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2nd guess: On key play, TB out-Chased

2nd guess: On key play, TB out-Chased

ST. PETERSBURG -- No matter how many times they replay it in their minds or on a monitor, Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett and third-base coach Tom Foley reach the same conclusion.

On arguably the most important play of the historic Game 5 in Philadelphia, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz outdueled Tampa Bay under bang-bang circumstances.

In hindsight, Foley said he was certain he was as urgent as ever in directing the 6-foot, 185-pound Bartlett to head for home, around from second, on Wednesday night's grounder up the middle to Utley.

Bartlett, for his part, said looks are deceiving if anybody thought he was in motion at anything less than 100 percent.

So sure was Bartlett in his approach that he said, without a doubt, he'd "do it again," the same way.

Manager Joe Maddon of the Rays had their backs, as well, as they were asked Thursday to revisit the play, the day after Philadelphia had eliminated the Rays, 4 games to 1, in a Fall Classic that closed with a dramatic 4-3 Phillies victory in the first-ever suspended/resumed game in Series lore.

The score was tied, 3-3, when Bartlett made his lengthy strides toward the plate, diving in textbook fashion, head-first, on a two-out nail-biter of a highlight that seemed to float in slow motion for the breathless audience.

So much happened. Utley quickly had to grip the ball on the near-freezing night. He faked a throw to first. He then slinged a one-hopper toward Ruiz, who had to field it, dive to make the tag and maintain control. Home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg had to wait to be sure Ruiz held onto the ball.

Bartlett was out. Foley could only go back to the dugout and hope for the best in the eighth and ninth innings. The sellout crowd roared. In that fateful seventh, Philadelphia simply executed. The Rays gave up one run in the bottom of that inning, and the score wouldn't change again.

"It's just a good baseball play," Maddon said, marveling a bit at the untimely success his opponent enjoyed, and at the excitement of it all, particularly the Utley-Ruiz-Bartlett-Foley opportunity. "Sometimes you're safe, and sometimes you're out. But I loved it."

It was Rays baseball, played with a purpose, forcing the issue.

Bartlett had singled sharply to left with one out and was bunted to second by pitcher J.P. Howell. With Carl Crawford on deck and now two outs, Akinori Iwamura grounded that infield single toward center, close enough to Utley that it would be cut off on a backhanded play.

"I didn't think I'd have a chance to get him at first base, to be honest with you," Utley said. His fake that followed made a split-second difference, and by then, in that flash, Bartlett was headed home.

"Utley went to the backhand, and his arm started to go to first base," Foley said Thursday. "I knew with Bartlett coming hard we were going to send him, try to steal a run there."

They were denied, and that left one dugout euphoric and the other left to face questions about plays that went the winning team's way.

"Sometimes in a win, that's what you forget about," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after his club closed out the Series, savoring the key moments that went just right. "If you think about the Milwaukee series or the Dodgers series, things that happened in the game -- you look back and think things are going your way. That's what it takes."

Replays in the FOX game telecast didn't show much of Foley, nor did they zero in on the entire path Bartlett took. Both men looked in subsequent angles as if they approached it as they recalled: with urgency and in an elimination-game hurry, but not necessarily animated.

Whereas Foley was visible near the third-base bag in the top of the sixth inning of Game 5 when he waved B.J. Upton home with the game-tying run before the game was suspended, Foley was positioned down the line and waving the runner home when Bartlett was rounding third on the latter play.

"If [Utley] had thrown it to first base, we would have scored a run because [Phillies first baseman Ryan] Howard being left-handed, he would have had to turn to throw [home]," Foley said. "So, you've got to tip your hat to Utley who faked the throw -- I don't know if he saw Bartlett coming hard around third."

Utley did indeed have his eyes on Bartlett, in part because the way he fielded the ball made any chance for recording the third out at first highly doubtful.

"Utley is a very smart player," Ruiz said. "Iwamura was quick and had good speed, so I knew he would keep that ball just in case. In that situation with a man on second, [Bartlett] is a very good runner, so I knew he'd go to home plate. [Utley] anticipated that play, and that was good."

For the Phillies, that is.

Maddon noted if the play hadn't been perfectly executed by Philadelphia, it would be scrutinized in an entirely different manner.

"If [in making the decision to try to score] you are safe, you are wonderful, and you blame Utley and Ruiz for that situation," Maddon said.

Was the chance Tampa Bay took one that should be taken again?

"That's the way we've played all year," Maddon said. "And I have no issues with it at all. None."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["world_series" ] }
{"content":["world_series" ] }