PHILADELPHIA | It started late, went long and so what? It merely delayed the dramatic ending Saturday night when the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on a walkoff squibber by Carlos Ruiz in the third game of the World Series.
Ruiz topped a grounder up the third-base line with the bases loaded and no outs. Third baseman Evan Longoria chose to play it -- it might have spun foul if allowed to do so.
And it might have stayed fair.
All that matters is Longoria’s flip to the plate was wild and allowed Eric Bruntlett to score the winning run. The Phillies have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Series.
“We got some breaks there at the end,” manager Charlie Manuel said, “but we capitalized on them. It might have taken a little squib roller down the third-base line but, at the same time, it’s better to be lucky sometimes than to be good.”
Bruntlett reached safely to start the inning when hit by a 2-1 fastball from lefty J.P. Howell. In came righty Grant Balfour, which turned switch-hitter Shane Victorino to the left side.
Then came disaster for the Rays.
Balfour threw a wild pitch that went all the way to the screen. Catcher Dioner Navarro played the carom but threw wildly to second for an error. Bruntlett ended up on third with no outs.
That prompted an intentional walk to Victorino, followed by a visit to the mound by Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. The result was a five-man infield with right fielder Ben Zobrist brought into the middle of the diamond.
Greg Dobbs batted for Pedro Feliz. Another intentional walk loaded the bases.
Up came Ruiz.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Ruiz said. “Just have a good at-bat, take a walk, put the ball in play.”
The count went to 2-2 before he barely got a piece of a 95-mph fastball. It was enough for what was scored a walkoff RBI single.
“We got a lot of good fortune that inning,” Bruntlett said.
J.C. Romero got the victory in relief. Howell was the loser.
Victory came after the Phillies blew a great chance in the eighth. Jayson Werth led off the inning by working a walk from Chad Bradford, which brought Howell into the game to face lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Also, presumably, to aid in keeping Werth close at first.
Werth stole second, but it didn’t matter. Howell struck out Utley. Howell then picked off Werth at second. Howell closed the inning by striking out Howard.
That sent the game tied 4-4 to the ninth.
The Series continues tonight and Monday at Citizens Bank Park. The sixth and seventh games, if necessary, will be Wednesday and Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Phillies starter Jamie Moyer delivered the first pitch at 10:06 p.m. after a rain delay of 1 hour, 31 minutes. It was the latest start for a game in World Series history. The game ended 3:41 later at 1:47 a.m. Eastern time.
Philadelphia built a 4-1 lead behind Moyer through six innings. They got a go-ahead homer from Ruiz in the second inning and back-to-back blasts by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the sixth.
The successive homers were the first in the Series since ex-Royal Reggie Sanders and David Bell did it for San Francisco in the second game of the 2002 Classic against Anaheim.
All three homers came against Rays starter Matt Garza, who allowed four runs and six hits in six innings.
Tampa Bay pulled even by flashing its speed -- and getting a bit of an assist. Carl Crawford opened the seventh with a bunt single, although replays suggested Moyer’s lunging flip actually beat the runner.
Navarro followed with a double into the left-field corner. Crawford stopped at third but scored when Gabe Gross followed with a hot-shot grounder to first. Howard recorded the out, but both runners advanced.
That finished Moyer, who departed to a roar from the sellout crowd of 45,900.
Chad Durbin allowed an RBI ground-out to Bartlett before walking pinch-hitter Willy Aybar. That brought Scott Eyre into the game for a lefty-lefty matchup against Akinori Iwamura.
Eyre struck out Iwamura.
The Rays pulled even in the eighth against Ryan Madson in what amounted to a B.J. Upton highlight video. Upton led off with an infield single, stole second, stole third and came home on a throwing error by Ruiz.