After losing Game 3 early Sunday morning, the Rays trail in the series, 2-1, and must do all they can to avoid falling behind, 3-1. So they'll hand the ball to Sonnanstine.
He's the guy who has to endure all the jokes about not being able to break a window with his fastball, which is fine with Sonnanstine. And fine with the Rays, for all he does is win.
"I've had quite a few naysayers throughout my career, when I was in high school, college, Minor Leagues or Major Leagues," Sonnanstine said. "So I kind of take that as a chip on my shoulder, and I feel like I have something to prove at every level, and I think that's helped me have success."
Sonnanstine, 25, will be making his third start of the postseason. All of them have been on the road, and he is perfect thus far. First, he beat the White Sox in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, then he beat the Red Sox in Game 4 at Fenway Park to put the Rays up, 3-1, in the AL Championship Series.
Rays manager Joe Maddon is one of Sonnanstine's biggest supporters, and he likes nothing better than to talk about the right-hander being a winner. Sonnanstine said that support is "huge."
Game 4: TALE OF THE TAPE
|Overall||32 GS, 13-9, 4.38 ERA, 37 BB, 124 K||33 GS, 9-12, 4.69 ERA, 66 BB, 111 K|
|Key stat||3.35 K/BB (eighth in AL)||PHI 11-4 in his starts (incl. playoffs)|
|2008||2 GS, 2-0, 3.46||2 GS, 1-0, 3.27|
|Career||2 GS, 2-0, 3.46||3 G, 2 GS, 1-0, 2.77|
|2008||No record||7 GS, 2-0, 3.55|
|Career||No record||7 GS, 2-0, 3.55|
|2008||No record||1 GS, 0-0, 6.00|
|Career||No record||8 GS, 2-3, 6.05|
|Loves to face||N/A||Jason Bartlett, 2-for-14|
|Hates to face||Matt Stairs, 4-for-12||Carlos Pena, 4-for-7|
|Why he'll win||2.82 ERA last six starts (incl. playoffs)||Has not lost since July 9|
|Pitcher beware||12 HR last 63 1/3 IP on road (incl. playoffs)||4-10 vs. AL this year with OAK|
|Bottom line||Pounds zone||Just win, baby|
"Having confidence in myself is very important, and having the confidence from my very intelligent manager is essential," Sonnanstine said. "I think one of the things that helps me win is working quick. I hate to lose. I love to win. I try to do all the little things that give me a little bit of an edge, whether it's pausing in my delivery, messing up the tempo, working quick or fielding my position.
"And one of the things that I was talking with [Rays first baseman Carlos] Pena about was our time of possession when I'm pitching. That's not a big stat for baseball, but it's something that I like to get out there, take care of business and get my fielders back in the dugout so they can start hitting again. So I think that's one of the things that really helps the whole team out, and that gets us going offensively, as well."
Sonnanstine has never faced the Phillies, but he went 4-0 in five starts against the National League this season, beating the Cubs, Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals while posting a 2.97 ERA.
Despite his success, Sonnanstine is still not considered to be on the same level as Scott Kazmir, James Shields or Matt Garza when you talk about the Rays' rotation, leaving him as the team's fourth starter in the playoff rotation and often the guy who has to pitch with large intervals of time between turns.
"I think the time in between helps me out," Sonnanstine said. "This is one of the longest seasons I've ever been a part of. I showed up about a month early for Spring Training to get my body ready and my arm ready, and I didn't know we'd be playing this late in October. So I think the extra days in between my starts actually help. I've never thrown this many innings before. I'm just going out there and trying to help our team win, and [it feels great to know] that one day I get to throw in the Series."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less