PHILADELPHIA -- Monday night at Citizens Bank Park could have been so different.
Had the Phillies not lost key players like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay to injuries, had a slew of other players not underperformed, had they picked up an extra win or two per month the first four months of the season, maybe Monday's series opener against the Atlanta Braves would have had another sellout crowd in anticipation of a critical game between a pair of teams fighting for a National League Wild Card spot.
Instead, the Phillies are 13 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leaders and snapped their remarkable sellout streak at 257 games.
The Phillies had 41,665 fans in attendance for Monday's 6-1 loss to the Braves. It was the first time since July 6, 2009, they did not have a sellout crowd.
"I thought from the way we were going, yeah," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, asked if he figured the streak would be halted before the end of the season. "Yeah, I did think that. I tried not to. But yeah, it was kind of obvious that might happen. It's kind of up to us to make sure we get our team together and get better and get our crowd back. I'm sure we can. I'm sorry we didn't sell out. That just goes to show you what kind of season we've had."
It was the longest streak in NL history and the third longest in baseball history. The Red Sox currently have a streak of 772 games. The Indians had 455 consecutive sellouts from 1995-2001.
But who would have predicted in Spring Training that John Mayberry Jr. would be roaming center field in place of Shane Victorino, who was traded to the Dodgers? Or who would have predicted Nate Schierholtz would be patrolling right field in place of Hunter Pence, who the Phillies sent to the Giants?
Or who would have foreseen that the lineup would include Brian Schneider and Kevin Frandsen with Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco on the disabled list, and Domonic Brown in left field because the Phillies need to see what he's got before 2013?
Monday certainly lacked a big-game atmosphere.
Any remaining good vibes quickly departed. Phillies right-hander Vance Worley had one of the shortest starts of his brief career. He allowed six hits, four runs, three walks and struck out two in just 3 2/3 innings.
Worley had a stomach virus that popped up about 30 minutes before he threw in the bullpen for his pregame warmups.
"Yeah, right," Worley said. "Really good, huh?"
Worley had pitched 3 2/3 innings or fewer twice in his previous 41 starts. The others came last season: three innings against the D-backs on Aug. 18, 2011, and three innings at the Mets on May 29, 2011. So with Worley not feeling well, Manuel pulled him after 74 pitches in the fourth inning.
"I couldn't get it out," Worley said. "It seemed like every time I went out there and I tried to let loose today, it didn't go where I wanted it. Neither did my stomach. I went out there with heart today."
The Phillies then got nothing going against Braves right-hander Ben Sheets as they fell to 49-60.
The Phillies lost only 60 games last season, when they set a franchise-record with 102 victories. They were 70-39 at this point last season.
This is a much different season. Monday showed just how much.
"Yeah, you kinda know it's gonna happen," Jimmy Rollins said of the sellout streak ending. "You would hope that it wouldn't. You would hope that one bad season wouldn't break it up, especially after the five winning seasons that we had and division championships. But that's the way it goes. People aren't gonna spend money and come to the game if they don't feel they're getting their money's worth. And this year we've been a little short.
"It was a heck of a run. We had fun. I know I go out every night, first thing I do is look up and see how many seats are empty at the beginning of the game, and by the third inning, see how many of those seats were filled. It was something we came to expect really. ... That's a lot of baseball games. There's been a lot of winning in that time. Hopefully, they enjoyed it as much as we did."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.