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The Oddest Game 3, Which May be an Edge

From Thomas Boswell:

PHILADELPHIA -- In the last 34 World Series, I've seen some bizarre games, including a 15-14 nervous breakdown the last time the Phillies brought their particular brand of a.m. insanity to this stage 15 years ago. There have been back-to-back, sudden-death home runs in wee hours from Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius. There have been games so crazy that umps should have worn straight jackets. One even had a Derek Jeter home run sail out just after the scoreboard clock ticked into November. Three years ago, Geoff Blum of the White Sox hit a 14th-inning home run in a game so long, 5:41, that I swore it ended the day after tomorrow.

But Saturday night's 5-4 Phils victory over the Rays in Game 3 -- a deliciously perverse little monstrosity, which began after a 91-minute ran delay, then took three hours and 41 minutes before ending at 1:47 a.m. on an accidental game-winning dribbler up the third base line by obscure Carlos Ruiz -- yes, this thing may take the prize. Not best, by a long shot, nor most intricate. Just truly weird. Which may, in its way, give the Phillies' two-games-to-one lead more weight.

On the surface, you could boil Game 3 down fairly simply. The central Phils hero was Jamie Moyer, 45, who's waited all his life to set foot in the World Series. He held a 4-1 lead entering the seventh inning, thanks to three solo homers, first from Ruiz, then back-to-back jacks by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to start the sixth off Matt Garza.

"I don't know what I thought the World Series would be like," said Moyer. "It exceeded every expectation or thought or dream that I ever had."

Moyer's crisp performance, allowing only two scratch hits through five innings, now gives the Phils a solid match-up against Garza in Tampa Bay if there is a Game 6. And Moyer, deemed a weak link after two bad October starts, suddenly looks fully fixed.

The Rays fought back with fluky but gritty rallies. In the seventh, they scored two runs charged to Moyer on a rally that started when leadoff man Carl Crawford beat out a drag bunt even though Moyer -- on slow motion replay -- actually made the most athletic horizontal dive-scoop-and-glove-flip all-in-one-motion play in the history of 45-year-old pitchers. Then, in the eighth, the Rays tied the game when B.J. Upton beat out a grounder to short, stole second base, stole third base on the next pitch and scored when Ruiz throw in the dirt to third bounced to the box seats.

Yes, quite the night for Ruiz. Home run: hero. Wild throw: back to goat. Accidental squib: game winner.

"When Carlos hit that ball," said Moyer, "I went from my seat to the ceiling."

"It's a funny game, ain't it," said Phils manager Charlie Manuel.

It is when you're on the right side of it.

If the Rays runs that tied this game, stealing a win from Moyer, were goofy, then they couldn't touch the zaniness of how the Phils actually won. In the ninth, leadoff man Eric Brunlett was hit by a pitch by J.P. Howell. Relief fireballer Grant Balfour then unleashed a wild pitch so violent that it ricocheted back to catcher Dioner Navarro in a blink with Brunlett barley halfway to second base.

If the ball had just stayed back by the screen, the Rays might have survived. But Navarro, with the ball suddenly back in his hands perhaps a second after it had shot past him, felt obligated to hurl the ball to second base. A perfect throw might have gotten Bruntlett. The wild one Navarro unleashed fell into centerfield, putting the sudden death run on third with no outs.

Two intentional walks later, Ruiz's dribbler ended it. If third baseman Evan Longoria had simply let the ball roll, it might have gone foul. But probably not.

"He gets a chopper," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, shrugging. "You try to make your best guess (on picking it up or not). We made ours."

The baseball gremlins owe Longoria a couple of good breaks. He might easily have been the star of this game and the Rays the winners, except for the flag-snapping left-field-to-right-field wind that blew what looked like a certain two-run homer back into the park in the sixth inning.

"I threw it. He hit it. I thought, 'Oh, boy,'" said Moyer. "I've seen a lot of them land in the flower pots (in leftfield.)" Actually, without wind, Longoria's towering shot was probably in the fifth row.

Pat Burrell settled against the 334-foot sign for the catch, leaving Moyer to reflect peacefully.

"I felt like I got away with one," he said.

So do the Phils -- one whole game. The World Series often has a game so twisted, so capricious, so eminently winnable for either team that both clubs come to see it as an omen. It's the "extra" victory, the not-entirely-deserved win that makes you believe in your destiny. The 105-win Cardinals of '04 could never get over their bad memories of an 11-9 loss in Boston in Game 1 and folded their tent.

The Rays will truly be tested after this one. First, robbed by the wind of a two-run homer, then beaten by a dribbler. And the eventual winning run reaches third because they got a bounce on a wild pitch that was too good for their own good.

"A squib roller," said Manuel. "Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good."

Because sometimes it hits the losing team twice as hard.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 26, 2008; 3:41 AM ET
Categories:  Phillies , Rays  
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Next: Game 4 Lineups: On Hold

Comments

Is there a maximum number of hours for a rain delay? Like the last game in Nats Park. It seemed obvious all day that the rain wasn't going to let up in time to fit in the game.

I was just curious as to the conditions that cause them to Delay vs. Postpone vs. Cancel a game.

Posted by: CALSGR8 | October 26, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Hi, CAL SGR8, here's what someone wrote in the Rainout article of Wikipedia:

Before a baseball game commences, unless it is the second game of a doubleheader, the manager of the home team is in charge of deciding whether or not the game should be delayed or canceled due to rain or other inclement weather (see Rule 3.10 of baseball's Official Rules). Once the home team manager hands his lineup card to the umpire shortly before the game is to begin, the umpire-in-chief has sole discretion to decide if a game should be delayed or canceled (see Rule 3.10 and Rule 4.01 of the Official Rules). This also applies to the second game of a doubleheader. Umpires are required by rule to wait at least 30 minutes to see if conditions improve; this is referred to as a rain delay and is not counted as part of the length of the game listed in the box score. In practice, umpires are encouraged to see that games are played if at all possible, and will sometimes wait as long as three hours before declaring a rainout.

Posted by: cmckeonjr | October 26, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I read somewhere that for the WS the rain delay determination would be made by the commish. I also recall reading that for the Nats' last game the determination was not up to them because it was the last game of a series.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 26, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 26, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Here's a relevant excerpt from a NY Times piece on rainout policy during the final series a pair of teams is playing for the year:

Rainouts Saturate Weekend With Doubleheaders

By JOSHUA ROBINSON
Published: September 13, 2008

...

And as fans took rain checks, several pennant races did, too, setting the stage for a furious weekend of doubleheaders across the major leagues.

In the National League East, the rainout meant that the Mets' three-game lead stayed safe for at least one more night as their matchup against Atlanta was moved to Saturday evening and the Phillies' home game against the wild-card-chasing Milwaukee Brewers was postponed.

The decisions to postpone games were not made by the home teams. At this stage of the season, when teams are playing their final series against each other in a particular stadium, the prerogative belongs to the umpiring crew. The Mets and Braves will now play a straight doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 3:55 p.m. The Phillies and Brewers will play a day-night doubleheader on Sunday.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 26, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I got to the ballpark at 6:00 PM last night. Didn't get out until about 2:15 AM. That's a loooooooong night, but well worth it!

Posted by: DontWannaMyPostID | October 26, 2008 9:56 PM | Report abuse

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