PHILADELPHIA — These are the Phillies, right? The franchise known for losing more than any other is now four wins from another World Series championship.
After winning one title, and losing a pro sports-most 10,028 times, in their first 125 years, the Phillies — who, obligatory bad memory reference, beat the Rays last year — will look to make it two straight, starting Wednesday on the road against either the Yankees, who can complete the pairing tonight, or the Angels.
The Phillies earned their way back with a relatively easy five-game dismissal of a Dodgers team that had the best record in the National League, capped by Wednesday's 10-4 win.
"We expected ourselves to get back this year,'' closer Brad Lidge said. "But you don't really realize how difficult it is, what a grind it is the whole entire year. And how rare it is, too. … It's not an easy feat, no doubt about it.''
As soon as the final out was made, Shane Victorino catching Ronnie Belliard's fly to center, the Phillies rushed to the mound to celebrate, donning red World Series T-shirts and black caps, as the crowd erupted.
Most of the players went into the clubhouse then came back on the field, some armed with champagne bottles, the TV-staged ceremonial coronation, then back into the clubhouse for the usual wet and wild celebration.
"We just went out and believed in ourselves," NLCS MVP Ryan Howard said. "To be able to make it to this point again, it's definitely something special.''
"We really have that belief,'' Lidge said. "And we really know inside we're going to take care of business.''
It was a bit familiar as Bill Giles, the Phillies chairman who represents the NL and presented the trophy named after his father, Warren C. Giles, to team president Dave Montgomery. "This is a nice little habit we have going here," Giles said.
"I could get used to it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We've got one more step, and we're going to take it."
The Phillies are the first team to win consecutive NL pennants since the 1995-96 Braves and are seeking to become the first NL team to repeat as Series champs since the 1975-76 Reds. (AL teams have repeated four times since then.)
"It's just as rewarding,'' starter Cole Hamels said. "We just want to win. To put aside history, that's our ultimate goal.''
The Phillies won Wednesday by flexing their muscles, Jayson Werth hitting two home runs and Pedro Feliz and Shane Victorino one each. And they won in spite of a so-so start from Hamels, who hasn't been the postseason ace he was against the Rays, failing to get through the fifth.
But their much-maligned bullpen managed to get the final 14 outs, with Victorino providing much-needed cushion, his two-out homer in the sixth extending the margin from 6-3 to 8-3.
The Dodgers couldn't do much to mount an offense, as was the case much of the series, hitting three solo homers.
They had, essentially, two key chances.
In the sixth, down 6-3, with two on, two out and Hamels out of the game, Manny Ramirez managed only a check-swing roller against Chad Durbin for an easy out.
And in the eighth, after loading the bases with no outs down 9-3, they got only one run, on a Matt Kemp single, before Ryan Madson got James Loney to pop up, Russell Martin to strike out and, in a nine-pitch battle, Casey Blake to ground into a fielder's choice.
Citizens Bank Park was set for a party, with the sellout crowd of 46,214 roaring from the start — of Hamels' pregame warmup — and keeping it up throughout the night, waving white towels.
The stadium PA crew was in on it, too, playing the All-American Rejects' It Ends Tonight during Dodgers batting practice, then for the opening the Black Eyed Peas hit with the lyrics "I gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night."
Less subtly, they also had Dallas Green, who managed the 1980 Phillies to the World Series, throw out the first pitch on what just happened to be the 29th anniversary of the clinching game at the old stadium that used to stand next door.
Philadelphia police officials were braced for overzealous celebrations, mindful of the mayhem that took place after last year's World Series win. A sports apparel chain advertised it would be open all night, presumably to sell freshly made Series merchandise.
The Phillies were ready for the celebration.
"That's the one thing about our team,'' Howard said. "We're going to go enjoy oursleves right now, enjoy the moment, then come back and get ready and get focused and try and wait and see who we play and be ready for Game One.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]es.com.