Philadelphia is about to win its first championship, in any professional team sport, since 1983 (or 1984 if you count the USFL's Philadelphia Stars). You can throw out all those concerns about the Phillies' inability to get big hit in this series. They sent them flying out of Citizens Bank Park last night, crushing the Rays 10-2 in a game Tampa Bay had to have. Now the Phils have their ace, Cole Hamels, who is undefeated in four starts this postseason, taking the ball with a chance to wrap up just the second world championship in the Phillies' 125-year history, 28 years after the first.
Down 3-1 in games and facing Hamels, simply surviving tonight's game and forcing the Series back to Florida would be a significant upset for the Rays at this point, never mind actually winning the whole thing. So how might they do it? It will have to start with pitching, because the Rays can't expect to score very often tonight.
Together, Hamels and the Phillies' bullpen, which has allowed just one run in 8 2/3 innings in this series, have combined to post a 1.63 ERA in 66 1/3 innings this postseason. Hamels hasn't had a bad start since September 7, when he allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings against the Mets at Shea Stadium. The Phillies have averaged just 3.5 runs in Hamels' four starts this postseason, but he's made all three tallies hold up for the win. In Game 1 of this series, the Phils managed just three runs off
To make matters worse, the Rays' offense has ground to a halt.
Given all of that, Kazmir and company may just have to shut the suddenly hot-hitting Phillies out tonight in order to extend this series. Kazmir was unable to do that in Game 1, serving up a two-run home run to
Fortunately for the Rays, the big three in their bullpen --
Oddly, the Rays might be able to draw some inspiration from the Red Sox ALCS comeback. Like the Rays tonight, the Sox were down 3-1 heading into Game 5 of that series. They then staged a shocking late-game rally to overcome a 7-0 deficit in Game 5 and won Game 6 to force Game 7. Then again, not only did the Sox do that
The Rays are also struggling defensively. While they didn't make a single fielding error in their first seven postseason games, they have now been charged with nine errors in their last six contests. Those who have been waiting all season for the Rays' to collapse are finally getting their wish, but the Rays are a talented young team, and they'll be back. Tonight, however, is Philadelphia's night.