Philadelphia Phillies: With Braves Sweep, Rivalry Now Even More Intense
Say sayonara to the regular season and the same to the Atlanta Braves, Phillies fans.
With the win on Wednesday night in what is being dubbed one of the best nights in baseball history, the Phillies achieved a few milestones. First of all, they got to 102 wins, a franchise-best that was thought to be unattainable with the team's eight game losing streak last week. The same goes for Charlie Manuel passing Gene Mauch for the Phillies all-time record in managerial wins, yet he did when he received his 646th career victory as the Phillies' skipper.
But something that isn't necessarily thought of as a milestone is that we eliminated the Braves from the playoffs that night. We came in hoping to just get win number 100, and we exceeded expectations by not only reaching wins 101 and ultimately 102, but we swept the Braves on the road in the final series of the season coming off just one win, which followed the eight game skid.
How did they do it? They just got hot at the right time, and considering that the series was the last en route to the postseason for the Phils, they ended the season on the best note possible.
As for the Braves, their loss (and collapse resulting from it) is being regarded as one of the biggest in baseball history, alongside that of the Boston Red Sox, who hold the title of having the biggest collapse ever in September baseball.
Both the Braves and Red Sox had substantial leads in September, peaking at eight and a half games and nine games respectively in the Wild Card races during this past month. Yet it was their at-the-time lowly competitors, the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL, that eventually took the crown in each league, simply by taking advantage of the leading teams slumping in September and winning enough games for themselves to take the Wild Card titles in each league.
Many things can be accused as the reason why the Braves faltered in September. They could blame their injuries to pitchers Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, which sat them both out the entire month and then some. They could fault manager Fredi Gonzalez, who in his first year of being manager of a postseason contender didn't know how to handle the hype. They could blame Dan Uggla for his monstrosity of a season subtracting his hitting streak, or closer Craig Kimbrel for blowing the save in their most important game of the season. Or they could simply accuse the team on the whole for a bad September.
But knowing the way baseball works, they won't be doing any of that, oh no. Who will they blame?
You guessed it. The Philadelphia Phillies.
Generally speaking, when teams in baseball are eliminated from October play, they tend to blame their competitors in the sport who were responsible, regardless of whether it's right or not. It happens in every sport, from baseball to football to hockey (and yes, we'll include basketball in here despite their little probability of having a season next year) and more. When a team is in a slump, especially at the end of their season, and are eliminated from the playoffs by another team, they tend to blame the team that beat them despite it being their own fault in some way.
But since the Phillies are division rivals and the Braves biggest competitor in recent years, the blame will arguably be bestowed upon them.
In some ways the Phillies are responsible for what occurred. They did sweep the Braves to end the season, their eight-win month of September, and their hopes of making a postseason run. Their sweep earlier in September sure didn't help the Braves' cause either.
And the Braves will jump on this faster than you can say...well, you get my point.
Personally, I think it's a neat aspect to baseball to see another team potentially blame the team that took it all away from them. And the fact that it's the division-rival Phillies who destroyed the Braves' playoff dreams as they had done to us early last decade makes it even more enticing to think what could and will occur from this.
I remember attending the last two games the Phillies held at Veterans Stadium. The dates were Saturday and Sunday, September 27 and 28, 2003, the last day and night games at the Vet to be held. Lincoln Financial Field was near-finished across the parking lot, and Citizens Bank Park was still being built.
In what were two of the Phillies most important games at the time, games that would end the Vet's legacy, they lost both of them. The Phils walked out of Veterans Stadium for the final time with their heads hanging down, anguished in the agony that came with losing the final game of the season, a date when almost all past players (including Tug McGraw, who made one of his final public appearances in the post-game ceremonies there) shared their legacy with the team as well, and the Phillies couldn't even swallow their pride simply because they didn't have any.
After that day, the New York Mets didn't even matter to me anymore. It was the Braves who I wanted to see the wrath of the Phillies. And when that came starting in 2006 with their division streak snapped by the Mets and 2007 and beyond by the Phillies, I was happier than a clam (sorry for that awful idiom there, folks).
Seeing the Braves lose to the Phillies now was the final blow I had been waiting for for so long. And now that the Phillies play the red-hot Cardinals in the NLDS, I could be eating my words in a matter of days. But for now, I celebrate.
In unbiased and impersonal terms, this could mean something big. The Braves almost undoubtedly have more hatred for the Phillies than ever before thanks to this series. It could inspire them to win everything they can in the future.
At the beginning of their season, their attitude was probably to win the Wild Card and just compete with the Phillies as much as possible. But now that they aren't even in the postseason at the mercy of the Phillies, their hatred of us could rise to a new level, one that sparks them enough to win the NL East once again.
Could that come next season? Absolutely, and it's worth thinking about. But for now, the Phillies (and Cardinals) can rejoice in knowing that the Braves are done for the year, and the postseason has taken a whole new look because of it.
But next year, look out for the Atlanta Braves, who could hold a vengeance more prominent than that of any team the Phillies (or even the majors) has seen before.
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