When the Phillies take the field Saturday night to a sold-out, towel-waving crowd in South Philadelphia, they will continue a major-league record. Five Phillies – Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, and Shane Victorino – have each started in 33 consecutive postseason games, the longest such streak for five players on any one team. Another, Jayson Werth, has started 32 straight in the postseason.
So it is no coincidence the Phillies are 6-0 in their last six elimination games in the postseason. When given the chance to close out an opponent, they do. No series in the last four seasons has reached a deciding fifth or seventh game.
So here they are, winners of 52 of their last 71 games, four wins away from another trip to the World Series. They meet the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park as the prohibitive favorites to become the first NL team to win three straight pennants since St. Louis did it from 1942 to 1944.
Perhaps NLCS Game 1 starter Roy Halladay, he of the NLDS no-hitter in his postseason debut, provided the best insight, when he compared this clubhouse to the one he spent 12 seasons in with Toronto. He was shocked at the dedication and quiet poise the Phillies have. He called Utley “the Derek Jeter of the National League.”
After sweeping Cincinnati in the division series, there was no grand celebration as before. The players sprayed one another with champagne, but it was almost like going through the motions.
Away from the pack, a soaked Roy Oswalt could see the differences.
“These guys have been to this place before,” he said. “The biggest celebration is that last game of the World Series.”