Tag Archives: Fall Classic

World Series Game 7: Top 20 in Major League Baseball history

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Koufax dominated the 1965 World Series as no other pitcher before or since, capturing MVP honors in leading the Dodgers to the title

 

On Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the host Astros will battle the Washington Nationals for the 2019 championship of Major League Baseball.

The first modern World Series was held all the way back in 1903 and has been conducted every year since 1905, with the notable exception of the 1994 season when the Fall Classic was cancelled due to a player’s strike.

Since 1922, the World Series has always been contested in a best-of-seven games format. That has not always been the case. The very first series in 1903 and again each year from 1919-21, there was a best-of nine games format utilized. None of those went the distance.

This will mark the 44th time (over 38%) that the Fall Classic has gone the ultimate full distance. On three occasions, there was a tie game in the series. Those took place in 1907, 1912, and in 1922. That 1912 series was notable in that it went a full seven games and also included one ending in a tie, so eight games were actually played.

The longest stretch that MLB has gone without enjoying a Game 7 in the World Series was in the decade between the 2002 and 2011 seasons.

The most consecutive Game 7’s occurred between 1955-58 when the drama went the distance in four straight years. From 1952-75 there was a halcyon period in which 15 (62.5%) decisive Game 7’s took place.

Here are my selections as the Top 20 Game 7’s in World Series history, with a brief synopsis. You’ll note that I haven’t chosen to rank them, but rather they are presented in reverse chronological order. Every one was a fantastic finish to the season. Feel free to leave a comment or response on social media with your own favorite.

2016: Cubs – 8, Indians – 7 (10 innings)

The Cubs were under the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat‘ for more than 70 years at this point, and had not won a World Series since 1908. They bolted to a 5-1 lead in the 5th inning, but the Indians roared back. The host Tribe got a two-out RBI double from Brandon Guyer and two-run homer by Rajai Davis off Aroldis Chapman to tie it up in the bottom of the 8th. The game rolled into extra innings, and Chicago scored twice in the top of the 10th for an 8-6 lead. The Indians were still not finished, with Davis delivering an RBI single to make it a one-run game. But Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out, third baseman Kris Bryant firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to finally end the curse and bring the Cubbies and their long-suffering fans a world championship.

2014: Giants – 3, Royals – 2

Five of the previous six games in this Fall Classic had been blowouts, with only the Royals 3-2 win in Game 3 as a tight affair. This one would be won for the Giants by a fantastic five-inning relief performance from ace lefty Madison Bumgarner, who had previously won Games 1 and 5 as the starting pitcher. A one-out RBI single in the top of the 4th inning by Mike Morse off Kelvin Herrera scored Pablo Sandoval, breaking a 2-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. Bumgarner shut the Royals out on two hits over those final five frames, getting Salvador Perez to pop out with the potential tying run at third base for the final out.

2001: Diamondbacks – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees were the three-time defending World Series champions, and they took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. There, manager Joe Torre turned the game over to living legend closer Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest postseason pitchers in baseball history. But the host Dbacks refused to lay down and go quietly. Tony Womack ripped a one-out RBI double to tie the game. Then, in one of the most dramatic endings of all-time, Luis Gonzalez looped a series-winning single to center, scoring Jay Bell with the walkoff run as the home crowd went crazy in celebration of the only World Series title in Arizona history.

1997: Marlins – 3, Indians – 2 (11 innings)

In just their fifth season of existence, the Florida Marlins became the first since MLB instituted Wildcard playoff teams for the 1994 season to reach the World Series and also the first to win it all. The Indians were kept from their first World Series crown since 1948, a streak that has now reached 72 years. In this one, the host Tribe led 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning. Craig Counsell‘s RBI sac fly off Jose Mesa brought Moises Alou home with the game-tying run, sending the contest to extra-innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Renteria walked it off with a two-out, bases loaded single that barely ticked off pitcher Charles Nagy‘s glove, scoring Counsell with the series-winning run.

1991: Twins – 1, Braves – 0 (10 innings)

The only Game 7 in World Series to go scoreless into extra innings took place at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota. For the visiting Braves, John Smoltz went 7.1 shutout innings, allowing just six hits and one walk in a brilliant performance. Unfortunately he was out-dueled by a fellow future Hall of Famer, as Jack Morris went the distance for the host Twins. Morris shut the Braves out, scattering seven hits over 10 innings for the win. Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the 10th with a double off Atlanta reliever Alejandro Pena and moved to third base on a ground out. After back-to-back intentional walks to Chuck Knoblauch and Kirby Puckett loaded the bases, Gene Larkin walked it off with a series-winning base hit.

1987: Twins – 4, Cardinals – 2

Lefty Frank Viola gave the host Twins a strong eight innings on the mound at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the home team would rally from an early deficit for the victory. Kirby Puckett‘s RBI double tied the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the 5th inning. Three of the first four batters in the bottom of the 6th each worked walks to load the bases, and Greg Gagne then produced an RBI single to put the Twins up 3-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. With two outs in the home 8th, Dan Gladden doubled off Cardinals closer Todd Worrell to drive in an insurance run. Twins closer Jeff Reardon coaxed Willie McGee to ground out, with third baseman Gary Gaetti firing across to first baseman Kent Hrbek to wrap the first World Series title since the franchise moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season. As the Washington Senators, they had previously won it all just once, back in 1924 in another seven-gamer that you will find listed below.

1982: Cardinals – 6, Brewers – 3

At Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, the visiting Milwaukee Brewers were looking for the first world championship in franchise history. Formed originally as the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, the franchise had moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season. This version of the team was nicknamed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after manager Harvey Kuenn, and they took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 5th inning when future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor delivered an RBI single and later scored another run on a Cecil Cooper base hit. But Keith Hernandez tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of that inning, and George Hendrick followed with an RBI single to give Saint Louis a 4-3 lead. The host Cards tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, and future Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter closed it out with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th inning. The Brewers remain one of seven current MLB teams to never win the World Series, a list that the Nationals will try to knock down to six in tonight’s game.

