PHILADELPHIA -- During the offseason, Shane Victorino often saw the replay of his sprint to the mound after the Phillies recorded the final out to win the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays last year. Several cameras had focused on him as Brad Lidge struck out the Rays' Eric Hinske. Victorino jumped in the air and then ran to the infield to celebrate with his teammates.
This offseason, he figures he'll once again be the focus of World Series highlights, but for different reasons. Victorino's groundout to Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano in Game 6 of the World Series ended Philadelphia's quest to repeat as world champions. Unlike his zealous sprint last year, Victorino slowly jogged to the dugout while watching the Yankees celebrate after their 7-3 win. At one point while still in the infield, Victorino paused to watch, but then he could take no more. So he simply ran back to the dugout and went straight to the clubhouse.
"I guess I'm going to be on the highlights all offseason after making that last out," Victorino said.
Most Phillies expressed a sense of accomplishment after their loss. After all, the last National League team to return to the World Series after winning the title the previous season were the 1995-96 Atlanta Braves. Yet they also admitted regret in that this year's Phillies team simply did not play better.
"We were a better team than the one that showed up," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.
Why didn't the Phillies win again? Here are the top five reasons:
1. The potent Phillies offense simply didn't show up.
As a team, Philadelphia hit just .227 with a .318 on-base percentage. Rollins and Victorino hit a combined .200 (9-for-45) and scored just six runs. Rollins at least had a .345 on-base percentage, but he drove in just two runs, the same number of runs he drove in during his critical at-bat against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in Game 4 of the NLCS.
Against left-handed pitching, Howard and Raul Ibanez combined to hit just 6-for-31 with 14 strikeouts.
"It seemed like our offense, when we had to really get down and get the big hits or we had to do things to take them out of the game, it seemed like we couldn't do it," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We kind of sputtered a little bit."
2. Howard couldn't carry over his MVP performance from the NLCS.
Perhaps nobody embodied the Phillies' offensive woes more than Howard, who set a new World Series record with 13 strikeouts. In the NLCS, Howard had eight RBI and a gaudy 1.457 OPS. In the World Series he hit just .174 with just three RBI, two in Game 6. While Howard helped the Phillies survive Rollins' and Utley's struggles during the NLCS, the rest of the Phillies were unable to compensate for Howard's World Series slump.
In the NLDS and NLCS combined, Howard put the ball in play in 24 of his 64 total swings. In the World Series, he put the ball in play in just 10 of his 52 swings. Three of those balls in play came in Game 6.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before," Howard said when asked if he was pitched differently in the World Series.
3. The Phillies' bullpen was hit hard.
Philadelphia's bullpen (3.38 ERA) had helped carry the team to a 3-1 series win against the Dodgers in the NLCS. But during the World Series, Phillies relievers allowed seven runs in just 11 2/3 innings (5.40 ERA). The Phillies' most reliable reliever was Chan Ho Park, who in three games pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Closer Brad Lidge was a non-factor. Manuel only used Lidge once, a one-inning stint in which he allowed three runs as the Game 4 loser. Though Manuel said before the series he would use Lidge liberally, obviously the Phillies' manager did not have the same confidence in Lidge as he did last year.
4. Cole Hamels
Last year's NLCS and World Series MVP was knocked around (five runs in 4 1/3 innings) in his Game 3 start. Philadelphia needed one good start from Hamels and didn't get it.
Obviously shaken by his mediocre season, Hamels was criticized for comments he made after Game 3 when he implied that he hoped the season would end soon. During the regular season Hamels was only 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA. He was much worse in the postseason. In four starts, Hamels was 1-2 with a 7.58 ERA.
5. Manuel allowed Pedro Martinez to pitch too long in Games 2 and 6.
In Game 2, Martinez had allowed just two runs in six innings and entered the seventh having thrown 99 pitches. Manuel opted to stay with Martinez, though historically Martinez's performance begins to decline after 100 pitches. The first two Yankees reached base against Martinez in the seventh and one eventually scored in the Yankees' 3-1 win.
In Game 6, Martinez began the third inning by striking out Brett Gardner, but then allowed a single to Derek Jeter, walked Johnny Damon and hit Mark Teixeira to load the bases for Hideki Matsui, who had already homered against Martinez in the second inning. Instead of bringing in a reliever, Manuel stuck with Martinez. Matsui hit a two-run single to put the Yankees ahead 4-1.
"[Pedro] knows how to pitch," Manuel said. "He's got experience, he knows how to pitch and everything, and you know I had to let him face that guy. I had to let him. It wasn't time for me to take him out."
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.