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.

 

 

 

 

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