June 2008

Rays Win Series Against Cubbies

 

 

Rays 5, Cubs 4

 

I saw a wild trio on the field on Tuesday night that brings back the saying “You Can’t Go Home Again”.

Well, you can go home, just do not expect a huge bucket of victories from this crappy Rays bunch. On the turf were current Manager Joe Maddon, departed chief Lou Piniella, and innaugural whipping boy Larry Rothechild.  Each manager was responsible for a different era of growth for this team.

Larry got the “younger years”. the time where veterans were hired to get the franchise through the lean years before the farm system could restock the team. He never got to see that dream.

Lou, sweet Lou, came here to teach more the aspects of being a Professional and how to carry your team on you back. He did that. He might not have gotten the end result he envisioned when he signed on, but a few of these guys are great players because Lou rode them hard and let them play their game. His era of the Era of development and toughness.

Last, but not least, is the Era of Joe-ism.  I can’t put a finger on the accomplishments yet in a nutshell, but this team blossomed under his letting go of the righs a bit with the guys. Letting them develop, but guide them in the same voice. Joe is a wise guy, with a theasarus for a mind. If you can’t play for Joe ( Delmon), you can’t play anywhere before adjusting yourself accordingly.

3 Masters of the Rays Universe all standing there looking at a team the two Chicago visitors only recognize in name and cetain players. The rest is the crown jewel of Joe Maddon. It is his team to lead upward and onward now. Larry Rothchild must love seeing smiles on the players’ faces, they were never contenders in the lean years. And I think in Lou’s mindset, this is the team he dreamed of for those many years. Joe, I think either of these guys would swap places with you in a heaetbeat and still know it was your baby all along here.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Since 1876, there have been only 2 years that a triple play did not occur in the major leagues: 1961 and 1974.

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Thank You Mark DeRosa for getting the scoring started on Wed night in front of a ESPN audience. It must be hell to be you today with the cellphone messages, and the email bloopers, blunders and Cubbie jokes segment on the TV. But, we here in Rays-town know that feeling all too well.

 Even after a great vicotry over your team, most of the talking heads from Bristol still do not get it. The Rays just won their 9th Consecutive home series of the year.. NINE, never before have we gotten to this point before the All-Star break, but still we are considered the “Also-Rans” of the AL East.  I heard a comment recently on “Baseball Tonight” that the Rays will fade in time. I also read and heard that we are “playing above our heads”.

Both might be true, but I think this team is in for a “Miraculous Summer”. It is alreafy one of the best on  record for us, but might just surprise the nation real soon. You know, in the next homestand, the Red Sox come back to the A/C refines of the Trop.

 If we sweep them again, what will be the talk, that neither team can play in the opponents park, or Bosotn is not playing with “playoff intensity” right now.   Give credit where credit is due guys. This sqaud will make believers of you, but I guess winning two straight from the team with the BEST record in baseball is not a big thing to you guys.

 

 

Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine has the right stuff again. He mixed his pitches well last night and earned his 8th victory of the season. Sonnanstine pitched 5 innings of  7-hit, 3-run ball to help the Rays take the first 2 games against the Cubs.   Andy only threw 94 pitches tonight, but got 57 strikes out of his performance. Sonnanstine coming into the game has not given up a homer since Mat 21st in Oakland, and is curently 6th in the AL in runs allowed.

 

 

Eric Hinske has been so valuable to the Rays this season he should maybe be the next guy to see a renewed contract and a raise for his efforts. Anywhere you put him, he has come through this season for the team.

Eric was hitting in the clean-up spot for the first time this year and went 1-3 on the night with a RBI and a run scored for the Rays. Eric event got his 6th stolen base of the season last night in the 7th inning.

 Hinske came to this team in the spring just looking for a job, not even gauranteed a spot on the roster, and has produced more ans more for the upstart Rays.  The Rays are 19-3 when he homers, and 34-17 when he is in the lineup for the Rays.

 

 

Four different Rays got RBI’s last night in a total team effort to beat the Chicago Cubs. B J Upton, Evan Longoria, Hinske and Willy Aybar each got a single RBI for the team.

 

 

Speaking of teamwork, let me tell you a few stats on our Rays:

The Rays matched their season and franchsie record highwater mark at 13 games over .500. Before this season, the team had never been more than 4 games over .500 at any point in their history.

The Rays tied their record for most wins before the All-Star break with a victory last night. In 2004, under Lou Piniella, the Ray were 42-45 at the break.  The Rays have now won 24 of their last 28 at home, and the Ray have pitched to a 2.38 ERA at home, best in the majors this year.

According to “Elias Sports Bureau”, the last team with 9 straight  home series  won within a single season was the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The last AL squad was the Oakland A’s in 2005 ( 12 straight).  The Rays have won 13 series overall for the year, one shy of their entire amount in 2007.

 

 

I put this last guy in the end of the blog becuase that is where we all know he is the strongest member of the Bullpen crew. Troy Percival can be a monster most nights on the mound, he has only allowed 19 baserunners in 26 appearances, two of them last night. Of his 26 opportunities, 17 have been perfect innings. 19 of them have been scoreless innings for the Rays.

For his career, Troy has converted 340 out of 395 save opportunities, for a 89.1 percent save rate. Since saves became an official stat. in 1969, only 6 pitchers have bettered that mark.

And on Wed. night, without any hoopla or fanfare, Troy tied with the Hall-of Famer Rollie Fingers for 9th place on the All-Time saves list.  All this from a guy who at this point last year was considered retired by major league baseball.  Next up for Percival on the list is…………Randy Meyers in 8th, with 347 saves.

With success and a continued Rays winning attitude, Troy could be nearing Jeff Reardon in 7th with 367 by the end of the season, or pass him in 2009(?)

 

 

Rays Bounce to Win over the Cubbies

 

Rays 3, Cubs 2

 

Most people who go to Rays game would be upset with the chant, “Let’s Go Cubbies!”, in the top of the 9th inning last night. To me, it was a sweet melody to savor and enjoy. For the world’s loveable losers were in town for three games, and brought a few thousand of her friends.

I saw people who are normally Rays supporters in Cubbie colors, I saw thousands stand and cheer with Chicago wear on for the Rays after the game. Why don’t Boston and New York fans act like Cubbies?  Because Cub fans relish  winning just like we do.

