July 2008

Tribe Scalps Rays to 4th loss in a Row

 

 

Indians 13, Rays 2

 

I was just reading a article about changing and updating the All-Star game on ESPN.com. It was a very interesting article and had alot of great changes that could and should happen to liven up this 3-day carnival of baseball. One of the unique ideas was to have a roster spot or two added for a “living legend” participant.

 

Now that would be a veteran that might be winding down a fantastic career who doesn’t have the offensive or defensive muscle they had in their primes. I think this could be used as a “Thank You” spot on the roster.

 

An example, Ken Griffey Jr. could have been this years legend.

 

We all know how much he has meant to the game, and will be in Cooperstown without a doubt. But this stage gives baseball, and the fans a chance to truly give him a standing ovation or the send-off with respect and admiration for his feats. I would stand up and clap for at least 5 minutes for his feats and amazing career.

 

Another idea was to set a spot on each team with a designated “set-up” guy.

 

You know, a J P Howell, or Dan Wheeler who is on top of his game, and who is feared by opposing batters. The All-Star rosters are full of back-end closers and no true set up guys who do a boatload of work to get the closer in a position to save a win. Wheeler for example has 20 “holds” this season. That is one more than the entire Royals relieving corp, and is one of the best in the AL. Should he have a spot on this roster?

 

Another great example is the Cub’s setup guy,Carlos Marmol, who has allowed only 23 hits in 50 innings. Seattle’s Brandon Marrow,who has a 0.65 ERA as a setup man.

 

There are more ideas, but these two caught my eye and should be put into effect in next year’s All-Star game. These roster spots would increase the players invited, but aren’t these positions more important than a 4th catcher, or a 3rd second baseman.You make the call………

  

Before I get started here, we need to truly understand why the system worked for Evan Longoria in the Monster  Last Vote to the All-Star game. It could have been the pounding and repetition voicing and reminders by  the radio and television broadcast teams about voting for Longo.

 

It could have been the Rays video supporting his inclusion with ESPN/Rays Guru Dick Vitale, or it could just be that we finally believe we have a true All Star in this guy. I am going to go with the last one.

 

I think we truly have a guy we all can enjoy here. In the past, Delmon Young was so standoff-ish to the fans he could have been invisible before he steps on the turf. So he would not have won such an honor by our fans. But, Longoria has been a delight from the day he signed his first contract.

 

And, by the way, it might have been the fastest signing of a 1st pick in history. Evan wanted to play baseball, plain and simple. And he did work his way up the right way. He won championships in Double-A, he struggled but found himself in Triple-A, and when he stepped on the field in the 12 game of the season, he was cheered and applauded. He had arrive, and we were more than happy to welcome him into our home (Trop.).

 

 For that reason, I think we all banded together and did multiple and massive votings online and by text to get this kid in the All Star game. By the way, he had more than 9 million votes…………9 million reason more to love watching this guy play ball.

 

 Here are a few fun facts about the All-Star game voting for Longoria:

He is the first Rookie ever voted into the game on the Last Vote concept since its inception in 2002.  He is only the 3rd Rookie third baseman to be selected to the contest. Also selected were KC’s Kevin Seitzer (1987), and the Twins’Rich Rollin (1962).

The first Rookie third baseman to make the roster since the Red’s Chris Sabo in 1988.

 

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine was going for a place in Rays history last night. The problem is, he might be remembered more for the loss in this contest than for trying to establish a great pitching record.

 

Andy was going for his 11th win of the season, which would have been 1 win more than Rolando Arroyo and Scott Kazmir before the All-Star break. Instead, Andy had a 5th inning that he would love to forget.

                                  

 

In the Cleveland 5th, Sonnanstine lost all sense of control around the plate and seemed to leave the ball up constantly in the inning. His breaking ball was not hitting it’s sharp points and rolling through the strike zone.

 

 When the 5th started, the Rays and Indians were tied at 2-all in the game. By the end of the inning, Sonnanstine had lost the game, and it started an avalanche towards one of the Rays worst losses this year. Sonnanstine’s 5th inning started great as he got the first two Cleveland batters out in order, but with 2-outs in the inning, it began to unravel for him.

 

The next six batters hammered him for 5 runs, including 2 homers. Sonnanstine for the night gave up 3 homers in 2 innings. He had last given up a home run on May 21st in Oakland. Andy had gone 46 innings and faced 202 batters since his last homer. Sonnanstine will finish 10-4 at the break, and is the only Rays pitcher with 10 wins this year.

 

                                     

 

Jonny Gomes has been itching to show he still has the stuff to play every day, and can still hit MLB pitching. In the 3rd inning, Gomes connected on a curveball up in the zone and deposited it in the leftffield stands. Willy Aybar was on base, and the homer put the Rays 2-0 at the time.

 

It was Gome’s 7th homer of the year. The homer out some confidience in the Rays offense who had been held in check the previous 2 games in New York against the Yankees. The last hit for Gomes was his pinch hit homer in Pittsburgh on June 28th. This stadium has not been good to Gomes, who is 5-26 lifetime at Jacobs/Progressive Field.

 

                                

 

Andy Sonnanstine was not the only pitcher to have a rough outing in Cleveland Thursday night. Gary Glover probably had the worst relief appearance of his career last night.  Glover entered the game with the score in favor of Cleveland 8-2. In the 8th inning, Cleveland would sent 11 batters to the plate and score 7 runs off Glover. Glover pitched 2/3 of an inning and gave up 6 hits and 2 walks to the Indians.

 

Glover also had 2 wild pitches during the inning. Glover threw 46 pitches in the inning before being replaced by Trever Miller for the final out of the inning.

 

In the 9th inning, the Rays got walks by Carlos Pena, and Eric Hinske, and a single by Willy Aybar to load the bases with 2-outs for Ben Zobrist. He ended tp taking a called 3rd strike to end the game for the Rays.

 

In this roadtrip, the Rays are hitting 2-33 with runners in scoring position. This statistic shows the struggles by the Rays offense right now to get rid of this 4-game losing streak. The Rays are also hitting .189 during the recent slide.

 

The loss also added to the Rays woes in this stadium where they have lost the 10th straight game here. The last win in this stadium was on Sept. 28, 2005. The Loss drops the Rays another game closer to Boston. The Red Sox are currently only 1.5 game behind the Rays for the lead in the AL East division. The NY Yankees did not pick up a game since they lost their make-up InterLeague game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

 The Rays did have some great news last night. ESPN did a Sunday Conversation with Rays’ Manager Joe Maddon. This is a first for the Rays, and should be great PR for the team.

