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10/26/08 4:23 AM ET

With walk-off thriller, Phils grab 2-1 lead

Ruiz's dribbler plates winning run in ninth inning of Game 3

PHILADELPHIA -- When the rain stopped and the night sky cleared, the Phillies produced World Series thunder.

The pot of gold at the end of this October rainbow sits two wins away for the Phillies, after an emotional, 5-4 walk-off win over the Rays in Game 3. The early Sunday morning triumph secured a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Fall Classic.

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No one was tired after a game that ended at 1:47 a.m. ET, or even realized what time it was.

"At one point, there was that one song, 'After Midnight,'" Ryan Howard said at 2:30 a.m. in an emptying Phillies clubhouse. "That was the first time I thought about the time. I thought, it must be after midnight, but my body didn't feel like it was that late."

The Phillies didn't look tired jumping around the infield after one of the more amazing finishes to a World Series game -- a bases-loaded, ninth-inning dribbler off the bat of Carlos Ruiz that traveled 30 feet down the third-base line to end the soggy night. It scored Eric Bruntlett -- whose journey to third is a hustling tale in itself -- for a win in the team's first World Series game in Philadelphia since 1993. It was the first walk-off infield single in World Series history.

"It came down to the last pitch," Howard said. "This is the kind of World Series you dream of being in. It's nerve-racking, but to come out with a victory like that, it's great."

Riding homers from Ruiz, Chase Utley and Howard, and the still effective left arm of Jamie Moyer -- a man one month shy of his 46th birthday -- the Phillies still needed late-game flair from Ruiz to take the pivotal Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park.

After the Rays tied the score in the eighth when B.J. Upton created havoc for the Phillies on the basepaths, Bruntlett was hit with a J.P. Howell pitch. He felt no pain, and went on to make his own noise on the bases. With Shane Victorino trying to sacrifice, Grant Balfour unleashed a wild pitch, but it bounced right back to catcher Dioner Navarro.

Bruntlett broke for second, then had an "uh-oh" moment when he saw Navarro about to release.

"There was a moment where I felt like I was running in quicksand," Bruntlett said. "The ball bouncing back to him could've been a bad break."

It turned out to be a good break, when Navarro compounded the problem with a throw that wound up in center field, sending Bruntlett to third. That forced the Rays to intentionally walk Victorino and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to set up a force at the plate.

The Rays also went with five infielders, bringing in right fielder Ben Zobrist to play directly behind second base.

"It looked like they were about to blitz," Howard said.

Instead, the Phillies did. Ruiz dribbled a ball to third baseman Evan Longoria, who fielded the ball barehanded and threw wildly past Navarro, allowing Bruntlett to score on the first walk-off infield single in World Series history.

The Phillies became the eighth team since 1969 to win Game 3 at home to take a 2-1 advantage in the World Series -- and six of those first seven went on to win the Series. Teams that have gone up 2-1 have gone on to win the World Series 22 of 29 times in the divisional era.
YearWon G3Opp.Result
1969MetsOriolesMets in 5
1974AthleticsDodgersAthletics in 5
1975RedsRed SoxReds in 7
1984TigersPadresTigers in 5
1992Blue JaysBravesBlue Jays in 6
2001YankeesD-backsD-backs in 7
2006CardinalsTigersCardinals in 5
"We had a lot of good fortune that inning," Bruntlett said. "It's one of those deals where it feels like it's in slow motion. I feel like I should be moving faster, but can't. You want to get there so quickly. It feels like a long 90 feet."

The city's first World Series game in 15 years began the same way as Game 3 in 1993, with a rain delay. This one lasted 91 minutes, and kept 45,900 fans soggy until the 10:06 p.m. ET first pitch, the latest start to a World Series game in history.

Players in the clubhouse kept busy with crossword puzzles, Sudoku and idle chatter. The television was tuned to Penn State's 13-6 win over Ohio State. Others joked about how the late hour might affect Moyer.

"There were some jokes going around before the game that the van to the senior home was going to be leaving soon, and he wasn't going to have to leave," Bruntlett said.

Moyer would later lull the Rays to sleep.

The towel-waving faithful on this night that turned into morning didn't mind the delay, given the result. They cheered when the grounds crew peeled back the tarp at 9:18. They roared at 10:04, when Pat Burrell, the longest-tenured Phillie, led his team onto the field.

