August 2008

Rays End August on a Winning Note

 

Rays 10, Orioles 4

 

 

With September 1st call-ups not even 7 hours away now, it will be interesting who will come up early before the Triple-A Durham Bulls playoff games. Becuase of those games, a few well-known names like, David Price, Wade Davis, Jonny Gomes and Dan Johnson will have yo wait until after the playoff run before they find out if they will be in another post season atmosphere with the Rays.

But hopefully, current catcher Mike DiFelice will have a role in the playoff push. The main reason I want to make Mike here is becuase he was here with the team’s first pitch in 1998, and should be relishing the improvements and the excitement of this young franchise finally becoming a force in the AL East.

DiFelice toiled and sweated the young years when victories were rare, and the post season was just a time for the team to gather their thoughts and have a few beverages. But in 2008, the Rays are on the magical carpet ride to shock and awe the competition from now until the final out in Detroit in the regular season. The only thing guaranteed in the playoff picture is that the Rays would not see Boston in the first round, if they rally and capture the wild card spot. It would make bad baseball for those two to battle another 5 out of 7 games after 17 games played during the season. But who knows, life had thrown more curves at the Rays lately than James Shields, so anything is possible.

 

Rays  Magical Number :   22

Rays will need this number of Boston losses or Tampa Bay wins to secure a playoff spot.

 

 

      

 

 

Jason Bartlett again had a amazing day for the Rays. Bartlett went 4-4 with 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI’s for the Rays. But, to top it off, the Rays fans finally got to cheer for a Bartlett homer in the 7th inning. Bartlett was the month of August is hitting .388 with 7 doubles and his first homer of the year. For his career in August, Bartlett is batting .346, which ranks as 4th among active players.

 

 

                           

 

James Shields got his 12th victory of the year while pitching 7 innings of  6-hit, 1-run ball. The lone score against him came in the in the 6th inning when Brian Roberts lead off with a single and finally scored on Kevin Millar’s  fielders choice grounder to third. That was the only run to be scored against Shields all day. In the effort, Shields  picked up only 1 strikeout on the day.

 

 

                                     

 

Shields matched his career high in wins on Sunday during his 79th career start. His 2.41 ERA is second to Cliff Lee in homer ERA in 2008, and is ranked 4th in the majors this year.  Shields has now won 7 out of his 9th starts at home, and for his short career, Shields is 20-8, with a 3.19 ERA in 49 home starts. Shields is also throwing 14 pitches per inning, ranked 5th fewest in the AL.

Let’s put Shields year so far in prospective with his current AL rankings: He is ranked 5th  in innings pitched this season with 184.2 innings. Shields is also 6th in strikeout/walks ratio, and 8th in walks/9 innings in the AL.

 

 

 

 

Also having a terrific game today was Rocco Baldelli from the DH spot for the Rays. Baldelli went 3-3 on the day and slugged 2 doubles past Aubrey Huff at third, down the leftfield line in the game.

 In the 1st inning, Carlos Pena and Rocco scored on Willy Aybar’s single down the leftfield line. In the 3rd inning, Rocco again hit a screamer down the line at Huff to secure his second double.  Baldelli ended up scoring on Jason Bartlett’s single to center.

 

 

                                   

 

Willy Aybar was intentionally walked in the 3rd inning, and got picked off trying to advance to third on Bartlett’s single to center field. Aybar did not aticipate the throw from Jay Payton in center and was picked off in mid-slide into thirds base. Aybar was picked off by Kevin Millar’s intercetion of the throw to home and he had a clear lane to throw out Aybar.

Also getting picked off in this contest was Shawn Riggans in the 2nd inning when he tried to advance to third on his double and was between second and third when Kevin Millar again intercepted the ball and caught Riggans mid-base for the first out of the inning.

 

 

The Rays did get some pay back in the error depeartment when Akinora Iwamura was safe at first on an error by first baseman Kevin Millar. Aki’s play scored Riggans fronm third and put the Rays up 10-1 at the time.

 

 

                     

 

Willy Aybar did commit 2 errors yesterday at third in the game. Aybar committed his first error in the 3rd inning against Juan Castro. The ball hit the heel of his glove and popped a good 20 feet in the air and he could not control it in time to get the speedy Castro. He again had one pop out of his glove in the 8th inning on a liner to third by Lou Mantanez. Aybar did not get a great throw off on the play and Montanez beat it by 3 steps. The 2 errors put Aybar at 5 for the year.

 

 

Trever Miller and Jason Hammel both had a bad outing for the Rays in  mop-up roles for the Rays Miller came on in the 8th inning and  pitched only 12 pitches. Miller  was the pitcher on the mound when Aybar committed his second error of the game.  With Montanez on first, Miller walked Alex Cintron, who came on to hit for Aubrey Huff. For the day, Miller was credited with 1/3 of an inning, and 2 runs in the outing.

 

Hammel came on to close the game out for the Rays with the score at  10-1.  Hammel then walked Millar on 9 pitches to load the bases for Luke Scott.  Scott hit a 1-2 pitch to deep cnter to score both Montanez and Cintron. Oscar Salazar then  hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Millar. B J Upton throw from center was off line and he could not complete the out at home. That put the Orioles close to the Rays with the score 10-4 in the 8th inning. 

 

 

 

Baldelli Shows Nation How the Rays Win

 

Rays 10, Orioles 9
 
 
I attended our last  Maddon’s Maniacs’ meeting today before the 3:30 PM contest. Rich Herrera, the Rays pre and post-game host was the master of cermonies today. He made a  a reference to us “old timers”, who have been here during the lean wins season as the wily veterans who can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. And how we can boast that we are the group of fans who can now say we supported the first winning team in Rays’ history.
 
He also remarked on how the Maddon’s Maniacs first meeting there wer only 30 of us, and of today, there are over 560 Maniacs strolling through the Trop during game days. It has been quite a ride this season, and to show their appreciation for everything, the Rays’ put a sticker of our club;s symbol on the back wall of section 132 for all to see. The cartoon redition of “screamer” with Joe Maddon glasses can be seen by everyone in the ballpark now, and we can share our stories with the masses.
 
Rays skipper, Joe Maddon came out and chatted with us for a while and answered questions from the crowd. In the background you could see Evan Longoria doing some soft toss near the durgout, and several of the Bullpen pitchers out warming up in the outfield. Eric Hinske then came up and talked a bit about how our noise and enthusiasm filters down to them and gets them motivated during the game.
After all that, we got to toy with a few new chants to be sung during the Rays’ games. I will put the two chants in the blog tomorrow night so we all can practice them on Monday’s day off and be ready for the Yankees when they invade the Trop.
 
