© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

09/27/08 9:48 PM EST

Phillies repeat as NL East champions

Rollins' acrobatic play helps Lidge nail down division title

PHILADELPHIA -- With Pat Burrell's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, scoring Chase Utley with run No. 1, the crowd stirred. When Carlos Ruiz lofted another sac fly to right three batters later for run No. 2, the buzz grew louder. Jayson Werth's homer in the fifth produced a noticeable crescendo.

But when shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a dazzling diving stop on a rocket struck by the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, flipped to Utley from his knees, then watched the game-ending double play to its completion, the crowd and the players just lost it.

"Nothing's been easy, so why not have a game like that?" said closer Brad Lidge, who worked his way into that jam before closing out Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Nationals. "I'll take it."

With Lidge's 41st save in the books, the celebratory pile began at the mound and shifted to the spot near where Rollins gloved the season and wrapped it a complex bow. The Phillies' second straight National League East title -- their first back-to-back division championships since taking three in a row in 1976-78 -- didn't come easy.

Still, they're going to the playoffs.


"It's surreal and like it's happening in slow motion, so you take it all in," reliever Chad Durbin said. "You think about how it started and you're happy it got to this point. The atmosphere is amazing."

The Phillies emptied what seemed like a non-stop supply of Domaine St. Michelle champagne, supported by cases of beer. Players sprayed in all directions, but always found whoever happened to be on television at the time.

Seeking maximum soaking effect, bottles were often poured directly on the head.

"We shouldn't use it all here," said one player. "Hopefully they'll be three more of these."

They can think about that next week. Saturday wasn't for looking ahead. The jubilation spilled out of the home clubhouse and onto the field, where players addressed the crowd that refused to leave, then sprayed anyone who wanted it.

Chris Coste and Pedro Feliz rode around the park on police bicycles, and Ryan Howard and Werth puttered around on a grounds-crew cart, yelling all the way.

"Now we've got a job to do. We have higher goals this year. We've been here before and we know what we have to do. In Spring Training, we were sitting around talking about going to the World Series, not just getting to the playoffs."
-- Jayson Werth

No one cared that it was raining.

"It feels like it's raining champagne," said Geoff Jenkins, who was ranked fourth among active players not see a postseason game but was able to cross his name off that list. "I can't wait."

Before the game, Rollins grooved while singing along with Rick James' "Superfreak." Later, the lyrics "Celebrate good times" piped through large speakers. A few hours later, the 45,177 fans at Citizens Bank joined the party.

Since the Mets declined to comply by winning earlier in the day, the Phillies needed a win to seal the division. They gave the ball to Jamie Moyer for Game 161. Moyer, the oldest player in baseball, worked last-season's division-clinching game, when the season went down to the final day.

White rally towels waved furiously as the game continued, punctuating the playoff atmosphere. Moyer worked six innings, then let the bullpen do the rest.

"Amazing," pitching coach Rich Dubee said, regarding Moyer. "What else is there to say?"

Moyer experienced deja vu.

"I enjoyed it," Moyer said. "How odd is it to get the same team? It's worked out for us two years in a row."

Moyer became the second pitcher to win 16 games at age 45, joining the Yankees' Phil Niekro (16-8 in 1984). In the 2008 clincher, Moyer held the Nationals to just one run over six innings.

The night before, he played catch with his youngest son, McCabe Joseph. The kid said the catch was required so daddy could "have good throws."

For the second straight season, the Phillies chased down the Mets in the NL East. The Phils trailed by a season-high 3 1/2 games on Sept. 11, but rallied to claim first place for good on Sept. 20. In its best month, Philadelphia went 16-8 with one game remaining.

Ryan Howard carried the month, and delivered a key rally-starting single in the fourth. Batting .345 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs for the month, Howard heard "M-V-P" chants each time he stepped to the plate.

As they await either the Dodgers or Brewers in the NL Division Series, which begins Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies pondered the fact that they don't want to see their postseason run end after three games, like it did last year in Colorado.

A more experienced group this year -- evidenced by the fact that most players donned goggles for the 2008 celebration -- the team knows they have plenty more to do.

"We all have a little experience at this," Rollins said. "We can hopefully go a little further into the playoffs. We know winning the division doesn't guarantee you anything. It just means you have a chance to go win the World Series."

Added Werth: "Now we've got a job to do. We have higher goals this year. We've been here before and we know what we have to do. In Spring Training, we were sitting around talking about going to the World Series, not just getting to the playoffs."

The Phillies wouldn't have gotten there without September, not without the determination to not care about being 3 1/2 games behind the Mets and four behind Milwaukee in the Wild Card earlier this month.

A sweep against the Brewers set them in the right direction.

