Dream season ends in disappointment
Rays eliminated by Phillies after resumption of Fall Classic
PHILADELPHIA -- The Rays' miraculous 2008 season came to an end Wednesday night as the Phillies claimed their first World Series championship since 1980 with a 4-3 victory in the long-awaited conclusion to Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this group," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "This is the beginning of a great era for Rays baseball."
Grant Balfour, who had successfully retired three Phillies in the bottom of the fifth before play was suspended on Monday, returned to the mound for the Rays and went to a 3-2 count before Jenkins doubled to right-center field.
With just three innings to go, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel elected to have Jimmy Rollins bunt, and he successfully sacrificed Jenkins to third to bring Jayson Werth to the plate. The right-handed-hitting Werth blooped a ball into center field, where it barely eluded second baseman Akinori Iwamura to drive home the go-ahead run that put the Phillies up, 3-2.
Rocco Baldelli answered for the Rays with one out in the top of the seventh when he homered off Ryan Madson to tie the game at 3.
"I was just looking for a fastball first pitch," Baldelli said. "I got it. I know he's got a good fastball and it rides in on the righties. I just tried to pull my hands inside and stay on top of the ball. And that was it. I was just lucky to square it up. I think every home run is luck. You just have to square it up the right way. You don't have to swing that hard, it just goes."
Citizens Bank Park went silent while Baldelli made his way around the bases, fueling the Rays' hopes of forcing a Game 6 in St. Petersburg on Thursday night.
The quiet is "a good feeling," Baldelli said. "It's not really a feeling you get playing in regular-season games very often. It's just kind of [like] the place was as loud as it could possibly be, then it was as quiet as it could possibly be. So I think the atmosphere in the stadium definitely affects the momentum out on the field."
When Jason Bartlett followed with a single, the Rays looked as though they might keep the rally going. With the score tied, Maddon elected to let reliever J.P. Howell stay in the game and hit because he liked the matchups for the left-hander all the way through Pat Burrell, who would lead off the seventh for the Phillies.
CARRY A BIG STICK
|Most homers by one club in a postseason|
Howell executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to send Bartlett to second, setting up what turned out to be one of the most critical plays of the game.
Iwamura hit a ball that Chase Utley backhanded at second base. Utley realized he would not get Iwamura at first, so he faked a throw to first and then cut loose with an off-balance throw to the plate. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz grabbed the throw and made a nice tag on the sliding Bartlett for the third out.
"I was just running hard, and [third-base coach Tom] Foley sent me and I tried to score," Bartlett said. "It's a hard baseball play. If I'm not hustling, maybe he stops me. But that's how you should play -- hustle all the time.
"I didn't have any idea [if the ball had gone through]. It's just something where I'm going hard and I don't know if Aki beats it out or Utley bobbles it. I don't know what happened, to tell you the truth. I don't know if he dove for it or what. I'll do that every time."
Howell, who was almost as effective pitching to right-handers as left-handers throughout the 2008 season, looked like a sound option against Burrell, who was 0-for-13 in the World Series when he stepped into the box. Only Burrell made the move look like the wrong one by stroking a double off the wall in center field, just missing a home run.
Eric Bruntlett pinch-ran for Burrell and moved to third when Shane Victorino grounded out to second against Rays reliever Chad Bradford. Pedro Feliz then threaded a single up the middle against a drawn-in Rays infield to drive home Bruntlett and give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.
Though they trailed, the Rays did not go gently. Carl Crawford singled to lead off the eighth, but B.J. Upton hit into a double play. Carlos Pena then lined out to end the inning, putting the Phillies within three outs of a title.
Brad Lidge took the mound for the Phillies in the ninth. The Phillies closer had not blown a save all season. Dioner Navarro singled with one out and Fernando Perez pinch-ran for the Rays catcher, immediately stealing second to put the tying run at second base with one out.
"I was just kind of out there hoping for some magic," said the speedy Perez, who was ready to dart home on the crack of the bat.
Switch-hitter Ben Zobrist was inserted as a pinch-hitter for Baldelli, and he responded with a hard line drive to right field. Unfortunately for the Rays, the ball went directly to Werth in right field for the second out.
"I knew when I hit it, I hit it pretty hard," Zobrist said. "I was hoping that it would knock down a little bit. But I saw it was right at him right off the bat."
Lidge then struck out pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to preserve the win, notch his 48th save since Opening Day and end the Rays' season.
Game 5 initially started in rainy conditions Monday night at Citizens Bank Park with a crowd of 45,940 watching. The nasty weather conditions progressed to the point where the game went to a rain delay after the Rays had just tied the game at 2 in the top of the sixth. At 11:10 p.m., the game was officially suspended. Bad weather continued in Philadelphia all day Tuesday, delaying the resumption of Game 5 until Wednesday night.
Cole Hamels, who started Game 5 on Monday, and was the winning pitcher in Game 1, won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Always philosophical, Maddon said the World Series experience "stretched" his team's mind.
"I don't think our guys are ever going to be satisfied going home in October again," he said. "This whole experience has permitted us to grow. Like I said, and being around the last couple of years, if you had been there to follow us closely and see what the culture was like two years ago and what it's like now, the word is remarkable, to be able to come that far that quickly.
"So for me, for us -- I believe this firmly -- our guys are not going to be satisfied without playing in October from now on."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.