ST. PETERSBURG -- If anything good came out of the Rays' 3-2 loss in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday it was a resurgence of the bullpen.
Wednesday night, the combination of J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller gave the Rays three innings of scoreless relief, which is the kind of effort most remember the group for throughout the 2008 season -- not the way the American League Championship Series concluded.
After surrendering just four runs over 24 2/3 innings in the Rays' first eight postseason games, the bullpen allowed that number to double in the collapse at Fenway Park in Game 5 of the ALCS. And the bullpen would surrender four additional earned runs in the final two games of the series at Tropicana Field.
So the success in Game 1 of the Fall Classic seemed to restore a sense of order for the bullpen.
"That's all we ask, every game we go out there -- give ourselves a chance," Wheeler said. "I was happy the way the bullpen came back. There's a lot of emotion out there. First World Series. First appearance in a World Series. And you've got to kind of be able to settle yourself down to go out there and make some pitches. And we did that."
A major highlight came when Balfour entered the game with two outs in the seventh and runners on first and third. He struck out Shane Victorino swinging to put out the fire. Wheeler felt as though the bullpen as a whole gained momentum from Game 1.
"Absolutely, for the bullpen, to go out there and shut the door," Wheeler said. "We were able to pick each other up. And Balfour was able to come in with the big situation -- first and third -- getting the big strikeout. Then Trever. It's always good when [manager Joe Maddon] calls upon us and nothing needs to deviate from the plan."
Maddon was pleased.
"Our bullpen guys matched up really well with them," he said.
Maddon thought Wednesday night's game gave the bullpen a much-needed lift, particularly Balfour.
"He needed that moment to feel like he'd felt all season," Maddon said. "And again, I thought he did. When he struck out Victorino, it said 97 [mph] on the gun. So that's pretty nice."
Balfour, who was charged with four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 5 of the ALCS -- including a three-run homer by David Ortiz, felt like Wednesday night's outing allowed him to regain his swagger.
"Yeah, for sure," Balfour said. "I had two outings [in the ALCS] where I was a little off. They got that hit that one night. And I'll be honest, I felt like I had a season where everything had gone so good for me, then all of a sudden you've got one night where it didn't and it kind of knocked me off a little bit. It was nice to get back on track."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.