June 2008

Ray Finish InterLeague in Winning Fashion

 

 

Rays 4, Pirates 3

 

I was watching an old classic baseball movie last night on Starz and was wondering if the 1919 White/Black Soxs’ might have been the only club that was involved in any  odd hanky panky. 

Baseball’s Game fixing did not start with the 1919 White Sox. Although the Black Sox scandal has come to define the crime to the public . It actually began when the National League was barely one year old.  The first-place Louisville Grays made a number of uncommon errors and mis-guided plays during an East Coast roadtrip, causing them to lose seven games and only win one.

This prompted speculation that the players dumped game, and the pennant intentionally.  And it turns out, they did!

Western Union telegrams linked players with a known gambler and 4 players were banned for life from the game.

The first two decades of the century were filled with  small episodes of baseball coruption. First baseman Hal Chase served as their poster boy, having been linked to several “fixed” contests before finally earning his ban in the Black Sox scandal.

Could this have been a prelude that the Sox might have been charmed by Chase to committ the crime, or could a  greedy owner who did not pay his players a living wage,  been the prelude to the entire scandal.  You be the judge!

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

An embarrassing situation happened when Ebbett’s Field opened on April 15,1913, in Brooklyn. No one could locate the keys to the gates, leaving thousands of fans roaming outside the stadium waiting to be seated.

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The Rays are 6-0 now when Andy Sonnanstine pitches after a Tampa Bay loss.

With that fact in mind, you can summize that the Rays, who now own the BEST record in baseball won against the Pirates 4-3 on Sunday. This win comes on the eve of the Rays playing a 3-game series against their AL East foe, the Boston Red Sox. 

 Missing from this series will be the mani aggressor of the  on-field actions in Boston. Coco Crisp will be serving his suspension during this trip into the Trop, and this might take alot of tension from the series for both squads.

Sonnanstine pitched an effective game going 7 innings of 5-hit, 2-run ball for the Rays. Before this start, Sonnanstine had averaged 5.2 innings in his 17 starts.  Andy threw 98 pitches today and used his off speed pitches to confuse the Pirate batters. Sonnanstine is gaining more confidience in his slider and is usung it more as an out pitch against opponents this year.

 

B J Upton again started this game with a bang.

This is the second day in a row that Upton has lined the first pitch into centerfield to start on base for the Rays. B J  is hitting in the lead-off spot until Akinora Iwamura is back on Wed.

B J  also reached base on a single to left before getting caught leaning off of first base. Upton currently leads the majors in being caught stealing with 10 for the year.

In the bottom of the same inning, the Pirate’s Freddy Sanchez sent a  long fly ball into the gap in left center. Upton closing on the play could not get the ball before it hit the turf.

But instead of picking the ball up and throwing it in, Upton kicked the ball into left and Carl Crawford had to retrive the ball for the Rays.  Upton recived his 7th error on the play. The play also put Sanchez on third with no outs. Jason Bay hit a Sacrifice Fly to score Sanchez from third and tie the score at 1-1.

 

                                 

 

Willy Aybar, filling in for Aki at second, again proved to have the offensive stuff today.

Aybar hit his 3rd homer of the year to left in the 6th to put the Ray up 2-1. It is the 2nd homer of the year from the right side for the switch-hitting Aybar. Aybar went 2-4 today with 2 runs scored and is hitting 257 for the year in his limited role.

 

 

In the 8th inning, Aybar  also hit a single to right, but reached third on a throwing error by Xavier Nady.  Carlos Pena scored on the play to put the Rays up 3-2.

 

       

 

Speaking of limited role players coming up big for the Rays, you have to put back-up catcher Shawn Riggans on the top of that list. 

 Riggans has seen very limited duty with the emergance of Dioner Navarro, and his playing time has diminished considerably this season. Shawn has played in 18 of the Rays’ last 48 games this year.

But in the time he has played this roadtrip, Riggans has almost orchestrated a no-hit bid for the Rays, and come through with clutch hits and moves behind the plate.  Riggans hit a single to center in the 8th inning to score Aybar and put the Rays up  for good, 4-2.

In the 4th inning, Riggans, who also caught Jonny Gome’s pinch-hit homer to the Rays Bullpen on Sat. night, hit a  monster shot over the Rays’ Bullpen in center. It was Riggan’s 4th homer of the season. He also went 3-4 at the plate upping his average to .274 for the year

 

  

 

The Rays Bullpen again came in and got the victory for the Rays. Troy Percival got his 19th save of the year in 22 pitches for the Rays. Troy is curently 2nd in the the majors this season in opponent’s batting average at .140. The only reliever above him is  the Chicago  Cub’s set-up man Marmol, who has blanked the oppostion to a .138 average.

All of Percival’s 332 saves have come in the AL, second only to Mariano Riveria of the Yankees, who has 461 saves.

The Rays have now allowed 4.05 runs a game, this would match the 1931 Philadelphia Phillies for the 4th greatest decrease in opponents’ from one season to the next in the majors since 1900. The Rays are on pace to give up 288 less runs than they did in 2007.

Andy Sonnanstine is also chasing the Rays record for wins before the All-Star break. He currently has 9 wins and trails only Rolando Arrojo( 10 in 1998) and Scott Kazmir ( 10 in 2006).  Wit his win today, Sonnanstine has tied Victor Zambrano also with 9 wins ( 2004) before the break.

 

The Rays will be holding a braodcast auction on Monday with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) to benefit the Rays Foundation and the FRLA Foundation. The auction will be conducted via ION television network and will feature many awesome and one-of-a-kind dining and travel experiences. Here is a short list of some of the items:

The live auction items include four travel and game packages to California’s Wine Country, Boston, Chicago and Toronto.

The auction will also feature a  Celebrity Chef Private Dinner at Tropicana Field  with special guest Dan Wheelerand Dewayne Staats

 A Latin-flavored VIP Dinner with Ybor City’s favorite family, the Columbia Restaurant’s Gonzmart family.

Another great outdoor’s adventure is a golfing four-some, which will include  Rays broadcasters,Joe Magrane and Todd Kalas at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida 

Each of the travel packages includes airfare, accommodations, VIP tour of the city, meals at high end restaurants, and tickets to watch the Rays play other MLB teams in the respective cities.

Bid often, and bid high for these great adventures with the Rays

Rays go Extra Innings to Lose to Pirates

 

 

Pirates 4, Rays 3

 

Considering the game was delayed almost 45 minutes due to a thinderstorm roaming through the area we got treated to a funny and interesting Bloopers reel by FSN.  I was amzed and relieved at the same time that we did not see any early Rays bloopers, or even any Bucs bloopers from the Creamsicle days.

When the game finally got started there was a threat all night of a potential downpour, but just intermitten streaks of rain fell on the stadium crowd. The Rays were dressed as the Jacksonville Red Caps, complete down to the red pocket top on the pants. Pittsburgh was dressed as the Pittsburgh Crawfords for the contest.

