August 2008

Rays Secure Series with Controversial Win

 

 

Rays 4, Angels 2

 

 

Thank goodness we got to play this game as scheduled tonight. It would have been a malfunction of massive proportions to expect a day-night double header on Wed to get this series completed before Wed night.

The Rays did talk to the local offcials about traffic control and got with the security forces to ensure there would be adeqaute people if the doubleheader was to materialize because of Tropical Storm Fay. But the storm started to do a delayed right turn after it hit the Key West area on Monday night. 

Because it veered so much to the east, the Tampa Bay area only got a small amount of rain compared to the anticipated rain chances if the storm did come up the coastline. The last time we had such an adventure, we had a day-night doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers a few years ago. All you had to have to get in the door that night was a ticket to one of the games, and you got your choice of unused seats.

But with the team winning like it is this year, those seats might not be vacant if such an event hit this year. Hopefully that was our brush with the wind and the tides this year and we can get this season done with and worry about the Playoff storms of bandwagoning fans strolling the aisles of the Trop.

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Wow, did you see the veins popping in Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s neck last night after that wild play in the 6th inning. The first base umpire, Jerry Meals, totally blew the call on B J Upton by noticing a phanthom attempt to move towards the baseline and turn towards second base.

What really got Maddon more worked up is that the umpire crew chief,Gary Darling , who was watching second base at the time concurred with the first base umpire and ruled that the play stood as called on the field. Video replays show that the call was blown totally out of control, and the MLB rule book had such a huge area of grey near the meaning that it could be interpreted that the color green was white if the umpire saw that in his eyesight.

Wow, MLB rule7.08C states; “(j) states that once a runner “fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base … if he attempts to run to second, he is out when tagged.”

Clearly by the video replays and the posturing of Upton to go straight up the line and not divert towards the foulline, how can you gauge intent without a movement towards second base? The best part of all this is that it doesn’t matter in the long run. We did not lose the contest and all is well in Rays-ville.

But, if it had come down to the Rays losibf this game because of that one play, it would be a crime to award a win because of a blown call. Meads should be behind the plate tonight. I expect to hear a great amount of boo’s for any judgement calls tonight.

 

 

 

 

Almost lost in all of the hoopla over the Upton call is the fact that the Rays had the bases loaded after Angels’ reliever Darrin Oliver walked Carlos Pena with the bases loaded to tie the score in the 6th inning. This set the table for Willy Aybar to again be the hero of the night for the Rays. Aybar put a line drive into leftfield and plated 2 runs for the Rays to take a 4-2 lead in the 6th inning.

Aybar has batted .350 since taking over the thrid base duties while Evan Longoria is out with his wrist injury. He  currently has a .70 Slugging Percentage for the season. Aybar’s defense has also been superior as his kid brother, Angel Erik Aybar tried multiple times to put a bunt down on Aybar and get on base for the Angels. Willy was up to the challenge and completed the outs on his younger brother.

 

 

 

 

The final score gave the Rays the best record in the American League at 77-48. The Rays are currently tied with the Chicago Cubs for the best record in baseball.  The win also secured the yearly series victory against the Angels. The Rays are 7-2 against the Angels this year, with one game to play on Wed. 

The Rays have had only one season where they have won more game over the Angels. In 2000, the Rays went 6-6 against the Angels. The Rays have won all 5 games at home so far this season, and are 8-2 in their last 10  home games against the Angels.

 

 

 

 

James Shields recorded his 11th victory last night against the Angels. Shields pitched effectively spreading out his 9 hits and two runs through his 8 innings of work. Shields threw 103 pitches on the night and struck out 7 Angels batters in the contest. But behind Shields, the Rays’ defense stood tall against the Angels.

 

 

               

 

 

Gabe Gross did his personal imitation of Superfly when he pulled in a Vladimir Guerrero liner to rightfield. In the first inning play, Gross took the ball off the top of the wall for a long fly out.

