PHILADELPHIA (AP) -
took a seat on the bench. So did
was reduced to a cameo appearance.
May as well sit back and enjoy the NL East title for at least a day.
hit back-to-back homers for Philadelphia and the NL East champion Phillies rested their regulars in an 8-3 win over the
The Phillies will open the best-of-five division series at home Wednesday against Milwaukee. The Phillies went 5-1 against
the Brewers this season.
''We're going to match up fine as long as we don't see CC every turn,'' Manuel said.
While the Phillies stars rested on the final day, Milwaukee turned to ace CC Sabathia on three days' rest against Chicago
to win the wild card.
Pitching Sabathia was fine with Phillies manager
''I'm kind of glad CC pitched today,'' Manuel said.
drove in three runs for the Phillies, who played rookies and reserves a day after they clinched their second consecutive NL
East title. Howard, the major league home run champion with 48, had a pinch-hit single and scored on Taguchi's triple.
The Phillies already tacked a ''2008 National League East Division Champions'' sign over the 2007 version on the wall into
the clubhouse. Championship T-shirts and hats hung in the lockers, and some players stashed away bottles of champagne with
a ''Phillies'' label.
''We got hot at the right time,'' Manuel said.
The Phillies were 3 1/2 games behind New York after losing to Florida on Sept. 10. But they swept a four-game series against
Milwaukee that jump-started their September stretch run.
''Now we're starting all over,'' Manuel said. ''We've got to come out of the gate strong and play good against them now.''
The Nationals (59-102) finished with the worst record in the majors and will not bring back five coaches next year.
''It was a tough season, a poor season,'' Nationals manager Manny Acta said.
This has been a great season so far for the 92-win Phillies, who are in prime position to snap Philadelphia's torturous 25-year
Utley, Rollins and the rest of the Philadelphia starters sat once this game became meaningless.
was scheduled to pitch, but took the day off to rest for his Game 1 start in the division series on Wednesday. Hamels declined
to comment on his start.
Manuel said he was undecided about his Game 2 starter and might wait until Monday to announce one.
is a strong candidate, and
could start in Game 3 and Game 4.
With Hamels out, the Phillies turned to 11-game winner
for the start. Kendrick's awful second half of the season (11.35 ERA in his last six starts) got him bumped off the first-round
roster. He'll pitch in the Florida instructional league and keep loose in case the Phillies need another arm if they advance
out of the NLDS.
''I understand,'' Kendrick said. ''I need to go down and stay fresh.''
Kendrick didn't look much better against the Nationals.
hit his first career homer off Kendrick in the third inning and the right hander allowed three runs and four hits in four
(1-1) earned his first major league victory, striking out four in two shutout innings.
drove in runs for the Phillies in the fourth to put them up 4-3.
(7-12) gave up eight hits and four runs in 3 2-3 innings, leaving with nausea and some lightheadedness.
Marson, who made his major league debut, and Stairs connected in the eighth inning.
Utley, Rollins and closer
- who saved Saturday's clincher - made their only appearance in a brief pregame speech where they thanked the fans and showed
off their championship banner.
''We accomplished Step 1 and you guys were there to see that,'' said Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP. ''Now, you have to be here
to see us accomplish the next two steps. Everybody come on down and have some fun.''
A sellout crowd of 44,945 packed Citizens Bank Park, a day after the Phillies earned consecutive postseason appearances for
the first time since 1980-81. That brought their final attendance totals to 50 sellouts and a record 3,455,583 fans.
''You guys have been unbelievable,'' Utley said.
Howard received a standing ovation and heard chants of ''MVP! MVP!'' when he pinch-hit in the sixth. He poked a single to
left and became the only Phillie to play in all 162 games this season. Howard scored on Taguchi's triple to right for a 5-3
lead - the slugging first baseman wisely deciding not slide on a close play at the plate.
Manuel said Howard, who was named NL MVP in 2006, was worthy of the award again.
''You can't overlook the big fella,'' Manuel said. ''Find someone in baseball who's better than him.''
Howard earned some rest on Sunday as the Phillies - for a game, at least - boasted the most dangerous bench in baseball. The
Phillies are off Monday then return to Citizens Bank on Tuesday for a workout.
They can only hope this year's postseason run fares better than last year's dismal outing.
Philadelphia was swept out of the first round by Colorado last season after a remarkable finish just to get in.
Notes: Manuel said CF
should be OK and ready to go for the NLDS. Victorino was hurt in a collision with Rollins on Saturday night. ... Manuel said
the playoff roster should be completed over the next two days.