Coste joins DH fraternity

Chase Utley strokes a 2-run homer in the first inning of World Series Game One at Tropicana Field October 22, 2008. ( Michael Perez / Staff Photographer )

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Ryan Spilborghs and many others welcomed Phillies' backup catcher Chris Coste to the club last night.

It is a not-so-exclusive group: National League position players who have had a rough time at designated hitter in the World Series.

Coste, who batted eighth in the lineup, went hitless in four at-bats, leaving two runners in scoring position. That has become the norm for National Leaguers thrown into the unfamiliar role of DH at the World Series.

Since 2003, NL designated hitters are batting .083 with no home runs, one RBI and a .111 slugging percentage in the World Series. St. Louis' Chris Duncan had the lone RBI, in 2006, for the group that includes Colorado's Spilborghs. He went 0 for 5 last year as Boston swept Colorado.

The surprise was the Phillies' 3-2 win over Tampa Bay in the World Series opener at Tropicana Field. Handicapped by the lack of effective DHs (among other things), NL teams had lost eight of their previous 11 games at AL ballparks.

Coste will return to his usual role for Game Two tonight. With Tampa Bay scheduled to start righthander James Shields, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will pick from a trio of lefthanded batters: Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs.

Manuel refused to say which way he was leaning.

"We've got some options," Manuel said beforehand. "We can be strong on our lefthanded hitters."

One outside-the-box possibility is going with first baseman Ryan Howard as the DH to keep his defense from being a factor.

Howard had a mixed game in the field. He miscommunicated with starter Cole Hamels on Akinori Iwamura's grounder, which went for an infield single in the first inning. Howard also mishandled Carlos Pena's hard-hit grounder to start the sixth.

Howard atoned for that with a good throw to second to catch Pena when was picked off first base by Hamels. Howard also reached into the stands to make a play on B.J. Upton's pop-up to end the fifth with a runner in scoring position.

On that play, Howard learned the Rays may not have as significant home-field advantage as believed. No one in the crowd tried to harass Howard as he went for the ball. Because the ball carried over into the seats, Howard was fair game.

"Everyone was staring at the ball," Howard said. "You get over there and try to work your way in. A sneak attack."

Coste faded at the end of the regular season, finishing in a 3-for-33 slump. He had a single in his only at-bat during two rounds of the National League playoffs.

Coste did have one productive at-bat, in the fourth inning with runners at first and second and no outs. Manuel started the runners on a 0-2 pitch, and Coste made contact on a grounder to the right side to stay out of the double play. Ruiz followed with a run-scoring grounder that pushed the Phillies' lead to 3-1.