Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dream could be over for Rays - Phils a Win Away

By JC De La Torre

The dream season of the Tampa Bay Rays is almost over and not finishing the way we hoped. The Philadelphia Phillies jumped on a less than sharp Andy Sonnanstine and destroyed Tampa Bay in a 10-2 victory in Game 4 of the World Series. The win by Philadelphia gives them a commanding 3 games to 1 lead and puts them within one win of the World Championship. If Philadelphia wins tomorrow night, it will be the first major sports championship for the city since the Philadelphia 76ers won the NBA title in 1983, when the 76ers swept the LA Lakers. The story for the Rays is the ineffectiveness of their pitching, their defense, and their offense. Basically, through 4 games of the World Series, the Phillies have outplayed them in every phase.

It started rough for Andy Sonnanstine, who is one of the best control pitchers in baseball, as he came out and could not find the strike zone in the first inning. Jimmy Rollins led off the first with a screaming double down the right field line. Jayson Werth would fly out to right, but deep enough to put Rollins on third. That's when Sonnanstine lost his control. He would walk Utley, then Ryan Howard grounded to Sonnanstine - instead of trying to go to 2nd for the double play, Sonnanstine cut off Rollins and got him into a run down, he tossed the ball to 3b Evan Longoria, who appeared to tag Rollins out, but inexplicably, the third base umpire ruled him safe. Then, for the first time in Andy Sonnanstine's career, he would walk in a run, walking Pat Burrell. Sonnanstine would recover, getting Victorino to ground to him, he threw to home plate to get the force on Utley, got Pedro Feliz to fly out. After 1 inning, it was 1-0.

As the Rays bats remained silent, the Phillies would add a run in the bottom of the 3rd, Pedro Feliz would single in a run to extend the lead to 2-0. Tampa Bay would cut into the lead in the top half of the 4th with a solo home run by Carl Crawford. In the bottom half of the 4th, the Phillies blew the game open. An error by Aki Iwamurra (his second of the game), put Rollins on first. Sonnanstine would walk Werth, then struck out Utley. Up to the plate stepped the struggling slugger Ryan Howard - he would struggle no more - blasting a moon shot to left field for a 3 run homer, giving the Phils a commanding 5-1 advantage.

In the top of the 5th Tampa Bay's Eric Hinske, added to the playoff roster due to Cliff Floyd's shoulder injury, came in to pinch hit, and promply homered to deep center field, cutting the advantage to 5-2. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Philadelphia Pitcher Joe Blanton, who pitched a sterling performance going 6 innings, allowing 2 runs, on 4 hits, 2 walks and striking out 7, helped himself by sending an Edwin Jackson fast ball into the left field seats for a shocking solo homer, giving the Phils a 6-2 lead. It was the first home run by a pitcher in the World Series since 1974.

From there, the Philadelphia bullpen took over, continuing the rough series for the Rays top two home run threats Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria who are a combined 0-29 with 16 strike outs in the series, while Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard (his 2nd) each added another 2 run blast in the top of the 8th for insurance, wrapping up the crucial game 4 win.

Tampa Bay must win three straight to win the World Series and they open their quest facing the best the Phillies have to offer - Cole Hamels. Needless to say, it will be a tough hill to climb for the Rays, who have had one heck of a season. No one, not even the Rays own fans, could have predicted the Tampa Bay Rays would win the AL Pennant and play in the World Series. While there's hope that the Rays can finish this dream season in a movie style dramatic ending, the odds are against it. So enjoy Game 5 Rays fans, as it may be the end of the road for 2008. The good news, all the Rays young stars are under contract for next season and David Price will be ready to assume his role in the starting rotation, yet another arm for the Rays to use to bolster their battery. They'll also have all season to find a solution for Right Field and a true Closer.

So, fans, root your heart out Monday night, let's hope the Rays can get this thing back to the Trop and spoil the party for Philadelphia. One game at a time, Rays.

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