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World Series: Tampa Bay Rays look sluggish, drop Game 1 to Phillies

ST. PETERSBURG

The Rays didn't need David Ortiz to tell them they didn't look right this time. Philadelphia's Cole Hamels took care of that chore without saying a thing. Similar to how they began the American League Championship Series against Ortiz's Red Sox, the Rays stumbled and bumbled a bit in their first steps on the World Series stage. The result was a 3-2 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday, but the total damage won't be known until Game 2 tonight, when they either rebound behind James Shields to pull even or fall into a treacherous two-games-to-none hole heading to Philadelphia for the weekend. "It's never easy when you're down 0-1," Shields said. "But I think we've been pretty resilient all year long, in all the series we've played and definitely in the playoffs. I guess (losing the opener) kind of wakes us up. Let's hope so." "I think we're as confident as ever," Evan Longoria said. "We take the loss in stride. Obviously it's a tough one, like any one. But it gives us confidence going into (tonight) knowing we did lose the first game of that Boston series." It wasn't that the Rays were horrible. Scott Kazmir worked six innings and allowed only three runs but did put the Rays in an early hole by allowing a two-run first-inning homer to Chase Utley.

Carl Crawford homered and Akinori Iwamura continued his hot postseason with an RBI double to draw the Rays within a run in the fifth, but their 2-4 hitters, B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Lon­goria, were a combined 0-for-12 with five strikeouts, the first time in the postseason all three were hitless. Plus, Pena made a rare error and got caught breaking too soon for second and was picked off on a play manager Joe Maddon said was "clearly a balk." And they didn't get a hit after the fifth, their last 11 going down in order.

Hamels, the Phillies' young left-handed ace, was a big part of their problems, working seven strong innings and improving to 4-0, 1.55 in the postseason.

"I knew he was good but not that good," Longoria said. "He did what a No. 1 starter in the World Series is supposed to do. Kaz was right there with him. He came out and proved why he is their No. 1. He was tough on us all night."

Upton, an offensive force in the ALCS, got the worst of it. He came up with men on base his first three times and grounded into two double plays (with the bases loaded to end the third, which Hamels said was the momentum swing of the game) and fouled out. He did redeem himself somewhat by throwing out Shane Victorino at the plate trying to score on a flyout to center. "He made some good pitches,'' Upton said, "and the pitches he did leave over the plate I didn't hit 'em.''

In addition to the Rays not being sharp, something else became quickly apparent:

The six-day layoff, matching the fourth-longest in history for a team going into the Series, wasn't going to be much a problem for the Phillies hitters or pitchers.

The Phillies took the early lead, and took some energy out of the Tropicana Field sellout crowd of 40,783 that had been roaring with anticipation at the start.

Kazmir got one quick out, then fell behind Jayson Werth 3-and-0, came back to get two strikes, then put him on. With the Rays in a strong defensive shift, like against Ortiz with three infielders between first and second, Utley tried, on his own, to bunt but the ball went foul. That was too bad for the Rays, because five pitches later he knocked a pitch over the rightfield fence for a 2-0 lead.

"I guess it turned out pretty well,'' Utley said.

Kazmir lasted six innings and allowed three runs on six hits, walking four and striking out four while throwing 110 pitches. He wasn't particularly sharp, and he wasn't particularly wild.

"It wasn't easy tonight,'' he said. "I had to battle every single inning. I never really got 1-2-3. … I just had to fight your way through it. Just one bad pitch that really cost us.''

The first Series game in Rays history started at 8:38 p.m., when Kazmir, with flashes going off throughout the stadium, threw a strike past Jimmy Rollins. It ended at 12:01, with Crawford popping out.

The Rays insist today will be better. "This is who we are,'' Kazmir said. "We're a team that doesn't worry about one loss here, one loss there.''

World Series: Tampa Bay Rays look sluggish, drop Game 1 to Phillies 10/23/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 8:33pm]
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