For Rays Pitchers, It's All About Location
Scott Kazmir has been in Philadelphia the past two nights. He's seen the sudden uprising among Philadelphia's hitters, who are disproving the old adage that base hits with runners in scoring position win championships. He's seen Ryan Howard remember that he's Donkey Kong strong, and that whenever he makes contact with the ball, he has a legitimate shot at a home run.
Tampa Bay has to hope Kazmir's been taking notes.
While much has been made about Philadelphia's sudden offensive surge in Game 4, and the handful of fortuitous bounces that made their Game 3 win possible. Lucky breaks are often the result of skill and patience, attributes which surely could describe much of what the Phillies earned in Game 3. But the very ability for Philadelphia to walk off with a dramatic win -- and put the World Series in a chokehold as a result -- was put in Philadelphia's hands because of mistakes made by Tampa Bay pitchers.
After two sterling starts in the ALCS, Matt Garza entered Game 3 with considerable hype and his requisite 96-97 mile-per-hour fastball. Unfortunately, he didn't have the fine-tuned command that he showed against Boston, and that led to a less desirable result. After an unfortunate first inning run, Garza gave in to Carlos Ruiz in the second, missing badly over the middle of the plate on his second fastball to the catcher, who took the 94 mph offering deep for a 2-1 Philadelphia lead.
It looked like Garza was back on track, but then came the sixth. First, a Garza fastball to Chase Utley was deposited into the seats and then, a batter later, Ryan Howard officially arrived in the World Series, drilling an 86 mph slider way out of the park.
Last night, Andy Sonnannstine was worse, walking in a run in the first and then getting battered with every mediocre fastball he left over the plate, proving exactly why Rays Manager Joe Maddon stuck him in the fourth slot for the playoffs.
Will that Phillies explode on Kazmir tonight? That may depend almost entirely on whether he locates better than his two predecessors. As the Phillies have now amply proved, they will drill anything you leave over the plate, whether it's 86 or 96 mph. If Kazmir does what he did best when at his healthiest, a mix of sliders and well placed fastballs could get the Rays right back in the series.
Otherwise, Tampa Bay will have a long offseason to try and piece together what went wrong, and how to re-cast themselves as contenders with expectations.
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