I've enlisted two Community Leaders, Devon Rodgers of the Tampa Bay Rays and Christian Karcole of the Philadelphia Phillies, to answer pertinent pitching questions facing their respective teams. The following is a 10 question Q&A breaking down the Rays and Phillies, pitching-wise.
Devon Rogers – Rays Co-Community Leader
RD: James Shields lost both of his starts in the ALCS but pitched well, posting a 3.46 ERA with nine strikeouts against five walks. What are some advantages of pitching Scott Kazmir in Game One over Shields?
DR: James Shields isn’t available for Game One, and I think that’s why they went with Kazmir. From a matchups standpoint, Hamels vs. Kazmir should be close, and we get the edge in Game Two with “Big Game James” against Brett Myers. Maddon won't pitch Shields in Game One on three days' rest because it is too risky when you have a guy like Kazmir ready to go on full rest.
RD: Through the ALDS and ALCS, the Rays have held the White Sox and Red Sox down with a combined team ERA of 3.52. Can their arms hold up against a potent and dangerous Phillies lineup?
DR: Almost all of the pitchers are experiencing playing more than 162 games for the first time. The young arms have held up until this point, so I think they should all be fine. Other than Troy Percival, all our pitchers were healthy down the stretch.
Every guy on the staff has been able to hold games in clutch situations and keep it close. With Maddon's philosophies, this will be just another series and our pitchers will show more of the same.
RD: The American public has now seen what David Price is all about, with his brilliant effort late in Game Seven of the ALCS. What kind of role does this phenom play in the World Series?
DR: DAVID PRICE WILL BE THE CLOSER IN THE WORLD SERIES. There, I said it. Price has nerves of steel and will not fold under pressure. Most rookies cannot perform under that much stress, but we have two that play like 10-year vets. Nothing can rattle Price.
If you can keep your calm when you are one out away from the World Series with the tying run at the plate, you can handle any situation. A huge amount of the recognition should go to a young catcher, Dioner Navarro. He was able to keep Price settled enough to record the final out. That shows leadership.
RD: Matt Garza was superb in the ALCS, going 2-0 with a minuscule 1.38 ERA, while striking out 14 and walking only six. Does the Fresno State alum pick up where he left off in his Game Three start in the World Series?
DR: Matt Garza has finally gotten his emotions under control. When he can keep control and Navarro can keep him calm, there is no stopping him. He could very well pick up the World Series MVP as well; he’s got great stuff, an absolute fireball for a fastball, and great breaking pitches to get people out.
Garza also doesn't let his mistakes get to him. After giving up the homer to Dustin Pedroia in Game Seven, he was able to keep his calm and pitch effectively. He is one of the toughest pitchers in baseball to hit, and he is our No. 3 starter.
RD: Grant Balfour (19.29 ERA) and Dan Wheeler (5.40 ERA), two of the most relied upon arms out of the Rays bullpen struggled mightily in the ALCS. Does Maddon still have confidence to use these guys in tight situations?
DR: Maddon will definitely have the confidence in Wheeler. I think it was just a slip up. Wheeler pitched amazingly well in Game Two, and for that alone he needs to be used. Balfour is another story. Knowing what Maddon tries to do, he will still try to use him in big situations, but that will be a mistake.
Over a long series, he becomes too hittable, and he doesn’t have great breaking stuff. Major-league hitters are used to high heat and will hit it after a while. He will be good in Games One, and Two, but not long after that.
Christian Karcole – Phillies Co-Community Leader
RD: Hamels is 3-0 in the postseason, with an immortal 1.23 ERA. He’s allowed only three earned runs in 22 innings pitched while averaging exactly one strikeout per inning. Does the young southpaw add to his sterling postseason resume with a strong W.S., or does he fall back to Earth?
CK: In my opinion, he's already on Earth. I honestly think he is this good, and right now, he has so much confidence, which is huge in the postseason. Nothing fazes him, and he goes after everything. Also, his dominance in the postseason is not something new.
This season was his best of his career. His win total would have been higher if he had had better run support, but other than that, his ERA, SO, WHIP, etc. were great. So I would have to say that he will continue his dominance in the World Series.
RD: After posting a 3.88 team ERA in the regular season (sixth in MLB), the Phils have posted a 3.19 team ERA in the postseason. It seems as though this group just continues to get better and better. Can they lower this impressive mark against a hot Rays lineup?
CK: It's definitely going to be tough to keep this Rays lineup in check. Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Madson, Romero, Eyre, and Lidge are all pitching well, but there are some concerns.
Chad Durbin has been atrocious since the beginning of September, so that takes away a lot from the bullpen. Madson and Eyre are good set-up men, but Madson still concerns me at times, because he gives up the long ball a lot. I'm not too sure about Eyre, but if they can get it to Lidge, I think the lead is pretty safe.
Also, Moyer was wonderful during the season, yet something has happened in these playoffs. He better straighten it out, because we need him this time. So to answer the question, I don't think they can keep the Rays in check, but I don't think they'll be horrible.
RD: The Phillies' staff has surrendered five postseason home runs in nine games thus far, while the Rays have clobbered 22 home runs in 11 games this postseason. Citizens Bank Park is hitter friendly, so what gives in the World Series?
CK: Nothing gives. The Phillies have more power than the Rays, and they are hitting in the same ballpark. If the Rays get the home runs, I think the Phillies will, too. Each team has the same advantage of playing in CBP, so it won't be a huge deal. But, when it comes to our pitching, it gets a little fuzzy concerning the long ball.
Hamels and Myers both have a history of giving up homers, and Madson does as well. All three are pitching very well, so they may not give 'em up this time, but you never know with this hot Rays team.
RD: Jamie Moyer, the scheduled Game Three starter for the Phils, is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA this postseason. Will the oldest player in Major League Baseball regain his form when it counts most?
CK: I'm going to have to say that he won't regain his form, but he won't be terrible. I think he's figured out what he's been doing wrong, and I think he can rebound and pitch a decent game. He gave the Phillies so many quality starts this season, and he lead the team in wins. The Moyer we saw in the early 2000s is still there, and I hope he can come out again in the World Series.
RD: The Phillies' bullpen has helped carry them to this point in the season. Brad Lidge has been unbelievable along with Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, and Scott Eyre. Do the Rays stand a chance at scoring any runs against this group late in ballgames?
CK: I think the Rays definitely have a chance to hit this bullpen. As stated above, Madson has a little history with the homers, so that's a concern for me. Also, Romero doesn't pitch too much anymore, so he may not be a huge factor.
Scott Erye has been impressive, but I don't know what to exactly think of him yet. Finally, Lidge has been a bit shaky in a few of his recent saves, and this Rays lineup against him scares me. Do I think he'll finally blow a save? Too hard to say. But it's definitely a possibility.
There you have it, 10 answers to critical pitching questions facing these two teams heading into the World Series.
Thank you to Devon Rogers and Christian Karcole for your contributions.
Also, check out 10 answers to pertinent HITTING questions facing these two teams.