Thursday, October 23, 2008

Phillies Drop Rays in Game One

By JC De La Torre

It was de ja vu all over again for the Rays, just like in Game One of the ALCS, a tremendous pitching performance and just enough hitting by the opponent were enough to allow the Philadelphia Phillies to take Game 1 of the World Series at the Trop, 3-2.

Cole Hamels was spectacular for the Phils, pitching 7 strong innings scattering 5 hits and only two earned runs while styming the Rays 2, 3, and 4 hitters with an 0-12 night (including two double play balls by BJ Upton that ended Ray threats).

Scot Kazmir wasn't quite as effective, but managed to go 6 innings, allowing 6 hits and 3 earned runs, while walking four in his first loss of the post-season.

Things got off on the wrong foot for Kazmir at the beginning of the game. After getting the lead off man Rollins to fly out to right, Kazmir walked Jason Werth. To the plate came Chase Utley and the Rays pulled a large defensive shift (similar to the way they played Boston's pulling slugger David Ortiz). Utley attempted to put down a bunt but pushed it foul. That was unfortunate for Tampa Bay because a couple pitches later, Utley blasted a Kazmir pitch into the right field bleachers to give Philadelphia a quick 2-0 advantage.

It would stay that way until the 4th inning, when Kazmir would get himself into a little trouble again. Victorino would lead off with a single and Pedro Feliz would follow with another single to shallow center. Chris Coste would ground out to Carlos Pena at first, but Pena had no chance at the double play and the runners advanced. Philly Catched Carlos Ruiz would ground to shortstop, but there was no play at the plate and it went over to first, the Rays conceding the run to fall behind 3-0. Kaz would strike out Rollins to get out of the inning, but the damage was done. The Rays woud answer the run by Philadelphia by finally getting on the board with a towering blast to right field by Carl Crawford. The score was 3-1 after 4.

Tampa Bay would get a little closer in the bottom half of the 5th, after two quick outs by Navarro and Zobrist, Jason Bartlett was walked, then promptly stole second. Aki Iwamurra doubled to center, scoring Barlett and cutting the lead to 3-2. Upton would foul out to end the threat.

That would be it for the Rays, though, as Hamels, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge would allow only one base runner (who reached on an error) for the last four innings.

Lidge was dominant in his closing fashion, facing the meat of the Tampa Bay order, he struck out Pena and Longoria, then got Crawford to pop out to 3rd. Game over, Game One to Philadelphia.

The Phillies achieved their goal of taking at least one game in St. Pete to swing the home field advantage away from Tampa Bay, even more distressing for the Rays, 10 of the last 11 game one winners have gone on to win the series, and only 39% of the losers of Game One come back to win the series.

The Rays, however, have been bucking trends all season. They've shifted from being the favorite to becoming the underdog - just the way they like it. Conventional wisdom was that Philly needed two victories out of Hamel and some luck with the other pitchers against the Rays offense. Philly got one of the two from Hamels, we'll see if luck is on their side tonight.

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