Rocco Baldelli's first hit of the World Series, a game-tying homer in the top of the seventh inning, had almost everyone at Citizens Bank Park gasping for breath. When Jason Bartlett got thrown out at the plate to end the inning with the score still 3-3, though, the Phillies faithful exhaled.
The momentum seemed to swing the Phillies' way for good when Bartlett tried to score from second on an infield single by Akinori Iwamura with two outs. Bartlett had followed Baldelli's homer with a single and moved to second on J.P. Howell's first career sacrifice bunt. Bartlett was running with two outs when Iwamura grounded one up the middle that was tracked down by Chase Utley.
"I don't even know what happened, to tell you the truth," Bartlett said of Utley's play on the ball. "I don't know if he dove for it or it was right to him or what, but I'll do that every time."
The second baseman had no play on his opposite number and was prepared to eat the ball, but Bartlett was headed toward the plate with third-base coach Tom Foley urging him on. Utley fired home and Bartlett made a frantic dive toward the plate, but Carlos Ruiz tagged him on the right shoulder to end the inning.
"I would not change anything about that except that he would be safe," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I was all for it. I thought Foley did the right thing and I thought J.B. did the right thing."
DECISION TIME FOR FLOYD
Cliff Floyd's season ended on the bench, a slight tear in the labrum in his right shoulder forcing him off the World Series roster in midstream and giving him even more time to ponder what comes next.
He has said all season that 2008 might be his swan song, but always told himself he would wait a month or two after everything came to an end to make the decision. That process really begins now.
The Rays hold a team option on him for 2009, but whether or not they pick it up initially, they likely would be open to bringing Floyd back if he decides he wants to play next year. Though his body might be telling him one thing, his heart might have other ideas.
"This is a great bunch of guys," Floyd said Wednesday night. "The guys in here are just tremendous to be around. It makes any decision tough for anybody, whether you're a free agent or a guy that might retire or anything. It makes everything difficult because it's such a great clubhouse to be a part of."
Rocco Baldelli is the centerpiece of the cover shot for this week's Sports Illustrated, a high-angle photo of him colliding with Carlos Ruiz at home plate in Game 2.
"That's pretty cool," Baldelli said. "That doesn't happen every day. My buddies back home and my brother, they were pretty excited when I told them about it."
Still, Baldelli felt the picture was overly "dramatic," especially considering he was tagged out on the play in question. "The picture made it look pretty good," Baldelli said, "but he held onto the ball so it didn't really matter too much."
DON'T CHANGE A THING
Considering the weather problems - and subsequent travel issues - that have surfaced this week, there has been some talk about a concept that made the rounds a few years back: a neutral-site World Series.
Holding the Fall Classic in one predetermined spot, a la the Super Bowl, presumably would give baseball a better chance for decent weather and allow a year's worth of buildup and promotion at the site. Maddon, for one, is not a proponent of that idea.
"Oh, no, not at all," Maddon said. "I don't like that. I think each town should be rewarded, the fan base, the home team fan base. Growing up such a baseball fan like myself to think that that would have been moved away would have been a bad thought. I just think each ballpark is unique. Look at our place, we would be at a great disadvantage playing in a neutral spot."