Kazmir Blanks A’s
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.