PHILADELPHIA -- Seems like we just left Citizens Bank Park in the 3:30 a.m. neighborhood after Game Three. But here we are again preparing for Game Four. Got here at 3:30 p.m., just in time to dodge the roughly 70,000 football fans on the verge of pouring out of Lincoln Financial Field across the street after the Eagles' win over the Falcons.
Can't imagine the Rays will be too crushed by Saturday's 5-4 loss. After all, they came back fine from the crushing Game Five defeat in the ALCS at Boston, when they were seven runs up with seven outs to go to get to the World Series.
It's Joe Blanton on the mound for the Phils against Andy Sonnanstine for Tampa Bay. Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" is blaring over the loudspeakers as the crowd is urged to waive their white towels for FOX's sign-on and the Phillie Phantic is riding his scooter all over the field. We'll provide some live updates here as the night goes along. Here's the starting lineups:
Tampa Bay -- Iwamura, 2b; Upton, cf; Pena, 1b; Longoria, 3b; Crawford, lf; Navarro, c; Zobrist, rf; Bartlett, ss; Sonnanstine, p
Philadelphia -- Rollins, ss; Werth, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Burrell, lf; Victorino, cf; Feliz, 3b; Ruiz, c; Blanton, p.
It's over: A 10-2 win for the Phillies and a chance for Monday night to be party time in the City of Brotherly Love.
End 8th: We'll be making a quick break to the clubhouse as this baby is over. It's 10-2 as Werth and Howard both went deep. That's three in two days for Howard, who has five RBIs tonight.
7th-inning stretch: Blanton was lifted after a leadoff walk to Zobrist and Charlie Manuel ground things to a halt by using three relievers to get out of the inning unscathed and leave two Rays on base. It''s still 6-2 for the Phils. Blanton's line: 6+ IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HR, 99-62.
End-5th: Eric Hinske was just added to the Rays' roster today (Cliff Floyd out, shoulder) and he belted a pinch homer to center to make it 5-2. Sonnanstine has been relieved by Edwin Jackson. Sonnanstine's ugly line: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 89 pitches, 52 strikes. Added note just announced: Hinske's HR is the Rays' 25th of the postseason, breaking the record for an American League team of 24 set by the Angels in 2002.
Blanton answers that shot with a rocket of his own to the seats in left to make it 6-2. Yes, Blanton. A pitcher who started the year in the American League. It's the first Series HR for any P since Oakland's Ken Holtzman in 1974 (Game 4 vs. Los Angeles, 3rd inning). Blanton's teammates went wild in the dugout, left, and he gets a huge towel-waving roar as he comes to the mound to warm up for the sixth and even tips his hat to the crowd. He's the 14th P in Series history to go deep (Baltimore's Dave McNally did it twice).
Check this out: Blanton's Wikipedia entry is already updated with the home run! More on Blanton: He was 2 for 32 in his carer at the plate until that home run with 20 strikeouts. No extra-base hits. One RBI. And he seemed so nonchalant about it! Destiny seems to be calling the Phils.
End-4th: Now the Rays are in serious trouble. Crawford hit a CPB cheapie into the right-field seats to cut the deficit to 2-1 but Howard lofted an opposite-field shot inside the LF foul pole for a three-run shot to make it 5-1. His second big fly in five at-bats. The Phillies have three RSP hit the last two innings -- after going 2 for 39 in the first 29 innings of play. Iwamura has made errors in consecutive innings on leadoff grounders and both runners scored.
A four-run lead for the Phils tonight. Hamels on the mound in Game Five. Is is possible we're not going back to St. Petersburg?
End-3rd: The Phillies' RSP problems are just mind-boggling in this series. It's incredible they're actually leading, given the fact they're 4 for 40 -- yes, 4 for 40 -- with RSPs. But they just got a big two-out RBI single from Feliz to make it 2-0 . It came after Burrell and Victorino both popped out with men on the corners and the infield back. The Phils had been 0 for 12 in RSP situations with two out until Feliz's hit. Ruiz followed with an infield single (nice play by Bartlett behind the bag to save a run) to load the bases but Blanton popped out. Burrell, btw, is in Longoria territory as he's 0 for 10 in the series. The run was unearned as Utley led off by reaching on an Iwamura error.
End-2nd: The Phillies still lead, 1-0, as Rollins was left on base after a single. He went 0 for 10 in the two games in Tampa Bay but he's 4 for 6 since the series shifted back to Philly. Longoria looked terrible fanning for the Rays in the second, dropping him to 0 for 13 with 7 Ks. And the umps stayed out of the way for an inning too.
End-1st: The umpires in this series have, frankly, just plain stunk. There was the blown call last night on the Jamie Moyer flip to first that gave the Rays a run and now crew chief Tim Welke just gift-wrapped the Phillies first run as they lead, 1-0. With men on first and third, Howard hit a slow topper back to Sonnanstine. The Rays pitcher froze Rollins between third and home and alertly ran right at the runner. He flipped to Longoria, who clearly tagged Rollins in the rear diving into the bag for out. But wait, Welke called Rollins safe. Horrible call. Brings Joe Maddon out of the dugout (left). Of course, Sonnanstine could have turned and fired to second and started an inning-ending double play to avoid the whole mess in the first place!
A rattled Sonnanstine walked Burrell with the bases loaded to force home Rollins but got out of the inning by forcing Utley at home on an alert glove flip of Victorino's chopper and then getting Feliz on a fly ball. He needed 26 pitches to get out of that inning but only gave up one run and it could have been much worse.
Pregame: Sorry, Patti LaBelle fans. That was one brutal national anthem. Screechy, screechy, screechy. And don't rewrite the song please. That's a pet peeve of mine. The Phanatic, a personal favorite even though I know mascots drive many of you crazy, has been killing me with his act. He did some great impressions of Aki Iwamura as the Tampa Bay second baseman was doing some sprints in the outfield. Had the crowd cracking up. Big hand for Hall of Famer Robin Roberts throwing the ceremonial first pitch.
(Photos: Associated Press)