PHILADELPHIA -- In the wider picture, as the Phillies giddily sprayed champagne all over the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, Chase Utley's off-balance throw to end the top of the seventh inning was not foremost in their thoughts.
But without the second baseman's heads-up play that cut down the Rays' Jason Bartlett as he gambled that he could score the go-ahead run from second on a ball up the middle, the Phillies could have been boarding a flight on their way back to St. Petersburg for Game 6 of the World Series.
"Sometimes in a win, that's what you forget about," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after his club closed out the Series with a 4-3 win in the rain-delayed Game 5. "If you think about the Milwaukee series or the Dodgers series, things that happened in the game -- you look back and think things are going your way. That's what it takes."
The play itself was a microcosm of the World Series, as a brilliant combination of stellar defense and teamwork on the part of Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz thwarted the game and aggressive attempt by the Rays to snatch victory no matter the risk-reward difference.
With Bartlett on second base and two out in a 3-3 game, Akinori Iwamura hit a dribbling grounder up the middle. Utley ranged wide to his right to field the ball, but quickly realized he had no play on Iwamura at first.
"I didn't think I'd have a chance to get him at first base, to be honest with you," Utley said.
So Utley pump-faked to first, then ranged a few more steps behind the second-base bag before firing home. Waved home by third-base coach Tom Foley, Bartlett had rounded third, thinking the ball wouldn't be coming anywhere near the plate.
"I was just running hard, and 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."
Foley said that Bartlett always races hard to third base, and with two outs, it was a proper decision to wave him home, especially if Utley had opted to throw to first base with the left-handed Ryan Howard manning that position.
"He doesn't stop unless I say stop," Foley said. "He was coming around third, Utley made the backhand and started to make the throw to first. And I knew as he was already coming around the bag, so when he started to make the throw, I kept him going with two outs. And he didn't make the throw" to first base.
"Utley is a very smart player," Ruiz said. "Iwamura was quick and had good speed, so I knew he would keep that ball just in case. In that situation with a man on second, [Bartlett] is a very good runner, so I knew he'd go to home plate. He anticipated that play and that was good for him."
Utley had Bartlett in his sights and made a throw home to Ruiz, who grabbed the throw on a hop and dove back to his right to apply a sprawling tag on Bartlett, who was sliding headfirst into the plate. Umpire Jeff Kellogg made an emphatic call on a clear-cut play.
"We had a lot of time to get the out," Ruiz said. "I knew the throw was not a good throw, but we had time. I was trying to hold the ball. I knew [Bartlett] is big, so that was good for us. We got an out."
The out ended the inning and kept Tampa Bay from scoring the go-ahead run. Pedro Feliz came through with an RBI single in the home half of the seventh inning to provide the eventual margin of victory.
"It was huge. It was big. It kept them from scoring," said Utley, whose sentence was cut short by a double-barreled assault of champagne.
There was no champagne over in the Rays' locker room, but if they were going to go down, they were going to do it their way. And with no regrets.
"It was aggressive," Foley said. "The throw was off line, it was weak. He threw it off balance once he saw Bartlett going. We tried to steal a run there. It didn't work out. But that's the way we were all year."