Series hype picks up in Game 3
Scene changes, but Rays, Phillies have same goal in sight
PHILADELPHIA -- There were no surprises in the first two games of the 2008 World Series. But the plot thickens from here.
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies are in Pennsylvania now, tied at 1. They have done the expected things so far. Cole Hamels won the opener for the Phillies, just as he had won his first three starts in the postseason. In Game 2, Tampa Bay's James Shields outpitched Brett Myers, just as the numbers suggested that he would.
What did these two clubs find out about each other in the first two games? The Phillies discovered that the Rays were multitalented and multifaceted.
"I think they've got very good athletes," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after Game 2. "The balls they hit on the ground, they're hard to double up. And they can cover the outfield. The guy in center field [B.J. Upton] looks like he can really cover some ground. They're athletes and they can play. Yeah, I mean, they've got a good club."
The Rays, meanwhile, discovered in Game 1 what the National League postseason entrants already knew -- that beating Hamels in this October is a very unlikely proposition. On the plus side, Tampa Bay found that it could retire Philadelphia with runners in scoring position. In the first two games, the Phillies were 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
|The 2008 World Series is the 16th since 1969 to be even after Game 2. Six of the first 15 series have gone on to seven games, and the team that won Game 2 went on to win the Series eight times.|
|Year||Won G2||Opp.||WS Result|
|1969||Mets||Orioles||Mets in 5|
|1973||Mets||Athletics||Athletics in 7|
|1974||Dodgers*||Athletics||Athletics in 5|
|1975||Reds||Red Sox||Reds in 7|
|1977||Dodgers||Yankees||Yankees in 6|
|1979||Pirates||Orioles||Pirates in 7|
|1982||Cardinals*||Brewers||Cardinals in 7|
|1983||Orioles*||Phillies||Orioles in 5|
|1984||Padres*||Tigers||Tigers in 5|
|1992||Blue Jays||Braves||Blue Jays in 6|
|1993||Blue Jays*||Phillies||Blue Jays in 6|
|1997||Indians||Marlins||Marlins in 7|
|2002||Angels*||Giants||Angels in 7|
|2003||Yankees*||Marlins||Marlins in 6|
|2006||Tigers*||Cardinals||Cardinals in 5|
|* - Home team for Game 2|
This may be a temporary condition. As Rays manager Joe Maddon cautioned on Thursday night: "That's really kind of over the top, because the Phillies are very dangerous. But we've had really good pitching."
A 1-1 record after two games of a World Series does not, of course, lead to snap conclusions. What this has meant over the history of the Fall Classic is that roughly 75 percent of the series that have started 1-1 have lasted six games or more.
That's what the evidence suggests here, too. Philadelphia is going to win at least the two games that Hamels pitches.
The pitching matchups in this World Series, when Hamels is not starting, appear to favor the Rays. But the overall bullpen edge belongs to the Phillies. Setup man Ryan Madson has been terrific. Closer Brad Lidge has been perfect -- 47-for-47 on save opportunities, including the postseason. The Rays have improved in late relief with the emergence of rookie David Price, who was asked to get seven outs in Game 2 and eventually delivered.
Game 3, scheduled for Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, specifically offers a fascinating matchup. Matt Garza of the Rays just punched his ticket for postseason success with a brilliant Game 7 performance against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. That, combined with a Game 3 victory, justifiably made him the MVP of the ALCS.
So here is a young and indisputably talented pitcher on something of a postseason roll. On the Phillies' side of the argument is lefty Jamie Moyer.
Moyer's performance may be the biggest variable to date in this World Series. This is a man who has won 246 games, 16 of them this season. But in his last start, Game 3 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, he was pounded, giving up six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. The Phillies have lost just three games in this postseason. Two of those losses went to Moyer.
Which Moyer is it going to be? Is he going to be the master of his craft, pitching with typical guts and guile? Or is he going to be the guy who got tagged by a Dodgers club that couldn't find a way to punish the rest of the Phillies' staff?
Moyer is 45, but age has been no barrier to his success. Garza is 24. What do they have in common? This will be the first World Series start for each of them. This start has even more significance for Moyer, because he is a Pennsylvania native.
Asked on Friday to analyze his struggles in this postseason, Moyer responded: "They're behind me. I have no idea. I'm moving forward."
But the very fact that Moyer is getting this start is the strongest possible vote of confidence from Manuel. This is obviously a crucial World Series juncture, and the manager is putting his faith in the veteran lefty.
"He was probably our most consistent pitcher at one time this year," Manuel said on Friday. "He won 16 ballgames for us. He made all of his appearances in rotation. He even pitched on short rest at times.
"And look, he's had some big games. He's pitched two games in the playoffs, and they hadn't been very good for him. But at the same time, I've still got confidence in him getting guys out. He showed he can get them out."
To win this Fall Classic, the Rays need to defeat the Phillies pitchers who are not named Hamels. To win this World Series, the Phillies need winning performances from starting pitchers who are also not named Hamels. The Rays took a round of this argument in Game 2, but Game 3 will be a different chapter -- in a different city, in a different ballpark, in a different environment, with no roof, with rain in the forecast.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.