Sunday, October 26, 2008

Line Drive in the Paper Lifts Phils

It wasn't pretty, but the Phillies will take it. Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies didn't hit one ball out of the infield - actually they only put one ball into play - in scoring the winning run to take a 2 games to 1 advantage in the World Series. Last night's game ended about 1:47 a.m. EDT after a one hour-thirty one minute rain delay caused the first pitch to be thrown at 10:14 p.m., the latest start in World Series history.

The Rays had rallied from a 4-1 deficit, tying the game with a run in the eighth inning. But Rays reliver J.P. Howell hit Eric Bruntlett to start the home half of the ninth inning. Grant Balfour replaced Howell, and with Shane Victorino batting, immediately threw a wild pitch. Catcher Dioner Navarro quickly retrieved the ball and fired to second to try to gun down Bruntlett, but his throw sailed wide to the right side of second base and into center field, allowing Bruntlett to reach third base. Victorino was intentionally walked and Joe Maddon came out to discuss strategy with his pitcher and infielders.

Those infielders were increased by one when right fielder Ben Zobrist, a natural infielder, moved behind second base to give the Rays a 5-man infield. An intentional walk to Gary Dobbs loaded the bases for catcher Carlos Ruiz. With the infield and outfield playing in, Ruiz chopped a high Balfour fastball that a charging Evan Longoria could only whip home with an underhand, off-balance throw. The ball sailed high and wide and the Phillies had themselves a victory.

Though the game came down to the bottom of the ninth Jamie Moyer was the story of this game. The 45-yr old had struggled in his first two post-season starts, allowing 8 runs in 5.1 innings pitched. But his manager Charlie Manuel stuck by him, saying in his Friday news conference that Moyer had earned his World Series start. Now he's earned a second one, which would be a deciding seventh game if necessary.

Moyer pitch into the seventh inning, leaving with a 4-2 lead and one out. A third run was charged to him after an inherited runners scored on a ground out, but this was clearly Moyer's night. He kept the Rays off balance with his mixture of slow, slower, and slowest pitches. He quickly gave up a 1-0 lead in the second inning and Phillies fans had to be concerned. But after Ruiz's solo home run off Matt Garza in the bottom of the second gave the Phillies the lead back, Moyer took control. He allowed just two more hits through the sixth inning.

Moyer's counterpart, Garza, had been dominant in the first two rounds of the post-season, but struggled last night. Maddon had to come out in the first inning to settle him down after allowing a lead off single to Jimmy Rollins, a walk to Jayson Werth, and a wild pitch that moved both runners into scoring position. He allowed just one run, but was tagged for three solo home runs on the night.

Meanwhile the Phillies extended their lead when their two big men, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit back to back home runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-1 lead. The Rays big men continued not to deliver. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, who has to endure the asinine chant of "Eva" from the Phillies faithful, both went hitless last night and are hitless for the series. Their teammates did pick them up last night though.

Carl Crawford began the seventh with a bunt single and Navarro followed with a double to left to bring the tying run to the plate. The Rays seem to be specializing on RBI ground outs in the series and that trend continued when Gabe Gross' bouncer to Howard to cut the lead to 4-2 and moved Navarro to third. Chad Durbin replaced Moyer and got Jason Bartlett to bounce into another run scoring ground out that made it a 4-3 game, but prevented a bigger inning.

In the eighth, with Ryan Madson on the mound, B.J. Upton stroked a lead off single and stole second base with one away. The Rays aggressive play on the basepaths paid off when Upton stole third and scored on Ruiz's throwing error. But Ruiz would have the last laugh.

News and Notes

Pena and Longoria are now a combined 0-22 in the series.

Ruiz's game winner made the Phillies 2-33 with runners in scoring position.

Steve Carlton threw out the first pitch, which was made ironic since Moyer beat him for his major league win in 1986.

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