A magical season came to an end Wednesday night, and both teams had something to celebrate.
The Phillies' completion of a 4-3 win against the Rays in Game 5 of the World Series gave them the second championship in their 126-year history. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was left with the knowledge that it had authored one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports history, if one that came up just a little bit short.
"I still can't believe that this is the end," Carlos Pena said. "I thought this perfect story needed a perfect ending, and this is not what I had in mind."
Everyone in the Rays' clubhouse believed to the fullest extent entering Wednesday's restart that their team would at the very least have enough to get the Series back to Tropicana Field, where James Shields and Matt Garza would give the AL champs a chance to pull off one of the great postseason comebacks ever.
But it was not to be, as the Phillies scored twice off the Rays bullpen and Tampa Bay could counter only with a Rocco Baldelli homer. Brad Lidge, perfect in save situations all season, closed it out for the Phillies in the ninth and they had their first World Series title since 1980.
Once the disappointment fades, the Rays will be able to look back fondly on what they accomplished. It just might take a little while.
"It's hard to be thankful right now, and that's what you have to be," reliever J.P. Howell said. "You have to be thankful for where you're at. We didn't get it. It's crazy to think we didn't get it. But obviously they deserve it, man. They won."
In the larger sense, the Rays did, too. Even if they came up short of the improbable goal that emerged over the course of a season no one saw coming.
"I've played on this team for a long time, and I know that we were a laughingstock in baseball," Baldelli said. "We come in this year and turn it around and go to the World Series - it's a great feeling. It's rewarding just going through it and having to deal with all the tough things and going all the way as far as we did."