I love seeing these old uniforms and hearing the history of these two teams, but hopefully C.C. got one of the Crawford jerseys for himself. I could see Carl sporting that out on the town while shopping for groceries.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

On April 18,1956, Ed Rommel was the first umpire to wear glasses in a regular season game.

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The Way the Rays have been playing the past few months, Rays Manager Joe Maddon looks like a genius. Well, Maddon did himself one better last night by using two pinch-hitters that connected, and reached base for the Rays.

It was kind of interesting that Rays pitcher James Shields was batting in the 12 inning for reliver Gary Glover. Shields was 1-3 on the year at the plate, and truly seemed to enjoy hitting. Shields hit a soft liner back towards the mound that Pirates reliever T J Beam knocked to the ground, but could not get it to first in time to get Shields. Beam was charged with an error on the play.

The first pinch-hitter gave it his all before striking against the Pirates. Jonny Gomes battled for 15 pitches before connecting on a homer to deep center to tie the game at 3-all for the Rays.  It was Gome’s, 2nd pinch-hit homer of the season.  The last time a hitter got a homer on his 15th pitch was Montreal Expos first baseman Termel Sledge on July 7, 2004 when he connected on his 16th pitch off Braves reliever Antonio Alfonseca.

It was the most pitches a Rays batter had ever seen before hitting a home run. The previous best was Jorge Cantu on Aug 29,2006 when he homered on the 13 pitch from Chicago’s Neal cotts.

 

                                  

 

It was another example of a game that Edwin Jackson did not deserve to get a no-decision on the night. Jackson battled and held the Pirates to 3 runs in his 6.2 innings of work.  Jackson gave up 6 hits and struck out 3 on the night.

Jackson has not been given the greatest run support by the offense on the night that he has pitched this season. Jackson has gotten 2.67 runs out of the Rays batters in his 15 starts this season. That is currently the worst run support of any of the Rays starters. Only Jason Hammel has gotten a lower number ( 2.6 ) in a spot start earlier in the season.

 

          

 

The Rays need to step it up for Edwin when he is on the mound. Because of this lack of power when he is on the mound, the opinion is that he is not a great pitcher. When in reality, he is head over heels better than last season in all areas of his game. His pitches were consistant last night and he only got in a jam once for the Rays. When you have an offense like the Rays, 3 runs allowed in a game should get you a victory.

Jackson is tied with Scott Kazmir for second on the team in quality starts with 7 for the year.

 

The Rays started the game looking like they might blowout the Pirates for the second night in a row.  B J Upton hit the first pitch of the game out to center. Carl Crawford came up next and hit another single to center to move Upton to third.  Crawford the  stole second for his 20th base of the season.

 Evan Longoria came up and hit a Sacrifice Fly to score B J , and it looked like another long night for the Pirates.  In the bottom of the 6th, Eric Hinske doubled to deep left. Dioner Navarro came up and singled to center and Hinske came around to score for the Rays.

The Rays collected  10 hits off Pirate’s pitching, with Jason Bartlett getting 2 hits.

 

The Rays will reach the All-Star break as only the 8th team to post a winning record the season after having the worst record in the league. The Rays are .166 percentage points better this season than last season at this point, the best in the majors this year.

The Rays had their 4-game winning streak snapped last night in their 4-3 defeat at Pittsburgh. It was the Rays longest road winning streak since June 15-22, 2004. The Rays are 10-4 in the last 14 games, all against NL teams.

The Rays will play their 81st game today in Pittsburgh. They are currently on a pace to win 97 games, which is an increase of 30 games over 2007, which would be the 10th best imporvement since 1900, and the best ever by a team that was the worst team in the league the prior year. The current record is 94 wins held by the 1991 Atlanta Braves.

Carl Crawford needs 3 steals to become only the 9th player since 1900 to reach 300 steals before the age of 27.

The Rays Bullpen has held opponents to a .211 batting average this season. If the season ended today, it would rank as the 3rd best  by a MLB Bullpen in the last 50 years. Last year, the opponents batted .303 off the Bullpen, the third highest in the last 50 years. 

The Bullpen’s ERA this year is 3.16, best in the majors. Last season it was 6.16, the worst in the last 50 years

 

Longoria and Hinske homer to blow past Pirates

 

 

Rays 10, Pirates 5

 

 

When you begin to come into view of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the thing that catches your eyes is the magestic and magnificient splendor that is the Roberto Clemente Bridge. This river by-way is the perfect way to stroll into the ballpark for another night of great baseball, and of course, a Rays win.

When you enter Jacob’s Field/Progressive Field, it is the fact that you are above the main bowl of the stadium and all the action is below you. The fat that there is a monster wall in leftfield, and a scenic picnic nook in center is not lost on the effects of stadium’s collossial scoreboard.  Every stadium in America has a unique feel and has a signature element  to it that sets it apart from all other stadiums. What is it that set the Trop apart from everywhere else in the majors?

First thing that comes to mind is the AC.  74 degrees year round and no showers in the forecast. No birds flying in and taking that last frie, or any army of ants or flying pests beside the occasional horsefly visit on your cup.  But the thing that most people think of when they think Trop. is………………catwalks.

I know, I know. If the stadium had been built 5 years later, it might look more like Camden Yards with a roof, or Safeco Field with its gigantic three paneled monster ceiling. It might have a fans design, a sail design, or maybe, just maybe a retro-modern take on the tin roofs of Key West.  The catwalks are the things people seem to be curious and comment about the most.

 No matter if no one hits one for an entire series, you have to go through the “Trop Catwalk speech” so visitors know what is going on when the pinball bounces. Shane Hillebrand and Carlos Pena have planted ball on the catwalks, Jonny Gomes has hit them more than any other Ray( 7 times), but they are still that X-factor that can turn a game from a serious adventure to a joke in a nano-second on ESPN or another sports show.  Let’s hope that the MLB does give us a All-Star game based on upgrades and committment by both the team and the ownership group…………..We deserve to show America our playground, and they can play by our rules.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Fernando Venezulea is the only person to win the Rookie of the Year award and Cy Young Award in the same season.

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Why again did we send Evan Longoria down in Spring Training to the minors?  For game seasoning.

 

 

Well, the Rookie is actually becoming the big cheese for the Rays this year by hitting his 3-run homer to left center that was clearly over 410 feet from the plate. It was Longoria’s 15th homer of the year to lead both the club and put some distance on his MLB Rookie lead over Joey Votto( Reds) and Geovany Soto ( Cubs).

 

                         

 

Not only did Evan hit a critical 3-run shot that brought Tampa Bay it’s 48th win of the year, but Longoria was not done there. 

Longoria now has 3-straight games of at least 3-hits and 1 homer. The last rookie to have such a streak was Johnny Fredrick of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1929.  Longo lead all rookies, and is 8th in the AL in Slugging Percentage at .540 for the year, despite missing the first 11 games of the year while in the minors.

