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MLB World Series 2009 News | Archive October 23, 2008

 

2008 World Series Preview - Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay

By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
October 20, 2008


(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Rays will try to continue one of the most impressive turnarounds in sports history when they open the 104th edition of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

This was supposed to be the year that the Rays were going to take a step forward. But, that leap was expected to be in the form of the franchise finishing somewhere near .500 for the first time in team history.

What transpired, though, was something even the most ardent Rays supporters could not have predicted.

Just one year removed from finishing with a league-worst 96 losses, Tampa Bay shocked the baseball world by going 97-65 on its way to its first AL East title, as well as its first playoff berth.

But, getting to the playoffs was not enough for the upstart Rays, who made quick work of the Chicago White Sox in the American League Division Series, taking the AL Central champs out in four games.

Then, surprisingly, Tampa looked as if it was going to have an easy go of it against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. Leading three games to one, the Rays were up 7-0 with two outs in the seventh inning, only to see the defending champs rally back and win that game, while also winning Game 6 at Tropicana Field to send the series to a decisive seventh game.

When the Rays fell behind early in Game 7 you would have been hard pressed to find someone that thought they were headed to the Fall Classic. But, as they have been doing all season, they answered the call, once again proving their skeptics wrong.
Matt Garza, who took home ALCS honors, was sensational and the first inning run would be all the Red Sox would muster, as the Rays held on for a 3-1 win.

With the victory, the Rays joined the 1991 Atlanta Braves as the only teams to reach the World Series a year after finishing with the worst record in the majors. The win also maintained the state of Florida's dominance in the MLB postseason, where the Sunshine State has yet to drop a series in eight chances.

Garza's Game 7 effort was just the latest in a string of impressive performances from Tampa's starters this postseason. Rays manager Joe Maddon will likely throw lefty Scott Kazmir in Game 1 of the World Series, followed by righty James Shields, then Garza and Andy Sonnanstine in Games 3 and 4.

The Rays have received huge efforts at the plate this postseason from B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria. The two have combined to hit 13 homers, the most by a pair of teammates under the age of 25 and one shy of the overall postseason record accomplished by Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia for San Francisco in 2002.

Upton, who only left the yard nine times during the regular season, has hit seven homers in these playoffs, one short of the major league record held by Bonds (2002) and Carlos Beltran, who did it for Houston in 2004.

Carlos Pena has also hit .333 with three home runs and eight RBI, while Carl Crawford, the longest tenured Ray in team history, batted .302 and swiped six bases.

If there is one question mark for the Rays heading into the World Series it is their bullpen. With closer Troy Percival sidelined, Maddon had a difficult time getting the final three outs against the Red Sox.

The group, which was so solid during the regular season, has struggled in October. Dan Wheeler, who was to assume Percival's vacated closer's spot, has surrendered four runs in six innings of work, while Grant Balfour is pitching to a 7.94 ERA.

Percival could be activated for this series, but Maddon may have found another option in 23-year-old left-hander David Price, who recorded the final four outs in the Rays' Game 7 clincher against the Red Sox.

Price, the top overall pick in the 2007 draft, has electric stuff, but was only used three times in the playoffs by Maddon. He was 1-0 with a save and did not surrender a run in 2 1/3 innings of work.

With the Phillies' lefty-heavy lineup, specifically Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, you would have to think Price could play a bigger role in this series.

Philadelphia, meanwhile is back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1993 and will be trying to claim just its second World Series title in 125 years.

The Phillies captured their second consecutive NL East crown this season with a 92-70 mark. This year's postseason stay has lingered a little longer than last year's when they were swept in the NLDS by the eventual NL champion Colorado Rockies.
Philadelphia defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in four games of the NLDS, before eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games of the NLCS.

Trailing two games to one, the Dodgers seemed to have the Phillies on the ropes in Game 4 of the NLCS. However, two home runs and four runs in the eighth shifted the momentum back to the Phillies, who went on to win that game, then got a tremendous effort from Cole Hamels in Game 5 to advance to their sixth World Series.

Hamels has been incredible for the Phils, winning all three of his starts this postseason while pitching to a 1.23 ERA. After him, though, it could get a little shaky. Brett Myers won both of his starts, but has been up-and-down, while 45-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer has been downright awful (0-2, 13.50).

Philadelphia's offensive numbers may not be as gaudy as the Rays this postseason, but they have received contributions from a number of players and have picked up some real timely hits. Nobody more so than Shane Victorino, who has knocked in a club record 11 runs with a pair of home runs.

For the second straight year, Utley struggled in the NLDS, but showed some signs of life against the Dodgers. The second baseman hit a big two-run homer to even Game 1 and was 6-for-17 in the NLCS with three RBI.

The Phils, though, need Howard's bat to come alive. The NL MVP candidate hit .500 (6-for-12) over the final three games against the Dodgers, but has yet to hit a home run this postseason and has driven in a measly three runs.

Unlike the Rays, when the game gets to the ninth, there is no doubt who is pitching for the Phils. Brad Lidge has been the best closer in baseball this season and, although, he may make things interesting, he has done the job every time he has toed the rubber this season.

Lidge was a perfect 41-for-41 in save opportunities during the regular season, and erased his postseason demons by going a perfect 5-for-5 against the Brewers and Dodgers.

Of course, though, it is Lidge who was the losing pitcher in this year's All- Star Game, which gave the Rays home field advantage for this series.

This is a hard series to predict. I liked the way the Rays were able to bounce back and defeat the Red Sox after that gut-wrenching Game 5 loss. Tampa's bullpen still scares me in a big spot. Unless, of course, Percival is back, or if Maddon decides to go to Price more often. Plus, you would have to think that those bats are going to cool off at some point.

