With three extra outs and last at bats, tonight’s Game 5.6111 is a chance for players like Pat Burrell to go out in style. And that’s about all I have time to write, as I just now realized I’m late for a dentist appointment. The point would have been about tonight's game as a chance for the Phils, and players like Pat Burrell in particular, to dig deep and give us something we'll never forget, while making us forget about everything else.
If you believe it’s impossible to get the enthusiasm back, you’re not the fan you think you are, and you don’t know the resilient Phillies like you think you do. All this team has done, all season, is come through when they've needed to. The clouds are lifting, and when it clears, it’s 3-1 Phillies series lead, tie game, bottom of the sixth at home. Life is pretty damn great. Days like this come once in a lifetime, so allow those raindrops to roll off your back. No sense in looking back. Tonight, the Phillies sip the champagne and send the Rays back to Tampa with the taste of Wilmington hotel mints still in their mouths.
(From an MLB news release) Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said: "While obviously we want to finish Game Five as soon as possible, the forecast for today does not allow for us to continue the game this evening. We are closely monitoring tomorrow's forecast and will continue to monitor the weather on an hourly basis. We will advise fans as soon as we are able to make any final decisions with respect to tomorrow's schedule." Game time for tomorrow is tentatively set for 8:37 p.m. ET. Dates for Game 6 and Game 7 have not been determined.
Beerleaguer: I'll never belittle dome baseball again. Rain is not really in the forecast tomorrow, so Wednesday looks like a go for the final 3 1/2 innings of Game 5. Because of the schedule change, Cole Hamels, who only made 75 pitches last night, could be in line to pitch a potential Friday Game 7, but it would be on three-days rest. Pitching on full rest is not out of the question for Hamels should the weather not cooperate tomorrow or if baseball schedules Game 6 for Friday and Game 7 for Saturday, but it seems like a longshot. Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton would be on full rest for a Thursday Game 6 and Friday Game 7 should Charlie Manuel decide to use Brett Myers to work the completion of Game 5.
There will be no greater tactical test in Phillies baseball history than how Cholly handles these next few days.
The first weather suspension in World Series history fouls up the Phillies' possible championship clincher. Why am I not surprised?
The mood in Philadelphia shifted just as quickly as the autumn weather. Gearing up for glory (at one point, 10 outs away from glory) deteriorated into bewilderment and anger directed toward everyone and everything, from Major League Baseball to Fox Television. Indeed, the two are in cahoots regarding the ridiculousness of 8:30 p.m., East Coast, late-October baseball.
Early forecasts hinted at mist, a playable condition. The first few innings were played in these conditions. But those forecasts changed during the afternoon; the heavy stuff would hit Philadelphia head on. So Bud Selig weighed the odds, gambled and lost.
It’s the rigidity of baseball that has this observer most upset. Even shifting the start time to 7 would be impossible, when it should be so simple. All because of television, which thirsts for 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fox knows that old, impotent men, who wouldn't miss the World Series for anything, represent a broader market with deeper pockets than kids with bedtimes. The demographic who buys domestic beer, cell phones, iPods, satellite television, the Honda Fit and everything else Fox hocks during the World Series doesn’t have a problem with games that end near midnight. In golf, for example, they wouldn’t think twice about postponing a Major in questionable conditions. The demographic, consumers of luxury cars and mutual funds, is completely different.
Are there lessons to be learned from last night? Sure, but no one’s listening. They’ll do everything possible to jam the rest of Game 5 into conditions that read like this: “Mostly cloudy and windy with rain tapering off. Lows in the lower 30s. West winds 15 to 25 mph. Gusts up to 40 mph in the evening.”
Ramifications: Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon have some decisions to mull. When play resumes, the Phils will send a pinch hitter to the plate against right-hander Grant Balfour, who’s still on the mound for Tampa. The Phils could go left/right with one of their big bats, but it’s likely Maddon would counter with David Price. Manuel could call on someone like So Taguchi to lead off the inning as a way to get some speed on the bases for Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth, and preserve his big lefty bats, who would certainly be minimized by Maddon.
Tampa’s 3-4 hitters finally come through: Lost in the blame is the fact that Tampa’s 3-4 hitters, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, finally came through with big hits. Under miserable conditions, Pena’s RBI hit in the sixth, to drive in B.J. Upton, was the best execution the Rays had all series. It absolutely saved them.
The Phillies will have their 9-1-2 hitters up in the bottom of the sixth when Game 5 resumes tomorrow, weather permitting.
Summary: Under deteriorating conditions, play was halted one out after Tampa Bay tied the score on an RBI single by Carlos Pena in the top of the sixth and was officially suspended 30 minutes later. The Phils scored all their runs in the first on a bases-loaded single by Shane Victorino, but once again, the Phils continued to come up empty with runners in scoring position. Cole Hamels' lasted six innings, allowing two runs and striking out three.
Beerleaguer: An unfortunate turn of events to say the least. Fans may not want to hear it, but with a 3-1 series lead, a great pen and 12 outs to play with, the Phils are still in decent shape to wrap it up in five. That's what this team must remember when they step back on the field tomorrow against a Tampa team that was basically given CPR by Mother Nature and Major League Baseball. But of course, the forecast for tomorrow is even worse.
