Only a few days ago - since we landed in DC - the Phillies stood atop the National League wild-card race.
I told everyone within earshot it wasn't going to happen; of course, I told everyone within earshot that same thing in July too. The Phillies were cursed beyond their control: They're based in Philadelphia.
So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Phils (and Ryan Howard in the AP pic at right) lost two of three from the last-place Nationals, including Thursday night's rain-delayed loss which didn't start much before midnight. The loss left them two games behind the Dodgers with a mere three games to play.
It's the cycle of sports life in that town, a town whose teams I grew up rooting for.
Let's take a look at the recent heartbreaking past:
-- Eagles: Reached the NFC Championship three straight years (2001-03), losing all three years. Finally broke through in that fourth year, only to lose Super Bowl XXXIX to New England.
-- Flyers: Swept out of Stanley Cup finals in 1997 by star-studded Detroit; since then, have made pushes to return to the Finals, but have consistently come up short.
-- Sixers: Have made it past Eastern Conference first round as recently as 2003, but have not come close to the NBA Finals since 2001. In that series, they shocked another star-studded team, the Lakers, in the first game, and then lost four straight.
-- Phillies: Mostly a dog since their 1993 World Series trip, which was lost on a home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6. They've gotten better recently, however, but still have not made the playoffs. They were swept in a pivotal series with Houston in September last year; only a miracle could save them this year.
And as we've seen, miracles are in short supply around Philly.
It's a shame that one must temper expectations to avoid inevitable heartbreak. Then, if a team does make the playoffs, it's an unexpected bonus.
So, before you ask, the Eagles will finish a game under .500.
(Dear Lord, Please let the Eagles make the playoffs. Amen.)