July 2008

Rays take Series from Jays

 

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays

 

 

Today is the day that the Rays brass shows if they think we have the pieces to contend, or might need to tweak the lineup a bit to win it all.

Trade Deadline deals can be for many reasons. They can be to dump a salary player, to get prospects and players for 2009, or could just be a internal move to upgrade a pitching or hitting group for a playoff run.

In the last 24 hours, we saw our rival Yankees upgrade even further by getting a quality catcher to boost their offense. They up graded their absent leftfield situation, and got a lefty reliever that can be “light’s out” at times.

The Boston Red Sox have not done anything spectacular, but we have 24 hours before they have to atone to their fan base as to why they are buyers or sitters on the trading market. The Toronto Bluejays have been a darkhorse in a few of the Rays deals. They are currently looking at Pittsburgh’s Jasin Bay, and might just pull him out from under our radar.

This time of year can be hit or miss for any team. And with the Rays’ renewed “Wall Street Smarts” configuration for determining if a player is right for our style, just like a stock, it can be a risky move to sit instead of play your hand. I think the Rays have been cautious to the point of moot in the deadline deals.

We have lost out on a few guys we had on our radar. Maybe the computer printouts and future projections show that these players were not worth the prospects. Maybe the projections on the printouts show a downward spiral after August we do not know about, or maybe it is just “Andrew, being Andrew.”

Andrew Friedman has gotten the reputation as being a very intelligent playmaker in the markets, both in stocks and in MLB commodities. He is calculated and analyses situation to the betterment of the teams’ present and future. But sometimes you got to go with a “gut reaction” here in this high pressure, limited time deadline.

With that in mind, Andrew, let them have a Jeremy Hellickson, or a Wade Davis if it will make us better for more than 1 year. We are very pitching deep, but have a shallow pool for corner right-handed hitters and proven outfield prospects.

  We missed out on Xavier Nady, who was a better fit for us than Jason Bay, but that might just be a judgement call by my personal gut feeling. Maybe we can have our own 3-way deal with Atlanta and get our corner guy (Bay), their lefty reliever (Ohlman) and they get some great future players in return.

 We do have a great amount of prospects that will be stockpiled with nowhere to go in the next few years. Maybe it is time to jettision some of the bulk and make the minors an easy flow again.

But then again, I play the Lotto every week in hopes of a miracle quick-fix every Sat. and Weds night too.

 

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Carlos Pena has been on fire lately at the plate. He has awoken his home run swing and been consistantly on base for the last month since coming off the DL. The Rays need this guy to be up to the challenge if we are to make a realistic run at the playoffs this year. And Pena has responded like a champion.

Coming into today contest, Pena has just concluded a streak of 30 straight games reaching base for the Rays. In this series, he has had a bit of trouble getting started, but has responded with key plays on defense and timely hits to hit .318 on this roadtrip, with 3 homers,2 doubles and 5 RBI’s. 

Pena connected for his 18th homer of the season today in the 4th inning. Pena now has 64 homers over the last two seasons to take the Rays 2-year homer mark away from Aubrey Huff. Pena’s power will be needed in the next 8 weeks to help the Rays keep pace in the AL East.

 

                               

 

For months I have heard the outcry that Edwin Jackson does not belong in the rotation. That it would be better to put him in the Bullpen and let some in Durham get their shot. But I also think those people are the ones who are buying all that expensive 8 dollars beers and spilling them when something good happens on the field at Rays games.

Seriously, here is a guy who is now 7-7 on the year. Has battles back from a losing record last season and started the year 2-0 for the Rays. Hete is a pitcher who now has 3 wins in his last 8 starts.

Jackson is 2-1 in his last 6 starts, and has aloowed 3 earned runs or less in 5 of those starts. No other Rays p[itcher can say that besides Matt Garza. And he has a 3.71 road ERA, the best on the team this year.

Jackson is currently 7-7, with a 4.20 ERA, with 68 strikeouts. Now his strikeout totals are down this year, but his ERA and win totals are better, and his control is improving every game. To make a better point, last season, Jackson was 2-10, with a 7.0 ERA at this point in the season, and did not get his 5th win until Sept 23rd. He is 2 past that so far this season.

Jackson allowed 2-runs on 7-hits while pitching 5 innings. The only negative right now on Jackson is that he is not pitching deep into the ballgame for the Rays. But then again, they pulled him after 86 pitches in the contest today.

 

Carl Crawford is beginning to heat up also for the team. For this team to be in the heat of the battle every night, Crawford needs to be on base to get better pitch selections for Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena.

With Carl on base, the opponent has to be worried about a base stealing mater taking their team out of the game early.  Today Crawford had his 4th triple in 5 games to give him 9 on the season, and move him into the AL lead. He has now hit safely in the last 5 games, going 8-20, with a double, 4 triples and 3 RBI’s. the only concern is the point he has now gone 27 games without a home run for the Rays.

 

                                   

 

With the win today, the Rays will conclude this road trip by winning 4 out of 7 games. Before the second half of the season, Rays Manager Joe Maddon commented that it might take a .500 road record the rest of the year to get them into playoff consideration. I am not as optimistic as Maddon in this figure.  With the Rays still 5 games under .500 on the road this year, I think they will have to win 6 out of 10 to put themselves in good playoff shape.

But then again, you have to hope that their homestand this week is a hugely success and takes some pressure off the road woes.

To add to the road woes is a rough and difficult upcoming Wect Coast tour of 10 games in 11 days, before coming home for 3 games against the MLB-best L A Angels.  The next 14 games will be a true test and barometer of the Rays chances this post-season. If they struggle or flinch too much, the playoff might be in 2009’s plans.

 

The Rays again did not hit that 10 hit plateau, getting 9 for the day. So as of today, the Rays have only gotten 10 hits once in the last 21 games. The good news is that they have won 4 of those last seven, and have won 9 of those last 21 games.

 

All eyes will be on the ESPN television telecasts, or online website like MLBTradeRumors.com today to see what deals, spoilers and failed attempts by clubs show their faces today. The Rays have always had a policy of silience in confirming or denying a trade or play in action with another club.

My perdiction is a Jason Bay incident where the Red Sox/Marlins deal falls apart and they know we have the deal on the table for the outfielder.

Who we give up is a major thing here. Hopefully Andrew opens the talen wallet a bit and give them what they need to secure Bay. He is an upgrade for the batting order, and could be the missing piece we have needed this year.

And the best point is, we will have Jason Bay for another year, not just a 3-month rental, with an option to buy. Tampa Bay is finally in a buyers’ market, and we have to make a good showing to make the league want to make deals with us. Chuck LaMar sometimes made deals just to make a deal……..Andrew is smarter than that………….I hope.

 

Garza Shuts Down Toronto

 

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 0

 

 

By 7 PM tonight, we will see what kind of talent and deals the front office of the Rays have formulated to help this team compete in the coming weeks. With the Angels getting another big bat, the Rays must do some kind of counter measure to ensure the Angels do not get a leg up on us come playoff time. The worst case scenario would have us play the red hot Angels before getting back to a hotly contested American League championship series.

I know I am doing a bit of fortunetelling by even thinking we are at point in our history that we have to parlay future matchups in our favor 8 weeks before the end of the season. But this team is all about calculated risk and ventured gains by hits, runs and defensive excellience.

