Phils can win Series with 3 1/2 innings

October 29, 2008 4:17:36 PM PDT
Now batting for the Phillies is anyone's guess. When Game 5 of this wacky World Series resumes Wednesday night, weather permitting, a pinch-hitter for Philadelphia will get the first crack at breaking a 2-2 tie. The Phillies also get to bat last - if needed.

Who will manager Charlie Manuel send up to the plate to bat for pitcher Cole Hamels leading off the bottom of the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays? He won't know until gametime.

If righty Grant Balfour remains on the mound, Manuel will choose one of his three left-handed hitters on the bench. Of course, Rays manager Joe Maddon probably would counter with a southpaw from his bullpen. Manuel then could use a right-handed hitter to bat for the pinch-hitter.

Only in this soggy Series can three moves be made before the first pitch is thrown.

"We'll see how the game develops, what goes on," Manuel said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

The Phillies' quest for their second World Series championship in 126 years comes down to this: Outscore the Rays over 3½ innings to break out the champagne.

Monday night's game was suspended because of rain after 5½ innings. Carlos Pena's two-out RBI single off Hamels tied it in the top of the sixth, and the game was stopped before the Phillies batted in the bottom half.

"We've got 12 outs to go and they've got nine," Manuel said. "We control our own destiny. It's up to us to stay focused and win. It's in our hands. It's up to us to do it."

Hamels still can earn his fifth postseason win, but he'll be watching from the dugout. No matter what happens when the Phillies bat, Manuel plans to turn the game over to his relievers in the seventh.

He'll keep Brett Myers on schedule to start Game 6 if needed. Jamie Moyer is slated to start Game 7, but Hamels could take the mound on three days' rest.

The Phillies can make that a moot point by finishing off the Rays in five games and giving this desperate city it's first championship since the NBA's 76ers won it all 25 years ago.

"We don't need to talk about Hamels' situation yet because we're looking forward to playing tomorrow," Manuel said. "We've got time to take care of all those things."

Losing Hamels after the ace lefty threw just 75 pitches Monday is cushioned by Philadelphia's strong bullpen. The Phillies led the NL in bullpen ERA at 3.22 and winning percentage (.589) during the regular season, and have been lights out in the World Series.

The relievers have allowed one run and two hits in 8 2-3 innings against the Rays. Closer Brad Lidge hasn't been used since earning his 47th save in 47 chances in Game 1. Ryan Madson or Chad Durbin could get the call to pitch the seventh. If there's a lead to protect, Lidge might even enter in the eighth.

"I have faith in our bullpen," Manuel said. "We've got three innings to go, and I think our bullpen can definitely do the job."

The Phillies need their offense to start delivering with runners on base. They left nine on in the first five innings Monday night, including the bases loaded twice.

Shane Victorino's two-run single in the first was the only scoring off Rays starter Scott Kazmir, who lasted four shaky innings. The Phillies were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and now are 8-for-57 with RISP in the Series.

Chase Utley has two homers, but only one other hit in 17 at-bats. Pat Burrell remains hitless in 13 at-bats, though he's walked five times.

Utley and Ryan Howard, who hit three homers in the last two games, probably won't see another righty in Game 5. Maddon has left-handers J.P. Howell, David Price and Trever Miller available to face them.

"We're going to have rested bullpens. People have rested starters for games in the future," Maddon said. "All that stuff is in order."


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