Phillies Pounce on Rays’ Mistakes
I remember a couple of years ago I went up to Cleveland for a series against the Indians and the weather turned ugly during the night. A rain system decided to drop over the Great Lakes and dump a bit of rain on the city during the night and at 1 pm that Sat. afternoon it was still coming down pretty good.
I came to the stadium decked out in my Rays outerwear that I got from Jesus Colome when he was still with the club and was running through the stands like a chicken with my head cut off. I always loved playing in the rain in college, and I was one of the crazies who braved the rain during that Tampa Bay Rowdies/ Ft Lauderdale Strikers game back in the early 80’s that left Tampa Stadium a waterfall.
So you know I was anxous when I saw the same type of system come up from the south and blanket the Philly area for most of the day. I was some tight rain that came down in buckets for a long time, but it was followed by the chilly wind that kid of went straight down to your bones. I am too old now to run like a chicken, but I did look like a turkey gobbling to the Bullpen guys as they came out to get some throwing in before the game.
Rain is the great equalizer. It can take a fast team and make them slow, or it can make a homer-happy team become the best small ball hitters in the league. I was watching the crew throw down a ton of wet-dry all over the onfield and on the warning tracks beofre the game. I was curious if the added granules would make the ball do funny things when it bounced on an infielder.
I know it was not like the kitty litter type dry compound I used to put out at accident scenes, but wondered if it was slick on top of the clay infield. I guess all was well, becuase no one seemed to have abad hop, or an ill advised ball start to go right and turn left on them. Guess I have a lot to learn about a stadium without a roof.
Top of the Order
The Rays came into the World Series knowing that they needed more production out of the top of our batting order. In the first few games of the series the top of the order had some impact, but most of it was on ground ball RBI’s and not clutch hits or drives to the deep parts of the ballpark for sacrifice flys.
In tonight game, the top 4 batters went a combined 2-15, with 7 strikeouts. To make matter worse, Evan Longoria, who is mired in a terrible batting slump had a sure thing home run brought back into the park by Mother Nature tonight. you could see the expression on Phillies’ starter Jamie Moyer’s face that he also thought the ball was into the stands and the Rays would have been ahead at the point in the game.
Instead, the ball was heading out and did a swift drop about 3 feet from the wall into Pat Burrell’s glove for the last out of the 6th inning. To make matters even worse, the Phillie crowd was on Longoria early chanting “Eva” to him on every play and at bat. For the entire night, only 5 balls from the top of the lineup even left the infield. 2of those were singles by B J Upton. Akinora Iwamura hit to long drives to right, but Jayson Werth was under the ball with ease.
B J Upton is a Speed Machine
After the last couple of series for the Rays, no one has questioned the drive and determination of Upton. Funny how a few months agowe even wondered if he wanted to play baseball, and now we would be a totally different, and maybe not even in this World Series without him.
Upton hit a nice liner into left just over the head of Jimmy Rollins in the 6th inning. Upton then took off on the first pitch to Evan Longoria with 2-outs and stole his first base of the night. Upton was in position to score, but Longoria hit his towering ball to left that was caught at the track by Burrell to end the inning.
Then again in the 8th inning, Upton lead-off the inning with a infield single to short that Rollins could not make a play on in time to get the speedy Upton. With no outs in the inning, it was only a matter of time before Upton tried to steal another base tonight. On the 2nd pitch to Longoria, Upton again stole second for his second swipe of the night.
He then waited 2 more pitches then tried to steal third base, and got in safe, but he kicked the ball towards the Rays dugout and came in to score on the throwing error by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. that knotted the score at 4-4. The play helped Upton steal an amazing 3 base tonight to tie a World Series record.
Last Chance for the Rays
In the bottom of the 9th inning, the score was still tied 4-all, with the Phillies getting the last at bats in the game. J P Howell remained in the game and got a 2-1 count on Eric Bruntlett before he hit him with a pitch. Howell was then relieved by Grant Balfour in the game.
Balfour then had a 1-1 count on him before he unleashed a Wild Pitch that went to the backstop and came right back to Dioner Navarro. He then tried to get Bruntlett, who was heading to second on the steakl, but the ball sailed to the right of Jason Bartlett and bounced into centerfield for an error on Navarro.
Balfour then intentionally walked Shane Victorino. Gregg Dobbs then came up as a pinch hitter and was also Intentionally walked to load the bases. At this time, Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out and instituted his 5-man infield formation with Ben Zobrist manning up the middle of the infield. Upton and Carl Crawford were playing shallow right-center and left respectfully.
Ruiz then came up and took the count to 2-2 before putting a slow moving grounder down the third baseline that Longoria fielded. He then tried to toss it over Bruntlett, who was racing for home, but the ball sailed beyond Navarro’s reach and the Phillies won on that play.
Bruntlett did the right thing by running inside of the baseline towards the plate to take away any possible throw from the infield. the ball would have to have been a perfect lob just over his shoulder to get him at the plate.
