10/25/08 7:20 PM ET
Maddon goes with Gross for Game 3
Rays manager opts to start lefty hitter against lefty starter
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Gross hit .191 against left-handers this season. Philadelphia starter Jamie Moyer allowed a .240 average against left-handed batters and a .270 mark vs. right-handed hitters.
Maddon conceded the decision to start Gross did not come easy.
"I really was pondering that one a lot," Maddon said. "Again, it's versus Jamie Moyer, the left-handed situation. You look at Jamie -- I've known him for years -- you look at our right-handed hitters versus him, you look at our left-handed hitters against him. Believe me, that one I went back and forth with a lot. I was not comfortable making that decision until I really let it stir a bit."
Gross' swing turned out to be one of the deciding factors.
"The swing path where Jamie likes to throw the ball, I felt Gabe was the best matchup with him, even over our right-handed hitters tonight," Maddon said. "So we chose to go in that direction, and that's quite frankly the reasons.
"Again, not trying to get too smart, but when we have so many options, almost too many options, like in right field, we could go [with] either Ben [Zobrist] or Fernando [Perez] or Rocco [Baldelli], and of course Gabe, and the other guys being right-handed, it looks like you might go that way. For those of you that have watched Jamie pitch in the past, sometimes it might be better left-handed."
Maddon said Baldelli's health was not a factor, even with rain falling pregame and possible wet conditions in the outfield.
Game 3 Lineups
|1) Iwamura 2B||1) Rollins SS|
|2) Upton CF||2) Werth RF|
|3) Pena 1B||3) Utley 2B|
|4) Longoria 3B||4) Howard 1B|
|5) Crawford LF||5) Burrell LF|
|6) Navarro C||6) Victorino CF|
|7) Gross RF||7) Feliz 3B|
|8) Bartlett SS||8) Ruiz C|
|9) Garza P||9) Moyer P|
Gross, who did not get a hit in the American League Championship Series and is hitting just .063 in the postseason, has not played since Game 7 of the ALCS -- and that was as a defensive replacement in right field. Maddon believes that having Gross sit for two games might have relieved him of any pressure he might have been feeling.
"I had that in the back of my mind, [and] the fact that he will take a walk against this guy, I have that in the back of my mind," Maddon said. "And again, just to get away from it and watch for a few days, because he had been so effective in so many moments for us this year and against certain lefties. And here it is, so we think that [Moyer] is that certain lefty."
The other change to the Rays' lineup was due to the loss of the designated hitter for games played in the National League ballpark. That meant switch-hitting Willy Aybar did not start the game, while catcher Dioner Navarro moved up to the No. 6 spot in the lineup.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.