Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Must Win Tonight

Tonight the Phillies start the World Series, trying to get this franchise its second championship in its 125 year history. That is some awesome futility- perhaps Philadelphia is owed one?

Frankly, that is about the only argument you can make for the Phillies to win this thing. I’m not optimistic. Neither is Vegas- as the Phillies have slid to a 7 to 5 choice from near even money.

Frankly, it is hard to dismiss that stretch of play in late June where the Phillies got a two week dose of the class of the American League- and were wholly uncompetitive for two weeks: three up, nine down. The Rays are right in that class of those Angels and Red Sox who just buried the Phillies: great starting pitching, maybe not as much pure power as the Phillies but certainly a better hitting grouping.

On paper, the Phillies frankly figure to be narrow favorites only in pair of the potential seven games (ed. note- wrong! tonight’s game is a pick’em): Hamels gets a pair of starts verus Scott Kazmir. Kazmir in a real nice pitcher- a plus number two starter and unfortunately a lefty to boot- but Cole has got it going lately. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Phillies win four games without him getting his pair. Hamels, Madison and Lidge are rested and aligned; the Phillies consequently must win tonight. And it ain’t a sign of strength when you face, for all practical purposes, a “must win” right off the bat.

Past that, the match-ups really tilt in favor of the Rays. For instance, Moyers versus the ALCS MVP Garva? That is not good.

Plus, of the Phillies one, two, four and five hole hitter- you can pretty much pencil in a pair of them to hit .180 with zero HRs. One absolute truism of the 2008 Phillies is that you can pitch to their core hitters- all have holes, all can go weeks without swinging the bat well. If there is a team in baseball more capable of exploiting that weakness: lefties in general and right-handers who can pitch to spots, the Rays are it.

They also have to get the Series quick, a seventh game on the road featuring Moyer or Blandon is not a happy place for me. I would have considered strongly starting Meyers tonight- preserving the two Hamels starts- but having the option to bring Meyers back for game four and seven. But I guess Meyers, even starting game five, could probably go six outs in a seventh game.

I hope Charlie considers DH-ing Howard. These games on turf, which the Phillies have yet to play on, scare me bad

Again, Hamels is hot- and if he can win tonight, the Phillies have a fair chance. Playing three games in our power-friendly ballpark will help negate some of huge advantage the Rays enjoy down the rotation in games three and four. But that is what we’re looking for here at best- a game one win to have a fighting, even-steven chance to upset the Rays. A loss tonight… the Phillies could get swept frankly. Must win tonight!