x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Phillies' great expectations ahead of series

The Giants do not fear the champions, but confident Philadelphia are targeting a second World Series appearance in three years.

The Philadelphia Phillies have gone from being one of the least successful clubs in professional sports to one of the dominant franchises in Major League Baseball. They are the team to beat this season.
The Philadelphia Phillies have gone from being one of the least successful clubs in professional sports to one of the dominant franchises in Major League Baseball. They are the team to beat this season.

The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves in a new role this post-season.

The defending National League (NL) champions are no strangers to big games, having advanced this far in three straight years. The difference this time? They are favoured to win it all. It is World Series or bust in Philadelphia.

Who would have thought the losingest franchise in sports would reach the such a point?

As the Phillies open the Championship Series tonight against San Francisco, they are trying to become the first NL club in 66 years to win three consecutive pennants. They are also going for their second World Series title in three years.

"It's a good challenge for you. Expectations should bring out the best in someone," Charlie Manuel, the manager, said.

"At the same time, I like players to have expectations of themselves. That's even better. I like everything about our players and we think we can play and we think we can play in big, tough games. Last year when we got beat in the World Series, I said I want to go back and play the New York Yankees. That's what I was talking about."

Higher expectations increase pressure, but the Phillies are a loose, close-knit group that has experience playing important games in October.

They expected to reach this point, even when they trailed Atlanta by seven games in the NL East in late July.

"When you get to talking favourites and what's expected of you, that goes beyond the realm of what you can control," Raul Ibanez, the left fielder, said.

"We don't focus as a club on what's expected of us. We focus on what's expected of ourselves. We have high expectations of ourselves as a team, regardless of what's being said outside the locker room.

"It's a confident team, not an arrogant team. It's a team that's going to grind it out and fight. I think the only expectations that are important are the ones we place on ourselves. It's a great environment to come [to] work every day.

"We never feel like we're out of a game. Nobody ever quits. You never hear a negative word or a snide comment. Never. It's a bunch of guys that have tenacity, a passion for the game and really a passion for winning."

The Giants say they appreciate how good the Phillies are, but refuse to be intimidated.

"You don't really fear any team," Cody Ross, the right fielder, said.

"As a player you always feel like you're better than teams and you have to have that sort of mentality that you can go in there and beat them two out of three during the season, but knowing in the back of your mind that they're a really good team."

Schedule

NL Championship Series
San Francisco v Philadelphia
Game 1: Today at Philadelphia
Game 2: Tomorrow at Philadelphia
Game 3: Tuesday at San Francisco
Game 4: Wednesday at San Francisco
Game 5: Thursday at San Francisco*
Game 6: October 23 at Philadelphia*
Game 7: October 24 at Philadelphia*

* if necessary