1979: Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1

For the second time in the decade, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles were battling in a World Series Game 7. These “We Are Family” Pirates had rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, forcing this decisive game at Memorial Park in Baltimore. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the 6th inning, future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell crushed a two-run homer off Scott McGregor to put the Pirates on top. The Bucs would add a pair of insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning, and closer Kent Tekulve would shut the Orioles down in order in the bottom of the frame. The 39-year-old Stargell delivered four hits for the Pirates and was honored as the World Series MVP.

1975: Reds – 4, Red Sox – 3

The day after Carlton Fisk‘s historic 12th inning walkoff home run had tied the World Series at three games apiece, the visiting ‘Big Red Machine’ would battle back to win at Fenway Park in one of the most exciting Game 7’s in baseball history. An RBI single from future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski gave host Boston an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Reds starter Don Gullett then walked in a pair of runs later in the frame, and the Bosox had a 3-0 lead. It was beginning to appear as if the 57-year-old ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was about to be broken. In the top of the 6th with Johnny Bench aboard, Tony Perez drilled a clutch two-out, two-run homer off Bill Lee to cut the Reds deficit to 3-2. Then with two outs and two on in the top of the 7th, Pete Rose RBI single scored Ken Griffey with the tying run. The game went to the top of the 9th inning still tied at 3-3 when, with two outs, Joe Morgan‘s looping RBI single scored Griffey to push the Reds in front by 4-3. Southpaw Will McEnaney set Boston down in order in the bottom of the 9th, getting Yaz on a fly ball to end it.

1972: Athletics – 3, Reds – 2

Two great dynasties of the 1970’s were meeting here. The A’s would win three straight World Series titles from 1971-73, and the ‘Big Red Machine’ would capture back-to-back championships in 1975-76.  The first five games in this Fall Classic were each decided by a single run. In Game 7 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the two teams were tied at 1-1 into the 6th inning. There, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando ripped back-to-back two-out RBI doubles to push the “Swingin’ A’s” out to a 3-1 lead. Tony Perez sac fly off Rollie Fingers scored Pete Rose with a run to make it a 3-2 game in the bottom of the 8th inning. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Fingers hit Darrel Chaney with a pitch, giving the host Reds once final shot. But Fingers retired Rose on a fly to left, and the A’s had the second of their three straight World Series crowns.

1971: Pirates – 2, Orioles – 1

This was a meeting between two of the top teams from the entire decade of the 1970’s. The Pirates won six NL East Division crowns in the decade, two NL pennants, and a pair of World Series titles. The Orioles won five AL East Division crowns, three AL pennants, and a World Series title during the decade. The defending world champs, Baltimore was hosting Game 7 at Memorial Stadium. Mike Cuellar would toss a gem for the O’s, holding the potent Bucs attack to just two runs on four hits over eight innings. Unfortunately for him, Pittsburgh starter Steve Blass was even better. He went the distance, also allowing just four hits. With two outs in the top of the 4th, Roberto Clemente gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a home run blasted to left-center field. The two teams traded 8th inning runs and went to the 9th with the Bucs clinging to a one-run lead. Blass retired slugger Boog Powell and future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to open the bottom of the 9th, then ended it with a ground out.

1965: Dodgers – 2, Twins – 0

This one was all Sandy Koufax. The future Hall of Fame southpaw had shut the Twins out over the first six frames of Game 2, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter and watched as Minnesota got to the Dodgers bullpen for five runs in a 5-1 win that put the Twins up 2-0 in the series. Koufax returned for the start in Game 5, shutting Minnesota out on just four hits in a complete game victory to put the Dodgers up 3-2 in the series. The Twins then tied it up, setting up this Game 7 at Dodger Stadium. Manager Walter Alston opted to bring Koufax back on just three days rest, and his ace would not let the team down. Once again, Koufax tossed a shutout, allowing just three hits as the Dodgers won their fourth World Series title in 11 years, their third since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. In all, Koufax allowed a single earned run and 13 hits over 24 innings across his three starts with a 29/5 K:BB ratio, and was awarded his second World Series MVP Award in three years.

1962: Yankees – 1, Giants – 0

One of only two 1-0 Game 7’s in World Series history took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. This would mark the 20th World Series crown for the dynastic Bronx Bombers in 40 years, but would also be their last for the next decade-and-a-half. Meanwhile, the Giants would have to wait another 38 years to celebrate a championship. Ralph Terry tossed a complete game shutout for the Yanks, allowing just four hits. The game’s lone run scored in the top of the 5th when the Yankees loaded the bases against Giants starter Jack Sanford with a pair of singles and a walk. Tony Kubek then hit into a double play, but Bill Skowron raced home with a run to give New York a 1-0 lead. With two out and Matt Alou standing at first base in the bottom of the 9th, Willie Mays ripped a double to right field. Right fielder Roger Maris made a tremendous play on the ball, getting it back in to second baseman Bobby Richardson to hold Alou at third base. This brought future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey to the plate with the potential tying run at third and winning run at second. McCovey ripped a line drive that he would later claim was the hardest hit ball of his career. But the liner sank as it reached Richardson, who fielded it cleanly for the final out.

1960: Pirates – 10, Yankees – 9

This was one of the more unusual World Series in history in that the Yankees won their three games by routs, outscoring the Pirates 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. Meanwhile, the Bucs three wins came in more competitive 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2 ball games. Game 7 was played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and the host Pirates scored twice each in the 1st and 2nd for an early 4-0 lead. The Bronx Bombers battled back to take a 7-4 lead in the top of the 8th. The big hit came in the top of the 6th when 35-year-old future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra crushed a three-run homer. The Pirates chipped away for two in the home 8th to make it a 7-6 game. Then Hal Smith drilled a three-run home run, scoring Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat to push the Pirates back on top by 9-7 as the game went to the 9th inning. But the Yankees failed to surrender, tying it up on an RBI single by Mickey Mantle and RBI ground out by Berra. With the game knotted at 9-9 in the bottom of the 9th, second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the inning against Ralph Terry. On a 1-0 pitch, Maz drove a ball just over the wall in left field, giving the Pirates a dramatic walkoff World Series title with what has been called “the greatest home run in baseball history.”

