Finally, postseason baseball is back here in Philadelphia.
The Phillies went out and earned their trip to the playoffs this season by putting in a historic 162-game campaign. Philly fans enjoyed every moment of the record-setting ride, but it also felt like a bit of a formality, an exercise the Fightins needed to go through in order to start these playoffs.
The 7.5 months since the team first assembled down in Clearwater on Valentine's Day all led to tonight's NLDS game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I'm excited about the game today," Charlie Manuel said before the game. "I think any time you get into the playoffs, I think this is the second piece of the pie. It's a four-piece pie. One of the big hurdles we've already got, but now this starts a new ballgame today, three out of five. Three out of five might be the toughest -- the first round might be the toughest round in the playoffs."
The Phils had their highs and lows throughout the regular season. Mostly highs, but they did battle their fair share of injuries. Thankfully, all of the core guys Charlie Manuel wants on the field are healthy and ready to go for the first playoff series.
Philadelphians expect the Phillies to defeat the Cardinals. Ruben Amaro has assembled the best starting pitching staff in all of baseball. The Phils have perhaps the best defense in the National League and one of the best in the history of the game. And Hunter Pence has breathed new life into a now more balanced offense.
This is not a Phillies team that will give a series away. They're too savvy for that. If they lose, the hot Cardinals will have to step up and play above what people expect out of them.
They'll also have to beat Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels.
Team's have not had all that much luck against Doc in Philadelphia this year.
The Phillies had an .800 winning percentage -- winning 12 while dropping only three -- in Roy Halladay starts at Citizens Bank Park this season.
And then there was his playoff debut last postseason at Citizens Bank Park. Boy, was that a fun one.
It all starts tonight at 5:07 p.m. from South Philadelphia. All of those mostly meaningless September games are behind us. Today, the game means much, much more.
"This is a huge series," Charlie Manuel said this afternoon. "The game got bigger today. Today's game is the biggest one we've played so far. That's kind of how I look at it. But at the same time, we've earned the right to have fun and enjoy the game, but we want to go out there and play our best baseball and play hard and have some fun and let it all hang out, see what we can do, and I think that we are -- I don't think, I know we're ready, and I'm looking forward to it. So are the players."
Let's get funner.