Even their pitcher socked a ball into the
If Ryan Howard, the Philadelphia Phillies and their frustrated
fans needed any more evidence this really might be their year, Joe
Blanton gave it to them.
Blanton became the first pitcher in 34 years to homer in the
World Series, Howard drove in five runs with two homers and the
Phillies romped over the Tampa Bay Rays 10-2 on Sunday night to
move within one win of their first championship since 1980.
Jayson Werth also homered as the Phillies took a 3-1 lead in the
Cole Hamels will try to close out the Phillies' second Series
title on Monday night against Scott Kazmir in a rematch of Game 1
starters. Hamels (4-0) is trying to become the first pitcher to win
five postseason starts in one year. Of the 42 teams to take 3-1
World Series leads, 36 have gone on to win the crown.
"It will be absolute bedlam," Howard said of a Phillies'
possible title. "It will be one of the craziest places on Earth.
It's kind of scary to imagine."
After splitting the first two games in Florida, the Phillies
improved to 6-0 at Citizens Bank Park this postseason. That
includes a wacky, rain-delayed 5-4 win in Game 3 that ended at 1:47
a.m. Sunday - it drew a 6.1 television rating, easily the lowest in
Jimmy Rollins made a great escape from a rundown in the first
inning - perhaps with the help of an umpire's blown call -
energizing the Phillies and rattling the Rays.
A day after hitting his first homer of the Series, Howard
connected twice. The major league leader in homers and RBIs hit a
three-run drive off Andy Sonnanstine that made it 5-1 in the fourth
and sent screams through a whooped-up crowd of 45,903. Howard
struck again with a long, two-run shot in the eighth.
Blanton, with a Greg Luzinski body type that's a throwback to an
era of pudgy pitchers, had a dreamlike night. He gave up four hits
- including solo homers to Carl Crawford and pinch-hitter Eric
Hinske - struck out seven and walked two in six-plus innings.
Just 2-for-33 (.061) with one RBI in his career to that point,
Blanton homered in the fifth.
"I guess I just stuck with my same approach to hitting since I
got here, you know: Close my eyes and swing hard in case," Blanton
said. "Hope something good happens. Better to be lucky than good,
Even when Jason Bartlett's grounder up the middle caromed off
him in the fifth, the ball went straight to third, where Pedro
Feliz threw to first for the out. The pinball wizard defense was
fitting - The Who gave a concert across the street at the Wachovia
Center on Sunday night.
Four pitchers combined for one-hit relief, with Ryan Madson
striking out B.J. Upton on a 3-2 changeup to end the seventh with
two runners on, preserving a 6-2 lead.
The middle of Tampa Bay's lineup kept fizzling as if it had been
zapped by a Ray-gun, with No. 3 hitter Carlos Pena and cleanup man
Evan Longoria combining to go 0-for-29 in the Series. Second
baseman Akinori Iwamura made two errors that led to unearned runs,
and a frustrated Longoria - again taunted by chants of "E-va!
E-va!" in reference to the actress of the same last name - struck
out three times and swiped a hand through the air when a call went
against him at third base.
"We just got to get back into it. We know what's going on.
We're just not reacting," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We have
to not give them four outs in an inning, we have to have better
Had the Phillies come up with more timely hits - a familiar
story - Philadelphia could have blown open the game earlier. The
Phillies were 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position and are
6-for-47 in the Series.
Sonnanstine, 2-0 in the postseason coming in, struggled with his
offspeed stuff and needed 89 pitches to get through four innings.
He allowed five runs - three earned - six hits and three walks.
Rollins doubled just inside the first-base line leading off and
advanced on Werth's fly to right. After Chase Utley walked, Howard
hit a comebacker to Sonnanstine. Instead of throwing to second in
an attempt to start a double play, the pitcher ran toward a trapped
Rollins off third.
Sonnanstine then threw to Longoria, who appeared to tag Rollins
on the backside. But umpire Tim Welke signaled safe, and Longoria
swiped an arm in the air in frustration.
Pat Burrell walked on five pitches, forcing home the first run.
Before that, Sonnanstine had never walked a batter in 18 career
batters with bases loaded. Shane Victorino followed with a slow
bouncer that Sonnanstine scooped up and flipped with his glove to
the plate for a forceout. Feliz then flied out.
Utley reached leading off the second when Iwamura allowed his
leadoff grounder to bounce off him for an error and scored with two
outs on a single by Feliz, just the third hit for the Phillies in
40 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the Series.
Crawford homered in the fourth, but Rollins reached on another
error by Iwamura starting the bottom half, when his grounder rolled
under the second baseman's glove in the hole near first base. Werth
walked and, one out later, Howard drove a 72 mph pitch into the
lower deck in left for a 5-1 lead, sending the huge electronic
Liberty Bell in right-center rocking. Howard had been 0-for-6 with
five strikeouts in the much-focused on runners in scoring position
Hinske, activated before the game to replace injured Cliff
Floyd, homered in the fifth. With 25 postseason homers, the Rays
trail only San Francisco (27 for 2002) for most in one postseason.
Blanton homered with two outs in the fifth off Edwin Jackson. It
was just the 15th home run by a pitcher in the Series, and the
first since Oakland's Ken Holtzman in 1974. No NL pitcher had
homered since the Cardinals' Bob Gibson in 1968.
In the eighth, Howard connected off Dan Wheeler and Werth
against Trever Miller.
Notes: If the Phillies win Monday, it would mark the first time
the Series has gone five straight years without reaching a Game 6.
The only other four-year stretch without a Game 6 was 1913-16. ...
Lenny Dykstra (1993) is the only other Phillies player with a
multihomer Series game.
Joe Blanton Homers & Wins Game 4
Even their pitcher socked a ball into the