PHILADELPHIA -- A pair of fielding errors by Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura to open the third and fourth innings were the pivotal plays in Game 4 as the Phillies cruised to a 10-2 victory and took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven World Series. The clincher could come at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.
The loss left Rays manager Joe Maddon trying to determine how to divert the rising tide amidst a cavalcade of errors -- 11 in Tampa Bay's last eight postseason games after none in its first seven.
"They contributed, no question," Maddon said about the errors in general and the pair by the usually sure-handed Iwamura on Sunday. "That's something we don't normally do, if you watched us [all year] we don't make that mistake. And Aki's been fabulous all season. He made something like five errors [actually seven, during the regular season].
"That's just one of those things. I'm not going to try to make an excuse for him or try to explain it. It's just something he normally does not do. And they were very big for the Phillies in regard to this game and they took advantage of it, to their credit. That's uncharacteristic for us, and we can't do that the rest of the series."
The big blows for the Phillies after the errors were a three-run opposite-field homer by Ryan Howard off right-handed starter Andy Sonnanstine in the fourth and a two-out single in the third off the bat of Pedro Feliz that ended an 0-for-6 streak in the game for Philadelphia with runners in scoring position.
For his part, Iwamura, a natural third baseman, was beside himself.
"Unfortunately, I had two very bad plays," he said through an interpreter. "I feel very silly and very embarrassed. I feel responsible for those plays. I thought I could make the plays and execute them. It was completely my fault."
In the bottom of the third, Iwamura booted Chase Utley's leadoff grounder to the right side, setting up the sequence of events.
"That was a bad hop," Iwamura said. "I was rushing myself and I don't know why I was rushing myself. I'd love to get back to that moment and try it again."
Howard lined a single to right, sending Utley around to third, where he stalled for the next two batters as Pat Burrell and Shane Victorino both popped to short.
One win away
Teams with 3-1 leads in the World Series since 1969 have gone on to win the Series 13 of 15 times, including the last six. The breakdown:
Mets in 5
Orioles in 5
Athletics in 7
Athletics in 5
Yankees in 6
Pirates in 7
Orioles in 5
Tigers in 5
Royals in 7
Dodgers in 5
Blue Jays in 6
Blue Jays in 6
Braves in 6
Yankees in 5
Cardinals in 5
Feliz then singled home Utley and Howard stopped at second.
Feliz said he was just looking for a pitch to put into play, particularly after flying out to center with the bases loaded, ending the first inning.
"The first at-bat I got out with the bases loaded so I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit on that at bat," the Phils third baseman said. "He threw me a breaking ball up the middle and I got a good swing on it."
Carlos Ruiz then hit a grounder up the middle that Iwamura snared.
Though Ruiz was safe on the infield single, the diving play saved a run as Howard had to hold at third. Pitcher Joe Blanton popped out foul to end the inning with the Phillies leading, 2-0.
In the top of fourth, Carl Crawford homered for the Rays to cut the margin in half. But in the bottom of the inning, Iwamura struck again as a grounder by Jimmy Rollins grazed off his glove for an error.
"I saw the edge of the turf," Iwamora said. "The ball hit the edge and died a little bit. So I pulled my glove up, but unfortunately the ball went down."
In any event, the error was a tough call.
"It was my fault," he said. "I have no problem with that."
At that point, Sonnanstine was simply trying to block out the disruptions.
"The one thing that's going through my mind is, 'Let it go,' " he said. "Don't let it affect the next hitter. I can't dwell on anything like that. It happened. It's over with. So let's concentrate on getting the next guy out."
That didn't happen. Jayson Werth walked, Utley whiffed and Howard launched his long homer, making it 5-1 and the Rays were really never in the game after that.
"Like I said, I tried to stay within myself and not let the errors bother me," Sonnanstine said. "But I have nothing to say, my defense has helped me out all year long."
Taking advantage of mistakes the other team makes is a significant factor at this point in the season. The errors led to pair of unearned runs.
"I think that's the reason why a lot of teams have gotten to this point," Rollins said. "They have something go their way and are able to take advantage of it. If you give us extra outs, we have multiple ways of hurting you and we've been able to capitalize on that this year.
"We have had chances like this in the past and weren't able to [capitalize on it]. But the character, the players we have, everybody looking to do something, not relying on one guy being a hero. Good things can happen and that's what we're doing."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.