The Rays sat around the clubhouse for hours Saturday, watched college football on TV and ate some of those special Hazleton hoagies their manager's mom brought them as they waited though the longest pregame rain delay to play the latest starting game in World Series history. And by the end of the cold, damp night, which came shortly before 2 this morning, the Rays had to wish they had never taken the field. A resourceful comeback and a record-tying night on the bases by B.J. Upton ended in utter and bitter disappointment as the Phillies scored a 5-4 walkoff win and took a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven Series. The end was stunning, as Carlos Ruiz hit a slow bouncer that third baseman Evan Longoria grabbed barehanded but flipped too high toward the plate as Eric Bruntlett scored the winning run. "A difficult one,'' manager Joe Maddon said. And it was ugly, as Bruntlett was hit by a pitch by J.P. Howell, then went to second on a wild pitch by Grant Balfour and third when catcher Dioner Navarro's throw skipped into the outfield.
The Rays intentionally walked Shane Victorino, then, after going to a five-infielder alignment with rightfielder Ben Zobrist in front of second base, they walked pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to load the bases, bringing the infield in and Ruiz to the plate, for what turned out to be just their second hit — such as it was — of the Series with a runner in scoring position.
"Just good fortune on their part,'' Longoria said. "He couldn't have picked up the ball and rolled it to a better spot. If he hits it a little harder, we have a double play. He just hit it to the right spot.''
Said Ruiz: "I knew when I hit it he was going to have a very tough play to make at home.''
Longoria could have let the ball roll to see if it went foul, but both he and Maddon said they didn't think it would have. "It's a really awkward play and he did the best that he could,'' Maddon said. "It's just an unfortunate situation.''
"A weird way to end the game,'' Zobrist said. "It just happened to be in the World Series.''
Balfour took much of the blame for putting the Phillies in such a promising position, by nearly hitting Victorino after getting ahead 0-and-1.
"I'm angry at myself,'' Balfour said. "We came back and tied it up, I'm just kicking myself, I tried to do too much. I tried to get Strike 2 without him getting the bunt down.''
The game set a World Series record before it began, the 91-minute rain delay the longest at the start of a Series game, and the 10:06 p.m. first pitch the latest in Series history.
The Rays ran their way into the record books as Upton tied a Series record with three steals (the only American Leaguer, and the first since Lou Brock in 1968), and their four overall gave them a record 22 for the postseason.
Game 4 is tonight, with drier skies but cooler temperatures forecast.
The Phillies took the early lead they wanted as Matt Garza — the one player Maddon was concerned about handling the delay — got off to a shaky start. Leadoff man Jimmy Rollins singled, went to second on a walk and third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout.
The Rays quickly tied it when Carl Crawford doubled to lead off the second, stole third and scored on Gabe Gross' sac fly. They could have had more in the sixth when Longoria crushed a ball to left, but it was knocked down by the stiff wind blowing across to rightfield and was caught for the third out.
"I just think it's one of those days,'' Longoria said. "The baseball gods were on their side in my opinion. The wind's howling out to right, (Chase) Utley and (Ryan) Howard hit it the right way for them. I hit one to left, crushed, and the wind's blowing straight in my face. Same way with the last play. .. Just one of those games where everything kind of goes right for them.''
The Phillies built the lead to 4-1, as Garza allowed a homer to Ruiz with two outs in the second, then back-to-back blasts to Utley and Howard (his first of the postseason) in the sixth.
But the Rays scratched back again in the seventh, with some help from first-base umpire Tom Hallion. Crawford got what appeared to be a big break when Hallion called him safe on a leadoff bunt single as pitcher Jamie Moyer made a tremendous bid, diving and flipping the ball from his glove to first baseman Howard, who made a barehanded grab. Hallion admitted after the game that he missed the call. "Looking at a replay here, they just got him,'' he said. "It was a bang-bang play and I did my best to get it right, and that's what I went with.''
The Rays took advantage as Navarro laced a double down the line, and they continued their newfound productivity, scoring two more runs on outs, groundouts by Gross (ending Moyer's night) and Jason Bartlett.
They got even more resourceful in the eighth. Upton reached on an infield single (on a bouncer that Rollins couldn't get out of his glove) off reliever Ryan Madson, stole second, then one pitch later stole third and scored the tying run when Ruiz's throw bounced away.
"They got a break, we got a break,'' shortstop Rollins said. "Fortunately our break came with the score tied when they couldn't get up again.''
The day- and evening-long rain was expected, but MLB officials were hopeful it would clear by the original 8:35 p.m. start time. It took a bit longer than that; with the rain down to a drizzle, the tarp was finally removed at 9:18.
Pregame introductions were scaled back to just the starters, and the ceremony, featuring anthem singer Taylor Swift, Phillies Hall of Famer Steve Carlton throwing the first pitch and an appearance by Tim McGraw, the country singer who is the son of former Phillie Tug McGraw, was condensed.
Commissioner Bud Selig was close to postponing the game.
"We were right up against it," MLB senior vice president Rich Levin said. "The commissioner brought all parties together and everyone wanted to play. Both clubs wanted to play."
Maddon said the Rays were handling the delay well, though he joked about his concern for Garza, who is high-strung in a normal setting.
"Garza's going to be different. I don't know what we're going to do with him. Just tranquilize him?" Maddon said. "If there's a padded room around here, I'd really like to know about it so he can go out there and bounce around a bit."
The concern was warranted, as Garza didn't look good at the start, allowing a single, a walk (after starting Jayson Werth 3-and-0) and a wild pitch in his first nine pitches. After Garza bounced his next pitch, Maddon came to the mound and appeared to calm him down for the moment, though he ended up allowing the three home runs. For the night, the ALCS MVP allowed four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven.
"We're gritty,'' Garza said. "We play hard and we're going to see what happens. We don't quit.''
Moyer, who at 45 was the second-oldest player to appear in a Series game, turned in a solid outing, allowing five hits while working into the seventh.
Howell singlehandedly thwarted a Phillies rally in the eighth, picking off Werth at second, then striking out sluggers Utley swinging and Howard looking.
The 45,900 almost exclusively Phillies fans were wet, but their mood hardly dampened as they started cheering as soon as the grounds crew removed the tarp, waved white towels and tried to be creative by greeting Longoria's at-bats with a stadium-wide chorus of "Eva, Eva," in reference to the actress of the same name.
The previous latest start came the last time the Series was in Philadelphia, when Game 3 against the Blue Jays started at 9:24 p.m. after a 72-minute delay. The longest in-game delay was 2 hours, 13 minutes in Game 6 of the 1982 Series in St. Louis.
"Seventy-five percent of the time we win that game,'' Howell said. "They were doing the same thing we were doing. Sometimes you fall short.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org