Nothing like a 91-minute rain delay for a World Series that wasn’t even slated to start until 8:35 p.m. The result was a 10:06 p.m. start after monsoon-like conditions made it look as if Game 3 of the World Series would never get played.
Citizens Bank Park is largely an open air facility, meaning there were few places to duck out of the wet and cold weather. But the hardened fans here toughed it out and went on to see the Phillies secure a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at the pregame rain right here in the video below. Along with some shots of the national anthem, not to mention the postgame celebration by the victorious Phillies.
Jamie Moyer was the story of the night, tossing 6 1/3 innings of three run ball. He had a 4-1 lead to start the seventh and might have left the contest with the same advantage if not for a blown call on a close play at first base. The mistake call was followed by a two-run outburst from the Rays, but Moyer still left the game with a one-run adavantage. His bullpen couldn’t hold it. But Moyer, who skipped school to attend the first and only World Series parade by his hometown Phillies in 1980, still outpitched Rays counterpart Matt Garza in a critical game that could swing this series.
The fans, as expected, were loud and crazed early on. They taunted Evan Longoria with chants of “E-Va! E-Va!” in reference to actress Eva Longoria (no relation). They got on Garza early when he could not throw a strike. The cotton balls in Garza’s ears must have helped him a bit. He settled down and found some rhythm (not to mention an evened-out strike zone) to get through the early frames. But Garza yielded three home runs and that was ultimately the difference. Both teams scored their final runs via some small ball and outright hustle on the basepaths. These bullpens don’t give up much, so you have to scratch and claw.
The fans and the game itself seemed to take the middle innings off. Things grew strangely silent, likely because the capacity crowd was downright exhausted from the long delay, the wet, the cold and the much too late start time. (I know MLB wants to give West Coast fans a chance to see the start of games by pushing them back to 8:35 p.m. EDT, but forcing folks to wait until after 10 p.m. to start a game is downright cruel.)
The result was a surreal feel to this contest. One where the winning run was greeted with relief as much as jubilation. Few people in the ballpark wanted to have to sit through another hour or two of a game that ended just before 2 a.m. as it is.
But it all counts. If the Phillies win tonight — before a crowd I’d expect to be much more hostile and energetic than the one that died off midway through last night’s contest — then they will probably wrap it up on Monday night. Game 3 was one of those soul-testing affairs. It was an endurance test that the experienced Moyer seemed better prepared for than the younger, more impatient Garza. Moyer was seated in his locker calmly before the game. Garza was pacing the clubhouse like a penned-up bull, music blaring from his IPod. In the end, Moyer appeared the more mentally ready of the two.
A great World Series so far. Every game could have changed on the final pitch and that’s all you ask for if you’re a fan. Right now, I think the Rays bullpen looks slightly more vulnerable. Ryan Madson finally got touched up on the Phillies side, blowing that lead in the eighth, but he didn’t give up a hit out of the infield in doing so. The Phils still appear to have the better relief corps. On the Tampa Bay side, they’ve been allowing regular baserunners since blowing that Game 5 lead against Boston in the ALCS. Even David Price, who has emerged as a savior of sorts for the Rays, got knocked around a bit in that 4-2 win over Philadelphia in Game 2. After that win by Price’s side, I wondered how his confidence might be impacted by giving up some of those hard-hit balls. He didn’t pitch last night, so we don’t know.
But it could be a factor tonight. The starting pitching would now appear to favor the Phils, given that this Moyer-Garza outing was supposed to be one-sided for the Rays. Cole Hamels could pitch in Game 5 if the home side wins tonight and he’s been dominant. Right now, this series is Philadelphia’s to win.