Home MLB Game three thriller

Game three thriller

by Matt Smith

The switch back to GMT has never been more welcome than it was this morning to British baseball fans.  An hour and a half rain delay meant that the first pitch of game three of the World Series wasn’t delivered until just gone three in the morning BST, but by then the clocks had been turned back an hour.  Although it was still 5.47 in the morning by the time the game had finished, fans could head back to bed knowing that they had witnessed a classic game as a walk-off infield single gave the Phillies a 5-4 win and a 2-1 series lead. 

The Rays had split the first two games at home due to playing fundamentally-sound baseball, but their discipline went out of the window in an incredible ninth inning.  Lead off hitter Eric Bruntlett was hit by a pitch and then made his way to third on a wild pitch and a throwing error by Dioner Navarro.  As a consequence of these mistakes, the Rays had little choice but to intentionally walk the next two batters and employed an five infielder/two outfielder defensive shift to try and stop the winning run from scoring.

Carlos Ruiz was not to be denied by the unconventional defensive alignment.  So often we see a player not famed for his bat coming up with big hits in the postseason (Yadier Molina’s blast in the NLCS against the Mets back in ’06 being a classic example) and Ruiz, who hit just .219 during the regular season, has now added his name to that list.  His solo home run in the second inning gave the Phils a 2-1 lead and his infield single in the ninth allowed the winning run to score.

It marked the end of a tough loss for the Rays, who had battled back brilliantly from what appeared to be a hammer blow in the sixth inning.  With B.J. Upton on second, Evan Longoria clubbed a long drive down the left field line in the top of the inning which everyone, including the cameraman, expected to see come down in the seats.  However, a strong wind halted its path and the ball landed in Pat Burrell’s glove instead. 

While Longoria was still contemplating how he hadn’t just given his team a 3-2 lead, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit back-to-back jacks to plunge the Rays into a 4-1 hole.  After reducing the deficit to 4-3 in the seventh, they were able to tie the game in the eighth inning thanks to the base-stealing exploits of Upton and an error by Ruiz.  Unfortunately for the Rays, the Phillies’ catcher was able to atone for his mistake to win the game for the home team later on.

It was a mixed night for the two catchers.  Jimmy Rollins came around to score the opening run  in the first inning for the Phils and his progress around the bases was aided by what has gone down in the record books as a wild pitch by Rays’ starter Matt Garza, but what was really a poor attempt by Navarro at blocking the ball.  Josh Chetwynd, a former catcher, provided some excellent analysis of the poor technique employed on the play, as he has throughout the series and indeed ever since he joined the Five team.

While the back-and-forth nature of the game made it compelling viewing for us, it did mean that Jamie Moyer was denied the ‘W’ that his performance arguably deserved.  His final pitching line doesn’t look anything special, but it was a real gutsy effort from a guy who had been pounded in his previous two postseason outings and then pounded by an endless stream of comments questioning whether Charlie Manuel had taken leave of his senses in allowing him back out on the mound for such an important game.  It’s always a lot of fun to see a pitcher like Moyer having success in the Big Leagues and even more so in his first World Series game at the age of forty-five.

Game four certainly has a lot to live up to.  Joe Blanton, another guy who is easy to root for, will be on the mound for the Phillies, while Andy Sonnanstine looks to help the Rays even up the series once again. 

The weather forecast for Philadelphia is more positive for this evening, so it’s unlikely that we will see another rain delay tonight.  That’s good news as it means less time for British fans to try and keep awake before the action gets going (a 00.10 start, don’t forget), and less time for mischievous people to alterJonny Gould’s Wikipedia entry.

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Chico October 26, 2008 - 4:29 pm

That probably was the first time a 5 man infield and 2 man outfield was employed in the World Series. Joe Maddon is an innovator for sure. It was a typical “do or die” situation defensively except for the above mentioned positioning of players. The infield was looking for a ground ball to the plate to first DP obviously. With 5 infielders playing up a hard groundball might have turned the trick. A “swinging bunt” off the bat of Ruiz made that impossible and the winning run came across. It really was a good game. Rainy and cold, the Philly fans didn’t mind a bit! Looking forward to tonight’s game. I have a feeling it will be a “classic”. The time change is nice for British viewers. Hope you guys get enough sleep! Chico

Matt Smith October 26, 2008 - 6:05 pm

Hi Chico. As you say, Maddon didn’t really have anything to lose by then, so a 5/2 defense was playing the percentages. What we’ve seen so far is two teams that are fairly evenly matched, both having several chances to win each game which makes for great entertainment. I guess the rain delay would have only reduced the U.S. viewing figures even further, which is a real shame because that isn’t a reflection on the quality of the games we have seen.


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