Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ruiz Ruins Rays; Phillies Lead Series, 2-1

Players of the Day from Saturday, October 25, 2008 American League Carlos Ruiz chopped a ground ball down the third base line, sending Eric Bruntlett to the plate with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 5-4 win by the Phillies over the Rays in a critical Game 3 of the World Series. The 45-foot dribbler by Ruiz was set up by the strangest of circumstances. After Jamie Moyer had handled the Rays for six innings and had a lead - thanks to a hustling, first inning run scored by Jimmy Rollins, a solo homers by Ruiz in the second, and back-to-back bombs by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard - the Rays struck in the 7th with a pair of runs to cut the lead to 4-3. Both runs in the seventh were charged to Moyer, even though he recorded only one out in the frame. In the 8th, B.J. Upton singled, stole second and third and came home on Ruiz's bad throw to third, which hit Upton and bounded into foul ground. That tied the game at 4-4, setting up the a weird 9th inning. Bruntlett was called on to open the 9th, pinch hitting for Pat Burrell - who hasn't even sniffed a base hit during the series - and was plunked by Rays' reliever J.P. Howell. After loading the bases with intentional walks to Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz, Ruiz worked the count to 2-2 before his chopper handcuffed third baseman Evan Longoria, who flung the ball toward the plate in a desperate - and failing - attempt to get Bruntlett. Notes: The game began after 10:00 pm and finished well after 1:00 am, but there isn't a Phillie fan complaining. In addition to the Phillies' Burrell, two of Tampa Bay's top hitters, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, are also hitless through 3 games. Burrell is 0-for-9, Pena, 0-for-10, and Longoria, 0-for-12. There are plenty of story lines in this series, but the fact that the #3 and 4 hitters in the Rays' lineup haven't produced a single hit, could become compelling in Game 4. Game 4 is scheduled for an 8:29 start in Philadelphia, where the forecast includes no chance of rain. Andy Sonnanstine gets the start for the Rays, while Joe Blanton goes up the hill for Philadelphia. Sonnanstine was 0-3 in his final 7 starts during the regular season, though the Rays won 3 of the 4 games in which he received no decision. He won a game in each of the prior playoff series against the White Sox and Red Sox. In his 13 innings pitched during the post-season, he's 2-0, with a 3.46 ERA, though he's given up 3 homers. Blanton went through a string of 6 straight no-decisions before winning 3 of his last 4 starts for the Phillies down the stretch in the regular season. In the playoffs, he won a game over Milwaukee, and received no decision in his Oct. 13 start against the Dodgers, though the Phillies won, 7-5. In 11 innings of post-season work, Blanton has an ERA of 3.27, with 4 walks and 11 whiffs, though opponents are hitting .279 against him. The pressure is clearly on the Rays to produce a win Sunday in Philly, because, if they don't, they face elimination at the hands of Game 1 winner Cole Hamels on Monday. Hamels is clearly the best starter in this series; he was brilliant in Game 1 and should be on his toes for Monday's game.

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