Phillies Fall Classics XI: 2008 World Series Game Four
The Philadelphia Phillies met the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series, and the crucial Game Four took place at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.
In the 2008 Fall Classic, the Philadelphia Phillies had scratched out a walk-off victory in Game Three at home to take a 2-1 lead over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, setting the stage for a pivotal Game Four.
The Fightin’ Phils were in the World Series for the sixth time in club history, but now in the franchise’ 126th season there was still just the lone 1980 series win.
The Rays were in just their 11th season of play, and had become champions of the American League after experiencing their first-ever winning season in 2008.
Still, the young and talented Rays had been made the series favorites over the more seasoned and experienced Phillies by many prognosticators.
The Phils were trying to take advantage of having split the first two in Tampa. Now having taken a 2-1 lead, they were trying to put a stranglehold on the club’s second-ever world championship.
The Phillies’ fourth starter was Joe Blanton, obtained from the Oakland Athletics in a deal just two weeks prior to the non-waiver deadline in exchange for three prospects.
During the regular season, the Phils had used 24-year-old Kyle Kendrick and 30-year-old veteran Adam Eaton at the back-end of their rotation.
However, Eaton began falling apart in late June, and Kendrick was in his first full season. After Eaton suffered back-to-back horrendous starts in early July, the Blanton deal was struck.
Blanton proved a fine addition, going 4-0 over 14 starts with the Phillies, three of those wins coming down the stretch in September as the club rallied past the New York Mets to win a second straight NL East crown.
In 13 regular season starts, the University of Kentucky product allowed just 66 hits over 70.2 innings.
So it was the 27-year-old right-hander who Manuel chose to send to the mound at Citizens Bank Park on a chilly Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park for Game Four of the 2008 World Series.
Joe Maddon, the Rays’ third-year manager, opted to go with 25-year-old Andy Sonnanstine on the mound. In his second season in the big leagues, the righty was known as a control artist who didn’t beat himself.
The Phillies’ aggressiveness and some uncharacteristic wildness from Sonnanstine would get the home side on the board first.
Jimmy Rollins, the Phils’ veteran shortstop, led off the bottom of the first inning with a double down the line. With one out, Chase Utley drew a four-pitch walk.
Ryan Howard then topped a grounder back to Sonnanstine, who tried to get Utley at second. Hustling all the way, the player known as “The Man” beat the throw, and the Phillies had the bases loaded with one out.
That brought veteran slugger Pat Burrellto the plate, and “Pat the Bat” worked Sonnanstine for another walk, this one forcing in Rollins with the game’s first run.
In the home third, the Phillies scratched out another run. Utley led off by reaching on an error by Rays’ second baseman Akinori Iwamura, moved to third on a base hit from Howard, and then scored on a two-out single from third baseman Pedro Feliz to make it a 2-0 game.
The Rays pulled one back in the top of the fourth when left fielder Carl Crawfordripped a two-strike Blanton offering out to right-center for a solo homer, cutting the Phillies’ lead in half at a 2-1 margin.
In the bottom of the fourth, Iwamura again opened the door for the Phillies with his second error in as many innings, this one allowing Rollins to reach base as the leadoff hitter.
After Jayson Werth worked yet another walk from Sonnanstine, the Rays righty struck out Utley, bringing Howard to the plate with two runners on and one out.
“The Big Piece” worked himself into a 2-1 hitter’s count, and then did what he did best in his heyday, taking Sonnanstine out to left field for a three-run home run that opened up a 5-1 lead for the Phillies.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Eric Hinske pinch-hit for Sonnanstine, and sent his own 2-1 count homer over the fence for the Rays. It was just a solo job, so the Phillies still had a 5-2 lead.
Maddon brought in 25-year-old righty Edwin Jackson to pitch at that point. Jackson had been in the Rays rotation all season, but had been moved into the bullpen for the postseason.
Jackson retired the first two batters he faced, and it was Blanton’s turn at the plate. Manuel decided to stick with his starter rather than go to his bench for a pinch-hitter. The result? A little of that October baseball magic.
Blanton had just 36 regular season and five postseason plate appearances in his career, and had recorded just two hits.
With a 2-1 count, Jackson grooved a 93-mph fastball over the heart of the plate. Blanton swung and made perfect contact, blasting a no-doubter solo home run deep into the left-center field seats.
Blanton’s homer was the first by a pitcher in the World Series since Ken Holtzmanhad gone yard all the way back in 1974. He and the Phillies now had a 6-2 lead.
That lead held up into the top of the seventh, where Manuel finally decided to go to his bullpen as well as make some defensive changes.
Over six innings and 99 pitches, Blanton had allowed two earned runs on just four hits. He struck out seven while walking two batters. And of course, there was the home run.
Manuel would use three pitchers, righties Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson, and lefty Scott Eyre, to get through that seventh inning without a blemish. Madson would stay on to shut the Rays down in the eighth inning as well.
In the bottom of the eighth, his hitters decided to put the game out of reach. First, Rollins ripped a one-out double off reliever Dan Wheeler and scored ahead of a two-run homer off the bat of Werth that made it an 8-2 game.
Then after Utley worked a four-pitch walk from lefty reliever Trevor Miller, Howard deposited his second homer of the night over the right-center field wall to up the Phillies’ lead to 10-2 and complete the scoring.
That season, Phils closer Brad Lidge had gone a perfect 48-for-48 in save chances. The group of relievers who got the ball to him from the sixth through eighth innings had become known as the “Bridge to Lidge”, including Durbin, Eyre and Madson.
With this now a non-save situation, Manuel opted to give his closer a night of rest, and went to another key member of that bridge, lefty J.C. Romero. Romero would strike out the final two Rays batters of the night, and the Phillies had taken a 3-1 lead in the World Series.
Game Five was set for the next night, a Monday night on which the weather forecast was calling for the likelihood of rain.
The Phillies would be hoping to put the finishing touches on a World Series victory, while the Rays would try to force the series back to Tampa. Little did either team know just how much of a role the weather would play in what was about to come next.
That will be the story of the next entry in this “Phillies Fall Classics” series, coming on Thursday: Game Five of the 2008 World Series.