The Phillies have never played in the Wild Card playoff since its inception. They have never known the white knuckled terror of being given nine final innings that determine what the previous 1,500 were all for. How would the last place, 2015 Phillies have fared had they been nonsensically slotted to take on the Cubs last night?
Probably not well. "Pressure," along with "squirrels" and "the other team scoring runs" is one of the many things this squad just doesn't respond well to. However, since we will never have the chance to prove it, we can say whatever we want. And the evidence was pretty clear last night as Jake Arrieta shut out the Pirates that there was one team on everybody's mind despite not playing in the game.
The last team to beat Jake Arrieta was the Phillies, on July 25th All it took was a Cole Hamels no hitter.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 8, 2015
Arrieta is the first pitcher to steal a base in a postseason game since Cliff Lee in 2009 NLDS. Before that: John Smoltz in 1995. #Cubs— Paul Casella (@paul_casella) October 8, 2015
Jake Arrieta entered this game having allowed 2 home runs in last 149 innings since June 16. Those home runs? Ryan Howard and Aaron Altherr.— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) October 8, 2015
That's right. The pitcher taking the country by storm, stifling Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez and then turning to point at the TV cameras and stare, dead-eyed, as if to say "You're next, America" as we all hid behind throw pillows in our living rooms, is actually pretty possible to defeat.
Now, there are some who would point out flaws in this thinking. Cole Hamels, the man responsible to keeping the heart-pounding Cubs offense silent and still this past July, no longer plays for the team. Ryan Howard was shut down with a few days left in the season, probably because the Phillies didn't think anybody would notice.
Cliff Lee departed without so much as a word a few months ago, his work complete in this universe, and went off to give trans-dimensional aid to some other city in need. Besides, 2009 was so long ago, the things that took place back then aren't even applicable. Does Cliff Lee even have legs anymore? Did he before? I can't even remember what he looks like.
The Phillies went 5-2 against the Cubs this season, outscoring them 39-29. Aaron Nola is undefeated at Wrigley Field (1-0, 4.70 ERA, 7.2 IP), but the Phillies only needed Jerome Williams to beat the Cubs on July 24, when he outdueled Jon Lester. Flash forward to September and it was Jerad Eickhoff who went seven strong against Chicago, allowing a single run while Cesar Hernandez backed him up with a three RBI night at the plate. And the next night, the Phillies torched Dan Haren, who lasted only three innings, while Aaron Harang threw a complete game - well, a complete Aaron Harang Game, which is five innings and ten buckets of sweat. Then there was of course the game in which Cole Hamels didn't let anybody on the Cubs hits the ball effectively.
In a one-game playoff, anything can happen, and it is a guarantee that at least half the people involved are going home more bitter than they've ever been, suggesting in quiet growls or loud yelling that it's the unfair playoff system that needs to change. We're not here to fight that battle.
We're just here to suggest that, based on a few random statistics I saw, in a hypothetical playoff game in which the worst team in baseball would inexplicably be permitted to play, the Phillies seem like they would have at least for some reason had a shot, as long as they were allowed to have back all of the players they've lost via trade or injury.
A guy in the airport security line told me: "I've got a fun fact for you." The only player in uniform last night with a WS HR: Joe Blanton!— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 8, 2015