Rays 10, Orioles 9
 
 
 
                          Rocco Baldelli gets the shaving cream pie treatment after driving in the winning run in the ninth.  (AP)
 
 
Oh Rocco Baldelli, you had your coming out party again tonight to show the national audienceon FOX that you are back and will be a force in the lineup again.  For the day, Rocco went 2-3, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored. But it was his hit in the bottom of the 9th on a 1-0 pitch that made us cheer for you again and again today.
 
Rocco hit a blistering ball past former Ray Aubrey Huff and into the leftfield corner to score Carlos Pena from first and secure the win for the Rays. Rocco also singled and scored in the 5th inning. Rocco has now made 6 starts since his August 10th reinstatement and has hit safely in 5 of those games. Baldelli increased his avewrage to .294 with today’s offensive outburst.
 
 
 
 
The Rays did  have some close plays at the plate today that could have made the score more in their favor. In the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro was trying to score from second on a Jason Bartlett single to center. Jay Payton took the ball and fired a strike to Ramon Hernandez at home. Navarro tried to sneak his hand in the backdoor, but Hernandez quicky tagged Navarro on the shoulder for the out. Payton recieved an outfield assist on the play.
 
Not to be outgunned, the Rays also had a chance to nail a runner at the plate today. Nick Markakis tried to score from second on a Hernandez single to center. B J Upton came up with the ball cleanly and fired a low strike to the plate to nail Markakis. Upton received his 11th outfield assist of the season on the play.
 
 
 
                                     
 
 
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine was going for his second attempt to get  a franchise tying 14th win on the season. Sonnanstine did not factor into the victory, but pitched 3.1 innings and gave up 7-hits and 6-runs early to the Orioles. Sonnanstine seemed to have trouble getting the good placement over the plate on his pitches. Andy got into early trouble giving up a 1st inning homer to Jay Payton to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Sonnastine gave up 2 homers on the day to the Orioles.
 
After Brian Roberts walked on  4 pitches, Sonnanstine got Payton to strike out before giving up a ground rule double to Markakis. Aunbrey Huff then hit his 30th homer to rightfield to put the Orioles up 5-3.
 
The play involving Markakis was almost the first reviewed call this year. Markakis hit a ball that was heading for the right field wall when a fan reached over and tried to catch the ball a few feet into and under the yellow home run line. Second base umpire Chad Fairchild took a few seconds before signalling a ground rule double. The fan did reach into the field of play and hinder the path of the ball. It was a good call, and one that could have fallen uner the guidelines to be reviewed by the umpire crew chief. 
 
 
                      
 
 
Not lost in thsuffle of today’s game was the contribution in the bottom of the 9th innig by Carlos Pena. Pena walked on 6 pitches and was on the move the second the ball went past Huff into the left field corner. Pena was at full speed when he got to third and third base coach Tom Foley did not hesistate to send Pena home. The throw to the plate by Orioles’ rookie Lou Montanez was not close and was falling away from Hernandez as Pena reached the plate.
 
 
 
                  
 
 
 The Rays slugged 13 hits on the day, and  walked 9 times in the game.  Ohter Rays to come up big today were: Akinora Iwamura who went 3-5, with 3 runs scored today. Willy Aybar who went 2-4, and Jason Bartlett who went 2-5, with a run scored. Ben Zorbrist went hitless today, but got on base twice via walks and had a run and an RBI on the day.
 
 
On the day, the Rays left 14 men on base and  7 men in scoring position. This is a statistic the Rays will need to work on before the playoffs start in October. When the playoff traditionally start, the runs  are harder to come by, and are earned at a slower pace. For that reason, the Rays will have to begin to use their speed and quick bats to get “National League” style runs by using the hit-and -run, and maybe a suicide squueze.  But then again, a well placed homer never hurts either.
 
 
 
Dan Wheeler blew his 3rd blown save of the year. On the positive side, Wheeler got the win to improve to 3-5. Wheeler was going for his 11th save of the year, which would have tied him for his career high set in Houston before his trade to the Rays.  Opponents are battling .173 against him this season.

Zobrist, Floyd Help Rays Reach Historic Milestone

 

Rays 14, Orioles 3
 
 
Every fan that has been here since the first days of the Rays can finally give out a collective sign of relief that we are a offical winning team in the MLB now. For years we have began the post-All Star period with visions of a 82 win season, but now we can yell, scream, and toast the victories with a sweeter taste in our mouths. Not since Wade Boggs took that 3,000 hit into the right field seats have we had this much to celebrate here in Tampa Bay.
 
 
Plus, with the Rays victory, I am also celebrating the launch of my website on www.raysrenagade.com starting today. This site will be a sister site to my posting on MLBogs.com. So you can either visit me here, or go to my new site, but look out for the construction mess. I am new at the website biz, and I have alot of content and borders, widgets, and assorted mish-mosh before it  is how I want it for all of the Tampa Bay Rays faithful.
 
 
So be patient with me and I will get this looking like a well shined Ferrari at the beach in no time.
 
 
Rays 14, Orioles 3
 
 
                                          
 
Tell me that was not the wildest sight of Oriole’s catcher Ramon Hernadez going after home plate umpire Sam Holbrook in the 4th inning. I have seen a few catchers go nuts usually after an inning, but after another walk was issued to the Rays by Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, Hernandez was quick to rise and go face-to-face with Holbrook before being tossed out for his verbal arguments. I know alot of fans could not understand what happened, so I wanted to make sure the masses’ knew the real story here.
 
 
                     
 
The Rays had a bevy of great plays on the night to secure one of their biggest margins of victory, 14-3 last night at the Trop. Akinora Iwamura lead off the game with a triple on a 2-2- count that bounced and spun in the right field corner in front of Nick Markakis before he got the handle on the ball and threw it back into the infield. Aki did not score on the play because he was in a rundown between third and home after B J Upton hit a soft grounder to short. Aki ended up going 2-3 on the night, also with 2 walks  and score 3 runs for the Rays.
 
 
 
 
Scott Kazmir earned his 10th victory of the season tonight and did finds himself in trouble again with a high pitch count early in the ballgame. Kazmir threw 102 pitches in 5.2 innings of work for the Rays. Scott posted a 3-hit shutout tonight and lowered his ERA to 3.13 for the year.
 
 
I am not sure why Kazmir gets into his extended pitch counts this season. He is pitching the same as in recent years, but maybe other teams are seeing a pattern to Kazmir and laying off his pitches and being patient knowing that Scott will put the ball over the plate. It is a concern because it takes a great pitcher out of the game early and you lose his effectiveness against certain hitters later in the game.
 
 
                  
 
I am starting to think that Brian Anderson, who filled in for Joe Magrane when he was in NY for the USA Baseball telecasts is right. Ben Zobrist has seen enough of Durham and wants to stay here.  The guy has been “Mr Clutch” since coming up because of injury several times this year. He is the switch-hitter that could help the Rays tremediously in the coming month with pitching situations and to get some of our tired guys a breather before the playoffs.
 