Two minutes later, Moyer, the 45-year-old kid who once skipped school to attend the parade for the 1980 World Series championship team threw the first Fall Classic pitch of his 22-year career -- an 81-mph fastball for a called strike.

He would throw plenty more, and kept an aggressive Rays team thoroughly off-balance. The second-oldest pitcher ever to start a World Series game, Moyer allowed three runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Moyer quickly ranked the rank this night among his career highlights.

"It's the top," he said.

It was from before he even threw that first pitch. He felt it when he walked from the dugout to the bullpen to begin his warmups.

"It was uplifting to walk across the field, through the puddles and hear the excitement of the fans," Moyer said. "I try not to get caught up in it, but I hear it. When they announced the lineups, the first pitch of the game, the first couple innings you really felt like the stadium was on end. It was really electric in our ballpark tonight. That's very big for us."

The Phillies' offense began its first home World Series game since Oct. 21, 1993, with a Jimmy Rollins single up the middle, snapping his 0-for-10 Fall Classic performance. Jayson Werth followed with a walk, then a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, and Rollins scored the first run on Utley's groundout.

Citizens Bank Park, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
Rays starter: RHP Andy Sonnanstine
2008: 13-9, 4.38 ERA
2008 on road: 6-5, 4.35 ERA
2008 vs. Phillies: Did not face
Career vs. Phillies: Has not faced
2008 postseason: 2-0, 3.46 ERA
Career postseason: 2-0, 3.46 ERA
Phillies starter: RHP Joe Blanton
2008: 9-12, 4.69 ERA
2008 at home: 4-9, 4.31 ERA
2008 vs. Rays: 0-0, 6.00 ERA
Career vs. Rays: 2-3, 6.05 ERA (eight starts)
2008 postseason: 1-0, 3.27 ERA
Career postseason: 1-0, 2.77 ERA
Phillies lead series, 2-1. Eleven of the last 13 teams to hold a 2-1 lead have won the Series.
Game 1: Game 1: Phillies 3, Rays 2
Game 2: Game 2: Rays 4, Phillies 2
Game 3: Game 3: Phillies 5, Rays 4
Did you know? The last time the Phillies were up 2-1 in the World Series was in 1980, the only time they have won the title.
Tampa Bay evened things in the second, when Carl Crawford deposited a bloop double to left, stole third and scored on Gabe Gross' sacrifice fly. Ruiz gave the lead back to the Phils with a two-out solo homer in the second.

No one scored again until the sixth, when Utley and Howard smacked back-to-back homers, the 14th time that's happened in World Series history and the first in the Phillies' Fall Classic history.

Tampa Bay didn't go away, beginning with Crawford's infield single in the seventh. He nubbed a ball toward Moyer, who lunged and shoveled the ball from his glove to Howard's bare left hand. Though television replays showed Crawford was out, first-base umpire Tom Hallion called him safe.

"Ninja-esque," Howard said. "You know what, I was impressed. The way that Jamie got off the mound, that was a beautiful thing. Jamie made [an extraordinary] effort to get over there and get the flip. I thought we had him, but the umpire thought otherwise."

A Navarro double ended Moyer's night, and the Rays plated both runners on RBI groundouts. They tied the game in the eighth, when B.J. Upton singled off Ryan Madson, stole second and then third and scored when Ruiz's throw to third bounced away from Pedro Feliz.

Ruiz made up for that in the ninth, and the Phillies took Game 3 and return in less than 24 hours with the hope of taking full control of the Series.

According to Chris Coste, Ruiz jokingly predicted it all along. He told his teammate earlier that he was going to be the "Carta Vieja player of the game," after Ruiz's favorite brand of rum.

"Five minutes before the game started, he whispered that to me," Coste said. "Carta Vieja is the national rum of Panama. He says that every now and then. If I had access to it, I'd get him some. He deserves it."

The Phillies can all toast Ruiz, and pay no attention to the hour.

"I don't think anybody realized what time it was unless you actually looked at the clock," Coste said. "I remember looking up at 1:30 and though, 'There's no way.' I felt like it was 7 'o clock at night."

"Maybe I'll feel it when I get home," Howard said without the hint of a yawn. "But everyone feels pretty good now."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.