October 22, 2009
Score and situation: Phillies 10, Dodgers 4, Philadelphia wins NLCS 4-1
Leading lads: From Paul Bako(notes) to Jayson Werth(notes), each member of the Phillies deserves a piece of the extended ovation they're experiencing right now at Citizens Bank Park. In a time when it's tougher than ever to keep a title team together to win another division flag and then fight through two tough playoff rounds, the Phillies are in a spot to defend their World Series title. They're the first team to do so since the '01 Yankees and the first NL squad since the '96 Braves. If they actually win the thing, they'll be the first NL repeat winners since The Big Red Machine.
So here's a big hand for the power of Ryan Howard(notes), the all-around games of Jimmy Rollins(notes) and Chase Utley(notes) and the still underrated star qualities of Shane Victorino(notes) and Werth.
Here's a big hand for the newcomer contributions of Cliff Lee(notes), Raul Ibanez(notes) and Pedro Martinez(notes), the resilient nature of Brad Lidge(notes) in the playoffs (and Cole Hamels(notes) in the second half) and the anonymous but important foundations of Pedro Feliz(notes) and Carlos Ruiz(notes).
Finally, here's a big hand for ol' Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick, the trio who put the whole thing together, not just for championship-starved Philly fans, but for every baseball fan who enjoys watching a team that's as easy to root for and like.
The World Series, of course, is up next and the four required victories will be the hardest of the whole title defense. But for a few moments, let's appreciate what a big deal it is for the Phillies to even reach that opportunity. These types of chances don't come along every day and Philadelphia has some sort of special team to get the job done.
Head hangers: Who else but Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez(notes) and the Dodgers? Despite an improved regular-season victory total and stronger pieces for the sequel, they again bow out of the NLCS in only five games, heading back to Tinseltown with only memories of a first-round sweep of an NL Central team. In the end, the team's lack of reliable starting pitching was too much to overcome, as was the breakdown of a usually consistent bullpen. The Dodgers' strong core will give them another good chance to contend in 2010 — which will possibly be the last campaign for Torre and Ramirez — but the future is never guaranteed. Another missed chance at reaching the Fall Classic has to hurt.
Key play: Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer off Dodgers starter Vicente Padilla(notes) in the bottom of the first inning. It didn't give the Phillies all the runs they would need, but it sent an early message that the WFCs were interested in wrapping the series up before heading toward a weekend out West. Enjoy your time off, fellas.
Key stat: This is the Phillies' seventh trip to the World Series in 127 years.
What they're saying:
"We've got four more games to win." — Werth
What's next: Philly awaits the winner of the Yankees-Angels ALCS, which could be decided as early as Thursday night. New York leads the series, 3-1, and a win would set up the first Philadelphia-New York World Series since 1950. Game 1 of the World Series, by the way, is scheduled for next Wednesday night at the home of the AL team.