With that in mind, the Trade Deadline deals could swing the ball farther into our court, or push us towrds a dead heat and a unfortunate ending. Either way, we can rejoice in the matter that we again will not have 100 losses this year. Last night’s victory pretty well took that demon and shoveled a ton of dirt on it.

The websites have us trying to pry Jason Bay from the Pirates outfield, and the Braves Will Ohlman to shore up an already steady Bullpen. But could there be an underlying current that has us pick up a guy under the radar? I have a gut feeling we might see a unannounced deal tonight that might make you think a bit.

You never know with Andrew Friedman, he might have had a deal sewed up days ago, but let the team use that player until the last moment to help that squad before he leaves. That does sound like a naive GM, but one who wants to find willing trade partners for years to come for the Rays.

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Tell me that wasn’t a wild sight seeing Eric Hinske rattling around the bases on that “apparent” Inside-the-Park homer. Hinske started his home run trot, but the second base umpire did not signal it was a homer and Hinske strarted to get his motor revved up and pushed towards home. Jays outfielders’ Alex Rios and Brad Wilkerson also did not even make a play for the ball thinking it hit off the stadium deck fascade and would be a homer.

Roy Halladay looked annoyed that the outfield did not try and at least play the issue out and was screaming for someone to go get the ball in the outfield. It was announced several innings later, that the play had been called a homer by the 1st base umpire, and that is why the second base umpire didn’t also make the signal.

 

 

With his 15th homer in the 3rd inning, Hinske got all the runs needed to defeat Jays ace Roy Halladay for the 3rd time this season. the Rays still have 6 games against the Jays this season, and you know Halladay will be pitching in at least one of those contests. For Hinske, it helped silience the Toronto crowd a bit that has heckled and boo’ed him since he came in this series.

Toronto fans forget, Hinske left on good terms with the Toronto management and should not have any bad blood going on between himself and the Jays. But fans have short memories ans it might just be a sad attempt to show some frustration that their 2001 Rookie of the Year got away from them.

 

 

               

 

 

Matt Garza needs to take the Rays infield out for dinner once the team gets back into St. Petersburg. Garza pitched an amazing game where he looked calm and collected all the way through to the end. The victory was Garza’s 9th of the season, and his second complete game this year.

But Garza should not forget the 3 double plays by the Rays tonight, or the outstanding defensive play by Evan Longoria in the 7th inning where he took a big hop off the third base bag and threw out Jays’ speedster Alex Rios for the out.

 

 

                                      

 

 

Garza pitched all 9 innings for the Rays, and gave the Bullpen a much needed day off. Matt also got the first shutout on the road for the Rays this season. The Rays staff have 10 shutouts total, 9 of those at home. 

 In the contest Garza only allowed one extra base hit, a double to Adam Lind in the game and scattered 5 hits throughout the 9 innings. Garza also got 5 strikeout ans threw 106 total pitches in the contest. With the Rays needing every road victory, this one was sweet in the fact that the offense came alive and gave Garza a cushion of runs to ease him on the mound.

 

To show how much the Rays have struggled in the past 3 weeks, the Toronto Bluejays were 14 games back and looked out of the race. Coming into the game tonight, they are only 8 games back and have 7 out of their last 10 games.

 

Carl crawford hit a monster liner to the right centerfield wall in the 1st inning for his 8th triple of the season. That ties him with Brian Roberts of the Orioles for the AL lead. Coming into this game, Crawford has batted .341, with 2 triples, 5 RBI’s and is currently 5-10 against Halladay this season. Crawford went 2-4 tonight with a liner over 3rd base in the 7th inning. Crawford also scored a run in the contest to move himself into 17th in the AL.

To show a comparison of the struggles Crawford has had in the last few weeks, he was ranked in the top 6 in runs scored most of the season before going on his 0-24 streak before the All Star break.

 

Again B J Upton had trouble in centerfield for the Rays. You have to wonder if in the near future his learning curve for the centerfield position will turn upwards and the mis-played balls and his routes will get better. B J  is not loafing out there in center, but his stride make him look more of a relaxed runner than most centerfielder in the game.

B J  let a teaxa leaguer hit fall in that he could have gotten to if he had played a bit shallower in center. Upton was 4 yards from the wall when Marc Scutaro popped that short fly into the turf in center on Upton.

 

Before the Rays big inning in the 7th, they had gone 0-7 with runners in scoring position in the game. Twice they left runners on third. In the 3rd inning, Jason Bartlett was stranded at third and the Rays proceeded to record 2 straight outs in the inning.

 

Evan Longoria went 1-4 in the game. In the 8th inning, Longoria hit a liner over the third base bag that went all the way to the leftfield corner. Crawford and Upton scored on the play and Evan ended up on third with his 2nd triple of the season. Longoria now has 63 RBI’s, which second behind David Murphy ( 67 ) of the Rangers for the MLB lead for Rookies. Longoria has also hit safely in all 6 games of this roadtrip and  10 of his last 11 games, batting .325, with 3 homers and 10 RBI’s. 6 of those RBI’s have come against Roy Halladay.

 

Dioner Navarro went 1-3 tonight. Navarro singled to right to lead off the  5th innings, then was caught stealing second by Jays catcher Rod Barajas.

 

If you have not heard yet, the Saturday night game against the Detroit Tigers has now been called an official sellout. It is the second fastest sell out in Rays history second only to the Innagural game also against the Tigers.  The Rays are 14-1 against opponents when there are 30,000 plus fans in the seats. 

Jays Stymie Rays 3-1

 Update:   As of 5 PM today (Tuesday), the Sat. Rays game against the Detroit Tigers is sold out. The only seast that remain are a few obstrcuted view seats in the upper level of the Trop.

Look out for scalpers on your trek to the Trop. on Sat night.

 

Blue Jays 3, Rays 1

 

I am getting such a kick out of some of the names blurted out concerning trades before Thursday evening. Some are big names, others have not gotten to the households of America yet. But you can be sure that the Rays policy to keep all trade talks mum is alive and kicking in the front office.

Most of the accusations and mumblings have come out of the other club’s office, and not the Rays’ management. This keeps the other teams guessing on their “place” in the trade talks for players. Tampa Bay has put a high regard on such silience, and has paid well for their closed lips.

Last year, we never saw the Dan Wheeler for Ty Wiggington trade coming. Neither did we see “Big Red”, Seth McClung going north for Grant Balfour. These trades last year looked like minor adjustments to our roster and would not be a major impact .

Wheeler is just leading all Rays in the “hold” category, and has been as reliable as any other player in the majors in the clutch for the team. Balfour might have not made the Opening Day roster, but when he came back, he was pitching like a different pitcher. He had more confidience and was using his control and location better in his releiever roles.

Balfour might just be our closer of the future, or he could replace Wheeler as the 8th inning guy if injury or another unexpected trade hits the books.  I have a feeling this Tuesday will be quiet silient for the Rays, but Wed evening, and Thursday morning you will hear our name a few times with surprises and upgrades to our squad.

 

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I am going to get this off my chest now while it is still burning a hole in me. The Rays need to find a centerfielder to fill in until B J Upton can learn to play the angles correctly and give us more of a chance on those 50-50 balls in the gap area.

