The Final Days: Bunning and Short in Desperation Starts
Despite having pitched poorly and losing the first of the four-game series with Milwaukee, Jim Bunning volunteered to start the final game of that series on September 27. This was his second start on short rest, but remember, the first was on September 16 against Houston when Philadelphia was not in a pennant-race dogfight and there was no obvious reason to do so. Now there was very good reason, but the script followed an arc similar to his start in Houston. Bunning departed in the fourth inning and the Phillies, 14-8 losers, had now lost seven straight and were down one game in the standings to Cincinnati and just barely ahead--by half-a-game--of the third-place Cardinals of St. Louis--their next destination.
The unintended consequence of his having started both Short and Bunning out of turn on two days of rest against the Braves was that Mauch was now forced to use his two best pitchers once again on short rest against the Cardinals--who were now a team they (the Phillies) had to beat to keep from falling behind yet another suddenly emergent pennant contender, let alone keep pace with the Reds, against whom they would play their final two games of the season. Had they pitched in turn in the rotation, Short and Bunning would have been available to pitch on their normal three-days rest in the season series that now mattered the most--against the Cardinals with the pennant at stake.
Both did start on short rest--each making three starts in the space of seven days--and both lost. As had become commonplace during their horrendous slide, the Phillies squandered numerous scoring opportunities, having great difficulty with runners in scoring position. By the time they left St. Louis, having been swept in the three-game series, the Phillies had lost 10 straight and were now in third place, 2-1/2 games behind, on life support with only two games left for them to play, in Cincinnati, who they trailed by two games. Both the Reds and Cardinals had three games remaining.
Now it was they--the Philadelphia Phillies--who needed a perfect storm in their favor.