But it was finally the Fightin' Phils taking a 2-1 lead in the World Series on Sunday morning. They had missed some chances. They had coughed up a three-run lead. But they won, 5-4, on a walk-off single by catcher Carlos Ruiz that traveled maybe 45 feet up the third-base line.
In a more perfect world -- and it has become increasingly clear that this one doesn't quite qualify -- Jamie Moyer would have been the winning pitcher.
It was Moyer, from suburban Philadelphia, 45 years old, 22 years in the big leagues without a World Series appearance until Saturday night, who kept the Phillies in the game and left with a lead.
And to add a subplot to an already ample storyline, the veteran has struggled in this postseason, losing both of his starts, really getting rocked in the last one, while his 24-year-old opponent, Tampa Bay's Matt Garza, was coming off work that was so brilliant it got him named the MVP of the American League Championship Series.
All of the elements were in place; the local guy who puts in two-plus decades in the game, wins 246 games, but never gets his chance in the game's premier event, coming off recent struggles, pitching at home in a World Series that was tied. You couldn't wait to see how this one turned out.
But then you had to wait, one hour and 31 minutes, while the last elements of an all-day storm system moved through Philadelphia. This delay did not diminish the enthusiasm of the Philadelphia faithful. The 45,900 people at Citizens Bank Park were as full-throated as always, early and often, but particularly when they bid farewell for the evening to Moyer with a standing ovation.
It was the seventh inning and early Sunday morning by this time. Moyer had spent the evening pitching the way he has pitched the vast majority of his admirable career, hitting his spots, changing speeds, keeping the opposition in a perpetual off-balance state.
For Philadelphia, the happy and simple ending would have been Moyer getting the victory. Instead, the Phillies got the happy, but complicated and delayed victory.
The Rays, who should not be underestimated by anybody who has watched baseball for longer than five minutes, basically ran their way back into this game. Multi-talented B.J. Upton scored the tying run in the eighth, stealing third, scoring on a throwing error on the play.
That was different, but it wasn't as unusual as the Phils' winning rally. Eric Bruntlett, in left field as a defensive replacement, led off the bottom of the ninth and was hit by a pitch. He went to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a throwing error on the play. Two intentional walks followed, and then Ruiz delivered the clutch, game-winning topper.
It was nearly 2 a.m. ET by this time. Brunch, church, maybe the Eagles game, just across the street on Sunday afternoon; all were beckoning. But this was a Phillies' moment of the first order.
If the game had its strange twists and turns, it was also a game that the Phillies deserved to win, in large part because Moyer so nobly did his part. Moyer in turn, said he was lifted by the home crowd. They make noise at Citizens Bank Park, and it makes what sounded like noise at other parks sound like murmurs in comparison.
"I think it was very uplifting to walk across the field, even through the puddles and hear the excitement of the fans," Moyer said. "I try not to get caught up in it but I do hear it. And I could tell when some of my teammates came out to get loose and things like that. I don't really pay attention to it but you can hear things. Not only that, when they announced the lineups, you know, to start the game, the first pitch of the game, the first couple innings you really felt like the stadium was on end. It was really electric in our ballpark tonight. And I think that's very big for us."
And what was even bigger was the eventual Game 3 victory. Through a prolonged rain deal and some pronounced twists and turns, this finally turned into a Philadelphia night, and a Philadelphia morning, too.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less