|After A Game Two Loss The Pressure Is On The Phillies|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on October 24, 2008
So far this has been one of the better World Series that we have seen in recent years.Â For a change it hasnâ€™t been a blowout, a sweep, or a mismatch.Â The Phillies won the first game with timely hitting, solid pitching and by the fact that the Rays couldnâ€™t take advantage of their many opportunities to come up with a big hit.
Game two of the World Series came together exactly as the Rays had charted it.Â The big bats didnâ€™t really come alive, nor did the offense click the way it had against Boston or Chicago; the Rays won this one by taking advantage of opportunities including errors and bad calls and by playing small ball with timely execution while strong pitching performances by James Shields, Dan Wheeler and David Price kept the Phillies handcuffed despite nine hits.
Shields didnâ€™t look all that sharp, scattering seven of those hits over the first 5.2 innings but when he needed the big pitch he managed to get the strikeout to defuse tight situations.Â Thatâ€™s perhaps Shieldsâ€™ greatest asset - he handles the pressure and bears down when he needs to.Â Thursday night he was asked to be the stopper, to help make sure the Rays didnâ€™t head to Philly down two games to nothing and Shields didnâ€™t disappoint.
And now the Phillies need to worry a bit.Â Their pitcher, Cole Hamels who threw in game one, is probably at the best starter in this series.Â Last nightâ€™s pitcher Brett Myers was the two in this one-two punch.Â He was solid enough, but after him the Philliesâ€™ pitching is shaky.
The biggest problem for the Phillies is that Moyer has pitched well this season, but only on the road (where he posted a 2.92 ERA) and the series didnâ€™t set up that way for the team.Â It leaves Moyer in position to pitch a game seven in Tampa if the series goes that far, but it seems unlikely that the Phillies would choose to rely on Moyer rather than ask ace Cole Hamels to throw on short rest if it comes to that.Â After all, theyâ€™ll want to throw their best and Moyer wonâ€™t fit that bill.
But while Moyer may not have the best statistics or the best stuff, there is a reason he has pitched so long and been successful enough to have won 246 games in his career.Â His brain is his greatest asset, and when heâ€™s on, Moyer is more than capable of keeping opposing hitters off balance while serving up a diet of softly thrown junk.Â But heâ€™ll have to have his head in the game, which is something that he has struggled to do in this yearâ€™s playoffs.
Adding to the pressure is that fact that the Phillies had plenty of time to watch Matt Garza dominate the Red Sox in game seven of the ALCS, while the Raysâ€™ number four starter Andy Sonnanstine has been throwing the best baseball of his career over the last few weeks (He has beaten both the White Sox and Red Sox while holding the opposition to a .188 average since the playoffs started), while their number four Joe Blanton has a career 6.05 ERA against Tampa.Â
That makes game three a critical one for the Phillies and one which could force them to change their plans on the fly if Moyersâ€™ gets smacked around.Â Still their options are limited so theyâ€™ll put the ball in the hands of Jamie Moyer on Saturday and cross their fingers.Â