In baseball, there is a saying: Every team is going to win 54 games and every team is going to lose 54 games; it's how you play in the other 54 that determines who wins the pennant.
On Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the San Francisco Giants by a score of 3-1, bringing to an end the Phillies' nine-game winning streak and marking the first loss since Hunter Pence came over from the Houston Astros.
But in more ways than one, this was decidedly one of the 54 games that the Phillies were destined to lose; indeed, the Phillies likely did not even bat and eye as they departed San Francisco on their way to Los Angeles for the beginning of a three game set tomorrow night.
Here's a recap.
First, today was getaway day, an afternoon game following a night game. I do not have numbers on this, but getaway days and day games following night games dramatically favor the home team.
This game particularly favored the home-team today, as this has not been an ordinary series. The Phillies and Giants are currently enjoying a bit of a cross-country rivalry, with each team figuring to have what it takes to be playing in October.
And with the Phils already sore over the Giants knocking them out of the playoffs last season on their way to a World Series championship.
Indeed, tempers boiled over on Friday night and resulted in a bench-clearing brawl after Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez buzzed the tower on Shane Victorino in retaliation for who knows what. It has been a long four-game series, and with the Phillies having clinched the series win by taking the first three games, the Phils were bound to be running at half speed on Sunday.
Sunday was also a day for moral victories, as Phillies starter Roy Oswalt, one of the mythical "Four Aces," making his first start since June 23. Having Oswalt back, in and of itself, was a victory for the Phils. Oswalt pitched fine, allowing 12 hits but only three earned runs in six innings, and throwing 60 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
And of course, the Phillies were facing off against Tim Lincecum, the ace of the Giants' staff and one of the finest pitchers in the game. On the matchup alone, the Giants were favored. When one considers the other factors, this was a game that the Phils could stick in the loss column with their heads held high.
And so it was that on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Hunter Pence all went 0-for-4 and the Phillies lost for the first time in 10 games, dropping their record down to 74-40, headed out of town and on their way to Los Angeles.
If every team is going to win 54 games and lose 54 games, the Phillies still have 14 losses to go before they even have to think about the "other 54."