B J  is an excellient ballplayer, but he is just not getting it in center right now. On two consecutive plays, he was beaten by himself by taking either a late route or a wrong route to the ball. The results were two triples, one by a Brad Wilkerson, that was his first of the season.

With the Jays up 2-1, Wilkerson came up and threaded a ball into that Upton left his feet to try and snare into a double. Upton was off by about 2 feet and the ball skirted to the outfield wall.  Joe Inglett came up next and hit a hard hit fly to the gap in rightcenterfield. B J made a bad run toward the ball and it cruised to the wall while Inglett sprinted to third.

I get so upset some games when I see B J  and his “big strides” cruising to a ball he missed, and Carl Crawford is right there next to him and could have made the play after running from leftfield. It gets to be a routine to see Upton cruise, while Gross, Hinske and Crawford race for balls and put more effort into their actions.

 

 

The Rays defense kept them close in that game last night. The middle infield was spectacular on several plays that could have gone for extra bases. Evan Longoria went vertical to rob Rob Barajas of a base hit in the 2nd inning. Longo went towards the hole at second and went vertical before coming up and throwing Barajas out by almost 2 steps.

Considering he is throwing to Carlos Pena, who has a .999 Feilding Percentage this season at first, currently best in the majors. But then again, Longoria is not a bad fielder either, currently fielding at a .971, which is 4th in the majors. All the contending third basemen with better percentages are in the American League ( Toronto’s Scott Rolen, Boston’s Mike Lowell, and Chicago’s Joe Crede).

Jason Bartlett is also keeping the Rays in game with his defense. In the 4th inning, Bartlett took a ball deep in th hole towards second base and threwa 2-hopper to Pena to get Alex Rios, one of the fastest Jays by a step. The play is a reminder of the outstanding up-grade  we have at both third and short this season.

 

 

With 9 weeks left in the season, the Rays have to start to  committ to an upgrade on offense. The Rays have been getting some timely hitting, but in the Rays’ last 18 games, they have scored only 48 runs ( 2.7 runs/game ). To make that matter even worse, last night the Rays also went 0-10 with men in scoring position, and have gone 19-138 ( .138 ) in recent games.

This stat in particular can be posted to show the struggle the team has had on offense to get the runs needed to win thses close contests. The Rays are 2-9 on the road in July, batting .196, and hitting .141 with men in scoring position. Their seasonal average with runners in scoring position is last in the majors at .241.

The Rays have hit over 10 hits in a single game only once in the last 17 games. During their winning streak, that was almost a nightly event.  But there is light at the end of the tunnel, Carlos Pena is starting to see the ball better and hitting some great balls into the gaps in the outfield, and the team is the best in the majors in 1-2 run games this year, at 33-16.

 

Last night, the top 4 batters’ in the Rays lineup each got a hit off A J Burnett. The Rays were going for a 3-game win streak against Burnett.

Burnett had never lost 3 straight to any team. Burnett countered by striking out 5 of the first 6 Rays he faced last night. Eric Hinske got 3 walks off him last night and Jason Bartlett got the other walk issued by Burnett.

The Rays did not get a hit until Akinora Iwamura led off the 3rd inning with a single and Upton hit a shot to rightfield that got Aki to second . Carl Crawford got on base after Rolen’s misplayed a ball down the line and loaded the bases for the Rays.

Longoria struck out, but Carlos Pena came through on a ball hit to Lyle Overbay at first that was juggled and allowed Aki to score the first run of the game for the Rays.

 

Eric Hinske was picked off first by Burnett in the 4th inning while leaning towards second base. Hinske treid to dive under Overbay’s tag, but got caught off the bag by a quick throw by Burnett. 

In the 5th inning, Crawford hit his 10th double of the season and was stranded their when both Rays batters could not move him. In the 7th inning, Upton got on with a walk and avanced to third on his 32nd stolen base and advanced to third on a Wild Pitch by Burnett. Upton was left on third after Crawford struck out, but Barajas dropped the third strike and Crawford ran safely to first. Longoria finished the inning by hitting into a 6-4-3- double play.

The Rays went down 1-2-3 in both the 8th and 9th innings to end the game.

 

                                   

 

James Shields came into the game going 2-0 against the Jays this season with a 1.9 ERA and 9 strikeouts. He was also gunning for his 10th win to tie him with Sonnanstine for tops on the Rays. 

Shields went 7.1 innings and gave up only 5-hits for 3-runs against the Jays. He also got 5 strikeout to move into 10th place in the Al with 116 for the season. Shields threw only 4 pitches in the entire 6th inning. Shields gave way to Grant Balfour after throwing 94 pitches.

Balfour inherited Joe Inglett at thrid and retired the Jay with 9 pitches in the inning. Balfour leads all major league relievers with a .111 average (10-90), with 4 extra base hits, all doubles. His 13.01 strikeouts per 9 innings, leads all AL pitchers and is 2nd among MLB relievers.

19 of his 22 appearance have all been scoreless this year.  Amazingly enough, he is the only Rays reliever to not surrender a run at the Trop. this year in 11 appearances and 14 innings.

 

I am again going to warn anyone wanting to go to this Sat night;s concert at the Trop to buy your tickets today. the team has unofficially announced that it is a sold out event with limited seating, mostly single throughout the stadium.

To secure your place to watch LL Cool J, you need to call the ticket office or go to raysbaseball.com and get yout tickets today. Walk-up’s will not be happy on Sat night when they find out the game is an offical sellout. And remember, the Rays are 14-1 when 30,000 or more fand attend a Rays game.

 

On Sat. night, Roccoa Baldelli played 5 innings in rightfield for the Montgomery Biscuits. Rocco reposrted to Rays trainer Ron Perterfiedl that he felt great and was looking forward to his next start. This is a great thing to hear since the Rays are searching for a right-handed bat, and one might just fall into their lap again.

Baldelli is currently hitting .333 at Montgomery, and went 2-3 Sat night with a 3-run homer in the 1st inning, and a single in the 4th for the Biscuits. Rocco was replaced by Erold Andrus in rightfield at the start of the 6th inning.

 

More great news out of Montgomery is that David Price earned his 5th straight Double-A victory last night against the Huntsville Stars. Price threw a 2-hitter and struck out 7 in his 8 innings of work for the Biscuits Both of the Stars hits were homers against Price, but also gave up 0 walks in the game.

With this kind of sucess at the Double-A level, Price might be in Durham or above in the next few weeks.

 

 

 

 

Rays can’t Finish series on a Winning Note

 

 

Royals 6, Rays 1

 

Rocco Baldelli is currently doind a rehab assignment with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits. Balidelli has been doing mostly DH duties before hitting rightfield for the past two contests.

On Saturday night, Baldelli played the outfield for 5 innings, and reported no ill effects from his time out in the field. This might be great news for the Rays, who are searching for a right-handed bat to compliment the Rays truggling offense.

 Alot has been made of the Rays trying to secure a rightfield via a trade, but several teams are making high demands of at least a MLB ready prospect and another high-end player to even consider trading their top players.

the wild part is that Andrew Friedman might have the answer just up the stateline a few hundred miles in Montgomery. Even if Rocco is not in perfect shape to man the outfield every day, Justin Ruggiano has been hitting .307, and hit a critical homer in Durham’s win over 2-0 win over the Louisville Bats Sat. night.