The ball would not have left the playing field, but the catch robbed the Angels of a extra base hit and a chance to score during the inning.

The Rays defense is currently in the top 5 in the majors, and is just .0002 from being the best defeanse in baseball.

 

 

 

 

In the 2nd inning, Upton took a Juan Rivera single to center and threw out Torii Hunter trying to score from second base.  Upton made a perfect throw to the plate and Dioner Navarro easily tagged out Hunter on his slide. The outfield assist was Upton’s 10 of the season, tying him for 4th in the AL.

 

 

Rays reliever Dan Wheeler, normally a setup guy, came in to p[itch in the 9th inning and got the Angels to go down in order 1-2-3 to secure the Rays win and get his 7th save of the year.

With the Rays win, Bench Coach Dave Martinez is now perfect as an acting coach in his Rays tenure. When Maddon was ejected in the 6th inning, Martinez took over the team and ran it effectively in Maddon’s absence. 

 

 

 

 

Rays Power Their Way Past Halos

 

 

 

Rays 6, Angels 4

 

 

During this series, we will learn more about our club than if we can win or lose these three contests. We might just see if we can stay in a game with a team that matches up quite perfect for us. Both the Angels and the Rays have a superior home win record to boast a pretty even series if played on either teams’ home turf.

But, if we can win our division and have the best record in the AL, it might just trigger something extra special in that the 3, or 4 games needed to win a playoff series could come out of the Trop. And as we all know, the Trop is a pit of cowbells and mass noise this season.

By our sweep victories against the Angels and Red Sox this season, we can establish that a short series could benefit and work into the Rays favor this year. No one other than the Angels in the AL, can boast to have a advantage in their home park like we have encountered this season. And if these two teams meet in the post season, it will be fireworks from the first pitch.

Some teams just match up well becuase of the players and the pitchers on a squad. These two teams match up well because they have both been built on the same premise. Every player believes he can make a contribution. Every pitcher believes he can win when he hits the mound, and every fan believe in both of those thoughts. These three factors can have a monsterious effect on a team’s mental and emotional outlook. And if good vibrations is just a Cali thing, then we have packaged some up and sent it to be transplanted in the Florida sunshine.

 

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Andy Sonnanstine is a pretty mild-mannered guy. You would not expect him to be the guy at the forefront of this playoff push with 13 wins in the season. He is guy who just goes out and competes, and if the cards are lined up right, he will come home with a win. Sonnanstine has average pitches, but fantastic control to enable him to hit the black on the corner of the plate, and not be afraid to throw a breaking ball even with a 3-2 count to a batter.

 It is this confidience and ability that has shown brightly for Sonnanstine this year for the Rays. In one of his biggest starts  of the season, Sonnanstine effectively handled the high scoring Angels to 3 runs over 5.1 innings and improved to 13-6 for the Rays this year. Sonnanstine threw 104 pitches and effectively used his slider and change up to keep the Angels bats at bay for much of the contest.

In his 25th start of the season, Sonnanstine tied Scott Kazmir’s 2007 record with his 13th vicotyr of the season. The all-time leader in wins for the Rays , Rolando Arrojo has 14th wins, and is in jeapoardy of losing that record in Sonnanstine’s next start.  Sonnanstine is a combined 2-4 against the AL West this season, and 11-2 against everyone else in the majors this year. Andy has now allowed 3 earned runs or less in 13 of his last 15 starts for the Rays.

 

 

B J Upton again learned the value of knowning your surroundings as he was picked off by a heads up play by Angels first baseman, Mark Teixeria on a ball hit to deep right center in the bottom of the 4th inning. Teixieria was trailing the play, when Upton broke for second base for a double. Teixeria sneaked in behind Upton and tagged him as he was strolling into second base to end the Rays’ offensive spurt.

Upton looked dazed and confused as he lingered on second for a few moments before surrendering to the fact that the Angel got him again not huslting at 100 percent. Upton was expecting to go into second without incident, before Teixeria tagged him out.  I do not expect a disciplinary action after this, it is just that Upton might have finally gotten that wake up call he has been sleeping through by the Angel’s hustling effort.

