Saturday, September 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Members of '08 Phillies who beat Rays in World Series reunite in NLDS

WASHINGTON — Chase Utley sat in the Dodgers clubhouse and watched as Cole Hamels was chased from a game 1,000 miles away. Eight years ago might as well be an eternity.

Back then Utley made the signature play on the base paths in the decisive Game 5 and Hamels was lights out as they won the World Series together with the Phillies, beating the Rays in five games. Not far from Utley on Thursday were two other members of that team: catcher Carlos Ruiz and pitcher Joe Blanton.

Utley, Ruiz and Blanton have been reunited with the Dodgers and face fellow 2008 World Series winner Jayson Werth of the Nationals in the NL Division Series. Trades and signings have brought all four players to this point, knowing it could be their last chance to win another championship.

"We're all in different roles, different stages of our careers," said Blanton, the Phillies' 2008 Game 4 starter who also homered in that game to help head off a Rays rally. He is now a setup man for Los Angeles. "The mind-set's still the same,'' Blanton said. "Winning is just a matter of a bunch of things: breaks going your way, getting hot at the right time, just the way game plays out, matchups."

From the 2008 champions, only Pat Burrell and Shane Victorino went on to get another ring. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins reflected on Burrell, who was a disappointment with the Rays after signing a two-year, $16 million contract in 2009, and Victorino's triumphs when he was traded to the Dodgers before last season and hoped it would be his chance.

Rollins last week thought about how funny it was that four of his former Philadelphia teammates are back in the playoffs against each other with the same goal in mind.

"Both of these teams are great teams that have a chance to get it done," said Rollins, now an analyst for TBS. "I can't pull either way, but it shows you how much in baseball from year to year you don't know what's going to happen, you don't know when you're going to lose a teammate, a trade's going to happen. I'm glad to see them in it. I just hope they all do well when it's their turn at bat."

Utley, Ruiz and Werth are all 37 years old and don't know how many more postseason at-bats they have left. Utley is on a one-year deal, Ruiz is at the end of his contract and Werth has one season left before he could again hit unrestricted free agency.

The rare air of October isn't lost on any of them.

"I feel like I'm real hungry," Ruiz said. "I feel like I want to win and I want to win and do my best to help the team. Definitely at the end of my career to have another shot to go to the World Series, it's huge. We'll take it one game at a time the same way we did in '08."

Werth, who left the Phillies after their World Series defeat in 2009 to sign a $126 million, seven-year deal with the Nationals, appreciates every chance he has left. He has made the playoffs in seven of the past 10 seasons between Philadelphia and Washington but hasn't been able to break through since 2008.

"As you get older, you get less and less opportunities," Werth said. "I'm not going to have too many of these chances left. You don't want to take them for granted, but at the same time you've just got to play baseball."

Hamels, now 32 and with the Rangers, said looking back he didn't understand the value of winning a championship so young. Even return trips to the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011 didn't bring the same success.

That's why those from the 2008 Phillies appreciate what they did back then as they focus on the task of trying to do it again.

"If you win a World Series with somebody, you create an everlasting bond," Werth said. "I'm assuming that (Utley, Ruiz and Blanton are) going to try beat me, and I'm going to be trying to beat them. It's just business out there."

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