Sunday, October 26, 2008

Phillies Solve Tampa Bay -- On the Brink

Philadelphia baseball fans are long-suffering. They have only one World Series victory (1980) to their credit. Tonight the Phillies led by the HR Power of Ryan Howard (2 HR's & 5RBI) and the awesome pitching of Joe Blanton - an A's castoff (who also had a HR) - took a 3-1 lead in the 2008 World Series with a 10-2 win.

Tampa has found a way to win all year long. they survived the Red Sox in the regular and post season. They came back after losing Game One of this World Series and fought hard but lost Game three.

Now they face the biggest challenge of their climb to the top of the baseball world. They are behind 3-1 in games in Philadelphia. The Phillies have not lost a past-season game at home in 2008. Their starter has not lost a play off game in 2008.

The Phillies, who led the NL in Home runs in 2008 are scorching hot and their "Bambino-like" first baseman Howard has struck two monster shots in the past two games.

All looks bleak for the Rays. They are not shining as bright as they were last Sunday when they defeated the World Champions in Game 7 at the Trop. BUT!! Their backs have been up against the wall before and they have recovered in fine fashion. Let's see what they can contrive in order to survive. Game time is 8:35PM tonight.

Power play: Howard bashing again
Phils, even Rays, knew his strong bat would return in Series
By Kevin Horan /

PHILADELPHIA -- The "MVP" chants that had been missing since late September are now flowing freely throughout Citizens Bank Park.

These accolades had been stored up over a period of 13 games, and they are finally raining down upon Ryan Howard. The Phillies first baseman smacked two homers on Sunday night to lift his team to a 10-2 win against the Rays in Game 4, putting Philadelphia one victory away from its first World Series title since 1980.

"That's the kind of stuff you dream of when you're a teenager," Howard said. "Getting to the game, obviously, you want to win, but being able to do something like that, and just to help my team win, it's a great feeling."

The Phillies relied on Howard's power and timely hitting throughout September to surge to a National League East title. The first baseman hit 11 home runs in the season's final month, complemented by a .352 batting average (31-for-88).

When the postseason started, however, the power stopped. Howard entered the World Series homerless in the playoffs, with a .258 average (8-for-31).

Rays manager Joe Maddon certainly wasn't counting Howard out. In the American League Championship Series, Maddon witnessed Red Sox slugger David Ortiz continuously struggle at the plate, only to finally break out of his slump in a big way, blasting a three-run home run in Game 5.

"I kept saying, 'I don't trust him,'" Maddon said of Ortiz. "I have not been around Ryan as often or as many times, but again, you know how good he is. Guys like that -- those big power guys -- when they hit them, it normally comes in bunches."

But it was Howard's home run in the fourth that got the barrage started.

"He's a carrier," manager Charlie Manuel said. "And a carrier is somebody that can take your team and get the big hits and knock in runs, and he can put you on your back and he can carry you. And that's one of my favorite statements."

For Howard, hearing that kind of praise and listening to the "MVP" chants is nice, but one thing, more than anything, kept him going during his 13-game homerless drought in the postseason.
"We were winning," the first baseman said. "When you get to the playoffs, it's not about individual goals or individual stats and stuff like that. It's a team effort. And the automatic thing is, you're trying to win a championship."

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