This was not how this season was supposed to go. The Philadelphia Phillies believed they had a roster that could lock up the National League East with plenty of breathing room. Instead, it all came down to one pivotal series against the Atlanta Braves, the penultimate series of the season, and one they couldn't capitalize on.
Of course, without the 32 blown saves, the Matt Moore and Chase Anderson experiment, the loss of one of the most important bats in the lineup in Rhys Hoskins, and Aaron Nola's struggles, this season very likely would have been different.
But, as if on cue, Nola was called upon on Wednesday night to neutralize a dangerous Braves lineup with everything on the line. While it wasn't his worst start, it also wasn't his best. He allowed three runs in his first three innings, and the Phillies offense once again came up short, thus setting the tone for the game.
Nola ended the season with a 4.63 ERA, not what he nor the team was expecting out of their "ace," but here we are. However, the blame doesn't lie solely on Nola's shoulders. The offense refused, or was unable to score runs in their previous four games.
Again, these last four games would decide the outcome of the season. Even Bryce Harper, the presumptive NL MVP struck out three times on Wednesday night. The lone bright spots on the offense were once again Odúbel Herrera, who had two hits, and Ronald Torreyes, who collected an RBI-single. That can't be the recipe for success.
And as much as Herrera impressed on offense, it was his critical error in the seventh inning that essentially led to the Braves blowing the game wide open, as it allowed Jorge Soler to advance to third and Ozzie Albies to second with one out. Until the error, the Phillies at least had a chance being down just 3-2, but Austin Riley took advantage, doubling to left field to make it 5-2.
Dansby Swanson's broken bat single that scored two runs to make it 7-2 seemed to signal the end of the Phillies' season. It took three pitchers for the Phillies to escape the inning, and Philadelphia's bats when down quietly the rest of the way.
While the Phillies are technically not yet eliminated from playoff contention, it only requires the Braves to win one more game this season, or Philadelphia to lose one. Even if Atlanta were to lose their remaining games and the Phillies win out, it would trigger a game between the Colorado Rockies and the Braves.
It is unlikely to happen.
So instead, most have already turned their eyes towards 2022 and rightfully so. There are plenty of holes to address, but if this 2021 team taught us anything, it's that there is hope. They compete and they overcome adversity.
But sometimes it is just too much. The Braves were too much. The workload the superstars shouldered this season was too much.
Final: Braves 7, Phillies 2