Ruiz brings confidence to pitchers
Catcher has grown into his role, becoming a top receiver
When Cole Hamels takes the mound for World Series Game 5 on Monday night, he'll do so with a high level of confidence in his catcher, Carlos Ruiz.
"He's been tremendous," Hamels told MLB.com. "I think this year has definitely been the year for him. Last year was more of a break-in year for him to really get to know the big leagues and to know all of us as pitchers.
"And I think this year, he's definitely stepped up. I think the last half of the season is really when we've been able to connect. We've been able to anticipate pitches. I think it's really hard for a catcher and pitcher to really be together, and that's what we've been able to do through the last half of the season and through the playoffs."
Hamels, of course, has been outstanding himself in the postseason with a 4-0 record and a 1.55 ERA over 29 innings with 28 strikeouts and just seven walks.
Tampa Bay pitchers take their cuts in BP: The Rays pitchers got in some extra batting practice as the series shifted to Philadelphia and NL rules.
The Rays had three right-handed hitting pitchers -- James Shields, Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza -- go against lefties David Price, Andy Sonnanstine and Scott Kazmir in a contest in which points were rewarded for successful bunts and opposite-field hits.
The team of Price, Sonnanstine and Kazmir trailed 11-3 before rallying with three straight home runs before falling 11-10.
"That's the funnest [batting practice] I've ever been a part of," Sonnanstine told the St. Petersburg Times.
Blanton's blast a rare Series occurrence: Not only did Joe Blanton work well from the mound in Sunday night's 10-2 win over the Rays, but he also hit a home run. He became the first pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series since 1974, when Oakland's Ken Holtzman hit one.
"I just close my eyes and swing hard in case I make contact," Blanton told the Philadelphia Daily News.
And when did he finally open his eyes?
"When I went out and had to throw the first warmup at the start of the next inning," he said.
Upton not afraid to make something happen: With Tampa Bay trailing by one run in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday, B.J. Upton took matters into his own hands to tie the game at 4-4.
Upton reached first on an infield single. He then stole second base and followed that with a steal of third. Upton was hit by the ball on the throw to third, and the ball bounced into the stands, allowing Upton to score the tying run.
"He does that a lot, man," Rays pitcher J.P. Howell told the Tampa Tribune of Upton's baserunning ability. "He's a spark. He makes things happen. He can give you momentum just by watching him. He did that all by himself there in the eighth, and we fell short, but we're going to need that tomorrow and in days to come."
Upton ended the night with three stolen bases, tying the record held by Honus Wagner of Pittsburgh (Oct. 11, 1909), Willie Davis of the Dodgers (Oct. 11, 1965) and Lou Brock of St. Louis (Oct. 12, 1967). The two steals in the eighth inning was the first time a player had swiped two bags in one inning since Omar Vizquel of Cleveland did so in 1997.
Howard's blasts the stuff of dreams: Ryan Howard, MLB's regular season home run champion, crushed a pair of home runs in the Phillies' emphatic Game 4 win.
"To be able to have two home runs in the World Series, that's the kind of stuff you dream of when you're a teenager," Howard told MLB.com. "Getting to the game, obviously you want to win also, but being able to do something like that, and just to help my team win, it's a great feeling."
Sonnanstine one of the few still playing: Andy Sonnanstine has become one of the Rays' top pitchers because of his ability to change speeds on his pitches and his arm angle.
A former 13th-round draft pick, his manager, Joe Maddon, has called Sonnanstine a "winner."
"There are guys who are bigger, better and faster," his father, Don Sonnanstine, told the St. Petersburg Times. "Yet he's persevered. He's not a flamethrower, and there are people out there with a better changeup. But there are a lot of pitchers out there drafted much higher than him who are sitting at home watching the World Series on TV. And he's here."
Hamels set to bring confidence to the mound: Cole Hamels doesn't mind being called "cocky" by manager Charlie Manuel.
"I guess that's great that my manager thinks I'm cocky. I don't try to go out there and assume that I'm cocky. I don't want people to, I guess, really think that I'm overstepping my boundaries, because truly, in order to show people that you're good, you have to play well. And that's how I guess you gain your cockiness," Hamels told MLB.com.
