Wednesday, October 22, 2008


IT’S NOT EXACTLY the World Series TV chiefs were hoping for. Manny and the Dodgers v Red Sox Nation would undoubtedly have drawn higher viewing figures.

Anyone who picked the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies to contest the 2008 Fall Classic should buy a lottery ticket immediately. They’re either clairvoyant or plain lucky.

The Phillies have won the World Series only once – in 1980. Before this year, the Rays had never even appeared in the post season.

But while the Sox, the Cubs, the Angels and all the other more glamorous teams have fallen by the wayside, two of baseball’s lesser lights have earned their place in the final purely on merit.

Both won their division, the Phillies overcoming the more fancied New York Mets and the Rays going from worst to first, winning an astonishing 97 games to finish ahead of both the Red Sox and New York Yankees.

The Phillies brushed aside the Dodgers in the NLCS while the Rays held their nerve to oust the defending champions, Boston, in the ACLS.

No-hopers Tampa can overcome Phillies

Rank outsiders with the Vegas oddsmakers before the start of the season (200-1), the Rays are now favorites to win it all.

Perhaps we should have seen it coming in July. After all, the winning pitcher in the All Star Game was the Rays’ Scott Kazmir and the losing pitcher Brad Lidge of the Phillies.

That game could prove very significant. It gave the AL champs home advantage…and that may be decisive in what is likely to be a very tight series.

Cole Hamels, possibly the best starter on either side, takes the mound against Kazmir in game one tonight. It’s then Brett Myers v James Shields, Jamie Moyer v Matt Garza and Joe Blanton v Andy Sonnanstine.

Hardly household names but someone, maybe Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Evan Longoria or B.J. Upton, is going to emerge a hero in the next nine days.

The Phillies are the fresher team, having completed victory over the Dodgers in five games last Wednesday. The Rays have the momentum, having won a monumental game seven against the Red Sox on Sunday.

I’m taking the Rays to win in six and complete a fairy-tale ending to their dream run. Mind you, they had better score early. The Phillies are 84-0 this season when leading after the eighth inning.

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