World Series preview

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FIVE QUESTIONS

1. What will Ryan Howard do?

The Phillies’ hopes of winning this series lie with some kind of production from Howard. It’s a virtual certainty the Rays will try to pitch him outside and let him try in vain to pull the ball. He either has to figure out a way to do something with those pitches or be patient enough that Tampa Bay will be forced to come over the plate at some point. Philadelphia probably can’t win this series without him hitting.

2. Do the Phillies have enough pitching?

The question is whether Philadelphia’s starters (other than Hamels) can keep the Phillies close if this ends up being a low-scoring series. They will need a strong outing from Brett Myers or Jamie Moyer, especially if the Rays beat Cole Hamels in Game 1, to keep this series close.

3. What role will the ballparks play?

The two stadiums where this series will be contested — Tropicana Field and Citizens Bank Park — couldn’t be more different. One is a virtual baseball funhouse with clanging cowbells, catwalks and other artificial oddities no one has seen at a World Series since the Metrodome in 1991, while the other is a launchpad for one of baseball’s most potent lineups. Rarely is home-field advantage such a big factor in the World Series, and if either team can steal a game on the road, this matchup could get interesting.

4. Can Tampa Bay afford to get into a slugfest?

The Rays’ best chance of winning this series probably lies with keeping the Phillies’ offense at bay, though they showed in the ALCS they were capable of putting up plenty of runs on Boston. Tampa Bay can hit home runs (the Rays slugged 180 of them this season), but it sometimes struggles to manufacture consistent offense. Especially in the games in Philadelphia, Tampa Bay can’t afford to test whether its offense can carry the series.

5. Are the Rays for real?

Is this still a question? The worst-to-first Rays have been doubted the entire season (as well as most of the postseason), yet when everybody expected them to cave following Boston’s Game 5 comeback, they found the resolve to hold off the Red Sox in a Game 7 ALCS win. That the Rays are so young and so recently removed from futility is a moot point now. They have made it this far, and they have a great chance to complete the turnaround with a World Series title.

- Ben Goessling

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