NLDS: Phillies/Cardinals Recap Part 1

The National League Division Series between the Phillies and Cardinals ended up being an interesting matchup that defied many conventions and pre-conceived notions about both clubs. Several compelling moments, within each game and the series as a whole, made for an entertaining and intriguing series. The first part of the series breakdown involves the end of the regular season.

Perhaps one of the most interesting facets to this story rests in how the Cardinals made the post season. Of course, this analysis is all done in hindsight, but as we live in a "what if" mindset, it's interesting fodder for arm chair managers. By now, we all know about the epic Braves collapse. The final regular season series pitted the Phillies against the Braves with the Phillies having already clinched everything there was to clinch going into the playoffs. The Phillies swept that series against the Braves, but had they lost any of the games, at the very least there might have been a play-in game to determine the Wild Card.

The Phillies were in a significant tailspin after clinching the division, losing 8 in a row including getting shutout by the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter during the stretch. Certainly, the rationale for beating the Braves in that final series involved gaining momentum for the post season (a tactic I agreed with). I certainly wouldn't condone, nor would Phillies' Faithful, the purposeful tanking of games to manipulate the playoff picture. Yet consider the Phillies hammered the Braves this year going 12-6 in the rivalry while being on the losing end of a 3-6 mark against the Cardinals. If the Braves had won that final series, they probably would have made the postseason over the Cardinals, and the Phillies would have drawn the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and any team can win a series, but most would think the Phillies would be a heavy favorite against Arizona. Had they advanced to the LCS, they would have played the Braves that they dominated in the regular season, or the inexperienced Brewers whom they also outmatch on paper.

Again, I'm not suggesting the Phils should have dumped the series to Atlanta. However, I find it fascinating to think what might have been if they had lost any of those final series games. Ultimately, a prepared Cardinals squad that believed they could win against the vaunted Phillies proved they belong in the playoffs. The Cardinals certainly won the series as much as the Phillies lost it.

In the days to follow, we'll break down more of this series and the rest of the playoff showdowns. As my partners are both die hard Phillies fans, it may take some time to allow retrospection to take over the emotional pain they must be feeling.


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