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Pleasure before work: AL foe non-issue

Phils savor pennant before eyeing AL foe

LOS ANGELES -- In the visitors clubhouse and on the field at Dodger Stadium, it simply didn't matter what might happen three time zones and 24 hours away.

The Phillies are the champions of the National League. Another team will soon reign over the American League -- possibly as soon as Thursday -- but that was the furthest thing from the minds of the reveling Phils on Wednesday night.

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"It doesn't really matter," said slugging first baseman Ryan Howard, "because you have to play whoever is in there anyway."

Once the AL is decided, the Phils will start looking at tape, assessing tendencies, setting up game plans. Some members of the staff may start looking at the Red Sox and the Rays on the flight back home on Wednesday night, or more likely sometime Thursday afternoon.

But no watch party is scheduled for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Philadelphia has interest, but for a team that hadn't won a pennant in 15 years, such questions are a matter for tomorrow.

"I don't know too many guys who have been in this situation," outfielder Jayson Werth said when asked about the AL tilt. "I don't think anybody knows. I don't know, man. It's just awesome. Words can't describe this."

When such an enormous prize is right there in front of you, it's tough to look past it.

Whomever the Phils draw, it will be one of the best teams in the game. Tampa Bay and Boston were by many measures the two toughest squads in all of baseball in 2008. Regardless of the opponent, Philadelphia will be hitting the road.

The biggest difference may be familiarity. The Phils and Red Sox played three games this year and have played in five of the past six seasons. Philadelphia met Tampa Bay in 2006, the only series between the two franchises in that same span. The Red Sox took two out of three this year, but Boston and Philly each scored 12 runs in the series.

"When you play an opponent over and over again, you feel a little more comfortable," said second baseman Chase Utley. "Not playing a team that much, it's not easy, but it's the same on both sides."

But again, those matters are all for another day. On Wednesday, the Phils were celebrating. On Thursday, they'll likely catch their breath. Then they'll start thinking about the AL champ.

"I don't know what everybody's going to do," Howard said. "I'm going to be at home, relaxing, chilling, sleeping ... getting ready for the first game of the World Series."

Matthew Leach 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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{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
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