Phils NL East champs

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Jimmy Rollins pours champagne on teammate Shane Victorino following the Phillies' clinching win against the Astros on Tuesday night. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

The chase began with a great and glorious hangover. It ended with Brad Lidge getting the final out. There is no time to explain what happened in between. There is only a celebration. It seemed that it was always going to be this way, always going to be about this mix of emotions. And so it has been, the story of the 2009 Phillies.
    So many people expected that it would get to this point, a third consecutive division title. No one saw the tortured route, though. No one saw starting pitching that would be dreadful for more than 2 months and then substantial after that. No one saw Brad Lidge, the perfect closer of 2008, being smacked down so hard by the backswing of the sport’s merciless pendulum.
    No one saw the acquisitions of Cliff Lee and Martinez in the days leading up to the trade deadline. No one saw the Mets, their scorned and scarred rivals, going over a cliff while strapped to a hospital gurney.
    No one guessed that broadcaster Harry Kalas, the voice and the soul of the franchise, would die before an April game in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park in Washington.
    No one could have imagined.
    It was easier this time but it was harder. The division title was preordained for months but fretted over for days. Mixed emotions, then. They, and the Phillies, rule.
    It was never going to be like last season. Everybody knew that if they listened for a second to their hearts. The drought had been so long before the 2008 championship, and the rush to the finish line had been so thrilling, and the parade had been, well, perfect. It was an all-senses experience that would not be repeated.
    But there was a championship to defend, and a new set of realities for the people of this city to acknowledge. It was the first time in a quarter-century that Philadelphians were experiencing a championship afterglow -- and you could sense a struggle at times with the emotions. They began the season bathed in a perpetual happiness. By September, that had morphed -- through Lidge’s struggles, mostly -- into a cloud of perpetual concern.
    And it was funny: when you catalogued the emotions of the paying customers, you never really saw greed. Well, maybe for a few days there when people called up the radio and suggested they trade the entire farm system for Toronto’s Roy Halladay -- but that was it.
    In the year 1 AD (Anno Delirium), whatever the new normal for Phillies fans is, we really do not know.
    It was mixed emotions, then -- until the last day of September. It was then, cocooned by a frenzy of waving white towels, blanketed by a joyous roar, that it happened. And then, right then, it really did seem like 2008 again.

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