A look at the strategy for Game 5 2.0

Remember when you'd be all wrapped up into an episode of Perfect Strangers, and Larry and Balki would spend the entire half hour involved in their usual hijinks, and then you'd look at the clock and realize it was almost 8:30 and the episode was nowhere near a conclusion, and than around 8:25 the three most dreaded words in prime time television appeared?

To be continued. . .

Here we sit, waiting for the Next Episode.

At eight oclock tonight the forecast calls for a temperature of 39 degrees with a 14 mile an hour wind that will make it feel more like 30 degrees. By 10 oclock, if the game is still going, the temperature is expected to get down to 37 degrees.

The good news? No rain. Or snow.

But put your plants inside before you go.

In today's paper, I tried to figure out what will happen on the field tonight, given the rare nature of some of the managerial decisions that wait Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon. Here is a quick synopsis:

1) Is this now a battle of the bull-pens?

Yes. Both managers have said they will rely on their bullpens rather than calling a starter into action. The Phillies bullpen has been great thus far in the playoffs. In 37 1/3 innings, they have allowed just seven earned runs. All six releivers who have pitched at least three innings have an ERA of 3.00 or less, including closer Brad Lidge (six saves) and set-up man Ryan Madson (two earned runs in 12 innings). The Rays bullpen has allowed 19 earned runs in 46.0 innings and have been charged with two of their seven losses. The Phillies bullpen has yet to be tagged with a loss.

2) Who will pitch for the Rays?

Righthander Grant Balfour, who pitched the fifth in relief of Scott Kazmir, will be on the mound to start the inning, which means Manuel would likely send a left-handed bat to the plate to hit for Hamels, who leads off the inning. Manuel has his pick of Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins. But Maddon could then counter with a left-handed reliever, forcing Manuel to either waste a pinch-hitter or hit a lefty against a lefty.

Rays top prospect David Price, a lefthander who has allowed one earned run in 4 2/3 innings this postseason, is a natural starter who can pitch two or more innings. It wouldn't be suprising to see Maddon call on him at some point.

3) What about the Phillies?

They have plenty of options. Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who is scheduled to lead off the seventh, is a switch-hitter who has much better numbers batting left-handed than right-handed. So it would make sense to use either Scott Eyre against him. With the potential of dangerous lefties Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena coming to bat with men on base later in the inning or during the eighth, he might choose to save J.C. Romero for that type of situation. After Navarro,  Manuel could leave Eyre in to face the bottom of the order or call on Madson against righties Jason Bartlett and Rocco Baldelli. A lot depends, of course, on how many - if any - runs the Phillies score. Manuel has said he will not hesitate to use Lidge for more than four outs.