PHILADELPHIA -- The ball rattled around Veterans Stadium for the better part of 4 1/2 hours last night, stopping only occasionally to allow the base runners to catch their breath. The World Series had never seen anything like it.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays hooked up in the highest-scoring game in the history of the fall classic, combining for 29 runs before the Blue Jays stumbled over the finish line with a 15-14 victory that pushed the Phillies to the brink of elimination.
Tony Fernandez drove in five runs and Devon White drove home four, including a two-run triple that brought the Blue Jays from behind in a six-run eighth inning. The dramatic comeback gave Toronto a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven Series and put them in position to win their second straight world championship tonight when Juan Guzman takes the mound against Curt Schilling in Game 5 at the Vet.
The sellout crowd of 62,731 had screamed itself hoarse cheering Len Dykstra through a couple of long home runs. The Phillies faithful had pumped up the volume for a five-RBI performance by Milt Thompson. But there was nothing but stunned silence when the Blue Jays overcame a five-run deficit in the eighth against relievers Larry Andersen and Mitch Williams.
"We just didn't score 20 runs," said Phillies manager Jim Fregosi.
It was an offensive display so outlandish that the likes of it had not been seen since the days of Lou Gehrig and the New York Yankees dynasty.
Actually, not even then. The 29 runs shattered the single-game scoring record for World Series play, which had stood since the Yankees defeated the New York Giants, 18-4, to combine for 22 runs in Game 4 of the 1936 Series.
"I think it will go down in the annals as one of the all-time World Series games," Fregosi said. "It was just unbelievable."
The Phillies scored the run that broke the record in the seventh inning, but that was before the Blue Jays erupted in the eighth with three run-scoring hits off Williams. Relievers Mike Timlin and Duane Ward succeeded where Williams could not, and the 90th World Series was put on one day's notice.
"We feel great about our chances of wrapping it up," said Rickey Henderson, whose two-run single in the eighth set up White for a game-winning gapper to right-center. "We've got Guzman going tomorrow night and [Dave] Stewart going on Saturday. We've got our aces going out there. We just need to score some runs for them."
There no longer is any doubt about either team's ability to do that. The Phillies scored five runs in the fifth inning, four of them on long home runs by Dykstra and catcher Darren Daulton. They went into the eighth looking like a team about to even the series at two games apiece with a chance to jump on top in a pivotal Game 5 at home.
The Blue Jays even surprised themselves with the six-run comeback, judging from manager Cito Gaston's decision to let reliever Tony Castillo hit for himself to lead off the seventh inning -- an apparent sign of surrender.
White, who reached base four times in the game, was surprisingly honest about it.
"We knew we needed to push it early and we knew it wasn't going to be easy," White said. "Then Daulton and Dykstra hit those homers and I was thinking, 'We'll get them tomorrow.' It wasn't that I was giving up, but you don't usually come back like that. We've just got a good offensive team that keeps coming at you."
Indeed, the Blue Jays are coming on strong and the Phillies appear to be in full retreat. They face the discouraging prospect of having to win three straight games -- two of them in Toronto -- to make their unlikely last-to-first fantasy come true.
The question now is can they recover from last night's wild ride to send the Series back to Canada.
How wild was it?
* Dykstra had two home runs, a double, a walk and four runs scored after just five innings. The four runs tied a World Series record.
* Tommy Greene and Todd Stottlemyre lasted a combined 4 1/3 innings and gave up 13 runs on 10 hits and eight walks, but neither was the pitcher of record by the end of the fourth.
* Four batters -- Thompson, Dykstra, White and Fernandez -- had at least four RBI. The five-RBI performances by Thompson and Fernandez each came up one short of tying the World Series record. Fernandez ran his RBI total for this Series to nine, a record for shortstops.
* The two clubs combined for 31 hits to come up one short of the World Series record in a game that lasted 4 hours and 14 minutes. It was the longest nine-inning game in World Series history.
