Phillies Knew They Would Be Here All Along

Three straight appearances in the postseason have helped the Phillies to be comfortable finding their way through the maze. The lessons go back two years to memories that weren't nearly as much fun as they have been since.

It began on Oct. 6, 2007, in a somber clubhouse in Colorado with four words spoken quietly by Ryan Howard to anyone who would listen.

"Remember how this feels."

It was the moment the Phillies started learning how to win.

Two years later, it is all they do in October. And the wins - 18 and perhaps counting over these past two autumns - have come in all forms, from beautifully pitched gems, to improbable late-inning comebacks, to thoroughly dominant routs.

But the latest one, a 10-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, which put the Phillies in the World Series for the second consecutive season, looked and felt a little different.

This one required four home runs (two for Jayson Werth, one apiece for Pedro Feliz and Shane Victorino), five relief pitchers to again bail out Cole Hamels and a boisterous crowd of 46,214 at sold-out Citizens Bank Park to weather a few gut-churning moments between chants of "Beat L.A.!"

But it ended like so many of the others, with Brad Lidge on the mound, retiring the final batter. And for the first time since the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and '96, there is a repeat champion in the National League.

"It's not something that happens very often," said Lidge, standing in the center of a champagne soaked clubhouse a few feet from 46-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer, who clutched the Warren C. Giles trophy in his arms. "We really need to take a lot of pride in this because it's something that's very special."

On Wednesday, the Phillies will open the World Series, facing either the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Angels, and they'll continue their quest to become the first back-to-back World Series champion since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. An NL team hasn't won back-to-back titles since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.

But all along, they figured they'd be here.

Since they got swept out of the 2007 playoffs after just three games, since Howard made a point to tell his teammates to never forget that disappointing feeling, they have gone 18-5 in the postseason, never losing two games in a row.

Their faith in their ability to return to the World Series wasn't shaken by a bullpen ravaged throughout the season by injuries and ineffectiveness, or an offense that often struggled to score without hitting home runs, or the untimely death on April 13 of beloved Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas.

They merely won 93 games during the regular season, spending 141 days in first place. They pushed past the Colorado Rockies in the Division Series, cheating a do-or-die fifth game with an unlikely ninth-inning comeback in frigid cold in game four at Coors Field. And they vanquished the Dodgers, the NL's best team all season, in only five games by winning three straight at home.

"I don't think we even talked about it that much," Howard, named NLCS MVP after going 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and eight RBIs, said of the challenges of repeating. "We know what we're capable of. It's just a matter of us going out and doing it. There was that little underlying expectation that we had for ourselves that, hey, we know we can get back there and win it again."

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