Game 4 was a must win for Rays

Joe BlantonMy title is stupid – all wins in the World Series are “must wins.” But surely you catch my drift – the Rays dropping Game 4 to the Phillies was incredibly detrimental to them winning a championship.

Even though Tampa isn’t used to the weather they’ve seen the past two games, the cold had nothing to do with why they lost 10-2 Sunday night. Philadelphia was just better and Joe Blanton (a castoff in Oakland before he was traded at the deadline) deserves a ton of credit for mixing up his pitches and keeping the Rays’ hitters off balance the entire night. Tampa just has to tip their hats to the Phils tonight for knocking around Andy Sonnanstine, who is a young, developing pitcher who had won each of his previous two postseason starts.

There’s no other way to put it – the Rays are in major trouble. Not only are they down 3-1 in the series, but they also have to face Cole Hamels – who has been nothing short of sensational – on Monday night. Crazier things have happened, but playing at home and with Hamels on the hill, the Phillies seem destined to close this thing out.

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It’s all about the pitching

Jonathan Papelbon“Momentum is always as strong as your starting pitcher is the next day.”
– Joe Maddon

Leave it to the well-read Rays manger to come up with such a profound statement. Chances are this saying is nailed up in his teams’ clubhouse alongside others from the likes of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Maddon’s right, and he’s used this pitching-first philosophy to propel his team into the ALCS.

If there’s one quality that ties each of the remaining four teams together, it’s that each of them can hit. They each have at least two big bats, lead-off men that can hit for average, and a bottom of the order that can consistently do some damage. When teams are this evenly matched at the plate, it’s often a single blunder on the part of a pitcher that can decide a game. As we’ve seen in the Division Series between the Angels and Red Sox, it comes down to the pitching. Both teams boasted fabulous rotations and excellent hitting, but it was the Red Sox middle relief and closer that really won the games.

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