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The Hollow Men: Rays 5, Phillies 0

This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays
Bryce Harper and the Phillies looked lifeless with their playoff lives on the line
Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

I wasn’t alive in 1964, but knowing the story of that team, I can’t claim that this was the worst regular season loss in Phillies history. However, considering the circumstances, it’s probably not an exaggeration to call it the worst regular season loss in the last 55 years.

Despite all the team’s problems, and despite their losing record, the Phillies still had a chance to qualify for the expanded playoff field heading into Sunday’s games. They needed to win, and for the Giants and Brewers to both lose. As I write this, the Giants and Brewers are trailing late in their games, but it doesn’t even matter because the Phillies went down meekly to the Rays 5-0.

Aaron Nola got the start, and was looking to redeem himself after two straight poor starts. He did not redeem himself. He gave up three runs in the first three innings, and needed 93 pitches just to get through 3.2 innings. Nola had an overall good season, but after three straight years of sub par September performances, there are some legitimate questions about just how much of an ace he really is.

Hector Neris relieved Nola in the fourth, and escaped a jam. And then he pitched a clean fifth inning. But since this is the Phillies’ bullpen, we knew it was only a matter of time before something broke down. It happened in the sixth when Neris was questionably brought out for yet another inning, and gave up two more runs.

It would have been nice if the Phillies’ offense fought valiantly until the last out, but that was not the case on Sunday when Rays rookie starter Josh Fleming shut down the lineup with little difficulty. The only real scoring chance they mounted came in the fourth when an error and infield single allowed them to load the bases. But Fleming retired Phil Gosselin to end that threat. Perhaps demoralized by that failure, the Phillies had just two hits against Fleming and three relievers the rest of the way.

And thus ended the Phillies season, and their chance at breaking an eight-year playoff drought.

For the third straight season, the Phillies faltered down the stretch of the season, and for the most part, looked pathetic while doing so. Last year’s failure resulted in the manager getting fired. It seems likely that this year’s collapse will cost the general manager his job. And that’s probably only scratching the surface of the changes that are coming.

In conclusion, while this was a strange season, and certainly didn’t end the way any of us wanted, I’d like to thank you for reading these recaps. Some of them were fun to write, others were not. But I appreciate everyone who took the time to read them. And don’t worry, myself and the other fine writers here at The Good Phight will be around in the coming months to help guide you through what promises to be an interesting offseason.