Cliff Floyd said before Sunday’s contest that he could see himself watching television after he retires and still see Upton playing ball, but that the desire and the hustle have to be there for him to be successful.  Amen, Cliff, Amen.

 

 

To Upton’s credit, he did have an impressive play in the outfield in the 6th inning to rob Juan Riveria of a extra base hit. Upton took a great route on a fluttering ball to deep center over his shoulder to keep the Angels from having a big inning on the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Eric Hinske has been on a bit of a homer roll lately for the Rays. This is not a huge surprise to the team, and is a welcome sight because of his increased playing time since Carl Crawford’s injury. Hinske hit a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning to give the Rays an earlyt lead in this ballgame, 2-0.

Hinske’s homer was his 19th of the season. Hinske also had an RBI single in the 3rd inning after Cliff Floyd’s homer to  right.  In his last 6 games, Hinske is batting .434, with 10 hits in his last 23 at bats.  He also has 10 RBI’s in his last 37 games . Hinske went 2-3 in the game and has inceased his average to .256 this season.

Since Crawford’s injury, Hinske has been effective as a replacement in leftffield handling the task with great ease. But it is his bat at the plate that has stood out for the Rays’ since Crawford’s absence. Hinske has responded by hitting the ball cleanly and effectively to help the Rays in this injury-plaqued month. Hinske has to consider this a great time to come alive both in the field and at the plate to help secure a spot with the Rays in 2009.

 

 

 

             

 

 

Cliff Floyd has been on fire lately at the plate for the Rays. Floyd is actually looking as calm and collected at the plate as when he was a member of the World Champion Marlins’ in 1997. Floyd has been a monster on the basepaths, and has not shown any effects of his two sore knees during this past two weeks.

Floyd has gone 8-20 in the last 5 games, with 8 runs scored. Prior to this offensive outspurt, Floyd was hitting .156 on the road for the Rays. Last night, Floyd hit a liner drive 2-run homer to right that just cleared the yellow line to put the Rays up 5-0 on the Angels. Floyd also had a infield hit to first in the 5th inning.

Floyd has been the emotional leader in the Rays clubhouse all year, but now that the playoff push is in full gear, he has been more and more vocal almost nightly into the Ray’s push for their first playoff spot. Floyd has been a excellient example on the baepaths and at the plate in what it will take to finally get that spot and succeed in the playoffs.

 

 

                        

 

 

Also having a huge week for the Rays has been Willy Aybar. Aybar filling in for the injured Evan Longoria at third base hit .306 on the recent roadtrip, with 7 extra base hits. Aybar has been another great example of players coming off the bench and filling the offensive void for the Rays during this recent injury situation. Aybar went 3-4 last night with 3 singles last night. Aybar also scored 2 runs last night for the Rays.

 

 

Gabe Gross also had an RBI single to complete the Rays’ scoring last night in the 8th inning. The run helped boost the Rays to 6-4, and cushion the victory margin for the Rays. Gross did hesitate a moment on his advancement  from first to second, and almost repeated the Upton error situation from prior in the game. Gross did get into second without incident.

 

 

With the victory, the Rays have tied the Angels for wins in tha AL, with 74 wins. This will be significant in the coming weeks to help determine the opponent, and the team we face in the playoffs. I know I am talking all “playoffs” right now, but I also feel it is better to be positive than to struggle with phrase like, “need to”, or ” critical that we….”  right now.

When on a win “high” it seems also most intoxicating to just keep the positives and the high-fives coming. I have no reason to doubt that the Rays can keep this momentium going for the next month, even with 28 of the following game against teams above .500 right now.

