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Crown 'Em: Phillies 10, Astros 3

Shades of last October fed hopes for this October, as the Phillies rode the energy of a fired-up Citizens Bank Park crowd past an early deficit on an offensive surge of the sort mostly missing the last month-plus, a tremendous relief performance from Kyle Kendrick, and an emotional ninth inning closed out by Brad Lidge to their third straight NL East title with a convincing 10-3 win over the Houston Astros

It looked iffy early on, as Pedro Martinez walked in one first-inning run and surrendered two solo homers to J.R. Towles in the second and fourth. But a four-run fourth-inning off Houston starter Brian Moehler, highlighted by Ryan Howard's RBI single and Pedro Feliz's RBI double, gave the Phils a 5-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish. An inning later, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino electrified the crowd with back-to-back triples, Victorino scoring on a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly. Ibanez finished the scoring two innings later with a mammoth two-run homer to right, his 34th of the season.

Kendrick came on for a gassed Martinez in the fifth and turned in three excellent innings, striking out four while holding the Astros off the board.  Chad Durbin pitched a scoreless eighth, Scott Eyre notched the first two outs of the ninth, and Lidge came in to get former teammate Lance Berkman on a grounder to Howard at first. Seconds before, the Braves lost their game in Atlanta by a 5-4 score, giving the Phils the division title--but that didn't make the accomplishment of a third straight division title, earned with a win, any less sweet. 

Congratulations to the 2009 Phillies--National League East champions. Again.