He has a chance to be only the third rookie in the last 50 years to have 15 homers, 20 doubles, and 50 RBI’s by the All-Star break. The others were Devon White (1987), and Fred Lynn (1975). And his 15 homers is the most by a rookie before the All-Star break since Bob Hamelin of KC  (16 homers) in 1994.

 

             

 

And it was not a one-man show for the Rays Friday night. Eric Hinske also got into the act by hitting his own 3-run shot 2 rows short of going out of PNC Park. If the wind would have carried it a few more yards, Hinske would have been only the 23rd person to hit one out in that location in the stadium’s history.

Longoria went 4-5 last night, but Hinske’s 2-3 was not overshadowed at all by the rookie. Hinske also scored 3 times for the Rays in the win.  Hinske now has 13 homers and is tied with Carl Crawford with 44 RBI’s for the squad.  Crawfoird also went to deep center in the 6th inning.

 

          

 

But the true story of the night was Rays starter Scott Kazmir. Kazmir began the game in dominating style until he ran into some trouble in the 4th inning. Scott had been mixinng his pitches well, but had a loose control on his slider tonight and it cost him with a homer to Freddie Sanchez in the bottom of the 4th.

Scott tried to get a great handle on the slider, but it was not breaking great tonight and slipped  up and over the outside corners to give up 4 runs in the 4th inning.  Kazmir got only 4 strikeouts in 5 innings of work, and also got his 7th victory of the year for the Rays.

Tonight was also the first game back for Carlos Pena, who had been on the DL for 15 days to heal a broken finger on his throwing hand. Rays Manager Joe Maddon moved Carlos down into the 6th slot in the order to not put extra pressure on Pena until his hand is fully healed. Carlo went 0-4 tonight, but took some mean swings on the bat and hit a few monster fly balls.

Maddon always comments that when Carlos hit them(pitches) a mile, even for outs, he is close to regaining his stride and the rest will take care of itself. 

For the first time in a long while, Rays reliever J P Howell got roughed up a bit by an opposing team. Howell, who is 6-0 this season, has been the glue that has held the seams between the Bullpen and the starters this year. 

J P lasted 1 inning and gave up 2 hits and a lone run to the Pirates. He currently has a 3.02 ERA, and is a huge part of the Rays Bullpen that have held opponents’ to a .213 average, best in the majors this year.

 

Please note for the Boston Series beginning Monday, tickets still remain for all 3 games at the Trop., but fans are urged to purchase tickets in advance due to the large crowds expected for the series.

The Rays are 9-1 at home with crowds over 30,000 fans, and 11-2 in front of crowds of 25,000 or more this year.  The Rays have drawn 867,648 fans thru 43 home games, an increase of 42 percent over last year.  Only the Washington Senators, who moved into their new ballpark has a double digit increase with 20 percent so far in 2008.

             

                                  

 

Akinora Iwamura will miss the nest 3 games to fulfill his suspension in his actions during the last Boston series. Aki was not granted any reduction in the length of the suspension, while Boston outfielder Coco Crisp suspension was reduced from 7 to 5 games.

“I was very disappointed that my hope didn’t come through,” Iwamura said through an interpreter. “It hurts me that I cannot start the first day against Boston. But at the same time, it’s decided by the Commissioner and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Aki will miss the rest of the away series against the Pirates, and the first game of the Red Sox series at home.

Crisp, on the other hand, will miss the entire Red Sox-Rays series next week.

Major League Baseball’s decision “baffles” Rays manager Joe Maddon. The third-year skipper said he will seek an explanation from the appropriate decision-makers.

“I don’t agree with it at all,” Maddon said. “I think it should have been reduced. I think it’s way too severe because of the fact that we were reacting to the situation, and furthermore, the guy [Crisp] that pretty much created the entire moment gets his reduced by two days.

“Honestly, none of that makes any sense to me whatsoever.”

Garza Just Misses Immortality

 

 

Rays 6, Marlins 1

 

It was reported on the Montgomery Advertiser yesterday that Rays uber prospect Jake McGee will  have to undergo season ending elbow surgery next week. The Biscuit starter was put on the DL a few days ago, but an MRI revealed a torn elbow tendon and a ommyJohn’s surgery looks to be in McGee’s future.

 

This could have been a huge blow to the Montgomery Biscuits third straight SAL title, but the Rays had promoted David Price and Jeremy Hellickson days earlier and should fit both into the rotation without a problem.  McGee flew to Tampa to see the Rays orthopedic doctor, Koko Eaton, nd was to see r. James Andrews after the weekend to confirm the diagnosis.  If he requires Tommy John’s surgery, McGee will be lost for up to a year and a half for the Rays minor league system.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

In 1953, respected and innovative National League umpire Bill Klem was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

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Rays starter Matt Garza (6-4) will remember this game against the Florida Marlins for a long time. Not because he got his 6th victory of the season, or the first complete game of his career, but for the lone floating slider that changed the day for him and the Rays. There is still no doubt that te series sweep of the Marlins in Miami made for a fantastic airline flight to Pittsburgh, but what might hve been will be in his head for a few days.

 

            

 

On the first pitch that Marlin’s shortstop Hanley Ramirez saw in the bottom of the 7th inning, he drilled into the leftfielder bleachers above the huge scoreboard. It was the only pitch that Garza would want to take back all day long. It took not only his shutout away, but a chance at Rays immortality………. a no-hitter. 

 

                 

 

According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.

 

 

 

The Rays are now a franchise high of 15 games over .500, and have 4 more vicotries than they have ever achived before the All-Star break in the teams short history. They are also 7 games better than they have ever been after 77 games.

 

The Rays have been above .500 for 57 straight days and 61 total for the season, both club records.  Prior to this season, the Rays have been above .500 for only a combined 72 days in the last 10 years.

 

                                         

 

Rays rookie Evan Longoria has been given many nicknames in the last few months, “Evan Almighty,” “The Natural”, and “Longo”. The last one is a reference to an Alex Karas character in “Blazin’ Saddles,” and Evan might just be fitting of the name.

 

He is one of the main reason this team has been on a roll the past two months. Since coming u from Triple-A, the Rays have been pretty hard to beat every night, which is a rareity in Tampa Bay. 

 

Yesterday just added to the ever increasing legend that is “Longo:”

 

Evan Longoria had three hits (two doubles and a home run) in the Rays’ win on Thursday, after notching three hits (a single, double and homer) in Tampa Bay’s 15-3 win over the Marlins on Wednesday night. Longoria is the fourth player in Rays franchise history to have consecutive games with at least three hits and one home run. The other Tampa Bay players to do that were Aubrey Huff (2004), Jorge Cantu (2005) and B.J. Upton (2007).

 

The Rays are now 9-5 in Interleague this season their highest total since 2006 when they had 11 wins. With a sweep in Pittsburgh they can establish another record this season for total victies in Interleague play.

 

Along with Longoria and Garza’s efforts, came the bat of back-up catcher Shawn Riggans for the Rays.  Riggans has seen very limited action this year with the emergence of Dioner Navarro both at the plate and behind it for the Rays.

