NL champions took two of three from Yankees this year
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Even with their second consecutive National League pennant secured, there's still a chance that the Phillies might have to make another trip to Southern California.
But if the Yankees were to hold on to eliminate the Angels from the American League Championship Series, the boys from Philadelphia certainly wouldn't mind the opportunity to stay close to home while attempting to conquer the last challenge separating them from successful defense of their world championship.
"I think everybody has dreamed of playing in Yankee Stadium in the World Series," Cole Hamels said. "If we get to play them, then that's great. But if we get to play [the Angels], then that's great, too. We're the National League champions and one step closer to being World Series champions."
With Wednesday night's 10-4 win over the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies ended the National League Championship Series and began setting their sights on the Yankees or Angels, who find themselves in a 3-2 hole in the ALCS.
"Regardless of who wins that other series, we know that we're going to be in for a big challenge," said Phillies ace Cliff Lee, who likely will be tabbed to start Game 1 of the World Series next Wednesday night.
While the Yankees may have the mystique that comes courtesy of their 26 world championships, the Phillies possess the bravado that is reserved solely for those teams that are still defending the most recent World Series title.
Since Eric Hinske -- who is currently with the Yankees -- swung through Brad Lidge's final pitch of the 2008 World Series, the Phillies have displayed a sense of confidence that helped them capture a third consecutive division title and become the first National League team since the 1996 Braves to advance to a second consecutive World Series.
Now they will simply wait to learn which team from the "mighty" American League will attempt to prevent them from becoming the first National League team since the 1976 Reds to successfully defend their world championship. Only two other NL clubs -- the 1907-08 Cubs and the 1921-22 Giants -- have repeated as World Series champions.
"Regardless of whether we were defending champs or not, it's going to be a dogfight against whoever we play," said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard after being named the NLCS MVP.
PHILS vs. YANKS in 2009
If the Phillies were to meet the Yankees -- who lead the ALCS, 3-2 -- in the World Series, it won't be the first time the clubs will have met this season. The Phils won a three-game Interleague set in May. They did not play the Angels.
With their advantage over the Angels in the ALCS, the Yankees are well-positioned to return to the World Series for the first time since 2003. Based on recent history, the Phillies wouldn't shy away from the opportunity to attempt to reverse the result of the 1950 World Series, during which they were swept by the Yankees.
The Phillies are just 1-5 all-time against the Angels, who came into Citizens Bank Park during the 2008 season and completed a three-game sweep.
Denied the opportunity to turn the tide against the Angels this year, the Phillies still managed to win just six of the 18 Interleague games they played. Encouragement stems from the fact that of the five AL clubs they played, the Yankees stood as the only one against which they notched a winning record.
While winning two of three against the Yankees in May, the Phillies were able to acquaint themselves with new Yankee Stadium, which, barring an Angels comeback, would serve as the site of the first two games of this year's World Series.
Dating back to the 2003 season, when Major League Baseball began rewarding World Series home-field advantage to the winner of the All-Star Game, the National League champs have never gained this advantage.
Had MLB continued to annually alternate World Series home-field advantage, this would have been one of those years when the city of Philadelphia would have been slated to host Games 1, 2, 6 and 7.
Still, while standing as one of the three NL teams that have overcome the advantage the AL has gained via this setup over the six previous years, the Phillies understand how quickly they can shift this advantage back to their direction when they return to their home park, where the designated-hitter rule doesn't come into play.
"We have pitchers who can hit, too," Hamels said. "When it comes down to it, you need that pitcher to get the bunt down and move the runner over. We have the hitters at every position to match anybody we go up against."
After splitting the first two games of the 2008 World Series against the Rays in St. Petersburg, the Phillies returned home and won the next three games to capture the organization's second world championship and first since 1980.
Still, what occurred during last year's Fall Classic seems to be as pertinent to the Phillies as what they did against the Yankees in May or against the Angels last year.
If the Yankees serve as this year's World Series opponent, the Phillies won't be thinking about the fact that Lidge's inability to hold a two-run, ninth-inning lead was the only thing that separated them from recording a three-game sweep in the Bronx this year.
Instead, they'll be cognizant of the fact that they'll now have the ability to utilize Lee against this Yankees club that also proved to be much improved during the season's final three months.
More importantly, regardless of the opposition, the defending world champs will be hungry to do whatever it takes to capture those four wins that separate them from reliving last year's euphoric finish.
"Whoever we play, we'll be playing a very tough team," Lidge said. "But our guys believe we can do it and we want those four more wins."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.