10/21/08 4:30 PM ET
Kazmir headlines Fall Classic rotation
Rays set rotation for World Series; Shields to start Game 2
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
American League Championship Series MVP Matt Garza will get the ball for Saturday's Game 3 in Philadelphia, followed by Andy Sonnanstine in Game 4. That would leave Kazmir, Shields and Garza available for Games 5, 6 and 7, if necessary.
Kazmir and Garza will be pitching on five days' rest, while Shields will be on his normal four days between starts. Sonnanstine hasn't started since Game 4 of the ALCS on Oct. 14.
The Phillies also officially named their World Series rotation on Tuesday, sticking with the same group and order that was used during the first two rounds of the playoffs. That means that Cole Hamels will pitch Wednesday's Game 1, followed by Brett Myers for the second game in St. Petersburg. Jamie Moyer, despite his postseason struggles, will remain in the rotation to pitch Game 3 in Philadelphia, and Joe Blanton will start Game 4.
"Basically, [the decision is] based on rest," Maddon said of the Rays' rotation. "Kaz is ready to roll. [It] goes a little bit against what we have been doing. But we knew that going into the switch in Boston [when Kazmir and Shields were flipped in the rotation], that it may occur this way. I did not want to bring back Shields short. And theoretically, it puts Shields in this building twice, if it comes down to that.
"You could make a case Andy Sonnanstine [should be] pitching sooner than that. This guy is pitching really well. But I wanted to keep it in that particular order."
Kazmir's October starts
Originally slated to start a potential Game 6 in the American League Championship Series, Kazmir was moved up in the rotation to start Game 5 on Oct. 16 after a disappointing start in Game 2 of the ALCS, when he lasted just 4 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs on six hits. His teammates bailed him out, however, as the Rays won, 9-8, in 11 innings.
The southpaw rebounded nicely at Fenway Park in Game 5, scattering just two hits over six scoreless innings. His effort went unrewarded, as Tampa Bay's bullpen collapsed. Just seven outs from elimination, Boston erased a seven-run deficit to notch an 8-7 victory.
"Primarily what you're seeing is his fastball command," Maddon said. "If you're around me the next couple of days, you're going to hear me say fastball command. The other day against the Red Sox, I think you saw more sliders coming back into the mix, which I like. And he's got a very good changeup. I don't have a real intelligent explanation, other than I just thought that he got out of his delivery a bit, maybe started overthinking it a little bit. "
Kazmir has not used his slider much this season, never feeling really comfortable with the pitch thought to be his best entering this season. That was not the case in Game 5.
"The one thing that I saw was more slider, and he had some big strikeouts with it, too," Maddon said. "That was primarily the difference. I thought I could just see his body language. He was really developing a rhythm out there with what he was doing. That's what I saw as being different. His confidence was beginning to build up as the game progressed.
"All I've been trying to promote to him is narrowing the focus, seeing the catcher's glove, and trying to prevent overthinking. When it comes to this game, there's so much time to pause and reflect before something happens. And that's why I used to love playing football ‑- you never had that time. You get hit once and you're good. In baseball, you have all the intermediate time that causes all the concern. If you could get back into the flow of things, and just throw the ball, he's going to be fine."
Tale of the Tape: Game 1 Starters
|2008 REGULAR SEASON|
|Overall||33 GS, 14-10, 3.09 ERA, 53 BB, 196 K||27 GS, 12-8, 3.49 ERA, 70 BB, 166K|
|Key stat||1.082 WHIP (led NL)||4.14 BB/9 IP (3rd highest in AL, min 150 IP)|
|2008||3 GS, 3-0, 1,23||3 GS, 1-0, 4.02|
|Career||4 GS, 3-1, 1.88||3 GS, 1-0, 4.02|
|AT TROPICANA FIELD|
|2008||NR||14 GS, 8-2, 2.90|
|Career||NR||60 GS, 21-14, 3.11|
|AGAINST THIS OPPONENT|
|2008 regular season||NR||NR|
|Career||1 GS, 0-1, 12.27||1 GS, 1-0, 3.60|
|Why he'll win||8-3, 2.12 in last 13 starts (incl. playoffs)||15-9, 2.90 career on 5 days rest|
|Pitcher beware||3-5, 5.62 lifetime vs. AL teams||Allowed 18 HR in 85 IP since All-Star (incl. playoffs)|
|Bottom line||Ready for his close-up||Seeking Game 5 repeat|
"Absolutely [it could be a growth moment], and he did his job superbly last night, gave us every chance to win this game," Maddon said a day following Game 5. "I was trying to look at the entire event, him doing what he did [in Game 5], and if we continue to move into the next round. That game could really catapult him into the World Series and a great performance there."
Shields was 0-2 in two ALCS starts with a 3.46 ERA. In Game 1 on Oct. 10, the right-hander allowed just two runs over 7 1/3 innings, but he was outdueled by the Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed only four hits in seven-plus scoreless innings of the Rays' 2-0 loss. In Game 6 at Tropicana Field on Saturday, Shields surrendered four runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings in Tampa Bay's 4-2 loss.
"I was just a hair off," said Shields after his last start. "[I] felt like I was just missing. That's why they call it a game of inches."
Garza was simply dominant en route to his ALCS MVP Award. The offseason acquisition from the Twins posted a 1.38 ERA in two starts. In Game 3 at Fenway Park on Oct. 13, allowed only one run over six-plus innings of the Rays' 9-1 victory. In the pennant-clinching victory Sunday night, Garza again allowed just one run and two hits over seven dazzling innings of work.
Garza said he would embrace the idea of starting Game 3 in Philadelphia.
Starting on the road "doesn't bother me a bit, as long as I get the ball," Garza said. "As long as he gives me a chance to pitch in the World Series, I'm all for it. It doesn't matter which game it is."
And that means putting a bat in his hands, of which Maddon joked, "We're trying to keep out of the fact that Matt Garza is the worst offensive pitcher of the group, and he has to play in Philadelphia."
Sonnanstine, who posted a career-high 13 wins in just his second big league campaign, got the win in Game 4 on Oct. 14 in Boston. The righty allowed the Sox four runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings to give the Rays a commanding 3-1 ALCS lead.
Sonnanstine "has a lot of deception in his delivery, but what he does really well -- there's a lot of movement in that delivery, and he keeps it intact," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He throws a ball or two and starts to get out of whack, he gathers himself, stays over the rubber, and he's obviously very confident. ... You can tell he feels good about himself -- as he should."
Maddon allowed that Sonnanstine could be used in long relief in the first game early.
"We've talked about that, too," Maddon said. "He will be available to a certain point."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.