Phillies’ September collapse puts joker and playoff hopes in jeopardy

Hello September slump, it’s the Philadelphia Phillies knocking on the door again.

The Phillies have a storied recent history of being choked in a pennant race, but 2022 could be the worst of the bunch.

There was the infamous slump in 1964, blowing a 6½ game lead with 12 games left, but that’s when only the pennant winners reached the playoffs. In the shortened 2020 COVID-19 season, the Phillies needed to go just 2-6 in their last eight games to reach the playoffs. They went 1-7. They entered 2018 just two games behind Atlanta in September and went on to go 8-28.

This time baseball has a record six teams in each league making the playoffs, including two wildcards, and the Phillies are still on the verge of smashing it.

Once again.

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It was nearly 40 years ago when Minnesota Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti threw a routine ground ball in September, costing his club the game against Cleveland, and ultimately the AL West title.

After the match, he uttered the infamous quote: “It’s hard to line the ball up when you have both hands around your throat.”

It was a blatant and shameless admission that he was choking under the pressure of a pennant race.

Well, say hello to the Phillies, who are making this a complete team effort.

They’ve lost five straight and 10 of their last 13, after an embarrassing three-game sweep against the lowly Chicago Cubs.

They enter the weekend’s four-game series with a doubleheader on Friday against the Nationals in Washington D.C., just half a game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers for the final wildcard spot, and also possess the breakout advantage. equality.

Yes, the same Brewers who have been mired in mediocrity (26-29) since trading All-Star closer to Josh Hader at the deadline, and trailed the Phillies by 4½ games on the morning of the 15th. september.

Again, who knew the Phillies would blow again with an all-star team, the biggest payroll in franchise history, fortifying their team at the trade deadline, 21 games above .500 since that Rob Thomson replaced Joe Girardi as manager on June 3 and be completely embarrassed at Wrigley Field? They scored a grand total of three runs in 27 innings against one of the worst teams in the National League.

“We’ve got way too many good hitters here to score three runs against this team,” Phillies shortstop Jean Segura told reporters. “To be honest, it’s embarrassing.”

Granted, Segura was also humiliated when he made a base-running error that epitomizes the extent of the Phillies’ horror. He was at first base when he looked at the manual scoreboard at Wrigley Field and saw that batter Nick Maton’s count was 3 and 1. Well, it was actually 2 and 1. So when the next pitch was a ball, Segura headed for second base, believing it was a walk. Oops. He was tagged by Cubs pitcher Javier Assad, ending the rally.

There’s just something about September.

The Phillies haven’t had a win in September since 2017. Let’s see, they were 8-20 in September 2018; 12-16 in 2019; 13-17 in 2020; 14-16 in 2021.

The Phillies follow a similar path in September, going 10-14 and two five-game losing streaks in just two weeks. They’ve lost eight games this month to three non-competitors: the San Francisco Giants (78-78), Miami Marlins (65-91) and Cubs (70-86).

Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber walks away after hitting against the Cubs.

They’re a team built on attack, but they suddenly forgot how to hit. They ranked first in batting average (.277) and third in slugging percentage (.462) with runners in scoring position two weeks ago, and suddenly they can’t buy a shot. safe in the clutch. They rank 25th in batting average (.206) and 28th in slugging percentage (.299) with runners in scoring percentage in the last 13 games.

In Chicago, they hit .095 (2 for 21) with runners in the scoring position with no extra hits.

They haven’t hit a home run since last Sunday.

No wonder James Seltzer, host and producer for Philadelphia sports station WIP, tweeted in May: “There is no team in sports history more frustrating than the Philadelphia Phillies.

In the eighth inning of Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Cubs, he retweeted it and added: “Always true.”

The Phillies, of course, should take care of business this weekend against the Nationals (54-101) who reek of heaven. But given the way the Phillies have played and their September history, you have little confidence they will punish the Nationals.

The Phillies end their season with three games in Houston against the Astros. They can take comfort in the fact that the Astros (102-54) have nothing to gain, winning the AL West with home advantage in the American League playoffs, but manager Dusty Baker has announced that he would play their regulars all three games.

And, oh yes, Astros favorite Cy Young Justin Verlander is expected to kick off one of those three games.

The Brewers, meanwhile, won’t leave the comfort of their home for the rest of the regular season, wrapping it up with three more games against the Marlins and three against the Arizona Diamondbacks (72-84). Both teams are a combined 69 games out of first place.

This season could therefore be the worst slump in Phillies history, ensuring their playoff drought spans 12 years.

The Phillies have seven games to see if their stars perform like stars. They have seven games to exorcise the ghosts of previous Septembers.

“We can’t let these thoughts creep into our heads,” Schwarber told reporters.

It may be too late.

“I don’t think any guy on this team,” Bryce Harper said Thursday, “has that mindset of, ‘Oh, here we go again. Different group of guys. Different team. … We have work ahead of us, we know that. But at the same time, we’re in there.”

Thomson says, “We have to get out of this.

“We will do it.”

History awaits.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

USA Today

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