"I've been thinking about this for the last week," Rollins said. "Determination beats out talent, but if you put them together, you have one heck of a champion. I might write that on the mirror and let everybody know what I've been thinking. We have a chance to do something special. Hopefully we can."

2007 Mets Phillies Mets' Lead 2008 Mets Phillies Mets' Lead
9/1 Won @ ATL, 5-1 Lost @ FLA, 12-6 3 9/1 Won @ MIL, 4-2 Lost @ WSH, 7-4 2
9/2 Won @ ATL, 3-2 Lost @ FLA, 7-6 4 9/2 Won @ MIL, 6-5 Won @ WSH, 4-0 2
9/3 Won @ CIN, 10-4 Lost @ ATL, 5-1 5 9/3 Won @ MIL, 9-2 Lost @ WSH, 9-7 3
9/4 Won @ CIN, 11-7 Won @ ATL, 5-2 5 9/4 Off Off 3
9/5 Lost @ CIN, 7-0 Lost @ ATL, 9-8 5 9/5 Lost vs PHI, 3-0 Won @ NYM, 3-0 2
9/6 Off Off 5 9/6 Rain out Rain out 2
9/7 Won vs HOU, 11-3 Lost vs FLA, 6-3 6 9/7 Split DH with PHI Split DH with NYM 2
9/8 Won vs HOU, 3-1 Won vs FLA, 9-1 6 9/8 Off Won vs FLA, 8-6 1.5
9/9 Won vs HOU, 4-1 Won vs FLA, 8-5 6 9/9 Won vs WSH, 10-8 Lost vs FLA, 10-8 2.5
9/10 Won vs ATL, 3-2 Won vs COL, 6-5 6 9/10 Won vs WSH, 13-10 Lost vs FLA, 7-3 3.5
9/11 Lost vs ATL, 13-5 Lost vs COL, 8-2 6 9/11 Off Won vs MIL, 6-3 3
9/12 Won vs ATL, 4-3 Lost vs COL, 12-0 7 9/12 Rain out Rain out 3
9/13 Off Won vs COL, 12-4 6.5 9/13 Split DH with ATL Won vs MIL, 7-3 2.5
9/14 Lost vs PHI, 3-2 Won @ NYM, 3-2 5.5 9/14 Lost vs ATL, 7-4 Won DH from MIL 1
9/15 Lost vs PHI, 5-3 Won @ NYM, 5-3 4.5 9/15 Lost @ WSH, 7-2 Off 0.5
9/16 Lost vs PHI, 10-6 Won @ NYM, 10-6 3.5 9/16 Lost @ WSH, 1-0 Won vs ATL, 8-7 -0.5
9/17 Lost @ WSH, 12-4 Won @ STL, 13-11 2.5 9/17 Won @ WSH, 9-7 Won @ ATL, 6-1 -0.5
9/18 Lost @ WSH, 9-8 Won @ STL, 7-4 1.5 9/18 Won @ WSH 7-2 Won @ ATL, 4-3 -0.5
9/19 Won @ WSH, 8-4 Lost @ STL, 2-1 2.5 9/19 Won @ ATL, 9-5 Lost @ FLA, 14-8 0.5
9/20 Lost @ FLA, 8-7 Won @ WSH, 7-6 1.5 9/20 Lost @ ATL, 4-2 Won @ FLA, 3-2 -0.5
9/21 Won @ FLA, 9-6 Won @ WSH, 6-3 1.5 9/21 Lost @ ATL, 7-6 Won @ FLA, 5-2 -1.5
9/22 Won @ FLA, 7-2 Won @ WSH, 4-1 1.5 9/22 Lost vs. CHC, 9-5 Won vs. ATL, 6-2 -2.5
9/23 Won @ FLA, 7-6 Lost @ WSH, 5-3 2.5 9/23 Won vs. CHC, 6-2 Lost vs. ATL, 3-2 -1.5
9/24 Lost vs WSH, 13-4 Off 2 9/24 Lost vs. CHC, 9-6 Lost vs. ATL, 10-4 -1.5
9/25 Lost vs WSH, 10-9 Lost vs ATL, 10-6 2 9/25 Won vs. CHC, 7-6 Off -1
9/26 Lost vs. WSH, 9-6 Won vs. ATL, 5-2 1 9/26 Lost vs. FLA, 6-1 Won vs. WSH, 8-4 -2
9/27 Lost vs STL, 3-0 Won vs ATL, 6-4 Tied 9/27 FLA WSH
9/28 Lost vs FLA, 7-4 Won vs WSH, 6-0 -1 9/28 FLA WSH
9/29 Won vs FLA, 13-0 Lost vs WSH, 4-2 Tied        
9/30 Lost vs FLA, 8-1 Won vs WSH, 6-1 -1        

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.