(Sports Network) – Champagne was flowing inside the clubhouse of the Philadelphia Phillies last night after they secured a fifth straight NL East championship. The team gets back to work tonight with a goal of securing home- field advantage throughout the playoffs as they continue a four-game series with the Cardinals.
St. Louis has more pressing issues, as the Cardinals are trying to reach the playoffs likely as the wild card team, as Milwaukee has just about wrapped up the NL Central.
Back to the Phillies. They are now just three victories shy of the franchise record of 101 set in 1976 and 1977. Also, manager Charlie Manuel has 642 victories in a Phillies uniform, three shy of Gene Mauch’s record, set 1960-68.
A combination of two Phillies victories or Milwaukee losses will clinch home- field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Shane Victorino finished 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI, and Raul Ibanez hit a grand slam to cap a six-run eighth inning in a 9-2 division- clinching 9-2 victory last night for the Phillies.
Roy Oswalt (8-9) notched his first scoreless outing since August 19 at Washington, scattering five hits and striking out seven over seven innings.
“Anybody could come out here tonight and have a good chance to win. With the starting staff we got, I just happened to have had the ball tonight,” said Oswalt about his role in the clincher. “I was able to throw a good game. They gave me a couple runs to work with.”
He departed with a seemingly safe 3-0 advantage.
In the eighth, Michael Stutes served up four straight two-out hits — the last two to Lance Berkman and David Freese which brought the Cards within 3-2. Brad Lidge came on to retire Allen Craig on a grounder to second.
In the home half, Victorino provided the Phils an insurance run with a one-out RBI single. Chase Utley was plunked to load the bases, and after Ryan Howard struck out, Hunter Pence beat out a grounder to shortstop to make it 5-2.
“We’ve had to battle through a lot of stuff to get here. Bringing Hunter over here, that extra energy to our ballclub, it’s a great feeling to once again be at this point,” said Howard of his new right-fielder, who arrived from Houston.
Jake Westbrook (12-9) lasted only 3 1/3 innings, charged in the loss with five hits and two runs — one earned — while walking five for the Cardinals.
St. Louis, which had its three-game win streak stopped, fell 6 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Brewers routed the Reds in Cincinnati later Saturday. The Cardinals also slipped 4 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL wild-card race, with the Braves taking a 1-0 decision over the Mets.
“It’s kind of the way we’ve been playing lately,” acknowledged Westbrook. “We’ve been playing pretty good baseball and been giving ourselves chances to win. We had our chance tonight, but it didn’t work out late.”
Chris Carpenter, who has just one loss (3-1) in his last eight outings, gets the ball tonight for the Cardinals. He’s 6-2 in 10 lifetime starts against the Phillies and has won each of his last four starts against them. He also has a 3-0 record with a 3.75 ERA in three career starts at Citizens Bank Park.
Cole Hamels has given up plenty of long balls of late, five of them over his last three starts, and the lefty is 1-2 over his previous five appearances. Hamels is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in eight games vs. St. Louis.
The Cardinals are 4-3 versus the Phillies this year.