ATLANTA – So it ends like this.
The Phillies watched the Braves storm the field and celebrate on Thursday night at Truist Park after their 5-3 victory. Atlanta swept the three-game series to clinch its fourth consecutive National League East title, while the Phillies ensured their 10th consecutive October without postseason baseball.
It was another disappointing finish to another disappointing season.
“I feel like I failed,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said, “getting us to where we wanted to get to. I always take responsibility, full responsibility. I failed, and it’s a really empty feeling. Because there’s a lot of time that goes into this and a lot of work. It stinks. It hurts. We’ve been going at this really since the last day of last year, you know? From a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint, and it hurts. We’ve got to get better. That’s the bottom line. We need to break this.”
Girardi took accountability for longest postseason drought in the National League extending for another year, but time has shown that the Phillies’ failures run much deeper than a manager. This season was just the latest example of the many shortcomings of a painful rebuild that started in earnest in 2015, when the Phillies hired Andy MacPhail as president and Matt Klentak as general manager. The Phillies were considered a “sleeping giant” at the time, considering their market size and resources. But the rebuild went awry and hasn't produced or acquired enough talent. MacPhail is leaving the organization after the season. Klentak agreed to step down last October.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who joined the organization in December, will enter his first full offseason with numerous holes to fill on the big league roster. He already started a rehaul of the Minor League system.
Girardi said he believes the Phillies can snap the streak in 2022.
“Well, I see the commitment from Mr. [John] Middleton and the Buck family and Dave Dombrowski, Sam [Fuld] and everyone involved,” he said. “I see the commitment to getting back to where this franchise needs to be. This is a proud franchise. We need to break this streak. We’re going to do whatever it takes. We’re going to do everything we can to do it, I can tell you that. There is such a commitment from the top down. We’re going to do everything we can.”
Phillies right-hander Kyle Gibson allowed five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings. The Phillies acquired Gibson, Ian Kennedy and Hans Crouse from Texas on July 30 because they had no pitching reinforcements in the farm system. The Phillies surrendered top prospect Spencer Howard in the deal, but they felt they had no choice. If they stood pat, it essentially meant they had given up with two months to play.
Gibson had a 2.87 ERA in 19 starts with Texas, but a 5.09 ERA in 12 appearances following the trade. He will be back next season, and he will provide depth. The rotation is probably the team’s strength entering the offseason, with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez and Gibson. Zach Eflin, who had right knee surgery earlier this month, could return sometime early next season. But there are so many other holes to fill.
The Phillies scored six runs in the series. They had 13 hits. Bryce Harper, who carried the offense for the entire second half, went 0-for-11 with one walk and five strikeouts. He needs more help.
Phillies left fielder Andrew McCutchen, who hit a two-run home run in the seventh, will be a free agent after the season. It will be surprising if he returns. The Phillies could be looking for two new outfielders, if center fielder Odúbel Herrera is not back. The Phillies have to figure out the left side of their infield, which struggled. They have to rebuild their bullpen.
But with all their issues, the Phillies were only 1 1/2 games behind Atlanta on Saturday.
“The chances were there to capitalize and to run away with it, really,” McCutchen said. “We had moments where we did and we had moments where we didn’t. There’s a lot to think about and to wonder and go over. Just the fact that it was there and in our hands and it slipped away.”
The Phillies will finish the season with three games in Miami. They need to win one to finish with their first winning season since 2011. It will provide little solace.
“The reason that we put this uniform on is to win,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. … Yeah, there are some things that you can take from the season and you can say, well, there were some improvements there and there, but the bottom line is we didn’t get it done.”