Friday, October 24, 2008

Tampa Ties the Knot!

Jason Bartlett drops a squeeze bunt in the fourth to score Cliff Floyd and give the Rays a 4-0 lead. The pitchers made it stand up, holding the Phillies to 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Shining Moment for Rays
They get even with Phillies in Game 2
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / October 24, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Though B.J. Upton expected Joe Maddon to call for a safety squeeze with the not-so-fleet Cliff Floyd on third base in the fourth inning, the designated hitter wasn't so sure.

"That's all Joe," Floyd said. "When I got the sign, I was actually looking in the dugout, then I was looking at [third base coach Tom] Foley like, are you serious? But these legs still can move a little bit. The type of situation this is, I'm going to make myself move.

"Speed kills, baby."

Jason Bartlett executed the squeeze to get Floyd home with the fourth run for the Rays on their way to a 4-2 victory over the Phillies in Game 2 of the World Series before 40,843 at Tropicana Field.

It was another grind-it-out run for the Rays, belying their postseason power surge. The Rays scored their first two runs on ground outs, their third on an RBI single, and their fourth on the bunt.

So the Rays got the runs home. The Phillies did not.

When the numbers are as stark as they were after last night's game, it's difficult to understand how the Phillies won Game 1, though the pitching of Cole Hamels overcame most of Philadelphia's shortcomings.

The Phillies went 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position last night, and are 1 for 28 in the Series.

"Of course, we could not drive our runs in tonight," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, who added it was one of Philadelphia's "sloppiest" games of the season. "I'm concerned about us hitting with guys on base, because it looks like at times we might be trying a little too hard. But we can fix that."

The Rays used a slightly abbreviated performance from James Shields (5 2/3 innings), coupled with another dazzler from David Price (2 1/3 innings to close it out), and a bounce-back game from Upton to head to Philadelphia tied at 1-1.

One night after an awful evening in which he grounded into two double plays (one with the bases loaded), struck out, and popped out in foul ground, the Rays center fielder played more like the Upton of the American League Championship Series. He began the game with a single, and scored on Evan Longoria's ground out. In the second inning, he singled to drive in Dioner Navarro to make it 3-0.

Just as they had against the Red Sox, the Rays had lost Game 1. After the ALCS opener, David Ortiz had said the Rays' faces looked different from how they looked in the regular season, implying Tampa Bay had been awed by its place in the postseason.

And, just as they had done in the ALCS, the Rays won Game 2. As the Phillies had done the night before, the Rays scored two runs in the first inning, coming on consecutive ground outs by thumpers Carlos Peña and Longoria. Each scored a run, putting the Rays up immediately behind Shields, who was attempting to extricate himself from the snickers at his "Big Game James" moniker.

"There's going to be tough situations that you have to fight through," Floyd said. "We've been in that situation before. It wasn't the norm. We lost the first game of the ALCS, so guys kind of know how to handle those situations. They didn't come in feeling all tense."

Even though he had faltered in Game 6 of the ALCS, when he had a chance to close out the series against the Sox, Shields didn't falter a second time, calling his changeup exceptional. While his teammates were providing the offense, Shields kept the Phillies off the board.

Philadelphia had its chances, though. In the second, the Phillies had two men on with none out and proceeded to deliver a pop foul to third base, a strikeout, and a line out to center. In the fourth, they had two on and one out. But designated hitter Greg Dobbs struck out swinging on a cutter and Pedro Feliz grounded out. And then there was the fifth, in which a line out to right by Chase Utley with two men on became a double play when Jayson Werth was caught off first.

In a surprising move, Rays manager Joe Maddon pulled his starter with two on and two outs in the sixth inning in favor of Dan Wheeler. After getting the first two outs of the inning, Shields allowed singles to Shane Victorino and Dobbs, leaving runners on first and third for Wheeler with a four-run lead. He quelled the threat by inducing Feliz to ground to third for a force.
And then he left the final seven outs to Price, who allowed two runs, including a solo, pinch-hit homer to Eric Bruntlett, but he found his way out. So did the Rays, evening up the series, and getting back to what they do best.

"That's what we're about, the little things," Upton said. "Small ball. We've been doing it all year. No reason to stop now."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at

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