Reporting from Cincinnati — When the end finally came — fittingly on a Cole Hamels strikeout — there were no wild celebrations on the field. No hugs, no dogpiles, just a few handshakes and high fives.
The Phillies, after all, have been here before.
So after pushing aside the Cincinnati Reds, 2-0, on Sunday to finish off a clinical three-game sweep of the National League division series, almost everyone in a Philadelphia uniform was thinking about the road ahead and not the one they had just traveled.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "We've just given ourselves a better opportunity. We've just taken a second step to where it is we want to get to."
Left fielder Raul Ibanez, standing nearby in an undershirt dripping with champagne, was a bit giddier.
"You never get used to this. This never gets old," he said of the team's clubhouse party. "It's a lot of fun. This is what you play for."
But so is what lies ahead.
"There's more work to be done," he added. "The ultimate goal here is to win the World Series."
The next obstacle on that path is the NL championship series, which begins Saturday in Philadelphia with the Phillies meeting the winner of the San Francisco-Atlanta division series.
Ultimately it may not matter who shows up, though. Not if the Phillies keep pitching the way they did in the opening round, with two of their starters throwing shutouts and one — Roy Halladay — tossing a no-hitter.
"They're going to be tough to beat, especially when they're throwing pitching at you like that," Cincinnati Manager Dusty Baker said. "Pitching is the key, and they threw three excellent pitchers against us."
Hamels, the best Phillies starter not named Roy, closed it out with a brilliant performance — as he usually does in the postseason. Four times in the last four years he's started a game the Phillies needed to end a postseason series.
They've won each time.
This time he was as efficient as he was effective, giving up five hits and striking out nine without issuing a walk. One Reds runner made it into scoring position — catcher Ramon Hernandez, who doubled with two out in the seventh.
"I was able to make the pitches when I needed to," Hamels said. "And that's kind of what matters."
Offensively the Phillies needed a little help, and both the Reds and their fans obliged. In the first inning shortstop Orlando Cabrera, a late addition to the lineup after being slowed by a strained muscle in his ribcage, threw wildly on Jayson Werth's two-out grounder, allowing Placido Polanco to score.
And in the fifth a Reds fan in the front row of the bleachers in right-center field gave Philadelphia its second run when he reached out to catch Chase Utley's two-out solo home run, preventing leaping center fielder Drew Stubbs from attempting a play on the ball.
But then mistakes, as much as anything, were emblematic of the Reds' brief postseason visit. Blinded, perhaps, by the lights on baseball's postseason stage — 19 of Cincinnati's 25 players had never been in the playoffs — the Reds were a shadow of the team that won the Central Division title going away.
The league's best offensive team during the regular season, the Reds hit .124 against the Phillies. The league's best fielding team during the season, Cincinnati made seven errors, leading to six unearned runs, in the series. Add it up and Cincinnati finished its first postseason series in 15 years with just four more hits — 11 — than errors.
But while they came away from the playoffs winless, the Reds didn't leave empty-handed.
"This is big experience. Especially for my young players," Baker said. "The thing that we wanted to do when we came here was build this thing where you could have a good chance to be in this position for a number of years, especially consecutive years.
"And you talk to people around baseball and they say we're on the right course and on the right path to have a chance to do that."