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Opportunities lost loom large for Phillies

Opportunities lost loom large for Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Lidge took a cursory glance at the nameplates atop the lockers in the Phillies' clubhouse.

"There's no sugarcoating it," he said. "We feel like we lost a chance."

The Phillies lost more than just a game on Saturday night with their 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Giants in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Poised with a chance to become the first NL team to claim three consecutive pennants in 66 years, they lost their chance at history and, perhaps, a legitimate dynasty.

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"With this pitching staff, you look around the room with the names on the team -- it takes more than names, but I thought we had that other thing, too," Lidge said. "I didn't think there was any team in baseball that could play with us this year."


In the season in which the Phillies won more games than they had in all but two of their 128 years of existence -- more than each of their World Series championship years of 1980 and 2008 -- they fell one series short.

"We're all extremely disappointed," said Chase Utley, who finished the NLCS 4-for-22. "We set a goal and we didn't accomplish it."

The Phillies missed their big historical opportunity because they missed all the smaller chances they had throughout this NLCS. In Game 6, they had hits in their first two at-bats with runners in scoring position; they had none in their final nine. They got into the San Francisco bullpen with no outs in the third -- and didn't score for the rest of the night.

When a club loses games by one run -- three of them in this series -- the tendency is to overanalyze single at-bats, those moments that could have and perhaps should have altered the outcome. The Phillies resisted that temptation on Saturday, taking a broader approach.

"You can look back at the number of opportunities we had -- we just didn't get it done," said Jimmy Rollins. "It's a game. Somebody had to win. Somebody had to lose. We ended up short."

Perhaps they were forced into that philosophy by the sheer number of opportunities they had. They came up to the plate with a runner in scoring position 45 times in all, and came away with only eight hits.

In Game 6, those missed chances included the first inning, when Raul Ibanez popped up with two on and the Giants on the ropes, already down, 2-0.

"We definitely could have done more offensively," said Ibanez, who was 4-for-19 with no RBIs in the series. "I put myself at the front of the line. I should have done more offensively the entire season and in the postseason. It's tough. We didn't get it done."

In the third inning, Philadelphia knocked Jonathan Sanchez out of the game after a leadoff walk and a hit batsman with no outs and the heart of the order coming up. But Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt struck out Ryan Howard before retiring Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino to end the inning.

In the eighth, Victorino was doubled off second on Carlos Ruiz's sharp line drive to first baseman Aubrey Huff.

"Am I frustrated I got doubled up at second base? Yeah, but what can I do?" asked Victorino.

Philadelphia similarly had no answers for its mysterious postseason slump -- one that infected the entire lineup. After hitting .212 as a team in the three-game sweep of Cincinnati, the Phillies batted just .216 in the series loss to the Giants. Only two regulars hit above .250, and Howard, who led the Phils with seven hits in the series, did not record a single RBI.

"That's just the game," Howard said. "We didn't get it done. I didn't get it done."

Howard's ninth-inning strikeout to end the series was the culmination of a perplexing dropoff in offensive production for the team that finished second in the NL in runs. The Phillies scored only 31 runs in nine playoff games this year. They scored 35 in last year's five-game NLCS.

The Phillies, though, preferred to focus on their constant effort and what they have accomplished in Philadelphia over the last four autumns.

"There's something eating me up right now, but I can look in the mirror and say, 'I gave it my all.' We can all say that," said Victorino. "What we need to look at here is what this team has done."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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