Will rest make Phillies rusty?

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - October 17, 2008 The 15 years it took for the Philadelphia Phillies to return to the World Series won't seem nearly as long as the week they'll wait to play the first game.

Rest vs. rust? That's sure to be a key question by the time the NL champions face either the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series next Wednesday.

Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven AL championship series 3-1, with Game 5 Thursday night in Boston.

The Phillies got some advantages by finishing off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 Wednesday night for their first pennant since 1993.

They can rest their pitchers and set up the starting rotation. Surely, NLCS MVP Cole Hamels will take the mound for the Series opener on the road.

They have time to take care of personal matters. Manager Charlie Manuel went straight from Los Angeles to his native Virginia for the viewing and funeral of his mother. Center fielder Shane Victorino is mourning the death of his grandmother. Outfielder Geoff Jenkins and his wife, Jennifer, welcomed a baby boy before Game 5 against the Dodgers.

Of course, they also get a chance to heal some of those aches that come from playing 171 games. Everyone is banged-up at this point of the season.

But too much rest could be a problem, too. It can make the Phillies rusty if they aren't careful. Having six days off can stop momentum as easily as facing a lights-out pitcher in Game 1.

The Phillies went 13-3 down the stretch to clinch their second straight NL East title and are 7-2 in the postseason. They can't build on that 20-5 run when all they're doing is working out like it's spring training.

"It's concerning," Manuel said after his team clinched the sixth pennant in franchise history. "We'll definitely practice enough. We'll keep them sharp."

Recent history doesn't favor teams that sit around and wait to play in the World Series.

Last year, the streaking Colorado Rockies had a record eight-day layoff after sweeping Arizona in the NLCS and entering the World Series with an amazing run of 21 wins in 22 games. Boston only had two days off after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat Cleveland in the ALCS. The Red Sox then swept the Rockies for their second championship in four years.

In 2006, the Detroit Tigers had six days off after sweeping Oakland in the ALCS. St. Louis got one day off after beating the New York Mets in seven games for its first NL pennant in 24 years. The Cardinals easily handled the Tigers in five games, even though they had the worst regular-season record (83-78) of any Series champion in a non-shortened season.

The Tigers, who won 12 games more than St. Louis during the season, looked real rusty following the long layoff. Detroit pitchers set a Series record with five errors, two more than the previous high. The Tigers hit .199, the worst in a five-game Series since the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies.

General manager Pat Gillick hoped the Rays would finish off the Red Sox on Thursday night.

"I want them to have to sit around, too," he said.

The Phillies took the day off after flying back from the West Coast early Thursday morning following a night of partying at Dodger Stadium. They'll practice Friday and Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, but haven't made further plans.

Dozens of fans greeted the Phillies when they returned home and a championship-starved city enjoyed the day-after glow. Fans here don't get a chance to celebrate much and they relished every second of it Wednesday night.

They banged pots in pans in the streets of South Philadelphia, carrying on a neighborhood tradition. They gathered on Broad Street, honking horns and climbing poles. Thousands of fans took to the streets in Northeast Philadelphia, jumping on cars and cheering wildly.

The Phillies fully understand the magnitude of their victory. They realize they carry the hope of a long-suffering, passionate town that has waited 25 years for a championship. Not since the NBA's 76ers won it all in 1983 has anyone around here had reason to puff out their chests and brag about their team really being No. 1.

Now, the Phillies are just four wins away from winning the second World Series title in the team's 126-year history and giving all those fans exactly what they want.

"We have one step to go," Victorino said. "We're happy to be here. We're happy to be NL champs and we have one more step to go."

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