It's never a good time for both your No. 3 and cleanup hitter to enter a prolonged slump, let alone the first four games of the World Series. But that's the predicament the Rays are in with Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, who've combined to go 0-for-29 at the plate with 15 strikeouts. (Like you needed me to rattle off those stats -- Joe Buck and Tim McCarver have repeated them so much I hear them when I sleep ...)
Needless to say, with the entire season on the line, Joe Maddon can no longer cross his fingers and hope for the best. Instead, he'll shake up his lineup tonight, bumping Carl Crawford from fifth to second and moving everybody else down a spot.
In hindsight, this is probably something Maddon should have tried earlier: Crawford has been one of the team's hottest hitters the entire postseason, and now he'll be hitting one spot in front of B.J. Upton, who already has seven home runs so far in the postseason. Plus, they're both extremely dangerous on the basepaths, meaning Longoria and Pena can simply focus on making contact instead of trying to launch every pitch out of the ballpark.
Or something like that. In the end, it may not make a difference: Cole Hamels can make even the best hitters look foolish, and this may be too little, too late. But at the very least I'll give credit to Maddon for trying.
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