DENVER - Buy the bulk-size antacids. If this division series was any indication, the Phillies are going to frazzle your nerves and keep you up late for the rest of October and maybe the early part of November, too.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the defending champions have slipped right back into their 2008 postseason groove. The Phillies don't make it easy, on themselves or their jangled fans, but they have become one of those teams that do whatever it takes to win.
"We're going to find a way to get it done," said Brad Lidge, who established himself again as the man who throws the final pitch. "Our guys don't just have the talent, but they believe in themselves, too. It could be a six-run deficit and our guys still have the audacity to feel that we're going to come back."
It was two runs, not six, tonight. But it was more about how that two-run deficit came about. A fluky play on the basepaths, a two-run double off Ryan Madson - the Phillies went from nursing Cliff Lee's 2-1 masterpiece to watching the Colorado Rockies splash paint all over it.
There were all the ingredients for a complete meltdown, the situation made more tense by the prospect of a Game 5 with who-knows-where-his-head-is Cole Hamels scheduled to pitch. The charmed aura that carried the Phillies through last October and seemed intact with every umpire's call in this series was suddenly dispelled by the Rockies' three-run rally.
Except the Phillies didn't see it that way. They felt, for no rational reason, as if they had this one under control.
"I came running off the field with the feeling that we were going to win the game," rightfielder Jayson Werth said. "In the dugout, everybody was on the same page. Everyone was calm - cool, calm and collected. We knew what we had to do."
Knowing what to do and doing it are what separate the great teams. These Phillies took a big step toward establishing themselves as an all-time team in both halves of the ninth inning.
In the top, for the second night in a row, Jimmy Rollins delivered a single off Rockies closer Huston Street. Chase Utley, who turned a foul ball into a single in Game 3, worked a two-out walk to get the tying run on base.
But "tying run" is just a hypothetical phrase until someone does something magnificent in the clutch. Enter Ryan Howard, who continued burnishing his postseason resume with a majestic fly ball to right field. It didn't go out, but it fell in for a game-tying double.
Then Werth, who had homered to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead earlier, singled to turn Howard from the potential go-ahead run to the winning run.
In the bottom, the Rockies threatened with runners on first and second. Lidge didn't get the call until there were two out and Troy Tulowitzki was due to bat. But if his nightmarish 2009 regular season did him any good, it prepared Lidge to face hitters with men on base. The fact that he didn't put them there was beside the point.
Fittingly, this wildly entertaining series came down to the Phillies' closer against the Rockies' cleanup hitter. When Tulowitzki chased a Lidge slider for the final out, the Phillies poured out onto the field.
And then it felt like 2008, with the now-familiar sight of celebrating Phillies jumping around the infield in stone-silent Coors Field.
A year ago, the Phillies won the division series in four games and sprayed champagne in the visiting clubhouse in Milwaukee before going on to Los Angeles. A year ago, the Phillies were considered slight underdogs after the Dodgers dominated the Chicago Cubs in the division series. This year, even without home-field advantage, the Phillies should be considered the favorites.
Their starting pitching is simply much better than the Dodgers', while their lineup remains even more potent than last year's. The Dodgers swept a dazed St. Louis Cardinals team with equal parts luck and timely hitting. The Phillies are much better off facing old friends Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla than Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals.
But the reason these Phillies should be in the World Series isn't because of coincidence or confidence. It is because these Phillies are in the act of becoming a great baseball team.
"We're very focused and we're good on top of it," Werth said. "We knew what we had to do and we got it done."
So there will be more late nights and edge-of-your-seat innings. The 2009 Phillies are now officially on one of those wild rides, and their fans have no choice but to come along, just like last year.
Tonight, just like last year, the Phillies made the wild ride worthwhile.