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That home run Longoria hit in March off Hamels, the NLCS MVP, seems like a long time ago. The rookie third baseman delivered a much more key hit in July -- his RBI double in the eighth inning of the All-Star game helped his team win 4-3 in the 15th, giving the AL home-field advantage in the Series.
It's big, because the Rays posted the best home record in the majors. Somehow, they figured out how to play the crazy caroms off the catwalks -- some of those balls remain in play. Still, the Trop Shop remains a good candidate for baseball's first postseason replay.
After starting out the season as 200-1 long shots to win the World Series, the Rays have a chance to become the first club to go from worst in the majors to champs in a single year. Tampa Bay fans also made a lot of noise, clanging their cowbells.
Funny thing, the Phils are one team the Rays have handled through the years -- Tampa Bay is 10-5 against them overall.
To keep winning, Tampa Bay will have to tame manager Charlie Manuel's well-balanced bunch. Behind Howard, the Phillies led the NL with 214 home runs. Hamels, Brett Myers, 45-year-old Jamie Moyer and midseason addition Joe Blanton are backed by Brad Lidge, the closer who's perfect in 46 save chances this year.
Philadelphia went 92-70 to win the NL East, then bopped past Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach its first World Series since 1993. Next up, a chance to add to the title the Phils won in 1980 with Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton at Veterans Stadium.
It's a city aching for a title -- the last one that a major Philly team won came in 1983 by the 76ers.
Citizens Bank Park will host the World Series for the first time a week from Saturday with Game 3, as the Phillies try to reverse a recent run of AL dominance.
The Red Sox swept the World Series in 2004, the White Sox swept the next season and the Red Sox did it last year. St. Louis interrupted the string by defeating Detroit in five games in 2006.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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