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Time to Rays the Roof

After the Tampa Bay Rays blew a seven-run lead with seven outs to play with a World Series berth on the line, then returned home and lost yet again with their best pitcher on the mound, the best story in baseball was finally going to come to an end. It was inevitable. Not so.

The Rays' resiliency is remarkable, and I'm finally drinking the Kool-Aid.

In retrospect, it really shouldn't be very surprising. This is an organization that has continued to accumulate talent and it was evident early on it was a team that was going to stick around for a while. Even after losing seven straight games just before the all-star break to fall out of first place in the AL East, Tampa Bay reclaimed the lead the first weekend back and never relinquished it, despite constant battles against Red Sox, Yankees and an improving Blue Jays ballclub.

The Rays' pitching rotation is set up so Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza will each pitch twice, if necessary. Rookie phenom David Price promises to be just as dominant out of the bullpen as Francisco Rodriguez was for the Angels in 2002. And playing in that dome? 'Nuff said.

There's plenty to like about the Phillies, as well. Cole Hamels is having one of those postseasons that defines how great a pitcher can be (Orel Hershiser in 1988, Jose Rijo in 1990, Randy Johnson in 2001, etc. ...). Brad Lidge has yet to blow a save. And Ryan Howard finally broke out out of his postseason doldrums with three hits in the pennant-clinching win against the Dodgers.

The problem there, however, is that it was like two months ago. Major League Baseball's decision to re-work its postseason schedule last year, which now includes and extra day off during the League Championships Series, has left so much more time for the Phillies to sit around. The Rockies never recovered from that situation last year, and I suspect Philadelphia will have an equally difficult time recovering in the first couple of games this series.

Tampa Bay in five!

By Tom Heleba  |  October 21, 2008; 9:34 AM ET
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