Phils intrigued by Red Sox comeback
Boston's Game 5 rally delays Philly's prep at AL champs' park
PHILADELPHIA -- By the time his second transcontinental flight of the week touched down on Thursday, Phillies reliever Chad Durbin had just two obligations waiting for him at home: some quality time with his son, and some quality time in his bed. And he was just about to get to the latter task when he turned on the television, idly scouting the Phillies' next opponent.
Durbin was hooked. And he remained hooked throughout the Red Sox's eight-run Game 5 comeback over the Rays, which extended the American League Championship Series and kept the Phillies wondering for another day whom their next opponent might be.
"I definitely thought it was over," Durbin said.
Most of the Phillies did. And though they're being politically correct about their unsure situation -- they don't care who they'll play in the World Series, only that they'll be there -- some of the Phillies couldn't help but be intrigued by Boston's remarkable comeback.
"Baseball's a crazy game," starter Joe Blanton said. "Things like that happen all the time in the game. When you're at this point, there's all good teams left. And if you let up for a second, something like that can happen."
"They've been there," fellow starter Jamie Moyer said of the Sox. "But regardless of the experience that they have, they still have an uphill battle to face to get to the World Series. The advantage that they have is they've been through it. You can call it a disadvantage for Tampa that they haven't been, but you know what? They've been doing it all year long."
The Red Sox scored four times in the seventh inning and three times in the eighth in Thursday's Game 5, before capping their improbable rally with J.D. Drew's game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth. That hit sent the series back to Tropicana Field for at least one more game, after the Phillies had become all but certain that their World Series opponent would be the Rays.
By the time the newly-minted National League champions filed into Citizens Bank Park for Friday afternoon's workout session, even those Phillies who hadn't watched the end of Thursday's game had heard plenty about its result. They couldn't decide which opponent they'd rather face, insisting that it didn't matter.
But in terms of preparation, it does matter. The Phillies won't know their opponent until late Saturday night at the earliest, with the World Series set to begin on Wednesday. If the Rays win one of the remaining games of the ALCS, then the Phillies will work out in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, in an effort to have as much time on Tropicana Field's artificial turf as possible. If the Rays lose, then the Phillies will travel to Boston in time for their only Fenway Park workout on Tuesday.
And regardless of their opponent, the Phillies know -- at least in terms of regular-season record -- that they'll be playing one of the top four teams in the Major Leagues.
"The track record for the Red Sox is great, and Tampa's obviously a great team -- a bunch of young stars on that team," Durbin said. "Selfishly, it's easier for us to plan if Tampa wins, but that's not what it's about."
What it's about, for the Phillies, is keeping sharp while they wait for the World Series to begin. And what it's about, for the Red Sox and Rays, is simply making it to that World Series. They can worry about everything else once they get there.
Neither team seems to be a vastly better matchup for the Phillies, with the Rays boasting youth, power and speed, and the Red Sox hanging on both experience and pitching. The Sox might have the momentum after Thursday night's game, but the Rays still hold a 3-2 series edge.
"The way I look at it," Moyer said, "Tampa's still in the driver's seat."
"You can never count out Boston," first baseman Ryan Howard said.
Difference of opinion aside, all the Phillies could agree on one thing. "Crazy game," infielder Eric Bruntlett said. "With Boston's season on the line, anything can happen. Down by seven runs, that's pretty amazing."
And with that, the Phillies -- impressed, but not overwhelmed -- headed out to the Citizens Bank Park field to prepare for their anonymous opponent. Happy to still be playing, and well aware of how difficult their road has been, the Phillies simply couldn't concern themselves with who their next opponent might be.
At least not yet.
"It's going to be a battle," Moyer said, "regardless of who we play."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.