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10 years ago today: Matt Stairs made time stop with 1 swing

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10 years ago today: Matt Stairs made time stop with 1 swing

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at the team’s run through the NLCS and World Series.

A decade later, my knee still hurts and it’s all Matt Stairs’ fault.

We were squished like so many sardines in the press box at Dodger Stadium, hacking away on our laptops trying to make tight East Coast deadlines. It was the eighth inning of Game 4 of the NLCS. Shane Victorino had just added another highlight to his impressive postseason resume with a game-tying, two-run homer to right. Now, hard-throwing Dodgers’ right-hander Jonathan Broxton was coming out of the bullpen to face Phillies’ pinch-hitter Matt Stairs with a man on base.

You know the rest.

Stairs, who had been acquired late in the regular season for moments just like this, worked the count to 3-1 and looked for a fastball. He got one, 95 mph. He swung hard, as he always did, and hit it halfway to Pasadena. As the ball rose off Stairs’ bat in a majestic arch, the huge crowd of 56,800 fell completely silent. All these years later, I can still hear that sound of silence interrupted by only a few cheers coming from the Phillies family section under the press box.

And I can still feel the lump on my kneecap because when Stairs made contact with the pitch, I jumped (just like everyone else in the ballpark) and smashed my knee into an electrical junction box under my seat. (I still curse at that thing every time I go to Dodger Stadium.) It hurt like heck, but adrenaline kicked in and I started typing:

Philadelphia, meet your new favorite player, Matt Stairs.

The 40-year-old slugger was looking to hit a home run on a 3-1 count and in the dugout his teammates knew it.

“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking he might hit one here,” Pat Burrell said after the game.

As Stairs rounded the bases, Burrell led a raucous dugout eruption. Ten years later, his initial reaction to Stairs' cannonading blast, as told by people who were in the dugout, remains NSFW. Sorry. But Geoff Jenkins summed up the feeling, saying, “The dugout went nuts. I felt like I jumped 20 feet in the air.”

Stairs provided a memorable quote after the game saying there was no better feeling for a hitter than coming back to the dugout and having a bunch of guys beat you up.

His homer, one of the biggest in Phillies' history, gave the team a 7-5 lead and Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge locked it down. The Phils were up three-games-to-one on the Dodgers and there would be no holding them back in Game 5, not with the momentum that Stairs had given them and not with Kid Cole on the mound.

More on the Phillies

10 years ago today: Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell lead Phillies past Dodgers in NLCS Game 1

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10 years ago today: Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell lead Phillies past Dodgers in NLCS Game 1

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at the team's run through the NLCS and World Series.

The Phillies dispatched the Brewers in four games to advance to the NLCS against a Dodgers team that featured Joe Torre as manager and Larry Bowa as third base coach. Though the Dodgers won just 84 games, they were hot. Helped by the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, who slashed .396/.489/.743 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs over the final two months, the Dodgers went 17-8 in September and swept the favored, 97-win Cubs in the NLDS, setting up an NLCS meeting with the Phillies.

The two franchises had been here before. The Phillies beat the Dodgers in the 1983 NLCS but lost to them in 1977 and 1978. In 1977, the Phillies were one out from winning Game 3 and taking a 2-1 series lead when a sequence of events conspired against them and the Dodgers rallied for three runs to win, 6-5, on what is still called Black Friday. The next day, the Dodgers took the series when Tommy John outpitched Steve Carlton in the rain at the Vet.

"Devastating," said the late, great Dallas Green, recalling the Black Friday loss on the eve of the Phillies taking on the Dodgers in the '08 NLCS.

"Still the toughest game I've ever been involved with," club president Dave Montgomery added.

But these were a new group of Phillies in '08, loaded with young talent and swagger. Jimmy Rollins embodied that swagger. As he swigged champagne in Milwaukee after the Phils' NLDS clincher, he made it clear that Black Friday meant nothing to him and his teammates.

"I didn't know anything about it until earlier this season," he said. "We just have to get ready to play our game.''

The Phils did that.

October hero Cole Hamels continued a blossoming that began with eight shutout innings against Milwaukee in the NLDS and delivered seven innings of two-run ball in front of a raucous crowd at Citizens Bank Park and the Phils got a two-run homer from Chase Utley and a solo shot from Pat Burrell to overcome a two-run deficit in the sixth inning and win the opener, 3-2.

Both home runs came against Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, who had gone 6-1 with a 1.27 ERA down the stretch. It wasn't surprising that the Phils rode the long ball to victory. They hit an NL-best 214 homers during the season.

Drafted first overall 10 years earlier, Burrell was in his final days with the Phillies. He had a big NLCS, going 6 for 18 with a homer and three RBIs. The Phillies rode a special clubhouse vibe into the postseason that October.

"There's not that one guy who walks in and the room stops,'' Matt Stairs said 10 years ago this month. "There are a number of guys with leadership qualities.

"If you pressed me as to one guy who stands out most in this clubhouse, I'd probably say Pat. I've been on some teams where you had to be the guy to say hello. When Pat walks in, he makes an effort to say hello to everybody. It shows he's caring and supportive.

"One of the strengths of this team is it's one big family, and a lot of that starts with Pat."

Source: Matt Stairs heads West for new coaching gig

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Source: Matt Stairs heads West for new coaching gig

While Pete Mackanin and Larry Bowa are staying in the Phillies' organization, Matt Stairs is not. 

Stairs will be hired as the San Diego Padres' hitting coach, a source tells NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Stairs was the Phillies' hitting coach last season after spending time in their broadcast booth the previous three years. He'll now work with a Padres offense that scored just 604 runs in 2017 — 35 fewer than any team in the majors and 86 fewer than the Phillies.

When Mackanin was reassigned to the Phillies' front office, the organization told the members of his coaching staff that they were free to seek other opportunities. Both Mackanin and former bench coach Larry Bowa will serve as special advisors to GM Matt Klentak.

The Phillies have one of three managerial vacancies across baseball. The Yankees and Nationals are also searching for managers after surprisingly firing Joe Girardi and Dusty Baker.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, the Phils are down to two finalists and a long shot in their manager search.