No Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox and still no Cubs this year brings something new to the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Who would have guessed it? These are the two most unlikely to play in the World Series. The Rays had the worst record in all of baseball last season and now sit at the top of the American League. The Philadelphia Phillies are the team with the most losses, coming in at over 10000 losses. These two teams know a lot about losing, but now they will try their hand in winning a World Series.
The last time they played head-to-head was in 2006, and the Rays won the series 2-1. This is a different year, and both teams have changed since then.
The Phillies as a team had an overall ERA of 3.89 in the National League Championship Series. Their ace, Cole Hamels, recorded two of the four wins in that series. The Rays total ERA was 3.62 in the American League Championship Series. Matt Garza really stepped up his effort, also recording two of the Rays four victories. The weak link for the Phillies would be Jamie Moyer, who could not get it done against the Dodgers, only lasting 1 1/3 innings. Scott Kazmir was inconsistent in Game 2, but they won. In Game 5, he pitched wonderfully. However, the bullpen gave up the game late. These two teams are about evenly matched.
The starting rotation for the Phillies was much easier to match up since they had more rest. This may hurt if they start the series slow and give a game away to the Rays.
Both teams do a great job of balancing power and speed. Shane Victorino has really sparked the Phillies' offense at key times. With six RBIs in the NLCS, it will be interesting to see how the Rays pitch to the switch hitter.
Also Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are all capable of catching fire. Burrell is hitting .333 and has been a powerful force throughout the playoffs.
Tampa Bay received much of its production from B.J. Upton is batting .304 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs during the postseason. Also, rookie Evan Longoria contributed with 4 home runs and 8 RBIs.
Both teams have not really pushed the running game in the previous series; look for both to attempt steals early and often.
The Phillies' bench may have more depth with Matt Stair, the professional hitter, who gave them a lift in Game 4. Also, Brad Lidge has not blown a save all season and postseason. The Phillies will lean heavy on Lidge and the bullpen in order prevent a Tampa Bay late inning surge.
The Rays have kept the 2007 first round pick David Price a secret for most of the year. Coming out in a high pressure situation, he was able to get a save against the Red Sox. Don't count out Longoria and Upton, because they have proven to be able to play as well as anyone in crunch time.
This series will likely go to seven games. The bullpen for the Rays will have to step up and match the Phillies' bullpen. The one thing the Phillies must do is knock out the starting pitching for the Rays so they can expose the bullpen and put the game out of reach.
Philadelphia will win the Series in six games. Brad Lidge and the Phillies' bullpen is too strong for the Rays. Although Tampa has home-field advantage and had the best home record during the season, Philadelphia was the best road team this season.
The presence of Jimmy Rollins, Howard, Burrell and Utley is enough to defeat the Rays. Upton and Longoria will take care of business as usual, but they won't be enough.