"We had the team to do it," Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt said. "We just fell short."
It turns out Goliath hurts when he falls. And the Phillies, like it or not, are now Goliath. That is, along with their 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 is not satisfaction about one of the better seasons in franchise history. It is disappointment. It is disbelief.
"It's definitely frustrating," Ryan Howard said. "We weren't able to play up to our potential, and we know that."
The Giants, who felled the Phillies 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 Oswalt, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels.
"Best pitching that we've had," Charlie Manuel, the stunned manager, said.
The answer could be found in the way their dream, their season ended. 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. It was his last swing of a postseason in which he failed to drive in a single run, let alone hit a home run.
"I thought it was ball four," Howard said of the low fastball that was called strike three. "That's the spot that everybody dreams about. Game on the line. This time, I came up short. You can't go back, can't change it."
The Giants rushed out of their dugout to celebrate behind the pitcher's mound, former Phillies Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand among them. The Phillies filed silently to their dugout as they had once forced the Dodgers and Rays and Reds to do.
"I just left our clubhouse," Manuel said, "and you could tell without a doubt every guy in there, they were disappointed."
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.
The tension mounted. 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. Juan Uribe, the Giants' walk-off hero from Game 4, hit a towering fly ball that cleared the fence in right field by a foot or so. The ballpark went silent again, the fans dumbstruck as it dawned on them. The Giants were six outs from canceling everyone's plans for a third consecutive Phillies World Series appearance.
It didn't seem possible. Surely there would be a Matt Stairs-style home run, a Burrell-type double off the fence - something had to happen. But it never did.
"We couldn't get the big hit," Manuel said. "We had chances; we just couldn't cash in on them."
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 disappointment, made more bitter by the crashing down of such high hope. The franchise that taught a city great expectations had failed to live up to them.
In the end, the best team with the best pitching and the superstar sluggers came up as empty as those four Korbel bottles.
Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.