The city's first world title since 1983 is so close, you can actually smell the polish wafting from the Commissioner’s Trophy. Readers wrestle with their emotions ...
“I'm going to this game and I'm saying: caution to the f-ing wind. Anticipation is part of the experience, which will make this an unforgettable day. And if they lose, so be it. This is no Game 7. There's no real pressure here. I have no doubts about this one. I don't believe the Rays are suddenly going to find their bats and moxie while facing Hamels.” – RSB
“I am having some serious cognitive dissonance as, even though I'm a lifelong Phillies fan and don't want to assume anything or jinx the team, I am really thinking good things right now. Good things that I will not dare say out loud.” – dwr
"Absolutely unable to concentrate at work today.Burning my nervous energy by reading BL and playing Free Cell. Completely non-productive." - bonehead
“I'm trying somehow to get through another couple hours of work before driving up 95 for game five tonight. think I might have a massive coronary before the afternoon is thru.” - ae
"Please god end it tonight so that I may escape from the Photoshop hell I've built." - weitzel
Joe Blanton became the fourth Phillie to record a quality start on baseball’s biggest stage. Ace left-hander Cole Hamels tries to punctuate a pitching-dominated series, and season, tonight.
Final thoughts on Game 4, as I have two graphics to prepare.
Forget his tight slider and pinpoint control, his best in a Phillies uniform. Like the rest of the rotation, Blanton’s best stuff was between his ears. Unsightly as its been at times, the Phils have set the pace this series, even in the Game 2 loss, thanks to a rotation that has stayed cool and has stuck to the plan. After the game, Blanton became the latest pitcher to praise the game calling of Carlos Ruiz, keeper of the scouting blueprints that have kept Tampa’s 3-4 hitters without a base hit this entire series. That’s the story. Not ducks left on the pond, not the blind officiating and certainly not the coonhound scat on Kentucky Joe’s bill.
Before Game 1, I used the words reliable, tough and dependable in describing the Phils’ rotation, words that raised some eyebrows with readers in comparison to Tampa’s staff, considered the deeper of the two units. Well, the 45-year-old, the minor league demotee and Kentucky Joe, who drew a collective trade deadline 'meh' from everyone, have kept the focus, pitching in games they’ve dreamt about pitching their entire lives. As veteran as the Phillies are, both teams are World Series noobs.
Tampa hasn’t played good baseball, but they’re still dangerous. Step away from from the national stage and it’s a four-game slump that would be considered innocuous if this series was being played in May. But facing elimination, and a million miles from more cowbell, the Rays are all alone with the feet of America's sixth-largest city standing on their throats.
Several news sources expect Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to take over for general manager Pat Gillick when his three-year contract expires Friday. We now return to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress ...
Behind Ryan Howard’s monster two-homer, five-RBI night, along with Joe Blanton’s mighty arm and bat, the Phillies savaged the Rays 10-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series. The Phills hand the ball to their ace, Cole Hamels, Monday to capture the city's first championship since 1983 and the team's second world title in franchise history.
Sunday. You’re waking up. You’re waking up next to someone. You’re waking up next to a one-night stand named 2-1 series lead. What happened? The sun is shining. No, the sun is melting your eyeballs. Sip a beer. It's the quickest way to fix this following the wildest binge of your life. Pick yourself up. Get it together. Your search continues tonight.
Carlos Ruiz's bases loaded swinging bunt drove in Eric Bruntlett in a thrilling 5-4 Phillies win in Game 3 of the Small Ball World Series.
Nearing 2 a.m., and in the final moments of a 3-hour, 41-minute marathon, a swinging bunt in the bottom of the ninth goes down in history as one of the biggest hits in Philadelphia sports history. Call it "The Little Squib that Did" (Courtesy of our own RSB). In a game that featured solo homers by Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, his first of the postseason, the game was decided with small ball once again. Six of the nine total runs came via small ball tactics: ground outs, infield hits, stolen bases, hitting behind the runner, a sac fly ... that's been the story throughout much of this World Series.
The dramatic finish erased a multitude of little sins, blunders and a blown call that could have proved disastrous for the team's championship hopes. Instead, fans can forget all about them and focus on the many positives from Game 3, including a razor-sharp outing by Jamie Moyer, who hit the bullseye all night and pitched Tampa's power threats perfectly. The Rays continue to struggle against left-handed pitching. Cole Hamels, Moyer, Scott Eyre, J.C. Romero: success, success, success, success.
Offensively, Chooch continued his October transformation into a legitimate threat and possible series MVP, while Utley picked a key time to launch his second home run of this series.
Here's how it happened in the ninth: With the game even, Eric Bruntlett, into the game as Pat Burrell's defensive caddy, was hit by a pitch to lead off the ninth, then reached third on a wild pitch and misfire to second by Rays catcher Dioner Navarro. With Bruntlett on third and nobody out, Rays manager Joe Maddon ordered intentional walks to Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs to set up the double play using a five-man infield. Ruiz would then fight off Grant Balfour's high heat for the winning nubber, representing the one and only time when the Bruntlett/Burrell speed swap truly paid off.
