PHILADELPHIA -- Goodbye Florida, hello elements.
The nasty Philadelphia weather may not have decided Game 3 Saturday night, but Mother Nature sure made her presence known during the wildest World Series game played in years. Following a 91-minute rain delay and the latest start time in Series history (10:06 p.m.), Philadelphia won it 5-4 on an infield hit that somehow won it in the most crowded infield you'll ever see.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had homered in the second, chopped a bases-loaded roller down the third-base line that charging third baseman Evan Longoria couldn't get to in time. He made a heroic effort, lunging flat on the ground and trying to shovel the baseball toward catcher Dioner Navarro.
He had no chance. Eric Bruntlett slid home ahead of the throw.
And what a scene it was. After J.P. Howell hit Bruntlett with a pitch to lead off the ninth, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon summoned Grant Balfour. Then he pulled right fielder Ben Zobrist into the infield, positioning him up the middle, by second base. That gave the Rays five infielders as they attempted to defend a 4-4 tie and push the game into the 10th.
Balfour intentionally walked both Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs to load the bases with nobody out. But instead of a double-play grounder, starting with a force at home, Ruiz was able to put the ball where Longoria couldn't get to it.
The end came at 1:47 a.m. and gave the Phillies a two games to one lead in this increasingly close World Series.
The game had nearly turned on one three-batter span in the sixth inning. While finesse artist Jamie Moyer clung to a 2-1 lead and spent most of the evening fooling Rays hitters, he left a pitch up with two out in the sixth. Oops. Longoria drilled it.
But instead of putting the Rays ahead 3-2 -- B.J. Upton was on second base -- a howling wind knocked down what would have been a sure home run at Tropicana Field (and, here, on a not-so-windy evening). Moyer's reaction walking off of the mound following the close call was terrific: Fully extended tongue hanging down toward his chin.
His teammates' reactions were pretty good, too. Chase Utley led off the bottom of the sixth by smashing the ball to right field. Bit of a tailwind in that direction, and gone. Up next Ryan Howard did the same thing, and the back-to-back homers made it 4-1 Phillies.
The wind messing with Longoria looked even more important in the seventh, when Tampa Bay pushed two runs across to pull to within 4-3.
One of those runs, though, should never have scored. Carl Crawford led off the seventh by pushing a bunt down the first-base line. Moyer rushed over and dove to field it, then flipped it with his glove to Howard at first. Howard barehanded the throw ahead of Crawford reaching the bag.
However, first-base umpire Tom Hallion was shielded by Howard and the odd angle of the play and called Crawford safe. Hallion appeared to be watching the first-base bag to see when Crawford crossed and listening for the sound of the ball thudding into the glove. It never came, though, when Howard softly barehanded it.
The Rays tied it in the eighth when Upton led off with an infield single, stole second and third and scored on catcher Ruiz's throwing error.
But an inning later, after Balfour hit Bruntlett to start the ninth, he wild-pitched Bruntlett to second and the Rays' own catching error -- Dioner Navarro threw the ball into center field -- sent Bruntlett to third and positioned the Phils for the win.