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Sunday, October 26, 2008
Sonnanstine, Blanton survive on finesse

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The Rays are more familiar with Joe Blanton, left, than the Phils are with Andy Sonnanstine.

SONNANSTINE SUPER IN TIGHT SPOTS

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

WORLD SERIES GAME 4

Rays at Phillies
8 p.m. ET, ESPN Radio
World Series page
One of the skills that made Andy Sonnanstine a winner in 2008 was his ability to survive troublesome situations. Sonnanstine, 2-0 in the postseason for the Rays heading into Game 4 of the World Series, doesn't have overpowering stuff, but seems to rise to the challenge the closer he is to ending an inning.

Citizens Bank Park may pose trouble for Sonnanstine, but he managed to win this postseason at two more extreme hitter-friendly parks (U.S. Cellular Field and Fenway Park), which isn't easy by any means.

Andy Sonnanstine: 2008 season
Opponents BA MLB Average
With RISP .277 .266
With RISP, two outs .213 .241

Likewise, Joe Blanton doesn't exactly overpower hitters, but he works quickly and throws strikes, and that's enough to cause trouble. Current members of the Rays have hit a combined .233 against Blanton, which bodes well for the Philadelphia starter in Game 4. So does the fact that the Phillies are 11-4 in his starts, including 2-0 in the postseason.

Tampa Bay Rays: Notables vs. Joe Blanton
Carlos Pena .571 BA, 4 H
Carl Crawford .318 BA, 7 H
Jason Bartlett .143 BA, 14 AB, 4 K
Rocco Baldelli .000 BA, 8 AB
Cliff Floyd .000 BA, 6 AB

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 24 | Oct. 23 | Oct. 22 | Oct. 21 | Oct. 19 | Oct. 18

ESPN.COM'S GAME 3 BLOG FROM PHILADELPHIA

That's Gross (12:40 a.m. ET)
ESPN research guru Mark Simon reports that Gabe Gross is the first player to drive in two runs on zero hits in a World Series game since Manny Ramirez did it in Game 6 in 1997.
--Jayson Stark

Common ground (12:35 a.m. ET)
Is baseball a bizarre sport, or what? In Game 2, the Rays became the first team since the 1923 Giants to score two runs in one inning on ground-ball outs. In Game 3, the Rays became the first team to do that since two days ago.

--Jayson Stark

Garza hurt by the homer (12:30 a.m. ET)
Matt Garza faced 82 hitters in his three previous postseason starts against the White Sox and Red Sox -- and served up exactly one home run. He faced 25 hitters in his first World Series start -- and allowed three home runs. And how many times did Garza give up three homers in a game this year? That would be none.

--Jayson Stark

Click here for more from the Game 3 blog

ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
6:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips,
Chris Singleton, Buster Olney,
Fernando Vina

BBTN MINUTE: PREVIEWING GAME 4

STAT OF THE DAY

Inside Edge Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz doesn't garner as much attention as some of the heavy hitters in the front of the lineup, but he stands out from the crowd in one area: his at-bats rarely reach two strikes.

Of the everyday players in the Phillies' and Rays' lineups, Feliz was least likely to put himself in a two-strike hole. Here are the hitters who are most and least likely to take an at-bat to their final strike:

Least likely to reach two-strike count
Hitter Pct. of PA that reach two strikes
Pedro Feliz 38.6 percent
Dioner Navarro 41.9 percent
Shane Victorino 41.9 percent

Most likely to reach two-strike count
Hitter Pct. of PA that reach two strikes
Evan Longoria 54.0 percent
Gabe Gross 54.3 percent
Jayson Werth 63.5 percent

THIS DATE IN POSTSEASON HISTORY: OCT. 26

1985: Umpire Don Denkinger's controversial call on Jorge Orta at first base helps the Royals beat the Cardinals, 2-1, in Game 6 of the World Series.

1996: The Yankees score three runs off Greg Maddux in the third inning of Game 6 and hold on to win 3-2 for their fourth straight victory and their first World Series title since 1978.

1997: The Florida Marlins, only in existence for five years, capture their first World Series crown when Edgar Renteria singles home Craig Counsell with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7.

2000: The Yankees win their third straight World Series, beating the cross-town Mets 4-2 in Game 5 behind Luis Sojo's tie-breaking single off Al Leiter.

2005: World Series MVP Jermaine Dye singles home Willie Harris as the Chicago White Sox defeat the Houston Astros 1-0 at Minute Maid Park to sweep the series and win their first world championship since 1917.