[The Brazil Times nameplate] Fair ~ 72°F  
High: 87°F ~ Low: 72°F
Monday, July 6, 2015

How the Phillies and Rays match-up

Monday, October 20, 2008

By MIKE FITZPATRICK

AP Baseball Writer

A position-by-position look at the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays going into the World Series, starting Wednesday night at Tropicana Field:


First Base

Phillies:

Ryan Howard. The 2006 NL MVP and a leading contender for this year's award, Howard led Philadelphia to its second consecutive division title with a huge September. He led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs. His opposite-field power makes him particularly dangerous because he's strong enough to flip even good pitches over the left-field fence. But he's prone to strikeouts and is one of the worst defensive first basemen in baseball.

Rays:

Carlos Pena. After bouncing from team to team, unable to fulfill the promise that made him the 10th overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft, Pena has found a home with Tampa Bay. He had 46 homers and 121 RBIs in 2007, earning AL Comeback Player of the Year honors, and rebounded from a slow start this season to compile 31 HRs and 102 RBIs. Batting third, Pena anchors the Rays' young lineup and displays impressive opposite-field power, too. But unlike Howard, he provides an outstanding glove -- one of the best at his position.

Edge: Even.

Second Base

Phillies:

Chase Utley. A three-time All-Star who boasts rare power for a second baseman, Utley is a constant threat from the left side of the plate. Perhaps bothered by a nagging hip injury, he dropped off considerably after a magnificent April, hitting only 12 of his career-best 33 homers over the final 103 games. His glove work isn't great, but he's a fiercely competitive gamer who goes all-out all the time.

Rays:

Akinori Iwamura. After arriving for the 2007 season, Iwamura has quickly transformed himself from a Gold Glove third baseman (in Japan) with pop in his bat to a slick-fielding second baseman who torments opponents as a pesky leadoff batter. Very impressive.

Edge: Phillies.

Shortstop

Phillies:

Jimmy Rollins. A speedy switch-hitter, Rollins was unable to duplicate the big numbers that won him the 2007 NL MVP award. Still, he might be Philadelphia's most important player, jump-starting a potent offense from the leadoff spot. He has power at the plate, a smooth glove and was 47-for-50 on stolen-base attempts this year. Rollins also hit a leadoff homer in the clinching game of both playoff rounds.

Rays:

Jason Bartlett. Overlooked in an offseason trade with Minnesota that also brought pitcher Matt Garza to Tampa Bay, the sure-handed Bartlett provided sound defense all season. He can run, too. But he lacks pop at the plate and he made two uncharacteristic errors late in the ALCS against Boston.

Edge: Phillies.

Third Base

Phillies:

Pedro Feliz. In his first season with Philadelphia after eight in San Francisco, Feliz batted .249 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs. He's a free-swinger without much plate discipline, but he plays strong defense and is always a danger to go deep if a pitcher makes a mistake. Feliz struggled with the bat in the playoffs and often sits against right-handed pitching in favor of Greg Dobbs.

Rays:

Evan Longoria. The front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year, Longoria was called up from the minors in April and made the All-Star team. He finished with 27 homers and 85 RBIs despite missing five weeks after breaking his right wrist Aug. 7. A winning player with loads of confidence, he's already set a rookie record with six postseason homers. Longoria bats cleanup and his defense has been touted, but some of his throws were shaky in the playoffs. After only six major league games, he agreed to a $17.5 million, six-year contract that could be worth up to $44.5 million over nine seasons.

Edge: Rays.

Catcher

Phillies:

Carlos Ruiz. Virtually ignored by everyone outside Philadelphia, Ruiz does a steady job behind the plate. His offense fell off this year, his second full season as a starter, but he went 5-for-16 (.313) in the NL championship series against Los Angeles. Ruiz shared playing time with Chris Coste during the regular season but has been an everyday starter in October.

