The fairytale season of baseball’s upstart overachievers, the Tampa Bay Rays, will most likely be coming to a surprisingly swift end this evening after World Series Game 5. After a disastrous weekend in Philadelphia which saw them lose Games 3 and 4, they now have to face undefeated-in-the-postseason Phillies ace Cole Hamels in an elimination game. Oh, did I mention that Philly hasn’t lost a home game yet in the playoffs?
The Rays made a valiant comeback late in Game 3, and then blew it with pitching and throwing mistakes in the bottom of the 9th that cost them the game, 5-4. Tampa’s pitchers got the crap beat out of them in Game 4, and the team got trounced 10-2 (the first blowout after 3 relatively close contests). The Phillies’ pitching has been uniformly good and their big bats have awakened. Two of Tampa’s best and most important hitters, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria (who bat 3rd and 4th in the lineup), are a combined 0-for-29 (!) in the first 4 games, with at least half of the outs strikeouts–ouch!
Perhaps it’s the cold weather, perhaps it’s their youth and inexperience, perhaps it’s just that the Phillies are just too damn good right now. Whatever the combination of reasons, it appears that this dream ride is over. They’ve been defying expectations all season long, but coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Series in 7? I’m not feelin’ it. But it’s still been an amazing and completely unexpected season of baseball in the Tampa Bay area, and another game or two in St. Pete would be a lot of fun.