PHILADELPHIA — In the seventh-inning stretch of the seventh game of the National League Championship Series in the seventh postseason at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ luck ran out. They did it to themselves.
For “God Bless America,” the Phillies welcomed a trio of buglers dressed as World War I soldiers. The group, known as The Doughboy Foundation, is best known for playing “Taps” every day in Washington at 5 p.m.
The end for the Phillies came at 11:21 p.m. ET on Tuesday, when Jake Cave’s fly ball settled into the glove of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Corbin Carroll in right field. A year ago, in Houston, Nick Castellanos also flied out to right (in foul territory) to end the World Series. But at least those Phillies got there.
This team was stronger, and seemingly better — right up until it had to prove it. The Diamondbacks pulled off a heist at the Bank, stealing the NL pennant with a 4-2 victory in Game 7. The watchmen in red pinstripes fell for all their tricks.
“We were playing a really good brand of baseball at the start of the series,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “Things just took a turn.”
The Phillies won 10-0 in the second game of the NLCS. It was their sixth home victory in a row to start the postseason. They’d done the same thing last year, shutting out the Astros in Game 3 of the World Series. That team, too, looked invincible, but never won again.
This year’s turn was sharp indeed, like a blind curve on a pleasant drive that sends the car careening down a jagged mountainside. The Phillies lost two of three in the desert, and by the time they came home they were out of gas.
They scored three runs in two games and went 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position. They repeatedly lunged for pitches out of the strike zone and finally let the go-go Diamondbacks put their running game into action. Arizona earned the right to celebrate on the Phillies’ field.
“They pitched well, they played defense and they did a lot of things right,” said Kyle Schwarber, whose leadoff double in the fifth was the Phillies’ last hit of the season. “Obviously they won the series, so credit to them — but a sickening feeling.”
Philadelphia fans have felt it before. The franchise has won two World Series, in 1980 and 2008, mirror images numerically — 80 and 08 — that are still staring at each other, waiting for a new champion to join them.
“We’ll be back,” Bryce Harper promised. “We’ve got a great owner and a president and GM that are going to give us the best opportunity to win and be here every single year.”
Now, though, this group will encounter a foe that has shadowed so many of its predecessors: skepticism from a fan base that cares so much that every defeat seems personal. We loved you, and this is how you treat us?
“I know they’re hurting right now as much as we are,” Harper said, “because when we lose, they lose, and when we win, they win as well.”
This seventh game slumber now takes its place in the pantheon of the most devastating losses in franchise history. Just in time for Halloween, here’s the countdown of horror.
10. Sept. 7, 2005: Astros 8, Phillies 6
The Phillies had gone a dozen years since reaching the postseason, and this was the culmination of a maddening good-but-not-great era. They hosted Houston — still in the NL — for a pivotal September series, beginning it as leaders in the wild-card race and ending it trailing the Astros after a three-game sweep. In the finale, Billy Wagner served up a two-out, three-run, go-ahead homer in the ninth to his former Astros teammate Craig Biggio. Houston grabbed the wild card and went on to the World Series.
9. Game 4, 2009 World Series: Yankees 7, Phillies 4
This was Phillies fandom in microcosm: a surprise to raise your hopes, then a crash to reality. Four outs from defeat and a three-games-to-one deficit in the World Series, the Phillies tied Game 4 with a homer by Pedro Feliz, their least-imposing everyday player. But the Yankees roared back in emphatic and unusual fashion, with three in the ninth sparked by Johnny Damon stealing two bases on one play and Alex Rodriguez doubling home the go-ahead run. The Phillies would lose the World Series in six.
8. Game 6, 2022 World Series: Astros 4, Phillies 1
Facing elimination last November, Zack Wheeler took a 1-0 shutout into the bottom of the sixth of Game 6 in Houston. Then Martín Maldonado crowded the plate to get himself hit by a pitch, and soon there was Yordan Alvarez, silent all series, smashing a mammoth three-run homer off José Alvarado. (Oh, and the Philadelphia Union lost the MLS Cup final on the same night.)
