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The Fall Classic is off to a solid start for Fox, with Wednesday’s opening game winning the night despite coming in lower than last year.

A 3-2 victory by the Philadelphia Phillies over the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of the World Series averaged a 4.8 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 14.63 million viewers overall — making it the night’s top-rated program in key demos, according to Nielsen.

Although it came in a bit better than some might have thought for a matchup of squads that aren’t familiar to most auds, in 18-49 the game was 15% below last year’s opener between the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies (5.8/16, 16.90m). It was, however, up over the openers of the 2005 and 2006 World Series, both of which started on a Saturday.

Perhaps helping its ratings Wednesday was the fact that the game was tight throughout and didn’t oppose any blockbuster entertainment programming on rival networks. Last night’s Game 2 took on much more formidable competish.

Year-to-year, the Phillies-Rays held up best among men 25-54 (7.5/20), just 6% below the Red Sox-Rockies contest of last year (8.0/21); its biggest falloff came among men 18-34 (down 18%, 5.2/16 vs. 6.4/19).

Fox is hopeful that Wednesday’s victory by the road team could ensure a lengthy series. If it’s extended to six or seven games, there’s a shot the 2008 Fall Classic could outdraw recent World Series.

On the entertainment side Wednesday, CBS comedies “Old Christine” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 7.76m) and the first-year “Gary Unmarried” (2.5/7, 7.56m) hit season highs. They placed second to baseball but ahead of “Knight Rider” on NBC (2.2/6, 7.23m) and the struggling “Pushing Daisies” on ABC (1.9/5, 5.69m).

CBS was the top nonsports choice the rest of the night as well with “Criminal Minds” (4.1/10, 15.01m) and “CSI: NY” (3.9/10, 14.39m), though both dipped a bit opposite baseball.

ABC’s “Private Practice” (3.0/8, 7.98m) looked a little healthier in its third outing this fall, placing third for its slot in 18-49 but first among all entertainment shows on the night in 18-34 (2.8/8). Net’s “Dirty Sexy Money” didn’t do much at 10 (1.9/5, 5.75m) but still topped NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle” (1.7/4, 4.31m).

At CW, the premiere of “Stylista” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.35m) was nothing special behind “America’s Next Top Model” (2.1/6, 4.44m), in line with “Gossip Girl” in the hour a year ago. In the net’s target 18-34 demo, it retained 54% of its “Model” lead-in (1.3/4 vs. 2.4/7).

Game 1 Photos