The Philadelphia Phillies finished an entertaining, infuriating and uplifting 2005 campaign Sunday in Washington, defeating the Nationals 9-3 to notch their 88th win of the campaign. But while the team dressed in the visitor's locker room and got to bat first, it probably felt like a home game: perhaps half the crowd--and definitely the louder half--was cheering for the Phils. They deserved the support: Jon Lieber put an exclamation mark on his excellent last two months with 7 innings of 3-run, 5-hit pitching, while Jimmy Rollins entered the rarified air of the ten longest hit streaks in major-league history. Ryan Howard continued to make his Rookie of the Year case, and Chase Utley offered a final reminder of why he might be the team's franchise player as soon as next year.
It wasn't enough, though. The Chicago Cubs--who all season have resembled some of the recent underachieving Phillies teams, underperforming their talent through bad situational hitting, lousy lineup construction, shaky relief and a series of managerial head-scratchers--couldn't protect a late 4-3 lead and wound up losing to Houston, 6-4. The Astros clinched the wild-card berth and assured Phillies phans a long, uneasy winter of replaying those five close losses to Houston in August and September--particularly the Sept. 7 meltdown.
But today isn't the day for if-onlys. The 2005 Phillies showed a resilience far beyond anything their recent predecessors displayed, coming back every time they were counted out. They saw young regulars like Rollins, Utley and Burrell develop into stars, got unlooked-for help from players like Howard, Robinson Tejeda and Aaron Fultz, and hopefully even changed some minds among those in Philadelphia and beyond who reflexively wrote them off. It was a hell of a ride, and while it ended in disappointment, the trip was really pretty cool.
So what now for The Good Phight? In the weeks ahead, we'll look back more fully at the season just concluded, and look ahead to what the Phils might have in mind this off-season. We'll keep you up to date on the moves as they happen. And we'll have a series of historical and analytical articles to help keep the hot stove stoked through a long winter. For now, thanks from all of us for joining us through this fun season and stay tuned for more to come.