 
But tonight, Zo-rilla, as Rays Manager Joe Maddon calls him, hit his first career Grand Slam to put alot of distance between the Rays and Orioles tonight. This is the first time ever that Zobrist has hit the monster of all homers in his youth and professional career. And he picked a historical time to do it for the Rays. People will remember for years this night for it’s 82nd win, but they will also remember that Zobrist hit a monster  on the first pitch he saw in the  4th inning to preserve it for the Rays.
 
                          
 
 
Overshadowed a bit tonight was the great performance of B J Upton, who went 3-5 tonight with 3 runs scored and an RBI.  Upton also got his 39th stolen base tonight and is tied with Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki for 2nd in the AL stolen base race. Carlos Pena also had a historical night as he walked the first 3 times up tonight and got an RBI single in the 6th inning.
 
 
Lost in th collective shuffle tonight was Gabe Gross’s 11th homer of the season. Gross, who also went 3-4 on the night, hit 2 singles in addition to his solo shot in the 4th inning.  Every Rays player, except for Eric Hinske got a base hit in this game. Hinske was not shut out tho, getting a walk in the 4th inning and scoring on Zorbrists’ grand slam.
 
 
                                          
 
 
Another Ray who will have a huge night to remember was Cliff Floyd. Not because of the foul ball he hit to me in the right field Bullpen area, but  for his 3-4 night that included 2 doubles and a total of 5 RBI’s on the night.
 
 
Floyd is certainly showing the way as a Rays veteran this year by hitting by example and running like he was still 25 years old on the basepaths. It is a real joy to watch this guy lumber on to second base and come up with a grin from ear-to-ear after the play.  We really found a rare diamond in the rough with him in the clubhouse this season. Because he has been to the playoffs and the World Series before, Floyd will be a overflowing source of information and a great example of courage under fire in the coming month, and beyond.
 
 
There have been a few whispers of Floyd maybe not coming back for a second season with the Rays. I think if he is having the kind of fun he is having right now with this young ballclub. If he does decide to forego his final year with the Rays, you can bet it will be because of injury, and not the lack of desire to want to be next to the Rays young players for the next few years.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rays Home to Series Win over Jays

 

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2

 

 

Before the contest last night, the members of the Rays/Pepsi Wall of Fame met for a pre-game meal up in the leftfield conference room at the Trop. It was a very informal get together so that we can chat amongst ourselves ans catch up with each other before the game. It was a great event for this small group of extreme fans to just sit, eat and glow about the 2008 Rays squad.

Members from the first years’ class of inductees to the crop of newbies for 2008 mingled and raved about the food and the gifts bestowed on us by the Rays. I do have to say that the Rays have been extremely supportive and responsive to the fan’s needs in the last two years. It is a welcome sight from when the fan hosts and  other Rays personnel used to just be a little less humanitarian and civil to the fan base.

Among the conversations were the play of B J Upton recently and the pricing of the post season ticket packages. I heard a few voices opinions that they will not be able to afford the playoff packages and felt terrible they could not support the team fully right now in their drive for a playoff berth. A few even wished the Rays would push back the date needed for the deposits and full payments so they could build their nest egg to purchase these packages.

It would be a true crime to not have every member of this impressive group there for the playoff contests. But in the economic times that we have, sometimes people have to make a choice in their own financial endeavors. With that in mind, please remember that your post season purchase deadline for Season Ticketholders is Sept 12th. Failure to secure a ticket package by this date will be a forfeiture of the reduced rate and the guarantee of your seats for the playoff games.

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2

 

 

 

 

When Toronto’s Joe Inglett hit  a 1-1- pitch to leftfield that was dipping and moving away from the playing field as it flew down the foul line. Eric Hinske came out of nowhere and leaped to his right and caught the ball in mid flight to secure the first out of the 1st inning for the Rays.

The play was  remarkable to see, and was voted as the 4th best Web Gem on “ESPN’s Baseball Tonight” for Thursday night. Hinske has been impressive both on the field and at the plate in the absence of Carl Crawford in his susal leftfield position. Hopefully the Rays; will reward Hinske for his efforts and give him a nice chunk of change in the off season to remain with the team.

 

 

B J Upton stole his 38th base in the  5th inning after singling to center field. Upton took off on the third pitch to Carlos Pena and arrived before the throw from Jay’s catcher Rod Barajas. Upton was then picked off before the Jay’s Jesse Litsch threw another pitch to Pena. Upton was casually moving off second base and did not see Litsch pivot in time to get back to second to prevent the tag for the third out in the inning.

Upton’s 38th stolen base currently has him ranked third in the Al, 3 behind current leader Jacobs Ellsbury of the Red Sox. Upton’s 14th caught stealing play of the year has him still on top of the list for the major leagues this season. Upton currently has been caught 3 more times than his nearest AL competitor, the Angels Chone Figgans.

 

 

 

 

Willy Aybar has been a great force at the plate and in manning third since the injury to Evan Longoria. Aybar again provided offensive support for the Rays with his 8th homer of the year to deep right centerfield stands. His solo shot in the 6th inning proved to be the game winner for the Rays.

Aybar is batting .277, with 4 homers and 11 RBIs and 5 walks since taking over for Longoria on August 8th in Seattle.

 

 

                        

 

 

Edwin Jackson was rewarded for his great control and firm pitching tonight with his 11th win of the year. Jackson threw 106 pitches over 7 innings and gave the Rays Bullpen a much needed breather tonight.

Tonight was also Jackson’s 100th career appearance in a game.  Jackson has now won a career-high 11 game this season. His previous high was 5 set in 2007. Jackson has also won 5 of his last 6 starts and seems to be peaking this year at the right point for the Rays.  His only loss over those 6 starts was in Texas where he only allowed  1 run on a Ian Kinsler homer in the first inning. In that period, he has a 2.63 ERA over 34.2 innings.

 

Cliff Floyd also hit a monster solo homer in the 3rd inning last night that travels well over 400 feet to within a few feet of the Rays tank in right centerfield. Floyd has been on a bit of an offensive tear lately hitting .311 in the last 14 games, and is currently the second best hitter ( .341 ) to ever play at the Trop trailing only former Yankee Bernie Williams ( .374 ).

 

The Rays other run was scored in the after Akinora Iwamura lead off the game with a double to deep center. Upton then hit a single to left to move Aki into scoring position at third base.  Cliff Floyd then came up and hit a high sacrifice fly to center that score Iwamura and put the Rays up 1-0.

 

 

The Rays finally gave up the shutout in the 8th inning as Alex Rios lead off the innning with a ground rule double that bounced over the centerfield wall before Upton could catch up to it. Jackson then was relieved by Chad Bradford then  got Vernon Wells to ground out to Bartlett who threw to first to get the first out of the inning and  put  Rios at third.