They do not throw World Series B S in our faces with every at-bat. They know that a simple play or a hot batter can ruin even a Red Sox’s wet dream.

Come again Cubbies, it was fun to chat and bark back and forth with you. You actually have an intelligent way to argue.  You spoke facts and truths, not notions and myths.  Come Back Cubbies, we enjoy a large town fan who can also respect their opponent, plus give credit where credit is due………..And you also got Lou.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson are the only 2 pitchers to ever win the 4 consecutive Cy Young awards.

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Evan Longoria must be blessed by the baseball Gods. This rookie has handled more pressure than a tea kettle this season, and responded like an old pro. In the bottom of the 9th inning last night, with the tying run on third, the young Brooks Robinson clone threw a 1-hop throw to first that will live in my mind as a “play to remember” in Rays lore.

Cubbie Reed Johnson, always a true thron in the Rays side, took it upon himself to try and put down a suicide squeeze bunt down the 3rd base side. Longoria was playing a bit deep and had to hustle and bare-hand the ball. He threw a wobbly one-bounce throw to Willy Aybar at first that just got Johnson by a 1/4 of a step to secure the Rays win over the Cubs.

 

 

Drama, Drama, Drama.  This team is beginning to believe it can win every night it steps on the turf. Plays like this one can motivate and perculate a team to explode into contenders.  Every year, a team can point to a handful of plays that  turned their seasons upward. I think Longoria, a rookie, even showed a few veterans what it takes last night.

“We were trying to get Longoria to move in, but we’re having this new problem: We can’t hear,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Our players aren’t used to not being able to hear from the dugout, so we have to do some things signal-wise. He was playing too deep.”

 

 

Cliff Floyd quickly ruined our pitcher’s duel by slamming a ball into the rightfield stands in the 2nd inning. It was Floyd’s 6th homer of the season and came against his former team, the Cubs. Floyd also has a 3-game hitting streak going for the Rays.

 

                

 

Scott Kazmir did not start out like our ace tonight. His fastball command and placement was off a bit and he was not getting the plate calls he usually gets from the umpires. 

 Could some of that be backlash for comments made in LA about the umpiring there?  I am not sure that an umpire would purposely blow calls against another pitchers, but some of the calls did smell a little fishy at times. If the ball hits the black it should be called, not rejected by a player’s opinions.

Kazmir did have great movement and placement on his slider and curve and he used those pitches well to set up his fastball. Coming into the game Kazmir was the third most dificult  MLB pitcher to hit off of in the majors. His .187 opposition batting average was only .002 points off the average of Chicago starter Ryan Dempster.

 

Scott pitched 4.2 innings tonight and was lifted after making 110 pitches.  Kazmir gave up 3-hits and 1-run in that time and got 7 strikeouts before leaving for the night.

 

 

Evan Longoria seemed to be in all the right places last night. Be it at the plate or in the field. In the 6th inning, Longoria hit a ball to rightcenter that went off the Rays Tank facing. ( No Rays were hurt in the play. )

It was Evan’s 11th homer of the season, tying him with Carlos Pena for second on the team.  Longoria also currently is 4th in the majors and second in the AL in RBI’s with 33.  Longoria has not hit safely in 38 of his 59 games with the Rays this season. The homer also tied him with Cincy’s Joey Votto and Cubbie Genvany Soto for the lead in the Rookie’s standings.

 

 

Rich Herrera, who does the Rays’ post and pre-game shows for the Rays Radio Network walked by me last night and said that, “Troy Percival has really big ones.”

Troy had not one, but two Wild Pitches to the backstop that could have tied up this game last night. Big shiny Balls of steel that clang like a cowbells when he walks from the Bullpen.

In the past, if a team had started to unravel our game like the Cubs did in the 9th inning, Esteban Yan would be sweating up a thunderstorm on the mound. Roberto Henandez would be looking for someone to hit with the ball, and Seth McClung would be talking to himself a mile a minute on the mound.

But then  again, these guys are not first ballot Hall-of -Famers either.

Troy reached back last night and had a consistant low 90’s pumping to the plate. I do not see alot of 94’s and above from him this season, but last night he was pumped up and knew the game was an important one for this young squad.

Percival threw 23 pitches last night, 15 for strikes and really earned his 16th save of the year. The save also puts him within 1 save of  tying Rollie Fingers for 9th All-Time.

Troy is the perfect veteran to have on this squad. He is all business on the field, and is a great example of iced confidience and cold stares in a sea of boiling water. 

This is a huge piece of our puzzle this season. To have Troy and the Bullpen pull up the bootstrings and keep the Rays in the game every night. But Troy, can we make it alittle less Dramatic..my young heart will implode with much more of this every night.

                      

 

Okay, we had 31,607 fans in the seats last night, that puts the Trop at 76.5 percent full.  Tonight’s game is a another great pitching matchup with Carlos Zambrano going against Andy Sonnanstine. It should be another great barnburner tonight with both teams smelling a win.  A Rays win would give them their 9th straight series win at home this season.

Also of importance, is that this contest will be the featured game on ESPN tonight. For that reason, it is important that as many Rays fans as possible get to the game and show these talking heads in Bristol, Conn., that the Rays do have fans, and that they are for real this season.

Hopefully we can get John Kruk to stumble and stammer on his words after another Rays win………………See you at the Trop!!!!!

Marlins Win with new “Fishy” pitch

 

Marlins 9, Rays 3

 

Pitchers usually do not have new pitches during the season that are effective, and can win them, ballgames. they sometimes fiddle with a delivery, or mess with the basics of a cutter, or a slurve. But rarely does a pitch make it past a  teams’ scouting report, and show up unannounced on a MLB diamond.

On Sunday, Florida Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco used the unannoiuced cutter that he had been working on for a few months into his game day pitch package. It had the Rays a bit dazed and confused at the plate becuase of its great late tailing action.  Nolasco came within 1 out of a complete game, which would have been the 1st one for Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

At the age of 20, Detroit Tiger Al Kaline became the youngest player to win a Batting Title by hitting .340 in 1955.

