Baseball: The Phillies Head to the NLCS

by Suzie Raven

Only one team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, currently stands between the Philadelphia Phillies and the National League pennant, thanks to the Phillies 6-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, Oct. 5.

The Phillies haven’t been to this place in fifteen long, disappointing years. There were a number of years when they couldn’t break .500. There were years when they had a chance, but fell apart in September. There was 2007, when it was the New York Mets' turn to fall apart in September, getting the Phillies into the playoffs only to be swept by the Colorado Rockies.

For the first time in fifteen years, everything keeps falling into place. The Phillies kept themselves above .500 and even won thirteen of their last sixteen regular season games.

It hasn’t been perfect, but the magic has finally returned. Just take first baseman Ryan Howard, whose slump during the first half of the season led to questions about his ability. Now, his hitting has made him a serious contender for the 2008 Most Valuable Player Award.

The magic was strong during Sunday’s game against the Brewers. The Phillies hit four home runs, including a top of the first lead off solo shot from shortstop Jimmy Rollins. In the third, Pat Burrell hit a three-run shot to left, immediately followed by a solo home run from Jayson Werth. Burrell hit a second home run in the eighth inning.

These four home runs came with a solid pitching performance. In six scoreless innings, starter Joe Blanton struck out seven and walked no one. When he finally gave up a home run in the eighth, reliever Ryan Madson got the Phillies out of a jam. As usual, closer Brad Lidge sealed the deal.

And the Phillies won the National League Division Series.

An on-fire offense combined with strong pitching. That’s magic.

This magic gives Philadelphia hope that it hasn’t had for fifteen years. Now, all we can do is hold our breath to see how long the magic will stay.

(To see Suzie Raven's early prediction about the success of the Phillies, please see: "Baseball: The Phillies' Secret Weapon, the Bullpen." Please also see: "Baseball: The Phillies Corner the Brewers & Sabathia.")

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