October 26, 2008
World Series Game Four
Matchup: Rays (97-65) at Phillies (92-70), 8:29 p.m. ET, FOX
The pressure is obviously on Sonnanstine and the Rays tonight, especially considering that the specter of Cole Hamels looms, and the Philly ace, who has been untouchable this October, would have the chance to clinch the series on home turf if Tampa Bay cannot climb back to even-up tonight. The Rays will likely be thrilled if Sonnanstine continues pitching as he has so far this postseason: he walked only one batter in each of his first two Game Four starts versus Chicago and Boston, and while he also allowed three homers, all were solo shots, which helps explain the 2-0 October record he brings into the biggest game of his career. While this will be Sonnanstine's first outing against the Phillies, Tampa Bay faced Blanton several times when he was with Oakland, most recently on May 19, when the right-hander earned a no-decision despite allowing four runs in six innings. Last season, Blanton was 1-1 in two starts against the Rays, allowing seven runs on 18 hits in 12
If the Rays had managed to win last night, the storyline would have been the speed of B.J. Upton, who singlehandedly conjured up the game-tying run in the eighth with his phenomenal wheels-an infield single, a steal of second, and then a steal of third which led him around to score after Carlos Ruiz's wild peg caromed away from Pedro Feliz. Upton stole three bases on the night, setting an American League single-game record for the World Series, and with a fourth bag taken by Carl Crawford, the Rays also bumped their overall theft total this October to 22, breaking the post-season record of 20 held by the 1975 Reds and the 1992 Braves. It will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay can continue its successful ground game tonight against Blanton, who held runners on base well this year: just six baserunners have attempted a steal against him in his 208
An even more interesting conflict on the basepaths will occur when the Phillies are batting. While Philadelphia is the most efficient base-stealing team in history, having been successful at an 86 percent clip over the past two seasons, Sonnanstine might just possess the best theft deterrent system in the major leagues: in his 206
This series has been marked thus far by the struggles of both teams' big guns on offense, and while Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard helped mitigate those difficulties for the Philly nine last night, the funk continued for Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena. Tampa Bay's two leading home-run hitters have combined to go 0-for-22 with two walks and 10 strikeouts in the first three games, and the Rays, who hit 22 homers in 11 games versus the White Sox and Red Sox, have just one versus Philadelphia, so as a team they are still one away from tying the AL post-season record set by the 2002 Angels. Pena is without a hit in his previous five games dating back to the ALCS, the most lengthy drought he has suffered through since joining the Rays last season.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He can be reached here.