09/30/08 8:16 PM ET
Phils of 2008 learning lessons from '07
Team hopes to build on experience from last season's playoffs
By Kevin Horan / MLB.com
Before the Phillies can worry about the National League Division Series ahead of them, the question of overcoming any remaining demons from last year's early exit is sure to come up.It was this time last year when the Phillies, riding the wave of one of their hottest Septembers in recent memory, were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by an even hotter Colorado Rockies team. The same 2007 offense that pounded out 892 runs -- enough to lead the NL -- fell completely flat in three postseason games against Colorado, hitting just .172 (16-for-93) in the series. If nothing else, chalk it up to experience. Most players in the Phillies' clubhouse on Tuesday were wary of overanalyzing the past, but hopeful that having been to the playoffs last year will help them this time around against the Brewers. "It's good to have the experience under our belt," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "Last year we got in and didn't really know what to expect. This year we come in knowing what it's like to be in this situation. So this year I think we'll come in a little bit calmer and try to take care of business." Last year the Phillies surprised everyone by surging to a 13-4 record in their final 17 games and swiping the NL East from the Mets in thrilling fashion on the last day of the season. It was their first playoff appearance in 14 years. That team shares some common traits with Philadelphia's first-round opponent this season. The Brewers this year had to put together a 6-1 run in their final seven games to beat out New York for the NL Wild Card spot, earning their first playoff berth since 1982. Philadelphia had a chance to let everything sink in this year, having clinched the division on the second-to-last day of the regular season. "Maybe a little bit of the novelty's worn off," catcher Chris Coste said. "We got to that position last year and fell short. It makes you want it even more this year." The fans at Citizens Bank Park certainly want it more this year, as they showed on Sunday afternoon when they unfurled a long white banner in left field that read "World Series or Bust." They have good reason for such high expectations. There's the powerful offense, and the bullpen has been bolstered this year by the addition of Brad Lidge, who has been the most reliable closer in team history. The eighth-inning setup trio of Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero -- which combined for a 2.90 ERA this season -- was not around at this time last year. The starting rotation looks a little stronger heading into this postseason as well, with Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer -- the Game 1, 2 and 3 starters, respectively -- coming off solid second halves. But as Philadelphia learned last year, a successful regular season doesn't necessarily translate into a deep postseason run. "There is that slight feeling, deep down, that's like, 'We don't want to celebrate too much, because there's so much more to be done,' " Coste said. "We can party all night on Nov. 1 or Oct. 31."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.