10/24/08 10:30 AM ET
Rays find different way to win
Without usual Tampa Bay power display, World Series even
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
The Rays instead became the fifth team since 1969 to win a World Series game at home without an extra-base hit, relying on their other assets to down the Phillies at Tropicana Field.
Floyd can certainly attest to that, bolting home in the fourth inning on Jason Bartlett's successful safety squeeze. They scored two runs on groundouts in the first inning, each of them aided by Jayson Werth's fielding error. And they plated another on three singles and a walk in the second, simply reinforcing the notion that they don't need home runs, triples or even doubles to win.
"That's what we're about -- the little things, small ball," outfielder B.J. Upton said. "We've been doing it all year. There's no reason to stop now."
It also helped that the Rays received near-flawless pitching from the combination of James Shields, Dan Wheeler and David Price -- but forget that for a moment. Focus instead on the team's hitters, who pumped out four runs without much pop, performing just as well with two outs as they did with none.
Upton's run-scoring single in the second inning came with two outs, helping the Rays to leave just four runners on base all night. And that compares quite favorably with the production of the Phillies, who knocked out four extra-base hits but stranded 11 runners.
"You're not always going to hit home runs," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, ignoring his team's ability to do so more often than most. "When you're facing better pitching, when you get an opportunity to score a run, you better take advantage of it. And if there's less than two outs, it doesn't have to be a hit."
No, it can be a groundout, like the one Carlos Pena used to drive in a run in the first inning, or like the one that the next batter, Evan Longoria, used to plate another. The Rays put two runners at third base in that inning with less than two outs and scored them both, utilizing the type of textbook baseball that doesn't always find its way into World Series play.
"We've got a young, exciting, fast team," Floyd said, "and we always make the pitcher think about what the heck he's going to do."
Bartlett's squeeze, which helped the Rays send another runner home from third base with fewer than two outs, also helped them become a rare World Series success story. The Rays joined the 2006 Cardinals, the 1987 Cardinals, the 1986 Mets and the 1971 Orioles as the only teams to win a World Series game at home without producing an extra-base hit. Of that group, only the 1987 Cardinals did not go on to win it all.
And what's more impressive is the fact that the Rays don't need to rely on production like that often. They were fourth in the American League this season with 180 home runs, not to mention third with 37 triples. And they entered Game 2 having swatted 23 homers in 12 playoff games.
They'll likely hit some more in the future. But they're pleased to know that they can win regardless.
"I don't feel as though we're showing the country anything different than we've done all year," outfielder Rocco Baldelli said. "This is how we've played since day one. We play low-scoring games a lot, and our pitching staff keeps us in pretty much every game."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.