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Open Letter to BJ Upton:

Dear B J,

I understand that you are still learning how to play centerfield for our team. I also understand that you will make mistakes and bloopers during this time. But, the play with you and Gabe Gross in the 8th inning was even beyond grade school baseball basics. I can still hear my Little League coach yell the basic outfield call-off play.

Gross heard you call for the ball, and being the seasoned outfielder, he pulled off the play, since the centerfielder aka “the on field QB”, called for the ball. 

You then did not hesistate but pull up yourself and help award Cody Ross a  2-run triple for your efforts. Gross did you the same honor almost a week ago and it cost him an error in the play.

I hope Gabe has the idea now that even a called ball might fall to the turf until you understand how to run a good route to the ball. I rip into you here because I know you are better than this, not because you made a huge miscalculation here.

I hate to tell you B J , but missing the plays like this might setup an accidental meeting of the minds some night on the field, and someone might get hurt in the process. Please think smart and follow through on your actions for everyone’s sake.

In closing, B J , please think before calling the ball ( We all heard you call it in rightfield ) and then pull away from the falling sphere.

 

   

 

Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco owned the Rays on Sunday. His new pitch, the cutter played a bit of havoc on the guys. Nolasco got 12 strikeouts against the Rays, a season high for the team while also giving up 6 hits and 3 runs.  The Rays now have 503 strikeouts for the season, which ranks them 5th in the MLB.

                  

               

 

Rays starter, Edwin Jackson gave up two huge  homeruns on his best pitches on Sunday.

Jackson’s fateful pitches were a slider and a changeup. Wes Helms swung at the slider, Mike Jacobs swung at the change and each swing produced a three-run homer.  Edwin never looked to be completely comfortable or confidient in his delivery on Sunday.

 

 

It’s simple facts once you know the chances of people scoring once you walk them,” Jackson said. “It’s nothing to be frustrated about. You know the situation, and once it happens all you can do is try and get out of it without any damage being done. And tonight, I couldn’t do that.”

Jackson fell back into his past recipe for frustration by now going 2-6 in his last 12 starts, and has not produced a quality start in his last 5 outings for the Rays. Jackson seems to be all over the plate with his fastball, which was his primary pitch most of the season.

 

 

When that pitch has problems, the rest of your selection also suffers. Edwin has to get his stuff over the plate to be successful, right now the plate is moving all over the place on him and he is lacking the consistant strike that could get him out of many of his problem situations for the Rays.

Just remember fans, last year Edwin was 0-8 with a 8.02 ERA at thie point in the season. An improvement, but not enough of one for this years contending team.

 

DH Cliff Floyd has been having a really successful weekend at the plate. Floyd went 2-4 Sunday with a single and a double. The double could have been a triple, but you could see Cliff flinch a bit as he motored into second base in the 2nd inning. Floyd is a lifetime .365 hitter at the Trop., 3rd best all-time.

 

Eric Hinske hit his 12th homer with a shot to right in the 6th inning. Hinske snapped a 0-11 streak last night  with a 2-run double in the 1st inning. He has batted .292  over his last 7 games for the Rays. 

With his 12th homer last night, Hinske took over the team lead from Carlos Pena. Only in 2002, when he was with Toronto has Hinske hit this homer plateau before now ( 55 games).

 

Jason Bartlett and Gabe Gross helped bring in the final two runs for the Rays Sunday. Bartlett hit a RBI-single that scored Dioner Navarro. Navarro had reached prior to the at-bat with a double to deep center field in the 5th inning.

Gabe Gross hit a single to center that scored Evan Longoria in the 9th inning. Longoria had walked previously and was on third when Gross hit the low liner to centerfield.

 

 

Akinora Iwamura started off the game with a single to rightfield and then stole second base. He was the only player on either team to attempt a steal on Sunday.

Edwin Jackson did have one impressive statistic from Sunday, he showed a really quick and accurate pick-off move to get Jeremy Hermida at first in the first inning. Jackson had walked him in the at-bat

 

Jason Bartlett got another throwing error from short today with a wild throw that eluded Willy Aybar at first base in the 9th inning. Bartlett was trying to get speedster Hanley Ramirez at first and overthrew the ball into the 1st base wall.

 

Last Night’s victory gave the Rays their 8th straight series win since losing 2 of 3 to the Chicago White Sox in April. That is the longest str..eak in the majors this season.

Tha Rays are 32-17 (.653) since April 22, which is the best record in the majors since then.  45 of the Rays 68 games have been against teams over .500 this season.

 

 

Starting Tuesday, the Rays will entertain the Chicago Cubs for the first time in the Trop. It is also the homecoming for fomer Rays’ manager Lou Piniella, now at the helm for the Cubs.

As you might remember, the last series that these teams played at Wrigley Field was in imfamous Sammy Sosa corked bat incident in the first game of that series.

 Former Ray Toby Hall was catching when Sosa’s bat broke on a play and showed a cork-like substance in the barrell.

Current Rays Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli are the only Rays  still with the team and to have  played in that series.

Garza Returns to Form Against the Fish

 

 

Rays 4, Marlins 1

 

I have to tell you, I like Bobby Ramos. The guy can make you laugh in a second with just a simple Salsa step near the Bullpen mound. Put a International Recording Artist who specializes in Salsa music, and you got a night of abstract Rumba and Salsa steps to the Bullpen phone almost all night long.

I have seen Bobby go into the waterfall at the Colorado Rockies stadium, do a bit of chair humping on Youtube, and had the pleasure of talking to him on a multiple amount of times from my chair in rightfield.

He can make my night sometimes with just his flip of the cap towards our section, or a toss of a used BP ball for a young fan.  Bobby is a great example of what is great about this new Rays team. He is real, he is fun and he can be real fun.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

In 1979, Bob Watson became the first player to hit for a cycle in both leagues. John Olerud duplicated the feat in 2001.

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What a difference a week can make to a pitching battery. Last weekend in Texas, Dioner Navarro and Matt Garza ( 5-3) had a few meetings of the minds both on the mound and in the visiting dugout during the game.

 

Both guys came out of the game saying it was just like a family with the Rays, and the frustrations would be settled and cooled within the confines of the Rays’ family.  And on Sat. night, the proof was in the pudding,or the pitching.