 

Also the Rays are still the best team in baseball with a 55-35 record. The Rays are on pace to win 99 games this season. That would give them a 33 game improvement over last season. That would match the 1946 Red Sox for 3rd best turnaround in MLB history

 

Yankees win Shootout in the 10th

 

Yankees 2, Rays 1

 

                                  

 

The worst thing about not having a home game right now is not being able to remind the Tampa Bay Rays fans that daily we need to text or vote online for Evan Longoria to get into the 2008 All-Star game. With our 2 games in New York, and then onto Cleveland, the Rays are missing that special push that we could do at home for Longoria.

 

                

 

The New York Yankees distributed fake black mustache’s to the masses’ at the stadium in an effort to get them to vote for Jason Giambi for the game. It was quite a sight seeing over 53,552 fans wearing those cheesy mustaches. But it gave the fans a visual reminder that Giambi needs help to get into the contest.

The Rays did a small segment where ESPN Basketball Guru, Dick Vitale encouraged the Rays fans watching to continue voting for Longoria. It was a great little segment, that along with the 5 e-mails I have on the issue, surely has Rays fans noticing the teams’ push for Longoria to make the squad.  A small side note,  Dick Vitale was voted onto the Pepsi/Rays Wall of Fame in 2004, but could not attend due to the Duke/North Carolina game. I still have your seat sign Dick whenever you want it………..Swish baby, nothing but net!!!

 

 

Edwin Jackson pitched a great game for the Rays. This season, with every start you see more and more control exhibited by Jackson on the mound. His fastball control and off-speed pitches are miles in front of what they were last season for the Rays.

Jackson pitched 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 1-run ball for the Rays. It was one of his more controlled efforts of the season.  Jackson pitched exactly 100 pitches before J P Howeel came on to relieve him in the 6th inning.

Howell pitched 2 innings and threw 22 strike in 37 pitches for the Rays.  Howell is currently 2nd in the AL with 56.0 innings pitched in relief. He trails only .1 of an inning for the MLB lead. Washington’s Joel Hanrahan and the Twin;s Brian Bass are tied with 56.1 innings.

 

            

 

Carlos Pena continues on his home run tear. Pena hit his 14th homer of the season today to tie with Eric Hinske for 2nd on the Rays. It is also Pena’s 3rd homer in 6 games. Pena went 1-3 in the gamw to up his average to .233 for the year.

 

                                  

 

 During the last homestand, Pena was 7-26, with 2 homers, 2 doubles and 10 RBI’s. He is also in the middle of a 4 game hitting streak going 6-17 .

 

            

 

B J Upton was again caught stealing against the Yankees to end the 5th inning for the Rays. Upton is still the MLB leader in being caught stealing this season with 11. His closest competition is Carlos Gomez of the Twins.  Carl Crawford is currently 5th with 6 this year.

On the up side, B J is tied for first in Walks in the AL with 61. He also has 20 doubles on the year, and is 3rd in steals with 27 bases for the Rays. Crawford is right behind him in 5th with 23 steals. During the last three games, B J is 5-12 and is sitting on a .280 average for the team.

 

What is more disappointing to me is the fact that the Yankees started Sidney Ponson, who the Rays have dominated in the past. Ponson and Mariano Rivera each got 4 strikeouts against the Rays. The Rays currently have 654 strikeouts on the year to rank 8th in the league.

 

Grant Balfour has been great for so long we forget he was not with the club at the beginning of the season. He has been the ultimate run-stopper for the Rays this season, but Weds. afternoon was not his day.

 

 

In the 10th inning Grant began by getting Billy Gardener to strikeout. He then proceeded to walk Derek Jeter. With Bobby Abreu at the plate, Balfour got Abreu to two strike quick in the at-bat. But on the 5th pitch, Abreu hit a ball to deep center that scored Jeter from second and won the game for the Yankees.

Balfour, who took his first loss of the season, pitched 1 inning for the Rays.  It was only the 2nd extra base hit he has surrendered in 19.2 innings this year. 

 It also snapped a 9 straight scoreless appearance streak for Balfour. This was only the 2nd time in 15 games that he had been scored on by the opposition this year.  Oppoenents were hitting .123 against him this season.

 

Do not forget to cast your votes for Evan Longoria either on MLB.com, or Raysbaseball.com today and help get Evan into the last All-Star game at historical Yankee Stadium.   Voting ends on Thursday at 5 PM.

You can vote as many times as you like. There is no limit to this voting. vote 25 or 250 times to help Longoria get to the All-Star game.

Yankees close door on Rays

 

Yankees 5, Rays 0

 

 

I recently was privy to attend the Rays Town Meeting where the management and Season Ticktholder can chat about concerns, wants and needs.

A idea from a Season Ticketholder was to make an advertisement for the Jumbotron to ask fans to be polite with their cellphones in the stadium. Now, I know I am in a small section down near the bottom of the stadium bowl, and I have not had this cell-monster behind or in front of me yelling into his cellphone yet.

Is there such a rampant disregard for common manners that a person wouls attend a game and continuly shout into his phone during the game. I know I keep mine on vibrate and only check it between innings, not during game action.  I do this for two reasons, not to get spiked with a line drive, and to be a polite fan to the people around me.  Guess sometimes when you have a few carbonated beers or beverages, you can forget the simple things.  Come on guys, let’s enjoy the games and  if you must call, take time between innings, or go into the hallways. Just common sense here.

 

                                   

 

Sometimes you run into a team with something to prove, that has an agenda that is above just winning.  With the shutout of the Rays on Tuesday night, the Yankees are slowly creaping back into the AL East race. The loss put NY 7.5 game behind the Rays.

These games against divisional foes are beginnig to take on more meaning with the success of the Rays this year. The loss put the Rays on a 2-game losing streak. The last time the Rays lost 2 games was on June 10-11 against the LA Angels in Anaheim.

People make a big deal, obviously, because it’s Tampa,” Jeter said. “Every game is big. We just so happen to be playing them.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon noted before the first pitch the increased attention on this two-game set created “an October feel.” He said his team would merely treat it as another series — the Yankees, in their 90th game this season, saw it as chance to make up ground.

Pettitte (10-6) returned to form, giving up only four hits and walking none. He was focused from the start, often standing with his glove in front of his face, even while Tampa Bay hitters stepped out of the batter’s box.

This time, the Rays barely had a chance as Pettitte improved to 15-4 lifetime against them. Pettitte retired the first two batters on two pitches, and was on his way.

When Tampa Bay had a late glimmer of hope, Jeter extinguished it. Down 2-0, Tampa Bay put runners at the corners with two outs in the seventh. Willy Aybar hit a grounder in the hole that Jeter tracked down, and the All-Star shortstop jumped, spun and made a strong toss from several steps onto the outfield grass that forced out Dioner Navarro at second base.

“I knew I had a chance,” Jeter said after his signature play. “As long as you get to it quick and get rid of it quick.”

