Surging Phillies oust Milwaukee
Posted: Monday, October 6, 2008 7:33 pm
By: By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — These Philadelphia Phillies lack a cool nickname, like the “Whiz Kids,” the “Fightin’ Phils” or even the “Broad Street Bellies.”
It might be the only thing they’re missing.
The Phillies are headed to their first NL championship series since 1993, thanks to another dazzling pitching performance, plenty of offensive power and a 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
And who’s waiting? None other than their old foe, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I don’t see no reason in the world why we can’t stay right with them,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I like our chances. I think we can hold our own with them. Actually, I think we can beat anybody in the National League, really.”
Game 1 of the NLCS is Thursday in Philadelphia.
The Phillies have played for the NL pennant six times before, facing Los Angeles in three of those series.
Los Angeles won in 1977 and ’78, while the Phillies took the flag in 1983.
This year, the teams each swept a four-game series from the other at home. Philadelphia outscored Los Angeles 43-27 in those eight matchups — but the Phillies know it’ll be a very different Dodgers team that arrives at Citizens Bank Park later this week.
Rafael Furcal is back, and Manny Ramirez is still being Manny in the postseason. The Dodgers are also on quite the roll, winning 22 of their last 30 games and sweeping the Cubs in the NL division series.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. “They have a great team. Right now, they’re playing great. When a team like the Dodgers gets hot, they’ve got a lot of people who can do some damage.”
But the Phillies aren’t exactly slouches in that department.
After scuffling through the first three games of the NL division series, Philadelphia’s offense broke out in a big way Sunday.
Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a home run, Pat Burrell ended his postseason slump with not one, but two homers, and Jayson Werth added a solo shot.
Not to be overlooked, midseason addition Joe Blanton threw a gem.
In the first postseason start of his career, the burly right-hander struck out seven, walked none and held the Brewers to one run.
“We feel good,” Rollins said. “Everything is lining up the way we want it.”
Not for the Brewers. Not yet, at least.
After reaching the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, Milwaukee faces an offseason of uncertainty. Ace pitcher CC Sabathia, who almost single-handedly salvaged the Brewers’ postseason hopes, is a free agent and isn’t expected back. Neither is Ben Sheets, the team’s second-best starter. The Brewers need a manager, too, after firing Ned Yost with 12 games left in the regular season. Dale Sveum took over on an interim basis.
“We have to build on this,” slugger Prince Fielder said. “I’m happy with the season. Just because we didn’t win doesn’t take away what we did.”
Burrell, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were a fearsome trio in the regular season for Philadelphia, putting up the kind of numbers that make opposing pitchers shudder and leading the way as the Phillies won their second straight NL East title.
Howard made a case for the NL MVP, leading the league in home runs (48) and RBI (146), and Utley and Burrell added 33 homers each.
But their bats were deafeningly silent in the first three games of the best-of-five series, and it was Philadelphia’s pitching that sparkled.
Cole Hamels never gave the Brewers a chance in Game 1, Brett Myers was equally impressive the next day and Blanton looked a big-game pitcher as he sent one Brewer after another back to the dugout.
After allowing a first-inning single to Ryan Braun, Blanton retired 10 straight.
“Honestly? The offense,” Blanton said when asked his secret. “Our offense swung the bats so well and put up runs, it allowed me to go out and attack the zone with all my pitches.”
Rollins led off Sunday’s game with a homer, turning on a 3-2 pitch from Jeff Suppan and depositing it into the first row of seats in right field. Two innings later, Shane Victorino doubled to left with one out and went to third on a groundout by Utley. The Brewers opted to walk Howard, which seemed like the right move considering Burrell’s single in the second was his first hit of the postseason.
“You can’t blame the other team for pitching around him, especially in that situation there. The goal there is just to try and get something to hit,” Burrell said. “Fortunately, I hung around long enough to get a good pitch to hit.”
Burrell lofted Suppan’s 2-2 pitch so deep into the left-field stands that Braun barely bothered to chase it. The Phillies weren’t done, either, with Werth hitting a homer to make it 5-0.
Burrell hit another monster homer in the eighth inning off of Guillermo Mota.
“That’s why this is a team. There’s 25 guys that help out,” said Utley, who had another tough day at the plate but made a gorgeous leaping grab to save a run in the eighth inning and snuff out any hope Milwaukee had of a rally. “It’s all about trusting each other. Trying to get on base, trying to pick one another up. It’s all about trying to win, and doing whatever it takes to win.”
Keep winning, and the nicknames will come.
Notes: Rollins’ leadoff homer was the second of his career in the postseason. … Baseball commissioner and former Brewers owner Bud Selig threw out the first pitch. … Sabathia pinch-hit in the third inning.