Rust Never Sleeps in Baseball Postseason

For fans in Tampa Bay, perhaps grabbing the American League pennant in five games would have calmed some fears and saved some fingernails from a chewy demise, but for the team, two additional games were probably a good thing.

The White Sox? No problem; Tampa finished them off in four games. The Red Sox? No problem, at least for the first four games. Everybody started to ring their hands when the Rays lost Game 5 and the ringing was in full speed when Game 6 also went to the Red Sox as the world of baseball waited for the Rays run to destiny to finally end. Instead of folding and limping off the field much like the Red Sox made the Colorado Rockies do in the 2007 World Series, Tampa Bay rallied among themselves and won Game 7 for a date with the Phillies.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were hanging out in Philly, not knowing who they were playing and flying around in baseball's version of a holding pattern. Now, a week has gone by and the Phillies are hoping they're not rusty after finishing off the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games, while the Rays are coming off of a big series win. That win was followed by just a couple of days off for a little R&R and are in a strong spot to start the series.

No, they didn't have the advantage of setting up their rotation exactly the way that they wanted to, but their rotation is good enough that they didn't have to worry about that too much, anyway. Game 1 starter Scott Kazmir and Game 3 starter - and ALCS MVP - Matt Garza will both be going on five days rest, while James Shields sticks to his usual four days rest to start Game 2. The only rust could come when Andy Sonnanstine takes the mound in Game 4, since he hasn't pitched since October 14th. The Phillies have Cole Hamels going on six days rest, Brett Myers going on 11 days rest, Jamie Moyer on 13 days rest and Joe Blanton scheduled to go on two weeks rest. Rest is good, but too much of a good thing isn't a good thing.

And while the Rays hitters have had just a couple days away from live pitching, the Phillies hitters haven't seen an opposing pitcher for a week now. Sure, they had Kyle Kendrick come in from the Florida Instructional League and throw some "game situation" ball to their hitters, but that can only help so much. Had the Rays clinched in five, they would have had just one less day off than the Phillies, which would have gone a long way toward evening things out for the series.

The full series against Boston also gave the Rays some in-game lessons in battling a little adversity. If this series goes seven games, don't think for a minute that the Rays will be shaking in their boots about going to an elimination game, especially since they beat a Red Sox team that had won ten straight elimination games under Terry Francona.

There is also the fact that teams enduring a long layoff simply don't fare too well in the Fall Classic and the Phillies need look no further than last year's Colorado Rockies to know that. After an eight day layoff before facing Boston, the Rockies were lost and several players said afterward that they didn't even get back into their groove until they were already down 3-0 and this was a team that had won 21 of 22 games to get to the World Series.  The Phillies have won 20 of 25 games and have had seven days of down time. Then, there's the 2006 Detroit Tigers, who had a six day layoff and lost in five games.

The Phillies might have been better off had the Dodgers pushed them deeper in their series - something that Fox would have loved - or had the Rays kept the momentum going and finished off the Red Sox much like the Phillies did L.A. Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you plan, but then again, sometimes, teams don't follow the pattern of their predecessor and maybe Charlie Manuel's schedule of lively workouts over the past week have done enough to keep the Phillies sharp enough to win.

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