Whew.

Feel better? I bet you do. And you should. Because things got a little tense there for a moment. The skies had become unexpectedly gray and cloudy before yesterday's Game 4 of the National League division series. The Phils' bats had gone quiet, and Jamie Moyer turned in a clunker the night before, and that's pretty much all you need to change the mood in Philly from sunny to overcast.

Maybe it wasn't the Phillies' darkest hour, but if you asked the fans, it was gloomy enough. But that's when the Phils did what they've done all season - they surprised us and brightened our day. Jimmy Rollins started things off with a literal bang, and Joe Blanton pitched better than anyone expected and, presto, the Phils won, 6-2.

Just like that, after all the worrying and second-guessing, after all the ups and downs in what has been a very long season, indeed, the Philadelphia Phillies are in the National League Championship Series. It's been 15 years, but it feels a whole lot longer.

"For us to get here and be able to move on, it's just a special feeling," Pat Burrell said after the game. "It was a lot of hard work to get to this point."

He wasn't kidding. Yesterday may have been easier than expected, but the Phils had to earn their way into the NLCS, nonetheless.

Remember, there were some truly dicey moments against the Brewers: Brad Lidge loading the bases in Game 1 before picking up the save. Brett Myers loading the bases in Game 2, then working out of a jam of his own. Moyer blowing Game 3 and causing Philadelphians everywhere to break out in cold sweats. Not to mention - and this is being kind - they were inconsistent at the plate. It's almost as if they've been trying to teach us something about their character - as though we have to be constantly reminded that the Fightin's always perform best when things look the worst.

That's a tough lesson to keep learning.

The whole season has been reminiscent of something written long ago by Aeschylus, a Greek playwright: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

The man was obviously a Phillies fan.

Cheers

Pat Burrell:

Remember him? Really slow, plays left field, hadn't gotten a hit in the first three games? Ring a bell? Yesterday, for the first time in a while, he justified his spot in the lineup. Burrell had three hits, two of which were homers. The question now is whether he can build on that performance or if he'll vanish again.

Joe Blanton: At one point, he retired 10 straight Brewers. Other than the homer by Prince Fielder, Blanton had an outstanding day. Also, his baby-chick haircut is pretty sweet.

Jimmy Rollins: He cracked a leadoff homer, and everyone relaxed. See, gentlemen, playing with an early lead isn't so terrible. You ought to try it more often.

Back to back: Jayson Werth followed Burrell's blast in the third inning with a home run of his own. As the ball cleared the center-field wall, you could hear the Milwaukee crowd groan in unison. Good times.

Greg Dobbs: He's no Pedro Feliz. Thank God. Charlie Manuel should think about getting him more playing time.

TV jinx: It never fails. The TBS analysts had just finished saying that both the Phils and the Brewers have far better records when they manage to score first. Naturally, Rollins hit his homer mere seconds after the graphic vanished from the screen. Thanks, TBS. Philly owes you one.

In-game interview: In the fourth inning, with his team down by five runs, Brewers manager Dale Sveum was forced to talk to the TV people. It was like watching a guy get mugged, then asking him how it felt to have his wallet lifted.

Boos

Chase Utley:

Two hits in the series, and just two homers in his last 37 games. You are now officially allowed to panic about him.

TV jinx, part II: Ah, the TV jinx giveth, and the TV jinx taketh away. In the second inning, the TBS analysts said Carlos Ruiz sometimes swings at bad pitches. Ruiz then struck out. Remember that bit about Philly owing you one, TBS? Yeah, we're even now.

Thunderstix: Those noisemakers were awfully quiet, weren't they? Pity.

The Dodgers: Might as well practice booing them now.

I love listening to Harry Kalas and Chris Wheeler. Always have. But someone made the decision to put them on the radio at the end of the NLDS games, thereby replacing the two guys who have done the job all year: Scott Franzke and Larry Anderson. Harry and Wheels are the top team, no doubt about it, and you want them calling big situations that might be preserved for posterity. Still, it's kind of a raw deal for Franzke and Anderson. . . . Looks as if the Juice won't be loose for a long time. . . . If John McCain wins the election, does that mean Tina Fey will continue her brilliant performance as Sarah Palin? . . . The only thing harder than being a Philadelphia sports fan is rooting for the Cubs. That has to be a special kind of hell.