|Howard, Moyer help Phillies end 14-year playoff drought|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 30 September 2007 23:39|
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, and everyone wanted to savor the moment and share it with their long-suffering fans.
Shane Victorino and Antonio Alfonseca doused the die-hards with that water hose, Brett Myers and Ryan Howard high-fived parents and their kids, and Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas sang ``High Hopes'' over the public address system.
Yes, the Fightin' Phils were the team to beat in the NL East. Jimmy Rollins was right all along.
``I guess that was pretty accurate,'' Rollins said of his bold prediction last winter.
Considered all but out of contention just 2 1/2 weeks ago, the Phillies overcame a huge deficit in the standings, caught the Mets and won their first division title since 1993 on the final day.
Howard hit his 47th homer, 44-year-old Jamie Moyer pitched 5 1-3 gutsy innings and the Phillies, backed by a crowd going crazy, beat Washington 6-1 Sunday.
Myers tossed his glove underhanded straight in the air after striking out Wily Mo Pena to end it. Pat Burrell ran out of the dugout and hugged Myers and everyone piled on.
``It's been 14 years, people,'' Myers said, looking around for someone to shower with champagne.
The Phillies needed some help, and got it from Florida. The last-place Marlins beat the Mets 8-1 to ensure there wouldn't be a tiebreaker playoff game on Monday.
Philadelphia rallied from seven games down on Sept. 12, matching the biggest September comeback in major league history. The Phillies and the Mets went into the last day tied for the division lead.
Now, it's the Phillies who are advancing to the postseason for only the 10th time in their history. They'll host Game 1 of the first round Wednesday against the winner of Monday's wild-card tiebreaker between San Diego and Colorado.
Somehow it seemed fitting the Phillies enjoyed success the same season they became the first team in professional sports to lose 10,000 games.
A team known for one of the biggest collapses in baseball - they blew a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 games left in the 1964 NL race - took advantage of a colossal fold to finish first. The Phils won 13 of their last 17 and wound up 89-73.
The fans here are quite familiar with heartbreak and failure. One World Series championship (1980) in 125 years makes for plenty of disappointing finishes, especially in recent seasons.
In 2005, the Phillies were eliminated on the final day. Last year, they were knocked out on the next-to-last day of the season.
Finally, the die-hards have reason to celebrate.
Guided by heavily criticized manager Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia overcame a 4-11 start and numerous injuries to key players. Yet even in mid-September, the comeback kids - they rallied for 48 come-from-behind wins this season - never gave up.
``No matter what the stakes are, we're never going to quit,'' center fielder Aaron Rowand said.
No major league team failed to finish first after having at least a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Philadelphia joined the 1934 Cardinals and 1938 Cubs as the only teams to overcome seven-game deficits in the final month.
The Phillies trailed the Mets by 8 1/2 games on June 2 and hadn't spent a day in first place until tying New York on Thursday night. They moved into sole possession of first Friday, but gave it right back with a loss on Saturday.
Before they took the field against the Nationals, the Phillies looked up at the out-of-town scoreboard and saw the Mets were trailing 7-0. Then they took care of their own business.
Rollins got it started in the first with a single, two steals and scored on Chase Utley's sacrifice fly against Jason Bergmann (6-6). With the crowd emphatically chanting ``M-V-P!'' during Rollins' at-bat in the sixth, he lined his 20th triple into the right-field corner for a 5-1 lead.
Not since the days of the Dude and Wild Thing - Lenny Dykstra and Mitch Williams - has a Phillies team captured the hearts of a city starved for a championship. The NBA's 76ers were the last to win a title in 1983.
And leave it to a native son to deliver at a crucial time. While fellow 40-something Tom Glavine struggled for the Mets, Moyer (14-12) was sharp. Moyer grew up in nearby Souderton and played hooky from school to attend the Phillies' victory parade on Broad Street in 1980.
The crafty left-hander allowed one unearned run and five hits, striking out six. He baffled hitters with a typical mix of offspeed pitches and a fastball that barely reached 80 mph.
``I'd like to be going down Broad Street again on one of those floats instead of watching the floats go by,'' Moyer said.
Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero and Myers finished it off with 3 2-3 scoreless innings.
Notes: The Nationals swept a three-game series in New York earlier this week to help the Phillies catch the Mets. ... Phillies C Carlos Ruiz left with a bruised left elbow an inning after getting hit by a pitch.