Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at the team's run through the NLCS and World Series.
Baseball is an everyday game of rhythm and momentum and when a team is riding a good wave the last thing it wants is a day off. The Phillies got six of them between their NLCS clincher in Los Angeles and Game 1 of the World Series in St. Petersburg.
The Tampa Bay Rays had advanced to the World Series by beating the favored Boston Red Sox in the ALCS and they were a majors-best 57-24 at home.
So heading into Tropicana Field, the Phillies needed a quick start for a lot of reasons, mostly to knock off any rust that had accumulated after a weeklong layoff. They got it from two of the offensive forces of their team. Jayson Werth drew a one-out walk against Scott Kazmir in the first inning and Chase Utley followed with a two-run homer to give the Phillies the quick lead they needed. The Phils manufactured a run in the fourth to go up, 3-0, and pitching and defense made it all stand up for a 3-2 win. (The pitching and defense had to be good because Phillies' hitters were 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 men.)
The starting pitching matchup featured two exciting, young lefties. Kazmir had been the 15th overall pick in the 2002 draft. Cole Hamels was the 17th overall pick. Hamels continued his breakout month with seven innings of two-run ball to improve to 4-0 in that postseason. In 29 innings, he'd struck out 27 and allowed just five runs to that point.
Hamels got some assists in this one. Manager Charlie Manuel liked to use slick-fielding Pedro Feliz at third base behind lefties Hamels and Jamie Moyer. The move paid off when Feliz made a big play to start a clutch 5-4-3 double play to get Hamels out of a bases-loaded jam in the third.
Brad Lidge wrapped it up with his sixth save of the postseason but before that Ryan Madson logged a scoreless eighth inning. To that point in the postseason, he'd pitched 10 innings and given up just one run.
Late in the season, Madson became a demon out of the bullpen for 2008 Phillies. Something clicked for him. His shoulder, which had bothered him a year earlier, got healthy and he became more serious about his craft. He gained confidence and attacked hitters with a high-90s fastball and a knee-buckling changeup. So many things came together for that championship team. Madson's emergence might have been overshadowed at times, but it was huge.
"Ryan's confidence is like a closer's right now," Lidge said after the Game 1 win. "He's learned how to dominate guys."
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