Three Thrilling Innings

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Manuel holds the World Series trophy in the victorious Philadelphia Phillies locker room at Citizens Bank Park

 

Unable to get into Citizen’s Bank Park at anything close to resembling a reasonable price, my wife, Debbie Veasey, and I ultimately decided to hunker down in the comfort and warmth of our family room to watch the conclusion of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.

The 52-inch TV, our dog Petey, our home cabinets and refrigerators with drinks and treats, my cellphone to text friends and family during the game, and our new video camera would be our companions through the night.

Nowhere else that I would rather be, or anyone else that I would rather have been with, than Deb. She is a huge Phillies fan in her own right, and we enjoy watching games on TV and attending them together in person all spring and summer.

Pre-game we decided to head out to a local Chinese buffet where we talked some about what we thought would happen when the game re-started. With Game 5 having been suspended after 5 1/2 innings by incredibly torrid rain and cold on Monday night, the first time in history that an MLB post-season game was ever suspended, some unusual situations were set.

The Phillies original starting pitcher, Cole Hamels, was scheduled to be leading off the bottom of the 6th inning. But since he would not be available to pitch on such short rest (two days of the delay), Hamels would certainly be replaced with a pinch-hitter.

Local radio sports talk hosts had speculated that the Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would go with either pinch-hit king Greg Dobbs or slugging Matt Stairs. But I told Deb that I felt the choice would and should be Geoff Jenkins.

It was silly to use Dobbs that early, you might need his clutch bat at the end. And Stairs is a one-trick pony whose big bat you simply had to preserve, just in case you needed that one trick, a home run, at some late stage.

This situation called for someone left-handed, since the Rays would have a righty on the mound. Jenkins was the only one left, and was the obvious choice to me.

Apparently it was the right choice by Manuel as well. Jenkins it was to lead it off, and he drove a 3-2 pitch to deep right-center field for a double. A sacrifice bunt by Jimmy Rollins and a humpback single to center by Jayson Werth made it 3-2 Phillies right off the bat.

But that was only the beginning, as this suspended three innings of play would pack in as much drama as most full games.

In the top of the 7th, the Rays tied it on a solo home run from Rocco Baldelli off Ryan Madson. Later in the inning it would be up to second baseman Chase Utley to provide the heroics with his glove, arm, and head.

With two outs and Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett on second base, Akinori Iwamura sent a ball bouncing up the middle. Utley ranged nicely to his right and behind the bag, fielded the ball cleanly in his glove, transferred the ball to his bare hand, and pivoted as if to throw to first base.

As Utley likely knew, there would be no chance to get the speedy Iwamura on this play. But he made it seem as if he was going with the throw, fooling Bartlett, who never stopped in rounding third and heading for home with the potential go-ahead run.

Instead of actually throwing to first, Utley double-clutched, turned his body slightly, and fired a one-bounce strike to catcher Carlos Ruiz just slightly up the third base line. Ruiz took the throw and dove out after Bartlett, who was himself diving around the tag attempt in trying to get to home plate.

Ruiz stretched out and nailed Bartlett three feet short of the plate, and the Phillies were out of the inning still tied. Utley’s heady play will go down in history as one of the greatest, if not the single greatest, defensive plays in the history of Philadelphia sports. And a nice assist to Ruiz on the other end as well.

In the bottom of the 7th, the longest tenured Phillies player, left fielder Pat Burrell, would lead things off. Burrell was the only Phillies player to not get much involved thus far in the Series as he was hitless to that point. This could also well be the final at-bat in his career with the club since he is a free agent this coming off-season.

Almost every Phillies fan that I heard talking in the time leading up to the game was rooting for Burrell to do something special, and Pat didn’t let us down. He got a hold of a fastball and drove it deep to center field, the farthest part of the park, for what looked like it was going to be a dramatic go-ahead home run.

Instead, the ball crashed high off the center field fence in the deepest park of Citizens Bank Park, missing that homer by just a couple of feet. As the ball bounced back to the turf, Burrell rolled into second base, and the Phillies had led-off their second straight inning with a double.

Eric Bruntlett came in to pinch-run for Burrell, who left to a tremendous ovation, and Bruntlett quickly moved over to third base on Shane Victorino’s bouncing ground out.

Up to the plate stepped third baseman Pedro Feliz, who delivered the biggest hit of his career with a line-drive single right back through the box, scoring Bruntlett and putting the Phils back on top by 4-3 heading into the 8th.