Adam Lind then got an infield single to second to score Rios and put the Jays on the board 3-1. Trever Miller was the  brought in to face Lyle Overbay and got him to strike out for the second out of the inning. Grant Balfour then relieved Miller and gave up a RBI double to Rod Barajas, who scored Lind on the play to put the Jays within one 3-2. Jose Bautista, who is 0-11 since coming up for the Jays, then struck out to end the 8th inning.

 

Congrats to the Rays for having next Weds. game against the Yanbkees picked up by ESPN as their primary broadcast game of the night. Thiss marks the 9th nationally televised contest for the Rays this season. It is by far a franchise high mark for the team.

 

 

 

Dan Wheeler then came on and pitched an inspired 9th inning for the Rays. Wheeler got the Jays out on 12 pitches to earn his 10th save of the year. Wheeler struck out the first two Jays batters before Barajas hit a liner to Aki to end the game.  It also secured the Rays 29th series win, which is tops in the majors this year.

 

Pena Seals Win # 80 for Rays

 

 

Rays 1, Blue Jays 0

 

 

I was watching ESPN’s Baseball Tonight last night and was a bit flabbergasted that the guys on the panel have pretty much given up on the New York Yankees with 29 games to go in the season. Now I am a true Rays fan and not a Yankee fan in any measure of the word, but I would think you would wait until there are maybe a dozen games before dooming a franchise. The reason I mention this is that the Yankees 12 year post season run seems to have run it’s course.

I am glad that we will take that sacred position in the post season away from the boys in the Bronx, but at what cost will it be to us next year. We all know that Hank Steinbrenner will be reloading the team with a pitching staff next season and it should be a dogfight from day 1 in the AL East.

I actually think we took everyone by surprise in the AL East this year. The Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays might have thought they have a year before we might stick our heads into the top spot in the division. But leave it to us to ruin everyone elses plans for us.  By staying on top of this division, we will set a standard that you will have to play to stay at the top from this moment forward.

Boston has been getting all the headlines for it’s injuries this season, while we have stayed a bit under the radar and also won in spite of key injuries in the begining, middle, and end of our season. that is a true testament to the squad that Rays Manager Joe Maddon has built since the spring, and will carry into the first post season action of our franchise.

We all knew that Eric Hinske would have a great year, but he has sttod up amazingly during Carl Crawford’s absence in leftfield. Hinske is hitting .400 since Carl hit the DL in Seattle, and is showing no signs of letting up at the plate.  Willy Aybar has been amazing at the corner and has taken some heat on defense, but his offense has picked up just in time to ease the burden of Evan Longoria’s wrist situation.

The Rays have a great chance to gain Percival and Longoria back on the roster during this homestand, and that would be amazing news considering we have a monster stretch of games against divivion foes in their house coming up in the next week or so. The presence of those two players should put the spark back into the Rays’ both in the pitching staff and the plate as Longoria makes a late charge in his bid for the Rookie of the Year honors.

 

 

Rays 1, Blue Jays 0

 

 

 

 

The Rays truly dodged a bullet last night against Toronto starting pitcher David Purcey. The 6′ 5″ lefty was hitting all his spota and his curve had an amazing 5 inch break on it last night that promted 11 Rays to swing and miss. To put his game into prospective, Pursey came into the game with a 2-5 mark and a unimpressive 6.15 ERA. By the end of the night he had the Rays hoping they will not see the tall lefty again in Toronto next week.

 

 

 

 

In the 4th inning last night, Carlos Pena hit his 27th homer to right field and gave the Rays the lone run they would need for the victory. Pena went 2-3 on the night, also getting a single to right in the 1st inning.  Only Carlkos Quentin ( 14 ) of the White Sox has more homers since the All Star break than Pena (12).

Pena has 6 homers in his last 13 games, and 12 in his last 29 games for the Rays. Pena is batting .246, which is highest average he has had this year.  No other first baseman in the AL has more homers than Pena this season.  His 72 homers over 2007-2008, is second  in the AL only trailing the Yankees   Alex Rodriquez who has 82 homers in the two year span. 

 

 

                

 

 

Rays starter, Matt Garza  picked up his 11th victory last night in the pitchers duel. Garza was going for his 3rd victory this season over the Jays. In his last 3 starts against them, Garza was 2-1 with a 0.39 ERA. In his last start against Toronto Garza posted a 5-hit complete game in the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Garza last night pitched 7.2 innings of 6 hit ball and earned  his 3rd shutout of the season. Garza threw  115 pitches and got 5 strikeouts on the night. Garza  only had a small handful of men in scoing position last night.  The Jays ended up leaving 8 men stranded on base, with no baserunner getting past second base all night long. Garza had 4 innings of  4 batters or less on the night to secure his 11th win.

 

 

 

 

On the night, the play that would define this game was not a homer, or a well picthed curve. It was a high hit long fly ball to leftfield that Justin Ruggiano jumped up and took off the green wall to seal the win for the Rays. During the last homestand, Ruggiano made a questionable play in left during the late innings of a game against the L A Angels.

Tonight Ruggiano made up for that play and more on a running and leaping grab of  Rod Baraja’s  sure extra base hit off the plastic in leftfield. The play was worthy of a Top 5 ESPN play of the night, but the panel was in a “throwing mood” and only gave Ruggiano a Honorable Mention.

 

 

                                     

 

 

To put this play into prospective, the play would have put Barajas on second base and in postion to maybe tie the game for the Jays. Ruggiano was rewarded with a shaving cream pie from Rocco Baldelli during his interview with Todd Kalas on the Rays Television Network.

 

 

 

 

Last night was the Rays 80th victory of the season and puts their home record at  48-19, only 1 victory shy of the Chicago Cub’s major league high of 49 wins at home this year. The win was also 10 more than the Rays previous franchise win record and kept them 3.5 games above the Boston Red Sox for the division lead.

The Rays have currently 28 series wins this year, top spot in the majors this season. The Rays will be going for series number 29 as the Jays and Ray and are the best in the majors.

 

 

 

 

Pitcher’s Duel Dooms Rays

 

 

Blue Jays 6, Rays 2

 

 

I got to the stadium tonight at about 5 minutes before the gates opened as usual and was strolling around just saying hello to a few friends and fans. I got over by the Ted Williams Museum and saw one friend who told me a pretty distrubing bit of news about one of the Trop’s imfamous fans.

 

It seems tha Cowbell Kid had been on WDAE a local talk radio station some time during the day and had opened his mouth as bit about a certain mother-daughter pairing at the Trop. It seems that Cowbell found it a bit odd that a person who was born in New York city and wore a NY pendant around their neck can not be a true Rays fan.

 

He urged the radio audience to go up to her and yank that chain off her. Now the thought that some strange fan, or Cowbell-ite might go up and yank a chain off someone neck like a two-bit theft made me a bit more than angry. You see thei guy has been given multiple chances by the Rays management to try and be a positive influence to the fans.

