You had the feeling good times were at hand when Jimmy Rollins reprised his leadoff home run from the clincher of the NL Division Series. The sense grew as Cole Hamels started finding his groove in the middle innings, putting up zero after zero. The stars seemed aligned when Rafael Furcal's three errors in the fifth inning led to two unearned runs, stretching a 3-0 lead to 5-0. Ryan Madson, popping the gun at 97, brought it within reach with a scoreless eighth.
And at 11:37 PM Eastern time, with Brad Lidge on the mound, the Phillies won their sixth National League pennant. The celebration continues at this late hour.
Ryan Howard was a hero tonight, with three hits and a big third-inning RBI. Chase Utley scored twice, and turned in more fantastic defensive work--turning double plays, laying out to snare line drives. But NLCS Most Valuable Player Cole Hamels was the brightest star. Pitching deeper into the autumn than he ever has--between 33 regular season starts and three more in the October crucible, he's now thrown 249.1 innings--he's been at his best in the last 22: three starts, three wins, a 1.93 ERA, 13 hits, 22 strikeouts, 5 walks. Hamels now stands with 1993 NLCS MVP Curt Schilling in the Phils' playoff pantheon.
Congratulations to Charlie Manuel and all the Fightin' Phils--your 2008 National League Champions.
The World Series starts October 22.