Again in the top of the 8th, the Rays kept coming. With a runner on first, Phils reliever J.C. Romero induced young Rays star B.J. Upton to ground a ball right to Rollins at shortstop who flipped it over to Utley at second for the force out. In the same motion, Utley pivoted to turn the double play as the runner barreled down on him to break it up. The Phils all-star hung in under fire and made a strong throw, nailing the speedy Upton by a step to complete the twin killing.

The Phillies were held off the board in their half of the 8th, and so the game went into the top of the 9th with the team just three outs away from just the second World Series title in their 125-year history.

Manuel gave the ball to closer Brad Lidge, who had become known as ‘Lights-Out’ by not blowing a Save opportunity all year. Lidge got the first batter, but then gave up a hit and a stolen base to put the Rays tying run at second with one out.

Nothing ever comes easy in Philadelphia. The next batter sliced a ball to the opposite field that looked off the bat as if it could be a game-tying single. But the rocket hung in the air and went directly at right fielder Jayson Werth for out number two.

Rays skipper Joe Maddon then sent up slugger Eric Hinske top pinch-hit. Hinske, a big lefty bat to go up against the right-handed Lidge, had homered in his lone at-bat of the series back in Game 4.

Lidge quickly got ahead, and as the center field clock at Citizen’s Bank Park reached exactly 10:00 pm, the Phillies closer fired a slider that dove down under Hinske’s swinging bat and into the glove of catcher Ruiz for a series-ending strikeout.

As Ruiz charged the mound in celebration, Lidge dropped to his knees and looked prayerfully skyward. The catcher grabbed the closer in a bear hug, and the two were immediately tackled to the ground by big first baseman Ryan Howard.

The rest of the team was in hot pursuit, and the pile-on crushed those three as the rest of the players joined in the celebration.

The Phillies fans in the stands waved their ‘Rally Towels’ with glee, jumped up and down, hugged one another, roared, cried, and generally exploded with joy at the city’s first professional sports championship in a quarter century.

Back at home, Deb and I had been videotaping our evening and the game as it progressed, and we were jumping around our living room with that same joyfulness. Deb grabbed a pot and big spoon, and ran out front to clang them in celebration with some neighbors.

We watched the post-game shows both on Fox and local Comcast Sportsnet, as well as all the local news angles. The street celebrations quickly grew, and Deb and I decided to get dressed and head out.

We drove around in Northeast Philly hot spots, honking our horns and cheering out the windows with other drivers and pedestrians, and even stopped at a local sporting goods store at 1:00 am to buy some Phillies world championship shirts.

The three innings which began with Jenkins’ double, that included Werth’s RBI blooper, Burrell’s heroic double, Feliz‘ winning RBI single, Utley’s defensive brilliance, the Rays’ persistence, and finally closed with Lidge’s strikeout, were three of the most unusual but greatest innings in World Series history.

And then, those three dramatic innings ended with the Philadelphia Phillies, as their legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas called it on radio, “2008 world champions of baseball!”

It just does not get any better than this for a baseball fan. Ever. As Deb said, thank you Tug McGraw in Heaven! And let me add to her sentiments both John Vukovich and John Marzano, who were surely watching over and rooting us on from above along with the Tugger.

And thank you, sweet Jesus! Thank you, God in Heaven! And last but not least, thank you to the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies, from World Series MVP Cole Hamels, to all the players and coaches, up to the top of ownership, and down to the lowest employees on the organizational ladder.

Today, you are all my heroes. No one who was around to enjoy them will ever forget those three thrilling innings, or this magnificent championship ball club. Thank you!

The Whiz Kids

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Dick Sisler is mobbed by his Whiz Kids teammates after the 10th inning home run that won the 1950 NL pennant

 

The team that we now lovingly know as the Philadelphia Phillies was born way back in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers. During that first season they also became referred to as the ‘Philadelphians’, which was frequently shortened to ‘Phillies‘, and so the club thus has the distinction of being the oldest, continuous, one nickname, one city franchise in all of pro sports.

In 1887 they began to play regularly at ‘The Philadelphia Baseball Grounds’, which became ‘National League Park’ in 1895, and finally became known as the ‘Baker Bowl’ in 1914. After playing there for over a half century, the Phillies moved to ‘Shibe Park’ in 1937, which they shared with it’s original tenants, the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics. (The ballpark was renamed ‘Connie Mack Stadium’ in 1953 after the legendary A’s owner/manager.)