 

Riggans responded going 1-3 with 3 RBI’s for the Rays.  Riggans hit a sacrifice fly in the seond to score B J Upton from third, and hit a double to deep centerin the 5th inning to score Upton and Longoria.

 

Shawn also called a great game behind the plate for the Rays, that only saw Garza in trouble a few times theentire game. Garza only walked one Marlin, Jeremy Hermida, in the 4th inning.

 

Shortstop Ben Zobrist also hit his second homer in two days in the 8th innig to complete the scoring for the Rays.  Zobrist is now hitting .292 since coming up for the Rays.

 

With the expected return of both Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena on Friday in Pittsburgh, th Rays will have to make some roster moves befre the Friday night game. 

 

I am thinking we might see Troy Percival go on the DL for another 15 days, and itwill not be his decision.  That will either happen, or a Rays relievers’ will be sent down or put on waivers and hopefully pass through to stay with the team.

 

And I think based on the numbers and the experiecetis year, Ben Zobrist might be the odd gy out unless atrade can be reached for another infielder on the team. I kowthat Zobrist needs consistency in his routine, and it is a shame he will/has to be the fall guy this time.

Worst case is the fact he has only been off the DL for 7 games now, both  in Durham and Tampa Bay, and might need a bit more seasoning to get I great game shape for th team.  Let’s hope that all goes well and something truly positive can come out of all this for every player involved in the roster moves.

 

Tonight we start a 3-game series in Pittsburgh. I want to tell you about a unique thing they do in the Steel City before every game. They close the Roberto Clemente bridge to auto traffic and let the stadium patrons walk the bridge o the stadium. It is one of the truly unique things in baseball. You get to travel the roads on foot to the ballpark before and after the game…..without dodging traffic.

 

The Rays are visitng PNC park for the second time in their history, losing 2 of 3 in June 2005. They are 2-4 All-Time against the Pirates, who have former Ray  infielder Chris Gomez playing for them this year.

 

 

The Pirate will be bringing up rookie Jimmy Barthmaier for his MLB debut against the Rays. Barthmaier, a 13th-round Draft pick in 2003, will be making his first Major League appearance when he makes Friday’s start for the Pirates. The right-hander has combined to go 4-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 10 Double-A and five Triple-A starts. In his most recent start, Barthmaier threw six innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out eight. He has shown better control with both his fastball and breaking ball since being promoted to Triple-A in late May, allowing just six walks in 31 2/3 innings.

 

Look closely at the picture above of Barthmaier. Is it jus me, or are there not color to his pupils in the picture.  Might be a Vulcan robot plant to supress the Rays victory celebrations.   Just Kidding, he might just have some wild contact lens for gamedays.  Can we get the entire pitching staff  a set of those Joe?

 

 


Rays Put 10 runs Early on Marins

 

Rays 15, Marlins 3

 

With the Rays putting the stadium referendium in the wastebasket for now, the question is still………….When will they want a new stadium?

 

Will they wait until 2010, when St. Petersburg has a different mayor and probably a similar City Council membership, or will they just build on the other sites without needing a vote by the citizens.   We shall see.

 

What is really amazing, is that the other sites in the incorporated St. Petersburg city limits do not need a voters’ approval, only the waterfront area needs a yes or no from the city faithful.  Maybe they are waiting for a winning product on the turf that could exhilerate and intensely increase the passion and vigor for another stadium.

 

I have told people for several weeks that MLB doesn’t like the Trop. You will not see an All-Star game or that special week of activties that could bring in millions to the local economy until the Rays move, or have a stadium agreement in place…………millions of dollars for the bay area, and the waterfront could have been a perfect postcard for such an event.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

From 1855 to 1892, the baseball bat could have one flat side.

 

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Carl Crawford hit 2 homers last night to pace the night for the Rays against the Florida Marlins. Crawford now has 5 homers on the season and 43 RBI’s for the Rays. He also got 5 RBI’s last night and scored twice. That puts Carl in a tie for 6th in the AL in runs with 50 runs scored. His 43 RBI’s put in the Rays team lead, and moved Crawford into 2nd in the majors in Inter-league batting average with .432 . Carl also batting .478, with 3-hrs, 9-RBI’s and a .893 Slugging Percentage since coming back off his 6 game suspension.

 

 

The Rays 15 runs last night were the most scored by the team since their 17-2 win over Baltimore at home last Sept.5th, and the most scored on the road since a 15-8 victory at Baltimore Aug. 28th.  It also matches their best road Interleague total ever, a 15-5 win over the NY Mets at Shea on June 4,2000.

 

The Rays got 10 runs in the 5th inning last night, the 5th time in club history they have reached that amount. The current team record for a inning is 11 runs, which has been done twice by the Rays in the past. The first 9 batters scored in the inning last night, a first by the team. And it was the first time in the majors since the N Y Yankees did it last Sept 29against the Orioles.

 

                          

 

 Nine straight Rays reached base in the frame, one short of the club record ( 10 vs. Oakland on May 31, 2002). Evan Longoria homered and singled in the inning, making him the 24th Ray to get 2 hits in a single inning. Carl Crawford and Ty Wiggington were the last two against Boston on Sept 26, 2006.

 

         

 

Rays Starter James Shields pitched a great game for the Rays. He has good control on all his pitches, and got strikeouts when he needed them last night. Shields picked up his 5th win to even his record at 5-5 for the year.  He went 7 innings and gave up 4-hits and a lone run before exiting the contest with the Rays up 14-1.

 

Shields also got a hit, going 1-3 last night and scored 2 runs and got an RBI last night.

 

         

 

Every starter for the Rays got a hit last night aginst the Marlins, with several having great multi-hit nights. Eric Hinske went 2-5 last night with 2 doubles. Carl went 2-5 with his two monster homers, and Longoria went 3-6, missing the cycle by a triple.

 

Dioner Navarro went 2-4, and Ben Zobrist went 2-6 to rasie his average to .286 and got his first homer of the year for the Rays.  Zobrist did not start the night out great filling in for Jason Bartlett.

 

Zobrist started the game by committing 2 erros at short before settling down and playing great the rest of the evening. It was not a picture perfect night in the field for the Rays. B J Upton also got an error on a catch, and Akinora Iwamura got hit with his first error of the year.

 

What is surprising about Aki’s error is the fact, he did not have to try and complete the double play since the runner was too far up the basepath, but Aki knew that a double play would end the game for the Rays.

 

             

 

After stepping on second for the force out, Aki threw a forced ball toward Willy Aybar at first. The ball went 8 feet north of the base and flew to the field borders for an error. Aki was the last second baseman in the AL to committ an error this year.

 

 

The Rays 10-run inning was only the 2nd time in 2,903 all-time Interleague games that the ROAD team had a 10-run inning, the last was the St. Louis Cardinals in Oakland last June.

 

The Rays now have 15 series wins this season, one more than all of last year. The Rays will also be looking for their club record 6th sweep of the year, and the first on the road this year.

