The Philadelphia Phillies began the season believing it could be like each of the previous five, with an NL East title and a chance to win the World Series.
For the first time in six years, though, they won't even have the opportunity to finish as champions.
A day after being eliminated from postseason contention, the slumping Phillies face a Miami Marlins team on Saturday night that has been out of the playoff picture for weeks.
Philadelphia (78-79) overcame an awful first half before a late surge pulled it within three games of St. Louis for NL's second wild-card spot last Friday. The Phillies have lost five of six since, though, and were officially eliminated with Friday's 2-1 defeat in Miami.
"It's disappointing,' starter Cliff Lee said. "I think everyone here could agree with that. We expected to win this division, make the postseason, and win the World Series ultimately. Obviously that's not going to happen now.'
Carlos Lee's game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning helped Miami (67-90) snap a season-high seven-game losing streak and dash Philadelphia's faint postseason hopes.
There are several factors why the Phillies are missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but injuries to some of their best players tends to be the leading reason. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each missed the season's first three months, while Roy Halladay (10-8, 4.40 ERA) spent seven weeks on the disabled list.
Halladay has rarely pitched like a two-time Cy Young Award winner and is wrapping up his worst season since his injury-plagued 2004, when he went 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA for Toronto.
He wasn't 100 percent against Atlanta last Saturday, and it showed. Two days after feeling spasms behind his right shoulder, Halladay was tagged for seven runs in 1 2-3 innings in an 8-2 loss, the second-shortest start of his career.
Halladay's last win came against the Marlins on Sept. 11, but it wasn't a gem by any means. He permitted five runs, seven hits and three walks over 6 1-3 innings in a 9-7 victory.
Giancarlo Stanton homered in that one, and is 4 for 8 against the eight-time All-Star this year.
Stanton, one of the few bright spots on a Marlins team trying to avoid losing 91 games for the first time since 2007, hit his 35th home run Friday after missing the previous nine games with an oblique strain. He established a career high for homers, bettering his mark from a year ago in 86 fewer at_bats.
Howard, meanwhile, has 14 home runs and will finish with his fewest since hitting 22 as a rookie in 2005. The slugger is 1 for 15 with eight strikeouts in his last five games after homering in each of his previous four, and is 1 for 21 with eight strikeouts against the Marlins this year.
Little suggests facing Ricky Nolasco (12-12, 4.35) will help him snap out of his slump.
Since 2009, Howard is 3 for 17 (.176) against Nolasco, who is 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his last five starts.
Nolasco pitched well enough to win Sunday against the New York Mets, yielding two runs and five hits over seven innings, but the Marlins ended up losing 3-2.
The right-hander has posted a 3.86 ERA in winning his season's two starts against the Phillies, and last faced them July 1.
The Associated Press News Service
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