With the notable exception of the 1915 World Series season, the Phillies were mostly losers on the field during that first half-century. But new ownership during the 1940’s began to put increased emphasis on the farm system, developing strong players who finally jelled in the 1950 season.

Two of those players went on to become long-term Phillies legends and Baseball Hall of Famers. Center fielder Richie Ashburn was a Kansas farm boy who could run like the wind. One of the great Negro Leaguers of the time famously called Ashburn ‘the fastest white man in the game.’

Robin Roberts was a bulldog of a starting pitcher who by the end of the century was recognized as one of the top 75 greatest players in the history of the game by The Sporting News.

Together, Ashburn and Roberts helped fuel a young, exciting Phillies team that gradually rose into contention, and which because of their youth were handed the nickname of ‘The Whiz Kids’.

By the final week of the season the young Phillies were battling the far more veteran Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League pennant. Roberts started three times for the Phillies that week, including the season finale showdown on the final day at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn.

The two clubs battled into the bottom of the 9th inning, where a base hit saw Cal Abrams head for home as the Dodgers potential winning run before a perfect throw from center field by Ashburn nailed him to preserve the tie and send the game to extra innings.

In the top of the 10th with two men on Dick Sisler stepped up to the plate. The son of Baseball Hall of Famer George Sisler delivered the biggest hit in Phillies history to that point, driving a three-run opposite-field home run to put the Phillies out in front.

Roberts set the Dodgers down in the order in the bottom of that 10th inning, and the Philadelphia Phillies had won their first NL pennant in 35 years.

In the World Series the club that everyone was by now calling ‘The Whiz Kids’ would take on the powerful New York Yankees.

For Game 1 at Shibe Park, manager Eddie Sawyer was unable to call on his ace Roberts because of that pennant-stretch work load. So, Sawyer tapped reliever Jim Konstanty, who would be named the Most Valuable Player in the National League that season, for the assignment. Many felt that the game was a mismatch in favor of Yankees 21-game winner Vic Raschi.

Konstanty, normally a relief pitcher, surprised most everyone by nearly matching Raschi pitch-for-pitch. But the Yankees scored a 4th inning run that held up for a 1-0 victory in the opener.

For Game 2 in North Philly, Roberts was back on the hill facing Yankees ace Allie Reynolds, and it resulted in yet another pitcher’s duel. New York again took the lead with a 2nd inning run, but Ashburn’s RBI tied it up in the bottom of the 5th, and the two teams battled into extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, future Hall of Fame legend Joe DiMaggio stepped to the plate and blasted a solo home run to left field. It would stand up as the winning run in a 2-1 Yankees victory.

Down 2-0 after a pair of dispiriting one-run losses on their home turf, the Phils moved on to Yankee Stadium where a third consecutive pitchers duel took place.

Phillies left-hander Ken Heintzelman carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning, but he finally tired, got wild, and loaded the bases. Konstanty relieved to try and preserve the lead. Unfortunately, the usually sure-handed Granny Hamner bobbled a ground ball that allowed the tying run to score.

That tie moved into the bottom of the 9th where Russ Meyer came on to pitch for the Phillies and retired the first two batters, and the Series appeared headed for its second straight extra inning tilt. But Meyer then allowed three consecutive singles, the final one to Joe Coleman knocking in the game-winning run.

That 3-2 victory had the Yanks up by three games to none, all three victories in tense affairs taken by just a single run each. Now they looked to clinch their franchise’ 13th World Series title in front of the home fans in Game 5.

Yogi Berra‘s 1st inning homer and a 3-run 5th inning rally put the Yanks up 5-0, and they coasted into the 9th inning with that same big lead. After recording the first two outs, the home team was apparently ready to end it easily.

The Phillies decided to put up one last fight, however. They put two men on base and then, with two outs, Andy Seminick hit an easy fly ball for what looked like it would be the final out. Yankees left fielder Gene Woodling settled under it, the ball came down into his glove…and popped out, falling to the ground as two runs scored.

Suddenly the Phillies were down 5-2, and when the next batter got a hit they were improbably, perhaps miraculously bringing the tying run to the plate.

Alas, there would be no miracle. Reynolds came on in relief and struck out pinch-hitter Stan Lopata. The Yankees celebrated their title as the home crowd went wild. The Phillies walked off the field having fought a great dynasty to a near draw, yet still having been swept.

