Phils win NL East
It is over, but the Phillies said they are far from finished. They celebrated their second consecutive National League East championship yesterday just a few feet from the spot where Jimmy Rollins helped turn a spectacular game-ending double play in a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals.
It is over, but the Phillies said they are far from finished.
They celebrated their second consecutive National League East championship yesterday just a few feet from the spot where Jimmy Rollins helped turn a spectacular game-ending double play in a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. They celebrated in the clubhouse, where they popped champagne and cracked open beers.
Pat Burrell and Brett Myers hoisted a 2008 division championship flag. Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste rode police bicycles around the field. Brad Lidge smiled, savoring one of the biggest saves of his life. Geoff Jenkins reveled in his first postseason celebration after almost 1,400 games played without one.
They partied with thousands of fans who couldn't bear to leave, but they also know they want more.
"Believe me," Charlie Manuel said. "We're going to go farther in the playoffs than we did last year."
The Phillies have won back-to-back NL East championships for the first time since 1976-78, and made the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1980-81. But the Colorado Rockies swept them in the National League division series last October, which made Manuel wonder yesterday what in fact the Phillies really, truly had won?
His players agreed.
They will play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS beginning Wednesday at home.
"This is the first step, making the playoffs," Ryan Howard said. "The main goal lies ahead. We're going to take this moment right now, celebrate, cherish it."
"I think we were so hell bent on that and so focused to win the division that we kind of ran out of steam heading into the playoffs," Rollins said. "There's no such thing as pacing yourself, but we know that there is more than just winning the division. We won the division last year and three games later we were watching with everyone else. We don't want that to happen again, so we'll be a little more under control and hopefully bring home a championship."
Everything looked under control until the ninth inning. Lidge entered the ninth with a two-run lead, but made things about as gut-wrenching as humanly possible before Rollins helped turned one of the biggest – maybe the biggest? – double plays in franchise history.
The Nationals had scored a run with one out, when Cristian Guzman singled up the middle to load the bases. Lidge had been 40 for 40 in save opportunities this season, making him just the second pitcher in baseball history to save more than 40 games in a season without blowing one.
It would have been too much if this had been his first.
But that wouldn't happen. Ryan Zimmerman hit a ball up the middle and Rollins dove to his left to field the ball cleanly. He flipped the ball backhanded from his knees to Chase Utley, who was standing on second base. Utley caught the ball and made a strong throw to Ryan Howard, who got it in enough time to get Zimmerman to end the game.
"It was a perfect ball to double him up on," Rollins said. "He's a good runner. Right before that I was thinking to myself, 'He's going to have hit a ground ball hard right at me or towards the middle where maybe I can step on the bag and take it myself because that's the type of speed he has.' You don't look at him and think that way, but he gets down that line.
"When the ball came off the bat, I knew I had it covered. The only thing kind of in the back of my mind is that it hits the heel of your glove and it sticks there and you only get one and the ball game is tied."
And the flip?
"Oh, we practice that all the time," he said with a smile.
Lidge remained perfect.
"Forty-one for 41 is just awesome," Brett Myers said. "That's the best word I can come up with without using an obscenity. I would not want a different guy on that mound, including myself. Without him we wouldn't be here."
Rollins and Lidge met in the pile.
"Way to go, man! You did it!" Rollins said to Lidge. "Way to go!"
Rollins did it, too.
The Phillies are in the playoffs, but they hope this is just the start.