It seemed only fitting that the Philadelphia Phillies complete what they hope is the first step towards a World Series title with ace Roy Halladay on the mound Wednesday afternoon. However, there was no crazy celebration and no popping any bubbly as the Phillies became the first team to clinch a playoff berth with a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros.
Halladay gave up just six hits to earn his first shutout of the season, despite battling through trouble in the second and seventh innings. Last year’s Cy Young winner threw 114 pitches – striking out seven and walking one – to earn a National League best eighth complete game.
"We want the World Series and we want to get there in a good position," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We want to win our division and we want to have the best record. We want to give our players the best possible position."
This will be the fifth straight season in which the Phillies will play October baseball in the hopes of another World Series title. The Phillies won it back in 2008 and the following year took the NL pennant before losing to the New York Yankees in the Series. Last year, Philadelphia was ousted in the NLCS by the San Francisco Giants, forcing management to open their checkbooks.
The Phillies immediately went out and signed pitcher Cliff Lee to round out a rotation that quickly earned the nickname “The Four Aces.” As if that wasn’t enough, Philadelphia traded for Hunter Pence in July and it certainly gave a jolt to their ho-hum offense.
All of these pieces have helped lead the Phillies to the best record in baseball, earning their 95th win today after losing their previous three games. But that doesn’t tell the whole tale; the Phillies have been one of the hottest teams in the last month, which has seemed to be the case each year since Manuel has been manager. Since 2005, Philadelphia is tied with the Yankees for most wins (113) in the month of September and were 9-5 this month.
Now the Phillies focus on clinching their fifth straight NL East division title, with the magic number being just four. They look to finish off the Atlanta Braves’ hopes of claiming the NL East title as they get set to square off in two make up games against the Florida Marlins.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.