When you win nine of the first eleven playoff games, it's inevitable you're going to catch a few breaks. And the Phillies did just that through two victorious rounds of the postseason and the Fall Classic opener Wednesday, from a Manny Ramirez double that would have been a long home run anywhere else in the park to a Cole Hamels pickoff that might have been called a balk. But if good play opens the door to good fortune, it would be tough to say the Phillies didn't earn their October luck.
Tonight, the formula got turned on its head. A first-inning error led to two Tampa Bay runs, and the team again was brutal with runners in scoring position--historically so, in fact. Phils hitters reached base to lead off an inning six times; only one of them scored. They stranded 11 men in all. Jimmy Rollins was 0 for 5, Chase Utley 0 for 4 with a walk, Pat Burrell 0 for 3 with a walk. What offense there was came from, of all people, Carlos Ruiz, who went 2 for 2 with two doubles and two walks, and Eric Bruntlett, whose 8th-inning pinch-homer put the Phils on the board.
And unlike last night, the pitching wasn't quite good enough to make up for it. Brett Myers wasn't awful by any stretch, but a leadoff walk to Akinori Iwamura and a Melvin Upton single that Jayson Werth misplayed put runners on second and third with no outs. Unlike the Phils, the Rays managed to score both men on groundouts. Werth was later doubled off first on an Utley flyout to snuff a potential rally.
Despite it all, the Phils might have won, or at least might still be playing, were it not for one of the worst umpiring performances I've ever seen in the World Series turned in by home plate ump Kerwin Danley. With one out and a man on first in the second inning, Myers seemed to have Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli struck out on a full-count check-swing; Danley raised his hand to punch him out. But without his even asking for an appeal, first-base ump Fieldin Culbreth indicated no swing--and Baldelli took his base despite protests from Myers and Charlie Manuel. Jason Bartlett followed with a slow dribbler up the third base line that Pedro Feliz couldn't handle, and suddenly the bases were loaded. Iwamura skied out to shallow center, but Upton followed with a run-scoring single that made it 3-0. Tampa added another run in the fourth inning on a well-executed Bartlett squeeze bunt.
After Bruntlett's homer made it 4-1, Danley struck again in the 9th. After Ruiz doubled off tiring Rays reliever David Price to start the inning, a 1-1 pitch to Rollins clearly hit his jersey. But the pitch was merely ruled a ball, and Rollins later popped up a pitch out of the strike zone on a full count. Ruiz came around to score on a hard-hit ball from Werth that was ruled an error, closing the gap to 4-2, but Price fanned Utley and induced a groundout from Ryan Howard to end the game.
So the teams return to Philadelphia with the World Series tied at a game apiece. The good news from Game Two was Howard's apparent revival at the plate: he had two hits, both rockets, and seemed to have recovered his timing. Myers was pretty good, and with just 85 pitches through seven innings it wouldn't be a total shock to see him appear in one of the home games; in fact, if Saturday's game is rained out, Manuel would be well advised to bring back Cole Hamels on regular rest for Game Four and Myers for Game Five.