Cole Hamels is out of the way. That’s right Rays fans (or bandwagon jumpers) even though Tampa Bay took the loss in the World Series opener, there’s one big ray of hope for games two through four and that’s the lack of Hamels.
Hamels continued his impersonation of Josh Beckett with another dominating post-season appearance on Wednesday night by hurling seven innings of two run baseball; there by boosting his record to 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA this postseason. With Hamels now out of the picture until Game 5—unless Philly moves him up in the rotation—the Rays will get to take their chances against the likes of Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton.
All fine pitchers, but definitely not nearly the same caliber as Cole Hamels.
Hopefully with Hamels out of the way the offense—which only mustered five hits—can get into a rhythm. The Rays’ 2-3-4 hitters—BJ Upton, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria—were a combined 0-for-12 with five strikeouts in Game 1, with Upton twice grounding into double plays.
If the Rays offense fails to jump out of the blocks in Game 2, the predictions/hopes of a competitive seven game series may go by the wayside very quickly, especially if the good-version of Brett Myers shows up and the Phillies late-inning knockout punch of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge are waiting in the wings to turn out the lights.
The Rays, however, weren’t the only ones who suffered from disappointing production in Game 1. The Phillies were 0-for-13 wither runners in scoring position and are ‘hitting’ a meager .195 with RISP in the postseason. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard went 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts and leadoff man Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts as well. Not exactly inspired play from the two most recent NL MVPs.
Neither team is head-and-shoulders above the other at this juncture, but all of that could change with some big-time pitching performances or a sudden infusion of life into either lineup. Either way, I fully expect Game 2 will bring the same type of dogfight that will hopefully carry on through a full seven game set.