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World Series, Tampa Bay Rays: Baldelli has big game

Rocco Baldelli earned a critical walk in the second, prevented a double play in the fourth and threw out a runner in the fifth.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Rocco Baldelli earned a critical walk in the second, prevented a double play in the fourth and threw out a runner in the fifth.

ST. PETERSBURG — Rocco Bal­delli found the situation "ironic."

Baldelli played a full nine innings in rightfield Thursday for the first time this season, another step in his comeback from a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes muscle fatigue. The fact that Baldelli went the longest in the "most important game I've played in" wasn't lost on him.

Typically replaced late in games, Baldelli said he felt good during and after, adding, after all, "It is the World Series."

"It also helps to know in a week I'm not going to have to play baseball for a while," Baldelli said, smiling. "So there's no reason to keep anything in reserve."

Baldelli didn't hold back. He was a huge part of some key moments of the Rays' 4-2 win over the Phillies.

There was the second inning, when Baldelli had a controversial walk and nearly scored.

With one out, one on and the Rays ahead 2-0, Baldelli checked his swing on a 3-and-2 pitch from Brett Myers. Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley appeared to put his arm up to call Baldelli out but then signaled to first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth for assistance.

"I didn't think I went," Baldelli said. "As I was jogging to first, they said, 'No swing.' "

One out later and with the bases loaded, Baldelli tried to score from second on a B.J. Upton single to right. Jayson Werth threw a strike to the plate, and Baldelli put his shoulder into Carlos Ruiz, who held on for the out.

"I was actually going to slide," Baldelli said. "I looked up, and the ball was already in the mitt. Sliding isn't going to get me anything out of that situation."

Then with runners on first and second and no outs in the fourth, Baldelli beat out a potential double-play grounder. That allowed the next batter, Jason Bartlett, to put down a perfect safety squeeze down the first-base line to score Cliff Floyd and give the Rays a 4-0 lead.

Baldelli did it with his glove, too. With one out in the fifth, he made a big play on a Chase Utley liner to right. Catching it on the run, Baldelli caught Werth too far off first base and doubled him off with a strong throw to Carlos Pena.

"Chase might have hit it off the end of the bat. I broke in and peeked up and saw Werth was just off first," Baldelli said. "I just came up throwing. I just took a chance."

As usual, Baldelli was asked by the Rays coaching staff throughout how he felt. Afterward, there was no denying his satisfaction.

"It's fun being out there at the end of the game," Baldelli said. "It's nice to just slap everyone five at the end."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith @sptimes.com.

World Series, Tampa Bay Rays: Baldelli has big game 10/24/08 [Last modified: Saturday, October 25, 2008 2:04pm]
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