The level of competition will actually help the Rays more than it hurts them. By playing at a optimium level, the team will keep their emotional level and expectations high for the next month. And that could just be the simple answer to winning in September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kazmir Posts 9th Win Against Rangers

 

 

 

Rays 7, Rangers 4

 

 

I always like to watch these Ranger series games in Arlington. Not that the female fans are the only reason to want to see the scan shots of the seats in the stadium, but sometimes you see that gut who doesn’t know he is on camera  and the dip in his mouth is drooling down the side. To make matters worse, he did not know it and kissed his girlfriend who promptly popped his cowboy hat off his head.

Seriously tho, this series is one of the wildest series the Rays usually have during the year. Both squads are equally matched and the Rangers have an offensive advantage in their home digs, but the heat gets to both teams. That is the main reason this game is played at night instead of 3 PM. The temperature on the field would be around 105 degrees and fluids would be flowing like water in the dugouts between innings.

Heck, with that kind of heat, you might as well put a water cooler behind the pitcher’s mound, or at least have semi-inning sprinklers come on to drench the players.  I know playing outdoors in August in Florida is usually both a humidity bath and a sweat factory. Now when the Marlins and Rays play in South Florida, the afternoon games begin at 11 AM to try and fool the Florida heat, but that never seems to work for either team.

But the Texas heat can be murder in the middle of the day more because of the non-humid conditions that tend to have the sweat bake on your sakin and a huge sunburn can be blistering and reddening by the 9th inning.  So, thse night games might seem weird for viewing fans, but the players love it because of the slight wind that does sneak into the stadium at night fall. 

 

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Scott Kazmir has had problems with his pitch counts in most of his 2008 starts. Kazmir has been averaging 18 pitches per inning this year and needs to bring that number down to be able to stay in the ballgames longer and help the Rays’ Bullpen situation.

Tonight, Kazmir collected his 9th win of the season, and went 6 inning. He still threw 114 pitches, but did not have the control he wanted in the game. Kazmir walked 4 in the game and struck out 7 Rangers’. In his previous two starts against Texas, Kazmir was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.

 

Kazmir only ran into real trouble twice in this ballgame. In the 3rd inning,  after a Ian Kinsler double and a Walk to Brian Boggs, Michael Young hit a  single down the leftfield foul line that just fell in by a foot to score Kinsler and give the Rangers  their first run of the night.

In the  5th inning, Travis Metcalf took a 0-2 pitch deep to left field for a solo homer for the Rangers. That was the end of the Ranger’s scoring against Kazmir.

 

 

 

 

During the contest, viewers at home did not see the result of Carlos Pena’s broken bat in the his first inning at-bat. The baseball fan, in the red shirt, is assisted by security and medical personnel after being hit in the face with a portion of a broken bat. Rangers. Pena popped out to third during the at-bat and the fan was escorted away following his injury.

 

 

                         

 

 

The Rays got hot in the start of the 3rd inning as Gabe Gross led off with a double down the leftfield line that Gross originally thought was foul and hesitated out of the batters’ box. Considering the situation with B J Upton on that Friday night, Gross looked more embarrassed than worried about Rays Managers Joe Maddon’s comment to him later in the inning.

B J Upton then came on and doubled down the leftfield line also to score Gross and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  It was Upton’s 55th RBI of the year, and his 28th double of the season. Ben Zorbrist then 1-hopped a ball to the wall in rightfield and settled for a single.

 

 

 

 

With men at first and third, Carlos Pena came up to bat. Pena took the second pitch he saw from Ranger’s starter Dustin Nippert and deposited it in the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and an early 4-0 Rays lead. Pena now has 6 homers in his last 12 games for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

But the Rays were not finished with the scoring in the game. Eric Hinske lead off the 4th inning with a double to deep left centerfield. Jason Bartlett then came up with 2 outs and hit a single to right that scored Hinske.

Then BJ Upton, who was batting in the lead-off spot tonight, hit a 2-run homer to right for his 8th homer of the year. The homer put the Rays up 7-1.

