A Case of Cold Bats

Friday, October 24, 2008


The Tampa Bay Rays got on the board early off of Phillies starter Brett Myers and the Phillies continued to struggle at the plate with runners in scoring position. The Rays evened up the World Series at one game a piece before the series moves north to Philadelphia.

The Phillies are now 1-28 with runners in scoring position in the World Series. That is a disturbing trend. To think that if they could have gone a dismal 5-28 they would be coming home up two games to zero on the Rays. Despite the struggles according to the numbers there were some positives to take out of this. The one thing that stands out to me is the patience the Phillies have shown at the plate, for the most part.

Shane Victorino was the exception again last night, swinging at the first pitch and popping out after Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had gotten on base after very patient at bats. Credit given to Rays pitcher James Shields for not allowing a run, but anybody who watched that game knows that the Phillies are shooting themselves in the feet.

Speaking of Shields, and to steal a Bill Walton line, "What did he do wrong?" Shields went five and two-thirds of an inning without allowing a run when manager Joe Maddon pulled him. Perhaps it was the pitch count going over 100 so early? I don't know but what I do know is that Maddon will actually have to do some real managing in the next three games. He won't be able to just switch his pitchers up so freely without the designated hitter in place at Citizens Bank Park. This is one reason I believe the Phillies will do some serious damage to the Rays in the next three games.

In the first two games the Phillies, offense as lacking as it has been, have not let a starting pitcher see the seventh inning. Ironically it is the Phillies starters who are having more effective outings. We all know about Cole Hamels but I feel Myers had a good enough game to win. Myers was in the game for all four runs but one run was unearned, and the home plate umpire gave the Rays an extra out when he called Rocco Baldelli out on strikes and then appealed to first base. I still don't understand how that happened and Myers still had a job to do which he didn't, but when a team gets four outs they should take advantage. The Rays got two four out innings from the umpire and Werth. Myers also got no offensive help behind him (maybe he should have been the DH) but went seven solid innings but not without faults.

Myers walked Akinori Iwamura to lead off the game for the Rays. B.J. Upton then hit a single to right field, which Jayson Werth recorded an error when picking the ball up, allowing Iwamura to get to third and Upton to second. Carlos Pena then grounded out to what would have been a sure double play, but instead it was a one out RBI. Evan Longoria followed that up with a ground out that scored Upton from third. What should have been a good inning from Myers turned in to a two run first for the Rays.

Let's hang our heads in shame as we talk about the offense.

Jimmy Rollins was 0-5 yet again and left four on base. He was also hit by a pitch in the ninth inning (the ball clearly grazed his jersey) and he was not awarded first base. Is that making up for the questionable balk call form the night before? Who knows what could have happened if Rollins reached base. Maybe nothing. They still had to score two runs at that point, but who knows. In any event, Rollins needs to get his approach figured out quickly. This is not the time of year to be figuring things out.

The time is now to switch Victorino and Werth in the lineup. Having Victorino in the six spot is supposed to help balance out the bottom of the lineup but having Werth follow up a lifeless Rollins is even more hurtful. The bottom of the lineup is ok. Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz are not what's hurting this team's chances to win, rather it is the top of the lineup. I would expect to see Victroino back in his old two-spot and Werth moved down to sixth. I wouldn't expect anything more drastic than that for game three adjustments.

Ryan Howard found a way to beat the shift last night, notching two hits in his first two at-bats but he did that in a lead off spot in the second and fourth innings. Go figure that nobody was on base in front of him. With runners on Howard was 0-2, including the last out of the game. Pat Burrell needs to find his game as well. Burrell went 0-3 last night and is still looking for his first hit of the World Series.

Look, it is time to be nervous and concerned, but it is not time to panic. The Phillies did what they needed to do in Tampa and that was to win one game, taking home field advantage. They are getting runners on. They are being patient. They just need to start hitting with runners in scoring position. The Rays may have won last night but there was nothing that sold me that they are vastly superior to the Phillies. The Phillies should feel fine coming home for three games. I know I feel fine. I expect the Phillies to win two of the three games in Philadelphia (Cole Hamels is slated for game five). They are in a good position.

-----------------Random Thoughts-----------------
  • Greg Dobbs is clearly a better pinch hitter than designated hitter. Maybe Matt Stairs should have been the DH. Dobbs looked uncharacteristically bad.
  • J.C. Romero showed he is ready when called upon with a perfect eighth inning.
  • Brett Myers pitched well and was much more economical with his pitches. He is not a reason to be worried.
  • Los Lonely Boys and Backstreet Boys are the best Tampa can come up with?
  • I stand firm in my prediction; Phillies in six.
  • Jamie Moyer has had plenty of time to think about his last couple of starts. He sure will be rested for game three.

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