If the Phillies were playing poker they’d use the phrase “All-in” for the 2011 season. After failing to win the World Series for the second season in a row in 2010, and falling to the San Franciso Giants in the NLCS, Phillies ownership decided to stretch its budget and bring back the post-season star who never wanted to leave in the first place. With Cliff Lee joining an already stacked rotation the Phillies find themselves as the favorites to get back to baseball’s biggest stage---and this time they expect to bring the trophy back to Philadelphia!!
The Phillies get off to the best start in club history. After opening the season with six games at Citizens Bank Park the Phillies head to Atlanta on April 7th with each of their top four starters sporting wins while the team has yet to lose. Atlanta, for all their off-season maneuvering is already behind in the division.
After a couple of road trips---one out west to play the Diamondbacks and Padres---and home games against some of the National League’s best teams the Phillies finish April with a franchise best 18-3 record.
Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard lead the best offense in baseball. After a few downward seasons Utley and Rollins return to All-Star form and Howard proves his 2010 power shortage was nothing more than a fluke. All three are in the MVP race as Rollins attempts to recreate his magical 2007 season, Utley wins the batting title and Howard launches 50+ home runs for the second time in his career.
Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels prove to be everything the Phillies hope for. Each are in contention for the Cy Young award and among the league leaders in multiple categories. Halladay proves once again he is baseball’s best pitcher, winning more games than any pitcher has in more than two decades. Other than a slight hiccup in the “dog days of summer” Lee dominates the National League and wins nearly 20 games but takes the loss in the Midsummer Classic
Halladay 26-3, 1.98 ERA, 245 IP, 208 Hits, 221 K’s, 37 BB’s (and YES, he does throw another no-no)
Lee: 19-9, 2.55 ERA, 233 IP, 215 Hits, 219 K’s, 22 BB’s
Oswalt: 16-9, 3.01 ERA, 221 IP, 207 Hits, 194 K’s, 57 BB’s
Hamels: 17-11, 2.92 ERA, 219 IP, 193 Hits, 233 K’s, 68 BB’s
Blanton: 12-8, 4.37 ERA, 175 IP, 192 Hits, 129 K’s, 64 BB’s
The Phillies cruise all year long and the only stretch of inconsistent, poor play envelopes them at the beginning of August. A long west-coast trip sees them drop 7 of 10 games, lose some of their division lead and come home with their tail between their legs. Nonetheless they return to face Jayson Werth and the Nationals in a series that has little meaning for either team. Despite the poor showing out west, the difficulties of Cliff Lee against the defending World Champions, the Phillies still have a double-digit division lead.
The Phillies face the Braves twice in September in a home/road six game split. The last four September’s have proven to be the Phillies time to shine and cement their division title. Not this year, however. They will have have a great September of play but the two series against the Braves will be meaningless as the Phillies, owners of the best record in baseball, will have locked up the N.L. East earlier than at any point in their history, and before the series finale against Atlanta on Wednesday, September 7th.
After winning a team record 113 games the NLDS proves to be a rematch of last year’s NLCS and this time the Phillies aces prove to be better. The Giants fail to win a game and are swept out of the playoffs as the Phillies advance for the fifth consecutive year. The Cardinals also are no match for the Phillies either. They manage to pull out a victory in game 4---as Albert Pujols hits his final career home run in a Cardinals uniform----but lose in game 5 as Cole Hamels dominates with a two-hit shutout
Baseball gets what it wants: the Phillies-Red Sox playing for it all. Both teams dominated their leagues and the playoffs in 2011, but only one can take home the trophy. Extra innings is needed for game one as Halladay and Beckett leave after nine with a 1-1 tie. The Red Sox pull it out in the bottom of the 12th inning. The next four games go back and forth. Phillies win game two, Sox game three, Phillies game four, Sox game five, before heading back to Boston with Lee and Hamels set to pitch the Phillies to another title...
Cliff Lee shows why the Phillies broke their budget to sign him. He’s dominates into the 8th inning, allowing just three hits and one run, guiding the Phillies to a 3-1 lead late. With two on and two out in the eighth inning, and a tiring Lee on the mound Charlie Manual elects to go to his most trusted arm---Ryan Madson. Unfortunately he cannot deliver as Marco Scutaro belts a 1-1 fastball over the Green Monster for a World Series winning 3-Run Home Run as Beantown erupts in celebration of the 4-3 victory.
A brilliant season, a season of 113 regular season wins, the most dominant starting staff in recent memory, an amazing offense, and a post-season record of 9-5 aren’t enough to bring home another title to Philadelphia. Once again, we’ll be waiting for “Next Year”.