I’ve enlisted the brightest Bleacher Report minds on the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays to impart their wisdom amongst our MLB community. The following is a 10 question Q&A breaking down the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies hitting concerns.
Patrick Gallen – Phillies Co-Community Leader
RD: One of the biggest questions heading into the World Series is whether or not the Phillies will be able to play American League-style ball. Do you think they can? Who’s the DH going to be?
PG: Well, I think they pretty much already do. They are a home-run-hitting team more suitable for the A.L., especially with Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard, two guys who should be DHs. I would DH Greg Dobbs against righties and Burrell against lefties, bringing Eric Bruntlett off the bench to play left field and bat eighth or ninth.
RD: Ryan Howard could well be the key to the Phillies success in the World Series. He has yet to homer this postseason and is hitting only .258 with three RBI. Will the big man come through when it counts most?
PG: Phillies fans should hope so. A home run or two would be nice in this round, but give him the benefit of the doubt, pitchers aren’t giving him anything to hit. I have been his biggest critic, but if you had Pat Burrell behind him and realized that Ryan Howard was unable to hit a breaking ball, you would pitch around him, too.
Teams are doing this and hoping he strikes out. If he doesn’t, then Burrell comes up and he hasn’t been too much of a threat either.
RD: Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, and Jayson Werth all struggled in the NLCS, each hitting under .200. If these three don’t pick up their production are the Phillies toast?
PG: Well, I think certainly the burden rests on Jimmy Rollins to pick up the slack. He is clearly more important than both Feliz and Werth, as he is the leadoff hitter and the driver of the bus. He had a great Game Five against the Dodgers, so hopefully his success can move from that series to the World Series. Werth is streaky, so I expect him to pick it up a bit. Feliz is basically useless at the plate, but he still plays good defense.
RD: Shane Victorino has willed the Phillies to a couple postseason wins with both his bat and glove. The "Flyin’ Hawaiian" is hitting .281 with four runs, two home runs, and 11 RBI this postseason. Can the Phillies win the World Series without a couple huge games from this guy?
PG: I think they can. It seems they get someone new to step up every game, and Victorino just happens to be hot at the right time. He has been the offensive MVP thus far, so any setback would probably hurt them, knowing that the rest of the lineup hasn’t been producing as well as it could. His glove in center field is not an issue; it will always be there.
RD: Which Philly bat has the potential to be the X-factor in the World Series?
PG: Pat Burrell is definitely the guy to look out for. If he’s “Good Pat,” he won’t swing at the ugly outside breaking ball and will pound the fastball. They need “Good Pat,” because the Rays will pitch to Ryan Howard like everyone else has. That means it’s up to Howard to be patient and give Burrell a chance to succeed behind him.
He has the opportunity to show once and for all that he is not the guy Philadelphians see him as. And that, right now, is mediocre.
Scott Birchfield – Rays Co-Community Leader
RD: The Rays are hitting only .268 in the playoffs but have scored a remarkable 64 runs in 11 games. Can they keep up this sort of run production against the Phillies’ pitching staff in the World Series?
SB: It's hard to say. The key is getting Akinori Iwamura on base ahead of Upton, Pena, and Longoria. This will put pressure on whoever the pitcher is. The Rays find ways to put runs on the board, and they will manufacture runs if they have to. Bottom line, they need to score enough to take the pressure off of their starters.
RD: B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria have combined to hit 13 home runs with 26 RBI in their first whiff of postseason baseball. Do these two continue their torrid pace?
SB: Probably not...The Phillies might try to pitch around Upton and take their chances with Carlos Pena. Someone else needs to step up and help in the power department. Although he hit three home runs in the ALCS, I expect Pena to have a huge World Series.
RD: Carl Crawford has been amazing since rejoining the Rays this postseason. He’s hitting .302 (13-for-43), with six RBI, and six stolen bases. Besides the obvious, what has he meant to this Rays team?
SB: He is a major reason the Rays are in the World Series. He was itching to play for a long time, and he provides plenty of energy to go with the power bats of the Rays. He’s also the leader to the team. You could tell the Rays spirits perked up the second Crawford came back.
RD: How do you see Joe Maddon managing the Baldelli/Gross platoon in right field? What is one major advantage/disadvantage of having one guy in the lineup as opposed to the other?
SB: Baldelli is having a better stretch offensively, but both are capable defenders in the outfield. It will depend largely upon who’s pitching. The advantage to having Baldelli in the lineup is his athleticism.
Even though he’s had numerous injuries, he plays all out all the time. Baldelli overall is a better player than Gross, but Gross is an unselfish player that will do anything for the team.
RD: Which Ray’s bat has the potential to be the X-factor in the World Series?
SB: Carlos Pena...If the Phillies pitch around Upton too much, Pena should be able to take advantage.
There you have it, 10 answers to critical hitting questions facing these two teams heading into the World Series.
Thank you to Patrick Gallen and Scott Birchfield for your contributions.
Click here for answers to ten pertinent PITCHING questions
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