Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 33.
THE DATE: Oct. 15, 2008
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
THE STAKES: Game 5, National League Championship Series
THE GREAT: Only once in my life had the Phillies won the pennant.
That was, of course, in 1993. I sang Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two” as Bill Pecota stepped to the plate. And then it was “Whoomp! (There It Is)” after Mitch Williams struck him out to take the National League crown. I was eight.
Fifteen years later I was once again giddy, and the Phillies were once again National League champions. But I was with some friends at a bar in Connecticut. I wasn’t singing dance hits of the 1990s. I was elated. But I was reserved. There was more to do.
That was the 2008 Phillies: a team on a mission. The guys had tasted defeat before; they weren’t about to do it again. So the 2008 postseason was an exercise. Get the job done. Don’t get too nuts. And as a devoted fan, I followed suit.
Of course, all I had to do was follow Cole Hamels, who started game five and was handed the task of finishing off the Dodgers. After dramatic home runs and nutty pitcher at bats, Hamels got the job done. He went seven and struck out five. When in trouble, like in the fifth, he forced Blake DeWitt into hitting a double-play ball. And when he put two on in the seventh, the Dodgers threatening to get back in the game, he sat down Jeff Kent with a perfect pitch.
Hamels was joined in dirty work by Jimmy Rollins, who led off the clincher with a home run, just as he led off the Milwaukee clincher with a tater. The Phils added on in the third, with singles by Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell scoring two with two out. Two errors by Rafael Furcal in the fifth did in the Dodgers; now they were doing the Phils’ work. All was taken care of.
It was cake for Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge, who closed the book on Los Angeles with simple eighth and ninth innings. Pennant won. What’s next?
The 2008 run was romantic for many reasons, but one that stood out to me was how the Phils couldn’t celebrate their division and league championship series wins at home. They beat the Brewers in Milwaukee, then the Dodgers in Los Angeles. So the celebrations were muted, still accompanied by champagne and smiles, but definitely different than whatever raucous time could’ve been had at Citizens Bank Park.
So when the Phils finally won in Philly, it happened to be the world championship. That’s pretty special. It almost seemed as if it was meant to be that way.
But really it was just happenstance. The Phils played extremely well in that postseason. They took care of business. It just so happens that business was done on the road the first couple times out.