1946: Cardinals – 4, Red Sox – 3

Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. That was how the 1946 Fall Classic went over the first six games, with the Red Sox and Cardinals trading wins to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park in Saint Louis. This was the first World Series played after World War II, and would turn out to be the only shot at a championship for perhaps the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, Ted Williams. It would not be a great series for ‘Teddy Ballgame’, who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviator in WWII and who would do so again in Korea. Williams batted just .200 with five hits over 25 at-bats, five walks, and just one RBI. He would to 0-4 in the Game 7 finale. Dom DiMaggio, brother of Yankees star and Williams’ rival Joe DiMaggio, would try to play the Bosox hero, driving in all three Boston runs. His clutch two-out, two-run double in the top of the 8th inning tied the game at 3-3. In the home 8th, Enos Slaughter led off with a base hit. Then with two outs, Harry Walker lined a double to center. Slaughter was running on the play, and then ignored a stop sign at third put on by coach Mike Gonzalez. Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky took the relay throw, turned, appeared stunned that ‘Country’ Slaughter was running, and fired weakly to the plate. Slaughter was safe at home on his now famous ‘Mad Dash‘, and the Cardinals had what would prove to be the World Series-winning run.

1940: Reds – 2, Tigers – 1

Detroit and Cincinnati traded wins over the first six games, with neither team able to put together two in a row to take control. This set up a dramatic Game 7 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The visiting Tigers jumped out first on a two-out RBI single from 37-year-old future Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer. Tigers starting pitcher Bobo Newsom and Reds starter Paul Derringer would each go the distance in this one, and that 1-0 lead for Detroit held into the bottom of the 7th inning. Back-to-back doubles to lead off the frame by Frank McCormick and Jimmy Ripple tied it up, and later a one-out sac fly by Billy Myers brought home Ripple with what would prove the series-winning run. Derringer set Detroit down in order in the 9th, wrapping up the first World Series crown for Cincinnati since the 1919 club had won a controversial title against the scandalous Chicago “Black Sox” team. It would be the last Cincy title until the ‘Big Red Machine‘ came along in the 1970’s.

1926: Cardinals – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees, whose 27 World Series crowns are more than any franchise in Major League Baseball, had won just one title in the first 26 years of their history to this point. The Cardinals have won 11 championships, more than any team in National League history. Their franchise had been around since 1882, but had not yet won a championship since joining the NL for the 1892 season. This was the first of five meetings in the Fall Classic between the two teams, something that has not happened now since 1964. The great Babe Ruth homered three times in Game 4 to pull the Yankees even at two games apiece. This was the legendary game in which Ruth had promised a sick boy, Johnny Sylvester, that he would hit a homer for him. But it would also ultimately be a base-running gaffe for which the Bambino would be remembered for in this series . With the Cardinals leading by a run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, Ruth drew a walk off fellow future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander. On the first pitch to the next batter, Bob Meusel, Ruth took off for second base. The throw from catcher Bob O’Farrell to second baseman Rogers Hornsby easily beat the sliding Ruth for the final out. It remains the only World Series to ever end on a caught stealing.

1925: Pirates – 9, Senators – 7

Relevance to tonight’s Game 7 of course in that it was the last World Series to be played in our nation’s capital until this past week. The Senators were the defending world champions. The Pirates had won the 1909 World Series, and would not win another after this one for another 35 years. Washington bolted out of the gate, scoring four times and knocking Pittsburgh starter Vic Aldridge out in the very 1st inning at Forbes Field. But the Pirates fought back, narrowing their deficit to just 7-6 as the game entered the bottom of the 8th inning. Future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson retired the first two Pittsburgh batters. But then suddenly the Pirates bats erupted. Three doubles, a walk, and an error combined to give the home team three runs, two unearned, and a 9-7 lead. The Senators went down in order in the 9th, and Pittsburgh celebrated its second World Series title.

1924: Senators – 4, Giants – 3 (12 innings)

The first of three straight Fall Classics to make this list, it has also, to this point, been the only World Series ever won by a team from Washington, D.C. The Senators would get four shutout innings of relief from the ‘Big Train’, future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, and rally from a 3-1 deficit at Griffith Stadium in D.C. to force extra innings, finally take it in the 12th inning. A solo home run off the bat of Bucky Harris gave Washington an early 1-0 lead. But the Giants scored three times in the top of the 6th aided by a pair of Senators infield errors to take that 3-1 lead. Harris would again play the hero in the bottom of the 8th, delivering a two-out, two-run single to tie it up. Then with one out in the bottom of the 12th, Sens catcher Muddy Ruel stayed alive when Giants catcher Hank Gowdy dropped an easy foul pop. Given the new life, Ruel doubled. One batter later, Earl McNeely ripped a hard grounder through to left field for the walkoff hit, Ruel rolling home with the World Series-winning run.

1912: Red Sox – 3, Giants – 2 (10 innings)

It is difficult to compare a World Series from so long ago to those of today’s game. And yet it remains an indisputable fact that this ninth contest pitting the winners of the upstart American League against the champions of the more established National League is one of the greatest World Series in the game’s long history. Four of the eight games were decided by a single run, two others were tight affairs, and Game 2 was called off and ruled as an official tie result due to darkness after the two clubs battled to a 6-6 stalemate over 11 innings. So, this Game 7 was actually the eighth game of the series. The two teams were knotted at three wins apiece as they took the field at Fenway Park, now the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, but then finishing up its very first season of existence. The Giants future Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson would go the distance on the mound and took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th. There, one of the earliest and most unlikely heroes in World Series history struck. Olaf Henriksen, a reserve outfielder who had just four extra-base hits over 75 regular season plate appearances that year, was sent up to face the great ‘Christian Gentleman’ as a pinch-hitter with two outs and two men on base. Henrickson came through, ripping a line drive RBI double, scoring Jake Stahl with the tying run. The game went to extra innings, and in the top of the 10th the Giants recaptured the lead on Fred Merkle‘s RBI single. Then in the bottom of the 10th, Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass made an error on a fly ball by Clyde Engle that would become known in baseball history as “the $30,000 muff“, putting the tying run at second base. Three batters later, Tris Speaker scored him with a game-tying single. Two batters after that, Larry Gardner lofted a sac fly to right field, with Steve Yerkes tagging and coming home with the first walkoff run in World Series history.

Will we get an unforgettable, historic moment in tonight’s Astros-Nationals contest to equal Slaughter’s Mad Dash, or the walkoffs provided by Mazeroski, Renteria, or Gonzo?

