The Philadelphia Phillies took advantage of some sloppy play in the bottom of the ninth to claim a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in a World Series Game Three that ended in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Victory in the rain-delayed game gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game Four scheduled for Sunday.
After relinquishing a 4-3 lead in the eighth, the Phillies began the winning rally when J.P. Howell hit leadoff man Eric Bruntlett, who took second base on a wild pitch and dashed on to third on a poor throw by the catcher.
Grant Balfour, who delivered the wild pitch while facing Shane Victorino in relief of Howell, then issued intentional walks to the next two hitters to load the bases with no outs.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz hit a slow roller down the third base line and third baseman Evan Longoria was unable to throw Bruntlett out at the plate, ending a three-hour, 41-minute game that began 91 minutes late due to rain.
"We got breaks there in the end and we capitalized on them," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told reporters.
"It might have took a little squib roller down the third base line but it's better to be lucky sometimes than to be good."
J.C. Romero, Philadelphia's fourth reliever following an inspired performance from 45-year-old starter Jamie Moyer, got the win. Howell was charged with the loss.
"It's the kind of World Series that you dream of being in," said Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard, who along with Chase Utley connected for back-to-back homers to lead off the sixth inning and give the home team a 4-1 lead.
"It's a little nerve-wracking but to come out with a victory like that is great."
After Tampa Bay scratched out two runs on ground ball outs in the seventh, B.J. Upton turned up the tension with a daring display on the bases in the eighth.
The center-fielder beat out an infield single to short, stole second, stole third and carried on to score when Phillies' catcher Carlos Ruiz's low throw got away.
Upton tied a World Series record with three stolen bases in the game, becoming the fourth player to do so and first since Lou Brock for the St Louis Cardinals in 1968.
The Rays, who also had a stolen base from Carl Crawford that led to a run in the second inning, set a postseason record with 22 steals in the playoffs, eclipsing the mark of 20 shared by the 1975 Reds and the 1992 Braves.
In contrast to Tampa Bay, the Phillies relied on the long ball to the delight of a raucous home crowd of 45,900.
Besides Utley and Howard, the major league home run leader who had been held without a homer in the postseason, Ruiz also cleared the wall with a solo shot in the second inning.
"I thought we came into a situation tonight where their team and their fans were ready," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
"Very difficult environment to play within."
"That happens in the ninth," a philosophical Maddon added of his team's late capitulation.
"The wild pitch and getting to third really creates a lot of havoc in a very difficult moment. Other than that, I thought we played a great game tonight."
Tampa Bay will now look to Andy Sonnanstine to help them draw level in the series, while Philadelphia will counter with Joe Blanton in a Game Four duel of right-handers.