Rays:

Dioner Navarro. A 20-year-old prospect when he was traded by the New York Yankees to Arizona in a January 2005 deal for Randy Johnson, Navarro blossomed into an All-Star this season after the Rays challenged him to step up. He's a take-charge catcher who's not afraid to get in a pitcher's face, as he did with Garza this year. And Navarro deserves tremendous credit for the way he handled Tampa Bay's young and much-improved pitching staff.

Edge: Rays.

Left Field

Phillies:

Pat Burrell. Known as "Pat the Bat," the hard-hitting Burrell has averaged 31 homers, 99 RBIs and 103 walks over the past four seasons. He's spent his entire career with the Phillies after they drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998, but can become a free agent following the World Series. He could DH at Tampa Bay. As for his defense ... well ... he's a very productive and patient hitter. Only two errors this season, though.

Rays:

Carl Crawford. It's hard to imagine anyone is enjoying the Rays' new success more than Crawford, a Tampa Bay lifer who used to be the lone bright spot in one dismal season after another. A gifted all-around athlete and one of the fastest players in baseball, Crawford is a two-time All-Star and four-time AL stolen base champ. He rushed back from a finger injury to be ready for the playoffs and was dropped to fifth in the batting order to protect Longoria. Defense is a major plus.

Edge: Phillies.

Center Field

Phillies:

Shane Victorino. Another guy with a good nickname: The Flyin' Hawaiian. Victorino is one of those all-around players who is much more valuable than his numbers indicate. Defense and speed are his strengths, but he's a tough out from both sides of the plate and he's already set a club record with 11 RBIs in the postseason.

Rays:

B.J. Upton. An immense talent with boundless potential, the 24-year-old Upton has quickly become a force in his first postseason. He is batting .304 with seven homers, 13 runs and 15 RBIs -- including 11 in the ALCS. He stole 44 bases during the regular season and has fantastic range in center, gliding to balls with smooth, easy strides. The only problem is, sometimes he appears lazy. He was benched three times for not hustling this year, though that hasn't been an issue since August.

Edge: Even.

Right Field

Phillies:

Jayson Werth. After starting the season in a platoon with Geoff Jenkins, Werth earned an everyday role by hitting .273 with 24 homers, 67 RBIs and a .363 on-base percentage. He also was successful on 20 of 21 stolen-base tries. A fine athlete, Werth is especially dangerous against left-handed pitching.

Rays:

Gabe Gross, Rocco Baldelli or Fernando Perez. A former quarterback at Auburn, Gross was quietly acquired from Milwaukee in April for a minor league pitcher. He settled into a comfortable role with Tampa Bay, hitting .242 with 13 HRs and 38 RBIs in 302 at-bats. But he was 1-for-16 in the playoffs and he struggles against lefties, so Perez or Baldelli will probably start against Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer.

Edge: Phillies.

Designated Hitter

Phillies:

Burrell, Jenkins, Dobbs or Matt Stairs. Burrell could wind up being a DH at Tampa Bay, especially against lefty Scott Kazmir, with So Taguchi or Eric Bruntlett playing left field. Jenkins, Dobbs and Stairs are attractive options against righties. Jenkins has 221 career HRs, but struggled this season -- his first in Philadelphia after 10 with Milwaukee. Dobbs is an accomplished pinch hitter who was 6-for-11 (.545) in the playoffs. The well-traveled Stairs delivered a pinch-hit homer to win Game 4 of the NLCS.

Rays:

Cliff Floyd or Willy Aybar. Still a power threat, Floyd is in the postseason for the third straight year -- with three different teams. His veteran presence and professional demeanor has been a boost in the clubhouse, and he figures to DH against right-handers. Aybar is a switch-hitter who batted .367 (11-for-30) with two homers and seven RBIs in the playoffs. He filled in at third for an injured Longoria this season.

Edge: Rays.