Maybe there will be a shutdown pitching performance from the two starting pitchers, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, each of whom is already likely headed to the Hall of Fame. Something to equal the performances of Koufax or Bumgarner.

This 2019 World Series will mark the third time in the last four years that the Fall Classic has gone the full seven games. Whichever team wins, the real winners as the drama unfolds are sure to be all true fans of the game of baseball.

 

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Phillies Fall Classics XIV: 2009 World Series Game Five

The Philadelphia Phillies were the defending world champions, facing the 26-time World Series winning New York Yankees.

The Philadelphia Phillies, defending World Series champions, had captured the opener of the 2009 Fall Classic against the 26-time champion New York Yankees.
However, the Yanks stormed back, winning three straight to take a commanding lead of 3-1 as the series reached a fifth game at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.
The Yankees were hoping to add a 27th title, and would be just as happy to get it over with right here in the City of Brotherly Love as to let the Phillies think they could get back into the series.
The Fightin’ Phils were fighting now to keep their season, and their dreams of a repeat, from dying in front of their home fans as Game Five of the 2009 World Series got underway.
Yanks’ skipper Joe Girardi would give the starting assignment to 32-year old righty A.J. Burnett, who the club had signed as a free agent the previous off-season.
Burnett had shut the Phillies down in Game Two to even things up, and Girardi sent him out to the mound to try to duplicate that effort and nail down a championship.
Charlie Manuel turned back to 31-year old lefty Cliff Lee, obtained in a big trade with Cleveland just three months earlier. Lee had masterfully handled the Yankees juggernaut in winning Game One.
The Yankees wasted little time in trying to send Lee the message that they wanted the crown, and that he wasn’t going to get in their way.
In the top of the 1st inning, Johnny Damon lined a one-out single to center field. Then with two outs, Alex Rodriguez ripped a double to right field, scoring Damon with the game’s first run.
Unfortunately for the Yanks, it became apparent very quickly that this wasn’t going to be the same kind of dominating performance from Burnett as they had received back in Game Two.

Burnett yielded a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins, then promptly hit Shane Victorino with the very next pitch.
With two on and nobody out, Chase Utley stepped into the box. Burnett started him with a slider that simply didn’t slide very much, and what did slid right over the heart of the plate.
Utley crushed the pitch deep into the right-center field stands for a three-run home run, his fourth of the series to that point, and the Phillies and Lee had themselves a 3-1 lead.
Lee would shut the Yankees down without a hit over the next three innings. Meanwhile, the Phillies kept coming against Burnett.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Utley led off with a walk and stole 2nd base. Ryan Howard then also worked a walk.
With two on and nobody out, the Phils then proceeded to knock Burnett out of the game. Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez produced back-to-back RBI singles, and the Phillies had a 5-1 lead.
Jun 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Ruiz against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. “Chooch” was the Phillies primary catcher for a decade, from 2006-15. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Girardi had seen enough, and lifted Burnett in favor of David Robertson, who retired the first two batters that he faced.
But the second of those outs was a productive RBI grounder by Carlos Ruiz that had scored Werth to up the Phillies lead to a 6-1 margin.
In the top of the 5th, the Yankees parlayed a walk, a base hit, and an RBI ground out against Lee to make it a 6-2 ball game.
Lee would retire eight of nine New York hitters into the 8th inning, while his offense would again produce runs to extend the lead.
With Utley and Howard due to start the bottom of the 7th, Girardi brought in lefty Phil Coke, who had previous success in the series against the pair.
Not this time, as the red-hot Utley went deep on a full count offering from Coke, tying Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a World Series with his fifth long ball. More importantly, the Phillies now had a 7-2 lead.

Coke retired Howard, and though the right-handed Werth was due up, he was left in with the lefty Ibanez on deck.
Werth was retired on an easy fly ball to center field for the 2nd out, bringing Ibanez to the plate. For the second time in the inning, a left-handed bat tagged Coke, with Ibanez drilling a solo shot to up the lead to 8-2.
The Yankees finally knocked Lee out of the game in the top of the 8th, scoring three times on a two-run double by ARod that scored Damon and Mark Teixeira, and a sac fly from Robinson Cano to score Rodriguez.
With an 8-5 lead, Manuel turned to Ryan Madson to close it out in the top of the 9th inning. However, the Yankees wouldn’t go quietly.
Jorge Posada led off with a double to center field and Hideki Matsui followed with a pinch-hit ground single, Posada rolling over the 3rd base. The Yankees would be bringing the tying run to the plate with nobody out.
August 13, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Jeter is introduced as the New York Yankees honor the 1996 World Series team at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Munson-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Who else would New York want up in this situation than their Captain, number two in your program, future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter?
Jeter got himself into a 2-1 hitter’s count against Madson, then knocked in a run. But it was not in the way that the Yankees for their fans had hoped.
Madson got Jeter to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play. Though Posada had scored on the play, the Phillies happily traded the run for the two outs.
With two outs and nobody on base, the Phillies lead was down to 8-6 as Damon stepped in against Madson.
Damon kept the game alive, grounding a single to center field. He would advance to 2nd base on defensive indifference with Teixeira at the plate as the tying run.
Oct 2, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Teixeira (25) waves to the crowd during a retirement ceremony before a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
The 29-year old first baseman was the 3-hole hitter for the Yankees, and would finish as the runner-up in that year’s AL MVP voting.
Teixeira would also win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger for his first season in pinstripes after signing as a free agent the previous off-season.
“Tex” had 39 home runs, 85 extra-base hits, and 122 RBI during the regular season and had added to those totals with two more postseason home runs.
Add all of his accomplishments as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters to the fact that he was facing the right-handed Madson as a lefty, and this matchup seemed to favor the visitors.
But Madson was himself a 29-year old veteran in his seventh season, and he was known as a fierce competitor.
Madson worked himself in front with a 1-2 count, and then got Teixeira to chase a low slider for strike three swinging as TV announcer Joe Buck exclaimed “Back to the Bronx!”
If New York wanted to dethrone the champs, well, it wasn’t going to happen on the Phillies home field.
History shows that the Yankees would indeed take Game Six to win the World Series. But for one more night at Citizens Bank Park, the Fightin’ Phils had fought to victory.
This remains the most recent winning game in a World Series for the Phillies franchise, and thus the final entry in my 14-part “Phillies Fall Classics” series. I hope you have enjoyed reading and reliving as much as I have in writing them.

