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Thursday, October 23, 2008
Updated: October 25, 9:07 AM ET
Garza turning into Rays' go-to pitcher

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Matt Garza allowed no runs in six starts lasting at least seven innings in 2008.

BIGGER THAN 'BIG GAME'

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

WORLD SERIES GAME 3

Rays at Phillies
Sat., 8 p.m. ET, ESPN Radio
World Series page
James Shields may have the nickname "Big Game," but the Rays will turn to their true big-game pitcher in Game 3 on Saturday night. Matt Garza won the ALCS MVP on the strength of two brilliant performances in beating the Red Sox.

For Rays fans, that shouldn't come as a terrible surprise. This season, when Garza was on, he established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. In his 11 victories, he allowed a total of seven runs. Garza will try to swing the series into the Rays' favor when the teams meet again after a day off.

Matt Garza: 2008 Season in Wins
  Regular season Postseason
Starts 11 2
ERA 0.64 1.38
Opp BA .141 .170

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 22 | Oct. 21 | Oct. 19 | Oct. 18 | Oct. 17 | Oct. 15

LONG BALL AT SMALL PARK?

By Eduardo Perez, "Baseball Tonight" analyst

The interesting part of the transition to Philadelphia will be how Tampa Bay will react to Citizens Bank Park. Even though the Rays play most of their games in a dome, moving outdoors for Game 3 will not be a factor, nor will playing on natural grass.

HOMER HOME

According to ESPN's Park Factor stat, here is where Citizens Bank Park has ranked as a home run ballpark since it opened in 2004:

2008 11th
2007 1st
2006 6th
2005 2nd
2004 5th

What I will be interested to see is if the Rays will be tempted to start swinging for the fences on every pitch. They hit all those home runs against Boston in the ALCS, and if they focus too much on the long ball, they will be playing right into the hands of the Philadelphia pitchers. Game 3 starter Jamie Moyer will be able to feed off any overaggressiveness and start throwing changeups of different velocities and then pound them inside with the fastball, just for show, not necessarily for a strike. I really feel that could be an advantage for Moyer at home.

Hitters during batting practice can go deep almost at will at that park, but when they face major league pitching during the game, they end up swinging at bad pitches, rolling good pitches over and scuffling a little bit in general. That can make them very susceptible to guys like Moyer and Joe Blanton, the Phillies' Game 4 starter.

With that being said, if the Rays' pitchers can keep the ball down and keep the Phillies off-balance, Matt Garza can have success against Philadelphia's lineup. They have Ryan Howard, who always seems to struggle trying to make adjustments during an at-bat. But no matter what happens, it should be interesting to see the way the Rays, who won two out of three at Fenway Park (probably the toughest place to play in the major leagues), handle things when they move to an even smaller park in Philadelphia.

ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips,
Buster Olney, Fernando Vina

BBTN MINUTE: WORLD SERIES GAME 3 PREVIEW

STAT OF THE DAY

Inside Edge One often overlooked factor in the Tampa Bay Rays' transformation from worst to first is the turnaround of their bullpen, which went from a major-league worst 6.16 ERA in 2007 to fifth-best in the majors with a 3.55 ERA this season.

Each member of the current Rays bullpen has toughened up substantially with runners on base:

OPS of Rays current bullpen with runners on base
Pitcher 2007 2008
Grant Balfour 1.117 .512
Chad Bradford .718 .616
Dan Wheeler 1.036 .620
Edwin Jackson .826 .757
Trever Miller .884 .509
J.P. Howell .872 .580
David Price n/a .540

WORLD SERIES NEWS AND NOTES

• Baseball commissioner Bud Selig hopes to shorten the postseason by two or three days next season by eliminating some off days. MLB shifted the start of the World Series from Saturday to Wednesday beginning last year, adding four extra days off. Selig said he likes the Wednesday start but is concerned about weather next year, when the regular season doesn't start until April 5. World Series Game 7 would be on Nov. 5 if the current format is kept. More

THIS DATE IN POSTSEASON HISTORY: OCT. 24

1987: The Minnesota Twins avoid elimination, scoring eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings combined to beat the Cardinals 11-5 in Game 6 at the Metrodome.

1992: Behind Dave Winfield's 11th-inning double, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in Game 6 to capture their first-ever World Series championship.

2000: Benny Agbayani's tie-breaking double in the eighth inning helps the Mets beat the Yankees, 4-2, in Game 3 to end the Yankees' record 14-game World Series winning streak and send Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez to the first postseason loss of his career.

2007: Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia becomes the second player, and first rookie, to hit a leadoff home run in a World Series opener as Boston routs Colorado, 13-1. The last one to do it was Baltimore's Don Buford off the Mets' Tom Seaver in 1969.