 

                                    

 

Dioner Navarro hit a foul ball into the crowd off third base. N one was injured in the play, but Yankee’s third baseman Alex Rodriguez looked like it hit his mother on the play.

 

                

 

Rays starter Scott Kazmir (7-4) did look to have some of his best stuff, allowing just five hits while striking out nine, but he used up far too many pitches too quickly, throwing 97 through five innings before manager Joe Maddon gave him the early hook.

Of course we would like him to go more than five,” Maddon said. “I thought he had a better slider, his fastball command was better. He gets a lot of foul balls. It’s not like he was all over the place.”

Kazmir’s only blemish came in the third inning, when Derek Jeter jumped on a high change-up and drove a two-out double  to push home Robinson Cano and Jose Molina to stake the Yankees to a 2-0 lead.

Kazmir got out of trouble  in the third by the Rays’ fielding gem of the night.

 

                             

 

B J Upton fielded Bobby Abreu’s single cleanly in center then unleashed a strike to catcher Dioner Navarro, who tagged out Jeter for the final out of the inning.

Upton also had 2 of the 4 hits allowed the Rays by Andy Pettitte. He  is now 15-4 lifetime against the Rays.  One was a beautiful ground rule double to right the skirted over for Upton in the 1st inning.

 

                                     

 

Also getting hits for Tampa Bay was Carlos Pena who got a blistering shot past Robinson Cano at second in the 4th inning.  Navarro also got the other hit on a infield single to Jeter.

Royals Rock Rays for a Loss

 

 

Royals 7, Rays 4

 

I am so glad that the nation is voting for Evan Longoria. The kid is the real deal. He is as cool, calm and collected as Cliff Floyd at the plate. And he has the game savvy on the turf to try play George Brett might shy from, but that is why we love this guy.  He has heart for days.

I was sitting there at my seat on Sunday and Mondya voting for Longoria for the last spot on the All-Star roster. But you have to ask, compared to the other guys, does he derserve a shot?

I think those first 11 games of the year could be the key here. He was not up on the Opening Day roster, but brought up when Willy Aybar had an injury. He lost at-bats and time to showcase himself in NY and Baltimore to start the year.

He could have already hit his 27th homer to tie the record for homer by a rookie before the All-Star break. Or, he could have been  right up there with the other guys who have played since day 1 in statistics.

Those 11 days will be a mystery and a question to be asked for years. But, Longoria is up now, and he is everything we wanted him to be as a Ray. If he doesn’t make the All-Star team it is not for lack of effort by local fans and their cellphones and computers. But, he has the NY and Chicago fans to deal with who want to see their guy there instead of Evan.  At 5 PM on Thursday, the voting ends, but Evan’s career is just beginning.

 

           

 

Carlos Pena is finally showing great signs of fulfilling his spot on the Rays roster. Pena hit his 13th homer of the season with a shot to deep right that changed the game by tying the contest 3-3 in the 9th inning. 

 Carlos is currently hitting .261 since coming back off the DL on June 27th, and has started all 12 Rays games since that time. When he went on the DL for a broken finger in Boston, he was the club leader in homers and RBI’s. He is currently 3rd on the team in homers, trailing Eric Hinske ( 14) and Longoria (16).

Eric Hinske had a very productive day at the plate going 3-5 for the Rays. In the 2nd innig, Hinske reached on a bunt single to third base.
It was Hinske’s first infield hit this year. In the 6th inning, Hinske singled to center, but was stranded on second to end the inning.

In the 11th, with the Rays down 7-3, Hinske hit a monster for his 14th homer of the year. The blast gave the Rays some confidience in the inning, but the next two batters’ Ben Zorbrist and Akinora Iwamura were not up to the task and Rays lost for the first time in 7 games, 7-4.

 

                                  

 

Aki walked to start the contest for the Rays and moved to third on Carl Crawford’s single to center. When Royals cather John buck overthrew second, Iwamura came in to start the scoring for the Rays. Longoria came up next and singled to left to score Crawford.

With the steal in the 1st, Crawford became only the 9th player since 1900 to steal 300 bases before his 27th birthday. The crowd gave CC a standing ovation for the feat. I would thought the Rays would have replaced the base and given it to Crawford as a symbol of his achievement.

I know it is not like stealing 100 bases, or being the steal king, but it would have made a great impression on Crawford for future considerations, and been the classy thing to do for the franchise.  Missed PR opportunity guys! 

Crawford has been the “go-to” guy for this franchise at a young age. He has not accepted it without growing pains and some reservations, but he is still a face of the team, and a gesture by the management would have made huge strides in PR-land.

 

                                   

 

Dan Wheeler had a 10th inning you wish only on your opponent. Wheeler took the mound to start the inning, and Billy Butler hit a routine ball to Longoria. Evan could not get a great handle on the ball the threww the ball past Pena to get Butler to second on the throwing error.  It was Longoria’s 6th throwing error of the season.

Wheeler was then asked to Intentionally Walk Russ Gload to get to the catcher, John Buck. Buck had been mostly a ground-ball hitter this year and the Rays were looking for a double play ball out of Buck.

Buck  hit a 2-run homer to the leftfield foul pole on the second pitch from Wheeler. The ball struck the metal netting on the side of the pole and you could hear the clang throughout the stadium. The next batter,  Mike Aviles took the first pitch he saw from Wheeler before depositing the next one in Section 145 for a solo home run.  The Royals were up 7-3 at that moment.

Cliff Floyd enjoyed one of his best days this season going 2-3, with 2 single to rightfield in the game. Floyd is a .347 hitter lifetime at Tropicana Field, the 3rd best average at the stadium.  During the homestand, he went 4-12, with 2 intentional base on balls and 1 RBI.

Rays starter, Matt Garza kept the Rays in the game with his controlled pitching. Garza was effective around the corners of the plate and went 6.2 innings today. He gave up 3-runs on 9-hits and struck out 5 on 109 pitches for the Rays.

Garza’s pitching has shown mass imporvement since the explosion in Texas awhile back. This game was closer than the score shows as Garza kept the Royals rally down in the 2nd inning, getting Joey Gathright to fly out to left to end the rally and keep the score tied 2-all.

 

The loss gives the Boston Red Sox a chance to gain a game on the Rays with a victory tonight over the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have been the second hottest team in baseball lately and hopefully will be a huge test for the Sox.

The Rays start a roadtrip tomorrow that will see them on the road for 23 of their next 35 games.  The Rays were 5-3 on their last roadtrip, but are 2-games under .500 for the rest of the season on the road. The Rays currently have the 20th best  ERA on the road at  4.59 for the year.

 

Rays Ride Shields to Victory

 

 

Rays 9, Royals 2

 

 

Sundays I always have worn a nostalgic or retro uniform to the games. In the past it has been a Japanese series Dany Baez jersey, or an old Jared Sandberg 2003 jersey. Yesterday, I decided to wear a post 9/11 Jose Guillen jersey to the game.

