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Ful-Philled at last Phils finish Rays to nail down title Philadelphia's 25-year championship drought comes to an end

Two days of waiting. Another 78 minutes to wrap it up. But in the end, the Philadelphia Phillies finally got the win they needed to get back on top of the baseball world.

The Phils held off the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, on Wednesday night in raucous Citizens Bank Park, pulling out the completion of the wacky suspended fifth game of the World Series and winning the title, four games to one.

It's the second crown in the Phils' 126-year history, and their first since 1980. They're the first major-sport team in Philadelphia to capture a championship since the 76ers won the NBA in 1983.

The Phillies got what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the seventh on Pedro Feliz's RBI single off Tampa Bay reliever Chad Bradford. Closer Brad Lidge got out of trouble in the ninth to save it, capping his incredible perfect season by striking out pinch hitter Eric Hinske for the final out with Fernando Perez at second.

It was Lidge's seventh save of the postseason and allowed him to cap a 48-for-48 run of saves, combining the regular season and playoffs.

After the final strike, Lidge dropped to his knees in front of the mound and catcher Carlos Ruiz fired his mask in the air as the Phillies celebrated in a giant pile on the infield. Fireworks exploded in the sky and the giant neon Liberty Bell in right field clanged away as the crowd erupted.

"I couldn't believe it," Lidge said. "I just tried to stay in the here and now until it was really over. All year I haven't allowed myself to drift ahead.

You can't get to the third out until you get the first and second one and that's all I paid attention to."

"I kind of looked up and I was kind of watching the fans and our players. . . . I kind of laughed. I took it all in," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I liked every minute of it. It's bigger than I actually felt it was. . . . It means everything to me."

The Phillies celebrated wildly on the field and in their clubhouse. Manuel and several players came back out to address several thousand fans still lingering more than an hour after the final out.

Pitcher Cole Hamels, who started this game two days ago before a wind-whipped rainstorm left it in limbo, was named the Most Valuable Player of the series.

"It's the most unique game in baseball history and it was a great opportunity," Hamels said. "You could sense the excitement in our team and it was great to come away with what we've worked so hard for."

The game was decided in the seventh when the Phillies broke a 3-3 tie. Left fielder Pat Burrell, a free agent-to-be whom the Phillies probably won't re-sign, led off the seventh against Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell with a booming double high off the fence in deep left-center. He had been 0 for 13 in the series.

Burrell actually admired the blast too much and probably should have been at third but pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett got there on Shane Victorino's grounder to second after Victorino flubbed two attempts to sacrifice.

With the Tampa Bay infield in, Feliz then drove an 0-1 pitch past shortstop Jason Bartlett into left-center to give the Phillies the lead.

"The greatest moment of my life," Feliz said. "All I wanted to do was just bring that run in."

"People tend to use a lot of big words when things like this happen," said a red-eyed Burrell. "But this team had integrity from top to bottom. You see that with special teams. Nobody gave in and everybody believed."

The game started Monday in 47-degree temperatures but when the teams took the field again Wednesday, it felt like two days before Christmas, not two days before Halloween. The temperature at the time of the resumption was a frosty 34 degrees.

When Tampa Bay's Grant Balfour threw the first pitch at 8:40 p.m. to pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins, it was actually the game's 188th and ended a rain delay of exactly 46 hours.

Jenkins got the Phillies off to a hot start by driving a full-count pitch to the gap in right-center for a double, punching the air in celebration as he hit second base. Jimmy Rollins sacrificed him to third and Jenkins scored on Jayson Werth's single over the drawn-in Rays infield that second baseman Akinori Iwamura couldn't corral in short center field.

That would have been enough, by the way, for Hamels to get his record fifth win of the postseason. But Rocco Baldelli, the second Tampa Bay batter in the top of the seventh, crushed a Ryan Madson fastball into the seats in left to forge a 3-3 tie.

No matter. Second baseman Chase Utley threw out Bartlett at the plate to end the seventh as Bartlett tried to score from second on an Iwamura infield single. Then the Phils went to work to take the lead and Lidge made sure it didn't slip away.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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