Starting Pitchers

Phillies:

Led by Hamels, Philadelphia's rotation looks much better now than it did earlier this year. Brett Myers has regrouped since a surprising trip to the minors, and midseason addition Joe Blanton is a useful starter. The 45-year-old Moyer went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA during the season but 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in two playoff outings. He'll be the second-oldest player to appear in the World Series, behind Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Jack Quinn, who was 47 in 1930. The key is Hamels, who features a baffling changeup and gives the Phillies the legitimate ace they lacked for years. The NLCS MVP, he went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in three playoff starts, striking out 22 and walking six in 22 innings. With six days off before the World Series, the Phillies were able to line up their rotation however they wanted.

Rays:

The growth of Tampa Bay's inexperienced rotation might have been the most crucial element to their stunning success this year. Kazmir made his second All-Star squad and has dominant stuff when he's on, but he often struggles to get deep in games. Concerns about his health were assuaged with six shutout innings of two-hit ball in Game 5 of the ALCS. James Shields was 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA, earning a reputation for having guts in big games. He's been excellent at home, where he could pitch twice in the World Series. Garza, the ALCS MVP, showed mettle and moxie in pitching the Rays past defending champion Boston in Game 7. Not to be forgotten is Andy Sonnanstine, a 13-game winner who went 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two playoff starts.

Edge: Rays.

Bullpen

Phillies:

A strength all season, led by perfect closer Brad Lidge. In his first year with Philadelphia, the right-hander with the nasty slider is 46-for-46 in save chances -- including the playoffs. By now, that mammoth homer he served up to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS with Houston shouldn't define his career. Setup man Ryan Madson has been on a roll for months and the Phillies have lefty-righty balance with J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey. No wonder this team topped the NL in bullpen ERA.

Rays:

Missing a lock-down closer, Tampa Bay's deep and balanced bullpen is more old-fashioned than most. Roles are flexible and relievers occasionally are asked to work multiple innings. For the Rays, it works. Left-hander J.P. Howell went 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 64 regular-season appearances and 0-1 with a 1.86 ERA and 12 strikeouts in nine playoff games. Veteran submariner Chad Bradford, a midseason acquisition, is tough on righties and has a track record of postseason success. Grant Balfour looked great until the Red Sox roughed him up in the ALCS. Tampa Bay can bring three lefties out of the bullpen, including hard-throwing rookie David Price, a September call-up who began the season at Class A. He closed out Boston in Game 7, so don't be surprised if he becomes a de facto closer in the World Series. Troy Percival had 28 saves during the season but was left off the roster for both playoff series because of a balky back.

Edge: Phillies.

Bench

Phillies:

A capable unit with power from the left side of the plate in Jenkins, Stairs and Dobbs. There's not much pop from the right side, but Taguchi and Bruntlett provide reliable defense. Coste is a strong backup catcher.

Rays:

Featuring plenty of speed and versatility, Tampa Bay's bench is definitely a strength. The Rays like to use their backups, too, especially in the outfield. Baldelli is a heartwarming story. He returned from health problems in time to play a helpful role in October, with a homer and five RBIs in the playoffs.

Edge: Rays.

Manager

Phillies:

Charlie Manuel. After a rough start, the folksy skipper seems to have won over the notoriously tough Philly fans. He's done a good job with the pitching staff, and his gritty club likes playing hard for him. Manuel's mother, June, died during the NLCS. He didn't miss a game, but did skip the first day of team workouts afterward to attend the funeral back home in Virginia.

Rays:

Joe Maddon. With his motivational quotes and phrases, Maddon has pushed all the right buttons in Tampa Bay's clubhouse, guiding baseball's perennial doormats to the top. Worst to first in one year -- amazing. Maddon taught his young players how to win and convinced them they should expect to even though they never had before. He sports a mohawk haircut and fashionable glasses, and his Rays refuse to back down from anyone. The way he uses his bench and bullpen is impressive, too.

Edge: Rays.


Pick: Rays in 7.



Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: