PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Ryan Howard could imagine the mayhem.
“It will be absolute bedlam,” he said. “It will be one of the craziest places on Earth. It’s kind of scary to imagine.”
First, though, the Phillies need one more win.
Their 10-2 romp over the Tampa Bay Rays gave Philadelphia a 3-1 World Series lead. Howard drove in five runs with two homers and Joe Blanton shut his eyes, swung and became the first pitcher in 34 years to homer in the Series.
Come Monday night, the team of 10,000 losses could give title-starved Philadelphia its first champion in any of the four big sports since the NBA’s 76ers in 1983. The Phillies’ only Series victory came in 1980.
“A championship is the only way to fully reverse that thought of how the Phillies are portrayed,” said Jimmy Rollins, who sparked them with three hits and three runs. “If we get that game, I believe we will be happy, the city will be happy, there will be a big parade.”
Blanton and four relievers combined on a five-hitter, and Jason Werth also homered.
In this campaign season, the Rays resemble a team from a swing—and miss— state. No. 3 hitter Carlos Pena and cleanup man Evan Longoria have combined to go an A-Rod-like 0-for-29 with 15 strikeouts in the Series. Longoria has gone hitless in four straight games for the first time in his big league career.
“What bothers me is we lose a couple of games, and people talk like we’ve got the worst team ever,” Cliff Floyd said. “This team is just going through a tough period. … But we’ve been down before. We know we can come back.”
Cole Hamels will try to close out the Series title on Monday night against Scott Kazmir in a rematch of Game 1 starters. Hamels (4-0) is trying to become the first pitcher to win five postseason starts in one year.
Of the 42 teams to take 3-1 World Series leads, 36 have gone on to win the crown. After splitting the first two games in Florida, the Phillies improved to 6-0 at Citizens Bank Park this postseason. That includes a wacky, rain-delayed 5-4 win in Game 3 that ended at 1:47 a.m. Sunday.
“Cole looks for these moments. I call him Hollywood, because when the lights are on, that’s when he’s at his best,” Rollins said. “And tomorrow night, the lights will definitely be on.”
A day after hitting his first homer of the Series, Howard connected twice. The major league leader in home runs and RBIs hit a three-run drive off Andy Sonnanstine that made it 5-1 in the fourth and sent screams through a whooped-up crowd of 45,903. Howard added a long, two-run shot against Dan Wheeler in the eighth.
Blanton, with a Greg Luzinski body type that’s a throwback to an era of pudgy pitchers, gave up four hits—including solo homers to Carl Crawford and pinch-hitter Eric Hinske—struck out seven and walked two in six-plus innings.
Just 2-for-33 (.061) with one RBI in his career to that point, Blanton homered in the fifth off Edwin Jackson. It was just the 15th home run by a pitcher in the Series, and the first since Oakland’s Ken Holtzman in 1974. No NL pitcher had homered since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in 1968.
“I just close my eyes and swing hard in case I make contact,” said Blanton, who thought he hadn’t homered since high school. “Better to be lucky than good, I guess.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon came out in midgame to complain to plate umpire Tom Hallion about a spot on Blanton’s cap.
“It was rather dark,” Maddon said. “I was concerned about that early on.”
Blanton pleaded not guilty.
“They rub the balls up with whatever they rub them up with, and you rub it up and get it on your hand,” he said. “It’s nothing sticky. Anybody can go touch it. It’s just basically just dirt from the ball.”
Rollins made a great escape from a rundown in the first inning—perhaps with the help of an umpire’s blown call—energizing the Phillies and rattling the Rays.
Second baseman Akinori Iwamura made two errors that led to unearned runs, and a frustrated Longoria—again taunted by chants of “E-va! E-va!” in reference to the actress of the same last name—struck out three times and swiped a hand through the air when a call went against him at third base.
“We know what’s going on, we’re just not reacting very well yet, but there is time,” Maddon said. “We have to not give them four outs in an inning. We have to have better at-bats.”
Had the Phillies come up with more timely hits—a familiar story— Philadelphia could have blown open the game earlier. The Phillies were 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position and are 6-for-47 in the Series.
Sonnanstine struggled with his offspeed stuff and needed 89 pitches to get through four innings. He allowed five runs—three earned—six hits and three walks.
“It’s win or go home. It’s simple, and no one in here wants to go home and wonder what if,” Floyd said.
If the Phillies win Monday, it would mark the first time the Series has gone five straight years without reaching a Game 6. The only other four-year stretch without a Game 6 was 1913-16. … Lenny Dykstra (1993) is the only other Phillies player with a multihomer Series game. … With 25 postseason homers, the Rays trail only San Francisco (27 in 2002) for most in one postseason.