What was it about those series openers?
In the 2008 NLDS, NLCS and World Series, the combination of Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Brad Lidge stepped up to lead the Phillies to three narrow wins.
Utley's two-run double was the biggest hit in Game 1 of the NLDS, a 3-1 win over the Brewers.
His two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 1 of the NLCS tied a game the Phillies would go on to win, 3-2.
And in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series, which re-airs tonight at 7 on NBC Sports Philadelphia, Utley hit a two-run homer in the first inning that put the Phillies ahead for good.
"Trying to take the crowd out of it," he said after the 3-2 win in Tampa, "because they are intense, they are loud. And I thought we did a good job."
Hamels' numbers in those three Game 1 starts? He went 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 22 innings.
And Brad Lidge, who went 41 for 41 in regular-season save chances and 7 for 7 in the playoffs, closed out all three tightly contested affairs. While that first appearance against the Brewers was a bit rocky, Lidge's saves in the openers of the NLCS and World Series were each 1-2-3 innings.
"I’m happy I could do whatever I could do, because this team was ready to do this," Lidge would say after the series was complete.
Going in to Tropicana Field and winning Game 1 put the Phillies in great shape to win the 2008 World Series. (They'd win Game 1 on the road again in 2009, but the '09 Yankees were too much as that World Series progressed.)
"We didn't play that well," Pat Burrell said after the game. "Really, we had a lot of opportunity to score and get a lot more runs and we didn't do it. Obviously, we are super excited about winning, but we need to play better baseball."
The only game in the series in which the Phillies broke out offensively was Game 4, which re-airs on NBC Sports Philadelphia Thursday night. The other three wins were intense, nail-biting one-run victories.
Utley was instrumental in all three of them. He hit a two-run homer in Game 1, a two-run homer in Game 3, and famously nailed Jason Bartlett at the plate on a deke play in Game 5. All three of those events provided the Phillies the difference to win the game.
Utley was such a beast during those extended playoff runs. In the 2008 postseason, he hit only .220 but with a .391 on-base percentage and .460 slugging percentage. He went 11 for 50 but three of those hits were doubles and three were homers. He drove in nine runs in 14 games, scored 10 times and walked one time fewer than he struck out.
Add in 2009 and Utley hit .260/.408/.558 with 9 HR, 19 RBI and 25 runs scored in 29 playoff games over those two Octobers.
You'll get to relive that entire 2008 World Series this week.
Monday at 7 p.m. — Phillies at Rays, Game 1
Tuesday at 7 p.m. — Phillies at Rays, Game 2
Wednesday at 7 p.m. — Rays at Phillies, Game 3
Thursday at 7 p.m. — Rays at Phillies, Game 4
Friday at 7 p.m. — Rays at Phillies, Game 5 (both parts)
More on the Phillies