ST. PETERSBURG — Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir have been compared for most of their careers. The left-handers finally get a solid point of reference today when they start against each other in Game 1 of the World Series.
Kazmir was drafted 15th by the Mets — two spots higher than Hamels — in 2002 and traded to Tampa Bay in 2004.
"Being able to pitch against him will be a great opportunity for both of us," said Hamels, who is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in three starts this postseason, "because being compared at such an early age, and finally to be able to compete against each other at this sort of stage makes things a little bit better."
RUBBER MATCH: The Phillies arrived in the clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Monday to find rubber ducks on their chairs. Matt Stairs had a Spider-Man motif, J.C. Romero a brown one, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins black ones with fake diamond studs.
Apparently after a brusque mound conference in Milwaukee this season, 2B Chase Utley told manager Charlie Manuel to "Get that rubber duck out of you're a--," as in, loosen up.
"So I bought them some rubber ducks," Manuel said. "Before they go out on the field they look up in their lockers and they see a duck, it means for them to play like they always have."
COMES AROUND: Baseball is a cyclical game. Kazmir pitched a scoreless 15th inning to earn the win in the All-Star Game in July as Michael Young's sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning against Phillies closer Brad Lidge scored the winning run. The 4-3 victory gave the American League homefield advantage in the World Series: Rays and Phillies.
Rays 3B Evan Longoria had sent the game tumbling into the early morning hours by tying the score with a double in the eighth.
"I feel very fortunate, actually, that it's come into play that here we are and that we've made it to the World Series," Lidge said. "It was a crazy night as it was, but no, you never think something like this is going to happen."
PHILLERS: The Phillies' 4-11 interleague record will be invoked in predicting the outcome of the World Series, and the data is intriguing. Philadelphia had won nine of 14 to begin June before losing six of seven to Boston (1-3) and the Angels (0-3) at home, then went 1-2 against Oakland and Texas. … Manuel would not reveal his DH for the games in Tropicana Field or if he has decided who it will be.