Home MLB Phillies blast past the Rays in Game four

Phillies blast past the Rays in Game four

by Matt Smith

The Phillies are now one win away from their second World Series championship after thumping the Rays 10-2 in game four.  It was a scoreline that accurately reflected their dominance and they will head into game five full of confidence that they can wrap up the series at home.  If the Rays are to stop them, they will need to greatly improve their level of performance.  Although the first three games of the series were close affairs, this one was anything but. 

The Phillies’ starter Joe Blanton deserves to grab the headlines after a terrific pitching performance and a stunning home run that caught everyone by surprise, not least the player himself.  Blanton’s 5-12 record with the A’s in the first half of the season made many people question Pat Gillick’s decision to trade three prospects to obtain the righthander mid-way through July.  It was a move that provoked a great deal of sneering on the behalf of some experts who predicted that Blanton would be smashed into submission in his new homer-friendly home, but his 4-0 record and 4.20 ERA over thirteen starts helped the Phillies make the postseason and he has now played a big part in edging his team towards the big prize.

Blanton’s blast went down well with the crowd in Philadelphia, but it has been the return to form of two of their established hitters that has really turned this series in their favour.  Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins went 2 for 19 in the opening two games, with both of the hits being delivered by the former in their game two loss.  Getting back home to Philly has proved a great tonic though, as they have gone 9 for 17 in games three and four.  Howard had looked out of sorts, being bedeviled by slow breaking balls on the outside part of the plate, but it was only a matter of time before he broke out of his slump.  A solo shot yesterday seemed to do the trick and he belted two more in game four, the first of which was a three-run bomb coming seconds after MLB International commentator Dave O’Brien had stated that the Phillies “haven’t had a big hit” up to that point.

Two players don’t make a team, but it’s hard not to draw comparisons between the Howard-Rollins partnership and the Pena-Longoria duo.  While the Phillies’ pair have recovered from an early malaise, the Rays’ pair are mired in an 0 for 29 slump.  Longoria has been unlucky with two well-hit balls so far in this series, yet that can’t disguise the fact that he is pressing at the plate and seems to have lost the stroke that proved so devastating to the White Sox and the Red Sox in previous rounds of the postseason.  If one or both don’t re-find their swings quickly, this series probably won’t make it to a game six.

The Rays had a bad night in virtually every way possible.  Andy Sonnanstine struggled by falling behind hitters and was part of yet another umpiring mistake in the first inning when the third base umpire missed Longoria’s tag on Rollins after Sonnanstine had opted to get the lead runner rather than go for the inning-ending double play.  It doesn’t excuse the umpire’s bad call, but Sonnanstine made the wrong decision and didn’t deserve to get out of the jam.  He was extremely fortunate to only concede one run in that situation and his luck didn’t last much longer.  Indeed, the Rays’ luck was summed up by the normally dependable Akinori Iwamura being charged with two errors, the second of which was a bit harsh on the Japanese star.  The solo home runs by Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske, the latter having only just been added to the roster in place of the injured Cliff Floyd, were the only bright spots on an otherwise miserable night.

However, it was far from miserable for the Phillies.  They are now in the perfect spot: a 3-1 lead with Cole Hamels pitching a potential series-clinching game five at Citizens Bank Park.  The Rays need to recover from a poor game four and to break Hamels’ run of excellent postseason starts if they are to take this series back to Florida.  That’s going to be a tall order, even though the Rays have already proved they have the stomach for a fight. 

That fighting spirit will be put to the test tonight.  The Phillies are on the verge of clinching the World Series in front of their home crowd and opportunities like this don’t come along too often.  Tune into Five from 00.30 tonight to see if the Phillies are able to take advantage or whether the Rays can begin an incredible comeback.

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Chico October 27, 2008 - 2:31 pm

Matt: As you probably know, Blanton’s homer was the first by a pitcher in the World Series since Kenny Holtzman hit one in 1974 for the A’s. Holtzman also pitched for the Cubs. 34 years is a long time between homers for a pitcher. The reasons probably being 1) top of the pitching rotations in the Series and 2) the use of the DH in AL parks. The lack of hitting by Longoria and Pena are amazing. WS pressure has something to do with it. They are getting Longoria out on low breaking pitches and Pena on high stuff. The Phillies scouting has to be given credit for that. I’ll bet they pitch Longoria down low tonight until he proves he can hit the low stuff. He is a rookie as you know and probably going to win Rookie of the Year. Obviously, I favor Alexi Ramirez (“The Cuban Missile”) as top rookie. Longoria will get the award in part to the last to first story of the Rays. I watched Ramirez all summer at The Cell and can tell you he is something. That Chicago pride is now showing! Your analysis was outstanding. Should be a good one tonight. Got to favor the Phils now. Chico

Matt Smith October 27, 2008 - 8:08 pm

Ramirez certainly had a good year for the White Sox, but these awards are always a bit of a lottery and they tend to go for the popularist vote. Sometimes it really depends on how often the voters get to see each player, as obviously it is a group containing two writers from each league city that decide. You’ve been able to follow Ramirez at close quarters, but I’m guessing most of the voters will only have seen him occasionally. Longoria’s name has been up in lights most of the season, and there’s no doubting his ability, so like you I think he’ll end up with the trophy.

The Phillies have got to be confident tonight, simply because Hamels has been in such outstanding form recently. I’m hoping the Rays can come back and extend the series, but the smart money is on the Phillies wrapping it up at the first attempt.


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