The last time fans saw the Philadelphia Phillies on the diamond in October, they were dodging a San Francisco Giants team sprinting toward the mound to celebrate an NLCS title at Citizens Bank Park. As the MLB season comes to a close, an even more talented Philadelphia ballclub looks for fall redemption against a much different National League playoff landscape.
Last October's failure came courtesy of a matchup that anyone following the Phillies had come to fear. After dispatching the Dodgers from the postseason in each of the past two years, the Giants were the latest to challenge the Phillies from the NL West. Viewed as the only team that could compete with Philadelphia because of its deep rotation, San Francisco rode consistency on the mound and situational hitting to a victory over the Phillies in six games.
What caused baseball's best regular-season team to falter in the last NLCS was an inability to overcome the only team that matched up with their strengths and weaknesses. Whether it was good right-handed starters combined with gifted lefties, a shutdown bullpen or a raucous home environment, the Giants always had an answer for the favored Phils.
Looking ahead to the upcoming playoff tournament, the Phillies are sure to be heavy favorites to represent the National League in the World Series, just as they were before being ushered out of contention a year ago. Standing in their way and hoping to match up with Philadelphia much like the Giants did are the NL East rival Atlanta Braves.
Sporting a successful youth movement and a very strong core, the Braves could potentially show Philadelphia a very sudden exit in a seven-game series. Because of the intriguing similarities to the Giants team, the Phillies must show a great amount of poise if they are to avoid falling into last year's trap. Here are seven reasons that Philadelphia should want to miss Atlanta come playoff time...