                           

 

Matt turned in one of his best pitching performances by using his off speed pitches to dazzle the Marlins batters into his 5th victory of the season. Garza pitched 7 innings of 3-hit one run ball as the fish fell to the Rays 4-1.

 

 

DH Jonny Gomes has not had alot of opportunities the last few weeks to showcase himself. Sat. night, he needed just one swing, his first swing of the night to put the Rays up 1-0 in the 2nd inning. Jonny hit his 5th homer off former Rays Mark Hendrickson and looked to be in for a great night at the plate.

But, in his next 3 appearances at the plate, Jonny struck out 3 times, usually letting the first pitch go by to gauge the pitcher.  Jonny is getting limited at-bats right now, and needs to capitaslize by getting walks, singles and aggressive wood on the bats to show Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he too, can have a hot bat when pressed into service.   Jonny was trying too hard to put the ball into play and it showed in his at bats.

 

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett went 1-2 with 2 RBI’s last night. In the last two nights, Jason has gone 4-5 at the plate bringing offensive power to the number 9 slot in the lineup. Bartlett got the scoring going in the 4th innings by singling to center and scoring B J Upton and Willy Aybar.
Bartlett also made several great plays at short to twarp Marlins scoring drives in the game.

 

 

Justin Ruggiano got a start in leftfield tonight for the suspended Carl Crawford. Justin used this opportunity to show the Rays why he should stay up here at this level. In the first inning he doubled to deep center and stole third base. He went 1-4 on paper, but he did so much more for the Rays in the field.

Justin went for a ball going foul into the Corona Beach bar area duirng the game and came flat onto the tabletops trying to catch the ball. Replays showed he got wiothin a cats’ whisker of getting the ball before it fell into the party area and he collided with the wall and got tossed onto the table top.  It was a valiant effort and just another example that this team will do what it takes to get it done this season.

 

 

BJ Upton made am incredible catch in left center in the game running from dead center to grab a ball backhanded in the gap in the 4th inning. B J  has shown remarkable improvement in his path to the balls hit into the gaps in recent games. Just another example of his willingess to upgrade himself to be a premier centerfielder in the sport.

 

               

 

Troy Percival came on in the 9th inning and shut down the Marlins for the second night in a row to record his 15th save of the year. For the second night in a row, 7 of Troy’s 12 pitches were strikes.

 Last night’s save was number 339, just two saves away from Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers’ totals for 9th place All-Time in saves in the MLB. Batters are hitting .123 against Troy this season, the lowest among relievers in the league.

 

 

Sonnanstine gets lucky 7th Win against Fish

 

 

Rays 7, Marlins 3

 

I have been invited to attend the Rays Wive’s Fashion Show after the game on Sunday. The event will be held at the Nordstrom’s Department store in International Plaza in Tampa. This event is a yearly adventure on the “fashionista” side for the diamond darlings. 

 Everyone from players, to announcers participate in this charity event for the Children’s Dream Fund, and the Rays Foundation. The doors will open for the event at 7 P.M., and the event will start at 8 P.M.  If you need tickets, call 727-896-6390 for more information.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

The first “Million Dollar” Ballplayer was Nolan Ryan. Fernando Valenezula was the fiurst arbitration eligible millionaire.  Mike Schmidt was the first 2 Million Dollar Man.

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Andy Sonnanstine had a really rough first inning against the Florida Marlins before finally settling down and blanking the fish until the 5th inning.  Sonnanstine was throwing  consistant fastballs, and the Marlins seemed to be keying on them in the first inning. The Marlin almost got a cycle off him in the first 3 batters.

In the 2nd inning, Andy settled down by throwing more off speed pitches and confusing the Marlins batters better. For the night, Sonnanstine pitched 5.1 innings and gave up 6 hits for 3 runs. Andy earned his 7th victory after going winless in his last 4 starts of the season. Andy got his first Interleague win against Marlins last June in his 2nd major league start.

 

 

Both teams got the scoring started in the first inning. The Fish plated 2 runs,then the Rays got their turn to score twice in the next two innings to secure the win over the Marlins. Aki Iwamura got the game off with a single  to rightfield and moved to second on B J Upton’s walk.

Eric Hinske came up with two men in scoring position, and doubled to deep center to score Iwamura and Upton.  Hinske was thrown out trying to steal third two plays later.

    

 

DH Cliff Floyd walked in the second inning and then stole second base on Ryan Tucker. It was Floyd’s first stolen base since June 14, 2006. Almost 2 years to the date that Cliff had been sliding into second. the ball skidded into centerfield, and Floyd went to third on the throwing error.

It was a sight to be seen last night. It almost looked like Cliff was moving in slow motion, the stadium at a silenced hush that the crowd was more in awe than frightened by the action. But, good prevailed and Cliff’s grin spoke volumes about the steal.

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett went 3-3 last night with 2 runs scored and 2 stolen bases from the 9th spot.  Enetering tonight’s game, the number 9 slot in the Rays order had comboned to bat .220 this season. This total is the second lowest in the AL behind the Kansas City Royals ( .194).

 

The Rays lead the majors with 75 stolen bases. Under Rays Manager Joe Maddon, they Rays have stolen 340 bases. Only the Mets (411) and Angels ( 341) have more in the majors since the start of the 2006 season.

 

Willy Aybar scored on Jason Bartlett’s sacrifice fly in the 6th inning. Aybar had a mild collision at home with Marlin’s catcher Matt Treanor, who did not get the tag in on Aybar in time. Willy had singled to right to begin the inning and advanced on Cliff Floyd’s infield hit.

 

The Rays got 13 hits off Marlin’s pitching last night, with Hinske, Iwamura, Upton and Floyd all getting multi-hit games.  The only Rays to got hitless was Evan Longoria, who went 0-5, with 1 strikeout last night.

 

 

Dioner Navarro  got Jorge Cantu stealing second last night in the 1st inning. A trivia question on Navarro. He had 110 starts behind the plate in 2007 at age 23, In the last 25 years, only 5 catchers have caught more games in a single season at a younger age. Joe Mauer(Minn), Bernito Santiago(SD), Jason Kendall(Pitt), Brian McCann (Atl) ,and Ivan Rodriguez (Texas).

