Pressure is on Rays
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Pressure is on Rays
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer
Sitting here in the press box at Tropicana Field. The only action on the field right now are the various television crews filming their stand-ups and preparing their studio shows. The start of Game 2 is still five hours away. No line-ups yet, so it remains to be seen whether Charlie Manuel will go with Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs at DH. There is a good chance he goes with Dobbs at 3B and Stairs at DH, but Pedro Feliz made a couple of nice plays defensively yesterday, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him stick with the better fielder at third.
The pitching match-up is an interesting one. Rays righthander James Shields versus Phillies righthander Brett Myers. Here are some key points to keep in mind as you watch the game.
1) I heard ESPN's Buster Olney describe Shields as a "right-handed Cole Hamels," referring to the change-up that Shields uses to bedevil opposing hitters. He also has a slider, a pitch that Ryan Howard has seen extensively throughout this postseason run. Howard is going to be a key in tonight's game. I expect the Rays to be very, very careful with Chase Utley, as you saw late in last night's game when they elected to intentionally walk Utley to get to Howard. Howard needs to find a way to handle Shields' off-speed stuff tonight.
2) If you put much stock in home/away splits, this match-up favors the Rays. Shields at the Trop this season was 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA. In 17 starts. He allowed just nine home runs at home. The Rays have lost two of his three starts this season, but the most recent one came at Fenway Park, where he allowed two of the three home runs he has allowed this postseason.
3) Neither team has much experience against the opposing pitcher, but don't be surprised to see the Rays insert Cliff Floyd into the line-up. Floyd is 12-for-33 with 3 HR and 8 RBI against him in his career.
4) The Phillies faced Shields a couple years ago. Other than that game, which the Rays won, Matt Stairs is the only Phillies with experience against him. Stairs is 3-for-22 with a home run and two RBI off of him.
5) The first inning could tell the tale tonight. Myers allowed 31 runs in the first inning during the regular season. Three of the seven runs he has allowed this postseason have come in the first two frames. A good start is imperative.
6) While the numbers may favor the Rays - the money line in Vegas is -150 the last time I checked - the immeasurables seem to benefit the Phillies. Tampa Bay knows it needs to win tonight to avoid heading back to Philly with a 2-0 deficit. If that happens, it is a brand new series. If the Phillies somehow take a two-game lead back to their three-game set at Citizens Bank Park, a parade all of the sudden becomes a probability.