The World Series moves back under gloomy Philadelphia skies, making conditions unfavorable for baseball, and for predicting an outcome.
Preview: The biggest start in Jamie Moyer's life and first ever in a World Series follows two of the worst statistical outings he's had all season, a pair of short losses to the Brewers and Dodgers (his loss to the Dodgers was the shortest of the season, his NLCS loss matched his third shortest.) If it's any consolation, Moyer wasn't off his game quite as much as it looks on paper. Against L.A., the Dodgers came out aggressively in a Game 3 must win at home and belted a couple of first-pitch strikes. The critical mistake came against Blake Dewitt with the bases loaded, two outs, the count full and the pitcher up next. Against Milwaukee, the Brewers, with their backs to the wall, changed their approached and demonstrated patience, which they didn't have the rest of the series. Moyer lasted four innings, giving up four hits, two runs and three walks in a game where neither team could figure out Brian Runge's strike zone.
Under normal circumstances, I'd like the Phils coming home for this Game 3 very much, with the series even and the crowd amped up for the first home World Series game in 15 years. The Phillies, if you think about it, have been away from home forever. However, I'm worried about an early Tampa lead that could take the crowd right out of it on a brutal night to be sitting in the seats. Rays starter Matt Garza seems to be the kind of hard-throwing right-hander the Phillies might be able to hit, but the raw conditions could limit them.
Keys for the Phils: Jimmy Rollins needs to get on base and create something. It might not be a bad idea moving Shane Victorino back into the No. 2 hole in case Rollins can't do it. Defensively, they must play better. Moyer needs to hit his spots, and as usual, he needs the home plate umpire to be in his corner.
Conditions could be at their worst when fans travel to the park tonight.
Soaking rain and possible thunderstorms are expected to set in throughout most of the day Saturday, with the heaviest stuff expected to taper off sometime after the scheduled 8:30 p.m. first pitch. Wind gusts could hit 40 mph. Game time temperature will be 55. (Source: Mega Doppler 3)
The Phillies have had more hits and better pitching during the first two games. Unfortunately, they’ve made bigger mistakes.
There’s debate over the quality of Brett Myers’ start. I fall in line with those who believe Myers pitched just fine. Consider the quality of the Rays’ offense, playing at home where they have the best record in baseball, Jayson Werth's error in right, the lousy effort at the dish and certainly the incompetent officiating. The game could have unraveled into a real mess, but to his credit, Myers changed it up and settled down. Myers went seven innings, allowing three earned, which could have easily been less because of the officiating gaff. Tampa scored three of their runs without the ball leaving the infield. Afterward, Myers credited Carlos Ruiz changing strategies and calling a good game.
Ruiz, by the way, came to play this series.
The problem of course is that no one else has. I keep going back to rust, because it’s obvious to this observer that someone like Jimmy Rollins, for example, isn’t in sync. His swings are long. He’s behind high heat. He hasn’t connected for a hit, but more importantly, he’s not on base to create something. He reached on a fielder’s choice yesterday, the first time he's reached base, and it was followed by a Werth single. That potental rally was murdered by Werth’s base-running gaff, the second of two killer mistakes by the Phillies right fielder.
The official tally of offensive ineptitude goes one-out, second-and-third in the second. Nothing. That one featured perhaps the worst at bat of the night in Greg Dobbs taking three strikes without swinging the bat in a situation where a walk actually hurts because it puts the double play in order. You’re the DH. Swing the damn bat. Then Ruiz leads off with a double in the third. Jack squat. First-and-third, one out in the fourth. Zippo. First-and-third with two outs in the sixth. Nada. Pedro Feliz represented the final out in three of these innings, stranding six. He actually ended the eighth as well.
Additional thoughts: Howard's 2-5, 1 K, 3 LOB night has to be the most celebrated mediocre night in history if you watch these postgame shows. His double was a pitch up a little and the other had eyes and beat the shift. ... The dirty little secret about Werth is that his glove is wildly overrated, as we saw tonight. Sometimes, Werth can look awfully raw; he now has 16 strikeouts in the postseason. ... People are jumping on Kerwin Danley, and rightfully so. In a World Series, you can’t be that incompetent. He rang up Baldelli, who clearly offered. And Danley clearly called it. Then he lied about not calling it. Then, the blunder is compounded by the first-base ump, who also makes the wrong call. Keystone Cops, these clowns.
Nevertheless, to revisit the headline, as ugly as it's been, the Phils have set the pace and return home with the series tied tomorrow night, weather permitting.
As they did in Game 1, the Phillies got ‘em on, but couldn’t get ’em in, in a poorly played, poorly officiated loss to the Rays, who evened the series 1-1. The Phillies' offense is 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position during the World Series, and none of them crossed home. Full Game 2 review tomorrow.
Ahead 1-0, the Phils try to overcome the pitching drop-off from ace Cole Hamels and take a commanding lead in the World Series. First pitch is 8:30 p.m.
