As the Phillies pulled away from the Nationals on Monday night, taking batting practice off Joe Bisenius in the ninth inning in front of a crowd mostly made up of their fans, a chant started from the seats down the third-base line, less of a taunt than a declaration:
"This is our house!"
At this point, how much can Nationals fans argue with that? The Phillies beat them 8-0 on Monday night, winning for the 11th time in 16 games against them this year. They've beat the Nationals 50 times in 70 games since their first NL East title in 2007. Their fans populated roughly three-quarters of the 14,309 in attendance on a rainy Monday night. And with their fans standing and cheering, the Phillies clinched their fourth straight NL East title on a field that's been almost as welcoming to them as their own.
""Damn, it was a lot louder at our place than it was at their place when we go there," center fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "It felt it was a home game for the Phillies."
It might as well have been. The Nationals, at this point, can do little besides tip their caps to the Phillies and admit, as annoying as might be, the team two hours up Interstate-95 owns them, for all intents and purposes.
Roy Halladay threw a two-hitter on Monday, and Jayson Werth gave the Phillies all the offense they would need with his second-inning homer off John Lannan's fastball. The rest of the night was just the Phillies padding their lead; Werth drove in two with his double in the sixth, and the Phillies' four runs in the ninth inning were facilitated by Nyjer Morgan missing a diving catch and Adam Dunn missing a tag at first after waiting for Werth's dribbler down the line to roll foul (it never did).
In the end, the Nationals watched the Phillies celebrate against them for the third time in four years. There was less rhetoric this time from the Nationals about what they can learn from it than there was in 2008, the last time it happened, simply because it's happened enough times that any lessons should have been absorbed by now.
It's pretty clear why the Phillies are winning titles and the Nationals aren't: They have possibly the best pitching staff in the National League, and their lineup is full of dangerous, homegrown hitters supplemented by a couple free agent acquisitions. They might be the model for the Nationals, but right now, they're more of an unattainable standard. And they were right there to rub it in the Nationals' faces on Monday.
"It was kind of embarrassing," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "Everyone in the stadium is clapping against you and you are at home. It's not really where you want to be."