10/26/08 4:43 AM ET
Now, the forecast calls for epic Series
Rain forces Game 3 deep into the night, but everyone is riveted
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
"Remarkable day," Selig told MLB.com. "It was a great baseball game. Both teams wanted to play, and now I know why. Remarkable day."
Remarkable day and remarkable World Series.
You're probably starting to realize that for yourself.
Forget that it wasn't the Cubbies' year, the Red Sox aren't repeating, the Dodgers couldn't get Manny back to Fenway, New York missed a rare October, the team with the best record (the Angels) couldn't add to Francisco Rodriguez's big 2008 save numbers, etc. We're watching some really remarkable Phillies-Rays action.
Three games decided by four total runs. In Game 1, Chase Utley homered in his first World Series at-bat, and Cole Hamels was masterful in a 3-2 victory. In Game 2, the Rays held on for a 4-2, franchise-first World Series victory when rookie David Price retired the potential tying run in National League Most Valuable Player candidate Ryan Howard. Then there was Game 3, and what can you say about that?
It might go down as one of the most entertaining World Series in long time, if not the most entertaining at least in this decade. Only three of a potential seven games have been played, but so far it feels like a true classic.
Jamie Moyer, 45, who finally made his World Series debut with a quality start in Game 3, was sitting next to reliever Scott Eyre in the Phillies' clubhouse and watching the finish on TV when Carlos Ruiz pounded the ball into the moist grass. Third baseman Evan Longoria's all-in-one-motion underhand flip home was too high and couldn't prevent Eric Bruntlett from scoring the winner. Moyer felt like he had just been part of a baseball keeper.
It was partly because it was the latest start of any World Series game, but also because it was packed with so many key plays and situations, riveting fans who weathered a rain delay that took seemingly forever. Moyer was asked if he feels like this may be shaping up as a World Series for the ages, in collective entertainment value.
"I hope it is," Moyer said. "All three games have been good baseball games. Anybody who enjoys watching baseball, I would think they would like to watch games like these. I don't know if our society today is watching it that way. They like home runs that end games. But I would think real baseball fans would enjoy three great games so far."
The next matchup is at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, competing with The Who in concert right next door at Wachovia Center, and it will be right-handers Andy Sonnanstine vs. Joe Blanton for Game 4.
Skies are expected to be clear for the game, with temperatures in the 50s. Monday's Game 5 here should be about 10 degrees colder. That might not matter to Phillies fans if the fates stay with them, because that could be the night that the city of Philadelphia celebrates its first major sports championship since the 1983 76ers of the NBA. The last and only Phillies world championship was in 1980.
Then again, expecting the Phillies to win three straight at home in this World Series is a reach based on what everyone has seen so far. It has all the makings of a seven-game thriller, one that becomes compared with past classics such as 2001 (Diamondbacks over Yankees) or 1991 (Twins over Braves) or 1975 (Reds over Red Sox).
Blasphemy, you may say. Way too early. Perhaps. But this is shaping up as a great, great World Series. The cowbell-crazy, Rayhawk-wearing fans in Florida and the towel-waving, rain-soaked fans in Philadelphia will concur. The rest of baseball fandom is taking it in one game at a time and being treated to nonstop drama.
"It came down to the last pitch," Howard said after Game 3. "This is the kind of World Series you dream of being in. It's a little nerve-racking, but to come out with a victory like that, it's great."
Howard finally did something a lot of people have been waiting for him to do. He went yard. It was one of three solo homers hit by Phillies, and for much of the contest, it looked like the "solo" part was going to come back to bite them. But there he was at his locker about 2:40 a.m., finally ready to leave, joking with reporters about the whole clock thing.
"It was an exciting game to be a part of," he said. "I don't think anyone was tired, time-wise. I didn't even think about what time it was."
When did he know what time it was?
"They played that one [Eric Clapton] song that started, 'After Midnight,' and that was the first time I looked at the clock," he said, referring to the 15-by-15-foot square clock beyond the 387-foot sign in left-center. "I said, 'Oh, it must be after midnight.'"
And that was early in the game.
"Everyone was wanting to play," Bruntlett said, "and it certainly was worth the wait."
You can say that about the World Series in general.
We waited all winter for pitchers and catchers to report to Spring Training. We watched Blanton pitch in the season's very first game at Japan, for Oakland, and we watched a full slate of 162 regular-season games and then had to wait for a White Sox-Tigers makeup and then finally a White Sox-Twins one-game tiebreaker. That set the postseason field of eight, and then we waited until another World Series matchup was decided.
Now here we are, three games into the 104th edition of the greatest sporting event in the world, and the games are last-inning thrillers with even a sighting of five infielders for the last play that was recorded. You had homers, you had the ageless veteran (Moyer) vs. the kid (Matt Garza), you had Tim McGraw bringing the ball out for the first pitch in the same city where his father, the late and great Tug, pitched the last out of the only World Series championship here.
You had B.J. Upton becoming the first American Leaguer ever to steal three bases in a World Series game. You had Ruiz hitting a mammoth home run early, and then answering his own costly throwing error late in the game with the little trickler that finally sent a big crowd home happy. You have a 2-1 series lead for the Phillies and the certainty that it has been a highly competitive and entertaining series to date.
"I'm really happy with our team," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I have to reiterate with all of my love that we take chances. I love that they're not afraid to make mistakes. That's why we're going to win. The moment you start becoming afraid of making mistakes, you're definitely setting yourself up for the loss."
"So far, it's been good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I'd say, what, we're 2-1 and actually we could have been 3-0 or basically Tampa could have been 3-0. The games have been close, and there's been chances for both teams to win all the games. So far it's been an outstanding series. We've made mistakes mentally and physically, but at the same time I think our pitching has been very good in the series, and it's been good the whole series, so really, look, we've got to come out and win tomorrow and like we're trying to win the series."
Remarkable day and night.
Remarkable World Series.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.