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Phillies may battle rust in World Series matchup with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — The sweet smells, and squishy carpets, of victory were just about gone Monday after another all-night cleanup by Rays clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland and his crew.

The Rays expect the momentum and adrenaline from Sunday's thrilling pennant-clinching Game 7 win over the Red Sox to carry over into the World Series.

"I think it's going to be huge," ALCS MVP Matt Garza said. "We're just going to go and ride this wave in and see what happens Wednesday."

The Phillies, meanwhile, idle since winning the NL pennant on Wednesday in Los Angeles, are just hoping they can get up and running — and pitching and hitting — again quickly.

"In baseball, when you look at hitting, it's timing. We've got to keep that," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Monday at the Trop. "(The Rays) are going to miss like a couple of days. More than likely, it's not going to affect them. It could affect us, but hopefully it won't. It all depends."

For the third straight year, one of the teams has had about a week off coming into the Series as the other played its way in. It didn't work out well for the 2006 Tigers, who had six days off, lost the opener to the Cardinals 7-2 and went down meekly in five games, hitting .199, scoring just 11 runs and making eight errors. And it was even worse for the 2007 Rockies, who had a record eight days off and were swept by the Red Sox, scoring 10 runs while hitting just .218 and compiling a 7.68 ERA.

"In the last couple of World Series, when they sweep somebody, you always say, 'Well, we were off too long.' It's very easy for somebody to say, 'Well, all that time we missed, that killed us,' " Manuel said. "Two years ago, when the Tigers had trouble catching and throwing the ball, I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not. Then last year when Colorado didn't hit, they said it was because of the time off. I don't know."

The Rays, diplomatically, say it's not clear what the effect will be and that the argument can be made either way.

"It's one of those things that is debated passionately every year, and I don't have a good answer for it; so much gets back to the specifics of that team," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "I think each team will spin it according to what their situation is. And if our roles were reversed, I'm sure we would be spinning it the other way."

Exactly, Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said.

"I would have preferred to have won Game 5 and not had to throw up in my bag," he said, "but I think having two days off is probably preferable to having six days off."

But, realistically, the Rays think it could be to their advantage: that the Phillies pitchers, particularly the relievers, may not be as sharp, and their hitters' timing is likely to be off.

Hitters, Rays manager Joe Maddon said, tend to "get antsy" after that many days without facing live pitching, which could make them uncomfortable, especially in the first game or two.

Relievers, who are used to working at least every couple of days, may lose their feel for certain pitches and lack command and control. "It's nice to get the time off to rest your arm, but six days is a long time," Rays reliever Grant Balfour said. "You kind of lose a bit of that sharpness. So it's definitely tough."

Phillies closer Brad Lidge didn't disagree.

"It has been weird," he said. "I definitely can't wait to get out there and face some hitters. You want to be able to stay in a groove as long as possible, but at the same time, for whatever reason, I think our guys are going to respond well to the time off. I think it's helped us."

The Phillies, who've won 20 of their past 25 games, tried to do what they could to pass the time. They took two days off, had two workouts (plus a six-inning simulated game) in Philadelphia, then flew down to work out Monday night and today at the Trop, where they haven't played since 2001.

But Manuel said it was difficult to stay sharp.

"Oh, you can do it if you get another team and put 'em out there and play in those off days. But that'd be kind of hard," he said. "The Dodgers didn't want to come back and play us for free. Manny (Ramirez) didn't want to come up and play for a warmup game."

Times staff writer Dave Scheiber contributed to this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Phillies may battle rust in World Series matchup with Rays 10/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 8:18am]

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