Preview: The Rays lost a game where the Phillies had the one true edge (Hamels). The American League pennant winners, who had a 127 point higher winning percentage against righty starters this season, try to pick themselves off the mat against Brett Myers. Last night, Hamels mixed fastball, change-up, curve, up, down, in, out and spun the Rays in circles. Tonight, they'll face a pitcher who's hoping he can just use his fastball properly. ... With home-field advantage taken away, the Rays turn to their best starter, James Shields, in a must-win situation. Over his career, Shields does best at home, while Myers has been horrendous away from home (6.21, .301 BAA). ... The right-handed starter should help struggling slugger Ryan Howard, who had a .220 point higher OPS against righties, but that hasn't made much of a difference in the postseason. ... Many of the Phillies' bats looked rusty in Game 1, but their wheels looked well oiled. One reason could have been Davy Lopes' detective work with Scott Kazmir, who may have been tipping his pitches, as a report on Yahoo! suggests. Otherwise, aside from a bad pitch to Chase Utley, Kazmir had a good night.
A sampling of Game 1 commentary from the peanut gallery.
“Cholly was entirely wrong not to PH Dobbs at that spot in the ninth... Dobbs at least gives us a shot to put up a fourth run on the board. We would not have sacrificed anything by replacing Bruntlett with Taguchi in left field either.” - Baumer
“As for Howard, he does not seem to have any ability of late to recognize a pitch. He's not guessing or sitting on a fastball. He just doesn't know what the pitch is even when it's on it's way, as evidenced by the depressing number of check swings he has every AB and getting called out on strikes on a straight down-the-pipe fastball. This was not rust. (Cholly, when the opposing team walks a batter to GET TO your cleanup hitter, you know they have the book on him and have no fear of him.)” – George S.
"This postseason really has been about one man in paritcular on this team - Cole Hamels. Yeah Victorino has had a couple of huge hits and the bullpen duo of Madson/Lidge has been working like a charm but it is Hamels' performances so far that have propelled. Hamels really has gone from the guy who tried to mow down hitters just 2 years ago to a pitcher who has become deadly efficient at working his way late into games. In the postseason, that is often what counts especially if you have a stellar setup man and a closer" – MG
“There is no such thing as an ugly win in the World Series.” - EastFallowField
Link: Phillies win, but they've got problems. [FoxSports]
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.
Cole Hamels is a perfect 3-0 in the postseason for the National League pennant winners, while the Rays’ Scott Kazmir has had a mediocre October.
Here’s a last-second tribute to Cole Hamels before I head out the door. Cheers to the one guy who’s performed like I thought he might down the stretch and in the postseason. Over his last 13 starts, he’s given up more than two runs just once. The 24-year-old is holding opposing hitters to a .168 playoff average, lashing hitters with 22 strikeouts over 22 brilliant innings. Nobody’s been better on the mound this October than the NLCS MVP, asserting himself as one of the game’s elite pitchers. Tonight, he faces the bullish Rays, who shine brightly in their home park. If anyone can handle it, it’s Hamels, who’s 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA in his last seven road starts.
Posting schedule: Game chat fires off at 6, followed by a post-game post after the game. Posting will be light tomorrow as I attend to personal matters.
Wake up. It’s time for the Phillies to make history.
The wait is over. Not another pixel of digital ink needs to be spilled to build excitement for what's about to happen 10 hours from now. The starting rotations were set yesterday afternoon, the first piece of real news in days, so we know the Phillies will need to get through left-hander Scott Kazmir in Game 1 first. Kazmir will be followed by James Shields on Thursday, ALCS MVP Matt Garza in Saturday’s Game 3 in Philadelphia, followed by Andy Sonnanstine on Sunday, leaving Kazmir, Shields and Garza available for Games 5, 6 and 7, if necessary.
As of this writing, Charlie Manuel hasn’t decided on a Game 1 designated hitter, though the Phillies’ skipper has indicated it would not be a left-handed hitter like Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs or Geoff Jenkins. Chris Coste is seen as a strong possibility, although using him in the role would risk forfeiting the DH should Carlos Ruiz get hurt, plus, Coste is rather rusty. Eric Bruntlett could start in left and allow Pat Burrell to DH, although there's some trepidation over Burrell's past performance as a DH. Playoff veteran So Taguchi is also viewed as a possibility. As they get closer to game time, the suggestion is Manuel is still waiting for a sign and will go with his gut later today.
And why not? Outside of the tri-state area, the rest of the sports world is on the bandwagon.
The map to the right is taken from a Sports Nation poll on ESPN.com. With 151,779 ballots counted, 61 percent of voters and 47 states pick the Rays to win the World Series. Only three states – Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey – pick the Phillies. (Phillies, the red team, represented in blue, and Tampa, the blue team, depicted in red.)
It’s an educated guess to believe rooting interests mimic the poll numbers. If not for the Phillies, I’d pull for the fresh-faced Rays, too, no matter who they faced. I’d pull for their excellent crop of dynamic, young talent, their Hazelton-raised manager, the last leg of their journey from worst to first. They left the deep-pocketed American League East in the dust and toppled Boston on a shoestring budget, witnessing a half dozen future stars blossom all at once. Except for C.C. and Manny, it was easy to block out the Brewers and Dodgers as a faceless foe during the NLDS and CS. It’s going to be difficult to do the same with Tampa, a team that demands attention.