 

 

 

 

The Rays did have some Bullpen trouble in the 9th inning as Grant Balfour came in for the Rays. Balfour  started by walking  Ramon Vasquez on 9 pitches to load the bases for the Rangers.

Balfour then got Brian Boggs to commit  a potential double play, but the Rays only got one out on the toss by Iwamura to Bartlett. The Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to argue that Vasquez went intentionally for Bartlett’s legs, but was overruled by the second base umpire, Tim Timmons. Boggs then went to second during Michael Young’s at bat on fielders indifference and put 2 runners in scoring position for the Rangers.

 

 

                    

 

 

With Josh Hamilton up to bat next for the Rangers, Maddon decided to intentionally walk Hamilton and let  Chris Davis score from third on the walk. The play was a calculated guess by Maddon that the walk would be the least amount of damage by Hamilton, and the Rays were still leading by 3 runs at the moment.

After the walk, Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, who came in and struck out Marlon Byrd to record his 5th save of the year.

 

 

Before the game, Rays Television guru, Todd Kalas talked with Cliff Floyd  about the recent B J Upton situation. Floyd did agree with the punishment and the severity of the situation and will take Upton under his wing the rest of the year and try and mentor him to be more aware of game situations in the future.

Floyd also stated that Upton has to be careful how he is percieved from this moment on. Players who have shown a tendency to be difficult or problem children have had a hard time finding a position in the majors. He commented that showing respect by running every play out, by playing hard every moment of the game will make this sitation disappear faster than words at this time.

Great comments by a veteran player who is also the barometer of the clubhouse right now for the Rays. The Rays had a chance to get Floyd a few years ago right after he became a free agent with the New York Mets, but Floyd went to the Chicago Cub instead that season. Maybe if the Rays had such a veteran leadership in the clubhouse a few years ago, this year would be more expected than as a surprise to most teams in the league.

 

 

 

Garzas Shutout dooms Rangers

 

 

Rays 7, Rangers 0

 

 

Some nights you just turn on the television and want to see an offensive explosion on the tube. Going into this Texas series, the Rays are going to encounter the team that leads the majors in runs scored per game. This squad is even more potent tha the Chicago Cubs, who have won an easy dozen more games than the Rangers.

But the firepower on this roster is well documented. The stadium is a true hitters’ ballpark, and the incoming teams have to deal with the heat and humidity that only the Florida Marlins could love. Arlington Texas can be a boiler room during the months of August and September, the temperatures can read 90-ish, but feel more like wet sauna.

The Rays come in here cool, calm and relaxed, and a few more wins will make this feel more like the Artic than the Sahara. Winning breeds success, and right now, the Rays are a success story for the ages. Coming in an impressive 6-2 during this roadtrip can put an exclamation point on the roadtrip. The Rays have to go above .500 in their road series to truly envision a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history.  If last night’s performance is only a glimpse into the future, the the future is so bright………you have to wear shades.

 

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When the Rays looked into their crystal ball before trading for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, did they see this kind of success this early for the pair. Did they see that Garza would come back to the scene of a major emotional and mental meltdown and redeem himself three-fold on the diamond. Could they have envisioned that Garza is considered by many in baseball right now to have the best stuff ( pitches) on the team’s roster. Do you think they thought Matt could mature and accept so soon to be a force on the mound every time he steps to the rubber?

 

Matt Garz threw his thrid complete game last night for the Rays. In the 7-0 shutout, Garza’s sinker ball was amazing last night, and was a true key to Gara winning his 10th win of the season. His sinker was hitting the spots last night with a great downward break at the last moment. Considering he throws it consistanly above 90 MPH, is true testement to his improvement on the mound.

Garza had Ranger batters’ swinging and missing at his pitches last night. Going into the 6th inning, only Josh Hamilton had reached base on a walk for the Rangers. Garza struck out 9 last night and looked totally in control on the mound.

