Philadelphia Phillies

Where does 2023 rank among Phillies' all-time collapses?

NBC Universal, Inc.

This time the cold shock didn’t come from an icy beverage being poured down the neck of the Phillies star de jour as he was interviewed in front of the dugout while fans cheered and sang happily along to the music being pumped at max volume from the Citizens Bank Park sound system.

This time it came amid a stunned silence of another sellout throng that would need some time to adjust to the stark reality of what had seemed so unthinkable just a few days earlier. Maybe even a few hours earlier.

The Phillies had just been beaten by the 84-win Diamondbacks, the third and final wild-card team to qualify, in the National League Championship Series. As a result of Tuesday night’s almost inconceivable 4-2 loss to heavy underdog Arizona, the Phillies did not repeat as pennant winners for just the second time in franchise history. They will not advance to play the Texas Rangers in the World Series beginning Friday night.

It’s kind of like James Gandolfini in the final scene of the last episode of The Sopranos.

They never saw it coming.

There’s no way to accurately measure sporting hurt or compare disappointments. It’s too personal, too subjective. It’s also generational. There are older fans who will look you in the eye and say you can’t really know anguish unless you lived and died with the Fightins during the final 12 games of the 1964 season when they managed to squander a 6½-game lead with 12 to play.

There was Black Friday in 1977, Joe Carter’s walk-off homer off Mitch Williams in 1993, the first-round exit for the group that won a franchise-record 102 games in 2011, coming within two wins of beating the Astros in the World Series last year.

A strong case can be made, though, for the proposition that there has never been a more disappointing loss in the 141 years that the Phillies have been conducting business at Recreation Park, the Baker Bowl, Connie Mack Stadium (nee Shibe Park), the Vet and Citizens Bank Park. And not just because it was the first Game 7 the franchise has ever been a part of.

Like ’64, it played out with the slow-motion drama of old newsreel footage of the Hindenburg breaking up over a New Jersey Field in 1937. But also, as in ’93, the end came with the abrupt finality of a slamming door.

The most recent experience always feels the rawest. Maybe that skews any attempt at impartiality. But just think about it.

Eight games into this postseason, the Phillies were on a roll. They were 7-1. And they weren’t just winning. They were having their way with the Marlins in the Wild Card Series, the mighty Braves in the Division Series and easily beat the Diamondbacks in the first two games of the LCS.

They were hitting .284 as a team. They were outscoring their opponents 46-13 and outhomering them 19-4. And their staff earned run average was 1.39.

In the next five games, four of them losses, they batted a combined .172 and averaged one homer per game. They were outscored 18-15 and the pitchers had a 3.68 ERA.

That was the big picture. In the narrower view, despite everything, they came back to Citizens Bank Park on Monday night needing just one win in two games to advance to the World Series in consecutive years for just the second time in franchise history. And they had to like their chances. They were unbeaten at home. Their starting pitchers, from left to right, were Aaron Nola (0.96 postseason ERA) and Ranger Suarez (0.64).

And they lost both.

After the final out Tuesday night, pinch-hitter Jake Cave flying out to right, an eerie hush descended over the stadium. The fans, dazed and disbelieving, filed somberly toward the exits.

Afterward, the Phillies clubhouse was mostly silent except for the sound of backs being slapped and high-fives being exchanged. A few players sat in knots, murmuring softly to each other. Some stared into space. At least a couple had tears in their eyes.

“They beat us,” said Kyle Schwarber, a most stand-up player, the first to come to the center of the room to speak. “Everybody’s got a sick feeling in their stomach. It’s not the way we pictured this thing ending. It’s not going to sit right with a lot of guys.

“You can look back on a lot of things. A lot of what-ifs. But you’ve got to find a way. Any time you lose, it doesn’t feel right. It never does. It never will. That’s why we have to use this for as much motivation as we can.”

Nick Castellanos was on a rampage earlier in the postseason, at one point homering five times in three games. In the NLCS he was 1-for-24 (.042). He was asked if he was stunned by what happened.

“I’d say frustrated is the correct word,” he said. “I don’t feel stunned. I just think we underachieved as a team. It’s a frustrating way for the season to end. Because I think the potential of this team was so much greater than going home before the World Series.

“Last year when we lost (to the Astros) obviously we were disappointed because we didn’t win the whole thing. But there was a lot of, ‘We got here.’ So knowing how we feel about this team and then we came up short from where we did the year previous, it’s a disgusting feeling, honestly.”

Managing general partner John Middleton and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski circulated around the room, shaking hands, offering encouragement. None of those words, none of anybody’s words, soothed the sting.

“It’s a little shocking,” said shortstop Trea Turner. “Not because of them. They’re a good team. It’s just more so that we thought we were the team to move on and keep winning ballgames. We believed in ourselves and we’re a little shocked that we didn’t get the job done. But they outplayed us the last five games.”

Bryce Harper shook his head. “Just really tough,” he said.

Add it all up. There have been a lot of disappointing moments in the history of Phillies baseball. But it’s difficult to conceive of one more dismaying than this.

Contact Us