Phillies Fall Classics XIII: 2009 World Series Game One

The Philadelphia Phillies were the defending World Series champions when the 2009 Fall Classic opened against the New York Yankees in the Bronx.

As the Philadelphia Phillies prepared to open defense of their World Series championship, a major historic stumbling block stood in their way.
The New York Yankees were 26-time World Series champions, and the current team had a powerful lineup of their own.
Playing their first season in the “new” Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers had won 103 games, capturing the AL East Division crown by eight games over the rival Boston Red Sox.
The Yanks swept out the Minnesota Twins in three straight games in the ALDS, and then captured their 40th American League pennant by battling past the Los Angeles Angels in six games in the ALCS.
For their part, the Fightin’ Phils had won 93 games, but had stumbled down the stretch, losing nine of their final 15 games.
With the NLDS tied at a game apiece against the Colorado Rockies, the Phils went to frigid Coors Field and came away with a pair of hard-fought wins in the final inning to advance.
Then for a second straight season, the Phillies met the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. Just as a year earlier, the Phillies held a 2-1 lead, but the Dodgers took a lead into the bottom of the ninth of Game Four.
The Phillies rallied to a victory when Jimmy Rollins ripped a two-run double into the right-center field gap off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton.

The following day they pounded L.A., advancing to consecutive World Series appearances for the first time in franchise history.
The American League had narrowly won the MLB All-Star Game by a 4-3 score in July, thus giving the Yankees home field advantage. Members of both World Series clubs had played key late roles to help seal the deal.
Ryan Howard of the Phillies had struck out with two outs and runners at second and third in the bottom of the eighth with the NL trailing by that 4-3 score. The Yanks’ Mariano Rivera then came on to close it out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Manager Charlie Manuel would send his veteran left-hander Cliff Lee to the mound for the opener, while Yankees skipper Joe Girardi started his own veteran lefty in CC Sabathia.
Lee had been acquired by the Phillies from the Cleveland Indians just prior to the MLB non-waiver trade deadline along with outfielder Ben Francisco in exchange for a package of four prospects.
Giving the Phillies a huge boost, Lee went 7-4 in a dozen starts following the deal. The 30-year-old who had won the AL Cy Young Award the previous season had a fantastic 74/10 K:BB ratio over 79.2 post-trade innings.
At 28 years of age, Sabathia had put together a strong 18-9 season in his first year in the Bronx after signing as a free agent in December of 2008.
He had been a rotation mate of Lee’s in Cleveland before the Tribe dealt him away to the Milwaukee Brewers. Sabathia then was a part of the Brewers team that lost to the Phillies in the NLDS on their way to winning the 2008 World Series crown.

The Phillies loaded the bases in the top of the first inning against the big lefty, but Raul Ibanez grounded to second base for the final out.
It was the first of six consecutive outs recorded by Sabathia. Then with two outs in the top of the third inning, Chase Utley stepped into the box.
Utley was perhaps the Phillies’ best all-around player during this great franchise run. In the 2009 season he had hit for a .282/.397/.508 slash line with 31 homers, 63 extra-base hits, 93 RBI, 112 runs scored, and had stolen 23 bases without being caught.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
On a 3-2 pitch from Sabathia, Utley unleashed his typical short, powerful stroke, driving a ball five rows deep into the right field seats. The solo home run put the Phillies on top by a 1-0 score.
It would be the last that the Phillies hitters would touch Sabathia for a while. He retired the next eight straight hitters, striking out half of them.
The problem for the Yankees was Lee, who was pitching a masterpiece. Through the first five innings he struck out six batters, including the side in order in the bottom of the fourth, and had yielded just three hits.
With one out in the top of the sixth and the Phillies still clinging to that 1-0 lead, Utley again stepped in against Sabathia. This time the Yankees left-hander put the Phillies second baseman in a deep 0-2 hole. And then Utley got him again.
Sabathia tried to sneak a fastball past “The Man”, usually a mistake. Utley timed it perfectly, driving another solo home run out to right, this one deeper than the first.

It would be the beginning of a World Series show for Utley, who would go deep five times, drive in eight runs, score seven, and do everything that he could to try to push the Phillies to a second straight crown.
That 2-0 lead would hold into the top of the eighth, and with Sabathia having thrown 113 pitches, Girardi decided to bring in right-hander Phil Hughes.
Hughes had made 44 relief appearances and seven starts during the regular season as a 23-year-old experiencing his first full big league campaign.
Rollins led off the top of the eighth by working a walk on a 3-2 pitch, then stole second while Shane Victorino was at the plate. Victorino then also would eventually work a 3-2 walk.
Girardi had seen enough of his young righty, especially with two on, nobody out, and Utley and Howard, a pair of powerful lefty bats, coming to the plate.
He made the move to bring 34-year-old Damaso Marte into the game, a lefty from the Dominican Republic who was in his eighth season.
Marte did his job perfectly, striking out Utley and retiring “The Big Piece” on a fly ball to right field. Rollins tagged up and went to third on the Howard fly ball, but now there were two outs.
Girardi then continued playing chess. He again went to his pen, this time bringing in talented 24-year-old righty David Robertson. Only this time it didn’t work. Robertson walked the patient Jayson Werth on four straight pitches and now had to face the lefty-swinging Ibanez.
The Phillies left fielder worked the count to 2-2, and then drilled a single to right field, scoring both Rollins and Victorino to give the Phils some breathing room at 4-0.

Lee continued to mow the Yankees hitters down, retiring the side in order in the bottom of the eighth. In the top of the ninth, the Phillies would add two more runs to put a stranglehold on things.
Carlos Ruiz got it started with a one out double off the Yankees’ fifth pitcher of the game, Brian Bruney. Rollins singled “Chooch” over to third base, and Victorino scored him with another base hit.
Girardi then brought in his sixth pitcher of the night in lefty Phil Coke to face Utley and Howard. He got Utley, but Howard tagged him for an RBI double, and the Phillies had a 6-0 lead.
That little extra burst would prove important, as the Yankees would finally get to Lee in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon started the frame with singles. Mark Teixeira then hit into a potential 4-6-3 double play, but a throwing error by Rollins allowed Jeter to score the run that broke the ice for the home side.
As if ticked off about the error that ruined his shutout, Lee pitched angry. The intense lefty struck out both Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada to end the game, with the Phillies taking a 6-1 victory and a 1-0 lead in the World Series.


