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PHILADELPHIA — Eric Bruntlett probably is asked more about the game-ending unassisted triple play he turned against the Mets at Citi Field on Aug. 23, 2009, than any other play or moment in his seven-year Major League career.
Bruntlett understands. He also prefers to discuss other things.
“I like to steer the conversation toward the World Series,” Bruntlett said this summer. “That’s more memorable for me.”
• Each team’s most unlikely postseason heroes
Bruntlett played for the Phillies from 2008-09, joining the organization in November 2007 from the Astros in the Brad Lidge trade. Bruntlett batted .202 with a .550 OPS in 356 plate appearances in those two seasons. He played everywhere except catcher and pitcher.
If Bruntlett had played on lesser teams, he might have been lumped alongside utility players like Andrés Blanco and Tomas Perez. But Bruntlett played a role in some of the biggest moments in franchise history, scoring the game-winning runs in Games 3 and 5 of the 2008 World Series. He also stood in left field when Lidge struck out Rays pinch-hitter Eric Hinske for the final out in Game 5.
“That whole year, that was crazy,” Bruntlett said. “Obviously a great group of guys. That’s what I remember, the people involved and the fact that I had some sort of role. It was small compared to other guys, but in big moments, I was there. That made it really special. And obviously we won the whole thing, which makes it more special.”
Philadelphia had a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning when Bruntlett replaced Pat Burrell in left field in Game 3 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park. Tampa Bay scored two runs in the inning and one more run in the eighth to tie the game.
It hurt not to have Burrell’s bat in the lineup when his turn came to bat in the ninth, but Rays pitcher J.P. Howell hit Bruntlett with a pitch to start the inning.
Bruntlett advanced from first to third on a wild pitch and a throwing error from Rays catcher Dioner Navarro. Tampa Bay intentionally walked Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs to load the bases. Rays manager Joe Maddon then moved Ben Zobrist from right field to the infield to give Tampa Bay a five-man infield.
Carlos Ruiz chopped a ball up the third-base line. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria fielded the ball, futilely flipping it toward home plate. Bruntlett scored easily to win the game.
“As soon as it was hit, I knew I was scoring. But it’s still intense,” Bruntlett said. “But as soon as he made contact, I said, ‘Oh, got it.’ That’s the play where I’m sliding in and Matt Stairs gives me a high five. That’s one picture that I have — certainly a memorable moment for me. But again, certainly I was in the right place at the right time in some big spots.”
Burrell ripped a leadoff double in the seventh inning in Game 5. With the game tied, Phils manager Charlie Manuel had Bruntlett pinch-run for Burrell. He advanced to third on a fielder’s choice from Victorino. He scored on Pedro Feliz’s single up the middle.
“Same deal,” Bruntlett said. “As soon as it’s off the bat, it was like, ‘Here we go, got it, yes. Just don’t trip. Just don’t screw it up.’”
The run handed the Phillies a 4-3 lead. A couple innings later, Lidge struck out Hinske to capture the Phils’ second World Series championship in franchise history. Bruntlett sprinted in from left field to celebrate with his teammates.
“It felt like a long run,” Bruntlett said. “I remember jumping as I was running like a little kid. Just jumping. It took me forever to get there. The pile was already there when I got there. I was like, ‘Do I jump on somebody here? What do I do?’ Pat came around and gave me a big hug. That’s in a photo, too.
“I remember that run was a combination of floating and just feeling like a kid.”
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.