 

I use another Myspace superfan as an example. If you got to a Chicago White Sox game, ask about Soxman. I have read alot of positive thing about him in the community, and in the press for his humanitarian and civic gestures.  Positive thing led to positive action from a team.

 

This latest flap has me all up in a roar and wanting this guy finally banished from the stadium. I love the fact he is a super fan. And I can truly understand and empathize about the struggles of being a Rays fan before this year. But to make a request that some do a crime against another fan, and someone he has also been on local television stations with is beyond belief and borders on insane.

 

For this reason, I am going to move thru the crowd at our annual Wall of Fame reception on Thursday and ask the Rays true faithful for their support in finally getting this guy either on page with the masses, or boot him to the Ferg’s parking lot where he can park cars in his Marge Simpson Wig and fake grill. 

 

I have spoken to the mother-daughter cheering team and let them know they have my total support in fighting this maniac. The word “fans” of course comes from the word “fanatic”. I enjoy fans, but you have to curb your fanatic edges sometimes, even for baseball.

 

 

Blue Jays 6, Rays 2

 

 

                          

Last night at the Trop we saw a classic pitchers duel unfold. We saw on e of the American Leagues primier pitchers thae last 5 years going against a Rays’ upstart. Roy Halladay had lost 3 pervious starts against the Rays squad this year, and the odds were that Halladay coulr rebound at any moment.

 

On the other hand, James Shields is being regarded by many around baseball as having some of the most explosive stuff in the league. Shields came to the mound seeking his 12th win of the season. What Shields ended up with was his 8th loss of the year in a hard fought game.

 

 

Shields went 6,2 innings and gave up 9-hits and 4-runs during the game. Shields got in trouble in the 4th inning as Toronto’s Alex Rios duobled to center and Adam Lind walked on 8 pitches. Lyle Overbay then  came up and sent the first pitch he saw to the deep centerfield gap and Rios and Lind scored to put the Jays up 3-0.

 

 

          

The energy level felt around the stadium tonight was at an all time low for this season. For some reason the stands as well as the players seemed to be in a bit of a lull instead of their usual upbeat, cowbell thumping  maniacs. I do not know what to contribute to this lack of  enegry tonight.

 

Maybe it is the fact that the contest Sunday could have been a emtional drain for the guys in the dugout, but with a day off on Monday you would think it would have washed off their psyches and they came out with a new attitude. You never know, but the Rays never seemed to have that visible spark or eruption of visual stimulation you usually see of from these guys on gameday.

 

Some people might have a unreal realization that this team no longer loses at home. Well, on most night’s that is true, but even tho we have one of the major’s best records at home doesn’t mean down this stressful last month we will not have mistakes or losses at home. But with only 15 games left in the home schedule, you would hope that the Rays could muster as many wins as possible to avoid having to pick up wins on the road.

 

 

The Ray finally got a huge offensive momentium going in the 6th innnig when Akinora Iwamura led off the inning with a single to center.  After B J Upton struck out, Carlos Pena hit a ball into left that moved Iwamura to seocnd base and in scoring position.

 

Then 5 pitches into Cliff Floyd’s at bat, Haladay threw a Wild Pitch and both runners advanced a base to put Iwamura 90 feet from the Rays’ first score of the night. Floyd ened up striking out and Willy aybar was hit by a pitch and loaded the bases for the Rays.  Eric Hinske came up with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the inning.  Hinske singled to left and scored both Iwamura and Pena to bring the Rays within striking range of the Jays, 3-2.

 

This was the last offensive surge for the Rays in the contest. 

 

 

In the game, the Rays had only three batters to the plate 5 times in the contest, including the 1-2-3 9th inning where the Rays struck out twice in the inning.  On the night the Jay’s pitching staff got 11 strikeouts and only produced 7 hits on the night.  Ben Zobrist and Junstin Ruggiano both came up as pinch-hiiter in the 9th inning and struck out for the Rays.

 

 

Worst thing about this contest is that the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees were battling in their contest during the Rays game. Boston ended up winning the game and moving 3 1/2 games behind the Rays. The next three series are critical for the Rays as we battle American League East foes who want to knock us off our perch on top of the standings.

 

Not since 1997 has another team beside the Yankees or Red Sox been at the top of the standings at this point in the season. In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles topped the Yankees for that position. In that season the Orioles ended up winning 98 games and only finished 2 games abive the Yankees.

 

 

 

 

Edding’s Blunder Leads to Questions

 

I have taken a few days and still I am upset and angry at the events thgat led to the Rays losing their sunday contest to the Chicago White Sox. O do not have a problem losing a game to sportsmanship and the course of a game playing out under normal situations. But whenever A J Pierzenski is in a game, it is never normal.

Case in point is the Sunday contest where Pierzenski and his umpire friend, Doug Edding again came into national exposure on a TBS telecast.

As most people know by now, Eddings was the unlucky home plate umpire during the White Sox versus the L A Angels Game 2 of the AL championship series. That was the game where Pierzenski was called out on a swinging strike that “apparently” hit the ground before Angels catcher Josh Paul caught it.

Paul tossed the ball towards the mound, which is customary after a strikeout to end the inning. Pierzenski did not hear a vocal third strike call by Eddings and ran towards first as if it was a strikeout, passed ball situation. Eddings had not vocally let it be known that he had judged that the ball hit the ground before it hit Paul’s mitt and  never signaled directly the strikeout.

Pierzenski was awarded first base, and the series began to unfold rapidly from that point for the Angels. The White Sox went on to win the AL Pennant and deposae of the Houston Astros in 4 games to win the World Series.

Back to Sunday’s contest, Pierzenski lead off with a single to centerfield for the White Sox in thebottom of the 10th inning. Pierzenski then  tagged up after Carlos Quentin’s fly out to center when Rays centerfielder B J Upton  held onto the ball in the outfield.  Peirzenski was now in scoring postion for the Sox.

Jermaine Dye then hit a sharp grounder to shortstop that Pierzenski thought was through the hole for a single. He was caught in a rundown between second and thrid base.  Rays’ shortstop Jason Bartlett then faked towards AJ and threw to thrid baseman Willy Aybar who was running towards Pierzenski. 

A J  back -pedaled towards second base and Aybar threw to Jason Bartlett standing on second base. Pierzenski then moved towards the outfield area and in the path of Aybar and stuck out his left elbow to catch Aybar as he ran past Pierzenski.  At that moment Pierzenski started to tumble towards the third and second base umpire Doug Edding motions towards second base.

Eddings had determined that Aybar had interfered with Pierzenski’s natural motion towards third and A J was considered safe and awarded third base. The Rays were livid with Bartlett and Aybar in Eddings face before First Base Coach George Hendricks pulled Aybar away from Eddings. Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out and attempted to get Eddings to ask for a umpire conference to review the play, but was overruled by Eddings and the play stood as called on the field.

the play ended up costing the Rays the victory when Alexi Ramirez hit a single into rightfield and Pierzenski strolled home from third with the winning run. After the game Pierzenski was his usual smug self and proclaimed,” First of all, it was bad baserunning on my part,” Pierzynski said. “I shouldn’t have went — horrible baserunning. But I was just looking for somebody to get close enough and luckily he did.”