Little did I know what kind of garbage that would start. I was called a bandwagon fan by a guy I have never seen at a Rays game before, and was laughed at by a few people for not supporting my Rays 24/7.  Now, if you know me, I have been around even before we had a team in Tampa Bay. I had one of the original Season Ticket receipts in my collection from when they asked for only $ 20.00 to reserve a Season Ticket.

I have worked for the Rays as a vendor, been selected to their Fan Wall of Fame, and have been a Season ticket holder since 1998. Guess that would be a “Fair Weather”, or “Bandwagon” fan to a franchise like the Red Sox or the Yankees becuase they have been around for over 100 years, but to call me a badwagon, or even a opportunist is just wrong.

By the way, I wore the Guillen shirt for two reasons. First he is a baseball buddy of mine, so I wanted to show support for him in that way, but it was a Rays jersey, not a Royals jersey. Second, this weekend has been about supporting the troops and patriotic gestures by all of us to show our spirit. My show of spirit was to wear a flag adorned post 9-11 2001 Game Issued jersey. 

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Carl Crawford still needs that 1 base to hit 300 for his career. Crawford did go 2-3 with 2 run scored  and has raised his average to .288 for the year. Carl also got an RBI on a Sacrifice Fly to left in the 6th inning to score Akinora Iwamura.

 

                                     

 

Crawford leads the club with 61 runs scored, and is currently 2nd in the Al, he is also  on pace to defend hsi stolen base crown. Crawford currently has  22 stolen bases and is 6th in the AL.

 

               

 

Akinora Iwamura went 2-4 with 2 runs scored today, and hit a monster triple to deep right center in the 6th inning. It was Iwamura’s  3rd triple of the season for the Rays.

Aki has hit safely in 45 of his last 54 games, going .313  during that span. Iwamura has not hit into a double play this season in 343 at-bats, and is currently the hardest batter to get to hit into a double play. Aki was also the hardest to double up last season only hitting into 2 during 491 at bats for the Rays last year.

 

                     

 

Gabe Gross hit a solo homer in the 6th inning to rightfield. It was Gross’s 7th homer of the season. Gross, who has seen most of his duty this season as a late inning defensive replacement, got the start for the Rays on Sunday.

 

                 

 

Evan Longoria kept up his assault on the Rookie homer ecord before the break with a 2-run homer to left in the 3rd inning. Evan hit a long drive into section 143 that scored Carlos Pena. It was Longoria’s 16th homer of the year,and currently tied with KC’s Bob Hamelin, set in 1994. Tim Salmon of the Angels holds the all-time record with 17 before the All-Star break.

Evan has been hitting .418 in his last 13 games, and is currently leading all rookies iwth 17 homers, and is tied for 1st in extra-base hits with 39. His club leading 52 RBI’s is second among MLB rookies.

Evan is also invloved in the last chance voting for the last spot on the 2008 All-Star squad. Evan needs our voted becuase of a New York presence on the ballot. Jason Giambi is also being considered for the last slot, and the NY fans will do all they can to stuff the ballot box to get another guy in the last game at Yankee Stadium.

Log onto www.mlb.com today to cast as many votes as you can for Longoria. Voting ends soon, so a vote today will be another vote to get this amazing rookie to NY.

 

                              

 

James Shields got his 7th vicotry of the year last night in a 9-2 victory over the Royals. Shields pitched 7 innings of 4-hit, 2-run ball before leaving the game as the pitcher of record.  Shields got 8 strikeouts on the day, and retired the first the first 5 batters he faced in the game.

 

For the second time in Rays history, they have 2 represenatives for the All-Star game . The last time the Rays had two reps was in 1999, when Jose Canseco and Roberto Hernandez were voted to the All-Star game.

Evan Longoria is also one of five finalist for the last slot on the All Star roster. Voting will end at 5 PM oh Thursday, July 10, 2008.

Fans can text the word , “Vote” to 36197. Monster will then send you an offical text ballot to select your winner. Evan’s number is “A4″.

 

The Rays are currently 6-0 on this homestand, and are going for only the 2nd undefeated homestand in franchise history.  The only other undeafeated homestand was a 3-game series against Detroit to start the 2002 season.

 

                                      

Sonny Shutout Royals for 10th win

 

 

 

Rays 3, Royals 0

 

 

I was more than excited to see the concert after the game last night. Loverboy was the first rock concert I ever attended as a kid in St. Petersburg. Back then the concert venue of choice for big bands was the Bayfront Center main arena.

Going to that first concert made me love music more every note I heard that night. Watching the drummer pound the skins and Mike Reno belt out the notes made me wish I was up there being admired by the mostly teenage girl crowd.

 Being a teen guy, it was like heaven on earth.

But now, I got to have heaven on two planes. I got to have my baseball and my music on the same night, and both would be worth the ticket price and more. Funny, I have not had my Loverboy CD for years, but I knew almost every word to every song like I just heard them today.  Music can do that to you………………but then again, this Rays team can make you sing loud and proud too.  And in tune!

 

          

 

Ben Zorbrist is making the best of his time up here with the Rays. Who else on the squad can say that they have 3 homers in as many games. And put that with him going 2-3 last night, and you have a guy who is filling in for Jason Bartlett making a case to stay longer with the team.

Zorbrist hit a shot to right in the 7th inning to give the Rays some more cushion on the way to their 54th win of the year. The homer was Zorbrist’s 3rd of the season and raised his average to .333 for the year.

 

                                 

 

Carl Crawford did not get a stolen base last night and is struck needing 1 base to push him to the 300 stolen base mark and make him one of 9 players since 1900 to record that number before their 27th birthday. I hope the Rays have something in store for this occasion. It would be a shame for such a fantastic PR situation go by the wayside. Crawford has been the engine that ran the Rays for years, and hopefully, the team will reward him in some small way for his feat.   Cross your fingers they do the right thing here

The only Ray to get a stolen base last night was Evan Longoria, who got his 6th of the season in the 8th inning. The Rays still lead the majors in stolen bases.

 

 

         

 

Andy Sonnanstine keeps putting himself into the Rays record books this year. With his 10th victory last night, Sonnanstine is now linked with Rolando Arroyo and Scott Kazmir as the only Rays to have 10 win before the All-Star break.  Sonnanstine will have a chance to break that record with his next start during the last roadtrip before the break.

Sonnanstine pitched  7 innings of 5-hit shutout ball before leaving the game J P Howell came in and got all 3 Royals’ he faced to strike out in the 8th inning.

 

           

 

J P Howell is 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors  with 52.2 innings of relief work this season. Howell leads all AL relievers with 6 wins this year, and is 1 win short of tying the Rays team record for a season for a reliever. The  current record is 7, held by Shawn Camp.

