as good a chance of Citizens Bank Park being empty in October as there is of it being jam-packed, just like it has been for the past 107 games.
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