2008 World Series
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|2008 World Series|
90 - 72 in the NL
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|Tampa Bay Rays|
97 - 65 in the AL
|2008 MLB Postseason|
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The 2008 World Series matched two teams of very different vintage but with a shared lack of championships. The Philadelphia Phillies had been around for 125 years winning only one championship, in 1980, while gathering some publicity in 2007 when they became the first professional franchise ever to have amassed 10,000 losses. Their opponents, the Tampa Bay Rays, had the distinction of never even having threatened to play for .500 during the first 10 years of their existence - as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays - until dramatically turning things around in 2008. The Phillies disposed of the Rays in five games thanks to a knack for putting tons of runners of base (even if driving them in from that point was sometimes more of a problem) and to a dominating bullpen in a series that featured the first postseason suspended game in major league history.
By the time the teams met in the World Series, whatever futility lay in the teams' past was forgotten. The Phillies had won their second consecutive NL East title in 2008, making a late surge once again to pass the New York Mets, and then disposing of the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two rounds of the playoffs while only losing two games. The Rays for their part had surprised everyone by finishing ahead of the two Leviathans of the American League - the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees - in winning the AL East title. They then handily disposed of the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS before winning a hard-fought seven-game series with the Red Sox in the ALCS.
 The Teams
 The Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays were a young team that had suddenly taken a big step forward in 2008. They were led by a group of home-grown players who were coming into their own, surrounded by a few additions acquired through some savvy trades. At the heart of the team's success was an excellent young starting rotation featuring left-hander Scott Kazmir, already a two-time All-Star, and right-handers James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson. All five had won in double figures in the regular season. The bullpen, which had suddenly come into its own in 2008, lacked a true closer, but had a number of solid pitchers who had posted good ERAs during the season: right-handers Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Chad Bradford, and lefthanders J.P. Howell and Trever Miller. Veteran Troy Percival, who had been the closer for most of the year, was unavailable because of back problems, and Wheeler was his supposed replacement, although manager Joe Maddon's usage patterns in the postseason did not fit the traditional "two set-up men and a closer" approach favored by most of his counterparts. One reason was that he had one additional card to play, young left-hander David Price, the number 1 pick of the 2007 amateur draft, who had rocketed from Single A to the majors in his first professional season and had the amazing stuff that meant he could be used in any situation.
At the bat, the Rays depended on a core of veteran first baseman Carlos Pena and rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, both power hitters, surrounded by two speedy outfielders who hit for average and line drive power - Carl Crawford in LF and B.J. Upton in CF. They had a veteran lead-off hitter in 2B Akinori Iwamura (although most of his experience was in Nippon Pro Baseball and not MLB), and an All-Star catcher with a solid bat in Dioner Navarro. The rest of the line-up was made up of an outstanding fielder but modest hitter in SS Jason Bartlett, and an interchangeable cast of characters to occupy the RF and DH spots, including veterans Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske, the recovering Rocco Baldelli, utility man Ben Zobrist, and the youngish Gabe Gross and Willy Aybar, who had never hit quite enough to become major league regulars but who both had lively bats. Most of these players were also good to excellent defenders, giving the Rays a well-rounded if inexperienced squad, with power, speed and pitching at its core. Virtually unknown when the season started, this crew had impressed everyone who saw them during the season and playoffs and appeared to be the first edition of a squad that would be a power for years to come.
