Pitching Will Be Key To Rays World Series Success

Michael CarvelliContributor IOctober 21, 2008

Throughout the Tampa Bay Rays run in the postseason, one thing that has been very consistent has been the performance of their young pitching staff. Whether it be getting strong showings from the starters or bringing in a reliever to get a clutch out, the Rays have shown that they can do just this.

Though the rotation for the World Series has not been set just yet, it is likely that Scott Kazmir will get the call to start opposite Cole Hamels in Game One on Wednesday. The well-rested lefty got a no decision in a great outing that was ruined by the Red Sox dramatic comeback in Game Five of the American League Championship Series.

"He did his job superbly last night, gave us every chance to win this game," Maddon said a day following Game 5. "I was trying to look at the entire event, him doing what he did [in Game 5], and if we continue to move into the next round. That game could really catapult him into the World Series and a great performance there."

The start in Game Two will more than likely go to right-hander James Shields who struggled against Boston his two ALCS starts.

That means for the first game in Philadelphia, the Rays will hand the ball to ALCS MVP Matt Garza who is really looking forward to that possibility. "It doesn't bother me a bit;" Garza said, "as long as I get the ball."

Andy Sonnanstine will be the fourth man in the rotation for the series.  Sonnanstine has pitched very well in the playoffs so far going 2-0 and holding his opponents to a .188 batting average.

Even though they have a strong rotation for the World Series, the bullpen is where they have had a little bit of trouble. Of the four save opportunities that Tampa relievers have had this postseason, they have only been able to convert on half of them.

Dan Wheeler has blown both of those saves, but should remain a guy that Joe Maddon will turn to in the late innings of games. Other pitchers that will see some innings out of the bullpen are JP Howell (9 appearances in 11 games), Grant Balfour, Edwin Jackson, and Chad Bradford.

But perhaps what was the biggest boost to this Tampa Bay bullpen in their ALCS win over the Red Sox was the emergence of 2007 first overall draft pick, David Price. So far, Price has been a force on the mound with a 1-0 record, one save, and he also has not given up a hit yet in his three postseason appearances.

For this young pitching staff to have success against Philadelphia, there are a few things they will need to do. First and foremost, they cannot let the heart of the order (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell) get in run scoring situations. This means, the two at the top of the order, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, need to be held in check.

If the Rays can do that, and the offense continues to give run support, you could be watching a comeback season that baseball has not seen since the 1969 New York Mets.