World Series: It's Rays Baseball at It's Best in Game Two Victory

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IOctober 24, 2008

Hey if you can't score runs with hits, how else are you going to do it?

In game one, Tampa couldn't get the big hit to score runs when they needed it. B.J. Upton was a big part of that failure. In Game Two, the Rays still couldn't get the big hit to score in any runs, but luckily for them they didn't need to.

The Rays traded three outs for three runs at different points in the ball game to get all they would need to even up the series at a game apiece.

Upton regained his hot hitting with the only the second RBI hit with a runner in scoring position of the series. The Phillies are no better with just one hit in 28 chances with runners in scoring position.

You know what I call that?

A product of good pitching.

Then again, you never know, it could always be bad hitting.

However, with pitchers like James Shields and Cole Hamels, I highly doubt it. Tip your hat to the pitchers so far, they've made these games interesting down to the final swing.

James Shields used the "bend but don't break" philosophy in Game Two. He threw a lot of pitches, gave up a lot of hits in his five plus innings, but he never gave them up when it counted.

Shields was magician like getting out of jams and he got a lot of help defensively, especially in the fifth inning. With runners on first and second, Chase Utley's tailing line drive was caught in right field by Rocco Baldelli. Jayson Werth wandered a little too far off first base and the double play ended the inning with no damage.

Concern should be settling in for the middle of Tampa Bay's order. Both Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena are hitless in the first two games.

Longoria's struggles are more worrisome. In the postseason, more than half of his hits are home runs to begin with. Six of his 11 hits have gone over the fences and pitchers are starting to just avoid throwing him the fastball. Longoria needs to adjust his approach and start getting back to basics.

Pena however could be on the brink of breaking out, despite not having a hit yet. Pena is one of two Rays that have 20 at bats against Jamie Moyer, and Pena has done nothing but hit the ball.

Pena has ten hits in 20 at-bats with two walks and half of the hits being for extra bases. He obviously has no problem with the slowness of Moyer's pitching.

How will the rest of the team respond?

Because Moyer doesn't have the fastball like Hamels does, I wouldn't expect the Rays to struggle like they did against Hamels. The difference between Moyer's hard stuff and off-speed pitches won't be enough to fool the Rays' hitters.

Pitching-wise, the Rays have the upper hand in this one in more than one way.

First, the fact that Tampa doesn't have to pitch to the designated hitter is going to be a benefit. They may not have a DH of their own, but they never really had a true DH to begin with.

Their lineup is built to play in the National League, so the transition for them won't be as rough as it would be for a team like Boston.

That also means they don't have to pitch to a DH, which gives the starters like Matt Garza room for error towards the bottom of the order. Both Pedro Feliz and Greg Dobbs left numerous scoring opportunities on the table.

Garza also has a little bit of mystery with the Phillies' hitters. Not a single player on the Philadelphia roster has faced Garza at the major league level. It's a bigger advantage for the Rays to have seen more of Moyer, than for the Phillies to have not seen Garza.

Speaking of the DH-less lineup, Joe Maddon has a decision to make.

Rocco Baldelli won't be an everyday player, which makes me wonder why he got the start in Game Two over Game One. Baldelli's career numbers are slightly better against left-handers than they are against right-handers.

With Hamels going in Game One and Moyer going in Game Three, Baldelli could have started two games, not back to back, with two days of rest in between, against left-handed pitchers.

Now, Maddon has handcuffed himself to start either Gabe Gross, who has one lousy hit in 16 postseason at-bats, or Ben Zobrist, who has had one start this postseason, coming in the first game of this World Series.

Not so fast, there is one more option he has. Speedy Fernando Perez is not only a switch hitter, but he hits better from the right side of the plate, which is what he would do if he were to face Moyer.

I'd give Perez the start in right field for Game Three, because Zobrist's versatility allows you to have more options late in the game if you need a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner.

Tampa has a few decisions to make, but they have a big advantage no matter what they do with those decisions.

Momentum, the harder thrower, the fear of the unknown, and the experience of facing the other pitcher: all of it's on Tampa's side for Game Three.

The only thing not working for them will be the Philadelphia crowd. However if the Rays were to steal back home field advantage, Game Three would be the perfect time to do it.


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