"But I think for me it's confidence. Really, I just have the confidence to go out there. I know I can do well. I have a team behind me that believes in me, and I will be able to do the job the right way if I focus, and I guess really hit my locations."
Longoria duped by wind-aided out: Rays manager Joe Maddon believes the wind kept a sixth-inning drive by Evan Longoria in the park in Game 4 on Saturday night. It would have broken a 2-2 tie.
"Longo hit the [heck] out of that ball. If the wind's not blowing in like it was, that ball is way gone," Rays manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Tribune.
Longoria said he was surprised to see the ball not clear the fence.
"I've never seen anything like that before," Longoria said. "I really was just jogging out of the box to see if the ball stayed fair. In my mind, I thought for sure it was going out. I started rounding first and saw [left fielder Pat Burrell] camped under ball -- I was stunned."
Moyer credits tempo for Game 3 success: Jamie Moyer was on his game in Saturday night's 5-4 victory over the Rays in Game 3 of the World Series. After working 6 1/3 innings and giving up just three runs, Moyer said he felt more in sync before the game, and that carried onto the field.
"The difference for me tonight was probably just creating a tempo," Moyer told the Philadelphia Daily News.
He also said that the fans in Philadelphia didn't hurt. "It was very uplifting to walk across the field, even through the puddles, and hear the excitement of the fans," he said. "I really don't pay attention, but you can hear things."
Hinske makes grand entry onto Series stage: Eric Hinske was not on the Tampa Bay roster for the ALCS and was initially left off the World Series roster as well. But with Cliff Floyd slowed by a slightly torn labrum in his right shoulder, the Rays activated Hinske in place of Floyd, who will be out the rest of the World Series. Hinske immediately paid dividends for the Rays when he hit a pinch home run in the fifth inning of Game 4. It was his first at-bat since Sept. 28. During the regular season, Hinske hit .247 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs.
"It's kind of bittersweet because you never want to see anybody get hurt, but, yeah, I'm excited to be active and have a chance to help any way I can," Hinske told the St. Petersburg Times.
Vero Beach complex special to Price: David Price spent time this season at Vero Beach, Fla., longtime home of the Dodgers Spring Training complex. Price liked the facilities so much that instead of renting a nearby apartment, he lived on the Dodgertown campus.
"I loved it," Price told the Los Angeles Times. "Probably the best place I stayed all year."
The Dodgers ended their affiliation with Vero Beach, and the Orioles did not exercise their option to move in, leaving the site without a tenant. Officials have discussed using the site for other purposes.
"Hopefully, they don't ever shut that field down," Price said. "That's a historic site."
Pujols honored with Roberto Clemente Award: Albert Pujols was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given in honor of former Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente. Clemente was killed Dec. 31, 1972, in a plane crash while trying to assist earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The Pujols Family Foundation has been heavily involved in Down syndrome research and supporting the underprivileged in the Dominican Republic.
"I'm truly honored to receive this award," Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He went on to praise Clemente for "giving back to the community. And I feel that's my responsibility, too, whether it's in St. Louis or the United States or back in the Dominican Republic. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you did on the field, it's what you did off the field and lives you touched off the field.
"This is pretty special to me -- not just because Roberto Clemente was Latin, but the lives that he touched and the legacy he left behind for us to follow. Glorify God first and don't forget where we come from."
Thome on hand to cheer on former teammates: Before Sunday night's 10-2 Phillies victory over the Rays, Jim Thome was hanging around -- smiling and enjoying watching his old teammates as they prepared to play in Game 5 of the World Series.
"It's very special," Thome told MLB.com. "I told my wife today coming here, my time here will always be memorable for me. It helped me grow into a person, it helped me grow into a player and ultimately be where I'm at."
And even though Thome would love to be playing with his current White Sox teammates, he's still thrilled for the Phillies.
"I'm so happy for all these guys," he said. "They've worked extremely hard to get to where they're at, and they're like brothers. I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.