The Phillies were the defending world champions, and now had a 1-0 lead in the 2009 Fall Classic as they went for a repeat title. But the Yankees would storm back to take the next three straight games.
Down 3-1 in games after losing back-to-back contests at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies’ season and the defense of their crown would be directly on the line when we get to the next and final chapter in my Phillies Fall Classics series with Game Five of the 2009 World Series.

Phillies Fall Classics XII: 2008 World Series Game Five

The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded for the 1883 season in the National League, and is the oldest continuous same name, same city franchise in all of North American pro sports.

However, for all of their history, the Fightin’ Phils had won the World Series, the championship of American professional baseball, just once, in 1980.

The 2008 Phillies had won the National League East Division crown for a second straight season, then fought past the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the World Series for the sixth time.

They were underdogs to a young, talented Tampa Bay Rays club. But after taking the opener and escaping Florida with a split of the first two games, the Phillies captured a dramatic Game Three in walkoff fashion, then punished the Rays by pounding their way to a blowout win in Game Four.

On Monday night, October 27th, the Phillies took the field in front of a jam-packed, rally towel waving, frenzied crowd of 45,940 at Citizens Bank Park hoping to clinch a second world championship.

The Rays were just trying to win Game Five of the 1980 World Series to stay alive. A victory would take away the Phillies momentum, cut the Phils’ lead down to 3-2, and send the World Series back to Tampa.

 

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had his ace lefty, Cole Hamels, primed and ready for this start. Hamels had been the MVP of the NLCS.

The 24-year old lefty was in his third big league season. He went 14-10 during the regular season with a 3.09 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, and a 141 ERA+ mark. He allowed 193 hits over 227.1 innings in 33 starts, with a 196/53 K:BB ratio.

During the postseason, Hamels had stepped his game up another notch. Coming into Game Five he had won all four of his playoff starts, allowing just 18 hits over 29 innings.

Rays skipper Joe Maddon would try to slow down the hot Phillies bats with his own 24-year old lefty, Scott Kazmir, who had gone 12-8 with a 3.49 ERA and 166 strikeouts over 152.1 innings.

The game began under the looming threat of rain, but the Phillies ignored the elements, intent on capturing the crown this very night.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Kazmir was wild, something that happened at times with the young southpaw.

In that opening frame, Kazmir walked both Jayson Werth and Pat Burrell, and hit Chase Utley with a pitch, all around recording a pair of outs.

With two down and the sacks jammed with Phils base runners, up stepped ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’, center fielder Shane Victorino.

Victorino worked his way into a 2-1 hitter’s count, the ripped a liner down the left field line for a base hit. Werth and Utley came home on the base knock, and the Phillies had an early 2-0 lead.

 

Hamels was dealing early, shutting the Rays down over the first 3.1 innings. But with one out in the top of the 4th, Carlos Pena pulled a double to right, and Even Longoria knocked him in with a base hit to center field, cutting the Phillies lead in half.

The Phillies loaded the bases off Kazmir in their half of the 4th, but the lefty got Utley on a grounder to second to end the threat and keep the game at a 2-1 score.

As the game moved into the middle innings, Kazmir stayed wild. When he walked both Ryan Howard and Burrell to lead off the bottom of the 5th inning, Maddon had seen enough.

The Rays manager went to his bullpen for right-hander Grant Balfour, who had been phenomenal out of the pen for Tampa all year.

During the regular season that year, Balfour, a native of Australia, had gone 6-2 with four Saves. He registered a 1.54 ERA, 0.891 WHIP, and had allowed just 28 hits over 58.1 innings with an 82/24 K:BB ratio.

The 30-year old rewarded Maddon’s faith by putting out the fire, retiring Victorino, Pedro Feliz, and Carlos Ruiz in order to get out of the jam with the Phillies on top by just that slim 2-1 margin.

As the game moved to the top of the 6th inning, the rain was getting torrential and puddles had formed in various places around the infield, despite the yeoman work of the grounds crew to try to stay ahead of the elements.

Rays
Apr 6, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) had just turned 23 years old two weeks prior to the 2008 World Series. He would be named the AL Rookie of the Year that season. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hamels maintained his concentration, retiring the first two batters. Then up to the plate stepped 24-year old center fielder “B.J.” Melvin Upton.

Upton slapped a 2-2 pitch right at shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but the combination of the hard hit ball and the slick conditions made it impossible for “JRoll” to handle, and Upton was on at first base.

The speedy Upton then immediately took off for second when Hamels kicked to deliver the first pitch to the next batter, Carlos Pena.

Pena battled Hamels to a 2-2 count, and then sliced a base hit to left field. Upton rolled around ahead of the throw home with the game-tying run, making it a 2-2 score.

A passed ball by Ruiz allowed Pena to move up to 2nd base. But Hamels got Rays’ star Evan Longoria to sky out to center field to end the inning.

At that point, Major League Baseball stepped in, having the grounds crew come out and cover the infield with tarp as the rain poured down. Few realized at the time that the tarp would remain down for two days.

With weather reports calling for the rains to continue overnight, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made the smart decision, albeit possibly a couple of innings late, to suspend the game at that point.

“Obviously the conditions deteriorated. The grounds crew has done a phenomenal job to keep the game going,” said Bob Dupuy, MLB’s Chief Operating Officer, from down on the field. “But with all the puddling and the wetness, the Commissioner and the (umpire) crew chief Tim Welke decided that the playing conditions were such that we ought to call time and get the tarp on the field.”

 

The following day, Tuesday, October 28th, the rains continued all day long and into the night, and MLB announced fairly early on that the game would remain suspended for yet another day.

The game resumed with both skippers planning on a bullpen battle. Things would pick up with the Phillies coming to bat in the bottom of the 6th in a 2-2 game.

Maddon sent Balfour back out, hoping for his shutdown reliever to shut down the Phillies bats and move the game into the 7th inning still tied.