 The Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies had better-known players than their opponents, although their record in the regular season was not as impressive. Still, the Phillies' line-up could compare with anyone else's in baseball in terms of power and overall ability to hit. Its most famous member was 1B Ryan Howard, the 2006 NL MVP who had led the majors in home runs and RBI (and finished second in strikeouts) in 2008, backed by a very similar player in LF Pat Burrell. SS Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 MVP, was the lead-off hitter, but the team's best overall player was probably 2B Chase Utley, whose combination of power, batting average, on-base percentage and speed made him dangerous in any situation. The second tier of starters was just as impressive: RF Jayson Werth was a solid hitter with line drive power and surprising speed, CF Shane Victorino a speedster with surprising power, and 3B Pedro Feliz a veteran whose solid bat was a bonus given his excellence on defense. C Carlos Ruiz had a similar profile to Feliz, a defensive stalwart whose bat was only considered mediocre because of the great line-up he was batting in. The bench included a couple of veteran professional hitters, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins, a back-up catcher with a strong bat in Chris Coste, baseball's best pinch hitter in Greg Dobbs, and two speedy outfielders with weak bats in So Taguchi and Eric Bruntlett. It was a line-up to give headaches to any opposing pitcher.
The Phillies' strength on the mound came from its bullpen, led by Brad Lidge, who had made a remarkable comeback after running into mental and physical issues in his two previous seasons with the Houston Astros: he had been perfect in save opportunities during the regular season, and had been virtually untouchable in the postseason. He was helped by an outstanding lefty/righty duo consisting of J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson, with depth provided by the likes of veterans Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey and Scott Eyre. The starting pitching was not as impressive, although the team's ace, Cole Hamels was busy staking his claim as one of baseball's best young pitchers, having led the division-winning staff for two consecutive years. The left-hander had been at his best in the two first rounds of the postseason, and headed into the World Series well-rested. Second starter Brett Myers had had an up-and-down season and an up-and-down career, sometimes looking like one of the best power pitchers in baseball, and sometimes frustrating his manager Charlie Manuel to no end. In the third slot was veteran lefty Jamie Moyer, still going strong at 45, but relying on breaking balls and off-speed pitches to keep opponents guessing, a style that could make him look very vulnerable when he was not at the top of his game. The fourth starter, mid-season acquisition Joe Blanton, was a solid if unspectacular hurler, whose main job was to keep the game close enough for the team's hitters to give him a chance to win. The fifth starter, rookie J.A. Happ, did not figure to be used except in long relief or in blow-outs.
 Series results
|1||Philadelphia Phillies 3 Tampa Bay Rays 2||October 22||Cole Hamels (1-0) Scott Kazmir (0-1)||8:35 p.m.|
|2||Philadelphia Phillies 2 Tampa Bay Rays 4||October 23||Brett Myers (0-1) James Shields (1-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|3||Tampa Bay Rays 4 Philadelphia Phillies 5||October 25||Matt Garza (0-0) Jamie Moyer (0-0)||10:05 p.m.|
|4||Tampa Bay Rays 2 Philadelphia Phillies 10||October 26||Andy Sonnanstine (0-1) Joe Blanton (1-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|5||Tampa Bay Rays 3 Philadelphia Phillies 4||October 27||Scott Kazmir (0-1) Cole Hamels (1-0)||8:30 p.m. (1)|
(1) Game suspended after 5½ innings and resumed on October 29
 Game 1 @ Tropicana Field
|WP: Cole Hamels (1-0), LP: Scott Kazmir (0-1), SV: Brad Lidge (1)|
|Home Runs: PHI - Chase Utley (1); TB - Carl Crawford (1)|
- Attendance: 40,783
The Philadelphia Phillies won Game 1 of the World Series thanks to another excellent performance by starter Cole Hamels and in spite of a slew of missed opportunities. The winning score was 3-2, but could have been much more lopsided had the Phillies managed some timely hits. Instead, Tampa Bay Rays starter Scott Kazmir and the relievers who succeeded him managed to wiggle out of trouble a number of times to keep the game close, but the Rays were not able to tie it after falling behind in the 1st inning. Both managers took unexpected decisions in devising their starting lineups: Charlie Manuel of the Phillies used his right-handed hitting back-up catcher, Chris Coste, as his designated hitter, thereby restricting any move he could make with either Coste or catcher Carlos Ruiz since he had no other catcher available, while Rays' manager Joe Maddon had utility player Ben Zobrist start in right field for the first time of the 2008 Postseason.