 

                       

 

The Rays reinstated closer Troy Percival before the game and put Al Reyes on the 15 day DL for shoulder tendonitis.  Percival came out in the 9th innig and almost got the home crowd a feww Pappa John;s pizza by striking out the side. He got two strikeouts and was working on his third when the Marlins Cory Ross hit a ball to Bartlett to end the game.

Percival had two strikes on Ross when he hit the ball to Bartlett. Both striked had Ross looking and he did not attempt a swing until the hit to Bartlett.  Percival did not earn a save for the night, but had 10 strikes on 14 pitches in the inning.

That is great news for Rays fan who might have any worry about Troy’s pitches coming off the DL.

 

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Remember, Sat game is a 6:10 start because of the concert after the game. It is expected to be a huge crowd for the Salsa King Gilberto Santa Rosa. Come on out and enjoy a night of dancing in the aisles and outfield at the Trop.

The Rays will be going for their 40th win of the season, and hope to take the series against the Marlins with Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays.

The Marlins will counter with former Rays Mark Hendrickson on the mound for the Marlins.

 

Kazmir strikes out 10, but loses to Angels

 

 

Angels 4, Rays 2

 

There is widespread misinformation about the Rays new Waterfront stadium project. Starting this week,I will be giving you some information form the group, Friends For a Waterfront Stadium (FFWS).

I will give you one quick fact per week about the new stadium and redevelopment of Tropicana Field. If you would like to know more about this group, or their activities, please send an E-mail to their address: info@fansforwaterfrontstadium.com so we can you to their mailing list.  

  RE-DEVELOPMENT OF THE TROPICANA SITE
 
The project calls to build a state-of-the-art waterfront ballpark, while re-developing Tropicana Field.  The two are interdependent on each other when it comes to this 1.2 Billion dollar investment into our downtown.
 
Currently, Tropicana Field sits on 86 acres owned by the county. As a result, no property taxes are generated.  Did you know that 37% of all property tax dollars goes directly into our school system and 11% goes into other public services (such as the PSTA and Juvenile Welfare Board)?   By re-developing the Tropicana site by one of two world class developers currently bidding, approximately $200M will be invested into our school system and 75M into our other public services over 35 years.  
 
This project is great for baseball, but is reaches well beyond the scope of baseball.  It is great for our entire city and county. 
 
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Trivia Fact of the Night:
 
In 1985, Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets became the youngest player to win a Cy Young Award at age 20.
 
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Rays starter Scott Kazmir lost for the second time this season, and snapped his 6 game consecutive win streak. Kazmir’s  6.2 innings of 6-hit 3-run was not enough to gain a win for the Rays today. Kazmir did strike out 10 Angels to raise his strikeout total to 54 for the season.
 
 
 
Before today’s loss, Kazmir has the second longest consecutive winning streak in the major this season. Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka has 8 stright and counting this season. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Kazmir’s strikeout per 9 IP is 9.65, tops the majors.
 
Kazmir retired the first 14 batter he faced until Gary Mathews Jr. homered to left in the bottom of the 5th inning.
 
 
 
 
Akinora Iwamura lead off the game with a triple to deep center.
Aki scored on Carl Crawford’s single to put the Ray up 1-0 early in the game.  It was Aki’s 2nd triple of the year. He also leads the club with 10 infield hits this season.
 
Aki went 2-4 this season and raised his average to .273 for the Rays.  Aki is still stuck on numer 199 home runs. He will hit the 200 homer milestone with his next shot.
 
 
 
 
Evan Longoria hit another double and got two walks against the Angels in the get-away game. Longoria finished the Angels series going 6-9, with 2 homers, 4 doubles, and 3 RBI’s.
 
With Longoria’s two homers the other night, he is currently 1 homer off the team lead held by Eric Hinske and Carlos Pena.
 
 
Dioner Navarro hit a Sacrifice Fly in the 7th inning to score Longoria from third .  Navarro is leading the AL with a .349 average, and is leading all major league catchers in average.
 
Dioner’s average has not dipped under .300 this entire season. Last year at this time, he was hitting .189, with no homers for the Rays.  Navarro is also hitting .381 with Runs In Scoring Position (RISP) this year.
 
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Starting tomorrow night, the Rays will again start their Inter-league game against theri inter-state rivals the Florida Marlins.  Both squads have been the early surprises of the league, with the Marlins threatening the Philadelphia Philles for the NL East crown.
 
This series will begin a true test for the Rays. In the next three series, the Rays will battle the upstart Marlins ( 36-29), the Chicago Cubs ( 43-24) and the Houston Astros ( 33-34).
 
Do not let the Astro’s record decieve you, this squad has been competitive all year long and has na excellient pitching staff. The Chicago Cubs feautre the top record in the majors, ans are managed by former Rays boss, Lou Piniella. This will be Piniella’s first return to the Trop. since leaving the Rays bench several years ago. 
 
 
 

Angels get to Rays early for Win

 

 

Angels 6, Rays 1

 

There has been speculation in the baseball web sites that Rays number 1 pick last season, David Price is in Vero Beach, Florida as a tune up for a fast promotion through the minors starting in July 2008. Price did state before the season that his personal goal is to be at the Tampa Bay level by September.

In  a recent game, Price did battle against veteran Pedro Martinez, down doing a rehab assignment and both teams got a good look at the futre of both pitchers. Pedro is again loving baseball, which could be trouble for the NL East very soon. When Pedro is happy playing baseball, he is at his best on the mound.

Price recently got his first taste of defeat in the pros when he got rocked in Fort Meyers, Florida. The Rays are watching closely to see how hr rebounds after his first taste of normalcy in the minors. The next step for him would be the Double-A  Montgomery Biscuits.

This might be a great team for Price to be on the same roster as alot of the pitchers’ who will be the Rays backbone in 3-5 years at the major league level. It might be the best barometer to see just how far he has progressed this season, hitting in the batter friendly Southern League.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

On July 14,1946, Lou Boudreau of the Cleveland Indians set a major-league mark as the first player with 5 exta-base hits in a ballgame.

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Gabe Gross’s  5th homer in the 8th inning became the only run to cross the plate for the Rays aginst the Angels last night.  In his last 8 games, Gross is 9-31 ( .290) with 3 doubles, 2 homers and 7 RBI’s for the Rays.

