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Phillies celebrate, focus on next step

Phillies celebrate, focus on next step

PHILADELPHIA -- As Cole Hamels fired the strikeout pitch past Scott Rolen for the 27th out that sent them on to the next step of their mission, the Phillies on the field collected in the middle and were joined by those from the visitors dugout of Great American Ball Park.

There were handshakes, pats on the back -- but the been-there, done-that routine appeared to have all the zest and emotional jolt of a graduation ceremony at a dog-obedience school.

The Phillies made an equally sedate retreat into their clubhouse. Then it was as if somewhere the "Celebrate" cue sign -- like the "Applause" sign to a TV audience -- went on and the players went into their drill.

"Get yourself a bottle!" coach Sam Perlozzo, always in a teaching mode, instructed.

Next door to the arena where families were enjoying Disney on Ice, the Phillies had put the Reds on ice and now took the bottles of champagne off ice.


Corks popped and flew, bottles were shaken, bubbly sprayed.

"Incoming!" someone yelled, twisting to dodge a flying cork.

It was joyful, yet predictably restrained. In the last two calendar years, most of these same players have gone through nine of these. It's a nice habit to have. But when you've sprayed World Series champagne, the opening act goes only so far.

Spraying the champagne was the same as playing the Reds had been: Obligatory, something you had to go through. The Phillies came to October to win a World Series, and this had been just part of the trip.

"We've been through it so many times but, don't get me wrong, it's still special," said outfielder Jayson Werth. "Especially sharing this one with the guys who haven't been through it before ... guys like Roy Halladay, Mike Sweeney, Brian Schneider.

"We expected to win this series. We expect to win the next one. So we know this is just the first step."

And with that, Werth popped the cork on another chilled bottle of Korbel Brut.

They had been Division Series brutes, but that spelling identifies the contents as "dry." Which of course the plastic-covered clubhouse was anything but.

"Yeah, on television, this thing always looked a lot drier," said Sweeney, the 1,454-game veteran in the first postseason of his 16-season career. "But this is a lot more fun, too.

"At this time of October, I'm usually fishing and getting wet in the rivers of Montana. It's a lot better getting wet in the locker room with a champion."

Halladay, the former longtime Toronto Blue Jay, was also wiping the first trickle of winners' champagne out of his eyes and called the experience "awesome."

"It's definitely more fun than watching it on TV," Halladay said. "And getting to do this with guys you enjoy and like being around makes it all worth it.

"I'm also glad we did it quick. We didn't want to give them a chance to hang around."

Packs of players roamed the room, looking for Hamels. The night's hero was nowhere to be seen. Then a reconnaissance party reported that he had just wrapped some on-field interviews and was finally heading into their bunker.

A dozen players grabbed bottles and cans and formed a reception line, as if Hamels was a groom coming from the altar. This was definitely one time when the young left-handed pitcher's height was a disadvantage, making him an easy target.

"I don't think we want to get too carried away [with this celebration], but we are very happy," Hamels said. "But we're going to move on and try to play the best baseball we can and try to win the next four games as fast and as quick as we can. Because our ultimate goal is to win the World Series and I think that's where we stand."

Watching off to the side, a perennial postseason hero shook his head thoughtfully.

"I don't want to say you get used to it," said Chase Utley, whose reviewed home run a couple hours earlier had doubled Hamels' lead to a seemingly insurmountable 2-0. "Because it is a good feeling. But we're also confident, and we realize this is not the end. We have a few more games to play -- and to win."

To Werth, the Phillies' celebration actually matched the volume of their play. The mound excellence of Hamels and predecessors Halladay and Roy Oswalt had carried them through this series.

"This was the first of three," Werth said. "The next is a seven-game series, and I'm sure we'll pick it up a little bit."

By now, everyone was drenched, a condition that for a change was quite pleasant in mid-October. Cincinnati's unseasonal warmth, the temperature remaining in the high-70s near midnight, made the wetness actually welcome, refreshing.

But it was alcohol. The Phillies were done having the Reds for lunch and Jimmy Rollins began looking forward to another meal.

"I've got to get something to eat," he said. "All this alcohol gets to you. It's a good feeling, makes you know you're a winner. But also makes you hungry."

Rollins meant, hungry for steak or pizza. But the Phillies also have a bigger hunger, one that won't be sated unless they are the last team standing.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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