Wet and wild, Phils outlast Rays

PHILADELPHIA — This was midnight madness, and then some, at the World Series.

“Freak things kind of happened there,” Eric Bruntlett said after scoring the winning run for the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:47 a.m.

Carlos Ruiz finished off a wacky ninth inning with an infield single with the bases loaded, and the Phillies outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 early Sunday in Game 3 for a 2-1 lead.

Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard homered for the Phils, but it took three kooky plays to win it on a bases-loaded trickler with no outs.

“It might have took a little squib roller down the third-base line, but at the same time it’s better to be lucky sometimes than to be good,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The end was almost as bizarre as the 10:06 p.m. start, the latest in Series history. Baseball waited out a rainstorm that chased most fans out of their seats and delayed Jamie Moyer’s first pitch for 91 minutes.

The matchup of Philadelphia’s power vs. Tampa Bay’s speed left it at 4-all going to the bottom of the ninth.

Then it all came down to this: Rays reliever J.P. Howell hit Bruntlett with a pitch to start the inning. Enter Grant Balfour, who threw a wild pitch that caromed off the backstop to catcher Dioner Navarro, whose throw trying to get Bruntlett skipped into center field.

With Bruntlett on third, the Rays issued two intentional walks and brought in right fielder Ben Zobrist for a five-man infield.

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

Ruiz followed with a nubber down the line and third baseman Evan Longoria charged. He dived for the ball, and rushed an underhanded flip home that sailed over Navarro’s head.

“You couldn’t place a ball better than that. Lucky swing, perfect bounce,” Zobrist said.

The single was just the Phils’ second hit in 33 chances with runners in scoring position this Series.

The Phillies rushed from the dugout to congratulate Bruntlett at the plate and Ruiz at first base. The giant Liberty Bell in center field clanged in celebration — no cowbells here at Citizens Bank Park.

“You know what, it’s crazy,” Howard said. “It’s a little nerve-racking but to come out with a victory like that, it’s great.”

Game 4 is Sunday night and the weather forecast is fine for the matchup between the Phils’ Joe Blanton and Andy Sonnanstine.

The Phillies built a 4-1 lead for Moyer on an early home run by Ruiz and consecutive shots by Utley and Howard in the sixth. But it was the little hit that was the biggest of all.

J.C. Romero wound up with the win.

Minus Moyer, the Rays sped back to tie as B.J. Upton became the first AL player to steal three bases in a Series game.

Upton beat out an infield single to open the eighth, swiped second and third on consecutive pitches, and dashed home on a wild throw by Ruiz to make it 4-all.

Tampa Bay’s rally dampened the moment Moyer waited for his whole life. The 45-year-old lefty finally got to pitch in the World Series and threw a game that defines his career, bedeviling the Rays with his slo-mo repertoire.

“I think it exceeded every expectation or thought or dream,” Moyer said.

Moyer, already a pro before Rays stars Longoria and Upton were born, demonstrated exactly how he’s earned 246 major league victories. He struck out both All-Stars with 74 mph changeups, and made the entire lineup look foolish with tentative swings.

Moyer became the second-oldest player in Series history — Jack Quinn was 47 when he pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1930 — yet showed he was still spry. He belly-flopped along the first-base line to field Carl Crawford’s bunt, and flipped the ball with his glove.

And while millions of people may have switched the TV channel to watch “Saturday Night Live” open with one of their popular political skits, surely baseball fans all over were laughing at watching Moyer pitch a game for the aged.

Hit hard in two losses in the NL playoffs, Moyer left in the seventh with a 4-2 lead after an RBI grounder by Gabe Gross. He tipped his cap toward plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth and then to the crowd that gave him a rousing standing ovation.

Chad Durbin relieved and gave up Jason Bartlett’s RBI grounder that pulled the Rays within a run.

Steady rain and gusty wind threatened to postpone the first Series game at Citizens Bank Park. Fans huddled underneath the overhangs and crowded the concourses to watch No. 3 Penn State play No. 10 Ohio State.

Ruiz hit a solo home run in the second off Matt Garza that put the Phillies ahead 2-1.

Utley led off the sixth with his second home run of the Series and the slumping Howard followed with a drive into the right-field seats.

Garza, who beat Boston in Game 7 to win the MVP award of the ALCS, never seemed comfortable and kept fidgeting with the rubber.

Jimmy Rollins got his first hit of the Series, leading off the first with a single. He later scored on Utley’s groundout.

Crawford doubled off the sliding Pat Burrell’s glove in left field in the second and scored on Gross’ sacrifice fly.

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