By JAY LeBLANC
October 26, 2008
Phillies 5, Rays 4
Phillies lead series 2-1
Eric Bruntlett raced home with the winning run on a Carlos Ruiz dribbler to third in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Phillies to a 5-4 win over the visiting Rays in Game 3 of the World Series. 45-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer bounced back from a pair of ugly postseason performances to earn the victory with 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball and Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard slugged solo shots as the Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
After rain delayed the start of the game until 10:06 p.m. EST, the Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Jimmy Rollins led off with a single and moved to second on a Jayson Werth walk. A Matt Garza offering squirted by Dioner Navarro with Utley at the plate, allowing both runners to move up and prompting Rays manager Joe Maddon to make a trip to the mound to calm down his young right-hander. Utley worked a 3-1 count before grounding out to first to score Rollins. Garza then fanned Howard for the second out, and escaped further damage by getting Pat Burrell to fly out to left.
Tampa Bay got the run back in the top of the second. Carl Crawford opened the inning by dropping a shallow pop fly in front of left fielder Burrell for a double. Phillies second baseman Utley then made a nice play on Navarro’s soft liner for the first out. With left-handed hitter Gabe Gross at the plate, Crawford took off for third and got in just ahead of the throw from Phillies catcher Ruiz. Gross then lifted a sac fly to deep right center to plate Crawford and tie the game at a run apiece before Moyer retired Jason Bartlett on a fly ball to center to end the inning.
Garza got a pair of quick outs to begin the home half of the second, but then served up a gopher ball that Ruiz deposited into the seats in left to put the Phillies up 2-1.
Both starters found their respective grooves and things quieted down until the bottom of the sixth, when Utley and Howard went back-to-back to right off Garza to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Garza retired the next three hitters in order but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. The ALCS MVP allowed four runs on six hits in six innings of work, fanning seven and walking just two.
Moyer kept the Rays’ bats quiet until the top of the seventh. Crawford bunted to lead off the inning and was called safe even though replays showed that Moyer’s diving glove-hand toss to Howard beat him by a half-step. Navarro followed with a double to right that pushed Crawford to third. Crawford scampered home with the second Rays run on a Gross groundout to first, ending Moyer’s outing after 6 1/3 innings. Right-hander Chad Durbin entered and got Bartlett to ground to short, but Navarro crossed the plate to bring Tampa Bay within a run at 4-3. Willy Aybar pinch-hit for Garza and drew a walk, but lefty Scott Eyre came on and fanned Akinori Iwamura to end the rally.
Upton single-handedly tied the game for the Rays in the top of the eighth. He opened the inning with an infield single off Phillies right-hander Ryan Madson. Carlos Pena fanned for the first out, bringing Evan Longoria to the plate. Upton stole second on the first pitch of the at bat, and took off for third on the very next pitch. Ruiz’ throw hit Upton and bounced off into foul territory, allowing him to race home with the fourth Tampa Bay run.
The score stayed tied at four until the home half of the ninth. Rays lefty J.P. Howell plunked Bruntlett to open the frame. Righty Grant Balfour came on to pitch to Shane Victorino and prompty uncorked a wild pitch that caromed off the backstop back to Navarro. Bruntlett took off for second on the wild pitch and moved on to third when Navarro’s throw skipped into center field. With no outs and the winning run 90 feet from home, Maddon elected to intentionally walk Victorino and Greg Dobbs - who pinch-hit for Pedro Feliz - to load the bases for Ruiz. On a 2-2 count, the Phillies catcher hit a dribbler down the third base line. Longoria charged and barehanded the ball and attempted to flip it to Navarro, but it sailed over the Rays catcher’s head as Bruntlett crossed the plate to give Philly a 5-4 win and a 2-1 World Series advantage.
Philadelphia will send midseason acquisition Joe Blanton to the mound tonight as they look to take a 3-1 series lead in the comfort of their home ballpark. The right-hander last pitched in Game 4 of the NLCS, allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks in five innings and taking a no-decision in a game the Phillies eventually won. Tampa Bay will counter with righty Andy Sonnanstine, who is 2-0 so far this postseason with his most recent win coming in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 8:29 p.m. EST.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and mayor of the National Pastime web community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.