 

The Rays have now won their 4th series all-time in Miami. It is also their second straight series, and their 4th Citrus Series in 7 years.

 

Rays Walk It Out to Victory

 

 

Rays 6, Marlins 4

 

It was suggested in today’s St. Petersburg Times, that the Rays might back off the November 2008 proposed election referendium and set their sights on a 2010 renewal of the stadium proposal.

 I am not sure if the POWW has that kind of political power to supress this referedium, but the Rays might be doing it more for future public and civic approval than anything else right now. 

If you remember in the past, the city of Seattle was about to lose their fair Mariners’ to the Tampa Bay ownership group. They had asked for a better arena then the outdated and decaying Kingdome, and were met with heavy resistance from local leaders.

Then the Tampa Bay ownership group came in with a price, stadium in place for instant credibility, and the finances to move and refit the teams’ image to suit the Florida enviorment.

Seattle moved quickly and secured the land and the  stadium money to execute theconstruction of Safeco Field. They saved their team and their civic pride by getting a updated and positively breathtaking venue, both in views and  overall stadium construction.

 Do not forget, that a large Japanese company came out and bailed the civic leaders in the last moment and became the new home-based ownership group.

Nintendo was a huge player in the gaming industry at the moment, and could easily bypassed the Mariners and gotten a bigger name team for their coffers. But, Seattle fit the Nintendo need and also gave them a foothold in the AL.

Who knows what will play out in the coming weeks concerning the new proposed stadium.  Hopefully the Rays are using this time to regroup the parking situation, re-configure the building complexes and entertainment areas, and secure a better positive public opinion in the local community.

Just remember, if the Rays put a stadium on either the Toytown, or the present site, they do not need voters’ approval………keep that in the back of your mind.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays played the most All-Star games with 24 each.

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First off, Congratulations to Akinora Iwamura for hitting his 200th HR of his professional career.

Aki , with a 3-2 count,hit a 2-run blast to right to score Andy Sonnanstine in the 3rd inning to put the Rays up 2-1. Aki also scored two runs to go with his 2 RBI’s for the night.

Aki also went 3-5 on the night and missed  cycle by only a triple. Aki  also got a single to right in the 8th inning, and a double to deep center in the 9th inning.  Aki is currently hitting .273 for the Rays in the lead-off position.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Aki is in unique company this season.  Aki is only the second player in the last 75 years to  play over 100 games at 3rd as a rookie, and over 100 games at second the following year. The other was Cub’s immortal Ryne Sandberg in 1982-83.

 

          

 

The Rays took a very unique way to win this ballgame down at Dolphin Stadium. They used the walk as an offensive weapon in the 8th inning.

The Rays’ batters took advantage of Marlin’s reliever Joe Nelson’s wildness and turned it into a positive for the night. Nelson  came on in relief with no outs in the 8th inning for Renyel Pinto.

          

 

Nelson continued the rough  inning by having 4 straight batters ( BJ Upton, Dioner Navarro, Evan Longoria, Eric Hinske) sitting at the plate with either a 3-1,or 3-2 count.

               

 

Nelson did have two outs before walking Navarro and Hinske with the bases loaded to put the Rays up 4-3.

 Nelson did not last the inning and was replaced by ex-Rays Justin Miller, who got Jason Bartlet to ground out for the final out of the inning.

 

                           

 

Evan Longoria had a long night South Florida. Earlier in the game, he was blinded by the lights over the Marlins bench on two pop-ups down the third baseline, one behind third, and the other in foul territory and could not execute the outs.

Evan was seen waving his hands and hoping that either Navarro or Bartlett could complete the plays for the Rays.

To complicate the matter, outfielders’ Carl Crawford and B J Upton could not hal in two long drive to the gap in left-center that both fell in  for doubles in the inning.  It was not a great defensive night for the Rays, with Carl Crawford getting an error on one of the catches off the wall in left.

 

                

 

Rays starter, Andy Sonnanstine did not have a great beginning to his night either for the Rays. If you remember his last start against the Marlins, Andy gave up 3 straight hits to start the game before settling down and pitching a great game. 

Tonight was more of the same for Sonnnstine as he gave up a double to Hanley Ramirez to open the contest, and he scored on the single to Jeremy Hermida to put the Marlins up 1-0 in the 1st inning. Sonnanstine then had two wild pitches to the backstop before gaining his composure and ending the inning striking out Dan Uggula.

 

                

Andy went 5 innings and gave up 6-hits and 2-runs for the Rays. Sonnanstine had faced 23 batters in the game and ended with 5 strikeouts.  J P Howell came on the the 6th for Sonnanstine.

J P pitched 2 innings and gave up a hit and a run to the Marlins, but the Rays scored 1 run in the top of the inning to put him in line for the victory. Howell leads the A L  in innings pitched in relief with 52.2 innings.

Howell is the leader among MLB relievers’ with 6 wins and is 1 win shy of the Rays club record for wins by a reliever. J P has posted a 0.92 ERA since May 8th, going 6-0 for the team.

Before this year, he had only been used in relief in the minors with Rookie-level Idaho Falls for 2 appearances in 2004.

 

 

I enjoy watching Troy Percival pitch. I actually like to watch him just before taking the Bullpen mound as he does his military push-ups and stretches like a Yoga instructor to get his back ready for the torque of pitching. He also starts his throwing with long throws ( for a Bullpen area) and even tries and “pops” the glove in warm-ups.

But when he goes out to the mound in that determined walk, and his eyes show no mercy in them, you know he is ready for battle.

But lately, he hs not been the “lights out” Troy we came to expect before his short stint on the DL after a hamstring incident in Oakland.

 I really believe that he is still smarting a bit, but is playing through the pain. He showed evience of that in his pitching performance last night against the Marlins.

 At one point, Percival seemed to fall by the wayside of the mound and Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Trainer, Ron Porterfield came out to talk with Percival. Troy tried to wave them off before they got to the mound, but they still came out and evaluate the situation with Troy.

Troy went on and had an ackward first few batters by his standards. He came out and got pinch-hitter Luis Gonzalez to strikeout.

Then issued walks to Ramirez, Hermedia, and Jorge Cantu. Percival then got Josh Willingham, fresh offthe DL himsef, to ground to third and Evan Longoria got the force at second for the 2nd out.

Percival then walked Dan Uggla to put men at 1st and 2nd for the Marlins. Troy then got  Mike Jacobs ground out to second to end the game.

 

 

The save was Percivals 18th in 20 chances for a 90 percent rating for the year. Opponents are batting .140 aainst him this year, second in the majors.  Last night’s save was also number 342 of his career.

That number is huge, because it put’s him im sole posession of 9th place on the All-Time saves list. Last night, Troy went past the legendary Rollie Fingers to now own 9th place.

Troy also saved all 3 games in the sweep agains the Toronto Blue Jays in May, the first time a Rays reliever has ever saved all 3 games in a series. Lifetime, opponents have batted .184 against him, the lowest among any pitcher with at least 400 appearances in his career.