It is expected that Rocco will make the journey up the minors ladder to Durham in the coming weeks, then the Rays will sit back and make a decision on maybe using him or Ruggiano to fulfill the right-hande bat problem.

I think either would be a great story for the Rays, but a emotional and “feel Good” story would be Rocco going out and patrolling the outfield again for the Rays. Rocco has not played in the outfield for the Rays since being injured in 2006.

 

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Andy Sonnanstine is currently leading the Rays in wins with 10 this season. The bad part is that Sonnanstine has now gone 3 straight outing without a win since last beating the Royals at home, and is stuck on his double digit win total.

Sonnanstine threw only 6 pitches befoe finding himself behind in the game against the Royals. Mike Aviles hit a solo shot to put the Royals up 1-0 early in the contest. Sonnanstine now has an identical home and road record for the season (5-3).

 

             

 

After Aviles shot, Sonnanstine did not allow another Royal hit until David DeJesus’s double to lead off the 4th inning.  Sonnanstine went 6.2 innings,giving up 5-runs on 8-hits and struck out 2 for the game. 

 

Al Reyes came on in the 6th inning with the Royals up 3-1. Al quickly  a wild pitch that moved all the Royals’ baserunners up before surrendering a 3-run home to Billy Butler to increase their lead to 6-1. Reyes threw 15 pitches and allowed 2 hits in his short relief appearance.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena extended his on-base streak to 29 games with a 2-3 day for the Rays. Pena singled to right in his first at-bat in the second inning to keep his streak alive. He also had a double to deep right, and was hit by a pitch in the 8th inning. Pena is currently hitting .238, and has gone 6-10 in the last 3 games, with 2 doubles, 2 homers and 3 RBI’s.

 

 

                       

 

 

The Rays split the 4-game series with the Royals and will travel to Toronto tonight to take on the upcharging Bluejays. Toronto has won 6 of their last 10 game to pull within 8 games of the Rays.

The loss moved the Boston Red Sox to within 1 game of the AL East lead. The Red Sox will open a home series against the LA Angels on Monday night. Boston won the last game against the New York Yankees to stop the Yankees’ streak at 8 straight wins. 

 

Boston’s series with the Angels along with the recent implosion of Manny Ramirez should make at least a ripple in the Red Sox pond over the next few games. It has been reported, that if the Red Sox can find a suitor for Manny, he will waive his 10-5 trade veto to complete a trade to another team.

This  distraction could be great news to the Rays. With the Red Sox players siding in their respective corners concerning this situation, it could splinter the clubhouse a bit and maybe give the Rays an edge they need right now.

Knowing that there is internal bickering with their nearest competitor could make the Rayf focus more on the issue at hand. They need to win more than 50 percent of their final games to insure at least a Wild Card spot in the playoff.

90 wins will probably not be enough for the Rays to secure a spot, but an extra 5, or 95 wins could be a firm foundation to give the team their first playoff berth in team history.

With the Rays coming home to the Trop for 6 games, it is urgent to win as many at home as possible to lighten the load on the road the rest of the way through the season. After the Rays homestand, they will be going on a 10 game in 11 days roadtrip that will swing through Seattle,Oakland and Texas.

After that trip, they will only be home for 3 days before taking off again for a tough 3 game road series in Chicago against the White Sox.  After the Chicago series, the Rays play 21 straight games against their AL East opponents.

 

 

Pena goes Deep for Rays Victory

 

 

Rays 5, Royals 3

 

In the past, my Sat. night’s when the Rays were out of town did not include Rain Delays and sitting their watching alternative Tv shows. I used to hit my old watering hole about 8-ish, or after 5 innings. Usually by then, you knew what kind of outcome was coming for the Rays.

But, in this playoff-drenched year, you never know what Rays team is going to show up on any night.

Could it be the offensive minded juggernaut who scored at will a few weeks ago, or the runs challenged little cousin we have seen here in KC this weekend. The Rays now have to get up as much for the little guys they are suppose to beat, as the giants in the AL.

In the coming weeks, the little guys are going to decide this pennant race. The Rays used to be in the spoiler roles for playoff bound squads. Now, they are in the crosshairs of teams wanting to shoot the upstarts back to earth and home in October.  We forgot to bring our “A” game against the “little guys”, and the teams we are suppose to beat are beating us to the punch.

We are now the team that should dictate what our record and rise up accordingly. But I think we might not have that strong a opinion of our own worth just yet. We know what talents we have, but are not using or abusing our own goods to succeed this year.

Maybe people are right, maybe we are just scratching the surface and will not be the monster this year. We still have over 60 games to prove the world wrong, but the path is uphill and the Rays have seemed to be on a slippery slope on the road lately

I think the Rays need to finally put that game face on 24/7 and grit it out for the next 60-ish games and show that this team is the one to delegate the playoffs this season, and not be the last one invited to the party.

Time to RSVP Rays, are you up to the test?

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One of the foundations of this teams playoff run this season has been the play of Carl Crawford. In the last few seasons, Crawford has rasied his average and steal totals every season. This year might be the first year he is not going to keep pace with that stat, but Crawford  for the first time in his Ray’s career is not being asked to carry this team.

That has raised some questions into Carl’s heart for the Rays’, or passion for the game. I do not think there is any question that the reason Carl is more aggressive at the plate is that he sees, and knows that this is a turning point year in his baseball career. Not because of contract situations, but because of expectations of the team and himself are finally meeting each other.

For the first time since he put that old Ray’s jersey on his back, he knows that this team can win, and that he can be a cornerstone for that feat.

Crawford recorded two triples last night in a contest that was delayed and dominated by  extreme weather and outstanding defense by both squads.  Crawford went 2-4 last night with 2 RBI’s to help the Rays win over the Royals.

 

 

 

Crawford has his 7th multi-triple game of his career. Carl joined former Royals great George Brett in 3rd place since WWII in  multiple triples games. Willy Mays currently hold the record with 10 multi-triple games in his career. With Crawford’s increase offensive power, that record is sure to fall in the future.

The triples, numbers’ 80 and 81, move Crawford past Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan ( 1939) to become the first player since Vaughan to reach 80 triples before his 27th birthday. C C had been 1-35 in his pervious 8 road games for the Rays.

 

 

 

Scott Kazmir pitched the first 4  innings for Tampa Bay, before a rain delayed the game for an hour and thirteen minutes. Upon completion of the delay, Kazmir threw one more inning before retiring for the night.

When Kazmir came back onto the mound after the delay, his pitches seemed a bit more crisp and  his placement was better. In his 5 innings, Kazmir gave up 2-runs on 7-hits and got 5 strikeouts.

Kazmir came into the game with a 3-4 record on the road, with a 4.10
ERA. Kazmir lifetime had an 5.90 ERA against the Royals.

 

Carlos Pena has been considered a keystone to the Rays push for a winning .500 season and a possible playoff berth. Pena is riding a current 29 game on base streak. It is the longest streak in the majors this year. Pena also hit his second homer in the 9th inning las night to put a cushion on the Rays victory over the Royals.

Pena’s 2 hits in both of those games gave him his first back-to-back multi-hit games this year.  Carlos has been 5-31 in his last 9 games.

Pena’s 17th homer of the season, led off the 9th inning for the Rays, and gave a much needed insurance run for the win.

