Blog Entry

Longoria, Pena ice-cold and it's killing Rays

Posted on: October 27, 2008 2:54 am

PHILADELPHIA -- On one end of Tampa Bay's clubhouse late Sunday night, slumping third baseman Evan Longoria worked on mysteries without any clues.

On the other end following the Rays' disheartening 10-2 stomping by Philadelphia, ice-cold first baseman Carlos Pena searched for the heat.

Together, the two are 0-for-29 with 15 strikeouts in this World Series.

And unless they make a sudden turnaround, the Rays are not going to come back and win this thing.

Not like this.

"They've been pitching well," said Longoria, 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts. "You've got to give a lot of credit to them. They haven't left too many pitches over the plate to hit.

"But when you swing at bad ones and strike out, you can't complain."

Pena is 0-for-13 with six strikeouts.

"We were swinging the bats incredibly well in Boston," he said.

Difference here is, it's an even bigger stage and, more to the point, the Phillies appear to have scouted these two exceptionally well.

Philadelphia went into this series determined not to allow its staff to fall into familiar patterns with individual pitches. It's worked especially well on Pena, who looks completely lost. The Phillies pegged him as a "guess hitter", which is as it sounds: It means that he has a tendency to read counts and guess. When it's a fastball count, he looks for a fastball. Other times, maybe he is guessing slider, or change-up.

He's very proficient at it. He collected 31 homers and 102 RBI this season

He's got one RBI in this World Series. It came on a ground ball to second in the first inning of Game 2.

Longoria, who had 27 homers and 85 RBI this season, also has just one RBI in this series. It also came in the first inning of Game 2, on a ground ball to shortstop.

Other than that, the silence has been deafening.

And, to Tampa Bay, deadly.

"From my old hitting coach days, I can just see what's happening," manager Joe Maddon said. "I've been trying to relate to both of them exactly what the Phillies are trying to do to them. But you have to go up there in the batter's box yourself. ...

"I just think both guys are just out of their game a little bit right now, quite frankly, in regards to their strike zone. If I preach anything to them, it is to not expand their strike zone. Because more often than not ... the Phillies are making good pitches, absolutely, and they've done a pretty good job. But if we stick to our game plan, we'll be able to counter-punch them."

Pena said that the Rays "haven't done well focusing on what we need to focus on."

Longoria said that, "I think I'm just in one of those stages where I'm not locked in. I'm getting maybe two pitches per at-bat to hit. When you're locked in, you hit those pitches. Like tonight against (Ryan) Madson, I hit it foul."

Longoria absolutely crushed a Madson pitch in the eighth, but he was so far ahead of it he pulled it to the wrong side of the left-field foul pole, into the upper deck. He wound up striking out on the at-bat.

He also was unlucky in Game 3, walloping a ball to deep left field that would have been a home run had the wind not knocked it down.

The fixes must be quick, but they will not be easy. Tampa Bay's season is on the line, and the Cinderella story could be over in just nine innings on Monday night.

The Rays simply must keep grinding, Longoria said.

"We've been doing it all year," he said. "We've never given up. We've been written off plenty of times. I think the emotions will be high, and we'll be as excited about this game as any we've played all year."

Category: MLB
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