 

Again, congrats Troy, it could not have happened to a better guy.  And to think, last year a this time you were retired.

 

 

Backe Hands Ex-Team a loss, and wake-up Call

 

  

Astros 3, Rays 2

 

 

I want to start tonight’s blog by thankng the Rays and their staff for a fantastic evening at Gameworks in Ybor City on Sunday night.

 

I know all the Rays’ Season Ticketholders’ will agree it was a great night with prizes, games and outstanding foods galore.

 

The chocolate fountains decked in the Rays’ light blue,yellow and white color scheme was a true hit both to the tastebuds and the eyes. 

 

Players’ like Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Justin Ruggiano, Gary Glover, Grant Balfour, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine came and spent time with the Fans.  Oh, and Jonny Gomes was stationed at the front bar and was buzy with photo ops the entire night.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon was also there to hold court with the Rays faithful about the game and his views.

 

Thank you again to all the Rays staffers and the front office for offering such a great time at the halfway mark in our home 2008 schedule.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher to ever hit 2 grand slams in the same game. He did it with the Atlanta Braves on July 3, 1966.

 

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The Rays let a good pitching performance by Scott Kazmir get away by not getting the usual timely hits and runs and ended up losing to the Astros on Sunday. Kazmir pitched 5.2 innings, and gave up 4 hits for 3 runs against the Astros. He also got 7 strikeouts to move up to 18th plce on th AL strikeout list with 68 K’s. Considering Kazmir missed about 4 starts due to his elbow strain, he might be on track to defend his A L Strikeout crown from last season.

 

 

 

I heard a Ray’s fan before the game on Sunday call Rays rookie Evan Longoria ,”The Natural.”  If he keeps hitting like this, and fielding like it is routine plays as usual, I can see him getting that moniker for  a long time with the team.

 

Longoria hit his 12th homer of the season to leftcenter in the 2nd inning off Astro’s starter, Brandon Backe.

 

Longoria had worked the count to 3-1 before Backe threw a soft curve over the plate, and Evan deposited it in Section 145 for a 2-run homer. Eric Hinske, who has walked on 4 pitches also scored on the play for the Rays. The blast tied Evan with Hinske for the team lead in homers, and also tied him for the MLB rookie lead with the Red’s Joey Votto, and Geovany Soto of the Cubs.

              

                             

 

B J Upton has some of the most misleading staistics on the Rays this season. This is a guy who some publications had thought might be the Rays first “30-30″ guy this season. That has not materialized yet, but some of his stats do show an aggressive nature and some play discipline at times. But his numbers are all over the place and did not show the consistant nature needed for the Rays right now in their 3 or 4 hitter.

 

B J  is first in the AL in being caught stealing with 9, but is also 3rd in steals with 22 for the year. He is also currently ranked 8th in the AL in On-Base Percentage (OPS) at .399, and is tied with Eric Hinske for top RBI’s on he Rays with 38 this year. Upton is also  not in the top 30 in extra base hits this year.

 

His outfield play has been remarkable going to the ball on a run, or over his head and running to the ball. But, his play with the ball in front of him, or communicating from his centerfield position have led to a few errors and hits for the opposition.  B J  is currently ted foir 1st with 8 outfield asists this year.

 

Upton is still learning the ways of playing center in the big leagues, and he is getting better every game, but at some point you have to take the gloves off and tell him to be aggressive coming in on the ball and demanding the ball with his voice if he has a play on it on the gaps. He will get better with time, and might just be one of the leagues best in a few seasons.

 

 

I really hate it when a bad play by the opposition gets turned 180 degrees and becomes a positive for them. Case in point on Sunday, Dioner Navarro reached base in the 4th inning with a double to center. Gabe Gross comes up next and lines a ball to right that trickles a bit to righfielder Hunter Pence.

 

Pence not known for his throwing arm , get an ugly and lazy throw to home redirected inflight about a quarter of the way up the line towards third base. Navarro is trying to score from second, and is way ahead of the throw to the plate, but as he rounds third, the ball comes up the line and meets him in stride to be tagged out by Astros’ catcher Humberto Quintero for an out.

 

In a perfect world, Navarro would have the wheels to beat the throw, but a bad throw turned into an out by pure luck, not by skill. So Pence ended up with an outfield assist on the play and should consider it a gift from the Rays.

 

 

After Sunday’s contest, the Rays made a roster move in an effort to bring in some infield help for the Marlins series. Starting shortstop Jason Bartlett will miss a few games to be with his wife for the birth of their child. 

The Rays sent Justin Ruggiano back to the Durham Bulls and brought up Ben Zobrist as an insurance policy if and when Bartlett leaves the team. Zobrist will play in place of Bartlett until his return during the Pittsburgh Pirates series this weekend. 

 

 

During the homestand, I met a few fans who were Chicago Cubs fans becuase they could notet the Rays telecasts all the time in the Fort Meyers, Naples area of the state.

 

Well, as of  June 29th, the Rays will be WXCW-TV. CW-6 will be te latest member in the growing Rays Network broadcast team.  The station canbe viewed on Cable Channel 6 in Ft. Meyers, Cape Coral and Naples.  In Port Charlotte, it is located on channel 11 as well as on the over-the-air antenna station 46. 

 

Both these stations will have a select number of Rays games for the rest of the season.  Check yourlocal listings for te games to be broadcast in this new Rays region.

 

 

Rays take “Celebration” to New Highs

 

 

Rays 4, Astros 3

 

Kool and the Gang is alive and well during 80′s Night at the Trop. The Band went wild and did their Caribbean Strut last night and reminded all of us why we loved the 80′s.

The hits came again, and again, and the dancing went on almost 7 rows behind me. The crowd was so into this band that if you were not there, you first missed a great ballgame, and you missed Kool and the Gang. I was a College lad in the early 80′s and I danced many a night to these songs in the low lite bars of Gainesville and the Tampa area hideaways.

It made me remember what I love about my early life. Clean, simple music with a message and a meaning.  Do not foget, on July 5th, the band Loverboy will be at the Trop trying to get everyone ready for the weekend, and I will be loving every minute of it ( sorry for the word puns).

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Triva Fact of the Night:

On October,9,1951, Gil McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam in a Wrold Series game.

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During the game Saturday night, the Astros’ Carlos Lee came into Akinora Iwamura with a intended slide to disrupt his throw to first.

As you can see in the picture above, the umpires got it wrong when they decided the baserunner did not intentionally try and take out Aki outside the  2nd basepath area. The photo clearly shows Lee trying to do everything but take Aki down for a 3-point wrestling take-down.

Such a move is commendable if it is on-line with the base, and in the course of a game, used to disrupt, not hurt another player.

Lee might not intended for the play to go as violent as it did, but the end result was only a single out on the play instead of a sure double play.

If Lee had done the professional thing, and slide into the bag high and not outward toward the throw to take out the baseman outside the basepath. 

