10/23/08 2:30 AM ET
Rays' heavy hitters grounded
Upton, Pena, Longoria 0-for-12 against Hamels, Phillies
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Watching the 24-year-old emerging star slug through the first two rounds of the postseason, it might have become an easy bet to expect Upton to come through in almost every key situation that faces the Tampa Bay Rays in this playoff push.
But matched up against Cole Hamels, Upton's hands were jarred by a tight fastball, and he was only able to roll a soft ground ball to second base. The double-play grounder erased the Rays' first baserunner of the evening and permitted a breezy 11-pitch inning for the Phillies left-hander.
"I didn't want to swing at it," Upton said. "It looked like a good pitch out of his hand, a little check-swing. There's not much I can do about that."
Unfortunately for the Rays, it was a sign of things to come against Hamels. But it was particularly so for Upton, who also hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the third inning on his way to an 0-for-4 collar.
The Rays' lineup, so potent and homer-happy for much of the seven-game American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, never showed up in force for Game 1 of the World Series.
Tampa Bay's No. 2-4 hitters -- Upton, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria -- combined to go 0-for-12 with five strikeouts. Much of that had to do with an impressive Hamels, whom Longoria said the Rays could not keep up with as they tried to support starter Scott Kazmir.
"[Hamels] did what a No. 1 starter in the World Series is supposed to do," Longoria said. "Kaz was right there with him, but [Hamels] came out and proved why he is No. 1. He was tough on us all night, his changeup was in the zone when it needed to be, and when he needed that pitch, it was a pretty nasty one down and away."
Longoria was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts -- two against Hamels -- and Pena went hitless in four at-bats, reaching on an error in the sixth before being erased on a caught stealing.
Only Carl Crawford got ahold of a curveball, connecting on a fourth-inning solo shot that trimmed Philadelphia's advantage to 3-1 and gave the Rays 23 home runs for the postseason, four shy of the 2002 Giants' record tally. Akinori Iwamura had an RBI double to account for Tampa Bay's other run against Hamels.
"He was pretty buckled down the whole game, in my opinion," Longoria said of Hamels. "He made a couple of -- I don't even know if they were mistakes. It's basically two pitches, whether they were mistakes or not. The rest he threw were very good."
Even though Kazmir gritted through six innings and the Rays' bullpen danced clear of damage, Hamels had A-1 stuff in getting through seven frames before Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge slammed the door. In all, Philadelphia pitchers retired the final 11 batters and faced the minimum after the fifth inning.
"We knew it was going to be a tight series, and Hamels came out and threw a great game," Upton said. "He really didn't leave many balls over the plate and kept us off base. It's just good baseball. You've got to tip your hat, they beat us. That's how it goes sometimes."
Limited this season by a torn labrum in his left shoulder that will, in all likelihood, require surgery after the World Series, Upton hit nine home runs in 531 at-bats during the regular season.
But he treated the ALDS against the White Sox and the ALCS against the Red Sox as his personal coming-out party, belting seven postseason home runs so far and driving in 15 runs.
Before Wednesday, Upton explained that he had been "lucky" and had received some fat pitches from the Red Sox. When none came on Wednesday from the Phillies, Upton would reject the suggestion that he had been pressing.
"Not at all," Upton said. "He made some good pitches and the pitches he did leave over the plate, I didn't hit them."
The Phillies had a mound conference in the third inning to discuss how to pitch to Upton with the bases loaded and one out, and it worked, as Upton grounded a changeup hard to third base for what he called "a tailor-made double-play ball."
"It was a good play -- I hit the ball right at [Pedro Feliz]," Upton said. "I squared it up pretty good, and there's not much more you can do."
Upton thus became the first player to ground into two double plays in a World Series game since the Yankees' Derek Jeter in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, a 12-inning game.
The last nine-inning two-double-play night in a World Series was turned in by the Giants' Benito Santiago in Game 4 of the 2002 World Series.
Even so, Upton's first World Series experience wasn't all sour. He'd also fouled out in the fifth inning -- wasting the third of Iwamura's three hits -- and struck out against Madson to end the eighth inning.
But Upton had a strong outfield assist to cut down Shane Victorino at the plate in the third inning, getting a throw to catcher Dioner Navarro in the nick of time.
"I knew it was a little shallow, and with his speed, I thought he'd probably take a chance there," Upton said. "I made a nice solid throw and gave Navi a nice chance."
By the end of the evening, that seemed like small consolation.
"We were in the game the whole entire time," Upton said. "They played a good game, Kaz kept us in it and the bullpen did a great job of keeping it close. We just couldn't get that extra run."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.