PHILADELPHIA — The Rays haven't been here since 2006, but they've been here before.
Just less than two weeks ago, actually. They impishly lost the first and inspirationally won the second game of the American League Championship Series at home then went into Boston, a challenging and quirky place to play, and rolled to two impressive wins that put them in position — the Game 5 collapse aside — to win the pennant.
And now, after raising questions by losing the first and answering them by winning the second game of the World Series, they come to Philadelphia, another tough and quirky place to play, hoping to do exactly the same and win a world championship.
"I think there's a lot of parallels," manager Joe Maddon said Friday. "And the biggest part of it is how we feel."
Listening in the visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park before Friday's workout, the prevailing mood was confidence.
"It's the same sort of feeling, very similar," reliever Grant Balfour said. "The guys are positive right now. Let's come in here, let's get out and win these games. Hopefully, we can sweep. That'd be great. But if you look at it and say, 'Hey, we take two out of three here and take it back home to Game 6 and win it there,' then we'll be happy with that."
"We did it in Fenway, one of the hardest parks you can win in," pitcher Scott Kazmir said. "We have it in us. I don't see why not."
"We're going to try to get at least two out of three here," pitcher James Shields said.
As similar as the situation seems to Boston, it, of course, can't be exactly the same.
The three games in Philadelphia are played under National League rules, which means the Rays won't be using a designated hitter and their pitchers will have to hit.
Pinch-hitting and pitching changes are now more likely, the decisions more complicated depending on the situation. There is more strategy in pitching to the No. 8 hitter. And there is the specter of the double switch as managers will sub a position player when they make a pitching change to alter the batting order so the reliever doesn't have to hit. The Rays were 6-3 in NL-rules games at St. Louis, Florida and Pittsburgh this season.
Beyond that, the ball tends to fly out of cozy Citizens Bank Park, which can be tempting but also troubling if the hitters try too hard.
DH Cliff Floyd said it's equally important for the hitters not to swing for the fences as it is for the pitchers to keep the ball down. And it will be wet — with rain expected most of the day — and cool with temperatures dropping into the 50s tonight. The Rays were 1-2 during the June 2006 series.
"Everything's different now," Floyd said. "Boston, we'd seen them so much you could just kind of know what the heck you were getting yourself into. Playing these guys, it's kind of like getting your feet wet again."
There's also the issue of the fans, who tend to be a bit on the obnoxious side. Maddon insisted he wasn't concerned about the atmosphere, that the Rays proved they could handle a hostile environment in Boston and New York and in Chicago during the playoffs.
But Phillies closer Brad Lidge said they could be rattled.
"I hope so," he said. "I wouldn't say I expect it. It seems like they've shrugged off everything else this year. So we'll take any edge we can get if it works."
The Rays, who held the Phillies to a .239 average and a stunning 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position in Games 1-2, feel they have an edge in the next two pitching matchups with Matt Garza, coming off his MVP performance in the ALCS, facing struggling Jamie Moyer tonight, and Andy Sonnanstine against pedestrian Joe Blanton in Game 4. Phillies ace Cole Hamels awaits, however, in Game 5.
"I do like the matchups," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "I like the matchups all the way through. I like (James) Shields pitching at home again (in a Game 6), and I love Garza in Game 7, if necessary."
The Rays are hoping that's a big if.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org