Turn back the clock one year and the top headline on Beerleaguer was R.J. Swindle's addition to Canada's World Cup roster. That says it all.
Ever since the Phillies qualified for the postseason, something’s been off. Success isn’t great business for a blog that thrives on self-degradation. Beerleaguer grows fattest when it feasts on Phillies gristle, carved from the choice cuts reserved for the Inquirer and other mainstream hubs. Little known fact: Oct. 19 marked the one-year anniversary of the signing of Jared Simon and Dan Schwartz from the Frontier League Slippery Rock Sliders! That juicy baby anchored Beerleaguer for an entire day – and generated a nifty 111 comments.
Today, there’s a dark cloud hanging overhead and it’s filled with the traffic-killing sounds of joy and laughter. The Phillies, the vile team that never wins, are finally on top and the puzzle is nearly solved. It’s what we always wanted, right?
Hello? Anyone there?
The team that used to play on the worst surface in professional sports will need to adjust to Tropicana Field’s artificial surface, all-dirt infield and unholy white roof.
Another day, another article, another reason to second guess my decision to pick the Phillies in six. Over on the Phillies official Web site, Ken Mandel has a piece on the team’s preparations in St. Petersburg.
“Infield practice took on an educational tone,” Mandel writes, "with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley waiting until the last second to snag grounders otherwise considered routine. Studying the bounces on artificial turf or when they went from turf to dirt became important lessons.
“'It was pretty bouncy,” Rollins said. 'It didn't stop bouncing when it got on the dirt. Sometimes, it didn't bounce at all. When they put some water on it, naturally, it will bounce a little more.' Coaches later wheeled out the popup machine for drills, allowing players new to the foreign Tropicana Field the chance to pick up balls against the roof's white backdrop. 'There's a lot of action going on up there,' Rollins said. 'The bars up there, catwalks and lights, more lights and more catwalks. I don't think it will be an issue. We're going to have night games, so the sun won't be shining through and making the roof lighter. But if you don't pick up the ball right away, it will be tough to find it.'
The Phils haven’t played a game on turf all season and only a handful of games indoors. Tampa was a 57-24 team at their unnatural home haven, the best home record in baseball.
Under-the-radar features on the NL pennant winners.
-- Runners Gazette Magazine sits down with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, playoff hero and former track star who set Hawaii’s 100-meter record in 1999 and was once considered one of the top high school track stars in the country. [Link]
-- Wayne Graczyk, Japan Times columnist and Japanese baseball’s ambassador to the online Western world, recalls the career of Charlie Manuel, whose Japanese career started as a player with the Yakult Swallows in 1976. Graczyk recalls Manuel’s many ups and downs, the good being three-straight post-season appearances, being named Pacific League MVP in 1979 and hitting 48 homers in 1980. The bad, of course, was the vicious, jaw-shattering fastball he took in ’79. [Link]
-- The guys at the Reading Phillies look back at all the players and coaches from the 2008 pennant winners who passed through Baseballtown. The detailed report lists everything from development years to rehab assignments to winter tour stops. [Link]
Programming note: Tune into “The Voice” 830-AM this morning at 11:00 a.m. as I discuss the World Series on “Feedback” with Mike Faust.
Reading Eagle note: Writer Mike Urban is looking for Berks County residents who are making the trip to Tampa for an upcoming feature. If you’re interested in being interviewed, drop me an email.
The long-standing hope among insecure fans is that if the city ever ended its 25-year title drought that it would be done by a team that truly earned it, not a lemon that got lucky.
Main art on the Phillies official Web site shows the Phils' announced starting four. Words that come to mind include reliable, tough, dependable. They aren’t just solid under the hood, they look pretty good in the showroom. Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton generate curb appeal as a starting National League four. In the pen, Brad Lidge is the toy every team wants to stash in the garage. Offensively, the model line starts with a nice entry class and ends with top-of-the-line luxury.
In the end, the Phillies constructed a good starting staff, which is where it all starts. The 2008 model line represents a marked improvement from the rickshaws of the past. On September 7, 2007 – a little over a year ago -- fans watched a short-handed staff run out J.D. Durbin, John Ennis, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Lohse, Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick in consecutive starts, with Kendrick representing the top of the line at the time. Less than a month later and with Hamels back, their playoff rotation went Hamels, Kendrick, Moyer, with Lohse in a swing role. Although the offense was the biggest problem in their NLDS loss to Colorado, their rotation wasn't built to last.
This one is.
While we wait on Game 1, he’s a brief announcement.
This fall, I will be editing the 2009 Phillies preview for Maple Street Press, publisher of some 40 sports preview magazines across the country. This will be their first foray into Phillies country and I’m honored to be placed in charge of this product. This full-color book will feature some of the finest writers and minds covering Phillies baseball today, plus great photos, stats and information to get you ready for the 2009 season. Recognizing that we have more than a few fine writers of our own who contribute to Beerleaguer each day, I would like to extend the opportunity to contribute to our readers. Right now, I’m seeking historic essays on the Phillies. If you’re interested in contributing a piece covering a specific topic in Phillies history, send a 100-200 word proposal for consideration to my email address, listed in the right sidebar. Or for more details, contact me via e-mail.
