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WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?

The Rays have had little experience facing most of the Phillies.

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They trained mere miles apart. Most of them pay rent somewhere in Pinellas County at some point in a year. Undoubtedly all of them have carped about the traffic on U.S. 19. But the Rays and the Phillies are virtual strangers entering the World Series. The American League EastÕs Rays and National League EastÕs Phillies havenÕt met since a three-game set in 2006. ¦ They met once in spring training this year Ñ a 9-1 Rays win on March 7, but whatÕs that worth? Ñ and there are scant former Phillies or NL East foes to offer insight. Scott Kazmir bumped into Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard in the low minors, but again, not fresh intel. So the Rays and starting pitcher Matt Garza have been forced to "tap a bunch of resources you usually donÕt go into," he said. ¦ That meant a call to former Twins teammate and current Met Johan Santana. ¦ "TheyÕve got a tough lineup, but theyÕve got holes just like everybody else," Garza said Monday at Tropicana Field. "I tell you what, facing that Phillies lineup compared to facing the Red Sox lineup, the Tigers lineup or the Yankees lineup, you get a little bit of a break with the Phillies, especially pitching at Philly. ThereÕs that nine hole I get to throw against."
Jimmy Rollins Shane Victorino
The defending NL MVP is the go button of the Phillies lineup. The NL East champions were 42-15 in the regular season when he scored, and although he missed much of April with an injury, he finished with a career-best 47 stolen bases. His statistics (.277 BA, 11 homers) were well off his 2007 output (particularly 19 fewer homers), but he hit a team-high .375 against the Brewers in the NLDS. The shortstop won a Gold Glove last season and could very well add another. A trash-talking Hall of Famer, Rollins has been benched for arriving late to the ballpark but figures to be punctual in his first World Series. The 27-year-old Hawaiian posted career highs as a starter in batting average (.293) and homers (14) and enlisted in that honorable legion of unexpected postseason heroes. The centerfielder batted .357 in the NLDS and stole three bases but will be remembered most for his Game 2 grand slam off Brewers ace CC Sabathia that gave the Phillies the lead for good in a 5-2 win. Victorino hit just .222 in the NLCS against the Dodgers but was notable for gesturing to pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to hit him in the body, not the head to even the slate for some previous beanball ill will in the series.
Ryan Howard Cole Hamels
The hulking slugger joined an exclusive fraternity in 2006 when he became just the fourth player to be named Rookie of the Year and MVP in their first two seasons. He joined Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001), who did it in the same season, and Cal Ripken (1982-83). Not bad company. Though he has failed to completely return to that 2006 stratosphere (58 homers, .313 batting average), he remains one of the NLÕs most potent hitters with a league-best 48 homers and 146 RBIs. The left-hander batted a career-low .251 but ignited in the last 30 games of the regular season, batting .352 with 11 homers and a franchise- record 32 RBIs in September. A fastball destroyer, he was frustrated with breaking pitches by the Brewers in the NLDS, batting .182. He hit .300 in the NLCS against the Dodgers, but had just one extra-base hit and RBI. The Phillies ace continued to establish himself as one of the NLÕs most dependable starters, going 14-10 in the regular season with a starters-best 3.09 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 2271/3 innings to rank among the league leaders. Control was not a problem, as he allowed three walks or fewer in all 34 regular-season starts and features what Garza called "one of the best changeups in the National League." Postseason pressure doesnÕt appear to quake him, either. HeÕs 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in three starts this postseason. He struck out nine to win in Game 1 of the NLDS against Milwaukee and was deemed MVP of the NLCS against Los Angeles after going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He finished the series in Game 5 by allowing one earned run in seven innings.
Chase Utley Jamie Moyer
This season was in some regards a step back for the 29-year-old who has finished in the top eight in MVP voting since 2006. His batting average slipped from .332 to .292; his power numbers were down slightly, but he stole 14 bases in 16 attempts. He walked more but struck out a lot more. Still, Utley led NL second basemen in hits, total chances and assists. Utley has not performed well in the postseason, however. He batted .182 in the 2007 NLDS when the Phillies were swept by Colorado and .133 against Milwaukee. He batted .353 and hit his first postseason homer against the Dodgers, however, and will be a dangerous enigma in the World Series. "(Rollins) and Victorino are their spark plugs, just like Boston had Coco (Crisp) and (Jacoby) Ellsbury," Garza said. "Those guys are what make it go. Utley and Howard, theyÕre guys you watch out (for) because theyÕre the ones who could drop the big bombs. You keep Rollins and you keep Victorino off the basepaths and you can kind of control that running game, kind of shut down their offense a little bit and let them rely on their big swings." Philadelphia has long had a taste for experience in the postseason. The 45-year-old last week became the second-oldest man to start a postseason game (Jack Quinn was 46 years, 99 days for Game 4 of the 1929 World Series for the Philadelphia AÕs). He was a crafty lefty before the term was trite, and that was a long time ago. His 16 wins led the Phillies and represented his most successful season since 2003, when he won 21. His 3.71 ERA was also his best since that season. Moyer is a dabbler and is at his best when he tantalizes batters into chasing off-speed material. Not surprisingly, he is hittable when he doesnÕt dabble effectively, allowing 50 homers the past two seasons. But Moyer has experienced a resurgence at midlife, dropping his ERA from 5.01 last year, his hits allowed by 23, losses by five to seven and homers by 10 in three fewer innings.

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