B J Upton again got caught stealing last night against the Anglels. B J was trying to steal second base off Jered Weaver in the 4th innig by Angels’ catcher Jeff Mathis. It was Upton’s 8th caught stealing of the season, making him Tied for first with Chris Gomez of the Twins.

 

 

Rays starter James Shields  was a bit over hyped last night in his start against the Angels. Shields first three fastball were clocked up around the 94 MPH range, a bit high for him. This might also be a slight cuase to the Angels rocking him in the first inning for 4 runs.

 

                         

 

After the game, Rays Manager Joe Maddon remarked about how he also saw the Shields was a bit high on the gun in the beginnig of the game, and his off-speed pitches did not run over like they usually do for him.

The first inning barrage basically was the scoring for the Angels until they got two more insurance runs in the 5th inning off a Vladimir Guererro homer.  Shields pitched the entire game for the Rays, going 8 innings of 10-hit, 6-run ball to take his 5th loss of the season.

                            

                               

 

After the game, Shields announced he would be beginning his 6 game suspension stemming from the Boston fight earler in the roadtrip. Sheilds waited until after this game to get one start against a team he has had great success against in the past.

In other suspension news, DH/Rightfielder Jonny Gomes has now served his time and will be able to play in the Florida Marlins series beginning on Friday night. Gomes served his time during the Texas and LA Angels series and is ready to help the Rays pull back into first place in the AL East.

 

                                  

 

Evan Longoria continued his hot streak against the Angels by getting 2 doubles in the game. Longoria now has 14 doubles for the season.  In his first series in his hometown against the Angels, Evan was 5-7 (All extra-base hits), 3 doubles and 2 homers and 3 RBI’s.

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Anyone wanting to purchase tickets to the Chicago Cubs series during the next week at the Trop., had better hit ticketmaster or the Rays box office soon before the games are reduced to single seats and onstructed views seating. The series has shown brisk sales the last few days as this will be the return of Lou Pinella to the Trop.

Also of importance, is the fact that these two teams have been the hottest teams of late in the MLB, and it should be an excellient series for both teams. This series will show both managers’ what kind of ball clubs they have on their hands. The Cubs have a few playoff vets on their roster, and the Rays are trying to join that exclusive club by making the playoff for the first time in their history.

 

Last, but not least, the Saturday night game against the Florida Marlins is a 6:10 P.M. start because of the concert after the game. The game will also be blackedout for local television, so the only way to see the game is in person, or  by listening to the Rays radio broadcast.

Every Saturday night that the Rays have a concert series event, will not be telecasted, and will be an early start time this year.  Just a reminder for the fans. 

3 consecutive homers doom Angels

 

Rays 13, Angels 4

 

Rocco Baldelli has been working out with the Rays at the Extended Spring Training games at the Namoli complex in St. Petersburg,Florida. Rocco, who had some serious fatigue situations during Spring Training, has been playing in game against other minor leaguers.

 These contests will end on Wed., and the Rays will have to evaluate Baldelli and decide where in the minor league system they will send him to continue his rehab.

Do not be surprise if the Rays call Baldelli up to the big club after the All-
Star break to platoon in rightfield the rest of the season.With the addition of Baldelli’s speed, this would make the Tampa Bay’s outfield one of the quickest in the MLB.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Joe and Dom DiMaggio are the only brothers to have hitting streaks of 30 plus games.

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Evan Longoria had a small family contingent at the game last night. You could tell his family and friends every time he came up to bat, since Evan set a Rays rookie record of scoring 4 runs in a game. Longoria currently leads the league’s rookies in homers with 10.

 

 

But his accomplishments were not done there. He also connected on 2 homers, went 3-4, with 3 RBI’s and raised his average to .255. Longoria also became the only MLB rookie this season to have more than 1 multi-homer game. He also is only the third Rays rookie to have a multi-homer game, and the first to have a  2 multi-homer games in their rookie season.

 

 

Willy Aybar has hit safely in 5 straight games and 6 out of the last 7 to raise his average to .306 for the year. Aybar also hit a homer in the middle of the Rays onslaught in the 2nd inning. Aybar also helped complete 3 double plays for the Rays against the Angels.

 

 

Dioner Navarro hit his third homer of the year and went 4-5, with 4 RBI’s and 3 run scored last night against the Angels. Navarro is currently hitting .349 for the Rays, and is 27 plate appearances short of qualifying league wide for top batting average.  Navarro is currently the top hitting catcher in the league.

 

Evan Longoria, Willy Aybar and Dioner Navarro each hit homers in the 2nd inning. It is the first time in 69,094 plate appearances that 3 Rays hit homes back-to-back-to-back in a game.

 

 

Rays manager Joe Maddon got his first win against his former team ni their stadium last night. Before the victory, Maddon was 0-8 against the Angels on their home turf. With last night’s win, the Rays are 4-0 against the Angels this season and are on pace to have the only winning yearly record against them in franchise history.

 

Edwin Jackson earned his 4th victory of the season last night in a contest that was tied until the Rays broke the game open in the 5th inning with 5 runs.  Jackson threw 7 innings, and 107 pitched before giving the ball to the Rays Bullpen to finish the game.

Al Reyes and Gary Glover pitched an inning apiece and gave up a two hits between them to get Jackson the win.

 

Justin Ruggiano had 2 outfield assists last night against the Angels.

 

 

On the first one came in the 3rd inning after a Sacrifice Fly by Garrett Anderson. Ruggiano was throwing home to try and get Jeff Mathis who was trying to score from third.

Ruggiano owes a big slap on the back to catcher Dioner Navarro who cut -off his throw to the plate and threw off balanced to second to nail Maicer Izturis at second base.  The throw was a fantastic example of the “heads up” plays that Navarro has been making recently for the team.

His second assist came in the bottom of the 6th inning when Vladimier Guerrero over ran second and was tagged out by shortstop Jason Bartlett.

 

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Upcoming Rays historical moments:

Akinora Iwamura’s next homer will be his 200th as a professional player. He has hit 188 in Japan, and 11 as a Tampa Bay Ray.

