Rays End August on a Winning Note
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.