Philadelphia Phillies have finally clinched their fifth straight NL East divisional title dating back to 2007 and starting once again their run to the ultimate goal – the World Series. The Liberty Bell at Citizen’s Bank Park is not real but tonight the bell tolls for another accomplishment for the phive time NL East Divisional Champion Philadelphia Phillies. It took 150 games, 98 wins and 5-1/2 months but the Philadelphia Phillies at 98-52 have the best record in baseball and appear to be the prohibitive favorite heading into the 2011 postseason.
The clinching game itself was rather uninteresting for the first 7 innings aside from Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook (5 hits, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 walks and just one strikeout) being sent to the showers after 3.1 innings. Jimmy Rollins racked up 4 hits and two runs and was involved with Hunter Pence, Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco and Roy Oswalt in building the Phillies early lead. The Phillies took that 2-0 lead into the sixth inning when Shane Victorino blasted his 17th HR of the season skipping it over the centerfield fence.
That 3-0 lead would last until the top of the 8th inning when St. Louis started to show signs of life. Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols and David Friese were involved in an amalgam of singles to cut the lead to 3-2. Brad Lidge was brought in to slam the door on that rally and did so with just one pitch.
The Phillies half of the 8th inning began with Carlos Ruiz standing on second after smacking a double down the third base line (later ruled a two-base error on Descalzo). Rollins 4th hit on the night moved Ruiz to third before Victorino cued a single up the middle and past the drawn-in St. Louis infield. The Phils had their insurance run but they were just getting started. Utley was hit by a pitch (don’t worry it was his leg, nowhere near his head) and Ryan Howard went down on strikes. Hunter Pence (who is having his first experience playing for a contender) laced an infield single to shortstop. Thanks to both Utley and Pence busting it down the baseline, Rollins scored a second insurance run. Raul Ibanez came to bat with the 198th Citizens Bank Park sellout (and counting) crowd still buzzing and the bases loaded.
All Ibanez did was launch a towering drive into the right field seats for a grand slam bash. The fans lost their minds, the players began celebrating in the crowded dugout, the clubhouse crew quickly broke out the champagne and the industrial strength Saran Wrap. While this was happening Raul Ibanez was actually encouraged to take a curtain call – and did! Holy socks, here we go again! 9-2 Phillies with Ryan Madson headed in from the bullpen despite the now much larger lead.
Madson got the first two outs on a flyout and groundout to second. No drama there but Ryan Theriot broke the mood with a single to center. Madson reloaded and casually assumed his place in Phillies history by enticing Rafael Furcal to ground out to second. Chase Utley fielded the slow bouncer with his bare hand and threw to first where Ryan Howard squeezed it for the first step in the Phillies 2011 championship run. Goodnight. Game over. Thanks for all the fish. Break out the bubbly!
The on field celebration was jubilant but controlled as many of these veterans have been through this – but even those who were new to the emotion are well aware that the World Series is the ultimate goal. Now the Phillies with 98 wins have twelve more games to play. Will they wind up with 105 wins? 110? Since 116 is long gone and 110 would require them to run the table until October let’s focus on surpassing the 101 mark (franchise record). Then the Phillies will prepare for either the Arizona Diamondbacks or Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series.
Back in 2007 we could have never imagined a five-year run as Philadelphia has witnessed but fans everywhere realize that this team wants a second World Series trophy to go with 2008 and 1980. Bring it on!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org