 

                

 

Grant Balfour came on in the 9th inning and 2 strikeouts while recording his 3rd save of the year.  Balfour is now holding opponents to a  .105 average against him this year. Grant alsoleads all MLB pitchers with a 13.75 strikeouts per 9 innings mark, and has struck out 27 of  63 batters he has faced this season. 

Balfour also has 8 straight scoreless relief appearances, and 12 out his 13 appearances have been scoreless this season.

 

The Rays have announced that on the Friday July 18th game, Hess Express will be giving all fans in attendance a 5.00 gas card, and some lucky people can win up to $5,000. in additional gas prizes during the game. It is Hess and the Rays’ plan to “Fill the Trop.”

For an example, a family of 4 can attend the game and get to park for free becuase of the Rays car pooling rules, plus get $ 20. in gass cards for attending the first home game after the All-Star break.

 

The Rays went over the million fan mark with last night’s attendance, their first time since 1998 that they reached this mark before the All-Star break. This is an increase of 36% since last season, and is currently the largest increase in the majors.

 

 

The Rays pitching continues to be a strength of this squad. Rays starters have allowed 3  Earned Runs or less in 16 of the last 17 games.  The team’s ERA is sitting at 3.59, which is 3rd in the majors.  Rays starter’s have also held  opponents to a .239 average, 2nd in the majors this year.  Only once in the last 17 games has a Rays starter allowed 10+ hits this year.  

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Rays 11, Royals 2

 

Sonny shutouts Royals for 10th win
Category: Sports

 

Rays 3, Royals 0

 

I was more than excited to see the concert after the game last night. Loverboy was the first rock concert I ever attended as a kid in St. Petersburg. Back then the concert venue of choice for big bands was the Bayfront Center main arena.

Going to that first concert made me love music more every note I heard that night. Watching the drummer pound the skins and Mike Reno belt out the notes made me wish I was up there being admired by the mostly teenage girl crowd. Being a teen guy, it was like heaven on earth.

But now, I got to have heaven on two planes. I got to have my baseball and my music on the same night, and both would be worth the ticket price and more. Funny, I have not had my Loverboy CD for years, but I knew almost every word to every song like I just heard them today.  Music can do that to you………………but then again, this Rays team can make you sing loud and proud too.  And in tune!

 

          

 

Ben Zorbrist is making the best of his time up here with the Rays. Who else on the squad can say that they have 3 homers in as many games. And put that with him going 2-3 last night, and you have a guy who is filling in for Jason Bartlett making a case to stay longer with the team.

Zorbrist hit a shot to right in the 7th inning to give the Rays some more cushion on the way to their 55th win of the year. The homer was Zorbrist’s third of the season and raised his average to .333 for the year.

 

                                 

 

Carl Crawford did not get a stolen base last night and is struck needing 1 base to push him to the 300 stolen base mark and make him one of 9 players since 1900 to record that number before their 27th birthday.

 

The only Ray to get a stolen base last night was Evan Longoria, who got his 6th of the season in the 8th inning.

 

 

         

 

Andy Sonnanstine keeps putting himself into the Rays record books this year. With his 10th victory last night, Sonnanstine is now linked with Rolando Arroyo and Scott Kazmir as the only Rays to have 10 win before the All-Star break.  Sonnanstine will have a chance to break that record with his next start during the last roadtrip before the break.

Sonnanstine pitched  7 innings of 5-hit shutout ball before leaving the game J P Howell came in and got all 3 Royals’ he faced to strike out in the 8th inning.

 

           

 

J P Howell is 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors  with 52.2 innings of relief work this season. Howell leads all AL relievers with 6 wins this year, and is 1 win short of tying the Rays team record for a season for a reliever. The  current record is 7, held by Shawn Camp.

 

                

 

Grant Balfour came on in the 9th inning and 2 strikeouts while recording his 3rd save of the year.  Balfour is now holding opponents to a  .105 average against him this year. Grant alsoleads all MLB pitchers with a 13.75 strikeouts per 9 innings mark, and has struck out 27 of  63 batters he has faced this season. 

Balfour also has 8 straight scoreless relief appearances, and 12 out his 13 appearances have been scoreless this season.

 

The Rays have announced that on the Friday July 18th game, Hess Express will be giving all fans in attendance a 5.00 gas card, and some lucky people can win up to $5,000. in additional gas prizes during the game. It is Hess and the Rays’ plan to “Fill the Trop.”

For an example, a family of 4 can attend the game and get to park for free becuase of the Rays car pooling rules, plus get $ 20. in gass cards for attending the first home game after the All-Star break.

 

The Rays went over the million fan mark with last night’s attendance, their first time since 1998 that they reached this mark before the All-Star break. This is an increase of 36% since last season, and is currently the largest increase in the majors.

 

Rays give KC the Royal Treatment

 

Rays 11, Royals 2

 

 

I was sitting there during BP last night, and Jonny Gome strolled by me. I have had this question on my mind about an ever growing urban legend concerning Jonny, so I asked him about that faithful at-bat in Pittsburgh last Sunday.

According to the legend, Jonny was up to bat and had tossed off about 14 pitches, when he banged his bat end on the plate to see if he might have cracked it on the prior foul ball. The Pittsburgh catcher, Ryan Doumit said, “It doesn’t sound cracked.”

To which Jonny was quoted to have said, “Yeah, but it must be bad, it has only gotten me foul balls.”  So Gomes went back to the bench area and got another bat to continue his at-bat. 

And with the next swing, Jonny connected on a fastball and deposited it all the way into Shawn Riggans glove in the Rays Bullpen for a pinch-hit homer.

“Yeah, I said that.” quoted Gomes, ” I also told him when I got back to the plate that the other bat was just out of luck and this one felt like magic”.   Gotta love the Rays cult hero Jonny Gomes.

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

On January 21, 1953, Joe Dimaggio was passed over by the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. In fact, it was not until 1955, his third year, that he was voted into the Hall.

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Can Tampa Bay fans finally believe that Edwin Jackson can pitch in this league. Will you admit, that at 5-6, Jackson is starting to pitch the best stuff of his career. That he is starting to live up to the expectations of the Rays’ faithful and putting the Rays in position to win in his starts.

All the above is true, Jackson has 10 quality starts this year out of his 15 starts. That is a pretty telling fact there. That means that by he has been pitching actually pretty good most of the season.

By comparison, James Shields and Matt Garza only have 9 quality starts each.  Jackson has been doing all this with only 2.67 runs per start in support of his pitching. That figure is the lowest on the Rays staff.

 

 

Carlos Pena was in a bit of a zone last night, Pena went 2-4 with 5 RBI’s today against the Royals. Carlos hit a Sacrifice Fly to the warning track inright during the 1st inning to put the Rays up 2-0.  But that blast was only the beginnig for Carlos.

