Phils relish first NL East title since '93
Players, coaches, fans celebrate as 'fairy tale' continues
PHILADELPHIA -- The party lasted well into the late afternoon. Drenched Phillies players, coaches, medical staff, front-office representatives, and later, fans, spraying champagne and beer on each other, hugging and screaming.In the wake of the Phils' National League East-clinching 6-1 win over the Nationals on Sunday, Shane Victorino reached high to douse Jayson Werth, who is nearly a foot taller, with a cold one. When the scrappy Victorino scampered away untouched, Werth got Greg Dobbs instead. Dobbs got Brett Myers, who got Cole Hamels, who got Kyle Kendrick, and so on and so on. "This is a fairy tale," said Kendrick, who started the season in Double-A. "Is it supposed to be like this?" Maybe in towns like New York and Boston, but the Phillies haven't had this feeling since 1993. This time, the city smelled the postseason. On the strength of a 13-3 run, the Phillies snatched the division lead from the flagging Mets on Game 160, then fell back into a tie on Game 161. As the division champion, Philadelphia awaits the victor of Monday's one-game playoff between San Diego and Colorado, with the winner earning the NL Wild Card. Unofficially, the Phils led, 7-0, before taking the field, thanks to Mets lefty Tom Glavine's first-inning meltdown at Shea Stadium. A sellout crowd of 44,865 at Citizens Bank Park roared with each additional run the Marlins scored en route to an 8-1 victory over the Mets. Fellow baseball senior citizen Jamie Moyer swore he never looked, not that he had to. "[The fans] let me know what was happening," he said. "I really forced myself to focus on what I needed to do and making good pitches." In his 551st career start, Moyer soft-tossed his way through the Nationals, taking advantage of the hitters' aggressive nature. He lasted 5 1/3 innings to win his 14th game. The veteran lefty, who famously skipped school to attend the parade celebrating the 1980 World Series champion Phillies, pitched around a one-out double and got his club to the dugout. Jimmy Rollins added to his Most Valuable Player candidacy by stroking a leadoff single off Jason Bergmann, swiped second and third, then streaked home on a medium liner to right field by Chase Utley. Phillies, 1-0. Momentum building. Raucous from pitch No. 1 -- a swinging strike by Felipe Lopez -- rally towels waved throughout the 75-degree day, perfect by any standards.
Ryan Howard padded the lead to 3-0 with a bases-loaded, two-run single in the third, and Philadelphia added two more in the sixth. Howard also homered in the seventh. Moyer left to a thunderous ovation in the sixth, and the hottest bullpen trio in baseball -- Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero and Myers -- took it from there, allowing Philadelphia to cruise.The rest of the afternoon on Fan Appreciation Sunday belonged to the suffering fans, who spent 14 years hoping for another moment to arrive. They nearly got their wish over the past two seasons, when the Phillies just missed. The celebration began when Wily Mo Pena watched a Myers curveball for strike three. In an unintentional touch of irony, Myers dropped to his knees, got up and hurled his glove into the air -- a la Jesse Orosco after the Mets' 1986 World Series championship. Cell phone cameras clicked and wrists tired waving white rally towels high over their heads. The noise was deafening.
National League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||6 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||1 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TNT|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Wed., Oct. 3||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||9:30 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||10 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||6:30 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
Myers moved toward catcher Chris Coste, then was barreled over by Pat Burrell."It didn't matter," Myers said. "I didn't know what was going on. It didn't hurt one bit." "A lot of people counted us out," Howard said. "That's why they call us the Fightin' Phillies. We're going to celebrate, the whole town of Philadelphia is going to celebrate, but we're going to come back on Wednesday ready to go."
Philadelphia doesn't care which team arrives for Game 1 of the NL Division Series, but starter Cole Hamels will be ready.The fans simply should've believed Rollins, when he declared the Phillies the team to beat -- in January. What does it feel like to be right? "It feels like a blessing," he said. "I guess that was pretty accurate." Are the Phillies the team to beat to in the National League? "We'll see," Rollins said. "There are a lot of teams to beat." Worry about that later, and party hard on Sunday, Phillies fans, for a relentless team that roared back from seven games back on Sept. 12 to overtake a division. Pinch yourself as often as you like, and close and re-open your eyes repeatedly. Nothing will change. The Phillies are your NL East champs. Go on. Spray champagne, call your friends who are Mets fans, buy a T-shirt, and remember that the last three division championships (1980, 1983 and 1993) led to World Series appearances. "We're not done," Gordon said. "We have 11 more wins in us." "Everyone on this team has heart," Myers said. "Nobody thought we were going to be able to win the division, but in our hearts we thought we could. Sure enough, we did."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.