The Phillies had a powerhouse offense in 2008. They ranked first in home runs (214), second in runs (4.93 per game) and third in OPS (.770) in the National League that season.
But through the first three games of the NL Division Series that fall, they'd hit just .234 and scored only nine runs. They had won two of those first three games against the Milwaukee Brewers on the strength of their pitchers, who'd held the Brewers to a .198 batting average and seven runs, and a couple of quick-strike big hits, one being Shane Victorino's grand slam against a fatigued CC Sabathia in Game 2.
Looking back, there was some noticeable anxiety around the Phillies before Game 4 of the series, which will be re-aired Thursday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Brewers had won Game 3 in their home park. Another win in Game 4 would make it a whole new series where anything could happen in a winner-take-all Game 5.
In a hallway outside the clubhouse at Miller Park that October day in 2008, a Phillies team official captured the team's anxiety.
"Our hitters are tight as (bleep)," the guy said.
He was right. Phillies hitters needed to relax.
Enter the human chill pill, Jimmy Rollins.
The man who would eventually become the Phillies' all-time hits leader, led off the game with a full-count home run against Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan. Miller Park, previously pulsating with excitement, got so quiet you could almost hear a collective exhale in the Phillies' dugout.
"I can't tell you how big that was to put an early number on the board,'' general manager Pat Gillick said after the game.
The Phillies went on to win the game, 6-2, and the series, three games to one, to earn a spot in the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After the game, a champagne-soaked Rollins basked in the victory and charted a course forward.
"This is one step in the right direction," he said. "We don't think we should be looking at anything less than a World Series. And that's a World Series win. We're geared to win."
Power fueled the Phillies' clinching win in Game 4 of that 2008 NLDS. All six of their runs came on four homers. (They had hit just one homer in the first three games.) In addition to Rollins, the Phillies got a homer from Jayson Werth and a pair of them from Pat Burrell.
Burrell's first homer was a game-changer. It came with two outs in the third inning after the Brewers and Suppan walked Ryan Howard intentionally with a runner on second and first base open. Howard led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs that season so walking him was standard play. Burrell made the Brewers pay for the move and his three-run shot gave the Phils a 4-0 lead. Werth immediately followed with a haymaker solo homer and the Phils went up 5-0. Burrell homered again in the eighth to complete his four-RBI day.
Burrell was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft and 2008 was his last season with the club. Though rising stars like Howard, Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels got much of the attention on the '08 club, Burrell was an important complementary player and he went out in style, riding down Broad Street as a World Series champion.
"I couldn't be more thrilled," he said in the clubhouse after his two-homer day in Milwaukee all those years ago.
Another important complementary piece, Joe Blanton, pitched six innings of one-run ball that day for the victory. His contributions, and Burrell's, would continue in the weeks to come. The Phillies punched their ticket to the NLCS with their Game 4 NLDS win in Milwaukee and it all started with Jimmy Rollins's chill-pill leadoff homer.
"That series got our postseason going in '08," Rollins said years later. "We lost the night before and the stadium was so loud with the roof closed and those boom-boom sticks. We didn't want Game 5. We didn't want to face CC Sabathia. Being down 1-0 in the first inning wasn't in their plans."
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