Carl Crawford needs 4 bases to become only the 9th player since the 1900’s to steal 300 bases before his 27th birthday.

 

 

Rangers Leave Rays at a Loss

 

 

Rangers 6, Rays 3

 

The following is a reprint of a St Petersburg Times article on the new stadium:

The evolution of the Rays design

RayscurrenttRaysevolve

I thought it might be interesting to see how the ballpark design has evolved. At top is the current proposal. On the bottom (from left to right) is a series of proposed designs from March 2007, May 2007, November 2007 and February 2008.

The deep black line in the bottom row is where the current seawall location is. The original concept called for filling in 2.55 acres of the bay and would have filled in the entire channel between the main land and Demens Landing. (You can click on the bottom row to get a better look). Now only .4 acres of fill will be needed to build the proposed stadium, which should help the Enviormental aspects of the construction.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Ebbets Field organist Gladys Gooding earned her stripes the second day on the job (May 9,1942. As umpires Bill Stewart,Ziggy Sears,and Tom Dunn strolled on the field for the game. Gooding played the classic,”Three Blind Mice.”

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I am again going to shelf “The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly” format and just write my opinions and views again on my hometown Rays.  I have been looking for a formative setup for almost 6 months to accompany my Rays coverage, but the Good,The Bad and the Ugly can sometime sometimes be  too one-sided during losing and winning streaks.

Thus, from today on, I am just going to report the things I see, and what I know about the stats and adventure of our favorite team.

                  

I do not know what it is about miscommunication in our outfields. Are our Rays outfielders and infielders a bit too timid at times in voicing their dominating position on flyballs in the game. Twice in Sunday’s contest there were play where the Rays players did not communicate with each other and a hit resulted in each situation. In one situation, between shortstop Jason Bartlett and leftfielder Carl Crawford, the ball ended up costing the Rays a run in the inning. The next batter, German Duran hit a 2-run homer to deep center.

                         

Another play happened between centerfielder B J Upton and rightfielder Gabe Gross. By the video, Gross had  a better bead on the ball and was about to make the catch when B J Upton came into his eyesight and prompted Gross to take his eye off the ball, which fell to the turf. Upton recieved an error on the play, but all could have been prevented if Upton would have just backed-up Gross instead of trying to make the play himself.

                           

BJ Upton and Jason Bartlett do alot to bring this team up to a higher level, but it is the same things that also bring the team down a notch at time becuase of costly errors or mistakes. Boith made critical errors again in the game both on defense and on the basepaths.

Jason Bartlett actually had a bit of a bad hop at short that prompted his error tonight, but he still did not get the ball in play to try and prevent the hit.

                              

B J Upton again was caught stealing second in the first inning and ended the inning by being tagged out. B J  might be 7th in the AL in steals with 20, but he is also tied for 2nd in the AL leader in being caught stealing 7 times this year.  Baserunning is a hit or miss situation most night, for Upton, it is more miss right now.

      

Now on a positive note, B J  made an awesome play in center to rob the Rangers’ Frank Cattalanatto of a basehit.  Upton has been impressive in his only his second season in the outfield making a boatload of showstopping play this year. But his errors and misplays unfortunately are the play that are being seen around the league. B J  is currently tied for 2nd with 7 outfield assists this year.

Let’s stay on the positive track for a minute here. Evan Longoria made an awesome grab of a short foul pop-up from the bat of Bobby Boggs in the 1st inning. Evan laid out in foul territory and took the ball inches fron the turf for the out.

That is only one of the play that will make this Rookie one of the best defensive third baseman in the teams’  history.  I personally have seen my idol, Brooks Robinson make those kind of plays, and he did very well for himself in the game.

            

 

Rays starter Matt Garza went to the mound today undefeated against the Texas Rangers. Garza was 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA before today’s start.

Garza never seemed to have his susal stuff today in the game. At one point, during a called pitchout by Dioner Navarro, Garza threw the ball to the backstop for a Wild Pitch. He never seemed to be in a groove and the frustration came to a head in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Dioner Navarro, being the new club house leader for the Rays, came out to try and calm Garza down after the incident. Garza was visibly aggitated and fumed with his catcher on the mound. As Navarro turned to go back to the plat, Rays pitching coach, Jim Hickey came out to try and get Garza’s head back into the game.

All seemed back to normal as Garza got David Murphy to ground out to second for the third out of the inning.

“[Garza is] an emotional guy out there on the mound and I was just trying to basically encourage him to channel his emotions more toward the task at hand versus just kind of wasting it out there,” Hickey said. “And I thought he did a pretty good job after that, because it was a pretty heated situation out there. I believe he retired the next two guys.”

In the dugout, Garza renewed his venom at Navarro and the two battery mates had to be restrained by the players and staff in the tunnel area of the dugout. That cued the end of Garza’s game as he gave up 3 runs on 6 hits for the night. After the game, both players and manager Joe Maddon said the tussle was just frustration and was getting worked out between each other.

“Really, you guys, just describe what you saw,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Write what you saw. It’s something we’re going to take care of. And we’re going to take care of it soon.

Just heat of passion,” Garza said. “We’re both competitors. Whatever happened, we’ll just keep it here and we’ll fix it. … This is a great bunch of guys and everybody is on each other’s side. We can fix it.”

Navarro said the problem was “just something that happened in the game.”

“It happens in the family,” he said. “I think everybody is going to be fine from this point on. It was really nothing.”

When asked if he was “square” with Garza, Navarro replied: “Yeah, we’re fine. We’re a whole family here. [Little] brother fights against older brother, stuff like that. Everything’s straight now.”

Let’s hope for Garza’s sake it is all water under the bridge. the talented righty does not need to develop a strained relationship with his starting catcher.

I have to make an observation here, and tell me if I am wrong people.  But is the umpiring this season a bit below par so far this season, or am I imagining bad calls against our team. The Rays have had a recent history of getting shafted by the men in blue, but some of the called pitched tonight were a bit wild to say the least. TV replays showed the pitches to be low and outside and one player was sure to voice is concerning with the set strike zone.

Eric Hinske, the Rays DH today, decided to question the umpire on a called third strike to him in the 6th inning. Replays showed by reading his lips that Hinske did not use vulgar or obusive language to the umpire, so the ejection is questionable at best here. 