Philadelphia took the lead it would never surrender early in the 1st inning: Jayson Werth walked with one out, then Kazmir went ahead 0 and 2 on Chase Utley but could not put him away, eventually laying a fastball in the middle of the plate that the second baseman crushed into the right field seats for a 2-0 lead. The Phillies added another run in the 4th when Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz started the inning with singles. Coste and Ruiz both followed with ground outs, the latter scoring Victorino for a 3-0 lead. The Phillies had a chance to score almost every inning however: in the 2nd, they loaded the bases with one out only to see Jimmy Rollins fly to shallow center and Victorino cut off at the plate by B.J. Upton's relay. In the 3rd, Werth doubled and moved to third with one out, but Kazmir struck out both Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell to end the inning. They left two men on in the 5th and one more in the 6th, then in the 7th, Utley reached third base with one out thanks to a single, a stolen base and a wild pitch by J.P. Howell, but two more strikeouts ended the threat.
For its part, Tampa Bay was completely muzzled by Hamels in the early innings, with two double play ground balls by Upton negating any budding threat. They scored their first run in the 4th on a solo blast by Carl Crawford after two outs, then added a second run in the 5th when Jason Bartlett walked and stole second with two outs, then scored on a double by Akinori Iwamura. Upton stranded him there however, and Hamels left the game after 7 innings with a 3-2 lead, having given up only 5 hits and 2 walks. Ryan Madson then pitched a perfect 8th. Philadelphia had a chance to pad its lead in the 9th, but failed. Werth doubled with one out and Utley was walked intentionally to allow LOOGY Trever Miller to face the struggling Howard, whom he struck out. Righty Dan Wheeler then came in, but Manuel let his weak-hitting defensive substitute Eric Bruntlett face him, even with the two runners advancing to scoring position on a double steal. Wheeler got Bruntlett to pop out to second to escape the inning unscathed. The failure to score an extra run became moot when closer Brad Lidge came in to pitch the 9th for the Phils and proceeded to mow down the heart of the Rays' order for his 6th save of the postseason.
 Game 2 @ Tropicana Field
|WP: James Shields (1-0), LP: Brett Myers (0-1)|
|Home Runs: PHI - Eric Bruntlett (1)|
- Attendance: 40,843
The Tampa Bay Rays evened the World Series at one game apiece with a 4-2 win at home in Game 2. It was a crucial win for the Rays, as a loss would have placed them in the very unenviable position of heading to Philadelphia with a 2-0 deficit. However, the Rays pushed aside that possibility by taking control of the game early and holding off a late Philly attempt to tie it. James Shields, loser of his two starts in spite of decent performances in the ALCS, was on the mound for Tampa, facing Brett Myers who had won his lone NLCS start with decent pitching and terrific hitting. With righthanders on the mound, Charlie Manuel had Greg Dobbs start at DH, while Joe Maddon replaced Willy Aybar with Cliff Floyd at DH, and Ben Zobrist with Rocco Baldelli in right field.
The Rays took an early lead with two runs in the bottom of the 1st. Myers walked leadoff batter Akinori Iwamura and B.J. Upton erased memories of his rough time in Game 1 by following with a single, which right fielder Jayson Werth misplayed to put the two runners on second and third. The next two batters grounded out to short, scoring two runs. Tampa added a third run in the 2nd when Dioner Navarro singled with one out, followed by a walk to Baldelli and a single by Jason Bartlett. Upton singled with two outs to drive in a run, but Baldelli was thrown out at home by Werth to end the inning. Meanwhile, for the second consecutive game, the Phillies stranded tons of baserunners in scoring position, and this time it cost them. They wasted a situation of runners on second and third with one out in the 2nd; Carlos Ruiz was stranded on second after a lead-off double in the 3rd; Ryan Howard was left on third base in the 4th; and in the 5th, with two on and one out, Chase Utley flied out to Baldelli who gunned down Werth who had ventured too far from the first base bag. By that point, it was 4-0 Rays, as in the 4th, Floyd reached third on two singles and a fielder's choice before scoring on Bartlett's squeeze bunt.