Eddings had called Aybar for inteference on the play, thrid base umpire Ted Barrett explaned the call. “What Doug ruled at second base was, even though A.J. did kind of stick his arm out to make contact, Aybar was still in his way, so A.J., if he would have turned, he wouldn’t have been able to continue on to third,” said third-base umpire Ted Barrett, who addressed the situation after the game. “So after making the throw, Aybar is no longer in the act of fielding and he can’t obstruct the runner, which is what Doug ruled happened.

“In a rundown, even though A.J. was going back to second, the rule of obstruction during a rundown is he gets his next advanced base and that’s why he was rewarded third base.”

I hate it when a game is decided by a umpire, even if it was a good call. But this call was even worse than the B J Upton situation a few days earlier at home against the Angels. B J’s call did not hinder the final result of the game for either team. But Sunday’s call not only gave the White Sox a win to keep the Rays from sweeping the White Sox, it gave them back first place in the AL Central division.

Games should be decided by the players and not the umpires. The Rays should only have to play 9 men a game instead of 13. A roster lineup plus the umpiring crew can make for a long and exhausting game for the Rays down the stretch.  Let’s hope that the men in blue do not have to be the basis of controversy in any more of the Rays games going into this playoff stretch. Conspiracy theories will abound and   even simple plays will be examined by fans and the media if anymore “phanthom” calls surface for the team.

Worst part of it all is that now any call Doug Eddings makes the rest of the year will be under a microscope as pertaining to this and the 2002 situation. And Pierzenski, being the toad he is just laughed and stated,  “I didn’t think about that until you said it, but I guess it’s ironic,” Pierzynski said. “It’s just a funny coincidence, I guess. Him and I will be linked forever because of that one play and now there are two plays.”

Linked like Oil and Vinegar for a lifetime.

A J Scam Dooms Rays

 

 

White Sox 6, Rays 5

 

 

Can there be a Public Enemy number 1 in baseball? Can a persob be so hated he makes you want to spit fire and just wishes for 5 minutes in the parking lot alone with the guy. Well, for me, and maybe Rays Manager Joe Maddon, that guy is White Sox catcher A J Pierzenski. A J  is that kind of snake that crawls on it’s belly and shows its true face every couple of years. Unfortunately, we got to see the slimeball first hand in our Sunday contest against the White Sox.

 

A J  has a history of being a deceptive scum. You might remember a certain Playoff game a few years ago against the LA Angel where a dropped third strike put the entire stadium in panic and the nation wanting AJ’s collective rear for his certain act of theft. Well, AJ pulled off a bigger boner play yesterday that will make the Rays’ fans hate him for more than a few years.

 

In the 10th inning, with the White Sox threatening to take the contest from the Rays, AJ found himself in a pickle of a rundown between second and third base.  He did everything possible to shake the Rays and move forward, but decided to use a bit of visual psyche work and get the Rays to be the bad guy this time. With Willy Aybar barreling down on him with the ball, AJ decided to make a move and fake towards second base and Jason Bartlett. Aybar threw the ball to Bartlett and AJ started his ruse.

 

Pierzenski made a motion to change direction and threw his elbow and body towards leftfield. In that motion, he clipped Aybars arm and the second base umpire decided that AJ had the right to keep going in his tuen and awarded him safe and gave him third base as a prize. It was determined by the umpire that AJ made a clean move towards third and that Aybar blocked his forward progress and interferred with AJ. Well, Maddon came out and went ballistic on the umpiring crew and he had more than that play to be upset about here.

 

It seems that second base umpire Doug Eddings was the guy behind the plate in AJ’s other  baseball scam, and made a fool of Eddings for the second time in his career. The action by AJ was a true and outright farce to the game of baseball. We try and tell our kids in Little League to not cheat and that sportsmanship plays a huge role in life and baseball, then reward a guy like this for a bogus action.

  

 

I am not upset that in the last week the Rays have gotten two blown calls against them. The BJ situation against the Angels might just have been a bad call, but that call did not impact the final outcome of the game.

 

This call gave the White Sox a man at third base, and Pierzenski ended up being the winning run of the ballgame. That is the real tragedy here, the game came down to that one bogue play, and not a great action by either team. I hope we do get another chance at Pierzenski in the playoff’s this year. Maybe pinch-run Jonny Gomes at third and let him loose on AJ after a fly ball to the outfield. Jonny barreling down on AJ and knocking not just the ball, but AJ out of a game might be a great ending to this saga, but with our luck Gomes would be called out for a Pete Rose-type pop of Pierzenski.

 

But I can dream can’t I?

 

White Sox 6, Rays 5

 

 

Rocco again came on as the DH in the game and went before a National Television audience on TBS to show he is healthy and ready to rockj and roll for the Rays. In the contest, Rocco went 2-5 in the game, but contributed with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the Rays.

 Rocco hit his second homer since coming back to the Rays in the 1st inning with Carlos Pena on base. The 2-run blast put the Rays in front early 2-0 over the White Sox. Baldelli took the first pitch he saw and drilled it 416 feet into the leftffield stands. Coming into the contest, Rocco was 6-10 against White Sox starter Mark Buehrle. Rocco also got a Ground Rule double in the 6th inning that rolled around in the corner for a bit on rightfielder Jermain Dye. Carlos Pena also scored on this play to tie the game at 4-4.

Later in the inning, Baldelli was thrown out at home trying to score. Rocco seemed to be looking back at third baseman Juan Uribe and lost a bit of spped going to home. The throw beat Baldelli with ease and the Rays lost a possible scoring chance.

 

 

Carlos Pena also had a great day for the Rays at the plate going 2-4, with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Pena hit a reached first base on an error by White Sox first baseman Nick Swisher before Baldelli blast to left.  Carlos also had an interesting play in the top of the 6th inning.

 

With the White Sox playing a shift on Pena, he decided to put down a bunt down the third baseline and to the right of pitcher Buehrle. the pitcher could not get the ball in time, and also threw a errant ball to first to  the play.

  

 

The game actually came down to one play in the bottom of the 9th inning for the Rays. With Brian Anderson on second, pinchrunning for Ken Griffey Jr., he went for it all after a single by Paul Konerko. Anderson rounded third and headed for home as Ben Zobrist got the ball in leftfield and tossed a throw towrds home. the ball took three hops before bouncing off the chest protector of Shawn Riggans and Anderson was safe with the tying  run of the game.

 

A better throw by the inexperienced outfielder Zobrist and the game would have ended there. the White Sox had two outs at that moment and the out at home would have neded the game in dramatic fashion. You could see that Riggans tried to get the ball, but it made a short hop right before the plate and made it more difficult for him to take the ball into his glove with Anderson barreling down on him. Instead it gave the Sox a 5-5 tie going into extra innings.

