BNN: World Series matchup pairs youth, power

Corey Marine

Tampa Bay’s first four pitchers have proven they can win in the postseason. Starters Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and James Shields are among the up-and-coming stars of the league and will give the Rays a fighting chance every time they take the mound. Andy Sonnanstine has been a surprise during the playoffs and can probably be described as a younger version of Philadelphia’s Jamie Moyer. He does not have an over-powering arm that will have opposing batters sitting on a fastball. Instead, he relies on changing speed, location and pitches to leave hitters off-balance and guessing.

The only starting pitcher the Phillies have who consistently gives offenses fits is Cole Hamels, and he will have to come up huge against the Tampa Bay rotation if the Phillies want to put up a fight. Joe Blanton has also established himself as a good No. 2, but he has yet to be tested against good offensive teams this postseason, as the Brewers and Dodgers both struggled to come up with timely hitting – despite Manny Ramirez’s astronomical postseason numbers this year.

Both bullpens have been able to get the job done throughout the year, and chances are the games will be won with starting pitching. Whoever can score runs early will probably hold the advantage throughout the games. If the Phils can hold a lead after the eighth inning, the game is practically over. Brad Lidge has been perfect all season and has not lost the lead for the Phillies in 50 tries.

Advantage: Tampa Bay Rays


Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins are the past two National League MVPs. Howard has been criticized for his lackluster defense at first base and his high strikeout total, but when he gets hot, no one wants to pitch to him. His Rays counterpart, Carlos Pena, has had a strong playoff run, but he does not put fear into opposing pitchers like Howard can. Rollins will have to continue his clutch play for the Phightin’ Phils with timely hits and flashes of defensive speed and leather. Look for him to outplay Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett this series. Chase Utley carried the Phillies early in the season and put up great power numbers for a second baseman and was a solid RBI man.

Akinori Iwamura is a more traditional second baseman for the Rays. He will not drive in many runs and does not have much power in his bat, but if he gets on base, he will attempt to steal and can score from first if a ball is hit well enough. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria will try to leave his stamp on the series with the long ball. He now holds the rookie record for most home runs in the playoffs. He has also shown flashes of defensive prowess at the hot corner and can help turn a double play as well as any third baseman in the game.

The catchers complement each other well. Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz and Tampa Bay’s Dioner Navarro have handled their respective pitching staffs well and have come up with hits for their ball clubs. However, Ruiz has his work cut out for him in dealing with the speedy Tampa Bay base runners. Rays Manager Joe Maddon loves to play small ball and is willing to test any catcher as he tries to get runners into scoring position during any given at bat. Look for the Ray’s speedy infielders to bunt, hit-and-run and perhaps attempt the unexpected suicide squeeze. This style is quite a contrast from the style of the Phillies sluggers who will win games with the long ball.

Advantage: Philadelphia Phillies


Behind Hamels, the Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino has probably been the biggest piece of Philadelphia’s postseason success. He energizes the ball club offensively and has played amazing defense. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has also been wreaking havoc on the base paths. Left fielder Pat Burrell adds punch to an already-strong lineup.

However, Rays center fielder B.J. Upton has made a name for himself and is as locked in as anyone can be in the postseason. The speedy outfielder plays a shallow center field because he can cover ground so easily and has a chance to make a play on every ball hit his way. This also translates to stealing bases and scoring runs, when he is not jogging around them after a home run. Left fielder Carl Crawford also has some pop in his bat and has had a good time at the plate this postseason. Cliff Floyd also comes off the bench from time to time and has a good veteran presence in the clubhouse.

Advantage: Tampa Bay Rays

The matchup is set. Who will take it all? Will the young stars of the Tampa Bay Rays continue to shine, or will a hungry Phillies team take it all and feed a city that has been championship starved for over two decades? This drama is what playoff baseball is all about.