 

 

Trever Miller, Al Reyes, and Dan Wheeler came on and blanked the Royals before Troy Percival took over in the 9th inning. Miller had better control in his inning, and might have corrected the small error in his delivery that caused him such problems in the Rays’ homestand.

Percival came on in the 9th innig and recorded his 22 save of the season. The save (346) puts him 1 save away from tying Randy Meyers for 8th on the All-Time save list.

Troy’s 9th inning started with Gabe Gross’s misplay of a Russ Gload fly ball that bounced off the Royals Bullpen Wall and allowed him to reach thrid on the play. E German then came up and singled after going to a 2-2 count against Percival. Gload scored on the play and put the Royal to within 2 runs of the Rays.

Percival then retired the next 3 batters, all on hit balls to record the save for the Ray’s 61st win. Percival has made 4 appearances since his return off the DL and is 3-3 in save opportunities for the team. He is holding opponents to a .175 average this year.

 

 

In the 2nd inning of the game, the Rays did an impressive job of moving over the runner and getting a run. It is the type of run producing action that the Rays will have to duplicate often if they plan on staying atop the AL East for much longer.

The inning began with Calros Pena waling to start the inning.  Willy Aybar then came up and bunted Pena over to second base.  A Dioner Navarro single put Pena on third with 1 out in the inning.  Eric Hinske picked up an RBI when he grounded out to second, and Pena scored for the Rays.

Perfect execution of a common National League style of play to get runs on the board. The Rays need to institute this type of situation more in the coming games to help produce and consistantly record runs for the victories. Leaving men on base has been a huge problem for the team this year, and is a great achille’s heel that must be fixed before any playoff dreams can be fulfilled.

 

 

Heads up to all you L L Cool J fans. If you do not get your tickets soon for the Aug 2nd game against the Tigers, you might not be able to see this Rap Giant’s show at the Trop. Tickets are going fast, and when they reach that magical number, the game will be a sell-out.

I think you might see the game sold out by Thursday of this week. The contest will also be a giveaway night, with the first 7,500 fans getting a B J Upton figurine. The figurine features B J  sliding into a base and is a great collector’s item. The night is also African-American Night at the Trop and will be saluting the African-American accomplishments throughout MLB’s history.

So get your tickets early before you have to watch the Youtube videos of this great concert event.    See you at the Trop.

 

 

 

Rays Homer past Royals

 

 

Rays 5, Royals 3

 

If you have not heard yet,the Rays have added another concert to their Sat. night concert series this season.

After the August 30th game against the Baltimore Orioles, the Bradenton-based alternative rock group “We the Kings”, will perform for all in attendance. The Group is best known for their songs, “Skyway Avenue”,and “Check Yes Juliet. The band is currently on tour in the alternative festival, the “Vans Warped Tour,” and just released their self titled CD, “We the Kings” avaIliable right now on their Myspace page.

 

                                

 

The group met while attending Bradenton’s King Middle School and will be featured during the Rays “Science Fiction Night.” The group has a great song that is similar to My Chemical Romance and The Offspring. The group will be playing on the same stage set as the regular Sat. night concert series in the Rightfield area of the Trop.

Keep in mind, Fox has picked up the August 30th game, and the game time has been switched from 7:05 PM to 3:55 PM to conform with the networks Sat afternoon game time. With that in mind, the Trop. will open it’s doors at 1:55 PM for the contest.

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Ever since Carlos Pena came off the DL, he has consistantly been revving up his batting average slowly but surely for the Rays. Pena has now hit safely in 28 straight games dating back to May 30th.  He is working towards the Rays team record of 37 games set by Ben Grieve in 2001. Pena has batted only .260 during that span with 15 walks.

Pena went 2-4 last night with a single that bouned to the rightfield wall in the 4th inning. In the 7th inning, Pena walked on 6 pitches, but was left on base with the Rays winning 3-2.

In the 9th inning, Pena came up with Evan Longoria on via a walk and hit his 17th homer of the season. Pena’s shot hit the top of the right centerfield wall before falling in the grassy area beyond the wall. The 2-run homer ended up being the difference in the game for the Rays. Pena’s 62nd homer as a Ray, puts him in 3rd place all-time for the team.

 

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett responded with and 0-3 night for the Rays. Last night, in his return to the Rays’ lineup, Bartlett went 3-3 and was a constant on defense . Last night, Bartlett again was heavy on defense in being a part of the Rays 2 double plays in the contest.

 In the 1st inning, Bartlett made a incredible play on a liner by David DeJesus to start the game for the Royals. Bartlett moved swiftly to his right to grab the liner that was heading for the gap in left centerfield.

 

 

 

 

Evan Longoria reached base 3 times last night. Longoria hit a liner to rightfield in the first inning, and walked twice in the ball game. Longoria’s walk in the 9th inning set him up to score on Pena’s homer.

In his last 7 games, Longoria is batting .333 ( 8for 24) with 3 homers and 6 walks. He currently leads all MLB rookies and the Rays in homers, with 19 this season,which is 2 away from the Rays current Rookie record held by Jonny Gomes.

Longoria also made a play in the 6th inning on a hard liner hit by DeJesus that was hugging the line at third base. Longoria reached toward the line and snagged the drive about a foot off the ground heading for the corner in leftfield.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro started off the 6th inning with a blistering double off the left centerfield wall. Navarro moved to thrid ona single by Akinora Iwamura, and scored on a Sacrifice Fly by B J Upton to raise the score to 3-1 in favor of the Rays.

Navarro went 2-4  in the game to raise his average to .316 on the season. Navarro is currently ranked 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors with a 36.3 percent caught stealing , and has thrown out 8 of his last 14 runners. Navarro made his only error on July 1st in 428 chances, and leads all MLB catchers with a .988 fielding percentage.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson picked up his 6th victory of the season and pitched a spotty, but great contest. Jackson gave up 2-hits in 5 innings of work for the Rays. The only two hits to be registered by the Royals were solo homers by  Billy Butler in the 5th inning, and John Buck in the 6th inning. After the Buck homer, Jackson was replaced by Grant Balfour, who finished the inning for the Rays.

One year ago today, Jackson was 2-6, with a 6.65 ERA. Last season, Jackson did not get his 5th victory, and final win before Sept. 23rd.

The reason I mention this, is to show the improvement Jackson has made on the mound this season. People forget that he had two wins taken away on blown saves in the 9th inning of those contests, and has 4 quality starts in his last 5 appearances. Jackson has gotten consistantly better with his control and placement during this season. He is currently 6-7, with a 4.22 ERA for the Rays.

Jackson has had 8 starts where he has given up  1 earned run or less, but has won only 3 of them. His 3.72 road ERA is the best on the Ray’s this season.

 

The Rays record of 60-42 is 22 games better than last season at the 101 game mark.  The Rays current ERA of 3.82 is ranked 5th in the majors.

 

 

 

 

Rays Strikeout against Royals

 

 

Royals 4, Rays 2

 

 

Worst thing about watching this game last night, I wish I was there. I have always wanted to go to Kansas City to check out the areaand attend a game at Kaufmann Stadium.

I have been there a few times to play football, but the Royals were already done for the season, and you hate to walk through a vacant ballpark.

I used to love to eat at Bryant’s or get some great ribs off a corner storefront, but I have never had the pleasure of watching a game in that ballpark. I almost went in 2003, but decided to take a trek to Cleveland that season instead. I like the surrounding of the stadium, and will get there before it is gone.

