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 Reds 2-0 on Sunday to finish off a clinical three-game sweep of the National League Division Series, most 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 N.L. Championship Series, which begins Saturday in Philadelphia with the Phillies meeting the winner of the Giants-Braves series.
Ultimately, it may not matter who shows up. Not if the Phillies keep pitching the way they did in the opening round, with two of their starters throwing complete-game 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," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
"Pitching is the key and they threw three excellent pitchers against us."
Hamels closed it out with a brilliant performance. Four times in the last four years he has started a game the Phillies needed to end a postseason series. They've won each time.
"I was able to make the pitches when I needed to," Hamels said. "And that's kind of what matters."
The Phillies scored their two runs on a first-inning error by Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera and a fifth-inning solo homer by Chase Utley.