OK, so the Phillies' two weekend losses to the Nationals were painful to endure, the ninth-inning collapses perhaps constituting the most notorious Washington chokes since George W. Bush battled that pretzel in 2002.

But, really, if you're on the Phillies bandwagon - a vehicle more densely packed, by the way, than the 5:12 p.m. Calcutta Local - a little late-season swoon might not be the worst thing in the world for the National League East leaders.

Not when you consider baseball's "century curse."

Let's examine this truly frightening hundred-win hex.

As the Phillies on Monday night opened their Citizens Bank Park series with 10-0 win over a New York Mets club whose pitching staff also may be a Ponzi scheme, they appeared headed for not just 100 wins but the franchise's all-time victory mark of 101.

After all, even a humdrum 20-16 record in the final 36 games would give them 102.

That accomplishment would look great in the 2012 media guide. A World Series win, of course, would look even better. And while it seems as illogical as Charlie Manuel's rain-delay strategy, winning 100-plus regular-season games is a virtual guarantee of postseason failure.

After 1986, 25 teams have won more than 100 games. And how many would you suppose went on to win a World Series?

Two-thirds? Half? Ten?

How about two?

Two for 25. Sounds like a typical week for Jayson Werth.

In the last quarter-century, only the New York Yankees, in 1998 and 2009, have capped 100-victory regular seasons with World Series parades.

Here's an even more remarkable statistic: 17 of those 25 juggernauts didn't even reach the World Series. One, the 103-win Giants in pre-wild card 1993, never even got to the playoffs.

The remaining six 100-win clubs that earned a World Series spot but lost should have declined the honor. They lost 20 of the 24 games they played.

Perhaps these 2011 Phils will overcome history as well as the Giants, Diamondbacks and truly scary Brewers. But, at least in terms of recent baseball, it would be an aberration.

Maybe the most striking example of this October surprise was the 2001 Mariners.

Even though they'd lost Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriquez, arguably the two best players in the game, general manager Pat Gillick's team won 116 games, an unsurpassed total matched only by the 1906 Cubs. They defeated Cleveland in the division series but were thumped, four games to one, by the 95-win Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

"That Yankees team was in its prime, and they were loaded," recalled Lou Piniella, then the Mariners manager. "They were the team we wanted to meet in the postseason. You always want to test yourself against the best. But it just didn't happen for us."

Not to worry, you say? The Phillies' Four Aces are far superior to a Seattle rotation that included such mere mortals as Jamie Moyer, Aaron Sele, and Freddy Garcia?

That may be, but Atlanta between 1993 and 2003 certainly had a staff comparable with Philadelphia's. Yet Bobby Cox's Braves underachieved as regularly as Andy Reid's Eagles.

Despite winning 100-plus games six times in that span, Atlanta followed those seasons with six playoff disappointments.

The fact that those Braves won just one World Series remains a sore point for John Smoltz. He suggested that what motivated the Braves to capture the 1995 World Series was a fear that they'd be linked forever with the NFL's Buffalo Bills, losers of four Super Bowls.

"I never understood why that was such a bad thing, but you know how it goes in sports," said the ex-Braves ace who is now an MLB Network analyst. "But as to why these 100-win teams don't win the Series, all I know is that if there were a magical number of wins that would guarantee you'd win it, everyone would be striving for it.

"For whatever reason, the playoff system is not foolproof. The best teams over 162 games don't always win."

But do they almost always have to lose? In fact, the more a team wins, the worse it typically does in October.

In addition to the failure by the 116-win Mariners, the 1998 Braves (106 wins) lost to San Diego in the NL Championship Series; the 2004 Cardinals (105) were swept by the Red Sox in the World Series; 1988 A's (104) lost four of five to the Dodgers in the Kirk Gibson World Series; and the 1993 Braves (104) lost in six games to the Phils in the NLCS.

Twenty-three failures in 25 tries suggests more than randomness. Many in baseball blame - or credit - the five-game wild-card series instituted in 1995.

"People look at you funny when you say any team can beat you in a best of five," said Smoltz, "but it's almost true."

Brad Ausmus, the recently retired catcher who played on a 101-win Astros team that lost to San Diego in a 1998 division series, said a team like the Phillies, with a deep and talented rotation built for 162 games, has a big advantage in the regular season but not necessarily in a short series.

"I like the five-game format," said Ausmus, who now works in the Padres front office. "It creates a little more diversity in the World Series. And going into one, I'd certainly like to have the Phillies' starting rotation. . . . But if you're wild-card team and have just one really good pitcher, he can still win you two games. Now you're only talking about the underdog having to win one of three. That's doable."

Then there's the increasingly popular theory that it's better to get hot in September and endure a hard-fought stretch run than, as these Phils seem destined to do, coast wire to wire.

"I think it probably is true that when you get to 100 wins you more than likely had a big lead and won your division rather easily," said Smoltz, "Maybe your edge is gone. Maybe you've got to try to recoup it somehow."

And, according to Smoltz at least, just because teams struggled against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels in the spring and summer, it doesn't mean they will in the fall. Some clubs that upset the Braves in October, he said, approached him and fellow aces Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox differently than in the regular season.

"Glavine and Maddox were better prepared than anyone over 162 games," Smoltz said. "But in a short series, you could almost do things to them that you couldn't over 162. [Hitters] could eliminate certain things. And with the strike zone more condensed, everything gets a little more intense."

So, if the Phils blow another late lead or two, or if the Mets or Astros bludgeon them into a submission a few times between now and October, don't consider hari kari - or, as we spell it in baseball, Harry Caray.

That three-digit win total looks nice in the last team standings. But it's better to be the last team standing.

Inside the Phillies: 100 Wins Don't Mean Much

Since 1988, 25 teams have won 100 games during the regular season. But only two - the 1998 Yankees and 2009 Yankees - went on to win the World Series. Here are those 25 teams and how they fared:

Team            Wins            Results

1988 Mets       100     Lost to Dodgers in NLCS.

1988 A's         104    Lost to Dodgers in World Series, 4-1.

1990 A's         103    Lost to Reds in World Series, 4-0.

1993 Giants      103    Finished second to Braves NL West.

1993 Braves   104    Lost to Phillies in NLCS.

1995 Indians    100     Lost to Braves in World Series, 4-2.

1997 Braves   101    Lost to Marlins in NLCS.

1998 Astros      102    Lost to Padres in NLDS.

1998 Braves    106    Lost to Padres in NLCS.

1998 Yankees   114    Beat Padres in World Series, 4-0.

1999 D'Backs   100    Lost to Mets in NLCS.

1999 Braves   103    Lost to Yankees in World Series, 4-0.

2001 A's         102    Lost to Yankees in ALDS.

2001 Mariners    116    Lost to Yankees in ALCS.

2002 Braves   101    Lost to Giants in NLDS.

2002 Yankees   103    Lost to Angels in ALDS.

2002 A's          103    Lost to Twins in ALDS.

2003 Giants    100    Lost to Marlins in NLDS.

2003 Braves   101    Lost to Cubs in NLDS.

2003 Yankees   101    Lost to Marlins in World Series, 4-2.

2004 Yankees   101    Lost to Red Sox in ALCS.

2004 Cardinals   105    Lost to Red Sox in World Series, 4-0.

2005 Cardinals 100    Lost to Astros in NLDS.

2008 Angels   100    Lost to Red Sox in ALDS.

2009 Yankees   103    Beat Phillies in World Series, 4-2.

- Frank FitzpatrickEndText

at 215-854-5068 or at ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com or follow him on Twitter at @philafitz or on his blog, Giving 'Em Fitz.