In the 3rd inning, Pena hit another Sacrifice Fly to right to score B J Upton and put the Rays up 4-0. But, in the 5th inning, with Carl Crawford and Upton aboard, Carlos connected on a 3-run homer that bounced off the front of the facing of the centerfield restaurant to put his stamp on this game. It was Carlos’s first homer since June 3rd, in Boston.

 

          

 

Carl Crawford now needs only 1 stolen base to hit 300 for his career. In hitting that mark, he will be only the 9th player since 1900 to get 300 before his 27th birthday.  Crawford stole one base today and went 3-5 today with 2 RBI’s.

 

       

 

 

Crawford hit  a  2- RBI single to right in the 8th inning to score Jonny Gomes and Reid Brignac. Carl also scored 3 runs to give him 59 runs scored, which puts him in 5th in the AL in that category.

 

               

 

The much anticipated arrival and MLB debut of Reid Brigniac got off to a rough start  as he went 0-3 today at the plate. Brignac walked in the 8th inning and was driven home by Crawford’s single to record his first run scored in the league. 

 

 

 

Reid performed great at the shortstop position, taking several hot plays, and helping turn a 1-6-3 and a 3-6-1- double play in the game. He was composed and had great at-bats in his first action for the Rays.

 

 

The Rays are the first team since 1900 to have the best record in the league at this point in the seasno after having the worst record in baseball the prior year.

Only the 1967 Chicago Cubs have had a better record later than the 4th of July. The Cubs did not hit that number until July 24th  1967.

The Rays are a franchise best 21 games over .500, and with their 53 wins, are the best team in baseball this year. The Ray’s 53 wins also makes them the best team turnaround by the All-star break in the history of the league. The previous mark was 51 wins by the 1969 Washington Senators and the 2001 Cubs.

The Rays are on pace to win 100 games this season, only the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks, and the 1903 NY Giants have had a better win differential.

The Rays currently entertain a 3-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.  The last time the AL East was led by someone other than the Soxs’ or the Yankees at this point in the year, was the 1997, when the Baltimore Orioles on Sept 25th, had a 4-game lead  in the division.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays two sweeps  at home over the Red Sox is the first time in MLB history that a team has swept a World Series winner at home the next season.

 

I know people have been wondering why tomorrow’s game is still listed at 7:10, even with the Loverboy concert.

Well, the game is being broadcast on Fox TV and under contract, the game has to have a 7:10 first pitch for the broadcast. So what, we will still all rock out and have a great time supporting our Rays. 

 Be sure to come on out and  see Loverboy.  They were my first rock concert I ever attended in the old Bayfront Center. Back then both Mike Reno and I had more hair, and a huge crowd of women were the majority of the concert goers’ that night.  But I suspect, now the guys will also be rocking out tonight to the band’s many hits.

Rock On Rays!!!!! 

Trop no longer a vacation stop for Red Sox

 

Rays 7, Red Sox 6

 

 

Lately at the Trop., there has been a small cottage industry developing every 3, or 4 games that could mean big profits for its enterprising owners. It is an industry that might be confusing local hardware stores, and even making the Tampa Bay area look like the cleanest towns in America.

                                                             

It is the new and inventive act of selling brooms on the way into the Trop. property. I think it is actually a bit inventive that you go to a store and buy these brroms in bulk and then sit on a corner and ask every Tom, Dick or Harry if they need a broom. Actually, I wish I would have thought about it first, but I am only focused on the games, not the money in my pocket, or leaving my pocket.

For 6 dollars you get an authentic blue handles broom. I like the fact they at least tried to color coordinate with the Rays colors with their wares.  You get  a multi- tasking item that can be waved and clean your section in one item.  What a bargain. You might even be able to resell it on Ebay as a game used broom complete with ticket stub.  Wow, this could be the beginning of something really amazing and profound, or it could be just a broom to sweep the grass clippings off the sidewalks after a loss……………..It is your mission to find the best way to use this new unofficial Rays merchandise to ite fullest potential.

 

                    

 

Evan Longoria collected 3 RBI’s last night to be officially put into the club as only the third Rookie to be put in the exclusive 15-homer, 20 double, and 50 RBI club. He joins charter member Fred Lynn and Devon White at the head table of this great group of Rookie performers.

In a few days we will also find out about the Rookie of the Month award from MLB. Evan will be in serious contention for this honor after destroying the ball the last three weeks. Longoria currently leads all rookies in June with 8 homers and a rookie leading .650 Slugging Percentage, along with 19 runs scored and 11 doubles. If he wins the award, he will be the first Rays to garnish such an honor.

Back to the game, Longoria went 3-4 last night with 3 RBI’s to raise his average to .275 for the year. Longoria got the scoring started in the first inning by singling to center to score B J Upton. The run tied the game at 1-1.

In the Rays big 7th inning, Longoria hit a double to center that scored  Upton and Carl Crawford. The hit put Evan on second, and the Rays up 5-4 for their first lead of the night.

 

 

Scott Kazmir last night was not the dominating  pitcher we have come to know and love as Rays fans. He is trying to be more deceptive and use his pitches to entice instead of blow hitters off the plate. His slider is still not an effective as last season, but can be used sparingly to confuse hitters. Kazmir went 5 innings last night and gave up 4 walks to his 3 strikeouts. This is the first time this season Kazmir’s walks have surpassed his strikeouts in a game.

 The biggest difference I have seen in Kazmir is the realease of pressure that he can go out and throw his pitches now and not have to carry this team on his back to a win. He acknowlodges and accepts that he has a good defense behind him and can sometimes just pitch now instead of try and be a firethrower most outings. This will lead to a development and a maturity that will put Scott in the next level of pitchers in this league.

When you can trust the guys behind you totally, you become a better pitcher and teammate.  As Crash Davis once said in Bull Durham, “Throw some balls, it is more democratic.”

 

                                   

 

When we traded for Jason Bartlett this past off season, I was one of those guys who sat there and wondered what he would bring to this club. He has always had an average bat and was a dependable shortstop. I really did not look deep into our past and see we never had a guy who could  both items with great success.

Jason batted a club high .392 during the InterLeague series, and is batting .277 in his last 52 games after bottoming out at .200 this year.  Bartlett has also turned into a basestealing weapon for Rays Manager Joe Maddon. He has effectively stolen third base on numerous occasions, including last night in the 7th innig after doubling to lead off the inning.

But with the good, we have to also take the bad. Last night, Bartlett also had his 7th throwing error of the season, and the second in two nights. It was his 11th error of the year.  Bartlett’s only downfall is not following through on his long throws from deep, deep in the hole at short, and the ball sails on him. This will come with practice and time.