Vegas oddsmakers favor Tampa: The Rays, who were at 200-1 odds for the title before the season, are favored over the Phillies, but with adjusted lines to encourage betting on the Phils. If Tampa wins, the betting industry stands to owe huge payouts on the long-shot Rays, according to the AP.
Left-hander Scott Kazmir is projected as Tampa Bay’s Game 1 starter, meaning Charlie Manuel’s toughest designated hitter decision will need to be made right out of the chute.
Before we veer off course with Xs and Os, a reminder to soak it in and have some fun this week. Besides a Brewers-Rays match-up, the networks get arguably the worst match-up possible from the post-season qualifiers, but it works out great for Phillies fans. Philadelphia, the larger of the markets, is the team with the deeper history and I expect Fox will dig into much of it over the course of this series. Nobody, except The Nation, is interested in seeing more Boston. The Phils and Rays earned the right to play on this stage, and the dream bout between the Dodgers and Sox will just have to wait until they assemble better teams.
Last night, the Rays validated a wonderful year that began even back in the Grapefruit League. They finished with a league-best record of 18-8 and there were signs early on that this beleaguered franchise was turning the corner. It was the only time the Phils and Rays would meet on the field this season with the Rays winning three out of four (I have no record of the B games). It’s no small thing. The two sides have a similar relationship to the one the Phils and Blue Jays had in 1993. The Phils and Rays train in nearby facilities and aren't exactly strangers. Players and coaches seem to absorb the pre-season stuff, especially when it’s a casual, neighborly relationship between teams in opposite leagues. The Phils saw James Shields, Matt Garza, most of their bullpen and their entire lineup, including Evan Longoria, over the course of four games.
They didn’t see Kazmir, the projected Game 1 starter. They’ve seen him once before and struck out nine times in five innings, homering twice. So now the question is who Charlie Manuel will chose to be his Game 1 designated hitter, and will it impact the roster. Signs point to Chris Coste getting the call in Game 1 because of his numbers against left-handed pitching (.263/.325/.425), but late in the season, Coste has been just as feeble as So Taguchi, finishing 3-for-32 at the plate. Will Manuel buck the left/right trend and call on Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs or Geoff Jenkins, even though they perform significantly worse against lefties? It’s an important decision. The lineup hasn’t exactly been the hallmark of form and functionality in the post-season, and the last lefty they faced was C.C Sabathia. They results could look a little more like what they did against Dodger reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.
The Tampa Bay Rays finished what they should have finished in Game 5. Paced by a strong outing by starter Matt Garza, and rookie David Price escaping bases-loaded danger in the eighth and finishing the job in the ninth, the owners of the worst record in baseball last season booted the defending-champion Red Sox from the playoffs 3-1 in tonight's Game 7. The Rays will host our Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday. Bring on the Rays. Let's see those predictions people.
The two sides settle up for the right to play the Phillies in the World Series tonight, just days after the Rays were seven outs away.
You won't find a strong rooting interest here, although a small part of me hopes Tampa validates their wonderful season by sticking Boston back in the trash. It’s nearly impossible to gauge which team would be a better match-up for the Phils. Running down the pros and cons can become tedious. Maybe Tampa, since Boston has been there before. Either representative figures to be favored. Interleague play proved the AL to be the superior league, based on a rather large sampling of interleague games, and everyone remembers how the Phils showed against the junior circuit. Nevertheless, Cole Hamels is capable of holding both lineups down. Take one on the road and it becomes a different series.
Back to the Phils. Charlie Manuel has set his rotation and it will stay as it was in the NLCS. He hasn't named a designated hitter. There won’t be great answer at DH against left-handed pitching. Against right-handers they’ll be fine. Matt Stairs had 291 plate appearances in the role with Toronto. He hit Boston better than Tampa, but wasn't especially great against either. Greg Dobbs is swinging the bat well but has just one hit against left-handed pitching all season. They’ve been saving So Taguchi thinking he’ll give them a big October hit, but he’s been so feeble at the plate and hasn’t even been used as a defensive replacement. Replacing Taguchi with catcher Lou Marson would provide a safety net to use Chris Coste as the righty DH. Coste hit .296/.363/.519 against left-handed pitching this season.
The Phillies arrive at the Fall Classic built around home-grown, high-round picks at the prime of their career, just like the 1980 world champions.
I remember a conversation I had in 2005 with Beerleaguer’s senior correspondent, in the final days of the Ed Wade era, talking about the White Sox and their 4-0 sweep over the Astros. “So this is how you build a World Series winner,” we wondered, discussing a team that was almost completely constructed using foreign parts you’d never expect to finish higher than 3rd in their division.
The Sox were following a model used in 1993 by our very own Phillies. It’s contrary to the way it’s supposed to be done. Teams are supposed to build from within. So in a sense, this year's Phillies, who, as it turned out, were largely in place or in the organization by the time Wade was chased out of town, reach the World Series the way Abner Doubleday would prefer.
