Philadelphia Phillies Clinch 5th Straight NL East Title
By ROB MAADDI, AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Hunter Pence clutched a bottle of champagne and jumped around like an excited child opening Christmas presents.
The Philadelphia Phillies won another division crown, and Pence is along for his first postseason ride.
Roy Oswalt threw seven dominant innings, Raul Ibanez hit a grand slam and the Phillies clinched their fifth straight NL East title with a 9-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.
“I’ve waited for this moment a long time,” said Pence, the All-Star outfielder who joined Philadelphia in a trade from last-place Houston on July 29.
“It’s incredible, and I’m enjoying the moment. We’ve got a lot of work to do still. The expectation is to win the World Series, but this is one of the steps you gotta make, and to me it’s my first time, so this is great.”
In a season where nothing less than a World Series championship would be considered a success, there wasn’t much of a party on the field. The Phillies had a been-there, done-that attitude toward winning the division last year, and this time was no different.
Players ran onto the diamond a bit faster than usual, but they simply exchanged handshakes, hugs and high-fives as if this was an ordinary game in April. They did at least put on shirts and hats proclaiming themselves division champs.
The fans didn’t even scream all that loud, even when the Phillie Phanatic ran on the field with a big flag that said 2011.
Once they reached the clubhouse, however, the Phillies popped open the bubbly and celebrated their achievement.
“I’m excited for a guy like Hunter who has never been here before,” Chase Utley said. “It’s a long season and you never know what’s going to happen.”
With the Four Aces leading the way, the Phillies are seeking their third NL pennant in four years and second World Series title.
They’ve taken care of the first step. Now they’ll use the 12 remaining games to get ready for the postseason. It’s still uncertain who the Phillies will face in the best-of-five first round when the NL playoffs begin Oct. 1.
“This is the first step,” slugger Ryan Howard told the crowd that remained after the game. “We’re gonna try to go all the way and we’ll need you guys.”
The major league-leading Phillies (98-52) are four wins away from setting a single-season club record.
None of those accomplishments will matter if they don’t finish the season with a championship parade on Broad Street.
“It’s an extraordinary effort,” team president David Montgomery said. “Clearly, it’s a team that has its priorities in order.”