NL champs had plenty of rest waiting for World Series foe
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- While the Rays and Red Sox kept battling in a grueling seven-game American League Championship Series won by upstart Tampa Bay, the Phillies rested.
Now that they know it's the Rays, the Phillies can't wait to get back to work. Game 1 of the World Series will be played at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday at Tropicana Field.
For Saturday night's ALCS Game 6 -- after a second day of workouts that included a six-inning simulated game -- players gathered at a local Philadelphia restaurant for a meal and camaraderie. Naturally, the television happened to be tuned to the game, where Boston sent the series to a decisive seventh game.
On Sunday, most of the players watched with their respective families as the Rays captured the American League pennant. The Phillies leave for the airport at 12:30 p.m. ET on Monday and plan to work out in St. Petersburg on Monday and Tuesday.
"Everyone is just so excited to be a part of this and get going," Brad Lidge said during Saturday's workouts. "These days off are nice for a little while, but you really start to get anxious to play."
There was zero anxiety regarding potential opponents, with the confident Phillies content with either opponent. They lost two of three to Boston during the regular season, but hadn't seen the Rays since Spring Training.
Having dethroned the 2007 World Series champs, the Rays are playing with the fire of a young team unaware of the pressure of the moment. They tied the Cubs with the second-most regular-season wins with 97 after never winning more than 70 games before in franchise history, and then steamrolled the White Sox in the AL Division Series.
On the verge of a pennant in Game 5, they blew a 7-0 lead to Boston, then followed by dropping Game 6. Just when prognosticators said they would lose the decisive game to the more experienced Red Sox, 24-year-old Matt Garza dominated en route to the ALCS MVP.
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The Rays and Phillies have played five Interleague series, with the Rays holding a 10-5 advantage in wins, including a three-game sweep in 2001.
"One thing that surprises me about Tampa is how their young guys don't care what situation they're in," Lidge said. "These are guys 24, 25 years old that look like they're 10-year veterans. They look like they've been there before. They're obviously very talented, but at the same time they're not blinking."
While awaiting their World Series opponent, Phillies players answered questions regarding potential rustiness that comes with clinching early, something they did against the Dodgers on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The Phillies will have gone a week without seeing live pitching when they send Cole Hamels to the mound against the Rays.
The Phillies clearly boast the more veteran team in the World Series. Five players have been to the Fall Classic -- Lidge, Eric Bruntlett, Pedro Feliz, Scott Eyre and So Taguchi -- with Taguchi the only one to have earned a ring from playing in the Series, something he did with the 2006 Cardinals.
Reliever J.C. Romero owns a World Series ring, but it's tucked away in a box in his house. He got it from the Red Sox, who won the 2007 World Series, but Romero was released from Boston that June.
"It's a good piece of jewelry," Romero said. "It's nice hardware. I was thankful they gave it to me, but it's not really mine. If I win this one, this will be the one I will call mine."
The Phillies can't wait for the challenge and love how they stack up.
"We have a lot of different personalities," Lidge said. "We have salty veterans who have played for a long time. We've got younger guys with a ton of energy and have everyone in between. We have high expectations. We have the ability, talent, and believe we can win."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.