New group of Phillies put stamp on franchise
LOS ANGELES -- They've spent their whole careers hearing about the Phillies of Carlton and Schmidt, the Phillies of Kruk and Dykstra, even the Phillies of Ashburn and Roberts.But now it's their turn. Now it's Jimmy Rollins' Phillies. And Chase Utley's Phillies. And Cole Hamels' Phillies. Now it's Ryan Howard's Phillies. And Shane Victorino's Phillies. And even Matt Stairs' Phillies. They play for a franchise that has witnessed more heartbreak than glory years. But now they've written their own story -- a story they were determined to write, a story that is leading them to a World Series all their own. "Now," said Rollins, on one of the most fulfilling nights of his baseball life, "we've finally got a chance to make our own mark." They sent Manny Ramirez and that team from L.A. home Wednesday night, finishing off a five-game NLCS blitzkrieg with a 5-1 win, a Game 5 victory they led for all but seven pitches.
Fittingly, it was Rollins who started it, waving that magic, start-me-up wand of his with a stunning leadoff homer -- the second time he's kicked off a series-clinching win with a home-run trot in this postseason alone.And fittingly, it was the Phillies' impeccable closer, Brad Lidge, who finished it, snapping off one last bat-chomping slider that Nomar Garciaparra lofted into the California night. And as that baseball floated through the sky, a soft-spoken catcher from Panama settled under it, asking himself for what seemed like an hour: Is this thing EVER going to come down?
"I remember people hanging from the street lights and the trees, and toilet paper all over," Moyer said. "And everybody was your friend. A half a million people were all friends."And then somehow, in 2006, the world spun and brought him back to his hometown, to a team that was still trying to figure out how to win these kinds of games. And a couple of weeks later, he found himself in the middle of a team meeting, telling his new friends about that parade -- and laying out a dream for all of them, to reach a parade of their own someday. "And now we're one series away from being on the floats in that parade," Moyer said. "It's amazing." But for most of these men, nights like this have always been for all those other teams. For most of their careers, all they heard about themselves was that they couldn't win, wouldn't win, didn't know how to win.
They were the team that always chased somebody -- the Braves, the Astros, the Mets, the Marlins -- to the finish line but never broke that tape. Somebody else always did the celebrating. They were the ones trying to explain what happened. "We always had good players, but we just couldn't seem to put it together," said Rollins. "There was always a piece missing." But as the pieces began to fit together, in the winter of 2006-07, it was Jimmy Rollins who stepped forward to change everything. He did it with one little quotation: "We ARE the team to beat." The reverberations that erupted that day are still rumbling all these months later. And as the Moet & Chandon dripped down his face Wednesday night, Jimmy Rollins thought back to the moment those prophetic words flowed from his vocal cords. If he hadn't said them, he honestly believes this World Series journey might never have arrived.
We know now how last year turned out for The Team To Beat. We know about the miracle finish to catch the Mets. We know about the painful first-round sweep by the Rockies. But what we couldn't know until now was how that sweep led them to this place. How it gave them a different sense of purpose than any Phillies team in many, many years.
It's a sense of purpose that reminds reliever Chad Durbin of the 2006 Tigers World Series team he played for -- except here, he said, "there's even more purpose. In Detroit, those guys were only together a little while. Here, the core of this team has been together for a lot of years."Rollins and Pat Burrell arrived in 2000. Brett Myers checked in in 2002. Utley showed up in 2003. Howard and Victorino joined the mix in 2005, followed by ace of the future Cole Hamels in 2006. Every year, they seemed to add another piece, move just a little closer. And that brought them to this year. To a year in which they roared out of the gates, took a 7½-game lead over the Mets in mid-June, kicked away all 7½ games of that lead in not much more than a month, and then, just when everyone else had kissed their chances goodbye, fired up their September magic carpet for the second straight year. They went 13-3 down the stretch, blew by the Mets, wiped out the Brewers in the NLDS and kept on charging -- until they were one win from the World Series on a gorgeous October evening in Chavez Ravine.
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The Phillies earned the chance to win their first title in 28 years by defeating L.A. 5-1 in Game 5 of the NLCS. Story | NLCS page
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