In Game 3 the night before, the first inning was delayed 72 minutes by rain. Last night, the game was delayed by the first inning, which lasted 40 minutes and featured enough bad pitching to last the Colorado Rockies through their second season.
Greene struggled with his control and might still be trying to get out of that inning if the Blue Jays had not been a little too eager when they got ahead in the count. As it was, they took advantage of his jittery start to score three runs on a bases-loaded walk by Paul Molitor and a two-run single by Fernandez.
It was an ugly effort, but it was nothing compared to what was to come in the bottom of the inning, when Stottlemyre turned it into a stiff-o-rama with one of the worst first-inning performances in TC World Series history.
Stottlemyre gave up four runs on one hit. He had so much trouble finding the plate that he tied World Series records for walks in an inning (4) and consecutive walks in an inning (3) before surrendering a long three-run triple to Thompson that gave the Phillies the lead.
He walked Dave Hollins, Daulton and Jim Eisenreich to force in a run before Thompson's liner to center sent White crashing into the wall in a futile attempt to save three more. White hit the wall so hard he dislodged one of the fence's metal brackets.
White got up slowly, but he said there was nothing seriously wrong.
"I was hurting because I didn't catch the ball mainly," he said. "I twisted my knee and hurt my groin a little bit, but I was OK."
The evening would only get worse for both starters. Stottlemyre walked to lead off the second inning and proceeded to make an excellent case for retaining the designated hitter rule. He tried to go to third on a two-out single by Roberto Alomar and injured himself making a headfirst dive into the final out of the inning.
How many ways can you hurt yourself on the same play? Stottlemyre broke one of the unwritten rules of baseball by making the final out of an inning at third base. He took the Blue Jays out of a potential rally with Joe Carter coming to the plate. And he suffered a small gash in his chin that required on-field medical attention. He stayed in the game, but only long enough to give up a two-run home run to Dykstra in the second inning.
Major League Baseball has spent considerable effort and lip service on the concept of reducing the average time of games, but Game 4 was in the middle of the fourth inning at 10 o'clock last night.
The World Series has come under criticism because it starts too late for schoolchildren to watch the games, but the pace of Game 4 left room to wonder if they might awaken in time to see the final innings.
A RECORD NIGHT
..... ... ... ... ... ... ... R ... H ... E
Tor. ... 304 ... 002 ... 060 ... 15 .. 17 .. 0
Phil.... 420 ... 151 ... 100 ... 14 .. 14 .. 1
* Most runs, game (both teams): 29. The former single-game World Series record of 22 runs was set in 1936 when the New York Yankees beat the New York Giants, 18-4, in Game 2.
* Most runs, first four games (both teams): 65. The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs had combined for 56 runs in the first four games of the 1932 Series.
* Most batters faced without recording an out: 10, David West, Philadelphia.
* Most walks issued by a pitcher in one inning: 4, Todd Stottlemyre, Toronto.
* First-inning runs: It was the first time in World Series history two teams scored three or more runs in the first inning.
* Longest game, 9 innings: 4 hours, 14 minutes.
WORLD SERIES TONIGHT
(Best of seven; Blue Jays lead, 3-1)
Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia
Blue Jays starter: Juan Guzman (0-0, 7.20 in Series)
Phillies starter: Curt Schilling (0-1, 8.53 in Series)
TV: Channels 11, 9
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES vs. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Blue Jays lead, 3-1
Gm. ... Result
1 ..... Blue Jays 8, Phillies 5
2 ..... Phillies 6, Blue Jays 4
3 ..... Blue Jays 10, Phillies 3
4 ..... Blue Jays 15, Phillies 14
Gm. ... Date ... Site ... Time
5 .... Tonight .. Phila... 8:12
6* .. Saturday ..Toronto.. 8:12
7* ... Sunday ...Toronto.. 8:29
TV: All games on channels 11, 9