By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 2009 12:54 AM
PHILADELPHIA -- They didn't even pack their bags, the thought of an all-night cross-country flight representing a negative the Philadelphia Phillies didn't care to consider. Their trump card, their ace left-hander, was stashed in reserve, ready to be deployed if need be -- but they preferred to save him for the next series, the big one. So the Phillies played, managed and carried themselves Wednesday night as if they, and not the Los Angeles Dodgers, were the ones whose season was on the verge of expiring.
And at the end of a thorough, definitive 10-4 beat-down of the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Phillies, resolute and resurgent, are back in a familiar spot -- champions of their league, conquerors of another humbled opponent, one entrant in next week's World Series.
"It's about to be bedlam in here," said a be-goggled Ryan Howard, the Phillies' first baseman and the series MVP, wading through a champagne-soaked home clubhouse. "Bedlam!"
Right fielder Jayson Werth hit two of the Phillies' four home runs at their bandbox of a stadium -- where they are now 11-1 in the postseason dating to last October -- and the Phillies' bullpen delivered 4 2/3 innings of sometimes exquisite, sometimes shaky, but always effective relief to help the Phillies become the first team since the 2000-01 New York Yankees to return to the World Series one year after winning it all.
"I wasn't thinking about doing anything special," Werth said on the field minutes after the final out was secured. "I just said, 'We're going to win.' Coming here today, walking down the ramp, entering the clubhouse -- the vibe was good. We've got a great team."
The Phillies will spend the next day or so healing nagging wounds, resting weary legs and waiting to see which American League city -- New York or Anaheim -- they will visit for Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 28, with ace Cliff Lee on the mound.
"We've got one more step," Manager Charlie Manuel told a sellout crowd of 46,214 from a stage erected near second base, "and we're gonna get it."
The hardest thing about making it back to the World Series? According to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, whose two-run, game-winning double in the ninth inning of Game 4 was the series' biggest hit, it was just surviving the grind of the regular season.
"Just having to go through 162 games," he said, "and realizing there's another season after that -- it's tough."
Around the bottom of the second inning Wednesday, when the fourth home run in about half an hour left the yard, it was clear this was going to be one of THOSE nights at "The Bank." There was a touch of Indian summer in the air -- first-pitch temperature was a balmy 63 degrees -- and the ball, even without much wind in evidence, was flying out of one of baseball's most notorious homer havens.
The homers were coming every half-inning early on: solo shot by Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier in the top of the first, three-run jack by Werth in the bottom half. Solo blast by Dodgers first baseman James Loney in the top of the second, another solo job by Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz a half-inning later.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre managed like his life depended on it, bringing eighth-inning man George Sherrill into a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning -- Sherrill hit the first batter he faced, Shane Victorino, to make it 6-2 before escaping -- then summoning 21-year-old wunderkind Clayton Kershaw, heretofore considered the Dodgers' Game 6 starter, in the fifth.
"Getting to the World Series two years in a row is not easy to do," said Torre, the last manager to do it. "We gave them a fight. They just wouldn't back down."
What remained, after the Dodgers knocked out Phillies starter Cole Hamels in the fifth, was a battle of bullpens, which, theoretically, set up as an advantage for the Dodgers. But in perhaps the game's biggest swing, Victorino blasted a two-run homer off Kershaw in the bottom of the sixth, reclaiming the momentum for the Phillies and boosting their lead to 8-3.
Handed the ball for the biggest game of the Dodgers season, right-hander Vicente Padilla pitched more like the guy who was released by the Texas Rangers this August than the out-of-nowhere savior who went 4-0 for the Dodgers down the stretch -- and whom Torre had chosen for this assignment over Kershaw, among others.
Padilla lasted only three-plus innings, gave up two homers and six earned runs, and probably cost himself millions in free agency this winter. The three-run homer Werth hit off Padilla in the first came in the midst of a major command meltdown, in which he walked sluggers Chase Utley and Howard on a combined nine pitches, then opened with three straight balls to Werth.
Werth, who led the majors this season by seeing an average of 4.51 pitches per plate appearance, took two called strikes, then unloaded on a 3-2 fastball, driving it over the wall in right for a three-run homer.
Handed a two-run lead after the first inning and a four-run lead after four, and given the chance to carry it as far as he could, Hamels, the Phillies' lefty, gave up three homers and failed to make it out of the fifth.
Hamels recorded 13 outs, which meant there were 14 to be handled by a much-maligned bullpen that staggered into October without defined roles or lock-down options, but which, somehow, has been as reliable as anyone's this postseason.
Here they came: Lefty J.A. Happ for one out, right-hander Chad Durbin for four, including a brilliantly handled duel with Manny Ramirez in a crucial spot in the fifth. Right-hander Chan Ho Park pitched the seventh, but made a two-on, no-out mess in the eighth, which right-hander Ryan Madson -- after a slight hiccup, when he walked Ramirez then gave up a bases-loaded single to Matt Kemp -- eventually cleaned up.
"We're not gonna be perfect," Madson said. "But we've been pretty good this year."
Eventually, it was 10-4, and there were three outs to go. Those belonged, of course, to Brad Lidge, the wayward closer, his struggles this season so vast, his redemption this month so improbable and endearing.
He set the Dodgers down in the ninth as if he owned it and always had, and the dogpile and the champagne and the revelry -- familiar as can be -- commenced.