It feels strange being on the other side of this, feeling what fans of the Brewers, Dodgers, Rays, Rockies, and Dodgers again, felt, after concluding a losing series to the Phillies. After all, my generation of Phillies followers hasn’t experienced much playoff despair.
I was four years old when the Phils lost the 1993 World Series, so aside from the 2007 sweep at the hands of the Rockies, I hadn’t been through a competitive postseason series that saw my team come up short.
But, without mincing words, the Phillies didn’t deserve to win the 2009 World Series. They failed to capitalize on a Game One win on the road, and were blatantly outplayed over the next five games. When opposing a fantasy baseball team like the Yankees, there is no margin for error. If you have runners in scoring position with less than two outs against the highest scoring team in all of major league baseball, you better knock them in.
The Phillies failed to capitalize with runners on time and time again, while their counterparts seemed to thrive in high-pressure situations. The clinching Game Six was merely a microcosm of the entire series; the Phils went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on-base, en route to a 7-3 loss.
After the NLDS and NLCS, I outlined the main reasons for the Phillies’ triumph. Several ingredients were: Ryan Howard’s transformation into a postseason monster, timely hitting at the bottom of the order, a dazzling performance by Pedro Martinez, the bullpen’s abilityto bear down and strand runners in key situations, and, not to be forgotten, intelligent decision-making from Charlie Manuel.
Aside from Carlos Ruiz hitting .333 out of the eighth and ninth spots in the lineup, none of these factors carried over into the World Series.
Howard, who looked unstoppable before the week-long layoff in between rounds, went 4-for-23, with one homer, three RBIs, and a World Series record 13 strikeouts. In Games Two through Five, he was 1-for-14 with 10 strikeouts.
The bottom of the Phillies order was absolutely dreadful in the World Series. Pedro Feliz came up big in Game Four, going 3-for-4 with a game-tying homer in the eighth, but was 1-for-19 in the other five games. Ben Francisco, who played left field in two games in New York while Raul Ibanez played DH, went 0-for-6. Ruiz was the lone bright spot, leading all Phillies with a .333 batting average and .478 OBP.
Martinez, coming off of a magnificent start in the NLCS (seven innings, three hits, zero runs,) effectively shut down eight of the nine members of the Yankees lineup. All Yankees-not-named-Hideki Matsui were 7-for-35 against the righthander. Unfortunately, Matsui was 4-for-4, with two home runs, 5 RBIs and a walk vs. Pedro, skewing his numbers drastically. The Yankees may not have proved to be Pedro’s “daddy,” but Matsui, himself, certainly did.
The Phillies bullpen wasn’t hit exceptionally hard, but the unit didn’t live up to the standards it had set during the Divisional and Championship Series. Chan Ho Park, Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ and Scott Eyre combined to give up a mere two earned runs in 12.2 innings, but Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, and Brett Myers struggled, giving up eight runs in 3.1 innings. Durbin couldn’t stop the Yankees either time he came in, and Lidge’s meltdown in Game Four dramatically changed the series, shifting an unquantifiable amount of momentum in the favor of the Yankees.
Manuel made several strange decisions, but, as I said with Joe Torre in the NLCS, it is much more difficult to push all the right buttons when you are constantly playing from behind. Manuel probably should not have left Martinez in during the seventh inning of Game Two, and, in my opinion, should have removed him after the second inning of Game Six. It was abundantly clear that Pedro had absolutely nothing in his second start. His fastball, which had reached as high as 92 mph previously, was hovering in the 84-86 range. Every Yankees player was hitting him hard, and if not for badly placed line-drive outs, the game could have gotten ugly much faster.
This year just wasn’t the Phillies year. Despite 93 regular season wins, and nine more in the playoffs, this was a flawed team. A lack of situational hitting and any sort of bench plagued the Phillies all season, and both aspects reared their ugly heads in the World Series. But more importantly, the season-long struggles of Lidge and Cole Hamels were once again prevalent at the most inopportune of times, and the performances of those two will surely be cited as the main reasons the Phillies fell short of repeating as World Champions.