Phillies Beat Rays in Game 3 of World Series
Sunday, October 26, 2008; 2:57 AM
PHILDELPHIA, Oct. 25 -- This is what constitutes a furious ninth-inning rally in this clutch-free World Series: A hit-by-pitch, a wild pitch, an error on the catcher, an intentional walk, then a second one. The bases are loaded in a tie game, the crowd rises to its feet, the defense shifts its right fielder behind second base, everybody playing in close to try to cut down the go-ahead run. And then, in the dramatic climax ... a 45-foot nubber down the third base line. Ballgame. Go nuts, everyone.
Perhaps it wasn't what Fox-TV or its audience had in mind -- although, on the other hand, anyone still watching the end of the rain-delayed Game 3 of the World Series at 1:47 a.m. Sunday clearly was hard-core enough to appreciate what occurred in the bottom of the ninth inning at Citizens Bank Park.
Carlos Ruiz, the Philadelphia Phillies' catcher, was the hero -- or whatever one would call a hitter whose swinging bunt down the third-base line, which probably would have rolled foul had it not been picked up, won the game. The bases-loaded infield hit gave the Phillies a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, redeeming a night that began with a 91-minute rain delay and featured all manner of stumbles, bobbles and missed opportunities.
The Phillies now have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, which continues Sunday night, and are two wins from securing only the second World Series title in the franchise's long history.
"It might have took a little squib-roller down the third base line," said Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, "but at the same time, it's better to be lucky sometimes than to be good."
The decisive sequence in the ninth began with Rays lefty J.P. Howell, in his second inning of work, hitting Phillies left fielder Eric Bruntlett with a pitch. Rays Manager Joe Maddon quickly called upon right-hander Grant Balfour to face switch-hitting Shane Victorino. But Balfour promptly bounced a slider in the dirt, and Bruntlett took off for second, and when catcher Dioner Navarro's ill-advised throw to second skidded into center field, Bruntlett advanced to third.
With few palatable options, Maddon called for two straight intentional walks to load the bases, then stationed right fielder Ben Zobrist behind second base as a fifth infielder -- with Zobrist pausing to switch from an outfielder's to an infield's glove -- as Balfour faced Ruiz.
On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Ruiz hit a chopper down the third base line, which appeared to be headed foul had Rays third baseman Evan Longoria not tried to field it. Longoria's frantic, diving flip home sailed over the catcher's head, and the Phillies had won Game 3.
"It's a really awkward play, and he did the best he could," Maddon said of Longoria. "It's just an unfortunate situation. I don't think it would have gone foul."
Ruiz's hit was only the second for the Phillies in the entire series with runners in scoring position, spanning 32 at-bats. Which is more amazing: That the Phillies are hitting just .063 with runners in scoring position -- or that they are somehow leading the series despite that?
In fact, evidence of clutchness on either side is difficult to locate. The Rays scored all four of their runs Saturday night without benefit of a base hit¿getting them instead on a sacrifice fly, two ground outs and a throwing error. The Phillies, meantime, got their first four runs -- an RBI ground out, followed by solo homers by Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard--without benefit of a hit with runners in scoring position.
B.J. Upton, the Rays' speedy, dynamic center fielder, almost singlehandedly tied the game in the eighth against right-hander Ryan Madson, the Phillies' superb set-up man, beating out a ground ball up the middle for an infield single, then stealing second, stealing third and coming home when the throw to third from Ruiz kicked away.