The 2008 World Series has lived up to its billing thus far. The Phillies squeaked out a 3-2 Game One victory, while the Rays held on for a 4-2 win in Game Two. October has continued to prove that it is a month to be reckoned with in the baseball world.
After digesting the box scores and happenings of the first two games of the series, I have compiled a list of five things that I have learned after two showdowns.
1. There Are No Intimidated Phillies
Tampa Bay had the best home record in the major leagues this regular season, posting a 54-27 record at Tropicana Field. Entering the World Series, Tampa Bay had gone 4-2 in postseason games at the Trop and had allowed more than four runs only once in the 2008 postseason—Boston’s eight runs in Game Two of the ALCS.
The Phillies were the perfect team to come into St. Petersburg. Philadelphia showed no intimidation in a Game One that featured a sold-out crowd of 40,723 people and at least 20,000 cowbells. Philadelphia’s ace, Cole Hamels, had no trouble with a powerful Rays offense, as he threw seven innings of five-hit ball and surrendered only two runs in the victory.
Intimidation was not a factor for the Philadelphia offense in Game One either, as Chase Utley connected on a two-run dinger in the top of the first inning of Game One.
2. Dan Wheeler Doesn’t Back Down
You want pressure? Enter a crucial Game Two of the World Series with runners on the corners and you will feel pressure.
But all Dan Wheeler did was end the threat as quickly as it began.
Wheeler impressed all watching as he was called upon for relief in the sixth inning of Game Two, after starter James Shields left with runners on the corners and the Phillies seemingly threatening. Wheeler got Pedro Feliz to hit into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
3. David Price Has an Achilles Heel
Price was called up in mid-September and has been a staple in the Rays' bullpen strategy in the 2008 postseason. He will forever be remembered for his timely strikeout of Boston’s J.D. Drew in Game Seven of the ALCS, but in Game Two of the World Series, Price showed a weak spot.
His seemingly inability to go longer than an inning or so of work causes reason for concern for Rays fans. Manager Joe Maddon has expressed his desire to have Price in the starting rotation at some time, but if he struggles past 35 pitches like he did in Game Two, that may not be the best move.
Price threw 42 pitches in two-and-a-third innings of work, faced 11 batters, and surrendered both of Philadelphia’s runs.
4. Phills Left on Base
Leaving 11 people on base in Game Two and 22 people after the first two games is enough reason for Phillies fans to be worried. Feliz, himself, left four runners on base in Game Two—all in scoring position.
In fact, the Phillies are a dismal 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position through the first two games of the series, including 1-for-15 in Game Two.
Compared with only seven stranded runners in the first two games by the Rays, the numbers are bound to catch up with the Phillies as this series shifts to Philadelphia.
5. Battle, Battle, Battle
It has been clear that this is not going to be reminiscent of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox made light work of the Cardinals. This will be no 2007 World Series that saw the Rockies roll over in four games.
This is a series for fans of baseball. This is a series for fans of hard-nosed ballplayers. These two teams will battle it out and will leave nothing on the field when it is all said and done.
With the first two games being decided by two or less runs, it is safe to assume that nothing will change. Expect close games that are decided by heart and the will to win.
Expect nothing but pure excitement from baseball's greatest month.