Hamels spot was due to lead off for the Phils, and after pitching six innings just two days earlier, he was obviously not an option.

Instead, Manuel sent up lefty Geoff Jenkins to pinch-hit. Jenkins worked the count full, then ripped a one-hop liner off the wall in right-center field for his first hit of the postseason.

 

Rollins then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving Jenkins over the 3rd base with one out, and bringing Werth to the plate.

On a 2-2 pitch, Werth popped a ball into shallow center field. Rays’ 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura went out on it, trying to make a basket catch as he ran into center field. The ball dropped from Iwamura’s glove, and Jenkins scampered home with the go ahead run.

The Phillies took that 3-2 lead into the top of the 7th, and Manuel sent hard-throwing Ryan Madson into the game, trying to set up his usual “Bridge to Lidge” bullpen.

After striking out the leadoff man, Madson faced Rays’ veteran Rocco Baldelli. The 27-year old right fielder had been Tampa’s 1st round pick in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft as the 6th overall pick, but had a largely disappointing, injury plagued career.

Baldelli wasted no time in making up for that disappointment, blasting Madson’s first pitch, a letter-high fastball, over the wall in left-center field for a game-tying home run.
Jason Bartlett, the Rays shortstop, followed with a base hit, and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt, putting the go ahead run in scoring position.

The lefty-hitting Iwamura now stepped in, and Manuel made the move to bring in lefty reliever J.C. Romero.

Iwamura grounded a ball up the middle as Bartlett came racing around third base with a run that would put Tampa up. And then one of the most important defensive plays in Phillies history unfolded.

Utley ranged up the middle deep, fielding Iwamura’s grounder. He turned as if to throw Iwamura out at 1st, which would have been a near impossible play.

Instead, the Phillies’ 2nd baseman pumped a fake throw to first, wheeled around, and fired the ball home as Bartlett sprinted for the plate.

Utley’s throw bounced to catcher Carlos Ruiz, and “Chooch” fielded the ball up the third base line. As Bartlett dove head first for the front of home plate, Ruiz dove at him, and got Bartlett just before he reached home for the third out.

 

The bang-bang play, now known in Phillies lore as “Utley’s Deke”, was typical of the type of hustling, heads-up style that had resulted in Utley receiving the nickname “The Man” from broadcaster Harry Kalas a few years earlier.

The game was now back to a 3-3 tie as the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning. Leading off for the Phils would be left fielder Pat Burrell.

“Pat the Bat” had been the Phillies selection as the #1 overall pick way back in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft. Having turned 32 years of age just over two weeks earlier, Burrell was a pending free agent, and was likely in his final days with the team.

Burrell was 0-13 to that point in the World Series, and was looking to make a mark in some way. Facing lefty reliever Jay Howell, Burrell worked the count to 1-1.

Howell then tried to loop a curveball over the plate, and Burrell looked as if he knew exactly what was coming. He teed off on the pitch, driving it deep to dead center field, to the deepest part of the park.

The ball banged high off the top of the center field fencing, just a couple of feet from being a home run. Burrell rolled into second base with a double, and the Phillies had that go ahead run in scoring position with nobody out.

 

Manuel then pushed another button, bringing in Eric Bruntlett to run for the slow-footed Burrell. Maddon countered, bringing in submarining righty reliever Chad Bradford.

Victorino tried to bunt Bruntlett over to second base but failed. But then on a 1-2 pitch, he pulled a grounder to second base.
Though thrown out on the play, it acted like a sacrifice, moving Bruntlett over to now just 90 feet from home.
Now up to the plate stepped Feliz. Known as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, he was not known for his bat.
Feliz had hit just .249 on the season, and had just 10 hits in 45 plate appearances in the postseason to that point.
He fouled the first pitch off, and then Bradford came up with a fastball. Feliz was right on the pitch, ripping a base hit up the middle to score Bruntlett with the run that put the Phillies back on top by a 4-3 score.

 

The game moved into the top of the 8th, and Manuel left Romero out there. The 32-year old lefty from Puerto Rico reward the skipper, retiring the Rays in order to hold that 4-3 lead.
Maddon brought in his talented rookie left-hander, David Price, who got through the bottom of the inning with the score unchanged, and the Phillies went to the top of the 9th needing three outs to win the World Series.
Manuel surprised no one by bringing in his closer, Brad Lidge, who had earned the nickname “Lights Out” that season by going a perfect 48-48 in Save opportunities.
In the postseason leading to this point, Lidge had added on six more Saves. He had allowed just one run, in his first appearance during the NLDS opener against Milwaukee on October 1st, and since then had seven straight scoreless outings.
Lidge got the leadoff man, Longoria, to pop out to Utley. But then catcher Dioner Navarro looped a base hit to right field.
Maddon moved to send speedy Fernando Perez in as a pinch-runner as the tying run, and Perez took off, swiping second base to put the tying run into scoring position.
The versatile Ben Zobrist then ripped a line drive, but right at Werth for the second out. The Rays were now down to their final out, the Phillies one out from a title.
Maddon made the move to bring in powerful lefty hitter Eric Hinske to face Lidge. A two-run homer would put Tampa ahead. More importantly, a base hit would tie the game.
Lidge worked ahead, getting to 0-2 when Hinske was ruled to have gone around trying to check swing at a tough Lidge slider away.
The Phillies were now just one strike away from a World Series crown. The crowd was in a frenzy, frantically waving their rally towels, trying to will their team to victory.
On the 0-2 pitch, Lidge came back once again with his signature pitch, the slider away from the lefty hitter, Hinske flailed and missed. Strike three swinging.

 

 

Ruiz caught the third strike, and rushed the mound as Lidge dropped to his knees and the crowd roared. The two embraced, and were quickly mobbed by their joyous teammates.
The Philadelphia Phillies were world champions for the second time in franchise history. The party would last night most of the night in the City of Brotherly Love, and would continue with a massive parade down Broad Street on Halloween day.

 

 

The Phils would return to the World Series the following season, and would continue to add to this “Phillies Fall Classics” series, which will come to a conclusion over the next couple of days with the final two wins from that 2009 World Series.

