"Yes, we're going to the World Series," Ryan Howard said, shouting. "That sounds really good to say."Never straying from their opportunistic best, the Phillies leapt out when Jimmy Rollins scorched a homer on the game's eighth pitch -- much like he did in the deciding Division Series game against Milwaukee. "I didn't see it," Rollins said. "I just hit it and took off, not taking anything for granted. I knew [if it dropped in] I was getting on second, and if they made a mistake, I was going to get on third." He got home. With a 1-0 lead and the ball in ace Cole Hamels' sterling left hand, a ticket to the World Series seemed inevitable. The Dodgers never had a chance against Hamels, who was named the NLCS MVP. The left-hander bested his Game 1 performance with seven innings of five-hit ball, allowing one run and striking out five. The Phils await the winner of the American League Championship Series, in which the Rays lead the Red Sox, 3-1. Rollins' drive to right-center field, the 10th leadoff homer in LCS history, rattled Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley, and the 24-year-old unraveled in the third. Walks to Rollins and Chase Utley followed by two-out RBI singles by Howard and Pat Burrell pushed the lead to 3-0. Billingsley's final act was issuing an intentional walk to new Phillies postseason hero Shane Victorino. Sloppy Dodgers defense, specifically three errors by shortstop Rafael Furcal, led to two unearned runs in the fifth. While Hamels welcomed the support, he was at his dominating best, posting a 1.23 ERA in three postseason starts. He ended each of his final five innings with strikeouts. The final one came on his 104th pitch, and caught Jeff Kent looking, preserving a four-run lead. At that moment, the Dodgers had two runners on and Kent could've pulled the Dodgers within a run with one swing. He didn't. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge handled the final six outs, setting off a celebration that had been coming for 15 years. "Our six most important outs of the season," Jamie Moyer said. The final out, a Nomar Garciaparra foul popout to Carlos Ruiz, had the catchers' eyes bulging out of his head. From the dugout, Moyer yelled, "Two hands!" "I was so happy when I knew the last out was in my hands," Ruiz said. "It wasn't too high, but it took forever to come down." How long did it take to land? "About 10 minutes," Joe Blanton said. "It was a while. I was running up the steps, and [was] out of breath at the end. That out seemed to take longer than the whole inning, combined." The celebration spilled onto the field and into the tiny visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. The celebration was louder and more boisterous as the reality of playing in the World Series began to sink in.
|"After hearing about the '93 team and the '80 team over and over and over, we finally have a chance to make our mark. It's crazy. [Getting to the World Series] is always worth the wait, and you always want to come back for more. We're here now, four games away."|
|-- Jimmy Rollins|
Pick a moment. They're all good.The Phillies have taken three steps, and want a fourth. At 99 wins, 103 is where they want to be. "We've got one more big step, then we're going to take a grand parade," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less