World Series: Rays' Hitters Can't Solve Hamels in Game One
Cole Hamels has a changeup that many hitters cannot touch.
Tampa Bay is not an exception, especially when the Rays lineup has struggled against the changeup in recent memory. Luckily the Phillies do not own any clones of Hamels that they can throw out in the third or fourth games, or do they?
Evan Longoria was one of the culprits for the Rays silent hitting. He struck out three times, twice to Hamels and when your cleanup hitter does not get a chance to knock in any runs, you probably will not score much.
The positive signs of course were Akinori Iwamura starting things off at the top of the lineup with three hits and Carl Crawford's home run. But that is not the tandem that Tampa was riding coming into the World Series.
The tandem was Longoria and B.J. Upton, who also put up a zero in the hit column. Upton did not strike out three times, but his at-bats were probably the most devastating, as he grounded into a few double plays.
A product of Cole Hamels' greatness?
Not sure, but things have to get easier from here, does it not?
The Rays have lost home field advantage, like they did in Game One against Boston, but that doesn’t put them in any danger.
They are actually in a better situation than the ALCS, considering they get their best pitcher on the mound in Game Two.
The guy that started Game Two of the ALCS was on the mound for Game One of the World Series, Scott Kazmir. While he wasn't as bad as he was in the ALCS, Kazmir made a few tactical mistakes when he attacked the Phillies lineup.
What Tampa has to learn from Game One is simple.
Do not pitch to Chase Utley.
When you have two guys in the middle of the lineup like Utley and Howard, you have to "pick your poison," or so they say. You have to just hope that one of them isn't seeing the ball.
Ryan Howard is not seeing the ball and swinging at bad pitches. Howard was quick to offer at all the sliders being thrown towards him. James Shields should be giving him a heavy dose of off-speed pitches.
The Rays must stay away from Utley. Not only is he a much more disciplined hitter, but until Howard proves he can lay off the breaking pitches and off-speed stuff, you need to continue to feed him it.
However, Shields will actually have a much more different looking lineup facing him in Thursday's game. If common sense prevails, Manuel will make changes to his lineup and both Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs will be hitting.
Despite the success of Pedro Feliz getting two hits, Dobbs will come in to face the right hander at third base. While Stairs will take over a role he is familiar with, designated hitter.
However, Stairs has not had much success against Shields in his career. Out of all the Phillies' hitters, Stairs has faced Shields the most and is only hitting .150 with a home run in 20 at-bats.
The one thing Shields will have to do, that Kazmir did, is make the bottom of the Phillies lineup beat him. Aside from Utley, Kazmir kept Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell in-check. Shane Victorino, Jason Werth, and Feliz all got their hits, but the team only scored three runs.
If Shields can adapt that game plan, have success, and stay away from Utley, he should lead his team to an even series.
The Rays' bats need to wake up though. Brett Myers brings a nasty curveball to the mound and if he can get it dropping through the zone, Tampa might have some trouble.
Ben Zobrist was one of the three Rays' players to collect a hit. Both Zobrist and Willy Aybar are switch hitters, but will they get the start against the right handed Myers? Will Joe Maddon decide to give Zobrist another start in right with Gabe Gross getting just one hit in the 2008 playoffs?
One would expect Cliff Floyd to be in there as the designated hitter against Myers, but as far as what Maddon is planning on in right field, it's a toss-up. Maddon called Zobrist the Rays hottest hitter down the stretch, so maybe he feels Zobrist deserves a chance. Gross certainly was not getting it done.
Either way, it will not be the end of the world for Tampa if they lose Game Two. Certainly their struggles against the changeup leaves fans a little worried for their game against Jamie Moyer in Game Three though.
The most important thing the Rays need to do is get a lead and get a lead before Myers leaves the game.
Brad Lidge and company do not look like they are giving a lead up anytime soon.
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