 

  

Rays starter Andy Sonnastine was going for his 14th win of the season on Sunday. That would have tied him with Rolando Arroyo for the tops in  seasonal victories for the Rays. Sonnanstine pitched 6.1 innings of 9-hit, 4-run ball and only posted one strikeout in the game.

 

Andy did give up two homers in the game for the third time this season. In his last 5 starts, Sonnanstine is 3-0, and his current winning percentage of .684 is the best in team history.  Sonnanstine had trouble mostly only in the 4th inning for the Rays. In that inning, the White Sox got Sonnanstine for 4 runs on 4 hits. the first 4 batters in that inning scored on the two homers allowed by Sonnanstine that day.

 

 

Rays reliever Jason Hammel took the loss in Sunday’s game, but I truly feel he did not deserve that fate. The contest was decided by the umpires and not the players on the field.

 

With that in mind, if Rays current closer Dan Wheeler had shut down the Sox in the 9th inning, we would not even be talking about all of this. Wheeler got his second blown save in 10 save appearances this season for the Rays. Wheeler did get two strikeouts in the inning, but gave up a double to Griffey Jr, and a single to pince-hitter Paul Konerko that ended up scoring the tying run for the Sox.

 

 

During this series, the Rays had a chance to get their stolen base totals up significantly since both AJ Pierzenski and Toby Hall do not have impressive total this year throwing out runners. Pierzenski actually has the second worst percentage throwing out men in the AL. The Rays only attempted  1 steal attempt, and that was a successful steal by B J Upton in Friday night’s game. the Rays blew a chance to put pressure on the White Sox pitching staff by running more in the contests.

 

 

 

Rocco Helps Rays beat White Sox

 

 

 

Rays 9, White Sox 4

 

 

I always look forward to the Chicago White Sox and Rays series during the year. White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen always has a few surprises in his oral comments, and usually has a few up his sleeves for the Rays on the basepaths.

 

And in this series, Ozzie did something I thought would not happen, he was actually commenting positive about the Rays upward climb through the league. Guillen finished his playing career as a Tampa Bay Devilray. He then went into coaching in the minors before getting his shot with the White Sox.

 

Guillen has always been counted on for saying his mind and not worrying about the backlash or the pitfalls. you got to respect a guy for not being afraid of even the MLB office when you comment that “I do throws at guys,” pertaining to the plucking of batters by pitching staffs throughout the league. Such a vocal hurricane can get you in a mountain of trouble with the league and even your own team management. But Guillen plays it all off as part of the game, and if they are that sensitive, they should find another line of work.  Gotta love Ozzie!

 

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Edwin Jackson is showing more and more ever start that he can be the pitcher the Rays can depend on come playoff time. Jackson got his 10th win of the season Friday night by throwing 97 pitches over 6 innings and leaving the game with the Rays up 3-2.

 

Jackson can attribute his new found success to his late breaking slider that has become a great weapon to catch AL batters’ off guard this season. On the night, Jackson was determined to make as many first pitch strikes as possible to put the White Sox batters’ in an early hole.  This was the third time this season that Jon Danks and Jackson have toed the mound against each other, with Danks winning 2 out of 3 against Jackson.

 

 

Edwin got in trouble in the bottom of the 4th inning as Ken Griffey Jr. got a lead-off single to leftfield for the Sox.  Nick Swisher then came up and hit a  2-run homer on a 3-2 count to put the White Sox up early 2-0. 

 

 

In the 4th inning, Rays Manager, Joe Maddon saw something in the way the baserunners were leaning and called two straight pitchouts on Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to record two straight putouts at second base. The  caught stealing calls erased a single by Uribe and a walk to Cabrera to smother the White Sox threat.

  

 

The Rays tried to get a lead early in the 2nd inning, but Rocco Baldelli was tagged out by Danks at home.  Baldelli got walked by Danks and advanced on Willy Aybar broken bat hit to left. Baldelli tried to score on Ben Zobrists’ short grounder in front of the plate, in which Danks tagged Baldelli out at home.

  

 

Dioner Navarro then hit a sacrifice fly to left, and Aybar was also tagged out at home by A J Pierzenski to end the 2nd inning. In the 5th inning, the Rays finally  put a run across the plate when Akinora Iwamura hit a triple that 1-hopped to the  leftfield  wall and Navarro came in to put the Rays on the board.

  

 

In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena hit his 26th homer on a 3-2 count to center to tie the score 2-2. The homer was only the 12th homer given up by Danks this season. In the 7th inning, Navarro lead off with a double down the leftfield line, and then scored on Jason Bartlett’s 1-hop double to leftcenter. At that point, Danks had thrown 100 pitches and he was replaced by Guillen.

 

In the 8th inning, the Rays exploded for 3 runs against the White Sox relievers. Rocco Baldelli started the scoring with his first homer since May 3, 2007 to the leftfield bleachers. Baldelli hit a 0-1 pitch off   White Sox reliever Matt Thorton for his first of the year. Willy Aybar hit a ball off the leftfield wall to end up at second base with Zobrist at the plate.

 

Zobrist then connected on  a 2-run homer to complete the Rays scoring in the inning. In the 9th inning, the Rays again put up 3 runs as B J Upton lead off the inning with his third walk of the night. Upton then beat out a pick-off play by the White Sox when Nick Swisher tried to go across BJ’s body to get the throw to first base. Swisher’s throw did not get Upton at second base in time.

  

 Upton then  came around to score on Pena’s blast into the rightfield corner that bounced away from Jermain Dye and put the Rays up 7-4. Baldelli then came up and hit an RBI single that scored Pena. Baldelli ended up coming around and scoring on Zobrists’ single to leftfield.

 

 

The win gave the Rays the best record in baseball at 78-49 on the year. It was also a memorible night for Joe Maddon who tied Rays’ ex-Manager, Larry Rothchild for overall team victories.  Maddon now has 205 wins as the Rays skipper and will be going for the all time lead tomorrow afternoon against the White Sox. The win also help give the Rays a leg up as they are going for their first series win at U S Cellular Field since April 1998.

 

 

Coming into this series, White Sox starting catcher AJ Pierzynski has allowed 80 stolen bases this season. That is second worst in the AL this year.

 

 

Rays reliever J P Howell had a bad night in Chicago giving up 2 runs on 1 hit and letting the Sox back into the game at the time 6-4. Howell has been alsmost automatic at times this season, but seemed to be struggling with his off speed pitches against the White Sox. At one point, it seemed that the Sox were waiting on Howell’s slider and setting up for it. Howell pitched one inning for the Rays before leaving the game.