7. Game 6, 2010 NLCS: Giants 3, Phillies 2
Back home but trailing in pursuit of their third consecutive NL pennant, the Phillies scored twice in the first inning of Game 6. Then Bruce Bochy had perhaps his finest performance as manager, weaving five relievers through the last seven innings to squeeze the life from the Phillies’ vaunted offense. Juan Uribe broke a tie in the eighth with an opposite-field homer off Ryan Madson, and with two on and two out in the ninth, Brian Wilson struck out Ryan Howard, looking, to end it.
6. Game 4, 1993 World Series: Blue Jays 15, Phillies 14
On a misty, spooky night at the Vet, the Phillies had a chance to tie the Blue Jays, two games apiece, but lost the highest-scoring game in World Series history. Trailing 14-9 after seven innings, Toronto used four hits, two walks and an error to shred Larry Andersen and Mitch Williams for six runs in the eighth. How bizarre was this game? Blue Jays pitcher Al Leiter smacked a double but John Kruk, a career .300 hitter, went 0-for-5.
4. 1977 NLCS Game 3: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5
Two outs, bases empty, up by two in the ninth. With one more out, the Phillies would have had a two-games-to-one series lead and their ace, Steve Carlton, lined up for a possible pennant clincher the next day. (The LCS was a best-of-five format then.) Alas, by the time Gene Garber got the last out of the ninth, the Dodgers had rallied for three runs in exquisitely torturous fashion: a bunt single, a drive off Greg Luzinski’s glove in left, a questionable call at first, two more hits — and two errors, too. Tommy John beat Carlton in the rain the next day, and the Dodgers won the pennant.
3. 2011 NLDS, Game 5: Cardinals 1, Phillies 0
The Phillies set a franchise record with 102 regular-season victories in 2011, and lined up a dream rotation for the postseason: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Yet the pitching star turned out to be the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter, who fired a three-hit shutout to outduel Halladay, his close friend, and make a first-inning run stand up. Howard tore his Achilles tendon while grounding out to end the season, crumbling to the ground as the Cardinals celebrated — a painfully obvious metaphor for the end of the Phillies’ five-year playoff run.
2. 1993 World Series Game 6: Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6
For the Phillies, 1993 was so deliriously zany that it had to end memorably — and it sure did, on a Game 6 homer by Joe Carter, the second championship-clinching walk-off homer in World Series history, after Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski in 1960. Williams telegraphed his doom by walking the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, Rickey Henderson, on four pitches to start the bottom of the ninth. After Paul Molitor singled with one out, Williams used a slide-step to keep Henderson close, robbing himself of power and command on his final, fateful pitch.
1. The 10-game losing streak in September 1964
On Sept. 21, 1964, the Phillies led the NL by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play. In the era before divisional play, the World Series was all but assured. But in the sixth inning of a scoreless game with Cincinnati, a base runner named Chico Ruiz danced far off third with mighty Frank Robinson at the plate. From the upper deck at Connie Mack Stadium, a 9-year-old from Havertown, Pa., could see it all unfolding.
“I looked at my father and I said, ‘Dad, look how far off the base that guy is — he’s gonna go home!’ ” the boy recalled a few years ago, before a Phillies spring training game in Clearwater, Fla. “And the next pitch, he went home. I mean, it was really obvious to me. He just had this extraordinary lead. We were devastated.”
That was the first of 10 consecutive defeats that doomed the Phillies, lifted the Cardinals to the pennant and deeply scarred generations of Philadelphia sports fans. The boy in the upper deck, at least, found a way to do something about it: He grew up to be the owner of the Phillies.
Now 68, John Middleton roamed the clubhouse late Tuesday night, consoling each player, trying to sooth the sting of a loss that will linger forever.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this for these Phillies. The Game 7 loss will linger
‘Success is revenge’: Diamondbacks relish silencing Phillies to reach World Series
‘It’s your turn’: Diamondbacks knew Corbin Carroll would send them to the World Series
(Top photo of Bryce Harper: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)