Rays Flat in Loss to Indians
I had a weird feeling coming into the Trop last night. I did not feel the usual enegry that seemed to bounce off the walls. I also saw a little exhaustion and less enthusiasim from the players and even the fans.
Games like Sunday can drain you emotionally, physically, and of course can alter a game in an instant. Monday night the Rays seemed to be under that cloud of emotional exhaustion that can show up when you strive so hard and endure so much emotions that you physically put yourself into a state of numbness that can effect you in many ways.
With that in mind, Sunday’s game was one of those defining moments for a team. It took every ounce of energy and excitement to channel a victory for the Rays. To think that you could play against the toughest pitcher in the AL this year on a physical and emotional low was insane at best.
I do not think or feel that this team needs to win every game the rest of the way to show a message to our competitors. The message is already out there. People know we are for real, and will be in this playoff push into the last possible second. For people to assume we will be undefeated at home, or go above .500 the rest of the way on the road might be an invitation to the crazy house.
Losses are going to happen to teams, but it is what they do after that losson that will define them as a team. A few years ago the Rays had a advertising slogan, “Heart and Hustle.” This team is the one that has totally fit that persona, and will only expand on their persona in the coming months.
Matt Garza will probably be the first to tell you that there was a lack of energy in his pitching and the consistant control and movement was absent tonight on his pitches. It was not the usual pitching gem we have come to associate Garza with, but it was a matchup of two of the best young arms in American League.
Garza pitched 5 innings of 7-hit, 4-run ball and fell victim to a few plays that defined his outing. of the Indians 5 runs came off homers to rightfield. Garza threw 102 pitches on the night and got 4 strikeouts.
Garza came into the game woth a home record of 6-1, and a AL best 2.10 ERA at home. Garza also has shown mass improvement in control before his 20th start of the season. Garza has only giving up 18 walks in last 12 starts, while he allowed 18 walks in just his first 8 starts of the season.
Jason Hammel came on in the 6th inning and pitched 3 innings for the Rays. He gave up 1-hit, and a solo run while getting 3 Indians to strike out. Hammel threw 45 pitches in his 3 innings. Hammel is enjoying the best stretch out of the Bullpen over his last 8 appearances since July 4th. He has pitched in 11-1 innings, allowed 7 hits and given up only 2 earned runs.
Akinora Iwamura was half the offense tonight for the Rays. Aki went 3-4 tonight with both the Rays’ RBI’s on the night. Iwamura started the night off by singling on the 4th pitch he saw tonight to centerfield.
In the 2nd inning, Aki walked on 7 pitches. This is important, becuase Indians’ starter, Cliff Lee has not given up over 25 walks this season. In the game, Lee gave up walks to Aki, and B J Upton.
In the bottom of the 4th inning, Iwamura hit a blistering ball through the hole at second and scored Willy Aybar and Gabe Gross to tie the game at 2-2. Aki reached on an infield single to short in the 7th inning, and finshed off by grounding out to short in the 9th inning.
Willy Aybar also had a great game for the Rays going 2-4, and scoring the first run of the ballgame for the Rays. Willy reached on a bunt single to third in the 2nd inning that was a perfect bunt down the line and Indian third baseman, Andy Marte could not get the speedy Aybar.
In the Rays big 4th inning, he singled to center up the middle and moved to third on Gabe Gross’s double to leftffield. Gross’s hit was down the line and was rolling in the corner when Rays third base Coach, Tom Foley held up Aybar. Willy did not have to stay on third long, as Aki hit the 4th pitch he saw from Lee to score both him and Gross.
Aybar, who was in for the injured Jason Bartlett got to show his stuff early on a great diving double play ball in the 1st inning. Aybar dove towards the bag at second to rob David Dellucci of a extra base hit and tagged the bag the threw to first to complete the double play.
It was confirmed by a team member that Jason Bartlett’s index finger had to be drilled out before the game to relieve the swelling and pressure beneath the nail. The team will re-evaluate the situation on a day-to-day basis. With Aybar having a great first game at short, it relieves the coaching staffs’ anxiety on him replacing Bartlett for a few days.
Also out last night was Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford. Crawford has been fighting a hamstring injury most of the year and has only stressed lately that it is starting to tighten up and become a bit more painful. When Carl was making those turns in the last few days on extra base hits, he saaid it felt like it was about to explode on him.
With that in mind, the Rays went with a shortened bench last night, with Bartlett only available for pinchrunning duties.
Shawn Riggans is my new courage poster boy. The guy gets plucked with a 93-plus fastball in the strenum area and is all smiles and laughs on the field during Batting Practice. Either that or he had a great pain reliever last night. In either case, Riggans was out there before the game throwing and running like he was starting.
He did his usual actions of coming out to the Bullpen to help them pitcher’s warmup, but was called back to the dugout a few times. the first time was when Willy Aybar was stretching out on first base after a hit and looked to be a bit shaken by the tightness in his legs. Riggans was called back as a possible pinch-runner if Aybar showed anymore discomfort. He was again pulled from the Bullpen area in the 8th inning to pinch-hit for Eric Hinske.
This brought about a unique situation for the second game in a row for the Rays. With Hinske out of the lineup, do you pull Gomes from the DH spot and put him in left, then the pitcher would have to hit in Hinske’s spot, or do you put another play in leftfield for the 9th inning?
The answer was none of the above. The Rays sent out Shawn Riggans to play left in the 9th inning. Riggans strolled out there and did not see any action tonight. Not that he was not ready to put his skills to the test, but mostly left-handed batters came up for Cleveland in the 9th inning. Another Joe Maddon experiment that came through with flying colors.
I was told that during Sunday’s game, several of the Rays pitchers came over and offered their services to Maddon either as hitters, or in the field for the team. I like the idea of those guys being pro-active and wanting to do whatever they could to help the squad.
I would have loved to see Edwin Jackson play the outfield. People forget he is a converted outfielder, who is becoming a pretty good pitcher. Now you naysayer’s need to look at his stats from the past two years, then you will never doubt this guy has gotten better. Jackson was a 1st Round pick of the L A Dodgers as an outfielder.
Also of great interst wuld have been Andy Sonnanstine as a pinch hitter. Sonnanstine did excellient in the Inter-League series and might be a good last effort guy to use if the tables were stacked the right way for the Rays. Both guys showed the kind of self sacrifice and team-first mentality that will get this team motivated and ready for bigger things in their future.