Pena Seals Win # 80 for Rays
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.
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.