10/26/08 5:30 AM ET
Long night ends with Rays' loss
Well-placed walk-off hit in ninth gives Phillies 2-1 Series lead
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Why was the game still on at 1:47 a.m. ET? And what in the world were the Rays doing with five infielders?
The answers to both questions were interesting side notes to another tightly played contest that saw the Rays battle back to tie the score in the eighth inning, only to fall to the Phillies, 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth.
For the third time in this Series, the teams were within two runs heading into the late innings. Each of the first three games of the Fall Classic has been decided by one or two runs. After Saturday night's result, the Phils own a 2-1 Series lead going into Sunday's Game 4.
Game 3 did not begin until 10:06 p.m., after a 91-minute rain delay, making it the latest start in World Series history. But the delay did little to dampen the spirits of a raucous, white towel-waving crowd of 45,900 at Citizens Bank Park.
Interestingly, the Rays put the Phillies in just the situation they didn't want to be in the ninth inning if they wanted to win the game: having runners in scoring position.
Entering the ninth inning, the Phillies were 1-for-32 with runners in scoring position in the World Series, and that one hit did not even drive in a run. Eventually, that lopsided statistic had to change, and it did Saturday night, but not before a good fight by the Rays.
The Phillies' ninth-inning rally began when Rays reliever J.P. Howell hit leadoff batter Eric Bruntlett with a pitch.
"I wanted to make sure I got [the ball] in and maybe I got it in a little too much," Howell said. "That's what happens sometimes. It felt good [leaving my hand], it just cut or started in too much. Instead of tailing back, it tailed into him."
GAME 4: JUST THE FACTS
|Rays starter: RHP Andy Sonnanstine|
|2008: 13-9, 4.38 ERA|
|2008 on road: 6-5, 4.35 ERA|
|2008 vs. Phillies: Did not face|
|Career vs. Phillies: Has not faced|
|2008 postseason: 2-0, 3.46 ERA|
|Career postseason: 2-0, 3.46 ERA|
|Phillies starter: RHP Joe Blanton|
|2008: 9-12, 4.69 ERA|
|2008 at home: 4-9, 4.31 ERA|
|2008 vs. Rays: 0-0, 6.00 ERA|
|Career vs. Rays: 2-3, 6.05 ERA (eight starts)|
|2008 postseason: 1-0, 3.27 ERA|
|Career postseason: 1-0, 2.77 ERA|
|Phillies lead series, 2-1. Eleven of the last 13 teams to hold a 2-1 lead have won the Series.|
|Game 1: Game 1: Phillies 3, Rays 2|
|Game 2: Game 2: Rays 4, Phillies 2|
|Game 3: Game 3: Phillies 5, Rays 4|
|Did you know? The last time the Phillies were up 2-1 in the World Series was in 1980, the only time they have won the title.|
Grant Balfour took over for Howell to face Shane Victorino, who squared to put down a sacrifice bunt. It became unnecessary when Balfour threw a wild pitch that allowed Bruntlett to go all the way to third, as catcher Dioner Navarro threw the ball wildly past second base after fielding the ricochet off the brick backstop.
"It was frustrating, because I put myself in a situation where I had strike one to Victorino," Balfour said. "And I tried to throw inside to him, to get him to foul it off and get to where I could strike him out. I felt confident I could strike this guy out and keep the runner at first and go from there. Maybe [I could] get a double-play ball and get out of the inning. But I tried to do too much, threw it inside and I missed."
Victorino was then intentionally walked, as was pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to set up the force. At this point, the Rays went with five infielders, bringing Ben Zobrist in from right field to play between shortstop and second in the drawn-in Rays infield.
When Balfour got ahead in the count, 2-2, to Carlos Ruiz, the chances of escaping the inning started to seem almost plausible. If Balfour struck out the Phillies catcher, a double play could send the Rays to extra innings. But Ruiz swung at Balfour's offering and hit a dribbler to third baseman Evan Longoria, who could not make a play to home.
Bruntlett scored the winning run on the swinging-bunt base hit, which moved the Phillies to 2-for-33 with runners in scoring position. It was the first walk-off infield hit in World Series history.
"It was really just good fortune on their part," Longoria said. "He couldn't have picked up that ball and rolled it to a better spot. Grant makes a good pitch and if he hits it a little bit harder, we have a double play. He just hit it in the right spot."
Rays manager Joe Maddon sounded philosophical afterward.
"That happens in the ninth," Maddon said. "Of course, the hit batter is not optimal, and the wild pitch and getting to third really creates a lot of havoc in a very difficult moment. Other than that, I thought we played a great game tonight."
Maddon also defended Longoria's decision to field Ruiz's dribbler, rather than wait to see if the ball would go foul.
|The Rays' B.J. Upton stole second base in the sixth inning and second and third in the eighth, tying the record for steals in a World Series game.|
|Honus Wagner|| |
"The grass is relatively thick," Maddon said. "I don't think it would have gone foul. I don't know that, but I don't think so. I didn't even think of it. I really thought to myself, 'How is he going to throw this ball?' Because barehanded, there's no way to get on top and throw. It's a really awkward play and he did the best that he could. It's just an unfortunate situation."
Matt Garza started for the Rays, and it quickly became obvious he did not have the same stuff he showed the Red Sox when he earned MVP honors during the American League Championship Series. The Phillies scored in the first on a Chase Utley groundout. Later, Garza surrendered a home run to Ruiz in the second and back-to-back shots to Utley and Ryan Howard in the sixth as the Phillies built a 4-1 lead.
Meanwhile, 45-year-old Jamie Moyer started for the Phillies and gave the Rays fits for 6 1/3 innings, holding them to three runs on five hits.
B.J. Upton single-handedly tied the game in the eighth. After leading off the inning with a single off Ryan Madson, Upton stole second. He then stole third, and when Ruiz's throw skipped away from third baseman Pedro Feliz, Upton scored to tie the game at 4.
Upton's two steals in the eighth gave him three for the game to tie a World Series record last accomplished by Lou Brock in the 1968 World Series. Upton became the first AL player to accomplish the feat.
Despite the defeat, optimism lived inside the Rays' clubhouse.
"We know we're going to have to win," Upton said. "We're not going to change a thing. We've been that way all year. Nobody's approach is going to change in here. Nobody's head is going to be down.
"We're not worried about what's going on over there. We're going to come out and play our game, let the chips fall where they may."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.