ST. PETERSBURG -- In a lot of ways, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia are mirror images of each other. Cinderella stories (more Tampa Bay than Philly, of course), strong lineups, good pitching and skippers who manage by the gut.
"It looks like Tampa Bay is on all burners, and what they do, (Philadelphia) does," Dodgers manager Joe Torre was saying late last week after the Phillies finished off his club. "They come out of the bullpen ith arm after arm after arm. You can say all you want about hitting, but pitching controls the game. Philadelphia has a throwback club. They live and die with the home run.
"Of course, you never know how someone's going to react playing indoors."
Especially in quirky Tropicana Field. The Rays rolled to baseball's best home record this season -- 61-27, including the postseason. Philadelphia has not played on artificial turf in more than two years, since July, 2006.
Torre recalled how his Yankees always had mild difficulty adjusting to Minnesota's Metrodome.
And he recalled how impressed he was with Tampa Bay -- then, as Yankees manager, and this year, from afar, watching the Rays mature.
"I'll tell you what, I think we were sitting in San Diego or someplace, and we were watching Tampa play up there during the latter part of the year," Torre said. "And it was at a point where if Boston -- I think they if they (won) a game, they were going to take over first place.
"And I think Tampa had a lead and I think Boston tied it late, and you pretty much said, 'Well that's the end of that. And then Boston took a lead into the ninth inning, and then you knew it was the end of that. And then Tampa Bay comes back and tied it and then won it in about 14 innings."
It was, in fact, the Sept. 10 game -- Tampa Bay won 4-2 in 12 innings in Fenway Park.
"At that point, they made me believers that they're for real and that they could look them right in the eye and not back away," Torre said. "And they're talented. There's no question. ...
"When I looked up there in that September night and saw what was happening, I think I didn't have to pick Boston anymore. Because any time anybody asked me, I had said it's probably going to be Boston based on the fact that they had the experience.
"But (Tampa) just faced that and just went after it. I'm pretty impressed with what Joe Maddon has done down there."