 Bush league in all the wrong ways here, in my opinion.

 

  

 

Rays starter Edwin Jackson pitched 6.1 innings and gave up 5 hits and 3 runs to the Astros. Jackson seemed to be in better control of his fastball tonight and used his off speed stuff to compliment the fasrball. Edwin is showing improvement everytime he steps on the mound for the Rays. Consider again, he was 0-8 last year at this time and had a ERA hovering above 6.0.

 

 

Cliff Floyd started the Rays 9th with a nice single to center to put hope into the Rays’ hopeful in the 9th inning.

Rays’ manager Joe Maddon has a way with his pinch-hitting results this season. More than once this season, the Rays savante’ has garnished fantastic results with his computer aided guidiance.

Saturday night might just be his best “braintrust” decision of his career with the Rays.  In the bottom of the 9th inning against Astros’ big time closer Doug Brocail, Maddon sent not one but 3 straight pinchhitters to the plate. What he got might make Casey Stengel proud.

Eric Hinske came up and batted for Justin Ruggiano in the 9th. Hinske responded with a single to left.

Maddon then sent up Dioner Navarro for Shawn Riggans. Navarro is hit by a pitch and threw a bit of dramatic overkill to the event.

 

 

Dioner took the hit-by-pitch ball like a  .38 slug to the shoulder area. Twisting and turning from the umpires view.  Oscar for Navvy next year. 

With 2 Rays on first and second, Joe Maddon again rolls the dice and send up Gabe Gross to hit for Jason Bartlett. 

Gross takes the first pitch and drills a  2-run double down the left field line that settles near the Visitor’s Bullpen mound in Left. Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske score and the Rays agaib pull off a cardiac win over the Astros.  Maddon’s pinchhitters went 3-3, with 2 RBIs on the night.

 

                      

 

And Gross, for the third time this season, is the guy in the middle of the pile. Tell me that the Rays did not have a crystal ball when they asked about aquiring Gross from the Brewers’ earlier this season.

 

Lost in all this excitement was Justin Ruggiano’s 2-3 night with an RBI. Ruggiano picked up first homer with a shot to left in the 5th inning. He also got a nice single to right in the 7th, but was stranded on third for the Rays.

 

Carl Crawford also got his 5th triple of the year putting him in a tie with Baltimore’s Brian Roberts for the AL lead.  Willy Aybar scored on Crawford’s triple to give Carl his 38th RBI of the year.

                   

                              

 

The Rays 7 Walk-off wins are tied with the Reds for the most in the majors this year. Gabe Gross has tied a club single season record with his 3rd Walk-off hit of the year. He is tied with Fred McGriff (2000), and Travis Lee ( 2003).

The Cardinals Skip Schumaker also has three Walk-off  hits this season, and has the same sequence of hits as Gross. A single, double and a home run. 

 

Mentals errors cost Rays against the Astros

 

Astros 4, Rays 3

 

After a killer sweep of a series like we just had with the Chicago Cubs, you know there had to be some kind of backlash that would plague this squad for at least one night. 

 Well, we got the fatique and the mental clouds Friday night in our first contest against the Houston Astros.

Considering we also had the Astros ace pitcher on the mound, Roy Oswalt, that could combine to make for a long, long night.

 It was good to see old friends come back into the fold.

Ty Wiggington was there with his usual gruff and serious stare, Jose Cruz Junior was just chillin’, and Brandon Backe was loving every minute of it all seeing old friends and taking pictures with the fans. 

Good to see former guys’ coming in and still playing ball against the Rays. Backe will have an extra smile on his face Sunday as he faces his old squad for the first time  as an Astro.

 Should be an interesting afternoon for a few of us in the crowd who think Brandon is an outstanding pitcher and want to see him do great things today, but also want our hometown team to beat the Astros for their 10th series win of the year.

Maybe he can have 5 good innings, and we do our usual late inning push and win the game.  Win…..win for both sides Sunday.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

The youngest player to reach 3,000 hits was Ty Cobb at age 32.

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I am going to get this out of the way early today. Rays starter Matt Garza  was a victim of an offense that was stymied by a great pitcher and  he took the loss to move to 5-4 for the year.

 Garza pitched 6 strong innings and gave up 7 hits and 3 runs to the Astros. He showed mental toughness and  did not show any frustration or adverse emotion on the mound. Garza got 8 strikeout before leaving tonight and showed mass improvement in his location at the plate.

 

 

The Rays Bullpen again came in and closed out the game by shutting down the Houston offense. Trever Miller and Gary Glover pitched 2.0 innings and gave up only a hit each in an effort to keep the Rays in this contest.

The Rays Bullpen this season is currently 7th in the league in ERA ( 3.23), and are first in opponent’s batting average ( .219).

 

           

 

The Rays committed 2 errors last night against the Astros.  Evan Longoria got an error on a hard hit ground ball hit well behind third base, and it should have gone for a hit.

I am of the opinion, that if a ball could not be fielded and put into play before a player can reach a base in a certain amount of time, that play can not be an error.  Evan was almost on the grass of the outfield when he got control of the ball. I guess that is why I am not a offical scorer of the MLB, I might have missed something in the translation.

 

 

The second error was a play in the rightfield Bullpen area by Eric Hinske. It was on a ball hit down the line and curling into the Bullpen area. It seemed like just  a common play, but turned into a classic example of not looking the ball into your glove and searching for the baserunner before you had total control of the ball.

Hinske unfortunately had the ball drop out of his glove and hit his foot and roll behind him a few feet to his left. The Astro’s baserunners advanced on the play.

 It is only Hinske’s 2nd error of the year.

 

 

Even with 2 errors last night, it was just their 2nd multi-error game in 58 games this season. The other recent game was June 8th against the Texas Rangers.  The Ray still lead the majors in defense with only 32 errors on the year.

 

                      

 

Dioner Navarro hit a curving blast just to the left of the rightfield foulpole for a solo homer to get the Rays close against the Astros. It was Navarro’s 4th homer of the season and set the scene for a dramatic ending to the game. Earleir in the contest, Navarro threw out Hunter Pence at second base  to stop a Huoston rally.

 

B J Upton recorded his 8th outfield assist of the year. He is currently tied for 2nd in the AL with Delmon Young of the Twins.

The play actually came about because B J  held onto the ball too long in centerfield, and Miquel Tejada decided to challende his arm and take second base. B J  got in a good throw and Akinora Iwamura applied the tag to Tejeda at second.

 

Eric Hinske did make up for his fielding error at the plate last night by going 2-4 with 2 RBI’s. Hinske hit two singles to center that scored  Carl Crawford in the 1st inning, and Akinora Iwamura in the 8th inning. Dioner Navarro and Hinske were the bulk of the Rays offense last night, getting 3 of the team’s 8 hits.

 

The  bottom of the 9th for the Rays was filled with huge amounts of excitement last night. The Astros inserted their secondary closer, Jose Valverde to pitch the inning.