 

                                 

 

Rays reliever Gary Glover came on in the top of the 7th inning and pitched the Rays to his 1st victory of the year. Glover used his off speed pitches to get 2 strikeouts and  get the Rays a scoreless inning.

 

In the game, Rays and Red Sox saw second base umpire  Sam Holbrook call an unusual play.  With Julio Lugo bearing down on Jason Bartlett at second, Lugo knew he had to take out Bartlett to break up the double play.  Bartlett got the play off at second, but got the throw a wee second late to Carlos Pena at first.

With Jacob Ellsbury called safe at first by Bruce Dreckman, Holbrook called Lugo for baserunner interference, which would complete the double play and got the Rays out of the inning.  It is an unusual call, but one that on tape showed was the right call at the time.

Akinora Iwamura also got his second error of the year on an errant throw to first.  Aki now has two erros in the last two series after going error-less the first 48 games of the year for the Rays.

 

Navarro hits the Rays to Victory

 

Rays 3, Red Sox 1

 

Rays radio guru, Rich Hererra is right, get the rolaids out and lock the kids in the closet. The Rays and Red Sox rivalry is starting with a bang.

If the Rays conclude this series with a victory, it will come down to who loses at home first, the Rays or the Sox. Both teams have stifled the other one with great pitching at home, and the future holds more of the same in store for both sets of fans.

But, I must admit, the Trop did sound a bit 60-40 last night, and I am not sure who had the 40 percent. But the cowbells were out in force, that is a given in this series. 

I got to attend the Rays Town Meeting last night involving the Rays top management and the Season Ticket invitees. It was informative meeting about alot of thing concerning the stadium, and the future of the franchise.

Rays President Matt Silverman spoke about the stadium project and stressed that the Rays’ Coalition is now the main driving force on the issue.

October events came up, but under MLB blankets and covers, if was just hinted that the announcements and arrangements might be made sometime in the future……………….if we keep this training rolling on the tracks.   Chooooooooooo  Choooooooooooo!

Let me just add, that the Rays do have management in place who have been to the post season with the Arizona diamondbacks, so we will not be doing any tickets, or procedures that have not worked in the past. And that in its self is refreshing to hear.

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Trivia Facts of the Night:

The Rays are now 10-1 in front of crowds over 30,000 this year, and 12-2 with crowds over 25,000.  Rays ticket sales have grown 42 % this year, the highest rise in the majors this season.

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Ever since that episode in Texas, we have seen a different Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays. Matt seems to be more in control of himself on the mound and is smiling and having fun while pitching some great games. Garza went 7 innings last night and gave up 5 hits and a lone run to the Red Sox.

 

                                       

 

 Matt was using his fastball primarily tonight with different sinks and rises attributing to his success.  I think we might be seeing the emergence of Garza as another top weapon for the Rays as they prepare for a stretch run in the AL East.

Matt did have one small situation that got him in a jam in the 4th inning.  Jacob Ellsbury hit a short grounder in front of the mound area and Dioner Navarro threw the ball into Ellsbury’s helmet area and Carlo Pena could not get the ball for the Rays. The ball trickled to the first base wall and Ellsbury went to third on the throwing error. He ended up scoring on J D Drew Sacrifice Fly to right.

 

                

 

Evan Longoria again came through defensively for the Rays tonight. Longoria took a hot smash at third by Alex Cora and turned it into an out by throwing him out from his knees. It was a play both coaches’ expressed might have turned the tide of the game for either side.

The play could have broken the game wide open for the charging Red Sox, who had a runner at first at the time. The play would have been down  in the leftfield corner with Brandon moss breaking for second on the play. Longoria was up to the test and got the third out of the inning on this fantastic play. 

Rays Manager, Joe Maddon was asked about the play and commented that, He (Longoria), is just getting started. You will see alot more from this guy before his career is over.”  Amen to that Joe!

 

           

 

Rays catcher Dioner Navarro had an interesting night. He had an error charged to him on a errant throw to first on a soft grounder in front of the mound area.  Navarro came back and hit two key singles that scored men for the Rays.

Navarro hit a single to right that scored Evan Longoria in the bottom of the 4th inning. I think that was a fitting way to help get the Rays back into this game after the play at first. Navarro tried to squueze that throw in between Ellsbury and Carlos Pena, with Pena not being able to grab the ball before it hit Ellsbury’s helmet.

Navarro also got another single in the 8th inning to score Carlos Pena and put the Rays up 3-1. For the night, Navarro went 2-4, and is hitting .316 for the team.

 

                                  

 

Troy Percival was not availiable for this contest, having been put on the 15 day DL.

In his absence, Maddon used Grant Balfour to close out the game for the Rays.  Balfour, who did not make the teams 25 man roster to start the year, was the closer for the Triple-A Durham Bulls before coming up on May 29th for the Rays. 10 of his last 11 appearances have been scoreless, and hes struck out 38.6 percent of the batters’ he has faced for the Rays.

On May 29th, Balfour earned his first major league save by retiring the only batter he faced. Tonight, he got his second save of the year. Opponents are batting .102 against him with only 2  extra base hits against him, both of them are doubles.

The Raye are a franchise record 18 games over .500 for the year. They are also the fastest team ever to get 50 wins after being the worst team in the majors. The Rays have now been over .500 for 62 straight days.

Rookie Evan Longoria is currently led all rookies with 8 homers in June, a Rays rookie record for any month, and a .650 Slugging Percentage.

He needs to get just 3 RBI’s to become only the 3rd rookie in the last 50 years to post 15 home runs, 20 doubles and 50 RBI’s by the All-Star break. The other two members of this exclusive club are, Devon White and Fred Lynn.

The Rays have announced that they are bring up pitcher Mitch Talbot from the Durham Bulls to replace Troy Percival on the Rays roster. Talbot was 7-6, with a 4.41 ERA for the Bulls. Talbot has thrown 102 innings this year with 77 strikeouts.

He will be used mostly in the long reliever role for the Rays, with Jason Hammel moving to a set-up role for the Rays in Troy’s absence.

 

Rays win Round 1..ding ding

 

 

Rays 5, Red Sox 4

 

 

Wow! The Red Sox Nation must be a bit upset today.

 One of our own devices, the imfamous catwalks, almost got them a win in this critical 3-game series. It was exciting to see 34,000 plus at the Trop. But more exciting was seeing them trapped in the Rotunda due to torrential rain outside and have to be subject to “Let’s Go Rays” chants for about 25 minutes.

Some stayed and had fun with it all, others just got wet. 

 Of all the teams in the AL East, the Sox should have some small level of empathy for the Rays. They knew how losing the big ones felt, how close they have come to winning more than the 2 titles they have now. But, most of all, they are suppose to be the “seasoned” fans, who skirt and toss insults with the “Evil Empire”.