Carl Crawford also had Some Magic Tonight
Crawford came into the game wanting to be more of an offensive threat for the Rays. He ended up going 2-4 on the night, with 2 runs scored. In the top of the 2nd inning, Crawford lead off with a blooper single into left that was tailing away from Burrell the enitre time it was in the air. the ball fell a foot from him and Crawford slid into second with a double on the play.
Crawford then made his presence know on the bases by stealing third on the 2nd pitch to Gabe Gross. For the playoffs, Crawford is a perfect 7 for 7 stealing bases. 3 pitches later, Gross hit a sacrifice fly to deep right center to score Crawford and tie the game up 1-all. In the 7th inning, Crawford lead off the inning with a bunt to the right side of the infield that could not be handled by Moyer in time.
Navarro then came up and hit a double to put both men in scoring position with no outs in the inning. Gross then hit a ball deep behind first base that Howard had to stab and Crwford walked in to score for the Rays.
Jason Bartlett then hit a grounder to short that Rollins had to throw to first and Navarro scored to make it a 1-run game, 4-3 Phillies. Crawford and Navarro tonight had 4 of the Rays 6 hits on the night. They also scored 3 of the Rays 4 runs in the game.
Tonight was one of those good news, bad news kind of nights for Navarro. He had a hot bat at the plate, but had a few situations behind the dish that cost the Rays some runs, and put some dangerous people in scoring position. In the 1st inning, there was a Wild Pitch by Garza that darted away from Navarro after hitting the thumb section of his catcher’s mitt. It moved 2 runners into scoring position for the Phillies. the good news is only 1 run scored in the inning, and the Rays were only down 1-0 at the time.
In the 3rd inning, Navarro made a perfect throw onto the glove of Iwamura that he easily tagged out Rollins trying to steal seond base. It came down in the perfect spot to tag his lead hand before it hit the bag. And in the 8th inning, Navarro called for a pick-off play at second on Werth and got him leaning hard towards third base. J P Howell put a strike into Bartlett who got Werth by a foot.
In the 9th inning, Navarro had no chance on the outside pitch by Grant Balfour that went to the backstop. The ball looked like it was about to hit Shane Victorino, but broke heard at the last moment and went beyond Navarro. On the winning play in the 9th inning, Navarro could do nothing but stand on the plate as the ball as the ball sailed a good 5 feet above him for the winning run.
Matt Garza’s Wild Night
With the rain delay you have to think that Matt Garza might have over-psyched himself for this game. With the 90 minute plus delay in the start of the game, you have to think he was just sitting there with his Ipod on just chilling and maybe getting into his own head a bit.
He did not come out strong as he gave up a single to Rollins on the 2nd pitch of the game to centerfield. He then walked Werth on 5 pitches, and then threw the Wild Pitch 2 pitches later that moved them both into scoring position. He got out of that inning only giving up a single run to Victorino. In the 2nd inning,he got 2 quick outs before giving up a fastball inside to Ruiz who slammed it into the stands in leftfield for a solo shot and put the Phillies up 2-1.
In the 3rd inning, he gave up singles to Rollins and Werth to lead-off the inning before settling down and getting 2 quick outs. In the 4th, it looked like he was under control as he struck out the side on 19 pitches. In 6th inning he ran into his worst problems of the night as he gave up a solo shot to lead-off the inning to Chase Utley.
Ryan Howard then came up homer-less in the series, and he sent the 2-2- pitch into the rightfield stands for another solo shot and put the Phillies up 4-1 at the time. It was the 14th time in World Series history that a team went back-to-back with homers in a game. For the night, Garza went 6 innings and threw 102 pitches in the game. He had 7 strikeuots, but also gave up 3 solo homers in the contest.
Garza did show some moments of brilliant pitching as he was using both sides of the plate well against the Phillies. I truly think the extra time either warming up in the Bullpen or sitting in the lockerrom before warming up might have played a bit with his mind. He did not seem to have that normal sharpness we have come to know from Garza early in the ballgame. But he did fight through it and posted a decent game under the circumstances.
This was one of those games that the Rays sually won during the season. They worked hard all game long to tie up the contest, then sually they go ahead and the Bullpen shuts down the opposition. But tonight the gameplan did not work that way and the Rays found themselves in an unusual position. In the 9th inning, Maddon used a psychological weapon in his 5-man infield, but the plan did not go off without a hitch.
The perfect play would not have been down the third baseline with the runner barrelling down on Navarro without a throwing lane. All Navarro had to do was step on the bag for the force out, but Longoria could not get it to him effectively.
But it is still early in thie World Series and either team can still mount a offensive and take over the series. With a 2-1 series advantage right now, the Phillies do have the upper hand, but the Rays have always been a team to look down the odds and play baseball. I am looking forward to tonight’s contest featuring Joe Blanton and Andy Sonnanstine. Both pitchers like to get the ball fast and rock and fire, so it might be a really fast game.
Considering that tonight’s contests did not get over until way after 1:30 a.m., I think both teams are looking forward to a night game and not an afternoon contest. It will also give the field a few extra hours to drain and dry out in the sun before they re-line it and we play another great World Series contest.