Phillies Vs. Braves: Atlanta Coughs Up Ninth-Inning Lead, Eliminated From Wild Card Race

The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves, 4-3 in 13 innings. The Atlanta Braves will not go to the playoffs. Unbelievable. It wouldn't have been right to complete a monumental collapse with a garden-variety loss. There had to be some hope after the hope faded -- a dead-cat bounce of hope. Sure, the Braves had give away a huge Wild-Card lead in the last month of the season, but they were about to win to force a 163rd game. They had one of the best closers in the game on the mound. Everything wasn't so bad.

And then ...

The Phillies were trying. They felt an obligation. They had all of their regulars in, and they continued to play through extra innings. Chase Utley had concussion issues. Jimmy Rollins had hamstring problems. They played the entire game.

But the starting pitching? That was where Charlie Manuel felt he needed to be selfish. He was going to start Joe Blanton for a couple of innings, before Cole Hamels and Vance Worley got a little work in before the playoffs. The Braves had a little advantage by being the only team needing the win.

There's something to be said for playing for pride, though.

After the Phillies got on the board first, the Braves manufactured a run in the bottom-half of the inning, Michael Bourn-style, as he singled, stole a base, moved over on a grounder, and scored on a sacrifice fly. A Dan Uggla two-run homer gave the Braves a 3-1 lead in the third inning with Tim Hudson on the mound, and that vaunted Braves bullpen coming up.

Oh, that vaunted, hard-worked bullpen.

A Jack Wilson error set up the Phillies second run, but the Braves still entered the top of the ninth with a 3-2 lead. But Craig Kimbrel was too wild, giving up a single and walking three hitters in the inning. An Utley sac fly tied the game. 

A few innings later, it was a walk to Brian Schneider that was the decisive run. Scott Linebrink gave it up in the 13th, and after an Utley single, Hunter Pence hit a knuckleball to Uggla's left. He couldn't do anything with it, and David Herndon got the save.

Did Craig Kimbrel cost himself the Rookie of the Year with the blown save? That'd be a ticky-tack way to lose it, but it's possible. The problem with that thinking is that the likely runner-up, Freddie Freeman, hit into the double play to end the Braves' season.

The Braves could have made the playoffs if they had won just one game out of their last five. They did not. The Cardinals came back from the afterworld, and they're going to be in the playoffs. The Braves -- no strangers to September and October heartbreak -- are not. 

Amazing.

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