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Hey, how'd Game 1 of the World Series do nationally?

Fox's World Series team: Joe Buck and Tim McCarver

OK, we've already established that Fox's Game 1 telecast of the World Series tanked big-time in the Dallas-Worth ratings.

But how did it do in the country at large? The final Nielsen numbers are in -- and the Series pretty much did OK.

Wednesday's opener between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays, which ran from 7:30 to 11:01 p.m. (central time), averaged 14.6 million viewers nationally, according to Nielsen Media Research. The game was close throughout, with the Phils prevailing 3-2 over the Rays in the Florida upstart's first-ever Series appearance.

That's down 13 percent from the 16.9 million who tuned in last year's Game 1 between the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies. The Red Sox ended up sweeping the Rocks in a minimum four-games Series that ended up averaging 17,123,000 viewers.

So far that's the second lowest total audience ever, barely a smidgen "ahead" of the 2005 Series, in which the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros in four games to the tune of 17,162,000 viewers.

The 2006 Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers retains at least one unwanted title. Its first game remains the least-watched ever, with 12.8 million viewers nationally. So far it's also the all-time "champ" in the ratings loser division, averaging just 15.8 million viewers for a five-game Series won by St. Louis.

Fox has been the exclusive network of the World Series since 2000. It's also had pretty lousy luck of late. Three of the last four Series have been four-game sweeps.

The only four-gamer that did exceedingly well on Fox -- and for obvious reasons -- was the historic 2004 Series between the Red Sox and Cardinals. Exorcising the "Curse of the Bambino" (Boston's trading of Babe Ruth to the Yankees), the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918.

Fox feasted on an average of 25.4 million viewers per game. That Series also had a buildup sent from the baseball gods. The preceding American League Championship Series with the hated Yanks, also on Fox, found Boston almost miraculously become the first team ever to overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit. That one was a ratings smash.

The overall fate of the Phillies-Rays World Series almost certainly depends on its length. Thursday night provides even tougher competition from rival networks, with ABC's Grey's Anatomy and CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation both going against the Series at 8 p.m. (central).

On Wednesday night, CBS edged the Series in total viewers from 8 to 9 p.m. with a competing episode of Criminal Minds. Fox almost desperately needs a compelling, close game on Thursday night to keep the ratings from burrowing into too deep a hole. The network also would love to see a Rays home win to ensure at least a five-game Series. What would Fox give for a seven-gamer? Only Rupert Murdoch knows for sure, but there's nothing he can't afford.

Game 1, which was close throughout, kept gaining viewers as the night wore on. What happens Thursday night could go a long way in determining whether baseball will at least be very good to Fox -- or much closer to a whiff with the bases loaded.