Something about that park gets me giddy to check it out. Maybe it is the water foutain and falls effect, maybe it is the flashs of the cute mid-western girls.  Maybe it is because so much baseball history has flowed through those stands. George Brett and Bo Jackson used to play there. And there have been World Series games, and an All Star game played there too.

And, to let a fellow Rays’ fan know, they do not have tractor parking at the ballpark. Sorry to ruin your vision of the ballparks’ patrons like that.

 

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When you have a game like this, where do you start.

I will start with the glaring reason I think we lost this game. The Tampa Bay Rays have 742 strikeout this season as a team. That places them 8th in the majors. We also have 3 Rays in the top 10 in strikeouts in the AL. Carlos Pena, even though he was out for a period of time, is currently 3rd with  98 strikeouts. B J Upton (87), and Evan Longoria (88) round out our top 3 K-artists.

The game last night saw the Rays get to Royals starter Gil Meche early in the game with a high pitch count in the first three innings. The Rays did not take advantage of this, and Meche walked away with his 8th victory of the season.

Tampa Bay had Meche at 31 pitches in just the 1st inning. Evan Longoria and Pena battled with Meche with extended at-bats, with only Longoria getting a single off him.

At the end of the 2nd inning, the Rays had Meche at 48 pitches, and should have been able to close the door on the starter. But they let him escape with only a single by both Dioner Navarro and Jason Bartlett in the inning.

With Meche on the ropes with a high pitch count, the Rays  ended  both the 3rd and 4th innings on strikeouts. The Rays let Meche survive until the 8th inning.  That was a major mistake by the Rays batters in this game and a huge key to this loss.

 

 

 

One of the positives of this game was the return of  shortstop Jason Bartlett for the Rays.

Bartlett, who had been out for the past 16 games with a right knee sprain suffered while stealing 3rd base on July 2nd.  While he was on the DL, The Rays went 7-9 without him in the lineup.

Not that I think he is a huge cog to this Rays hitting machine this season, but he certainly been a consistant  force at the plate for the Rays offense this year. Bartlett went 3-3 tonight with 2 singles and a double.

 His double in the 8th inning to deep left help set up the Rays first run of the night. Bartlett scored on a Upton grounder to short to put the Rays on the board. 

Bartlett played a great game on defense. The Rays had two double plays tonight with Bartlett attributing to both plays.  

 If I had to pick a player of the night, it would be Bartlett without any reservations. He was a huge threat at the plate, and showed great poise and enegry in his first game back for the Rays.

 

 

Matt Garza  now has a lifetime record of 0-4 against the Royals. Some teams just seem to get to certain pitchers. Maybe KC is the achilles heel for Garza. 

Matt got in trouble early tonight giving up to singles in the 1st inning, and letting the Royals draw frist blood on a Sacrifice Fly by David DeJesus to put them up 1-0.

But the 3rd inning, saw Garza pitch 24 pitches and set the tone for the rest of the game. In the 4th, Garza gave up 3 hits in the inning before making a critical mistake at first base.

Mitch Maier put down a soft grounder to the right of the bag at first that pulled Carlos Pena off the bag. Garza got a late break for the bag and Mier beat the toss to Garza for an infield hit. Mentally, it seemed that Garza did not connect the play in time to get the out. With the Royals already up 4-0 at the time, Garza’s fate was sealed for the night.

 

The Worst part about this loss, is the fact it brought the Rays even with the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Rays had an extra game tonight to put a small cushion between them and the Red Sox, but could not get the victory. With the Rays till playing three more in KC before leaving for Toronto, it is very important that they take this series with the Royals.

Boston will be entertaining the New York Yankees this weekend, and it can put either more distance between the Rays and the Yankees, or put Boston in the drivers’ seat for the rest of the season. Either the Rays come out 3-behind Boston( Red Sox sweep), or even with the Yankees (Yankees sweep) in the AL East. 

This weekend is critical for the race for the playoff for all three teams. With two of the top 3 playing each other, it could help knock one team to a comfortable distance behind the other two with less than 60 games to play this season. Or, it could be a split series by all three and the standings would put all three within 2 games of each other. Fun, Fun , Fun.

 

Evan Longoria went 2-3 last night, and scored the second run for the Rays in the 9th inning. Longoria had a single in the 1st inning that moved Carl Crawford into scoring position, but the Rays did not capitalize on the inning.

For the season, the Rays are currently hitting only .248 with runners in scoring position.

 

 

In the 9th inning, Longoria hit a double off Royals’ closer Joakim Soria and moved to third on Pena’s single to center. The ball was not deep enough for Longoria to try and stretch for home on the play.  Cliff Floyd then came up and hit a deep ball to center that scored Longoria for the Rays final run of the game.

 

The Rays had 5 strikeouts on the night, all 5 were by two Rays players. Pena had 2 strikeouts, ans Eric Hinske was guilty of three on the night, including the last out of the game on a called third strike.

 

J P Howell came on for Garza in the 6th inning and pitched a 1-hit inning for the Rays.  J P is now only 2.2 innings away from a Rays record for relief innings by a left-hander set by Doug Creek in 2001.

Howell currently leads all AL lefties in relief innings this season. J P moved back to 2nd in both the AL and majors in innings pitched 2/3 of an inning behind Brian Bass of the Twins ( 60.2 innings).  In his last 14 appearances, Howell has a 0.47 ERA, with 22 strikeouts.

 

Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler threw scoreless 7th and 8th innings respectfully to close out the contest for the Rays. In those 2 innings, each pitcher retired the side on 10 pitches.

 

 

 

Homers help Rays take Series from A’s

 

Rays 4, Athletics 3

 

 

Starting today, my review or views of the Rays’ contests will be more like a critique or summary of the contest.

 

I will throw out opinions, facts and maybe a few answers to some questions that surface during the game.  I know that most siteslike ESPN, or even Raysbaseball.com  do a  great recap of the game.

 

So I am going to try and dig a bit deeper and try to give you some  missing information,or  a different insight into the contest. I am trying to develop a consistant style that will show both a new side to some things, but also some useful information for Rays fans’.

 

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James Shields recorded his 9th win of the season last night after fighting some control issues in the 2nd inning. Shields surrendered a solo homer to Emil Brown on the first pitch he saw in the 2nd inning. Carlos Gonzalez then turned on a hanging braking ball on a 1-1 count to deposit it in the rightfield bleachers.

 

Shields got 7 strikeouts on 104 pitches today and is currently 9th on the AL strikeout list with 111 strikeouts this season. Shields also went 8.1 innings and was on pace to secure another complete game before Jack Cust doubled in the 9th inning.

 

  

Jonny Gomes has try to make the most of his recent outfield times. Gomes has gotten the start since Oakland started 3 straight left-handed pitchers in th this series. Gomes is trying to show the coaching staff that he derserves more playing time and can hit both righties and lefties.

 

Gomes last 6 hits have consisted of four extra base hits, 4 of them homers. Gomes came into the game hitting safely in 6 of 11 trips to the plate this homestand (3-8, with 3 walks).  Gomes came up in the 5th inning, with Carlos Pena on first after being hit by a pitch. With a 2-2 count against him, Gomes drilled a 442 foot  2-run homer off the C-ring to tie the game at 2-all for the Rays

.

