ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies shook off a week's worth of waiting and turned it into a World Series win.
Hamels escaped trouble to win his fourth post-season start, Utley hit a two-run homer in the first inning and the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in the opener Wednesday night.
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The worst-to-first Rays flopped in their first game in baseball's ultimate event, managing just five hits.
The Phillies showed little evidence of rust. They'll try to make it two in a row at Tropicana Field when Brett Myers pitches against James Shields in Game 2 Thursday night.
The team that won the opener has captured the Series 63 of 103 times, including 10 of the last 11.
"It's huge," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "You try and downplay it, but obviously you're coming into a place like this, you want to make sure you get the first game, especially because you got your ace on the mound. It's really important to do that."
Hamels, MVP of the NL Championship Series, improved to 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA this post-season. He had only a pair of 1-2-3 innings, but the composed 24-year-old left-hander allowed just two runs and five hits in seven innings.
Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth. Lidge worked the ninth for his 47th save in 47 chances this year, silencing the Rays and their cowbell-clanging fans.
Carl Crawford homered for Tampa Bay, but playoff stars B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria went a combined 0-for-8. The Rays didn't get a hit over the final four innings.
Scott Kazmir, selected two picks ahead of Hamels in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft, struggled with his control and gave up three runs, six hits and four walks in six innings.
The Phillies could have romped but went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Their other run even scored on an out, an RBI grounder by Carlos Ruiz.
Philadelphia had six days off after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL pennant, while the Rays didn't finish off the Boston Red Sox until Game 7 on Sunday night.
The Phillies also won the opener in 1980 against Kansas City, starting them to their only title since starting play in 1883.
After 10 seasons as a doormat, the Rays became the surprise of baseball, toppling the defending champion Red Sox and the Yankees to win the AL East, then beating the White Sox and Boston in the playoffs. The crowd of 40,783 at the Trop wasn't given much to cheer about, though, with Crawford homering in the fourth and Akinori Iwamura hitting an RBI double in the fifth.
Cowbells were sounding and fans were petting the cownose rays in a tank in right-center during Tropicana Field's first World Series game.
There was a minor-league feel, with the public-address announcer hawking season tickets for 2009, an on-field fan contest in left field during the middle of the fifth inning and a trivia contest to give away a video game after the sixth.
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia's leadoff batter, flied to right fielder Ben Zobrist, who has made just two regular-season career appearances at the position. He started and played six innings against Texas on May 28 and subbed there for one inning on Sept. 26 against Detroit.
When Zobrist walked into the clubhouse and saw his name in the lineup, he texted his wife: "Hey, I'm starting."
After Rollins flied out, Jayson Werth walked and Utley homered on a 2-2 pitch, sending the ball into the right-field seats and becoming the 34th player to homer in his first Series at-bat. Only 13 of Utley's 33 homers during the regular season were against lefties, and Kazmir allowed just one homer to a left-handed batter in 131 at-bats, with Boston's David Ortiz connecting Sept. 15.
"Fastball, middle of the plate," Utley said. "I was just trying to put the ball into play."
Mitch Williams, an analyst for Comcast SportsNet, started pumping a fist and cheering.
The Phillies' last World Series appearance ended when Williams allowed Joe Carter's game-ending homer in Game 6 at Toronto.