Phillies clinch 3rd straight NL East title
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Players doused each other with champagne and beer in the clubhouse and on the field. Fans partied in the stands. Manager Charlie Manuel enjoyed the celebration from his office.
The Philadelphia Phillies won another NL East championship. Now they can rest and prepare to defend their World Series title.
“I’ll celebrate when we get to the big one,” Manuel said.
Raul Ibanez(notes) hit his career-high 34th homer and Jimmy Rollins(notes) had a double and triple for Philadelphia, which is heading to the postseason for the third straight year for the first time since Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and crew won three consecutive NL East titles from 1976-78.
The Phillies are trying to become the first repeat champions since the New York Yankees won three straight World Series from 1998-2000. The Cincinnati Reds were the last NL team to win two in a row in 1975-76.
Kendrick (3-1) gave up two hits and struck out four. Martinez lasted just four innings, allowing three runs and six hits in his first start since a neck strain forced him out of a game at Atlanta on Sept. 19. Brad Lidge(notes), who has 11 blown saves after a perfect season last year, came in to get the last out after Scott Eyre(notes) retired the first two batters in the ninth.
“I was praying I’d get into the game,” said Lidge, who got a nice ovation when he entered. “I’m thankful to Charlie for putting me in. Despite my season, Charlie had my back all year.”
A crowd of 45,207—the 38th straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park—waved their white-and-red “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels throughout the night and made the atmosphere festive.
Celebrations are becoming common for the Phillies, who used to be the NL’s laughingstock. The losingest team in professional sports has been thinking dynasty since winning the franchise’s second championship in 126 years last October.
Unlike the last two years, the Phillies didn’t sweat out this division title. They moved into first place for good on May 30 and have spent 136 days atop the standings.
In 2007, the Phillies trailed the Mets by seven games with 17 remaining. They took advantage of New York’s historic collapse and clinched the division on the final day of the regular season, ending a 14-year postseason drought.
Players and fans had a wild celebration and Philadelphia was promptly swept by Colorado in the division series.
Last year, the Phillies were 3 1/2 games behind the Mets with 17 to play. They caught them during the final week and clinched on the next-to-last day of the regular season.
With four games left this year, Manuel has a chance to rest his regulars and set up his postseason pitching rotation. The Phillies still have a chance to secure home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. They entered the night 1 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.
“I feel like this was a little harder than the others because all year people were saying how good we are, but we’ve had pitching problems all season,” Manuel said.
Midway during the celebration, the team jogged together to the outfield wall and poured champagne on the sign that honors late broadcaster Harry Kalas. The Hall of Fame announcer died in April after nearly 40 years with the team.
Towles’ drive to left-center in the second was initially ruled a double, but umpires changed the call after reviewing the video. He easily cleared the left-field wall his next time up to give the Astros a 3-1 lead.
But the Phillies answered with four runs in the bottom half. Shane Victorino(notes) singled and stole second before Utley walked. Ryan Howard(notes) followed with an RBI single. Utley scored when Ibanez hit a bouncer to the mound and Moehler threw it into center field for an error. Howard advanced to third and Ibanez ended up on second.
Rollins and Victorino hit back-to-back triples to start Philadelphia’s fifth. Ibanez’s sacrifice fly made it 7-3.
NOTES: The Phillies are 31-11 at home since July 1. They were 13-22 the first two months. … Houston’s Miguel Tejada(notes) extended his hitting streak to 17 games. … Ibanez hit 33 homers for Seattle in 2006.