Rays too resourceful

FACEOFF

Which Team Will Win The World Series?

October 22, 2008|By CHILDS WALKER

This is another devilishly tough series to call, so I don't blame you, Bill, for sticking with your hometown Philadelphia Phillies. They have two main advantages that I can see - power and the hottest pitcher of this postseason in Cole Hamels.

But really, there's very little separating these teams. They scored similar numbers of runs. The Tampa Bay Rays had a better overall ERA, but the Phillies posted a better ERA on the road. The bullpens are two of the best.

I give a slight edge to the Rays for several reasons.

The Phillies' best hitters are weak against left-handers. In the opener and at least once more this series, the Rays will start Scott Kazmir, who might have the best stuff of any lefty in baseball. Beyond Kazmir, the Rays can call for three outstanding lefties - J.P. Howell, Trever Miller and David Price - from the bullpen should they need to match up with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the late innings.

Overall bullpen depth and flexibility are huge pluses for Tampa Bay. Beyond the lefties, Joe Maddon can call on former Oriole Chad Bradford to get a ground ball and Grant Balfour for an overpowering inning or two. Given Maddon's creativity with this corps, it hardly matters that his actual closer, Dan Wheeler, is subpar.

Let's move on to the starters. Beyond Kazmir and Hamels, I would rather call on James Shields, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine than Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton. The Rays' trio was simply better and more consistent this season.

Finally, the Rays won 97 games in the most competitive division of baseball's better league. It's enough for me to say Rays in six.

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