Heading into Game Three of the 2008 World Series, the pitching match up, to say the least, favors the Tampa Bay Rays against the Philadelphia Phillies tonight.
Rays' starter Matt Garza was 2-0 in the ALCS series vs. Boston, posting a 1.38 ERA, winning Game Seven, and being named the ALCS MVP.
Jamie Moyer, after going 16-7 in the regular season, has been dreadful in the postseason, going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA. He lasted 1.1 innings in a loss to the Dodgers in Game Three of the NLCS. Both of the Phillies' losses in the postseason have occurred when Jamie Moyer was on the mound.
Game, set, not yet match. But...hold on. There is hope, Philly faithful.
All Moyer has to do is peer at the batter, close his eyes and imagine the Florida team at the plate is the National League team, not the American League club.
When the Florida Marlins beat Moyer, 8-2 in early August this year, they snapped a 10-game losing streak to him. Prior to the loss, he had a 1.34 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins.
"I don't know how he does it at 45 years old," said Florida's Cody Ross in a Seattle Times article, after going 0-3 in a 4-2 Phils victory earlier this year. "You see his 82 mph fastball, and it looks good to hit. But it's never down the center of the plate."
A fastball. At 82 mph? Are you kidding me? Most Major League Baseball pitchers' changeups are that speed.
Yet, Moyer is the master of the corners. It is said his pitching speeds are slow, slower, and slowest. At his best, he keeps hitters off balance and gets a lot of ground ball outs to third base.
You can be sure that Pedro Feliz, and not Greg Dobbs, will play third base for the Phillies on Saturday night. Feliz is the better fielder of the Phils' third basemen.
The other factor Saturday night? The rain. I can see the Marlins taking a 2-0 lead and the game delayed by rain in the third inning.
Delays can be a game-changer. Starting pitchers can get tight, and the game goes to the bullpen. That also favor the Phillies. Conversely, hitters can loosen up during a break, and start hitting the cover off the ball. That could favor either team.
By most accounts, the rain should pass by game time.
Jamie Moyer will have to pitch the game of his life and get the calls on the corners. One thing about the veteran: He is not shaken by pressure.
The Phillies' bats have to wake up, too. They are 1-28 in scoring runs when runners are in scoring position in the World Series. And Garza has been a shutdown pitcher in the postseason.
Garza was in diapers when Moyer started his Major League career with the Chicago Cubs in 1986. Ronald Reagan was president, and it was the year that the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up shortly after launch.
The Fox team is sure to bring up the age difference between Moyer and Garza during the broadcast. Even though it irks me a bit, I hope Tim McCarver's "country charm" stories about Moyer are uttered in the fifth inning, as well as the first.
The only thing that matters, however, is that Moyer spots his pitches and the Phillies find a way to string base hits against Garza.
A 2-1 lead would not be devastating for either team. But it is the game that baseball experts have circled in red at the beginning of the series as a big mismatch and a chance for the Rays to win in Philadelphia and take control of the series.
Don't bet on it.
Jamie Moyer's got another fish to fry.