Sunday, October 26, 2008
Phillies victory, do you? After all, the Phillies had blown a 4-1 lead in the crucial third game of the 2008 World Series, which was tied at a game apiece.
The young, talented, and resilient Tampa Bay Rays used a blown call by the first base umpire, their speed, and a throwing error by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz to push across three runs over the last couple of innings to get even.
Now in the bottom of the 9th, super sub Eric Bruntlett is hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning. Rays reliever Grant Balfour then unleashes a fastball tracer right at the legs of Shane Victorino.
As Victorino reflexively dances out of the way, the ball flies past Rays' catcher Dioner Navarro and heads towards the back wall behind home plate. Bruntlett takes off for 2nd base, which he would normally make easily.
But this time the wild pitch was so hard and fast that it caromed directly off the brick and back to Navarro, who spun and tried to nail Bruntlett at 2nd base. His throw was wild and slid into centerfield, and Bruntlett moved on to 3rd base, moving the winning run into position just 90 feet away with nobody out.
As the fans in the stands at Citizen's Bank Park went nuts, twirling their white and red 'Rally Towels' above their heads like 45,000 helicopter blades whirling madly through the late-night South Philly air, the Phils appeared to be in great position for the win.
The 'late night' part was a story unto itself. The game, the first World Series game here in Philly in 15 years, was delayed at the start by an hour and a half thanks to the end-stretch of a daylong rain spell.
So here we all were at 1:30 in the morning, the Phils with the winning run and a 2-1 lead in the Series now tantalizingly close with no outs.
What for some teams might be an automatic win was far from it for our Phils. These Phillies have been setting a new record for futility, constantly failing to drive in runners from scoring position during the Series.
Rays manager Joe Maddon decided that he was going to walk both Victorino and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, loading the bases and setting up a force-out situation at home plate.
There is not a Phillies fan around who is being honest with themselves if they didn't fear the very real possibility of the slow-footed hitter Ruiz grounding into a doubleplay, and then the Rays incredibly getting out of the jam and taking it into extra-innings where nothing good would surely happen for the hometown nine.
It was here that I closed my eyes, put my head down, and said a little prayer: "God, I know there are a billion things more important going on in the world right now, but if there is anyway that it doesn't affect some bigger plan that you have going, could you please, please give me and all the rest of these fans this gift?"
I don't know what some think about asking God, bothering Him with these relatively trivial matters in our prayers. But it is my opinion that God has time for anything that we want to share with Him.
I have never been afraid to pray for things like sporting victories. I just make sure to toss in the caveat and allow for the possibility that God might have some bigger plan involved in a different outcome than that for which I am praying.
And we also have to remember that there is probably more than one person on the other side praying for the exact opposite outcome. In those cases, I have no problem putting the answer in His hands.
Pray to God. Pray that your families stay healthy, that He stays close to you. Pray that you get that job that you just interviewed for last week. Pray that the car loan comes through approved. Pray for world peace, pray for justice in a court trial, pray that your candidate wins the Presidency. \
And also feel free to pray that your hometown team wins the World Series.
God is never too busy to listen. The answer will not always be what you wanted, but it will be so much more than if you never prayed at all.
Carlos Ruiz did indeed end up hitting a weak grounder, but it was not for a doubleplay. His slow dribbler rolled down the 3rd base line as Rays's third baseman, young phenom Evan Longoria, charged the ball. Bruntlett sprinted home and slid in ahead of Lonogoria's shuttle throw. The Phillies had won 5-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series.
Sometimes the answer to our prayers is exactly what we asked for after all.
Thank you, Lord. Go Phillies!