The Phils, on the other hand, are going to have to overcome the long layoff blues. Detroit struggled with it two years ago and Colorado was swept by the Red Sox last year after sitting for a week.

If you look at everything on paper, the Rays should probably win. But I am going to go with Philadelphia. I think the Phils will be able to steal a game in St. Petersburg, then come home to what will be an unbelievably raucous crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

The city of Philadelphia is so starved for a title that those fans could will this team to a victory. The Rays are not going to know what hit them when they arrive in the City of Brotherly Love. They think cowbells and mohawks are cool, wait until they see the crowd in Philadelphia in Games 3, 4 and 5.

Prediction: PHILLIES in FIVE.

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


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Amazing Rays seven-sational
Garza and rookie Price close out Red Sox, lifting Tampa Bay into Series date with Phillies -- Rays 3 Red Sox 1 -- Rays win series 4-3.

By Richard Griffin, Baseball Columnist
October 20, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–And on the third day they rose again. The Rays are in the World Series. The devil you say.

As unnatural as it seemed to celebrate baseball at Tropicana Field in October, the young Rays got the hang of it in a hurry. The dugout emptied and a jubilant bunch of recently no-name players, the longest of long shots at the start of the season, swarmed young left-hander David Price, who started the season in A-ball.

Following what amounted to a 72-hour hangover from Thursday's debilitating binge at Fenway Park, when they had a chance to put the Red Sox away, the upstart Rays rebounded last night to beat Boston 3-1 and earn their first trip to the World Series against the Phillies in just their 11th season.

With just 31 days of big-league service under his belt, Price, a 2007 draft pick added late to the roster, was summoned into Game 7 by skipper Joe Maddon in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, a two-run lead and J.D. Drew at the plate. The 23-year-old, who will still qualify as a rookie in '09, struck him out for the biggest out of the Rays' season.

That is until he went out again to pitch the ninth, carrying the season on his inexperienced shoulders. After walking Jason Bay, he struck out Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek and ended the game with a fielder's choice off the bat of Jed Lowrie.

"I didn't even hear the crowd. I was just so focused on my teammates," Price said. "There are guys in here that said that in 10 years they have never been to a post-season. ... It's unreal."

Maddon played a hunch and it paid off.

"I had a good feeling; we all did," the manager said of bringing in Price. "It just seemed to be the right vibe entirely. You can feel it. You can taste it. ... The young man is composed beyond his years."

It may only be coincidence, but the year the Rays dropped the Devil from their nickname, they became just the second team to play in the Fall Classic after having baseball's worst record the year before. The 1990 Braves lost 97 games and then went on the next year to play the Twins.

This year, it was the defending champion Red Sox who had hell to pay, losing in their bid to become the first repeat champions since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000.

"We got beat by a very good team," said Boston manager Terry Francona.

The Rays also became only the second team to lead 3-1, lose Games 5 and 6, then come back and win Game 7 to advance to the World Series. The 1992 Braves were the other.

The other hero of last night's win was starter Matt Garza, voted the series MVP. Garza tossed seven innings of two-hit ball, working hard against a patient, grinding Sox order, throwing 113 pitches and handing the lead off to the bullpen.

"People kept saying you guys are going to falter in August and September, you guys are going to falter when you face Chicago, you guys don't match up well against Boston in Boston," said Garza. "We've proved doubters wrong."

The Rays' offensive star was Willy Aybar, who missed the entire '07 season with a wrist injury. Aybar, invaluable as a fill-in at third for the injured Evan Longoria down the stretch, doubled in the fifth and scored the go-ahead run, then homered in the seventh to provide an insurance marker.

The Rays did just enough to win against Boston starter Jon Lester, the man who had pitched the clinching game against the Rockies in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

For the Rays, the 2008 Series starts Wednesday at Tropicana Field.

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


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Baseball: Professor Sees 59 Percent Chance Of Rays Win Over Phillies In World Series

October 20, 2008

ScienceDaily — NJIT's Bruce Bukiet, a mathematician who has applied mathematical modeling techniques to elucidate the dynamics of scoring in baseball, has computed the probability of the Rays and Phillies winning the World Series now that the Rays have defeated the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

He recently released the names of those most deserving of Major League Baseball's prestigious 2008 Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Cy Young awards.
Bukiet, a popular NJIT math professor, dives annually into such terrain in part for his love of the game, but also for his love of teaching and math. "Baseball can be a terrific learning tool," said Bukiet. "It demonstrates how math is all around us.

With the World Series set to begin Wednesday night in Tampa Bay, the model gives the Rays a 59 percent chance of winning the series with most probable outcomes being a Rays championship in 6 (20 percent chance) or 7 (19 percent chance) games. "I'm sure my friends who are Phillies fans are not happy about these numbers," said Bukiet. Updates on the chances of each team winning the World Series based on the outcome of each game and changes in prospective starters are posted at: http://m.njit.edu/bukiet/baseball/playoffs08.htm.

Bukiet's method uses each player's 2008 season statistics. He then applies a Markov process approach to modeling production of runs in baseball games. Bukiet first presented this mathematical model in 1997 in Operations Research. His method can be used for a number of purposes including predicting how many games a team should win in a season, the expected influence of trades and whether to wager on a game.

This is the eighth year that Bukiet has used his model to determine whether it is worthwhile to wager on games each day of the baseball season. His picks (posted on http://www.egrandslam.com) have led to positive results for six of the past eight years.

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MLB News Archive Index: 2010, 2009


 













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