The Phillies were young and talented, and it seemed as if they had a bright future together as contenders. Even that was not to be as the team slowly faded back into mediocrity over the next few years.

But for one glorious summer in Philadelphia, a young, talented, lovable group of ballplayers excited the town and battled the dynastic Yankees in the World Series.

It would be years before many of those ‘Whiz Kids’ would ever again have to pick up a dinner check in the the city of Philadelphia, and they are still remembered fondly more than a half-century later.

The Philadelphia championship dream delayed, or drowned?

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Pedro Feliz and Jimmy Rollins try to battle the Rays and in elements on a rain-soaked infield

 

It all started so well.

Game 5 of the World Series began last night with Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels mowing the Tampa Bay Rays down in order and in easy fashion in the top of the first.

In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies loaded the bases thanks to some rough umpiring and the early wildness of Rays all-star lefty Scott Kazmir. And then Philliescenter fielder Shane Victorino, the ‘Flyin‘ Hawaiian’, one of the many heroes of this glorious post-season ride, lashed a base hit to left field to score two runs and give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead.

The fans at Citizen’s Bank Park erupted in a frenzy of ‘rally towel’ waving, and thus began what was hoped to be, what everyone believed would be, the night that would end ‘The Curse’. For 25 years the vast majority of the people in this sports-crazed region have waited for a champion.

In that quarter-century of teams falling short, the inability of Philly’s major pro sports teams to bring home even one title among them has taken on the stuff of legend. It is to the point now where everyone refers to ‘100 seasons’ without a championship, referring to the fact that all among the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and 76ers have each played out those 25 years without a title.

So, here in the City of Brotherly Love we have been forced to sit through a hundred titleless pro sports seasons among our hometown professional sports teams. But something has been building with these Phillies that felt different. Events of this past weekend only served to solidify that feeling.

On Saturday night, the Phils had overcome a daylong rain that delayed the game, winning in dramatic fashion in the wee hours of Sunday morning to take a 2-1 Series lead.

On Sunday, the sun had broken through and on a chilly night the Phillies bats awoke and delivered a 10-2 drubbing to the overmatched Rays to setup this potential clincher.

The possibility of rain lurked all day on Monday, but there was a very real possibility of getting the game in under chilly and drizzly conditions, and with a true nor’easter coming through on Tuesday, the powers that be at Major League Baseball decided to try to get it done.

Back in the game, Hamels continued to breeze as the rain began through the early innings. The Phillies took that 2-0 lead into the 4th inning as the rains intensified and the field slowly began to deteriorate.

When the Rays’ wunderkind rookie third baseman Evan Longoria finally broke out of a series-long slump with an RBI single in the 4th, Tampa Bay had cut it to 2-1, but Hamels still seemed in control.

Only the weather was now becoming a serious problem. The skies began to open up and dump out a deluge of water, and without some break coming quickly the nightmare scenario of the World Series ending under the literal and figurative cloud of a shortened game was becoming a serious possibility.

When Hamels got out of the top of the 5th thanks to an incredible double play turned by Chase Utley, the game was official based on MLB rules, and the storm was only getting more intense.

At home in the warm, dry comfort of our family room, my wife and I flipped to a local cable 24-hour weather service. The radar was not telling a pretty tale. The dark green of the heavy rainstorm showed no relief in sight.

It was very apparent at that point that this game could not possibly continue much longer no matter what MLB officials wanted, no matter what the players wanted, no matter what the 46,000 championship-starved fans wanted.

The field at Citizen’s Bank Park is state of the art as far as handling any kind of normal rain load, but this was nothing of the sort. The turf and dirt were taking a real pounding with puddles forming as the ultra-modern drainage system and a determined grounds crew were simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume and persistence of the water that Mother Nature was pouring down.

Was there a chance that the umpires would be forced to stop the game, that the tarp would be brought out and the infield covered, and a lengthy rain delay ensue?

Problem with that scenario was that the weather forecasts now contained no good news. You could wait two, four, six hours. You could wait all night, this thing was not going to let up.

Was it possible that the Phillies could become the first team to ever win a World Series title in a game called by rain? I don’t care how long we have waited, there was not a single fan in that ballpark, in this entire area, who wanted to win under those conditions.

Well, the point became moot. The umps decided to try to squeeze out one more frame. In the top of the 6th inning, Rays slugger Carlos Pena came through with a game-tying single before Hamels could close things out. With the score now knotted at 2-2, there was simply no other choice than to suspend the contest.

And so here we sit in Philadelphia as the Tuesday nor’easter rages all around us. The storm is scheduled to last all day, meaning that the field is going to have no chance to dry out even if the rains stop by the scheduled 8:00 pm game time, which is itself no guarantee.

The weather around here was gorgeous just days ago. At the end of this week, it is slated to be beautiful again, giving the kiddies a nice Halloween evening on which to trick-or-treat. But right now when we need it most, the late fall weather is making the game of baseball embarrassingly, ridiculously unplayable.

How this will all end now is a great unknown. What seemed like an inevitable championship just one day ago now seems much riskier. Whenever the Phillies and Rays will start again, with the game entering the bottom of the 6th inning tied at 2-2, a shortened risk/opportunity of three innings.

Will Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel give the ball to Brett Myers? Will they put it in the hands of their lights-out bullpen? Have the Rays hitters awoken just in time to steal a shortened game and send the Series back to Tampa-St. Pete? All great unknowns.

I can tell you this. Right now it doesn’t feel good. It feels like something happened last night that was not in the players power to control, something which may have turned the momentum towards the Rays.

Thanks to this incredible deluge from the heavens, our championship dream has been drowned. It is up to these so-far resilient Phillies players to find a way to overcome this latest obstacle, and bring home that elusive title.

Joe Blanton Night at the 2008 World Series

Blanton heads around the bases after blasting a home run in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series

 

When most big-league clubs send their number four starting pitcher to the mound, about the best they hope for is that the hurler keeps them in the game and gives the offense a chance to win.

Seldom do they expect a gem, and even more seldom do they either expect or receive any kind of offensive production from that hurler.

Going into the crucial Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, both the Phillies and the Rays decided to go with their fourth starters.

Rays skipper Joe Maddon sent out right-hander Andy Sonnanstine, who looked uncomfortable from the get-go. He was hurt by a bad umpire’s call that allowed the Phillies to take a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, and continued to struggle mightily before leaving early. Sonnanstine did not give the Rays much of a shot when they desperately needed one.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sent his fourth starter to the mound as well. But his hurler commanded the game, pitching strongly into the 7th inning. He struck out seven, walked just one, and allowed just five hits and two runs.

Oh, and after allowing a pinch-hit home run in the top of the 5th that cut his lead down to 5-2, that moundsman answered by pounding a homer of his own in the bottom of the inning, becoming the first pitcher to hit a home run in the Fall Classic in 35 years.

Welcome to ‘Joe Blanton Night’ at the World Series.

Way, way back in the final week of March, Blanton started the very first game of the 2008 Major League Baseball season for the Oakland A’s over in Tokyo, Japan.

In a different uniform a half a world away, Blanton may have just pitched what will prove to be the penultimate game of that same long season on the final full weekend of October.

Pat Gillick, on his last go-around as a general manager in a long and distinguished baseball career, pulled the trigger on a trade back in July that rescued Blanton from a struggling small-market Oakland club, plopping him down in the middle of a pennant race with the defending N.L. East champion Phillies.

Blanton immediately began to pay dividends by providing what the Phillies had a hard time finding an extra starter to do: pitch quality innings at the back end of the rotation and give the team a chance every time out.

The Phillies ended up going 5-0 in Blanton’s starts, which were rarely dominating but usually effective. In his final four starts, as the Phillies battled back to overtake the New York Mets and rallied for the second straight year to win the east, Blanton went 3-0 to play a pivotal role.

The big righty pitched 23 innings down the stretch, allowing just 19 hits and eight earned runs, lasting at least five innings in each start.

In short, Blanton did exactly what Gillick traded for him to do: he kept the Phils in games and gave them a chance to win.

Last night, in the biggest start of his 27-year-old life, on the biggest baseball stage that there is, in the hitters haven that is Citizen’s Bank Park, Joe Blanton starred in the game of his life.

From the outset he threw strikes, moved the ball all around the plate, and kept the Rays young hitters off-balance. And then for good measure in the bottom of the 5th he did what he later described as “swing as hard as you can in case you hit it.

Did he ever swing hard, and did he ever hit it, drilling a line drive no-doubt-about-it laser shot of a home run into the left field stands.

The Rays have also been unfortunate to find that postseason sleeping giant Ryan Howard has finally awoken, and just in time for the FightinPhils.