Phillies Fall Classics XI: 2008 World Series Game Four

The Philadelphia Phillies met the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series, and the crucial Game Four took place at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.

In the 2008 Fall Classic, the Philadelphia Phillies had scratched out a walk-off victory in Game Three at home to take a 2-1 lead over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, setting the stage for a pivotal Game Four.
The Fightin’ Phils were in the World Series for the sixth time in club history, but now in the franchise’ 126th season there was still just the lone 1980 series win.
The Rays were in just their 11th season of play, and had become champions of the American League after experiencing their first-ever winning season in 2008.
Still, the young and talented Rays had been made the series favorites over the more seasoned and experienced Phillies by many prognosticators.
The Phils were trying to take advantage of having split the first two in Tampa. Now having taken a 2-1 lead, they were trying to put a stranglehold on the club’s second-ever world championship.
Manager Charlie Manuel had thrown his top two starters, Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, in the first two games down in Florida, and then went with the seemingly ageless Jamie Moyer for the third game.
The Phillies’ fourth starter was Joe Blanton, obtained from the Oakland Athletics in a deal just two weeks prior to the non-waiver deadline in exchange for three prospects.
During the regular season, the Phils had used 24-year-old Kyle Kendrick and 30-year-old veteran Adam Eaton at the back-end of their rotation.
However, Eaton began falling apart in late June, and Kendrick was in his first full season. After Eaton suffered back-to-back horrendous starts in early July, the Blanton deal was struck.

Blanton proved a fine addition, going 4-0 over 14 starts with the Phillies, three of those wins coming down the stretch in September as the club rallied past the New York Mets to win a second straight NL East crown.
Phillies
In 13 regular season starts, the University of Kentucky product allowed just 66 hits over 70.2 innings.
So it was the 27-year-old right-hander who Manuel chose to send to the mound at Citizens Bank Park on a chilly Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park for Game Four of the 2008 World Series.
Joe Maddon, the Rays’ third-year manager, opted to go with 25-year-old Andy Sonnanstine on the mound. In his second season in the big leagues, the righty was known as a control artist who didn’t beat himself.
The Phillies’ aggressiveness and some uncharacteristic wildness from Sonnanstine would get the home side on the board first.
Jimmy Rollins, the Phils’ veteran shortstop, led off the bottom of the first inning with a double down the line. With one out, Chase Utley drew a four-pitch walk.
Ryan Howard then topped a grounder back to Sonnanstine, who tried to get Utley at second. Hustling all the way, the player known as “The Man” beat the throw, and the Phillies had the bases loaded with one out.
That brought veteran slugger Pat Burrellto the plate, and “Pat the Bat” worked Sonnanstine for another walk, this one forcing in Rollins with the game’s first run.
In the home third, the Phillies scratched out another run. Utley led off by reaching on an error by Rays’ second baseman Akinori Iwamura, moved to third on a base hit from Howard, and then scored on a two-out single from third baseman Pedro Feliz to make it a 2-0 game.
The Rays pulled one back in the top of the fourth when left fielder Carl Crawfordripped a two-strike Blanton offering out to right-center for a solo homer, cutting the Phillies’ lead in half at a 2-1 margin.
In the bottom of the fourth, Iwamura again opened the door for the Phillies with his second error in as many innings, this one allowing Rollins to reach base as the leadoff hitter.
After Jayson Werth worked yet another walk from Sonnanstine, the Rays righty struck out Utley, bringing Howard to the plate with two runners on and one out.
“The Big Piece” worked himself into a 2-1 hitter’s count, and then did what he did best in his heyday, taking Sonnanstine out to left field for a three-run home run that opened up a 5-1 lead for the Phillies.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Eric Hinske pinch-hit for Sonnanstine, and sent his own 2-1 count homer over the fence for the Rays. It was just a solo job, so the Phillies still had a 5-2 lead.
Maddon brought in 25-year-old righty Edwin Jackson to pitch at that point. Jackson had been in the Rays rotation all season, but had been moved into the bullpen for the postseason.
Jackson retired the first two batters he faced, and it was Blanton’s turn at the plate. Manuel decided to stick with his starter rather than go to his bench for a pinch-hitter. The result? A little of that October baseball magic.
Blanton had just 36 regular season and five postseason plate appearances in his career, and had recorded just two hits.
With a 2-1 count, Jackson grooved a 93-mph fastball over the heart of the plate. Blanton swung and made perfect contact, blasting a no-doubter solo home run deep into the left-center field seats.
Blanton’s homer was the first by a pitcher in the World Series since Ken Holtzmanhad gone yard all the way back in 1974. He and the Phillies now had a 6-2 lead.
That lead held up into the top of the seventh, where Manuel finally decided to go to his bullpen as well as make some defensive changes.
Over six innings and 99 pitches, Blanton had allowed two earned runs on just four hits. He struck out seven while walking two batters. And of course, there was the home run.
Manuel would use three pitchers, righties Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson, and lefty Scott Eyre, to get through that seventh inning without a blemish. Madson would stay on to shut the Rays down in the eighth inning as well.
In the bottom of the eighth, his hitters decided to put the game out of reach. First, Rollins ripped a one-out double off reliever Dan Wheeler and scored ahead of a two-run homer off the bat of Werth that made it an 8-2 game.
Then after Utley worked a four-pitch walk from lefty reliever Trevor Miller, Howard deposited his second homer of the night over the right-center field wall to up the Phillies’ lead to 10-2 and complete the scoring.
That season, Phils closer Brad Lidge had gone a perfect 48-for-48 in save chances. The group of relievers who got the ball to him from the sixth through eighth innings had become known as the “Bridge to Lidge”, including Durbin, Eyre and Madson.
With this now a non-save situation, Manuel opted to give his closer a night of rest, and went to another key member of that bridge, lefty J.C. Romero. Romero would strike out the final two Rays batters of the night, and the Phillies had taken a 3-1 lead in the World Series.
Game Five was set for the next night, a Monday night on which the weather forecast was calling for the likelihood of rain.
The Phillies would be hoping to put the finishing touches on a World Series victory, while the Rays would try to force the series back to Tampa. Little did either team know just how much of a role the weather would play in what was about to come next.
That will be the story of the next entry in this “Phillies Fall Classics” series, coming on Thursday: Game Five of the 2008 World Series.