Shields was removed from the game after Shane Victorino and Dobbs singled with two outs in the 6th. In another in a string of unusual bullpen moves, Maddon brought in nominal closer Dan Wheeler to pitch to Pedro Feliz. Wheeler had him hit a ground ball, then left with two outs in the 7th and the two lefthanders at the heart of the line-up - Utley and Howard - coming up. Maddon now brought in rookie David Price, one of the heroes of the ALCS, and the youngster struck out Howard after walking Utley. Price then stayed in the game until the end. He gave up a pinch home run to Eric Bruntlett, hitting for Dobbs in the 8th, somewhat ironic given Manuel had been much criticized for leaving the weak-hitting Bruntlett to bat for himself in the top of the 9th the night before. Price returned to pitch the 9th and allowed a lead-off double to Ruiz. After one out, Werth hit a sharp ground ball to third that Evan Longoria could not come up with; Ruiz scored on the play. Price then struck out Utley and forced Howard to ground out, ending the game although he did not earn a save. The teams were now tied as they headed to Philadelphia.
 Game 3 @ Citizens Bank Park
|WP: J.C. Romero (1-0), LP: J.P. Howell (0-1)|
|Home Runs: PHI - Carlos Ruiz (1), Chase Utley (2), Ryan Howard (1)|
- Attendance: 45,900
Game 3 of the World Series was delayed by an hour and a half by rain, and its outcome was not settled until almost 4 hours later, when Carlos Ruiz drove in the winning run for the Phillies in the bottom of the 9th. The pitching match-up was intriguing, featuring veteran breaking ball pitcher Jamie Moyer for the Phils, who at 45 was the second-oldest pitcher ever to start a World Series game (after Jack Quinn in 1930), coming off two poor starts in the previous two playoff rounds; for the Tampa Bay Rays, the 24-year old fireballer Matt Garza, MVP of the ALCS started the game.
Philadelphia took an early lead when its first two batters, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth, reached scoring position on a single, a walk and a wild pitch. Their problems with men on base continued, though, as they could only score one run when the next three batters made outs. Tampa Bay tied the score in the top of the 2nd, when Carl Crawford sliced a blooper down the left field line which fell in front of a sliding Pat Burrell for a double, then stole third and scored on Gabe Gross's sacrifice fly to deep center. In the bottom of the inning, catcher Ruiz hit a solo home run after two outs to give the Phillies the lead back. The two pitchers settled down after that, and there was no scoring until the bottom of the 6th, when Chad Utley and Ryan Howard hit back-to-back home runs for a 4-1 lead.
Tampa Bay came back in the 7th inning amid some controversy. Crawford laid down a bunt along the first base line, but in a repeat of the 1985 World Series, he was incorrectly called safe at first. Given some life, Tampa Bay took advantage. Dioner Navarro followed up Crawford's single with a double. Two ground balls later, and it was 4-3. The Rays legged out the equalizer in the 8th, as B.J. Upton started things with an infield single and stole second base against Ryan Madson. He then broke for third on the next pitch, and Ruiz's throw was wild, allowing Upton to continue all the way home to tie the game. J.P. Howell kept the Phillies off the scoreboard in the 8th, then J.C. Romero retired the Rays in order in the top of the 9th. Howell plunked Eric Bruntlett to start off the 9th and was relieved by Grant Balfour. Balfour threw a pitch that got away from Navarro and caromed off the backstop; the catcher made things worse when he tried to prevent Bruntlett from reaching second but threw wildly, allowing the runner to continue to third base. With no one out, Balfour walked Shane Victorino and pinch hitter Greg Dobbs intentionally to load the bases and Joe Maddon inserted Ben Zobrist as a fifth infielder and hoped for the best. Ruiz then redeemed his earlier error by hitting a squibbler to third base which Evan Longoria rushed and picked-up barehanded, but his flip went over Navarro's head, allowing Bruntlett to score the game-winner at 1:47 a.m.