 

 

Jason Hammel then came on to pitch in the bottom of the 9th inning and got the White Sox 1-2-3 to end the game for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels 5, Rays 4

 

 

People were wondering where Rusty, our faithful Rays announcer was last homestand. Well, he was nestled in a homey enviorment up in Minnesota getting ready to get married. Rusty missed the LL Cool J concert series because of his impending nuptuals and recently return to his duties at the Trop.  So be sure to send Rusty your well wishes the next time you see him at the Trop.

The Rays’ finally sent their invoices out for the Post Season ticket prices to Season Ticketholders. And from the opinions I have heard, the Rays might not get the positive results they wish for…… I know that Section 138 and the Lower Baseline area is going to cost just under $1,000 for the 11 game package.

I actually think this is pretty reasonable, but the 3 week window to have the entire amount into the Rays coffers might be a sticking point for myself and some other people.  I know if the Rays have an unfortunate early withdrawl from playoff contention, the entire left over amonut will be credited to my 2009 account balance.

That is fine and dandy to me, but 3 weeks is an odd number of time to get that much scratch up to pay in time to prevent my ticket location from going public, or being offered to another person. I can see maybe having the money in by the last home game/ series against the Twins. That would give most people about a month to roll those quarters and pennies up and deposit them in the Rays accounts.

If the Rays tick to that solid Sept 12th date, you might just see my seat empty of my face, but you know someone will pay the upwards of 175 dollar for that seat during the World Series.

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There have been some pretty odd happenings around the diamond during this series, and they continued tonight in the Rays 5-4 loss to the Angels. On a hard hit ball up the middle that Aki Iwamura had to backhand and slap down to prevent more  Angel runs, it was scored an error on the second baseman. Anyone who saw the play could see that with his back to first base he would have never gotten a play off to the bag. For that reason alone, it should have been a hit registered and not an error.

Also during a play at first base, the television replay showed that Carlos Pena did not drop the ball, and got Chone Figgans out by a half a step. But unpire Crew Chief Gary Darling missed the play and called the runner safe on the play. Figgans again got another huge break from the unpiring crew when he was awarded third base on a double steal and the replay showed he was tagged even before his lead hand got near the bag by Willy Aybar. Two mistake that ended up being a Angels run in the inning. And might have been the difference in the ballgame.

 

 

 

 

Rays starter Matt Garza went into tonight’s game as 1 of 9 pitchers in the majors with  at least 2 shutouts. He also owns 3 of the Rays total 7 complete games this season. And he is one of the Rays’ current starters who has reached the 10 win plateau this season.  And tonight’s game was only the second start of Garza’s career against the Angels.

Garza had two uneventful innings before the Angels threatned in the 3rd inning.  During the 3rd inning the Angels erupted by three straight hits, two of them extra bases to post a 4-3 lead on the Rays. Garza gave up 7 hits on the night, 4 of those in the 3rd inning. Matt also fanned  7 batters on the night and had great command again on the mound after the 3rd inning.

 

 

 

 

What was visible to the fans was the frustration level Garza outwardly showed during the 3rd inning. He seemed to be particularly annoyed when he walked Erik Aybar, and took at least 1 inning to compose himself fully before regaining his control on the mound.

Another play where the ball was hit back towards Garza was spining away from hgim and he could not make a play on the ball.  Garza has come a long way this year to establish himself as one of the Rays’ pitchers with the most upside to his development this year. Tonight was just a short interlude of problems in a long career for the righty.

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game was telecasted on ESPN as their featured game of the night. It was a hard fought contest that should go down as to how far the Rays have matured and progressed in the last year. This is a showcase for the Rays to show the rest of the nation that the Red Sox and the Yankees no longer own the rights to playoff berths in the AL East. This year, the playoff go through Tampa Bay.

The Rays got to Angel’s starter Jered Weaver early last night, but could not rattle him enbough to send him to the bench early in the contest. In the 2nd inning, Eric Hinske singled to right and stole second to put himself in scoring position. Gabe Gross came up next and hit a screamer to right field that scored Hinske from second. Gross ended up on second after the Angels throw came back to the plate. With Gross in scoring position, Shawn Riggans hit a single to score Gross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then with Riggans in scoring position, Jason Bartlett hit a ball into the left center gap that fell between Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera for a triple. Bartlett might have had a chance for an inside the park homer, but stumbled coming out of the batters’ box on the play.

On the night. the  Rays’ 6-7-8-9- batters went 6-14 on the night, with Gross and Hinske both going 2-2 in the contest.  The bottom of the Rays lineup accounted for 3 of the 4 runs scored by the Rays. In the last few weeks, this section of the batting order has been tremedous for the Rays. They have been more productive and been in scoring position a majority of the time for the team.

 

In the 8th inning, the Rays produced two straight doubles to produce their last run of the ballgame. B J Upton took a 1-1 pitch and hit a liner to left for the first Rays double. Carlos Pena came up next and hit a ground ball double to left to score Upton from econd base and tie the score at 4-4.

 

 

Grant Balfour has always been known as a confidient and aggressive pitcher in the majors. It is widely known that he a hardnosed pitcher who will put the ball in on guys to get the outs needed to be a sucessful reliever. Balfour did run into a bit of trouble in the top of the 9th inning. He led off by waling Chone Figgans on 4 pitches, then got Erik Aybar to commit a fly ball bunt to third that his brother Willy had no problem handling for the first out of the inning.

From there on, the inning got more interesting for Balfour.  He gave up a fastball single to Mark Teixeira that moved Figgans into scoring position. Balfour was replaced by Chad Bradford, but was responsible for both runners on base.

On the Bradford’s first pitch of the inning, the Angels committed a double steal. This was the controversial steal of thrid by Figgans’ that showed on the replays that he was out by at least a foot. This put the leading runner on third with 1 out. The Rays then decided to intentionally walk Vladimir Guererro to load the bases with Torii Hunter coming to the plate.

Hunter hit into a fielders’ choice to third and Figgans was thrown out on the force play at the plate by Aybar.  Garrett Anderson then came up and reached on the apparent error play by Aki at second base. Teixiera came in to score and put the Angels up 5-4. With Balfour still responsible for Teixeira, he was awarded the loss in the game.

 

 

The Rays will be off on Thursday and traveling to the south side of Chicago for a weekend series against the AL Central leading White Sox.  Edwin Jackson will be the starting pitcher for the Rays on the Friday night contest and is riding a recent winnning streak on the mound.

Jon Danks will be the srating pitcher for the White Sox. If you remember the home series against the White Sox this year, Danks handcuffed the Rays’ batter in his start, and should again pose a threat to the Rays trying to finally become a .500 team on the road on Friday night. The Rays are currently 2 games under .500 on the road this series.

With a series sweep against the White Sox this weekend, the Rays would come back to the Trop only 1 game over .500 next Tueday. This would be great for the morale and confidience of the Rays before they hit the road after the next 9-game homestand to have 9 game roadtrip against only AL East foes before the last homestand ( 7Games) of the year.

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