 A few innings later, Akinora Iwamura also got a bad called third strike and did his Ichiro imitation and just looked at the umpire with a puzzled look. 

Jason Hamel, of all the Rays relievers right now, you might be the one Joe Maddon is counting on in this suspension situation for a spot start. You did not help yourself by giving up 3 runs in 3.1 innings tonight against Texas. With that, and the upcoming roster moves because of Troy Percival coming off the DL on Friday, you did not set yourself above the group of “maybe” guys.

I am thiknig that a pitcher will be the guy to go on Friday. There are several guys who are totally safe here, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller, Grant Balfour, and J P Howell.

Guys who might need to show a bit more on the mound are: Hamel, Al Reyes, and Gary Glover.  My pick is Glover, not becuase of bad outings, I just do not see him in the futre of this ballclub and it might be to his best interest to get on with a club who could use his services every other nightl.

Okay all, that is it for tonight.  Remember, to vote for Evan Longoria as the Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month on MLB.com. 

Also he is a Write-In candidate for the MLB All-Star ballot at third base.  He will get to alot more All-Star games in the future, but this is a chance to get his name out there for nest years’ honor.

I want to Thank Brenton here on MLBlogs.Com for mentioning by Blog on his in the last few days.

Rays fans are coming out of the closet and walking onto the bandwagon in alarming rates. It is great to see another veteran of the lean wins years on this site promoting the ballclub.  I siot in Section 138 at the bottom every game, come on down and say hello anytime.

Cliff

Here is a link to his blog for all my fellow Rays supporter to check out another great Rays writer:

http://Braverays.mlblogs.com

 

 

 

 

 

Rays J P Howell wins 5th game

 

Rays 5, Rangers 4

 

I normally do not go out to bars and watch the Rays games anymore. Not that I do not like company, or like to drink Coors Light alone (Code Blue!). It is just that in the past, some half-wasted Boston or Yankee stiff would interject his World Series claim every half inning to me. By the way, when did YOU win that Worls Series for the team there guy?

 Living in Fl. never gave the team a dime during the playoff run, except for that commemorative T-shirt from Wal-Mart.

This year is different. I sat in my little bar of choice,The Banana Boat II and watched the game on the big screen with a small crowd of people. If people in bars are watching the game and not 100 percent obesessed with the night’s Karaoke, I think we are on our way of conquering Tampa Bay.  It was great to even see a few more T-shirts and hats bearing the “TB” on it. Rays mania might just be the “In” thing this summer.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Actor William Bendix, who played Babe Ruth in the movie, “The Babe Ruth Story”, was once Ruth’s batboy.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly PostersThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly Posters

                                        The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

               

                                              The Good

Gabe Gross came to the Rays not knowing what is role would be with the club. He knew they had a hole in rightfield, but was not sure if the team would have the faith and  patience for him to adjust to the American Leagues style of play.

Well, last night, Gross pretty much cemented his place in the right with the Rays by again stepping up and hitting a 2-run homer to right in the 2nd inning. It was Gross’s 4th homer since the trade the Brewers’, and his defensive plays in right helped save a few Ranger runs.  In his last 5 games, Gross is 6-20 at the plate with 3 doubles, 2 homers and 5 RBI’s.

 

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

                           

***  Jason Bartlett has been a amazing on the bases this season for the Rays. Whe he is on base, he is constant thorn in the side of the opposition’s pitching staff. Again last night, Bartlett stole 2 consecutive bases on the Rangerst o get into scoring position in the 9th inning.

His stealing of third got him in position to score the winning run on a wild pitch by Ranger Jamey Wright. Bartlett now has 12 steals for the season.

 

                          

 

**   B J Upton reached base 4 times last night. He had two walks, and a double, his 17th of the year.  BJ also scored a run and raised his average to .300 for the year.

Upton’s 2 walks last night give him 42 for the year, which ties him for first in the AL with the A’s Jack Cust. Upton is also third in the league in strikeouts with 52.

 

                   

 

Willy Aybar  has stepped up totally since Carlos Pen’as injury and got another start at first last night for the RaysI know I was in that crowd of people wondering where Aybar fit in the Rays scheme of things a few weeks ago when he came off the DL. Well, we now know that answer, and are glad he is with the team.

Aybar went 1-4 last night with 2 RBI’s and made some excellient play at first base.  He is 5-17 since his return from the DL, with 4 doubles.

                                      

                                           

                                                 The Bad

Andy Sonnanstine did not pitch bad tonight, but he did take himself out of the winning side of things with a rough first 3 innings. He left the game  in the 5th inning with the game tied 2-2. 

That in itself is not a bad start, but we have been expecting more out of this young starter.  Sonnanstine was not wild or even  very controlled tonight around the plate. He was consistant with his primary pitch, but was just missing the corners with his off-speed stuff.

Some pitcher just go through a period of adjusting their delieveries and pitches after time up in the majors. This was Andy’s 35th start of his career, and I know there will be many more in his future.

 

                                               The Ugly

The Rays manager Joe Maddon had made a point of stressing that the club needs to address their  team strikeout totals. The Rays are second in th AL in strikeouts, trailing only  the Texas Rangers.

The Rays currently have 459 strikeouts this season. The top Ray in strike outs,and AL leader Carlos Pena is currently on the DL. But, Evan Longoria (54), and B J Upton (52) are running second and third for the Rays in that category.

In the last series against Boston, the Rays struck out 27 times against Red Sox pitching. In Friday and Sat. contest, the Rays have struck out 12 times in this series, with today’s finale at 5:05 P.M.

 “I think I’m seeing them with two strikes making a greater attempt at making contact, rather than just swinging,” Maddon said. “I just think this is going to happen over the long haul. Right now we are second in the league in striking out behind [the Rangers].”

I know that seeing guys on base with 2 outs can make a player want to make contact to drive the player in for runs, but right now we are also not using our foresight and trying to even get walks and promote even more runs or pitcher errors.  We are a young club, and this factor will be here for a long time becuase of the aggressive nature of this ball club. The fact of the matter is, selective hitting is an art form, and one the young Rays have not mastered yet…………………….yet.

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