 Game 4 @ Citizens Bank Park
|WP: Joe Blanton (1-0), LP: Andy Sonnanstine (0-1)|
|Home Runs: TB - Carl Crawford (1), Eric Hinske (1); PHI - Ryan Howard 2 (3), Joe Blanton (1), Jayson Werth (1)|
- Attendance: 45,903
The Philadelphia Phillies took a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series with a convincing 10-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4. They did it with pitching and lots of raw power, hitting four home runs in the contest. It was a battle of fourth starters - Andy Sonnanstine for the Rays and Joe Blanton for the Phils, but both were among the better specimen of the maligned species in MLB and had done well for their respective teams in previous series. Blanton continued along that solid line, but Sonnanstine was hit hard and early.
After the Rays went down in order in the 1st, Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the frame with a double for the Phillies, then moved to third on a fly out. Sonnanstine then loaded the bases and issued a walk to Pat Burrell to let in the first run, but escaped worse damage when Chase Utley was thrown out at home on the next play. Philadelphia added another run in the 3rd when Utley reached base on 2B Akinori Iwamura's error then scored with two outs on a single by Pedro Feliz. The Phils left the bases loaded again that inning, but burst the gates open in the 4th, after Carl Crawford had brought the score closer with a solo home run in the top of the inning. Rollins reached on another error by Iwamura; Jayson Werth walked, and one out later, Ryan Howard blasted a Sonnanstine pitch to deep left field to make it 5-1.
With the game rapidly getting out of hand, Joe Maddon sent pinch hitter Eric Hinske, activated that day to take the place of the ailing Cliff Floyd, to bat for his pitcher. He hit a solo home run to deep center, bringing the score to 5-2, but that was the Rays' last whimper that night. In the bottom of the inning, it was Blanton's turn to homer with two outs, off Edwin Jackson, surprising everyone including himself and bringing the score to 6-2; it was the first World Series home run by a pitcher since Ken Holtzman connected in 1974. Blanton left the game in the 7th, when the Rays put a couple of runners on base without scoring, but the Phillies ended all doubts about the final result in the bottom of the 8th. Werth homered with Rollins onboard, then Howard hit his second long ball of the game - his third of the Series - off lefty Trever Miller with Utley on first base to make the score 10-2. Charlie Manuel did not even find it necessary to bring in Brad Lidge to close things, as the Phillies stood one victory away from only the second Championship of their long history.
 Game 5 @ Citizens Bank Park
|WP: J.C. Romero (2-0), LP: J.P. Howell (0-2), SV: Brad Lidge (2)|
|Home Runs: TB - Rocco Baldelli (1)|
- Attendance: 45,940
The Philadelphia Phillies went into Game 5 of the World Series, on the evening of Monday, October 27th, hoping to clinch the second title of their history at home and buoyed by the presence of their ace, Cole Hamels, on the mound. Conditions were cold and windy as the game started just after 8:30 p.m. and got progressively worse; they were absolutely miserable by the time the game was suspended in the middle of the 6th inning, with the Tampa Bay Rays having just tied the score at 2-all. Rain was falling in sheets since the 4th inning, puddles were forming all over the infield, pitchers had trouble maintaining their footing on the mound, and every fly ball had become an adventure because of the gusting winds. Over 45,000 fans sat drenched and shivering in the stands, hoping to see the home team close out a win, but umpiring crew chief Tim Welke finally decided to suspend play at 10:40 p.m. Conditions never improved, resulting in the first World Series game ever to need completion at a later date.
