If you've seen Claire Reclosado and Nino Colla's respective Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays reactions throughout this 2008 Major League Baseball playoffs, you've noticed these two writers are extremely dialed in to the daily happenings of each ballclub that has advanced to the World Series.
Along with their usual game reactions, they have matched wits on some major questions facing both teams.
Phillies Q: Does Jamie Moyer give the Phillies any sort of a shot winning Game Three?
Claire's Response: Was the dependable arm conditioned to lose steam in October? It’s been a while since Moyer won a game in October (2002), but this is the World Series, and he knows that there may not be many chances for this opportunity ahead of him.
Let’s wipe the slate clean. Jamie Moyer is a seasoned veteran who is a vital part of the National League Champion Phillies. During the regular season, he led the team in wins, so people shouldn’t be so quick to overlook the crafty 45 year old.
Game Three will find Moyer well rested and at home. He’s been in the postseason before and knows what’s required of him. No one wants to be the man on the bench who didn’t contribute.
The Rays are a fastball-hitting team (although they were successful against Boston's Tim Wakefield), so the Phillies' hometown pitcher can easily rediscover success against the youngsters. Game Three will be the game where the Moyer redeems himself.
Rays Q: B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria got off to poor starts. How much of that came down to the pitching of Cole Hamels and how much falls on their shoulders?
Nino's Response: Given what we saw in Game Two, it looks as if one is suffering from his own doing, and the other was suffering of Cole Hamels' changeup. For Evan Longoria, it's between the ears. He actually hasn't been hitting the ball all that well in a consistent fashion this postseason.
His six home runs are great, but they are also more than half of his hit total. Longoria is hitting .220 for the entire playoffs, and his struggles are the product of his own doing.
Manager Joe Maddon has tried getting back to basics with the youngster, and it's simply a process for the rookie. He'll need to take a different approach into each at-bat and just try to hit the ball up the middle or the other way. His home-run stroke is there, but pitchers like Cole Hamels are smart enough to not give him a pitch that he can hit out of the ballpark.
B.J. Upton, on the other hand, was just struggling with the Hamels changeup. He's part of that group of Rays that can't adjust to it if it's good enough. As you saw in Game Two, Upton was back at it, getting two hits, but he also hit into another double play. Upton is on fire right now, and the changeup is probably the only thing that can stop him.
Phillies Q: What will it take for Ryan Howard to get his act together?
Claire's Response: Ryan Howard looked better in Game Two but is still not in September form. His troubles are shared by the other big names on the team: trying too hard.
Game Two showed a more relaxed Howard, but as the game progressed into the late innings, he seemed to tense up and his improving vision seemed to stall.
His numbers are improving, and this must make the Rays nervous.
Howard did not lead the league in home runs and RBI by accident. His approach needs to remain the same. Without a home run in 48 at-bats, pitchers should not become lax when Howard comes to the plate— just ask Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
"Take him for granted and start throwing to him, see what happens," Manuel remarked. "He's had 146 RBIs, 48 home runs, check his batting averages and his run production from the seventh inning on or late in the game and see what you come up with.”
Howard is well past due, and it should be no surprise if he breaks out of his slump when the home crowd welcomes him.
Rays Q: Even though Brad Lidge has been a dominant force all season and in Game One, do you have any sort of gut feeling that the ghosts of Lidge past could show up in terms of a meltdown?
Nino's Response: No gut feeling that Brad Lidge will revert to the old Brad Lidge. Hoping for a meltdown like the one he suffered against Albert Pujols in the NLCS years ago is like hoping to win the lottery. If it happens, great you're rich, but the chances are pretty unlikely. He might blow a save, he's bound to at some point before his career is over, and you just have to hope you get him on a night that he isn't feeling it.
He probably won't suffer the meltdown because there isn't an Albert Pujols in the Rays' lineup, someone who could hit the ball 600 feet into the Houston night. Partially because we aren't in Houston and Jonny Gomes isn't on the postseason roster.
Lidge has put that all behind him; he's a changed pitcher. Then again, if the ghosts of Fenway can make an appearance, you never know in this sport we call baseball, where nothing ever makes sense.
Phillies Q: Which Rays do you dislike the most and why?
Claire's Response: No matter how hard I try, I can’t dislike any of the Rays. The same can’t be said for the 10th man on their team, the cowbell.
Having low tolerance for all artificial noisemakers, the cowbell ranks high on the irritating list, arm-in-arm with plastic hand-clappers and thunder sticks. Call me a traditionalist, but I love a screaming crowd, intoxicated from the fan energy. Sometimes I can even appreciate a creative heckler.
Oh, but those cowbells. All they do is provide the dull, emotionless, repetitive clanging that reminds me of high school jazz band.
With today’s off day, fans should prepare themselves for a cowbell-free three games, filled with rally towels and a vocal crowd—the perfect home for the passionate Phillies.
Cinderella versus the Underdogs will continue on Saturday with Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays against the Phillies’ Moyer.
Eight games down, three to go.
Rays Q: Which Phillies do Rays fans (I know you are a Cleveland guy) dislike the most and why?
Nino's Response: Seeing as I'm technically an Indians fan and in my heart I'm rooting for Charlie Manuel, because he's such a great person, I'll definitely remove him from the equation.
If I were a Rays fan, I'd probably dislike any player that would come up with a big hit to break my heart, if that would ever happen. It's the Edgar Renteria-effect that has killed me and Cleveland-fans alike. I hope that never happens to the Tampa fanbase.
I heard a lot about Shane Victorino from Dodgers' fans, probably because of his "Don't throw at my head" gesture and how he absolutely killed them in the NLCS, but Victorino is too cool to dislike.
If the Rays want a poster child, I'd use Jimmy Rollins, the ultimate smack-talker on the Phillies team. Rollins has no problem speaking up, and he's easy to dislike, even his own fans booed him this year.