The 2011 season is over for the Atlanta Braves. In a sense, Wednesday night's loss was a perfect representation of the season for Braves Country.
With Tim Hudson on the mound, the Phillies struck first. Hunter Pence drew a two-out walk and Ryan Howard followed with a double down the left field line. The 2011 Braves struggled early on in the season, the team struggled early in tonight's ball game.
Atlanta battled back in the bottom half of the first inning. Michael Bourn singled, stole second, moved to third on a fielder's choice groundout from Martin Prado, and then scored on a sacrifice fly from Chipper Jones. Just as this year's team did, they eventually caught their footing and started to move back towards .500 after the first month.
In the second inning, Dan Uggla hit a two-run home run to make the score 3-1. Just as the Braves did in May and June, the team impressed and made big strides forward. They were among the leaders in the standings and they were firing on all cylinders, just as they did in innings two through six.
Imagine the seventh and eighth innings as August. Everything appeared to be going well, but a costly error from Jack Wilson allowed a run to score on a play that should have ended a scoring threat. And despite getting out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning, Jonny Venters struggles were eerily similar to the struggles in early-September; the team got out of a few tricky situations, but they were lucky to do so and were living off a prior lead they had built up.
Move on to the ninth inning, which is the middle of September. Craig Kimbrel, arguably the best reliever in all of baseball this season, was unable to shut the door in the ninth and blew the lead. Can you think of any team that had a lead early and eventually blew it in the final stages of the year? Fortunately, Kris Medlen saved the team and induced a popup in foul territory to end the threat.
The damage had already been done, though, and it was 3-3.
Imagine the extra innings as the final two weeks of the season. Atlanta had a multitude of chances to win the game, just as the team had a multitude of options to seal the deal in the wild card race. Instead, their continually poor at-bats cost them a chance to win the game.
Now it's the thirteenth inning, which brings us to the present day. The Braves had a lead early, watched it slowly slip away, and -- just like the wild card lead yesterday -- saw it disappear in the blink of an eye. With runners on the corners and two outs, Hunter Pence (yeah, the guy Atlanta could have had at the trade deadline if they really wanted him) hits a broken bat infield single that lands between Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman. Neither player is able to make a play on the ball and the score becomes 4-3 in the Phillies favor.
Atlanta made it cruel on their fans in the bottom half of the inning as Dan Uggla drew a walk to put the tying run on base, but Freddie Freeman hit into a 3-6-3 double play to end the game.
The season was over.
Nine wins and eighteen loses in the month of September, two wins in their final ten games.
A team that had held a lead in the wild card standings since June 28 lost it for no more then 24 hours and they are no longer headed to the playoffs because of it.
This season was a roller coaster for Braves Country. It had it's thrills, chills, triumphs and heartbreaks. In the end, we came up just one game short of the playoffs.
Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals. They had an incredible month of September.
That being said, the Braves completely threw this season away and have no one to blame but themselves.
This one hurts. A lot. And it's going to for a long time.