First off, let me say to the 2008 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies: I know it has been a long time since there has been anything to cheer for in the City of Brotherly Love, and on behalf of myself (a Red Sox fan GASP!), I congratulate the Phils.
They deserved this; however, we, as baseball fans, did not deserve the horrid atrocity that was called the World Series. We all know that whenever Bud Selig gets involved in anything, it usually doesn't turn out well.
I'll be honest; when the World Series began last week, I drew up two scenarios for how the Fall Classic would turn out. Option One: We got a seven-game series for the halls of Cooperstown, with every player on each club playing like every game was their last or Option Two: We got a one-sided, boring end to the baseball year.
I am sad to say that we got Option Two.
How could this happen? You had the magical story that was the Tampa Bay Rays, who despite almost losing their minds after Game Five of the ALCS, came back and beat the defending champion Red Sox in Game Seven.
The Phillies were riding their own wave into the series as well, which included beating the seemingly unstoppable Manny Ramirez (and the Dodgers, too) in Chavez Ravine.
If anything, this Series was more of a Tampa Bay collapse than a Phillies victory in my eyes. Tampa had home-field advantage and in front of their newly-acquired mob of fans, showed their superiority by LOSING Game One to a team that hadn't played in a week.
But this was just the tip of the iceburg for the boys from the Trop. Game One was a statement issued by the MVP of the series, Cole Hamels, who simply overmatched Scott Kazmir and helped Philadelphia to a 3-2 win and three games closer to their first Series banner in 28 years.
Game Two did go Tampa's way, on the back of "Big Game" James Shields, who shutout the Phillies for five-and-two-thirds innings before being removed. The runs for the Rays were scored on consecutive GROUNDOUTS by the top guys on their roster in Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena (more on them later).
Eric Bruntlett (who?) provided a run for the Phillies with his first home run of the postseason, but ultimately it was Tampa who got the 4-2 win and the Series was tied at one a piece.
After Game Two, we had ourselves a tied series heading back to Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies had not lost in the postseason and quite possibly an even-matched series for the rest of the way...
Game Three was also a very close game throughout and had both teams on the rocks until the very end. After a 31-minute rain delay, Jimmy Rollins got the scoring going for Philadelphia, coming home on a Chase Utley groundout. But the lead didn't last long, as Tampa responded through one of the few guys who helped keep them alive—Carl Crawford—who stole third and then scored on a Gabe Gross sac fly.
Their lead didn't last long either, as Carlos Ruiz knocked a homer in the bottom of the second to make it 2-1 Phillies. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard also hit the 14th back-to-back home runs in World Series history to give Philly the 4-1 lead.
Tampa fought back and tied it in the eigth, only to have their momentum crushed in the bottom of the ninth when Carlos Ruiz's RBI infield-single (the first in series history) scored Bruntlett to give the Phillies the 5-4 win and the 2-1 series advantage.
Up until this point, all of the games had been relatively close, but that was about to change...
Game Four was an October slugfest that had the Rays and their fans shaking their heads. Tampa's only offense was through a pair of HRs by Eric Hinske and Carl Crawford.
Two HRs by Ryan Howard, one by Jayson Werth, and one by winning pitcher Joe Blanton powered the Phillies to a 10-2 win and a 3-1 series lead. With this momentum, a World Series victory for Philadelphia seemed eminent.
Game Five began with a few light sprinkles, which turned into a drizzle, which turned into heavy rain, which turned into downpours, which turned into Hurricane Harry Kalas.
After the top of the sixth inning, rain starting to form lakes in the infield, and the umpires called the game. Before the game, Commish Selig made it clear that Philly could not win the series by a rain-shortened game. At the time, the Phillies had a 2-1 lead and could smell the taste of the title through their Elmer Fudd-looking hats.
When play resumed two days later, pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins led off with a double and was bunted to third by Rollins. Jayson Werth then batted in Jenkins to take the lead for the Phillies, 3–2.
In the top of the seventh inning, Rocco Baldelli re-tied the game at three with a home run. Later in the inning, Bartlett was thrown out at home for the third out.
In the bottom of the seventh, Pat Burrell led off with a double. Eric Bruntlett, pinch-running for Burrell, scored on a single by Pedro Feliz to put the Phillies up by a run again, 4-3.
In crunch time, Phillies closer Brad Lidge gave up a single and a stolen base, but was able to shutout the Rays for the Phillies' second World Series Championship in their 126 year history.
The fact that Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria did not get their first hits of the series until Game Five was ridiculous and was definitely a factor in why this was a Tampa collapse. But, Philadelphia can definitely celebrate this, and I, for one, feel that they did not outplay Tampa Bay, they ENDURED better than the Rays.
Quoting Joe Buck's emotional and legendary call:
"Phillies are World Champions!"
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