In the upcoming roadtrip to Kansas City, Gomes has gone 10-16 (.625) with 4 homers, 7 RBI’s and a 1.536 Slugging Percentage in his last 4 games at Kauffman Stadium.  With these kind of numbers, you might see more of Gomes either as a DH, or Rightfielder in this series.

 

 One pitch after Gome’s homer, Ben Zobrist sent another into the righfield stands to put the Rays in front 3-2. Zobrist, who is going back to Durham after today’s game is giving the Rays something to think about by hitting consistantly on his time up with the club this season.

 

Jason Bartlett was posted to the Rays 25-man roster immediately following the Rays  59th victory. Bartlett had missed the last 16 games with a right knee sprained while stealing third base on July 2nd  for the Rays.  Bartlett is batting .281 in his last 53 games since April 27th, raising his average from .200 at the time.

 

Bartlett has 10 errors on the season, the last one was a throwing error on July 1st against the Boston Red Sox.  The previous 4 were throwing, while his first 5 of the year were for fielding errors.

 

 

Akinora Iwamura was caught leaning on first base in the 4th inning on a great pick-off move by A’s starter Greg Smith. Aki was stretching out his lead when Smith wheeled around and caught Aki on his right foot. Aki could not get back in time to beat the tag off former Rays prospect Wes Bankston.

 

 

Willy Aybar hit the most interesting hit of the night in the 7th inning. Aybar split the outfield tandem of Carlos Gonzalez and Emil Brown and the ball spun both fielders around before settling near the outfield wall. It was well hit ball that found the gap and got Aybar his 9th double of the year. 

 

 Aybar homered for the first time at Tropicana Field on Monday. Aybar now has 4 homers in 144 at bats this year. He previously had 5 homers on 29 lifetime at-bats in the majors.

 

Carl Crawford is hitting .137 ( 7-51) over his last 12 games since July 7th, dropping his average 20 points from .288.  This stretch followed a 4-game multi-hit streak where he went 10-16 ( .625).

 

Crawford ranks 7th among active current players in steals ( 300), but is 4 years younger than any player ahaead of him. Crawfords’  lifetime stolen base percentage of 84.2 % ranks 10th best All Time in the majors, but 2nd in the AL.

 

                     

 

Troy Percival picked up his 20th save of the season today. Percival threw 2/3rds of an inning to record his save. Percival today became the 10th pitcher to record 10 season of at least 20 saves.

 

With 344 saves, he is currently 3 saves away from tying Randy Meyers for 8th place.  All of Percival’s save have been in the American League. Only Mariano Riveria has more AL saves than Percival.  Opponents are batting .162 against him this season, 4th lowest in the American League. 

 

Troy is currently working on becoming only the second pitcher to have over 8 30-save season in the majors. The top spot is held by the Padres ‘ Trevor Hoffman with 9 seasons.

 

The Rays will begin a 7-game road trip tomorrow , and will play 37 of their final 62 games on the road.  Their last road win was June 29th in Pittsburgh.  While the Rays are 40-16 at home (.714), they are  19-25 on the road (.432).

 

The Rays have the major’s best ERA at home (2.39), but have the leagues 23rd best ERA on the road (4.93).  

 

 

 

Rays bats silent in Loss to A’s

 

 

Athletics 8, Rays 1

 

I heard a few grumbles and mumbles through the crowds last night with phrases like, “Same old Rays,” or ” Here we go again.”

What is it with people and having faith in this team? Why is it that it has to be a blowout or a 7-game winning streak before the mindset changes and we start to believe. Did the Tampa Bay Bucs not winning a game for a few season sour our optimism that much? Did the Lightning having minimum success the first two years also deminish their Stanley Cup years?

People, we are watching a game where if you get lucky enough to hit a ball 3 times out of 10 chances you are a success. We are watching a game that doesn’t need parity like football, every night any team can win.  I do admit, that second thought did creak into my mind for a second last night, but I also know that you can’t win 162 games, and  we are only 5 wins away from a winning season.

That is right, with 58 wins in the bucket, we needs 5 to hit 62 and have a winning season. Small goal, but achieveable every year. I am also one of the guys who set 82 wins as my personal goal for the season, but in my mind would have loved 90 plus wins.

This is crunchtime. This is the roadtrip that will set the last few months for the Rays. For that reason, I stay ’til the last out, I stay until I see the guys leave the field and I watch them. I will believe in this team as long as people are upset with a loss, are not settling for excuses and knows they robbed themselves on the turf. I, as a fan, will support them because they will give the effort and sweat nightly.

 

                                  

 

Last night, the guys seemed to be a bit off center and mentally not there. Maybe we needed this type of game to remind us and themselves that these games are the ones we need to win and show ourselves and others that we are here to stay.

Mentally, the Rays made mistakes on the basepaths and in the field. Had a few brain malfunctions in the box, and played without emotion for the first time in a long while. Maybe the strain of facing 3 straight leftys’ got to our heads. Maybe we just took a night off inside and forgot to tell our bodies.

Carl Crawford went 2-4, with two sizzling singles last night, but the play that you will remember is the baserunning error that caused him to be doubled up at second. On Carlos Pena’s Sacrifice Fly to left, Carl got caught in “no-man’s” land between secoind and third on the play. Instead of heading to third and letting Evan Longoria get to second, Crawford stooped mid base and seemed lost in the basepaths.

He might have no gotten in at third, but he would have made it close. Instead, he wandered between the two bases and was tagged out for the 3rd out of the 3rd inning. Worse part of it, Longoria was stranded on second base.

 

Then, later in the game, Ben Zorbrist went out to collect a ball from Crawford on a cut-off play and threw the ball past Longoria at third to let Oakland score another run on the overthrow. The Rays had  Carlos Gonzalez at thrid on the play with an accurate throw, but Gonzalez was able to score from second on the error from the Rays shortstop.

It was Zorbrist’s second error of the night. His second error was on a catch in the 9th inning that allowed Oakland’s Ryan Sweeney to score and raise the score to 8-1.

 

                     

 

Andy Sonnanstaine was going for his 11th win of the season. Only Rolando Arroyo in the Rays first season has hit that plateau this early in the year.  Since last Aug. 15th, Sonnanstine is tied for third with Mike Mussina of the Yankees with 15 wins over that peiod of time. Sonnanstine is also only  Rays pitcher, besides James Shields, this season to go over 100 innings pitched this season.

With that in mind, you would think if a guy pitched 7 innings and only made one critical mistake, you have a chance to win the ballgame. His mistake was giving a rolling breaking ball to Jack Hananhan that he deposited in Section 148 for a 3-run homer.

 

            

 

Even with a 3 run lead, you would think the Rays could muster enough support for Sonnanstine to get him a win. The fact that the Rays offense have staked Sonnanstine with an average of 3.87 runs a game he starts, should have been enough for a win.

 

But the Rays bat went silent in the game. Carlos Pena’s Sac. Fly brought in Akinora Iwamura from third for the lone Tampa Bay run in the 3rd inning. It gave the Rays the first lead of the game, and it lasted until Hanahan’s homer in the 4th inning.

Besides Crawford’s 2 hits, Iwamura, Pena, Longoria and Dioner Navarro and Zorbrist also hit singles for the Rays. In all, the Rays managed 7 hits off rookie Dallas Braden. Braden handcuffed the Rays for 5 innings, giving up only 4 of those hits before the A’s bullpen finished the job.