They are the ones who should know when to fold them….and run through the rain.

 

Red Sox Nation……………………………………………………………meet the Rays’ Rebellion.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

Jackie Robinson played his first game in the International League on April 18,1946 for the Montreal Royals.

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I think this issue more than any other will polarize a few Rays fans for a bit. Either you agree with the argument on the mound or you do not.

Troy Percival has become the veteran heart and soul of your Tampa Bay Rays.  I actually commend and applaud Troy for his effort to try and finish what he started Monday night. We do not see sacrifice for the team as much these days, and it is a welcome sight to me.

 I agree that Troy is not fully healed and maybe should have limited himself more, but if you have ever been a professional at any level, you know you will do anything to feel the rush and thrill of the crowd on a night like that one.

You have to understand the psyche of a professional before you can cast even a small pebble at Troy.

 I know from years of gutting out ankle sprains, chest and ribs contusions, and hamstring pulls, that you go until you can not walk or stand up straight anymore. You fight until the pain goes above the pills and shots that  you might have used to get you there.

You fight the good fight………………period.

With that in mind, what Troy did can not be put in any way, shape or form, in the ballpark of any of the incidents around the league in the last week.

Troy had a heated, emotional argument with a man he respects alot. Rays Manager Joe Maddon knows what ticks inside of Troy and he took it for what it was on the mound. An emotional volcano that spewed frustration and disappointment, nothing more than that.

You think he would have had that same charged discussion with Jim Hickey?

Nope, he would have just whisked Hickey and the trainers back to the bench without a thought. Give credit to Dioner Navarro for calling out the troops from the dugout. Even before Troy limped to cover third,  you saw him motion to the bench. That is another classy move by Dioner this year.

Troy is seriously still hurt. That limp/hop covering third was not a charlie horse or a muscle cramping up, it was a high degree of pain and discomfort spiking up his leg. It is almost a certain that he will be shut down and rested for a bit, but he will be back……oh, he will be back.

 

                    

 

3-games, 3 first pitch hits. Where did B J Upton hide this hitting magic, and why did he pick now to showcase it?

Upton hit his 6th homer of the year on the first pitch he saw last night. Great to put the Rays up 1-0, but should B J’s name be mentioned from now on in Lead-off hitter discussions around the locker room. Could he have found a spot in the lineup that has no pressure on him, that he can just be B J?

With Akinora Iwamura coming back tomorrow off suspension for the last Boston-Tampa Bay series actions, we might have seen the last of this “lead-off” experiment for awhile. But there will be talk about it, and there will be arguments that it might be the right home for his bat.

 

                                        

 

Gabe Gross must be the first person in the Trop last night to curse the catwalks. When Brandon Moss hit a ball into the “B” ring for a ground rule double, Gross was camped out waiting for the ball in rightfield to pass the ring.  Instead, the ball popped off the ring toward the first base foul line and Gross had to hustle to get it before another Red Sox score.

The rings have played a part in other Red Sox series at the Trop. Remember Shane Hillebrand’s shot into the electrical boxes on the “C” ring stuck up there.  It will not be the last hit into the imfamous catwalks, but isn’t the controversy fun to talk about for the next few days.

 

                      

 

The Rays fans are seeing that Carlos Pena is starting to heat up at the plate, which could mean trouble for opposing pitchers the rest of the year. Carlos has been swinging the bat better since his first start Friday in Pittsburgh.

You can see the back and legs working more with his upper body to put more power behind the ball. In the Sunday game in Pittsburgh, Carlos hit a few long fly balls that showed his bat is there, and the swing is coming along great.

Carlos hit a RBI double to deep right center to score Willy Aybar in the 5th inning last night .  Carlos may have only gone 1-3 last night, but he did not have a strikeout, and got a walk in the 7th inning. Carlos had 2 pop-ups to third last night which is a sign he is leaning a bit too much into the ball.

 

 

 

Gabe Gross again helped the Rays to a win with a 2-run homer to right in the 4th inning to put the Rays up 3-1. It was Gross’s 6th homer of the year. Gross also walked twice and singled to right to go 2-2 on the night. On the past roadtrip, Gabe went 1-10. It is great to see he is out of his slump now and hitting for the Rays.

The Rays managed only 6 hits last night, but they were enough for a victory over the Red Sox.  Besides Upton’s ( 1) and Gross’s ( 2) hits, Carlos Pena, Willy Aybar and Jason Bartlett got hits for the Rays. Willy Aybar also went 1-1 on the night with a walk. 

The Rays recorded 8 walks last night on Red Sox pitching, while striking out 5 times for the night.

 

                                         

 

James Shields picked up his 6th win of the year for the Rays by going 6.1 innings and giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs.  Shields started out the night retiring the first 10 batters he faced last night. Shields got 4 of his 5 strikeouts in that span.

Shields moved into 2nd place last night on the Rays all-time strikrout list with 377 strikeouts.  Shields is currently one of three pitchers in the majors with 2 shutout games this year. He is also one of four pitchers with more than 3 complete games this season.

 

The Rays finished 30 games back of Boston last year, according to Elias Sports Bureau, 7 teams since 2001 have held first place at the halfway point in the year after finishing more than 30 games behind the division leader the previous year. 

 

With the win last night, the Rays have tied their thrid most victories in any month. In the last 3 1/2 weeks, only the White Sox ( 5.95) have averaged more runs per game than the Rays 5.67 in the AL.

The Rays also lead the majors with 88 steals on the year. And they are on a pace to steal 107 by the All-Star break, the most by any major league team since the 1997 Reds (113).

     Coverrays

 

Congrats again to the Rays and their  continued success on the national scene.

Meanwhile, the national media is traversing through Tropicana Field and regularly raving about the Rays, and the Red Sox seem to be aware, if not impressed, by what the Rays have done. Above is the upcoming cover from an issue of ESPN, The Magazine.

And it appears the Yankees have noticed.

Even with the Red Sox headed to the Bronx for a fiery Fourth of July, Yankees are definitely paying attention to the Rays, and, from what Mike Mussina said in this Daily News piece, sound a bit concerned:

“I think they’re going to be there,” Mussina said after taking a tough loss Monday night. “They’ve been doing it for three months, and though they don’t have a history of winning, once you believe you’re a pretty good team, then you can do a lot of things.

“I think they believe now. And I know for sure the rest of us believe they’re a good team. Unless they have a major injury, they’re going to be there.”

 

ESPN’s Peter Gammons weighs in on the market for Indians ace LHP C.C. Sabathia, writing that: “Tampa Bay has lurked, but Rays people say there’s now way they can sign him after the season, and their focus is on a right-handed bat with (Pittsburgh’s Xavier Nady) and (the Cubs’ Matt) Murton on their radar.”

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