Remember 1964? Well, forget it.
The Philadelphia Phillies hung tough while the Montreal Expos brought back memories of that famous Phillies fold of 29 years ago, then sprinted across the finish line Tuesday night to win the National League East title.
It was the Phillies’ sixth NL East crown since division play began in 1969, but their first in 10 years. They earned it when Lenny Dykstra got four hits and Mariano Duncan hit a seventh-inning grand slam in a 10-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Three Rivers Stadium on Tuesday night.
Thus the Phillies completed a totally unexpected worst-to-first turnaround--a year ago, they were in sixth place, 26 1/2 games behind the division champion Pirates--by clinching 10 years to the day since they last won the East in 1983.
Afterward, the sense of relief in the Philadelphia clubhouse was as thick as a cheese steak sandwich. Maybe it had to do with squandering nearly all of a 14 1/2-game August lead over the Expos.
“It’s a great feeling after the year we had last year,” Manager Jim Fregosi said. “It’s really gratifying to come back and win the division. These guys wanted to win it tonight, they were going to do whatever was needed.
“Tonight was an example of the way we battled tough all year, now we can get a few days’ rest and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Phillies will play either Atlanta or San Francisco when the NL playoffs start on Oct. 6 at Veterans Stadium.
Dykstra showed the way with a go-ahead bases-loaded walk and his usual aggressive style. Philadelphia rookie starter Mike Williams couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead as the Pirates went ahead 4-3 in the sixth, but it didn’t matter.
Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich singled to start the seventh against rookie left-hander Rich Robertson (0-1), who made a crucial mistake by trying to get Daulton at third on Milt Thompson’s sacrifice. He didn’t, which loaded the bases with none out.
Kevin Stocker tied the score with a single and Dykstra gave the Phillies the lead a batter later by walking on four pitches against Denny Neagle.
Duncan then touched off a jubilant celebration by the thousands of banner-waving Phillies fans in the crowd of 17,386 who crossed the state to watch the clincher. Duncan hit his third career grand slam over the wall in left.
“There’s no question, I don’t think we get enough credit for what we did,” Duncan said. “We clinched and now we’re going to the playoffs. When you’re playing postseason games, you have to know you’re one of the best teams in baseball. It doesn’t matter what anybody says about us. We clinched and we’re there.”
Duncan’s home run was the Phillies’ record-tying eighth slam of the season.
Bobby Thigpen (3-1) got the victory despite giving up Tom Prince’s two-run single and Orlando Merced’s RBI double in the Pirates’ sixth.
The Phillies, who also won the division in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1983, are the third consecutive NL East champion to clinch in Pittsburgh. The Pirates clinched at home in 1991 and 1992.