There are clear parallels between the way the current pennant winners were built and team that brought home the bacon 28 years ago. Each boasts four, home-grown first-rounders: Lonnie Smith, Greg Luzinski, Larry Christenson and Dick Ruthven, then Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels. Mike Schmidt was a 2nd rounder, just like Jimmy Rollins. Bob Boone was a 6th rounder, while Ryan Howard was taken in the 5th. Larry Bowa originally signed with the Phils as amateur free agent, just like Carlos Ruiz. Manny Trillo was also an amatuer free agent, but made a couple career stops before arriving back with the Phils.
Even the outside help contains similarities. Garry Maddox was a high-round pick of the Giants. Shane Victorino was a high-round pick of the Dodgers. Right fielder Bake McBride was outside help. So was right fielder Jayson Werth. Pete Rose was an amateur free agent with the Reds. Greg Dobbs and Pedro Feliz were also amateur free agents with their former clubs. Lefties Steven Carlton and Jamie Moyer were already established when they arrived in Philadelphia, Jamie more so than lefty. Closer Tug McGraw came to Philly in a five-player swap. So did Brad Lidge.
The two clubs don’t even separate much in the bullpen. Ryan Madson, an 8th rounder, and J.A. Happ, a 3rd rounder, represent the home-grown parts. The 1980 team had three: Dickie Noles (4th), Kevin Saucier (2nd) and Warren Brusstar (4th).
With Tampa's foot planted firmly on their throats, the Red Sox wriggled loose and recorded the largest postseason comeback since 1929 with an 8-7 win.
(From the Tampa Tribune): "The Rays, once seemingly moments from the World Series, walked from the field at Fenway Park as Sox danced and fans screamed, victims of what will go down as the greatest single-game comeback in LCS history -- the greatest collapse, too. The tubs of champagne, which had been sitting in tubs on carts, were quickly wheeled out of view ... Scott Kazmir, validating (Joe) Maddon's choice of Game 5 starting pitcher, held up his end and then some: six innings of two-hit, shutout ball. ... But, cruel irony, it was the bullpen, the backbone of this worst-to-first season all along, that couldn't hold it, and the defense, rock solid all year, that let it slip away. The bullpen meltdown was particularly amazing. It had allowed just four runs in 24-plus postseason innings, pitching to a 1.33 ERA. It allowed eight Thursday."
That’s what Cole Hamels said in an interview with Comcast, and indeed, certain Phillies seem like they’ve kicked it into a higher gear.
It’s weird which October moments you remember most. One series I remember vividly is 2003 between the Wild Card Marlins and the heavily favored Yankees. With guys like Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis, Carl Pavano, Juan Pierre, Mike Lowell, Pudge Rodriguez and a newborn baby named Miguel Cabrera, it was like the Marlins were set at a different speed. The Yankees looked like old men in comparison. Everyone watched Florida’s young staff in astonishment that pitchers could throw the ball that hard for that long.
It was déjà vu watching Ryan Madson dial it up to 97 last night in the eighth. I'll never forget it. I thought his arm might snap. Just look at that arm (pictured upper right).
There’s something to be said about experience, but more and more, it's like squads ride their veterans through the regular season then turn it over to the newer models designed to handle the extra miles. Or, in the case of the Rays, you feast on the man-flesh of the baseball world using the kids from start to finish (As I write this, B.J. Upton smokes one over the Green Monster to put Tampa Bay on top of Boston 2-0).
I would be curious to know which pitcher the Phils would have turned to in Game 7, Jamie Moyer or Joe Blanton. The pace of the post-season is even slower than the pace Moyer likes to set against impatient, young prey like the Nationals. But in October, teams are well scouted and both the Brewers and Dodgers knew what to expect.
Experience is dandy, but sometimes, being young at heart isn’t as good as being young all over. Shane Victorino is one high-motor player having the time of his life. Carlos Ruiz, too. Chase Utley, who’s young enough to fit the bill, could have been argued as MVP of the NLCS. Hamels deservedly won MVP, but despite having youth on his side, pitched his type of game all of his starts. Madson, who's pitching like he was put on earth to make hitters look foolish, has been a revelation.
It's interesting to see who's on the outside looking in. Chris Coste won't start a game this October. Neither will Geoff Jenkins. J.A. Happ will probably keep his spot over the older Rudy Seanez.
Nevertheless, sometimes being young at heart is all you need. Just ask 40 year old Matt Stairs, who did not hold back.
Here it is, the World Series of Blog Entries, the opportunity to swing for the fences instead of sac bunting with a line like “savor the moment.”
With hands trembling, a simple “thank you” is all I wish I needed to write. It’s something that hasn’t been written in the three-and-a-half-year history of Beerleaguer, or even uttered in 15 years. Thank you, Phillies, for giving us this, with this being the part too wonderful for words, the hard part, the part I knew I must identify when Carlos Ruiz caught the foul pop that brought us to this. To me, this is an escape from past, a reminder that life is right under my nose. How strange it is to be in this place, where all the baggage, accumulated from fandom, and from life, are stripped away until we're left with the feeling of pure joy, and reminds us of the very moment that got us started down this road in the first place. A father, a man of 30, watches Schmitty, a man of 30, in his chair, while his young boy fondles baseball cards on the floor. Last night, that boy, now 30, sat in a chair of his own.
Maybe that's why “savor the moment” is used so often, because it’s the very best lesson of all.
