The Phillies’ first day of the playoffs

NLCS: Zack Wheeler and Phillies Beat Padres in Game 1

The Associated Press

By David Martin, The Associated Press

Wednesday, December 9, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — Even before the Philadelphia Phillies started hitting home runs, they looked like the Phillies they have been, at least for the last seven years.

After seven years of playing in the National League East when the last American League team left town, the Phillies stumbled to an 0-2 start and found themselves tied for first place in the division at 51-51. It is, to put it mildly, a disappointing start for one of the least impressive teams in baseball.

But it is also the beginning of something historic, one that may define the Philadelphia Phillies and the National League for generations.

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said in the locker room he felt like he was watching a movie. Every time the Phillies scored, he said, he was amazed by the “incredible relief.”

“The whole bullpen just kept up their character to get that first-inning run,” Sandberg said. “We made some plays. And the defense, it just kept the run in a long part of the field. … They knew they needed to do that.”

They did and on the day that they did, the Phillies became the first team in the National League to earn the No. 1 ranking in wins (100) and strikeouts (200) in each of the first two months of a season. And they did it without having done it before.

Theirs is the story of the first day of the playoffs. The Phillies led the National League East early in the season at 12-7, but that record is likely meaningless now.

The Phillies’ record was all but irrelevant. They came into the games with little momentum, with seven losses in the previous seven games and 10 losses in their previous 14. Their magic number for reaching the postseason is five, and they had already clinched a wild card at 14-12.

“The first two months is always the most crucial in that you set the tone for the rest of the year,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “You have to get that first month off good, and then it’s a matter of just keeping everything in line. That was the case here. Everything was good. The guys stepped up. They stepped up. They were prepared

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