On the field, the Phillies took another early lead, with two runs in the bottom of the 1st off Scott Kazmir. Jayson Werth walked with one out, Chase Utley was hit by a pitch, and after a second out, Pat Burrell walked to load the bases. Shane Victorino followed with a single that scored two runs, then Pedro Feliz singled as well to re-load the bases, but Kazmir escaped further damage when Carlos Ruiz flied out to left. Tampa Bay put up a first run in the 4th when the heart of its batting order - Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria - finally got things going after both had been hitless through the Series' first four games. Pena doubled with one out and Longoria singled to make it 2-1. The rain was pouring down by then, and Kazmir was struggling with his control on the mound, loading the bases again on a single and two walks in the bottom of the 4th before getting Utley on a ground ball to end the inning. He walked the first two batters in the 5th and left the game in favor of Grant Balfour, while the ground crew was frantically working to keep the field playable. In what may have been the biggest inning of the Rays' season, Balfour retired the next three batters on fly balls - each an adventure in the tough conditions - to keep the score at 2-1. Tampa then tied the score in the top of the 6th when B.J. Upton hit a ball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins that he could not grip properly out of his glove; it would have been a reach to retire the rapid Upton at first in any case, and the play was ruled a base hit. After a cat-and-mouse game at first, Upton stole second base in spite of the treacherous condition of the basepaths, then scored on a single by Pena. After Longoria flied out, the umpires stopped play, which did not resume that night.
The umpires had placed themselves in a quandary by not stopping play in the 4th, when conditions first became awful. Once 4 1/2 innings had been played, the game would have been official, but no postseason game had ever been called before nine full innings of play, and awarding the World Series to the Phillies in a rain-shortened one-run game would have left a bad taste in everyone's mouths. So the Rays' tying run came as a blessing and a good excuse to stop what was becoming a farce and hope for better playing conditions in the coming days to allow for a proper dénouement.
The game resumed 48 hours later, on Wednesday, October 29th. Geoff Jenkins started things off, pinch-hitting for Hamels, by slamming a double to the wall off Balfour. After Rollins sacrificed him to third, Werth hit a pop-up just behind second base that Akinori Iwamura, his back to the plate, failed to catch. Jenkins scored for a 3-2 lead. Ryan Madson came in to pitch for the Phillies, but gave up a home run to Rocco Baldelli after one out to tie the game again at 3-3. Jason Bartlett followed with a single, and Maddon chose to leave his pitcher, J.P. Howell, who had come in for Balfour after the Phillies' third run, to bat; he managed a sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett to second, and Iwamura followed with an infield single off J.C. Romero that was fielded by Utley, who faked a throw to first, prompting Bartlett to make a dash for home. In a play destined to live for ages in Philadelphia fans' memories, Utley gunned him down at home to preserve the tie. Pat Burrell then led off the bottom of the 7th for the Phils with a double to center; in came Chad Bradford to pitch and Eric Bruntlett to run. Bruntlett moved to third on Victorino's ground ball to first. Feliz then singled through a drawn-in infield for a 4-3 Phillies lead. The Rays were not out yet, though. Carl Crawford led off the 8th with a single, but Upton grounded into a double play. Brad Lidge, who had not blown a save all year, was called in to pitch the 9th. He gave up a one-out single to Dioner Navarro, who gave way to pinch runner Fernando Perez, who stole second base. However, pinch hitter Ben Zobrist lined out to right field for the second out. Lidge then struck out another pinch hitter, Eric Hinske, to close out the game and the Series. The Phillies were World Champions for the second time in their history. Cole Hamels was named the World Series MVP for his two strong pitching performances in Games 1 and 5.
- The 2008 World Series was the 100th to be played under the best-of-7 format.
- The Series featured father-and-son local broadcasters. Harry Kalas covered the Phillies while his son Todd did the same for the Rays.
 Further Reading
- Gary Matthews and Scott Lauber: Phillies Confidential: The Untold Inside Story of the 2008 Championship Season, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2008.
- Jayson Stark: Worth the Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2009.
 External Links
|Modern Major League Baseball World Series
Pre-1903 Postseason Series