· An Oct. 30 Sports article incorrectly said that the world champion Philadelphia Phillies were 6-0 at home during postseason play last month. They were 7-0.
Phillies Win World Series Title
Thursday, October 30, 2008
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 29 -- In the time between the top and bottom halves of the sixth inning of the fifth game of the 104th World Series, the skies cleared, the earth dried, the big hand circled the little hand 46 times, the stock market plunged and soared a few times over, Fox's hit show "House" aired at its usual time, the Philadelphia Phillies put their kids to bed on a school night and the maids at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Del., placed chocolates on the pillows of the Tampa Bay Rays.
And the tension rose, paradoxically, the lower the temperature plunged and the longer everyone stayed away from Citizens Bank Park.
Then, out of something bizarre and unprecedented -- a night of World Series baseball that began with the game's 188th pitch -- sprang something primal and timeless: the 27th out in the catcher's glove, and a rush of red-pinstriped humanity out of the Phillies' dugout, forming a pile of bodies in front of the mound, with Brad Lidge, on his knees, at the bottom.
They will be skipping school, ditching work and lining Broad Street for a parade in a day or two, now that the Phillies have been crowned World Series champions, following a 4-3 victory over the Rays. It came before 45,940 title-starved fans who waited out a 46-hour suspension of play and braved windchills in the 30s to witness the franchise's first title in 28 years and only the second in its 126-year history.
"This is the greatest moment of my life," said Lidge, who pitched a typically nerve-racking ninth inning to earn his 48th save in 48 chances in 2008. "You go through a lot to get to this position. I wouldn't change anything that's happened in my career, because this is the best it could ever be."
The Phillies, 92-win champions of the National League East, completed a perfect 6-0 postseason at home with Wednesday night's drama-filled win in the resumption of a game suspended by rain two nights earlier. Tied at 2 when the night began, the Phillies moved ahead in the bottom of the sixth, fell back into a tie in the top of the seventh, then pulled ahead for good in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single by third baseman Pedro Feliz.
"We've waited this long," said Phillies President David Montgomery, a Philly native. "What's another 48 hours?"
On a night the air was too cold and the game over too quickly for anyone to break a sweat, the classic finish of Game 5 didn't just live up to its historic nature -- no postseason game had been suspended before this -- but it also saved a World Series plagued by all sorts of awful maladies: bad umpiring, un-clutch hitting, terrible television ratings and near-biblical weather.
"It's been wild, with the weather and everything else," said Eric Bruntlett, who scored the winning run as a pinch runner on Feliz's hit. "It wasn't easy. It was a battle."
The stakes Wednesday night could not have been higher -- the championship of Major League Baseball -- nor the circumstances more foreign to the sport's daily rhythms. There were odd questions that had never been asked before at a World Series: Would the national anthem be sung before first pitch? (No, but "God Bless America" was.) Would beer sales be cut off in the seventh inning? (Definitely not.)
As "Welcome to the Jungle" played over the loudspeakers, the visiting team roared out of its dugout to take the field -- the first of many incongruous sights -- and a relief pitcher, Grant Balfour, warmed up to throw the night's first pitch.
It was like starting a Super Bowl in the fourth quarter. Six outs into the game, the seventh-inning stretch was sung full-throated and earnestly, the fans still hearty and sober.
Seizing back the momentum they ceded two nights earlier when the Rays scored a rainy run to tie the game just before the tarp covered the infield, the Phillies struck immediately, when pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins -- batting in the spot of starting pitcher Cole Hamels, named the series' most valuable player -- led off the game by smacking a double off the wall in right-center off Balfour.
Two batters later, after a sacrifice bunt, Balfour got Jayson Werth to hit a weak pop-up. But because the Rays had their infield in to cut down a run at the plate, second baseman Akinori Iwamura had a long way to go to get to it, and with his back to the infield, the ball hit his glove and fell in, a base hit, with Jenkins, who appeared not to be tagging up, scoring easily.
Advantage, Phillies. Nine outs from winning the World Series, they called upon Ryan Madson, the flame-throwing reliever who had an 0.64 ERA in September, 1.50 in October, to start the seventh. But Rocco Baldelli, the second batter of the inning, crushed a 94-mph fastball to left, tying the game again.
The calculus changed with every batter. Phillies second baseman Chase Utley cut down a potential second Rays run in the seventh with a deke-to-first, fire-to-home play to nail Jason Bartlett. A half-inning later, the Rays pulled their infielders in again with Bruntlett on third, one out and Feliz at the plate.
Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel later acknowledged he thought of pinch-hitting for Feliz against submarine right-hander Chad Bradford, but he ultimately allowed him to hit, and Feliz delivered a sharp single up the middle to bring home the winning run.
In the ninth, Lidge's inning, a one-out single by Rays catcher Dioner Navarro brought the go-ahead run to the plate, and a solid line drive to right -- ultimately caught by Werth for the second out -- brought everyone's stomachs into their throats.
"With the Phillies," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said, "nothing is ever easy."
But then there were two strikes on pinch hitter Eric Hinske, and then Lidge unleashed one of his infernal sliders, which Hinske swung over. And the field soon filled with Phillies, their work now finished, their celebration just begun.