Phillies sweep Cardinals behind Bryce Harper's home run to advance to NLDS

ST. LOUIS – It took 11 years and one day, to be exact, but Saturday evening in the shadows of the Gateway Arch, the Philadelphia Phillies finally got their sweet revenge. 

The Phillies, whose franchise was put in utter disarray with their stunning defeat in the 2011 NL Division Series, exorcised their ghosts by beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-0, sweeping the best-of-three wild-card series in front of a subdued sellout crowd of 48,515 at Busch Stadium. 

Yes, the same team that ruined their baseball dreams 11 years ago, now will be sitting at home the rest of the winter with that same pain. 

The Cardinals’ season is over. 

So are the fabulous careers of future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. 

The Phillies are moving on, and will open the NL Division Series Tuesday against Atlanta, the defending World Series champions, while saying good-bye to the Cardinals’ icons. 

“You grew up, you watched Albert,’’ says Bryce Harper, who homered in his first at-bat Saturday. “You watched Yadi. [Pitcher Adam] Wainwright as well. These guys you grew up watching, and now they’re on their way out, and it’s a little sad for the game, right?  

It was ok for the Phillies to be a little sentimental, dancing on the field, spraying champagne in the clubhouse, and washing away their past. 

They suffered long enough, with the longest playoff drought in the National League, re-living that fateful series and epic Game 5 against the Cardinals long enough. 

Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper celebrates his home run in the second inning.

PUJOLS: Future Hall of Famer makes postseason return to St. Louis

NEWSLETTER: Get the latest sports news straight to your inbox

All that’s known for sure now is that the Phillies prematurely ended the Cardinals season, returning the favor that has haunted them. 

Now, it’s the Cardinals left with that same feeling, believing they would have a long playoff run, with Pujols going to the World Series one last time, only to have their season end in misery. 

The lasting memory won’t be of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado having MVP seasons. 

It will be of the two power hitters disappearing in the two-game series, going 1-for-15 with six strikeouts. 

In the Cardinals’ final rally in the eighth inning, with Pujols hitting a single in his final at-bat, they had runners on first and second with one out, and Goldschmidt and Arenado coming to the plate. 

Goldschmidt struck out. 

Arenado struck out. 

And they went down meekly in the ninth inning, watching the Phillies celebrate on the field in front of them. 

Phillies ace Aaron Nola suffocated the entire Cardinals lineup, yielding just four hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings, and their bullpen did the rest, completing their shutout. 

“It’ so great to be back, especially with the Phillies and this organization,’’ said Harper, whose homer was his first in 48 plate appearances. It’s so good for the fans, so good for the city of Philadelphia. 

“We’re back.’’ 

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale