I say those two words with the same tone as Kramer used in this episode. I'm out of the Baseball Insider World Series Prediction contest. Alone among my colleagues, I picked the Rays in four. Everyone else still has a chance to nail it. I, alas, do not.
In making a prediction as outlandish as that, certainly there are elements of sensationalism and even antagonism involved, and in that regard I'd have to say I was successful, given the number of comments, many of them from angry Phillies fans calling me names.
I truly did believe the Rays could beat Cole Hamels in Game 1 and sweep the series, and it's not as if I were way off in the first part of that equation. If B.J. Upton's laser to the left side (which became the second double-play he hit into) goes six inches to Pedro Feliz's left, if the umpire calls a balk on Hamels on that pickoff play, if Scott Kazmir gets the strike call on the pitch before Utley's homer... Yada yada yada, as they say on Seinfeld. It was a close game that could have gone either way.
A few other observations from Game 1:
*Some good players looked really bad at the plate, chief among them Ryan Howard. Did you see him chase that slider that seemed to bounce three feet in front of the plate? Did you see the way the Rays walked Utley intentionally to get to him? The big guy is a mess right now. Doesn't mean he won't break out in a huge way. But I figure the Rays will continue to treat him like an out until he proves otherwise.
*The Rays' 2-3-4 hitters (Upton, Pena, Longoria) carried the team against the Red Sox in the ALCS. In Game 1, they combined to go 0 for 12 with five strikeouts.
*Brad Lidge... wow. The Rays took eight swings at him in the ninth inning and did not hit a single fair ball. You can study all the tape you want of Lidge's ridiculous slider, but there's no preparation for being in the box and trying to fend it off. I've never seen Evan Longoria, for one, look so bad. With Lidge, there's always that possibility of a monumental implosion, but the unfamiliarity factor lessens that possibility. He doesn't have to get cute. He can just let it fly.
*Grant Balfour pitched tremendously in relief for the Rays (1 2/3 scoreless innings), but he threw 27 pitches, which could limit his availability in Game 2. Obviously, the Rays stayed away from David Price in Game 1, going with their other two lefties in situations where they were trailing. With the off-day looming Friday, we could see an inning or two from Price, under the right circumstances.
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