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October 2, 2009

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Phillies clinch NL division title

ALL those blown saves didn't seem to matter when Brad Lidge jogged in from the bullpen to get the final out and set off another celebration. Kyle Kendrick pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Pedro Martinez, and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Houston Astros 10-3 on Wednesday night to clinch their third straight National League East crown.

Just as he did last year to secure the World Series victory over Tampa Bay, Lidge got the last out. He entered to a nice ovation after Scott Eyre retired the first two batters and needed one pitch to end it.

"I saw all the towels waving. It was awesome," said Lidge, who has 11 blown saves after a perfect season last year. "It was like, 'Here we go again' only in a good way. The fans were incredible."

Elsewhere in the NL, it was: Rockies 10, Brewers 6; Padres 5, Dodgers 0; Marlins 5, Braves 4; Giants 4, Diamondbacks 1; Nationals 7, Mets 4; Reds 6, Cardinals 1; Pirates 4, Cubs 0 (first game); and Pirates 8, Cubs 2 (second game).

In the American League, it was: Tigers 7, Twins 2; Blue Jays 12, Red Sox 0; Rays 5, Orioles 3; Royals 4, Yankees 3; Indians 5, White Sox 1 (first game); White Sox 1, Indians 0 (second game); Angels 5, Rangers 0; and Mariners 7, Athletics 0.

In Philadelphia, Raul Ibanez hit his career-high 34th homer and Jimmy Rollins had a double and triple for Philadelphia, which is heading to the postseason for the third straight year for the first time since Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and crew won three consecutive NL East titles from 1976-78.

The Phillies are trying to become the first repeat champions since the New York Yankees won three straight World Series from 1998-2000. The Cincinnati Reds were the last NL team to win two in a row in 1975-76.

"You having fun?" All-Star second baseman Chase Utley asked fans who stayed for the party. "There's gonna be a lot more coming."

Kendrick (3-1) gave up two hits and struck out four. Martinez lasted just four innings, allowing three runs and six hits in his first start since a neck strain forced him out of a game at Atlanta on September 19.

Astros starter Brian Moehler (8-12) gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Celebrations are becoming common for the Phillies, who used to be the NL's laughingstock. The losingest team in professional sports has been thinking dynasty since winning the franchise's second championship in 126 years last October.

"We didn't assume but we expected. There's a difference between the two," pitcher J A Happ said. "There's a whole lot more coming up, when we return."

Unlike the last two years, the Phillies didn't sweat out this division title. They moved into first place for good on May 30 and have spent 136 days atop the standings.

The Phillies still have a chance to secure home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

They entered the night 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I feel like this was a little harder than the others because all year people were saying how good we are, but we've had pitching problems all season," manager Charlie Manuel said.


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