See? Didn't I tell you that you shouldn't not bet money on the Phillies!
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies, who won only the second World Championship of their long, generally disappointing existence last night, as they beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3, and four games to one in the Series. And though I picked the Rays to win the Series (knowing that in doing so, they wouldn't) a few of the points I made in that column proved to be prescient.
The Rays did not manage to contain Ryan Howard, who homered three times and drove in six, both marks leading the team. Chase Utley, while hitting only .167 overall, also walked five times, stole three bases and homered twice, including the first run of the Series in game 1, giving the Phils a lead they never relinquished. Victorino's bat returned to more normal levels, and he was basically a non-factor.
Jayson Werth's bat did not continue its slumber, hitting .444/.583/.778 with a homer, three doubles and four runs scored, plus three successful steals. Personally, he'd have gotten the MVP award for the series, if I'd had any say in it. Cole Hamels got it instead, pitching well twice, as I had expected, and the bullpen (2-0, 2 Saves, 5 Holds and a 1.54 ERA in about a dozen innings) was great.
To my great surprise, however, Pat Burrell went utterly cold (hitting .071) while Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz, both hit pretty well, though Feliz hit only singles and did not score a run. Matt Stairs hardly played, as Manuel chose Greg Dobbs as his DH in Game 2, and Games 6 and 7 never happened, at least not in reality. (In TravisMind FantasyLand, Stairs was the DH in both Games 6 and 7. So there.)
To my even greater suprise, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton all pitched well in their starts, though Myers took a tough loss. The three of them combined for a 3.72 ERA in 19 innings. Also, Brad Lidge did a decidedly un-Philly-like job of not cracking under the pressure, Saving two games and keeping his perfect record intact. (As a side note, I found it rather amusing when he was interviewed afterwards, talking about what great fans they have in Philly. Wait til you blow a Save, there, Brad. You'll see.)
For their part, the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitchers did reasonably well. Their 4.21 World Series ERA was only a quarter of a run higher than their in-season ERA of 3.95, but that's to be expected with tougher competition. The real problem was that they averaged only a little over five innings per start. Nobody got past the 6th inning, and two of their five starts lasted only four frames. (James Shields, who got the sole Rays win, pitched 5.2 shutout innings in Game 2.)
The Phillies just wore them down, waiting for their pitches, and drawing 17 walks in 26 innings, and forcing each pitcher's count upwards of 100 early, so that the Rays had no chance of saving their bullpen. This, of course, put a lot more strain on the Rays bullpen than might otherwise have been desirable, which is exactly what Philadelphia wanted. Textbook Moneyball stategy, right there. The Tampa Bay relievers' ERA in this series, 4.96, was about a run and a half higher than it had been in the regular season, as they allowed 4 homers in 16 innings, and JP Howell took two of the four losses. Dan Wheeler, who had been very good in the regular season, also struggled.
But the Rays' real problem was their lack of hitting. Forget the ugly ERAs for a moment. Ten of Philly's 24 runs (and 8 of 21 Earned Runs) were scored in Game 3. The other four contests were each won by one run. A little more output from some of the Rays hitters, and this Series goes to six or seven games, at least. (Not "at least" seven games, like they'd play eight or nine. I mean they could have at least pushed the Series to seven games, and maybe even won it.)
The biggest culprits here are, of course, Evan Longoria and carl Crawford, the heart of the Rays's lineup, their #3 and #4 hitters. These two combined to go 3-for-37, scoring one run between them. Carl Crawford (2 homers, 4 runs) did his part. Dioner Navarro did more than his aprt, hitting .353, even though he allowed seven of eight steals. Akinori Iwamura was only a little worse than usual, and BJ Upton, though he hit only .250, managed to steal four bases and score three runs. Jason Bartlett hit only .214, which looks pretty bad until you realize: it's Jason Bartlett. Nobody expects him to hit.
Despite the game tying homer last night, Rocco baldelli didn't do much either, and Ben Zobrist's bat was quiet as well, but those were part time players. Pena and Longoria were the big guys expected to contribute and they both came up small. When looking back on this Series, there is no greater reason for the Rays; defeat than that.
Well, that, and the fact that I picked them to win.