It is, along with the enormous payroll, the price the Phillies must pay for their new status as one of Major League Baseball's most conspicuous Haves.

They reached the final four of their sport for the third consecutive year and the overwhelming feeling, after their shocking 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night, is not satisfaction about one of the better seasons in franchise history.

It is disappointment. It is disbelief. It is the nagging sense that the best team, with the best pitching, found a way to lose the National League Championship Series.

The Giants, who took the Phillies' hearts in six games, will go on to face the Texas Rangers in the World Series.

The Phillies will face an off-season, and perhaps much longer, of wondering how they could have squandered the golden opportunity afforded them by the Golden Arms of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.

The answer could be found in the way their dream, their season ended. Ryan Howard, the man who gets the biggest piece of that payroll, came to the plate with two on and two out in the ninth inning. Howard worked a full count against bizarrely bearded Brian Wilson, then fouled a pitch.

Wilson threw a called strike three past Howard, who had zero runs batted in during the series. The Giants rushed out of their dugout to celebrate behind the pitcher's mound, former Phillies Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand among them.

Both teams played Game 6 of the NLCS as if they could feel every ounce of that burden across their shoulders.

In the first inning, as the Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead, Citizens Bank Park was as October-loud as anyone could remember it - the stands as full as the moon in the Eastern sky, the fans almost as high.

By the seventh inning, with the score tied at 2, the ballpark was as quiet and as tense as an operating room during open-heart surgery. The Phillies had blown their lead with some shoddy defense in the third inning. They had gotten runners on base in several innings - bases loaded in the fifth, a runner on third in the sixth - but could not summon the clutch hit that would break open the game and kickstart the fans.

The tension was palpable. Someone was going to get a big hit. Would it be the Phillies, who thrilled and amazed their long-downtrodden city for two magic Octobers in a row? Or would it be the Giants, who (if you squinted a bit) appeared to be playing with the verve and heart that carried the Phillies to their 2008 world championship?

The answer came in the eighth inning.

Ryan Madson, who had pitched brilliantly in San Francisco, was on the mound for the Phillies. Normally a one-inning reliever, he was asked to pitch a second inning for the second time in three games. Madson had two outs as Juan Uribe, the Giants' walkoff hero from Game 4, stepped into the batter's box.

First pitch: Uribe hit a towering fly ball to right field. Jayson Werth ran toward the fence. The fans along the railing leaned back, smartly avoiding contact with the ball.

It didn't matter. Uribe's shot cleared the fence by a foot. The ballpark went silent again, the fans dumbstruck as it dawned on them. The Giants, stocked with castoffs from other franchises, were on the brink of canceling everyone's plans for a third consecutive Phillies World Series appearance.

It didn't seem possible.

After all, the Phillies had the poised and experienced Oswalt throwing 95-m.p.h. fastballs with precision and purpose. The Giants had young Jonathan Sanchez struggling to find the strike zone, walking batters and allowing hits. No wonder the ballpark was so loud. The fans were practicing for Hamels, for Game 7, for another champagne celebration.

Then the third inning happened. Sanchez, the pitcher, led off with a single. Andres Torres followed with a shot to the deepest part of the ballpark. Center fielder Shane Victorino ran it down and made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch like the one famously made by Giants Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

Except no. No, the ball bounced out of Victorino's glove and Torres had a 400-foot single. After the runners were sacrificed over with a bunt, Aubrey Huff hit another single. Sanchez scored. Victorino threw Torres out at the plate. Disaster appeared to be averted – until Buster Posey hit a bouncer toward third and Placido Polanco's throwing error allowed Huff to score from second.

From then on, the ballpark got quieter and more tense with each passing inning, with each wasted opportunity.

It was the Giants, with their bearded closer and Kung Fu Panda and long-haired Cy Young Award winner, who came through. It was the Giants who tasted the champagne.

The Phillies and their fans tasted only bitterness. The franchise that taught a city Great Expectations had failed to live up to them.

In the end, the Haves had nothing.