Rays bounce back in Game 2

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By JAY LeBLANC
October 24, 2008

Rays 4, Phillies 2
World Series tied 1-1

Rays starter James Shields repeatedly pitched his way in and out of trouble during his 5 2/3 scoreless innings and Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett each knocked in a run as Tampa Bay beat the visiting Phillies 4-2 Thursday night to even the World Series at a game apiece. Starter Brett Myers pitched relatively well for the Phillies after a shaky start, but his offense squandered numerous scoring opportunities throughout the course of the game.

Shields retired the Phillies in order in the top of the first, and the Rays put a pair of runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning. Akinori Iwamura took a leadoff walk from Myers and Upton then singled to right and advanced to second on an error by Jayson Werth, with Iwamura moving to third. A Pena groundout brought Iwamura home with the first Rays run and moved Upton to third. Longoria followed with an RBI groundout of his own to put Tampa Bay up 2-0 before Carl Crawford bounced out to first base to end the inning.

The Phillies put runners at second and third with one out in the top of the second but came away empty handed when Shields fanned Greg Dobbs and got Pedro Feliz to line out to center. Tampa Bay came to bat and loaded the bases with one out on a Dioner Navarro single, Rocco Baldelli walk and Jason Bartlett infield single. Myers got Iwamura to pop out for the second out, but Upton followed with another single to right. Navarro scored to make it 3-0 Rays, but Baldelli was cut down at the plate on a great throw by Werth and an even better job of blocking the plate by Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Ruiz opened the third with a double down the left field line and advanced to third on a Jimmy Rollins groundout, but Shields again escaped unscathed by striking out Werth and getting Chase Utley to ground out. The Phillies had yet another chance at a rally in the fourth. Ryan Howard opened the frame with a single and moved to second on a Pat Burrell groundout. Shane Victorino followed with an infield single, putting runners at first and third with one out. Shields whiffed Dobbs in a big spot once again for the second out, and Feliz then grounded out to third base for the inning’s third out.

While the Phillies continually blew chances to score, the Rays kept finding ways to get their runners home. Cliff Floyd and Navarro started things off in the bottom of the fourth with consecutive singles. Rocco Baldelli then reached on a fielder’s choice, with Navarro getting cut down at second and Floyd advancing to third. Bartlett then laid down a perfect safety squeeze that allowed Floyd to scramble home with the fourth Rays run before Iwamura grounded out to end the inning.

Shields pitched himself into trouble once again in the fifth. He opened the frame with a walk to Ruiz, who was cut down at second on Jimmy Rollins’ fielder’s choice to first. Werth followed with a single to center to put runners on first and second with one out for Utley. The All-Star second baseman stroked a sinking liner to right, but Rocco Baldelli charged in and snagged it at waist-level. Baldelli then unleashed a bullet of a throw to first baseman Carlos Pena, who gloved it for the third out just before Werth could get back to first.

After consecutive two-out singles by Victorino and Dobbs put runners at first and third in the top of the sixth, Rays manager Joe Maddon lifted Shields in favor of Dan Wheeler. The right-handed reliever got Feliz to bounce into a fielder’s choice to end the inning and close Shields’ line out at 5 2/3 innings, seven hits, four strikeouts, two walks and - most importantly - no runs.

Philadelphia squandered yet another opportunity to score in the seventh. Ruiz once again led off with a walk, and stole second as Wheeler snuck the third strike past the swinging Rollins. After Wheeler fanned Werth for the second out, Maddon summoned young gun David Price from the bullpen to set up a lefty-lefty matchup with Utley. The rookie issued a four-pitch walk to Utley, brining another lefty slugger, Howard, to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second. Price managed to find the strike zone this time, getting Howard looking on the fifth pitch of his at bat.

On the other side, Myers kept the Tampa Bay bats mostly quiet after having a rough go of it in the first and second innings, allowing just one run - on the Bartlett squeeze - over his last five innings of work. Myers ended up tossing seven innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits.

The Phillies finally got on the board in the top of the eighth, and in most unlikely fashion. With two outs, no one on and the fireballing lefty Price on the mound, Charlie Manuel sent Eric Bruntlett up to pinch-hit for the left-handed hitting Dobbs. The utility man hit just .219 with two home runs during the regular season but rose to the occasion, taking Price deep to left to pull the Phillies within three at 4-1.

After lefty J.C. Romero retired the Rays in order in the bottom of the eighth, Ruiz continued his trend of productive at bats to lead off an inning, doubling to left off Price to open the ninth. Price then grazed the shirt of the following hitter, Rollins, but the home plate umpire missed the call and the at bat continued. Rollins ended up hitting a flare to short left, which Rays shortstop Bartlett tracked down for the first out. Werth followed by smashing a one-hopper that third baseman Longoria couldn’t handle. The ball ricocheted off Longoria’s glove and into shallow left as Ruiz raced around with the second Phillies run, and Longoria was charged with an error on the play. Utley came to the plate representing the tying run, but Price got him on a nasty slider for the inning’s second out. Ryan Howard then grounded out to second to end it.

Last night’s game was a must-win for the Rays, and the youthful team once again responded. They’ll send ALCS MVP Matt Garza to the hill Saturday night when the series shifts to Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies posted a 48-33 mark during the regular season. The Phillies will counter with 45-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer, who went 16-7 during the regular season but has gone 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA thus far during the postseason.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and mayor of the National Pastime web community. He can be reached at jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.

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Jay LeBlanc

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