Tampa Bay did only strike out 4 times in the game, a sign that the Rays batter’s were being patient with the rookie. The Rays Jonny Gomes, Navarro,Longoria and Iwamura got walks in the contest.

 

On the radio on the way home, people were blasting Rays reliever Trever Miller on the radio. I sit behind the Bullpen mound and I can tell you, I did not see his best stuff tonight, but I also know that control has never been a huge issue with Miller in the past.  He is having a bit of a control situation right now, and becuase he is a veteran, people are turning on him.

People, not every night can you have your best stuff. For most of the year, Trever has been “lights out” for us. The past three games he has had some control and pitch placement situations. But, as a professional, I know he will work on it and be back to his old self.

It is real easy for us in the stands to say a negative comment. But if you have never played beyond Little League, you have no idea of what you are talking about here. Pitching is a artform where it is more a feel for the ball then a mechanical manuver.  For a pitcher to be great, he has to feel the ball is coming off his hand right, or adjust on the fly to get it past the batter.

Some nights that doesn’t happen. Everyone has a bad night. Trever is due to at least have us be patient and not throw him under the bus for a few select bad nights. 

 

Bad news is, the Boston Red Soxs won in Seattle last night 4-2. That pulls them within 1/2 game of first place in the AL East.

But the team had better keep a closer eye on is the streaking New York Yankees who are now only 3 1/2 games behind us. If you remember, the Yankees were 6 games back last week, and they have won 5 straight ballgames.

 

 

Kazmir Blanks A’s

 

 

Rays 4, Athletics 0

 

 

During the M C Hammer show on Sat. night at the Trop., Hammer talked about how after the team got rid of the “Devil” moniker, we began winning. That as the devil went out, the winning began. 

 

That after the team threw away the old uniform style and became a fresh, radiant sunburst, we had new energy and a new purpose and began to win. You know, it might just be something beside the team play that is winning all theses games. I am not calling it devine intervention, just a energized fan base and crowds that actually get into the games can pump a team up emotionally to want to win.

 

But isn’t it amazing that Hammer picked up on that aspect of the team’s success and not the fact that this squad has flirted for about a year just on the razor’s edge of knowing how to win the close games. That the Rays pitching has been 1-2 errors away from wins rather than losses last year.

 

Maybe more amazing is that the new Rays uniforms have been one of MLB’s biggest seller this year, and are more inviting than any other uniform in our team’s history.  Or maybe the stars and planets are aligined to give maximum Ray-dom energy to both the team and the players. Quasi-physics might also have a hand in all of this.

Maybe we are finding out what the coaches’ and scouts’ have known for years. These guys can play. I think it is more simple than that. I think we finally have a reason to believe, and they are rewarding us for our faith. But that is too simple of an answer for the masses and multitudes who want a deeper reason for winning.

 

                                         

 

Rays starter Scott Kazmir was extremely relaxed and poised after throwing his warm-up pitches last night. It was a calm you have not seen alot of in Kazmir this season. He was so relaxed and focused, he signed an autograph or two on the side of the Bullpen without missing a beat talking with Dioner Navarro and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey.

                               

But what Kazmir did on the mound was dominate a team that is also over .500 and in their own divisional fight with the L A Angels for a playoff berth. But the A’s are also considered by many to be the real “giant-killers” for  teams hunting playoff berths this season. Kazmir pitched  7 stellar innings last night and gave up only 2-hits and no runs to shutout the A’s 4-0.

 

With the victory, Kazmir picked up his 8th victory of the year, and with his 9 strikeouts, is currently 11th in the AL with 100 for the year. Considering Scott lost 3-4 starts due to his elbow injury, he is in good shape to try and defend his Strikeout King crown.

 

Kazmir also picked off Mark Ellis on second in the 1st inning. Ellis had walked to lead off the game for the A’s last night.  Kazmir is also ranked 1st in the AL in Strikeouts/9 innings. Tonight’s start was his 11th start against the A’s, and he is now 6-1 lifetime against them.

Kamir gave up only 2 hits last night, all singles.  Kazmir gave up his first hit to Ryan Sweeney in the 1st inning on a blooper single to center that fell between B J Upton and Ben Zobrist. The second was a Jack Cust single to center.

 

 

 B J Upton was again active on the basepaths for the Rays. For the game, B J was 2-3 at the plate, but also had 2 walks. Upton stole second twice in the ballgame to raise his total to 30 bases this year. Upton is currently 3rd in the Al, but is within 5 bases of the league lead. 

 

Since moving up and down in the lineup from his old 3rd spot, Upton has gone 3-9 in this homestand, and has looked more relaxed at the plate. 

 

Jonny Gomes also stole a base last night hustling in after singling to center. Gomes scored on a Akinora Iwamura single to center. Gomes went  1-2 last night and raised his average closer to .200.  Gomes also walked in the 2nd inning. Gomes will get another start in Rightfield tomorrow night against the A’s.

 

 

Where do you start when you talk about Evan Longoria the last few nights. The rookie has now hit 3 homers in 3 nights and has one dynamic defensive play after another this year. Before the beginning of the second half of the season, Longoria was in a 0-15 slump and was 3-23 in his last 7 games.

 

Evan hit his 19th homer of the season, and is 2 away from the Rays rookie record of 21 set by Jonny Gomes in 20005.

 

But his defensive play moving through the hole at short in the 9th innig was the defensive play of the night for the Rays. Longoria scooped the ball up and moving away from first through the shortstop hole, threw a high throw to Carlos Pena at first. Pena stretch high and mightyl and brought down the throw to record the second out in the 9th inning. 

 

 He is currently leading all rookies with 43 extra base hits and is leading in Slugging Percentage with .522.  His 2 RBI’s last night also puts him at 60 for the season, which is 2nd among rookies in the majors. And the Rays are 53-35 since he came up from Durham in April.

          

 

Akinora Iwamura also had a great day at the plate going 2-4, with a single and his 18th double of the season.  Aki has now hit safely in 18 of his last 21 games for the Rays.

 

Willy Aybar also hit his 4th homer of the season. Aybar hit his solo shot in the 3rd inning.  Before his homer Aybar had gone 2-21 in his last 9 games.

 

Grant Balfour came on in the 8th and retired the side on 15 pitches.

 

J P Howell  then came on in the 9th inning to close out the game for the Rays. Howell threw 10 pitches, 8 for strikes to seal the shutout and  help the Rays record their 58th victory.

 

Howell’s last batter was the most important of the night to the crowd in the Trop. Howell probably endeared himself more to the crowd with the night’s 10th strikeout on the last pitch of the game.  That left the crowd with a win, and a free Papa John’s pizza.

 

Howell has now thrown 59 innings this year for the Rays. That is only 3.2 innings shy of Doug Creek’s franchsie record for a lefty set in 2001.

 

He currently leads all AL lefties in innigs pitched, and is on pace to throw 98 innings. That would be the highest relief innings since the Twins Greg Swindell had 112.0 in 1997.

 

Howell currently leads the majors in relief innings with 59.0, Twins reliever Brain Bass ( 58.2) and Senators’ Joel Hanrahan (58.1) are close on his heels.

 

 

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