World Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies

If somebody had said a month ago that these two teams would be meeting for the chance to win a World Series title, most of us would have laughed. The Rays had to beat a tough Chicago White Sox team and then knocked off the reigning world champ Boston Red Sox to get there. And after the the game 5 debacle and a tough loss in game 6, many had written the young Rays off, as momentum seemed to shift back the Red Sox way. The fact that they maintained their composure to come back and win an incredible game 7, only speaks to the the job that Joe Maddon has done with those youngsters. They won the best division in baseball during the regular season (AL East) with great pitching and a powerful offense; the same formula that now has them playing for their first World Series title in franchise history.

The Phillies too have traveled an improbable path to make it to their first World Series since 1993. After surviving a brutal division by beating out the New York Mets to win the NL East, the Phillies had to get past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS and the hot Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS to make it to this point.

These two teams are actually quite similar in that they live and die by the long ball (or at least they have in the playoffs). Both have great pitching, as the Rays have one of the best starting rotations in baseball (led by Scott Kazmir, “Big Game” James Shields, ALCS MVP Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine) and the Phillies have maybe the best ace left in Cole Hamels and a resurrected Bret Myers. Their bullpens are deep as well with Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Titan Sized favorite David Price (whom we suspect will serve as the closer in this series) anchoring the Rays bullpen, while set-up man Ryan Madson and star closer Brad Lidge (zero blown saves this year) hold it down for the Phils. Philadelphia has not lost a game this season when leading in the 8th. That’s pretty impressive.

You’d be hard pressed to find a middle of an order with the power and speed of B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford. This righty, lefty, righty, lefty group could give Charlie Manuel a few headaches this series if they come up late in a close game, regardless of how good Philly’s bullpen is. Akinori Iwamura, Jason Bartlett and super-subs Willy Aybar and Rocco Baldelli have also come up with some key hits during the postseason. Against a very good Boston staff, the Rays became the only team in postseason history to hit three homers in three consecutive games (they actually did it four games). The Rays play American League ball, but what they lack in sacrifice bunts they make up in aggressive base running, and impressive team speed.

It’s been well documented that the Phillies have been very successful with the long-ball, but have also been prone to stretches without much power. Their offense came together against the Dodgers in the NLCS, with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell seeing significant improvement in their production as compared to the Brewers series. If the Phillies get that kind of production out of the heart of the order and Jimmy Rollins and Shane “go for the ribs man” Victorino can set the table like they did in the Divisional Series, than this is a team that can score a lot of runs.

In many senses, these teams look pretty similar. Both can score a lot of runs, and both have pitching staffs that are pretty deep top to bottom. If you go by the numbers you’d be hard pressed to argue that Philadelphia doesn’t have the best bullpen in the series (maybe in all of baseball). With that said, Philadelphia’s late relief obviously can’t protect a lead that isn’t there. Past Hamels, we think that Tampa Bay’s starters match-up favorably with the Phillies, and in a best of seven series that should matter a great deal. If it comes to a game seven, Joe Maddon probably won’t need to worry about throwing anyone out on short rest, whereas we’d probably be seeing Cole Hamels for the third time. The case can be made that that kind of opportunity is where legends are made, but factoring in the Rays’ superior defense and offensive consistency throughout the playoffs we don’t think this one goes seven.

Prediction: You saw the picture. Rays in 6.

  • GM 1: PHILLIES @ RAYS 10/22, 8:00 PM ET
  • GM 2: PHILLIES @ RAYS 10/23, 8:00 PM ET
  • GM 3: RAYS @ PHILLIES 10/25, 8:00 PM ET
  • GM 4: RAYS @ PHILLIES 10/26, 8:00 PM ET
  • GM 5: RAYS @ PHILLIES 10/27, 8:00 PM ET
  • GM 6: PHILLIES @ RAYS 10/29, 8:00 PM ET
  • GM 7: PHILLIES @ RAYS 10/30, 8:00 PM ET

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Tags: Akinori Iwamuri ALCS American League Andy Sonnanstine B.J. Upton Brad Lidge Bret Myers Carl Crawford Carlos Pena Charlie Manuel Chase Utley Chicago White Sox Cole Hamels David Price Evan Longoria Grant Balfour J.P. Howell James Shields Jason Bartlett Jimmy Rollins Joe Maddon Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Garza Milwaukee Brewers National League New York Mets NLCS Pat Burrell Philadelphia Phillies Rocco Baldelli Ryan Howard Ryan Madson Scott Kazmir Shane Victorino Tampa Bay Rays Tennessee Titans Titan Sized Willy Aybar World Series

  • Ian

    Well I like this preview a lot better than the last one, except for the prediction! lol

    The funny thing to me is, I think the Rays best chance to win is game 1, and the Phillies have the advantage every other game.

    One thing I talked about in the Dodgers series, is the Phillies ability to hit right handed pitching. The Rays only lefty is Kazmir, and his fastball looks dead right now.

    If the Phillies can just lay off his hooks with patience, Kazmir will be forced to throw meatballs down the middle for the Phillies to crush. So game 1, Phillies team game plan should be to just look for the fastball and lay off everything else. To make the lineup better, they will move Jayson Werth to 2nd in the lineup, and probably use Chris Coste as the DH.

    The best thing for the Phillies about game one is that King Cole on the mound. If the Phillies win game 1, the Rays are in serious trouble, because after that it as all rightys who don’t match up well against the Phillies lineup. The only pitcher who really scares me is Garza.

    When you get to games 2-4, I see the Phillies bats really coming alive. I think they can shell James Shields for sure. So many good left handed bats, and they can add Greg Dobbs to the mix as the DH for game 2,6,7. Dobbs is a very tough contact hitter, who was the best pinch hitter in baseball. He hit .309 against RH pitching on the season, and he has had a great post season hitting .545. At home the Phillies can start Dobbs at third, and use Matt Stairs as a pinch hitter late in a game.

    I think the Phillies bats are superior, their bullpen is far superior, and they have the best pitcher in Cole Hamels.

    This kid David Price has only pitched in 8 major league games. I think his inexperience and the Rays overall inexperience could be a major factor, against a Phillies team that has a lot of quality veteran leadership.

    Phillies in 5!

  • Ian – Inside the Iggles

    You gotta give me props on that one. I called it! Phils in 5! Parade was amazing.

  • gnbishop

    yeah, you sure nailed that one. congrats. watch out for the my bravos again in the next couple of years though. if we get peavy, it’s all looking up from there.

    did you see the video i posted? i’m sure you have, but it’s always fun to watch it over and over and over again. (david) priceless…