Well, it's been nice.
The Phillies, as you know and have witnessed and been told endlessly, are a resilient team. They are never finished until it is finished, are never out of it until it is over. They battle, they scrap, they come back when there is very little hope of coming back.
All of that is still true as the sun comes up on this morning of the fifth game of the 2009 World Series. The Phillies are not going to go gently into the good South Philadelphia night this evening, just as they won't go gently into the harsh chill of the Bronx should the Series be extended beyond tonight. That isn't the way they play.
But, well, it's been nice.
Even the late heroics of Pedro Feliz, who tied the game last night with a solo home run when the Phillies were down to their final four outs, couldn't turn the tide of a night that eventually washed over them by a 7-4 score.
They had one comeback in them, but hardly enough to offset a two-out meltdown by Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth. It is either ironic or maddening, or baseball's cruel sense of justice, that a season which has teetered on the brink at times, at least partly because of Lidge, fell irrevocably close to the abyss because of him.
"I think we take pride on the way we bounce back, and I know we'll play [Game 5] to win," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I've seen us go through it before. We've blown something like 22 leads after the seventh inning this year. That should tell you something about the resilience of the team."
Lidge's disappointment will be remembered by fans long after they have forgotten that it has been the Phillies' prolific offense that let them down the most. The Phils have had the misfortune to go cold and untimely at the plate after winning the opener against the Yankees. They scored a total of 10 runs in the three losses that have followed.
With the exception of Cole Hamels, the starting pitching has been good enough in the Series - good enough, in fact, to have provided them the three-games-to-one lead rather than forcing them to stare uphill at it.
In last night's matchup of Country Joe and the Flesh, Joe Blanton of the Phillies got them through the sixth inning and gave up four runs. That's about what is expected of him. CC Sabathia of the Yankees pitched himself into trouble and the Phils consistently let him out. They hit 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and committed their greatest sin when the first two batters got aboard in the fifth inning and the next three batters - Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth - failed to get the ball out of the infield.
Baseball does not reward such oversights. The Phils have not been able to put together big innings, their stock in trade, scoring more than one run in an inning just three times so far in the four games of the Series, and only once in the three losses. Half of their production last night came on solo home runs - one by Feliz and one by Utley - and there is some fitting irony in that as well. All seven of their homers in this series have been with the bases empty, meaning that the Yankees challenge them when the odds are best and pitch them more carefully when they are not.
It is the way to play baseball, and New York, like it or not, has to be grudgingly applauded for that. The Phillies failed at the worst times and they find themselves in a very difficult place now.
The World Series isn't over, but only two teams out of 22 that have been in this situation have been able to come back and become champions. Do the Phillies have that capability in them? Of course they do, but whether they would also be given the good fortune necessary to get it done is unlikely.
It has been nice. That's not a criticism, just a reminder. They can force the Series back to New York with a Cliff Lee win tonight. That might be the easiest part of the mission that is ahead.
They would return to Yankee Stadium needing to pitch Pedro Martinez in Game 6 and Hamels in Game 7, or Martinez and then J.A. Happ. Or J.A. Happ and then All Hands On Deck. In any case, the odds aren't good. In fact, they are very bad.
It's been nice and the quality of this team is not diminished because this season probably won't end in a party. You just have to remember that the party has lasted two years and that's pretty good.
"This was tough, because it's the World Series," Manuel said. "We're down, but we're still breathing."
That part is nice, too, for now.