After smashing a home run in Game 3, ‘The Big Piece’ blasted two more moon shots last night. His first was a classic Howard opposite-field blast to left, a three-run bomb that gave Blanton some breathing room at 5-1.

Howard’s second blast was a monster drive to right, a two-runner that followed an earlier Jayson Werth two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning as the Phillies put the game out of reach and won 10-2.

The Phillies now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series, and will look to win just the second world championship in their 123-year history tonight in front of the home fans with ace Cole Hamels on the hill.

If they do so, it will largely be thanks to the efforts of their somewhat maligned third and fourth starters the past two nights. First came the Game 3 heroics of 45-year-old hometown boy Jamie Moyer. And then last night it was Joe Blanton Night at the World Series. Go Phils!

Praying for a World Series win

Ruiz chopper down the third base line scored Bruntlett with the winning run in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series

 

I don’t think it’s wrong at all, to ask God for a Phillies victory, do you? After all, the Phillies had blown a 4-1 lead in the crucial third game of the 2008 World Series, which was tied at a game apiece.

The young, talented, and resilient Tampa Bay Rays used a blown call by the first base umpire, their speed, and a throwing error by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz to push across three runs over the last couple of innings to get even.

Now in the bottom of the 9th, super sub Eric Bruntlett is hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning. Rays reliever Grant Balfour then unleashes a fastball tracer right at the legs of Shane Victorino.

As Victorino reflexively dances out of the way, the ball flies past Rays’ catcher Dioner Navarro and heads towards the back wall behind home plate. Bruntlett takes off for 2nd base, which he would normally make easily.

But this time the wild pitch was so hard and fast that it caromed directly off the brick and back to Navarro, who spun and tried to nail Bruntlett at 2nd base. His throw was wild and slid into center field, and Bruntlett moved on to third base, moving the winning run into position just 90 feet away with nobody out.

As the fans in the stands at Citizen’s Bank Park went nuts, twirling their white and red ‘Rally Towels’ above their heads like 45,000 helicopter blades whirling madly through the late-night South Philly air, the Phils appeared to be in great position for the win.

The ‘late night’ part was a story unto itself. The game, the first World Series game here in Philly in 15 years, was delayed at the start by an hour and a half thanks to the end-stretch of a daylong rain spell.

So here we all were at 1:30 am in the morning, the Phillies with the winning run and a 2-1 lead in the World Series now tantalizingly close with no outs.

What for some teams might be an automatic win was far from it for our Phillies. This team had been setting a new record for futility, constantly failing to drive in runners from scoring position during the series.

Rays manager Joe Maddon decided that he was going to walk both Victorino and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, loading the bases and setting up a force-out situation at home plate.

There is not a Phillies fan around who is being honest with themselves if they didn’t fear the very real possibility of the slow-footed Ruiz grounding into a double play, and then the Rays incredibly getting out of the jam and taking it into extra-innings where nothing good would surely happen for the hometown nine.

It was here that I closed my eyes, put my head down, and said a little prayer: “God, I know there are a billion things more important going on in the world right now, but if there is anyway that it doesn’t affect some bigger plan that you have going, could you please, please give me and all the rest of these fans this gift?

I don’t know what some think about asking God, bothering Him with these relatively trivial matters in our prayers. But it is my opinion that God has time for anything that we want to share with Him.

I have never been afraid to pray for things like sporting victories. I just make sure to toss in the caveat and allow for the possibility that God might have some bigger plan involved in a different outcome than that for which I am praying.

And we also have to remember that there is probably more than one person on the other side praying for the exact opposite outcome. In those cases, I have no problem putting the answer in His hands.

Pray to God. Pray that your families stay healthy. Pray that He stays close to you. Pray that you get that job for which you just interviewed last week. Pray that the important loan comes through as approved. Pray for world peace, for justice in a court trial, that your candidate wins the U.S. presidency.

And also feel free to pray that your hometown team wins the World Series.

God is never too busy to listen. The answer will not always be what you wanted, but it will be so much more than if you never prayed at all.

Carlos Ruiz did indeed end up hitting a weak grounder, but it was not for a double play.

His slow dribbler rolled down the third base line on the infield at Citizens Bank Park as Rays’s phenom Evan Longoria charged the ball. Bruntlett sprinted home and slid in ahead of Lonogoria’s shuttle throw. The Phillies had won 5-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series.

Sometimes the answer to our prayers is exactly what we asked for after all.

Thank you, Lord. Go Phillies!