Talking points via the Beerleaguer inbox.
(From a reader e-mail): Is Howard untouchable in the sense that you can't substitute for him? He's not hitting. His fielding is a liability in close games. In the playoffs you play against good teams, and you are well scouted. The Dodgers and Brewers just keep on throwing low-away junk all day and Howard refuses to try to go the other way, pulling everything he manages to hit right toward the 2nd baseman. There is at this point NO expectation of success when he comes up, meaning I no longer look forward to Howard batting in a critical situation. Nobody is going to give him the fastball to hit. Look how many times he half-swings, and holds up ... he's either fooled or impatient.
No thanks to finishing off the Dodgers at home. Make it Phils in five.
No thanks to Hiroki Kuroda vs. Brett Myers in Game 6. Myers is still suspect, even though he’s rocked at home, and the Phils haven’t solved Kuroda. No thanks to Derek Lowe on normal rest vs. TBA in Game 7. Jamie Moyer is still a big-game pitcher despite his struggles lately, but Lowe is still a better bet than Moyer or Joe Blanton, despite a third look against the Phils. Cole Hamels needs to rule like a good ace should, in a game that’s much more pivotal than the prevailing opinion suggests. How will the Dodgers respond with their backs to the wall and having seen Hamels a second time? Will they get the Chad Billingsley who allowed eight runs to the Phils or one run against the Cubs? Can Hamels and the Phillies stay focused, or will they be jumpy with the prize in clear sight?
They have the cushion, they have the pitcher, they’re the better team, yet tonight, the Phils must demand the very best from themselves.
Evan Longoria hit his fifth home run in the playoffs, and Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar also homered, in Tampa Bay’s 13-4 trouncing of Boston, giving the buzzsaw Rays a commanding 3-1 lead, just like the Phillies. The Rays, who finished with the worst record in baseball last season, teed off on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, including back-to-back bombs in the first. The Rays received 7 1-3 excellent innings from starter Andy Sonnastine, part of a pitching staff that has performed well throughout the post-season.
A summary of post-season statistics hastily compiled before the whistle.
Baseball Prospectus calculates that the Phillies have a 84.9 percent chance of winning the series and a 37.4 percent chance of winning it all. ... Jayson Werth leads all post-season players with 12 strikeouts, two ahead of Tampa’s B.J. Upton. ... Shane Victorino is having a great post-season, but he’s only scored four runs, the same as Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. ... Brett Myers has four post-season hits. So do Pedro Feliz, Blake Dewitt and David Ortiz. Jason Varitez only has three. ... Phillies pitchers have recorded more strikeouts (69) than any team. They’ve also allowed the most walks (32). They have a 32/9 K/BB ratio in day games and 37/23 at night. ... The Phils are having a so-so post-season with the sticks, but they’re well represented atop the unqualified OPS leaderboard: (1. Chris Coste, 1-1, 2.000 OPS; 2. Matt Stairs, 1-3, 1.667; 3. Myers, 4-5, 1.633; 8. Greg Dobbs, 6-11, 1.220; 9. Eric Bruntlett 1-2, 1.167). ... The Phils are hitting .313 with nobody on base.
Shane Victorino is asserting himself alongside catalysts like Pete Rose and Lenny Dykstra in Philadelphia baseball lore.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian is everywhere. Consider his October checklist. He fell the giant C.C. Sabathia, who was supposedly invincible, with a grand slam in Game 2 of the division series. He delivered four RBIs and a clutch catch in Game 2 of the NLCS. Then yesterday, the new dude golfed one into the right-field bullpen. He's produced so many snapshot moments that some of the other big plays get overlooked, like his bases-loaded walk in Game 1 of the division series that helped shake out the nerves. Vic was even at the center of the only two losses, including Sunday’s fracas and a ninth-inning interference call that took a run off the board in Game 3 against Milwaukee. Remember that?
Victorino isn’t just contributing to the post-season. He is the post-season. And for that, baseball has fined the dynamic outfielder $2,500 for Sunday’s dustup, a series of events that peppered Major League Baseball’s own Web site through much of the day and likely resulted in some of the site’s highest traffic in history. (Hero screen capture courtesy of MLB.com)
The Phillies are just one win away from a trip to the World Series following a stunning 7-5 comeback win over the Dodgers, powered by a pair of 8th-inning, two-run homers by Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs.
Summary: The Dodgers led 5-3 and were five outs away from pulling even in the best-of-seven series when Victorino, the clear catalyst this entire post-season, deposited a two-run shot into the right-field bullpen to tie the game 5-5. Not to be outdone, Stairs, who was acquired by the Phillies after the trade deadline for a situation just like this, stepped to the plate two batters later with a runner on and two outs and crushed Jonathan Broxton's 3-1 fastball into outer space. The late-inning heroics erased a multitude of earlier sins, including a series of managerial misfires and some all-around shoddy play. But in the end, it will be Dodgers manager Joe Torre who could be forever second-guessed if the Phillies can deliver just one more win in their next three tries. Their ace, Cole Hamels, goes Wednesday.
We'll have more on this Game 4 thriller, and its stars, following a very restful night of sleep.