Phils power way to 3-1 Series lead

Monday, October 27, 2008

PHILADELPHIA -- Even their pitcher socked a ball into the seats.

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 best-of-seven Series.

Cole Hamels will try to close out the Phillies' second Series title tonight 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 12:47 a.m. Sunday -- it drew a 6.1 television rating, easily the lowest in Series history.

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 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, I guess."

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, 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 at-bats."

Sonnanstine, 2-0 in the postseason coming in, needed 89 pitches to get through four innings. He allowed five runs.

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