First-Place Falls

Looking back on the recent bad spell in June (sometimes referred to as three weeks of sucking) when the Phillies went 5-13, I was reminded of a couple of other similar bad periods. The fact that the 2008 Phillies were playing exactly .600 ball beforehand (39-26) was probably what made me think of the 1964 Phillies, who were playing exactly .600 ball (90-60) before their infamous 10-game losing streak. So, I thought now during the All-Star break it might be interesting to compare those bad spells. Also, after I checked out those two years I thought of another similar bad streak, the 1976 Phillies' late-season struggle to finish first for the first time in 26 years.

These are the basic facts:


End of day 6/9/08:

Team                   W     L      GB

Philadelphia     39    26    ---               (.600)

Florida                34   29      4

Atlanta                32   32       6 1/2

New York           30   32      7 1/2

End of day 6/29/08:

Team                   W     L      GB

Philadelphia      44   39    ---              (.530)  Went 5-13

Florida                42    39      1               Went 8-10/gained 3 games

New York           40    41     3                 Went 10-9/gained 4 1/2 games

Atlanta                40    43      4                Went 8-11/gained 2 1/2 games

Phillies - Runs Scored in 18 games = 74 (4.1/game)     Runs Allowed = 80 (4.4)

Take away the 20-2 game vs. St. Louis, and the average drops to 3.2 runs scored per game and 4.6 runs allowed per game. Obviously, the biggest problem was scoring runs, as the runs allowed is only slightly higher than it's been in the other games this season.

Notes: 0-5 in one-run games, 1-0 in two-run games, 0-1 in extra innings.  Lost six in a row. Were shut out twice (but won two shutouts among the five wins).


End of day 9/20/64:

Philadelphia      90    60     ----        (.600)

St.Louis              83    66      6 1/2

Cincinnati          83     66     6 1/2

End of day 10/4/64:

Philadelphia      92    70      1        (.568)   Went 2-10

St.Louis              93    69     ----        Went 10-3/gained 7 1/2 games

Cincinnati          92     70     1           Went 9-4/gained 6 1/2 games

Phillies - Runs Scored in 12 games =  48 (4.0/game) Runs Allowed = 68 (5.7)

Take away the 10-0 final day victory and the average drops to 3.5 runs scored per game and 6.2 runs allowed per game, a very poor defense for a team that allowed only 3.9 runs per game for the year.

Notes: 1-1 in one-run games, 0-5 in two-run games (including 4 straight early in the losing streak), 0-1 in extra innings. Lost ten in a row.  Were shut out once (1-0, Chico Ruiz steals home) and won behind a Jim Bunning shutout to end the season.

Extra notes: The rotation really was Bunning and Short and somebody else. In those12 games, Bunning went 1-3 and Short went 0-2 with two no decisions. Bunning opened the four game series vs. Milwaukee on Thursday night and pitched the fourth game of the same series on Sunday afternoon. The attendance at Connie Mack Stadium on a Saturday afternoon, game #156 of the season, was 14,330.


Compared to the '64 collapse, the 1976 stumble appears in retrospect as just a minor correction in an otherwise fantastic regular season. When they opened a four-game series at Cincinnati on August 26th with an extra-inning victory the standings looked like this:

End of day 8/26/76:

Philadelphia      83    42     ----        (.664)

Pittsburgh          68    57     15

To all observers, the NL East race appeared to be over, but things changed starting in Cincinnati where they blew back-to-back games with 9th inning leads and went on to lose 8 straight. By  the end of play 15 games later, another extra-inning loss, the standings looked like this:

End of day 9/11/76:

Philadelphia      85    55     ----        (.607)   Went 2-13

Pittsburgh          81    59     4             Went 13-2/gained 11 games

Phillies - Runs Scored in 15 games =  33 (2.2/game) Runs Allowed = 60 (4.0)

This was clearly an overall collapse, but the offense was the big culprit, scoring less than half as many runs per game than overall for the season.

Notes: 0-6 in one-run games, 2-1 in two-run games, 0-2 in extra innings. Lost eight in a row.  Were shut out twice, back-to-back 1-0 games. Lost a doubleheader to Pittsburgh. Six games after this period the Phillies'  lead was down to 3 games, having steadied themselves and gone 3-3. But after that they went 13-3 to finish the season  at 101-61, and they ended with a 9-game margin over Pittsburgh.

Nothing major to be learned from these examples except that there have been worse periods by first-place Phillies teams - and the 2008 team definitely benefited by having its closest pursuers playing at a mediocre level while the Phillies stumbled.

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