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Phils advance to first NLCS since '93

Phils advance to first NLCS since '93

MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps the only noticeable phenomenon amid the earsplitting roar of nearly 44,000 ThunderStix was the moment they stopped thundering.

The instant Pat Burrell smacked a belt-high fastball through the controlled temperature of Miller Park, the atmosphere become controlled, too.

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Subdued, even.

"That's when I knew something good had happened," Burrell said. "I didn't see where the ball landed. I hit it and ran, and it got quiet."

Real quiet.

The roar from those wanting an inning-ending out fell eerily silent. When Jayson Werth followed with another homer, the thunder transformed to boos, then resignation. By the third inning, those in the building just knew.

And so the Phillies' dormant offense awoke with the loudest of claps, pounding playoff-tested Jeff Suppan and the Brewers, 6-2, in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Sunday. They earned the right to advance the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, who swept the Cubs in the other NLDS.

The Phillies are heading to their first NLCS since 1993.

The Phils and Dodgers, who swept four-game series at their respective parks during the regular season, are rested and ready for each other, having quickly disposed of their opponents.

"I'm not worried about them right now," Rollins said.

Wearing goggles held over from the NL East-clinching party, Rollins seemed more concerned with avoiding the cold sting of champagne that sprayed at him from all directions. Pedro Feliz shot from the front, while Ryan Howard fired from the right flank. Trapped among a throng of media, Rollins was a sitting duck.

He didn't mind.

"I'll take it," he said.

Rollins took it to the Brewers by firing the opening salvo off Suppan, the first quelling shot. Like Friday's loss, Miller Park was an extremely loud place to be, and the reigning NL MVP turned his first swing of the afternoon into a 1-0 lead.

"There's nothing like silence on the road," Rollins said.

The Phillies took control by the third, providing a cushion for Joe Blanton, who was making his first playoff start. Blanton impressively kept the lead, received completely via the long ball.

The superlatives were flowing.

"That's the best I've seen him pitch," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He challenged hitters. He wasn't scared of anything."

"Unbelievable," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "Even when they got a couple leadoff singles, he controlled the game."

"He gives us incredible starts," Brad Lidge said. "Today was the biggest one he's given us. It was a monster effort."


"It's nice celebrating, because we made it to the next round, but I'm not satisfied where we are. We're trying to win a World Series."
-- Ryan Howard

Pitching for the first time since Sept. 26, Blanton dismantled the Brewers easily and efficiently. He retired 11 of the first 12 batters and didn't allow a runner beyond first base until Prince Fielder erased his shutout with a leadoff homer in the seventh. Blanton left after throwing 107 pitches.

The added bonus of Blanton's outing and the clicking offense was the fact ace Cole Hamels won't be needed until Game 1 of the NLCS on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, and the Phillies wouldn't have to beat CC Sabathia again in a decisive Game 5.

"We didn't want to go home and face the beast," Rollins said. "It still would've been a tall mountain to climb."

The Phils still have two more mountains to scale, and they know it. While they celebrated, hugging and pouring, pouring and hugging, they know there are two more series looming, starting with the Dodgers.

In a somewhat subdued visitors' clubhouse, the Phils reflected briefly and looked ahead.

"Just another step," Lidge said. "We'll celebrate this, but we're not done."

They seem far from done. The Phils' starting pitcher delivered a huge performance, the bats found their home run groove, and they promptly took the Brewers and their out of the equation.

When Burrell added a second homer to nearly the same left-field spot in the eighth, a smile crept across his face, though he quickly suppressed it. Beginning the series with a lower back issue, he instead put the Phillies on his back for the decisive game.

"Pat told me when he came in today that he felt good, that it was on him," Rollins said. "And he stepped up. They had been pitching around Chase [Utley] and Ryan and they had been pitching him tough. Pat said, 'It's going to be on me.' And it was."

How fitting it was to see Burrell and Rollins celebrating, especially with the knowledge that Burrell's homer came after a two-out intentional walk to Howard. They played together in the Minor Leagues and debuted in the 2000 season. Burrell arrived in May and is a free agent this offseason.


"Just another step. We'll celebrate this, but we're not done."
-- Brad Lidge

Burrell and Jimmy Rollins have spent nine seasons together, the second-longest tenure for teammates in the NL behind Atlanta's Chipper Jones and John Smoltz's 16 seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

None of those future thoughts crept into Burrell's mind in the calm that was Miller Park after his first home run. The feeling of running around the bases is tough to describe.

"Probably not in one word," Burrell said. "I take a lot of pride in preparing. When all the work pays off for something like that, that ultimately puts your team up ... We have 25 guys, and if you can help bring everybody up, that's pretty good."

After the party, the Phillies will welcome the Dodgers to Citizens Bank and try to exorcise demons from 1977-78, when the Dodgers beat the Phillies two straight years to go to the World Series. There will be an interesting reverse rivalry from the coaching ranks, with Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes and Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa switching sides from their playing days.

"We haven't broken through anything yet, we just stepped over one hurdle," Rollins said. "We have a lot of work to do. We didn't get out of the first round last year. We're looking forward to the next round. We're celebrating now, enjoying the moment, but as soon as we get on the plane, I guarantee we'll be ready to play ball against L.A."

Howard symbolically echoed that sentiment standing at his locker holding two bottles of unopened champagne, one for each of what he hopes will be a celebration. He'll use those at the appropriate time.

"This is the next step," he said. "We're not satisfied by any means. We know it's going to be a tough matchup with L.A. It's nice celebrating, because we made it to the next round, but I'm not satisfied where we are. We're trying to win a World Series. I'll drink these then."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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