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Phils celebrate with eye toward NLCS

Phils celebrate with eye toward NLCS

MILWAUKEE -- As far as champagne celebrations go, Sunday's affair at Miller Park was relatively brief. So not long after the Phillies had put the finishing touches on their National League Division Series victory over the Brewers, they pondered both their past and their future in a rather quiet clubhouse.

Pat Burrell spoke of his friendship with Jimmy Rollins, and the fact that the two of them seemed to take losing harder than most. Around him, the scattered tabs of aluminum beer cans littered the floor. Jamie Moyer spoke about how much this all meant to him, a realistic chance for October glory at long last. Next to him, champagne dripped from the ceiling. They all had a story, a sense of gratitude, a bit of vindication. And they all had a drink.

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"I never wondered," Rollins said, reflecting back on his early days with the Phillies. "I always knew that a day like this would come."

Then he spoke of his desire for quite a few more.

The Phillies did take some time following Sunday's Game 4 win to celebrate, knowing that their next challenge -- a National League Championship Series date with the Dodgers -- remained days in the future. So they jumped up and down in the center of Miller Park's visiting clubhouse, blaring music and shaking whatever champagne bottles they could find.

They soaked coaches. They soaked reporters. They soaked each other. Rollins attempted to compose himself for a live television interview, but his goggles were of no use when two Phillies dumped champagne over his head. Brett Myers stuck to beer, sneaking up behind his teammates and dousing them.

"A lot of guys here have a lot of heart on this team," he said. "Hats off to the organization for picking up a lot of guys with heart."

"We've got a couple of days to enjoy this," Burrell said.

"Were going to celebrate tonight," Chase Utley corrected him. "And we're going to focus on the Dodgers tomorrow."

Their preparation cannot come too soon. Clinching their spot in the NLCS late Saturday night, the Dodgers will fly to Philadelphia this week for Games 1 and 2, scheduled for Thursday and Friday at Citizens Bank Park. And it's a dangerous time to be facing the Dodgers.

As their three-game sweep of the Cubs proved, the Dodgers are perhaps the hottest team in baseball, boasting a cyclical offense, a sturdy bullpen and more than enough starting pitching. They made quick work of the NL's best team, winning twice in Chicago, and will be well-rested for their trip to the East Coast.

Twice this season these teams have met -- once in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers swept the Phillies, and once in Philadelphia, where the Phillies swept the Dodgers. They seem evenly matched. And they seem evenly prepared.

"They're a great team," said Cole Hamels, the projected Game 1 starter. "They swept us and we swept them, and that's why I think we're very equal. They have great hitters, just like we do, and they have the key pitchers that can definitely get the job done -- just like we do. Hopefully it doesn't go down to Game 7, but if it ever does, I think these would be the two teams to really bring it down to the wire."

Perhaps the reason the Phillies heaped so much praise upon the Dodgers after Sunday's game was because the Dodgers had swept their own series so convincingly. At the least, they strike an intimidating pose. And so, between spurts of champagne, the Phillies shot off as many compliments as they could.

"They're playing good baseball right now," said Utley, a former Dodgers draftee who elected to attend nearby UCLA instead.

"It's not going to be easy," closer Brad Lidge agreed. "The Dodgers have a great team. They have veteran hitters on their team and veteran players, and I think that's one thing that they have that the Brewers did not have -- a lot of veteran players. We're going to be doing a lot of scouting this week, but all I know right now is it's going to be a tough series."

With that, Lidge ran back to his locker, champagne and beer matting his shirt against his skin. Enough talk of the Dodgers, Lidge said. Game 1 won't come until Thursday, which gave the Phillies all the more reason to keep their minds trained on Sunday.

They continued spraying champagne -- and when that ran out, they simply sprayed compliments. Rollins lauded Burrell. Burrell praised Rollins. Hamels and Moyer expressed their mutual respect.

Off in one corner, Geoff Jenkins began gushing about what this all meant, having spent a decade in the big leagues without ever reaching the postseason. He didn't struggle to find the words.

"This is it, man," Jenkins said. "This is what it's all about."

And nobody reminded him that there might be more to come.

Anthony DiComo 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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{"content":["division_series" ] }