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Phillies Win "Wacky" World Series

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - From losingest team to longest game, the
Philadelphia Phillies are World Series champions.
Strange as that sounds.
Strange as it was.
Brad Lidge and the Phillies finished off the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3
in a three-inning sprint Wednesday night to win a suspended Game 5
nearly 50 hours after it started.
Left in limbo by a two-day rainstorm, the Phillies seesawed to
their first championship since 1980. Pedro Feliz singled home the
go-ahead run in the seventh and Lidge closed out his perfect season
to deliver the title Philly craved for so long.
"It's over," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "It's
over, man."
Bundled in parkas and blankets, fans returned in force to
Citizens Bank Park and saw the city claim its first major sports
championship in 25 years. No more references needed to those
sad-sack Phillies teams in the past and their 10,000-plus losses.
It was among the wackiest endings in baseball history, a
best-of-seven series turned into a best-of-3½ showdown when play
resumed in the bottom of the sixth inning tied at 2.
How bizarre? Series MVP Cole Hamels was a star in Game 5 - and
he never stepped on the mound Wednesday night.
Two Rays relievers warmed up to start, and there was a
pinch-hitter before a single pitch. "God Bless America" was sung
rather than the national anthem and the seventh-inning stretch came
quickly.
For Philly, it was more than a World Series win. It was a bit of
redemption for all the losses, the jokes, the slights.
Finally, something to celebrate.
How much did Philly fans want a champion to call its own?
Well, the sports hero they point to with the most pride isn't
even a real person - Rocky Balboa.
Yo, Adrian ... the Phillies did it!
Lidge went 48-for-48 on save chances this year, including two
this week. He retired two batters with a runner on second, striking
out pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to end it.
Lidge jumped in front of the mound, landing on his knees with
arms outstretched. Catcher Carlos Ruiz ran out to jump on him, and
teammates sprinted to mound to join them as towel-waving fans let
loose.
A generation ago, it was Tug McGraw who went wild when the
Phillies won their first title. A few days after country singer Tim
McGraw scattered his dad's ashes on the mound, it was Lidge's turn
to throw the final pitch.
Despite low TV ratings and minus the majors' most glamorous
teams, fans will always remember how this one wrapped up. And for
the first time in a long while, kids saw a World Series champion
crowned before bedtime.
Reliever J.C. Romero got the win, his second of the Series.
While former NL MVPs Ryan Howard and Rollins drive the Phillies,
it was their less-heralded teammates who helped win it on this
chilly night and sent the Rays home.
Tied at 3, Pat Burrell led off the seventh with a drive off the
center-field wall against J.P. Howell. Chad Bradford relieved and
one out later Feliz singled home pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett.
Rocco Baldelli's solo home run off Ryan Madson, who relieved
Hamels when the game resumed, made it 3-all in the top of the
seventh. The Rays almost got more, but All-Star second baseman
Chase Utley alertly bluffed a throw to first on a grounder over the
bag and instead threw out Jason Bartlett at the plate.
Pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins, the first batter Wednesday night,
doubled and later scored on Jayson Werth's bloop single.
In all, there were six new pitchers, three pinch-hitters and two
pinch-runners when play restarted.
Manager Charlie Manuel, whose NL East champions clinched a
playoff spot in the final week, guided the Phillies' second overall
championship in six World Series tries. The Phils helped themselves
by going 7-0 at home this postseason, beating Milwaukee and the
Dodgers in the NL playoffs and then defeating the Rays.
"I always thought we'd win the World Series. I knew we could
beat anyone in the league," Manuel said.
Once known as a city of champions, Philadelphia sports fell on
hard times after Julius Erving and Moses Malone led the Sixers to
that 1983 title.
Since then, the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers made it to
the championship game or round - seven times, in total - and lost
all of them.
The city became so starved for a crown that it was ready to
throw a parade down Broad Street for a horse. But local colt Smarty
Jones lost, too, in his bid for the Triple Crown.
"People enjoy being associated with winning and a world
championship is the ultimate," Mike Schmidt, MVP of the Phillies'
other championship, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press this
week. "It unites a town behind one team."
Cheesesteaks, on the house.
Tampa Bay did itself proud, too, until this final week.
Baseball's best success story this season, the worst-to-first Rays
played like the downtrodden Devil Rays from the past decade.
Even so, the gap between the Phils and Rays wasn't enormous. Had
Evan Longoria's late, long drive off Jamie Moyer in Game 3 not been
blown back by the wind, the teams might still be playing.
This game was suspended Monday night a batter after Carlos
Pena's tying, two-out single in the Rays' sixth. By then, the field
had become a quagmire, with the foul lines washed out, home plate
turned into a puddle and every ball an adventure.
Despite a shaky forecast, Game 5 began in the rain. Shane
Victorino hit a two-run single off Scott Kazmir in the Phillies
first, and the Rays scored in the fourth on Pena's double and
Longoria's single.
The poor conditions made even routine plays difficult. Rollins
blinked back raindrops and dropped a wind-blown popup, and umpires
didn't invoke the infield-fly rule on another pop because there was
no guarantee it would be caught.
Notes: Burrell went 1-for-14 in the five games. ... Howell put
down the first sacrifice bunt of his career.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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