Tampa Bay had never won more than 70 games in a season. Vegas, which usually doesn’t get too many of these things wrong, predicted the Rays to win 74, a mark they passed by August. Now, after a gripping ALCS Game 7, the Rays are headed to the World Series.
â€” Postseason baseball rules. I saw every single pitch of this game and it was a doozy. And to those who claim football has overtaken baseball as America’s pasttime â€” yes, you may be right, but no league, not even the mighty NFL, can match the drama of a baseball Game 7.
â€” The action peaked in the top of the eighth. The Rays used five pitchers, including Dan Wheeler and Chad Bradford, the two men they employed most often to close games since Troy Percival went out for good. As the inning unfolded, I thought Joe Maddon had completely fouled up. But when he turned to big David Price â€” the sport’s next great pitching star â€” we all were reminded why the Rays defied odds all season. Because they built a club with the most talent in baseball. Price was plenty good enough strikeout J.D. Drew with the bags packed and plenty good enough to close out the pressure-packed ninth.
Watch out for Price in the World Series. Philly, you’ve been warned.
â€” As for the MVP, a piece belongs to B.J. Upton. I thought Matt Garza was a strong choice, but Upton was a steady presence in all seven games. Not only did he hit four HRs and drive in 11 RBI, he also terrified the hell out of the Red Sox. And remember: It was the Rays’ offense that put them in position to have a 3 games to 1 lead in the first place.
â€” I like the Rays to win the Series in 5. Philly has the best pitcher, the most feared hitter and the far superior closer, but Tampa has the goods throughout the lineup, the depth in the rotation and a significant homefield advantage. I didn’t think a bullpen without a closer could get through a seven-game series against the Sox without faltering and it didn’t. Yet the Rays still won. And the Phillies, being a flawed team, are not the Red Sox.