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Phils' nucleus looks to pen own chapter

Phils' nucleus looks to pen own chapter

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PHILADELPHIA -- Standing together on Sept. 28, 2003 -- the day Veterans Stadium hosted its final game -- Jimmy Rollins told then-manager Larry Bowa, "this is the house you helped build. The one across the street is going to be the one that we build."

Opening Citizens Bank Park a year later, Rollins and company have been building ever since. The Phillies spent the first three years of the park's five-year history missing the playoffs and visited briefly in 2007.

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With the Dodgers in town to open the National League Championship Series on Thursday and evoke memories of 1977-78 and '83, the Phillies have a chance to win their first NL pennant since 1993.

It would be the first for a homegrown nucleus of players that includes Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Ryan Madson, all players who have risen through the organization.

The sight of Utley basking during Sunday's NL Division Series clinching party spoke to the joy of the team's first playoff series win in 15 years. This group had more to do, but could take pride in what they had done.

History will return, as the Phillies fittingly play the Dodgers for the fourth time in their seven NLCS. For that homegrown nucleus, getting here marks a major accomplishment, after growing up in the shadow of 1993, 1983, 1980, 1950 and 1915.

They want to talk about 2008, and they relish their chance to pen their own chapters.

"This team has a lot of heart," Myers said. "To be the first team to go this far since '93, it's huge. We're going to try to put '93 in the past. We're going to try to take it a little further and win this thing."

The Phillies are at 95 wins, five away from Rollins preseason "prediction" of 100. They'll have a major challenge with a Dodgers team that is almost identical to theirs and contains one of the game's greatest postseason sluggers in Manny Ramirez.

If they advance?

"At this stage of my career, I'm going to try to enjoy it," Jamie Moyer said. "In the last series, win or lose, after the game was over, I just tried to sit here in my chair and kind or realize where I was and what was taking place. Win or lose, we're playing in a situation where there are four teams still playing."

If they get to the final two, Dallas Green hopes he can stop being referred to as the only manager to win a World Series in Philadelphia.

"I'd love some company," he said. "In terms of personnel and the way they play the game, [this team is] very competitive with the '80s guys. You've got a lot of similarities in power and defense. They have good pitching. And they have a lot of heart, which should carry them through."

There are also similarities from a development standpoint. Whereas the 1993 team was a group of outcasts that somehow had a magical season, the 1980 group had been bubbling for a few years. Mike Schmidt, Bowa, Bob Boone and Greg Luzinski had come up together and won three straight division titles from 1976-78.

In 1980, they won it all. Could this percolating group be headed for the same path? Schmidt thought so last month, drawing a parallel from those mid-'70s teams to the one that finally won in 1980.

"I don't think it will take this team as long as it took us to get to a World Series," Schmidt said in September. "You become a little more mature each year in how you approach your games and at-bats. We were similar in age to these guys now, and as we got a little older and more mature, we figured out a way to win."

These Phillies have converted at least one member of the '93 team.

"They're going to have the same nucleus of players," said Mitch Williams, the closer of the '93 team. "For us, it was lightning in a bottle. We weren't going to be a dynasty. This team is put together to win, and has been for awhile. I've never watched a baseball game and never high-fived anyone as a fan. This team has gotten me excited."

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

{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
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