Sep 30, 2010
How Sweet It Is: 4th Straight NL East Title
I am very psyched and for the first time since Opening Day, I actually wasn't riveted to the play by play for the Phillies game for the past two days. With all the seeds wrapped up for the playoffs, there are few things to play for:
1. get the starters their innings without getting too tired(Oswalt went 5 innings and less than 70 pitches today),
2. get the bench players some reps at the plate (I was surprised to hear last night that Sweeney had made only two plate appearances since September 11, and it would be nice to see a healed Domonic Brown provide spark, power, and speed off the bench)
3. rest Ryan Madson (seriously, let Bastardo, Worley, and Romero pitch a few innings)
4. get Jimmy Rollins ready to play
5. also, it wouldn't hurt to deny the Braves a chance at the postseason
It was only appropriate that Roy Halladay pitched this game, doing what he leads the league in, completing games. His starts bookended the competitive part of the season, both getting wins, and both being in Washington.
There is a feeling that all that can be accomplished has not been accomplished yet. The celebration was quite subdued. Howard methodically was taking the tops off the champagne bottles and the goggles were ready to go.
The winning of this division title was satisfying in of itself for the team. From where they were at one point in late July (hovering 2 games over .500 at one point) to this culmination was a hard-fought, well-played turnaround. The winning was spurred by a betterment in performance of key individuals (Lidge, Blanton, Ibanez), a return from injury (Utley, Howard, Madson), a sustained success (Werth, Victorino), or just being one of the three starting pitchers who essentially carried the load (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt).
The historical accomplishment is deep as well; this is the first Phillies team to make 4 straight postseason appearances and the first NL team since those Braves of 1991-2005. They are now attempting to reach 3 straight World Series for the first time since the 98-00 Yankees (ML) and the 42-44 Cardinals (NL). In short, they are vying for two objectives now, make their mark upon the city and their careers and more broadly, upon baseball history itself.
When the playoff schedule opens, the second season begins and will be a combination of good playing, luck, and powerful moments that will propel the Phillies to each successive round. As with anything in baseball, "you never know", but one can sure hope.