He got Willy Aybar to fly out to the wall in deep rightfor the first out.

Then Navarro hit his  curving screamer down the rightfield line for a solo homer, then Valverde got Jason Bartlett to hit a liner down to third for an easy putout.

 Aki Iwamura was the last guy standing for the Rays. Aki got a ball outside with Ververde’s first pitch, then took three straight strikes, two of them swinging to end the game.

Rays Ride C.C. to Sweep of Cubs

 

 

Rays 8, Cubs 3

 

I opened my laptop today and went straight to ESPN.com to see if they are finally taking the Rays off the “fluke” label. 

 Much to my amazement, we are still thought to be a minor blip in the Red Sox radar for another  World Series title. Funny, I thought we just SWEPT the BEST team in baseball.  I must be in a sugar induced coma and miss the last few games.

I thought it was a great tribute by Rick Vaughn, the Rays PR guru, in making that  “SUT” sign that hung over the organist area in the Trop during Wed. night’s game.

It was a great personal tribute to Rick Sutcliffe, an ESPN  baseball announcer and great player who is undergoing colon cancer surgery and could not be here for the Cubs vs Rays game.

Rick got to know Sutcliffe while with the Baltimore Orioles PR staff before coming to the Rays.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

The first Interleague game was played on June 12,1997,when the Texas Rangers hosted the NL San Francisco Giants. The giants won the first contest 4-3.

 

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The 34,441 fans in attendance were magical last night and gave the Trop. an aire of what kind of atmosphere a playoff game would have in this dome. Everywhere you looked you saw Cub and Rays bantering out their espective teams chances that night.

 

But, I hinge the Cubbie fortunes on one play that signified their series with the Rays. The Cub brought in a Japanese star this season, Kosuke Fukudome to play outfield for the Chicago Cubs. He has been met by instant cult status in the North side of Chicago and has been a important part of the Cubs winning ways.

 

In the 3rd inning, with Fukudome on first after walking to start the inning, Dioner Navarro called for a pitchout on the  second pitch to Ryan Theriot. Navarro had caught Fukudome in “no-mans land” and proceeded out to the pitching mound to get Fukedome to committ either to 1st or 2nd.

Fukedome faked to first and Navarro threw a strike to Willy Aybar that made Fukudome retreat towrds second. a three quarters of the way to second, Aybar threw to Iwamura who outran Fukudome for the out.

 

           

 

 

Rays starter James Shields came out on fire last night at the Trop. Shields pitched 6 innings of 7-hit, 3-run ball before getting into trouble in the 7th inning. In that inning,  Micah Hoffpauir hit a double to deep center for a double, then Mark DeRosa walked on 4 pitches and Mike Fontenot hit a ground rule double to the deep gap in left center to put the Cub ahead 2-1.  Shields was the replaced by Trever Miller in the game.

 

Shields ended up with 9 strikeouts for the night to up his season total to 78, good enough for 9th place in the AL this year.

 

 

 

I was sitting there talking to a Cubs fan from the Fort Meyers area of Florida when Carl Crawford came up to bat with the bases loaded in the 7th inning. The guy was telling me this would be a great time for a double play, but I interjected that C C was past due for some excitement and had not hit a triple or better in quite awhile.

 

 

 

On his second pitch to Crawford, Scott Erye laced a ball to the lower right of the strike zone that C C  deposited in the rightfield stands for his 5th homer of the year, and a Grand Slam to break this contest wide open for the Rays.

 

                           

 

 

There are so many heroes in the game last night, from Crawford going 3-5 with 4 RBIs, to every meber of the lineup but Gabe Gross getting a hit last night. Eric Hinske again came up big for the Rays getting a RBI double  a couple of batters after Crawford’s blast to add to the Rays lead.

 

James Shields caught a bunt pop-up from Cub;s catcher Henry Blanco that might have stalled that drive a bit. The Cub were on a roll before Shields leaned over and took the short pop for the 1st out in the 7th inning.

 

 

The amazing thing is, you could have sat in the Budweiser Brewhouse eating, drinking and enjoying the night and got to your seat by the 7th inning, and you would have seen the best inning of the night. Both teams scored a total of 10 runs that inning, on less than 60 pitches by both teams.

 

You would have seen a Grand Slam, a ground rule double, a regular double, a Sacrifice Fly, and a couple of singles by both squads. You also would have seen  Gabe Gross and Akinora Iwamura each hit by a pitch. Aki’s HBP would drive in a run for the Rays. And last, but not least, you would have seen a B J Upton triple that could have been a Inside-the-Park homer if he had raced to first.

 

 

With the victory, the Rays established a few “firsts” for the franchise last night:

 

With the win, it was the first ever sweep by the Rays of a team with the best record in baseball.

 

With the victory, the Rays tied their best start ever before the All-Star break, and they still have 22 games before the break.

 

Climbed to 14 games above .500, a new team highwater mark, recorded their 3rd sweep of a team in first place at the time of the series. And, secured their 5th winning homestand of the year.

 

 

 

All that and only Eduardo Perez of “ESPN’s Baseball Tonight”, can acknoledge and appriciate the change in this team this year. Eduardo is in a bad position on that panel having played here and knows the trials and tribulations of this team. But he also can see firsthand the changes and the attitude that this club has now.

 

The thing that is truly amazing to me is, that for the first time since I have been a fan, these guys get physically upset and want more out of themselves. And that fever is infectious into the stands, and starting to consume the entire region either by true passion for the sport, or being a bandwagon fan.

 

Speaking of Bandwagons, be sure to check out ESPN.com today as they feature a story on the Cubbie fans coming out of the woodwork right now. It is an interesting article, and well worth a few minutes of your time.

 

 

I am going to paste Rule 9 of the Bandwagoneers Code on here for you, and you see what team’s fan can be put into this rule………hint, hint:

 

9. Avoid “real” fans

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These people think they are better than you. They think because they actually do have real family from Massachusetts or wherever, or because they have invested 30 years in a team instead of 30 minutes, that they somehow are more die-hard than you.

 

They will be suspicious of you. They will ask you questions that can tread dangerously close to revealing that you know little more than how to pronounce “Theriot” or the name of that one underrated player.

 

Shame on them! How dare they try to make you feel guilty for being a bandwagon fan! They are the stupid ones for wasting time rooting for bad teams, right?

 

So steer clear of these people. And whatever you do, don’t let them anywhere near your car. They might get the wrong impression when they see that your bumper is covered in Red Sox, Yankees, Lakers, Celtics, Cowboys, Patriots, USC football and Duke basketball stickers.

 

As though it’s your fault that you have deep, childhood ties to all those teams!

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There are several articles on Cub bandwagoning, and general bandwagon ethics. I found the articles entertaining, and I actually recognized a few Rays hopefuls in that bunch of words.   Hmmmmmmm, could be we are becoming a bandwagon team?

 

As long as you buy more hot dogs and beer, Welcome to the Trop., but please do not try and trump the regulars, we bite when provoked. 

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