Originally published on October 26, 2008
Tug McGraw raised his arms toward the heavens after he recorded the final out in the 1980 World Series. It is the iconic moment for a Phillies franchise that has won just one World Series championship in its first 125 years.
Tugger’s spirit could be felt last night at Citizens Bank Park.
Ya Gotta Believe?
Tim McGraw, Tug’s famous country-singing son, spread some of his father’s ashes on the mound before Game 3 of the World Series, the first World Series game in Philadelphia in 15 years. About four hours later, after a 1 hour, 31 minute rain delay, Carlos Ruiz chopped a ball down the third-base line with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to score the winning run in a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to give the Phillies a two-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Phillies can take command of the series with a victory tonight in Game 4.
“I’m sure he thought it was going to be good luck,” Jamie Moyer said about an hour after the game ended at 1:47 a.m. “And it turns out that it probably was. It’s pretty cool.”
“Luck be a lefty,” Jimmy Rollins said of McGraw.
The luck came early. The magic came late.
It started in the ninth when Rays lefthander J.P. Howell hit leadoff hitter Eric Bruntlett with a pitch. Righthander Grant Balfour entered and uncorked a wild pitch. It slammed off the backstop and straight back to Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who threw to second.
“I started to break for second and turned to look back and saw the ball come back to him,” Bruntlett said of Navarro. “There was a moment there where I wasn’t sure. I thought he maybe had a play on me at second base.”
But the ball got into center field and Bruntlett scampered to third.
“I wasn’t sure if he had caught it,” Bruntlett said. “I didn’t see the ball at first, so I didn’t want to take off running if he had the ball.”
Balfour intentionally walked Shane Victorino and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to load the bases.
Rays manager Joe Maddon then brought in his infield. He brought in an extra infielder, too. He had rightfielder Ben Zobrist play second base as a fifth infielder. That’s when Ruiz chopped a ball down the third-base line. Third baseman Evan Longoria dove and tried to flip it to the plate, but the ball sailed over Bruntlett’s head.
There was no play. Bruntlett was safe.
The Phillies had won.
“I was excited,” Ruiz said. “No matter if it’s an infield hit or whatever, I’ll take it. I’ll take the win.”
“It was good fortune on their part,” Longoria said. “He couldn’t have picked up the ball and rolled it to a better spot. If he hits it a little harder it’s a double play. He hit it to the right spot.”
“I saw the ball go into the ground,” Bruntlett said. “I knew it wasn’t hit very hard, so I know I just have to high-tail it and go as hard as I can. … It’s one of those deals where it can of feels like everything is slow motion. I feel like I should be moving faster and I can’t because you want to get there so quickly. It feels like a long 90 feet at that point.”
It ended a long day that felt even longer after the Phillies blew a 4-1 lead entering the seventh inning.
Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard had hit solo home runs to that point – with Utley and Howard hitting back-to-back homers in the sixth – making up for the fact that the Phillies still couldn’t muster a hit with runners in scoring position. They had runners on second and third with nobody out in the first, but went 0 for 3 with RISP in the inning to only score a run to make it 1-0.
The Phillies are 2 for 33 (.061) with runners in scoring position in the series, the second-worst mark in World Series history. None of those two hits have left the infield, although one of them won Game 3.
Moyer tried to make up for it. He entered the night 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his first two postseason starts, and had his doubters as he stepped onto the mound in the first inning.
But Moyer kept the Rays off balance throughout the night until he found trouble in the seventh – make that until Moyer found umpire Tom Hallion at first base.
Carl Crawford hit a slow roller down the first-base line to leadoff the inning. Moyer dove, fielded the ball with his glove and flipped it to Howard while in mid air.
The ball beat Crawford.
But Hallion couldn’t see Howard bare hand the ball and ruled Crawford safe, which was apparent to almost everybody with the naked eye and confirmed indisputably on instant replay.
“We’re human beings and sometimes we get them wrong,” Hallion said.
Navarro doubled to put runners at second and third. Gabe Gross grounded out to score Crawford. Chad Durbin replaced Moyer and Jason Bartlett grounded out to score Navarro.
Had Hallion not blown the call, no runs would have scored.
Instead it was 4-3.
That came up big when B.J. Upton reached on an infield single. Upton stole second. He then stole third – his third stolen base of the game tied a World Series record – with Ruiz’s throw getting away from Pedro Feliz to allow him to score the tying run.
Ruiz made up for it later with perhaps the biggest 30-foot in Phillies history.
“I didn’t know what expectations to really look for,” Moyer said of pitching in the first World Series game in his 22-year career. “And I think it exceeded every expectation or every thought or every dream that I had.”
It had been 15 years since the Phillies last played a World Series game at home. It proved to be worth the wait.