Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last Chance for the 1964 Phillies in Their Epic Collapse: Force A Three-Way Tie

After having lost 10 in a row to see their 6-1/2 game lead with 12 remaining go to a 2-1/2 game deficit with only two left, the Phillies began their final series of the season--two games in Cincinnati, who trailed St. Louis by half-a-game--needing a perfect storm in their favor. They could still finish the 162-game schedule tied for first if they won both their games against the Reds and the Cardinals lost all three of their remaining games, which happened to be against the lowly Mets. This would create a three-way tie.

Last Chance for the Phillies: Force a Three-Way Tie

You read right, Philadelphia's only possibility of making the World Series--which 10 consecutive losses and 10 days ago seemed like such a sure thing--would be to win a never-before three-way playoff series with Cincinnati and St. Louis to determine the pennant winner. It could have even been a four-way tie for first, but only if the Giants, who were now three games back, won all three of their remaining games against the Cubs in San Francisco, and if the Cardinals were swept by the Mets, and if the Phillies won both of their games against the Reds.

Blessedly for the Philadelphia Phillies, on October 1 came their first day of rest since August 31. They had played 31 games in the first 30 days of September. And the fact that there was another off day on Saturday--between their Friday and Sunday games in Cincinnati--meant that Mauch could start his two best pitchers, Chris Short and Jim Bunning, on their normal three of days rest in the final two games of the season.

As it happened, the Phillies did their part by beating the Reds in both teams' final games of the season, and the Cardinals did their part by losing the first two of their three games with the Mets. After Bunning pitched a shutout in game # 162, the Phillies and Reds were tied, awaiting the outcome of the Cardinals finale with the Mets. The Mets had a   3-2 lead in the fifth, but that score was deceiving. Bob Gibson came on in relief to shut down the Mets. The Cardinals scored three times in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings to blow out the Mets and secure the National League pennant with no need for any playoff.

For good measure, St. Louis went on to win the World Series that Philadelphia had seemed sure was theirs to play.

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