Cole Hamels allowed two runs on five hits through seven innings, and Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge pitched perfect eighth and ninth innings, as the Phillies edged the Rays 3-2 in Game 1 of the World Series.
Hamels, Madson, Lidge and Chase Utley, who greeted Scott Kazmir with a two-run first-inning homer, represented some of the standout stars in the Phillies biggest win in 15 years. Pedro Feliz contributed two hits and robbed B.J. Upton of a bases-loaded smash and turned the twin killing to keep the early lead in place. Rays outfielder Carl Crawford would get to Hamels with a solo shot in the fourth inning and standout performer Akinori Iwamura, who went 3-for-4, doubled in Jason Bartlett in the fifth to complete Tampa's scoring.
Hamels improved to 4-0 in four postseason starts and helped hold Tampa's 2-3-4 hitters hitless. For Lidge, make it 47-for-47 in 2008 save opportunities.
Beerleaguer: To go into the Orangina SunnyThunderDome ... that stupid bubble, that dumb turf, its monster truck rally lighting, those kickball rules, that Little League World Series camera angle, the "ring your bell if you've been a fan for 15 minutes" crowd ... to go there and stop the buzzsaw the way Hamels, Madson and Lidge did. Unbelievably clutch. Nothing was stopping these pitchers tonight, and I loved Utley's snap homer to get it started. Very quietly, Utley is sneaking past Shane Victorino as the Phils' most valuable hitter this post-season.
Yes, this was a huge win, and the Phils are three wins away, but if the offense doesn't improve, they'll lose this series. They can't count on two runs from Tampa. If not for the pitching, this isn't just a loss, it's a brutal loss. Watching these postgame shows, they're talking about how they won, and thus, didn't look rusty. They looked plenty rusty. Ask anyone who's ever seen Jimmy Rollins play the game of baseball whether he looked rusty at the plate tonight. Jayson Werth flicked two doubles. He looked rusty. Chris Coste, the choice at DH, couldn't catch up with fastballs. He still looks rusty.
Then there's Howard, who can't use rust as an excuse. It's so bad for Howard that Joe Maddon finally had the guts to do what opposing managers probably toyed with doing all season: walk Utley to bring up the cleanup hitter. Lefties fed him a steady diet of low-and-away slop, and as usual, he couldn't resist. At this stage, I'm hoping those ballots stashed inside the sealed envelopes read "Pujols," just to avoid the awkward silences.
But I digress. Three mores wins and the name "Swindle" could be inside the envelope for all I care.