Game 2 is the real key

Rich Hofmann says: For the Phillies, Game 2 is the upside game. Game 2, with Brett Myers starting, is the one where they can answer the trial balloon they just floated with their opening victory. (Jerry Lodriguss / Staff Photographer)

People -- you know, people -- always say that the odd-number games in a seven-game series are the most important. Other than Game 7, which tends to carry a bit of significance, I tend to disagree -- and especially in the case of the Phillies-Rays World Series.

To me, the odd-number games pose questions and the even-number games provide the answers. The odd-number games offer a proposition. The even-number games reply with facts.

The Phillies had to have Game 1 and they got it. Most road teams in a series see the imperative of getting a split of the first two, but I really thought the Phils needed to win with Cole Hamels pitching. Hamels means so much to them now, both in a balls-and-strikes sense and in a symbolic sense. As a team, at this time, they need him to succeed and they need to succeed behind him. There is a psychological element to it, too. Hamels leads them now by his record and his presence. To squander his stuff would be shameful at this point, and severely wounding for the club.

So, the Phils got the first Hamels game. But the upside to the win was less than the downside if they had lost.

For the Phillies, Game 2 is the upside game. Game 2, with Brett Myers starting, is the one where they can answer the trial balloon they just floated with their opening victory.  As the enter into the strength of the Rays' starting rotation, with James Shields tonight and especially Matt Garza in Game 3, this is where the Phillies make their statement. This is where they try to reply with a lasting fact.

Game 1 suggested their desire for greatness. Game 2 will tell you if they can grab it. Questions, answers.

Lots of red in the stands last night. In the ninth inning,  after the two strikeouts by Brad Lidge to start the inning, there was a nice roar as the Rays fans fell silent and the Phillies' fans celebrated. The red was out early for batting practice and never left. But was there ever a doubt?

Getting back from a run yesterday on Indian Rocks Beach -- yeah, my life sucks -- I ran into about 20 photographers setting up their cameras and tripods on the beach near the parking area. It looked a little odd. So I asked one of them what they were doing and she laughed. "We're a group of forensic scientists," she said. "You know how most people go to the beach and take pictures of their kids, or the surf. Not us. We're taking pictures of footprints and tire tracks."

And so they were, all focused on the ground in front of them. The World Series suddenly seemed a little farther away.

Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard: 0-for-9, five strikeouts in Game1. I cannot believe this will continue. Even given all of the contributions they have gotten during this run from up and down the lineup, I cannot believe the Phillies can win this thing without Rollins and Howard getting their feet under them.

There apparently is such a thing as cowbell etiquette. You're not supposed to clang them on a whim -- no, no, these are thoughtful devices designed to enhance the stadium experience and not to drive people crazy and become the source of migraines. I mean, who knew? They're only supposed be rung to accompany a big hit, or a run-scoring play, or when a Rays pitcher has two strikes on a hitter, or some such. They run a goofy primer on the video board before the game, just to make sure the cows get it.

Continue Reading