 

 

 

 

Garza’s last start in Texas was a million miles away as you saw him pause before pitching each inning and look into his hat for inspiration and mental notes to get him focused in ths game. The only time Matt truly showed emotion in this contest was in the top of the 9th when he went over to Rays Manager Joe Maddon and  Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and asked to finish out the game.

It was truly a great night to be a Rays fan.

 

 

The Rays struck out 12 times last night against the Rangers. In the last 4 games, the team has now struck out 39 times at the plate. This puts the Rays at 890 strike outs for the season. This is pale in comparison with the major’s leading strikeout squad, the Florida Marlins, who have struck out 1,056 times this year.  But the Rays are within the range of the AL leading  Oakland A’s who have 930 strikeouts.

It brings about a glaring statistic that could play out more down the road for the Rays. There is a difference in being aggressive at the plate, and being a bit foolish and letting a player strike out looking at a pitch than swinging. The Rays have had more strikeouts looking lately than in a long time.

This has to be nipped in the bud a bit to be able to compete come  the September crunch time when baserunners will come at a premium for the team. In the coming weeks, teams will be bringing up the  young fireballers out of the minors to intice us to swing at air. We need to exercise a bit more plate discipline and either swing with authority or take the pitches.

 

 

 

 

Willy Aybar started the barrage in the 4th inning by slamming his 7th homer of the season to rightfield and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. The homer was a impressive shot that curled into the Rangers pinic area above rightfield and maybe put the Rangers’ Marlon Byrd on the bench with an injury. Byrd went up for the ball and got his wrist or upper hand stuck in the railing area and came down without his glove.

At this point in the contest, the Rays had Rangers’ starter Kevin Millwood at 60 pitches and he was slated for an early exit to the game.

 

 

 

 

But the Rays put the game and Millwood on the bench in the 5th inning. Carlos Pena hit  a 3-2 pitch into the right field stands for his 24th homer of the season. Pena went 1-3, with 3 runs scored, and 2 walks in the game. Pena now has 9 homers in the last 20 games, and one on each of the last 3 contests for the Rays.

But that was only the start of the barrage for the Rays. Cliff Floyd, who was 2-5 on the night, hit his second double of the game to setup the next heroics for the Rays. After a Aybar srikeout, Eric Hinske came to the plate.

 

 

 

 

Hinske took a Millwood pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark and above a leaping Josh Hamilton to spot the Rays to a 4-0 lead over the Rangers. Hinske hit that ball into the grassy batter’s eye area in centerfield for his 18th homer. In his last 5 games, Hinske is batting .438, with 2 homers and 3 RBI’s.

But that was not the end of the big blasts for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Rightfielder Gabe Gross also got into the action by hitting the first pitch he saw from Millwood into the Rays Bullpen area for his career-high 10th homer of the year. In the game, the Rays hit 4 homers for the 4th time this season.  Gross aslo got a stolen base off Millwood in the 2nd inning.

 

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett also started at shortstop for the first time since his in jury on August 3, 2008. Bartlett had been a DH a few times in the last week before finally taking thenfiled for the Rays tonight. On the night, Bartlett went 2-4 at the plate and  was the pivot man in the Rays’ only double play of the night.

 

 

Now for the upsetting news. You would have thought he got the message a week ago when Maddon benched him for slowly running to first base on a play, but B J Upton is again in the Rays doghouse. Maddon pulled Upton after he took 5.5  seconds to lollygag to first on a double play attempt.

Upton said after the game he thought the Rays had two outs at the time, but also commented that he now knows he has to hustle all of the time and not just take breathers on the basepaths.  Upton is a great young talent, and Maddon is truly not flexible on this action. He expects everyone to run hard and give maximum effort on every play.

That is a truly commendable trait, and one that Upton probably will have time to reflex on since he will be sitting out the Sat night game against the Rangers’ for his actions. Upton must understand that everyone on this squad is responsible for either its losses’ or successes this season. The Rays have a unique opportunity to change history and nothing short of 100 percent will do right now.

Beyond that, Upton will probably be wise to not get into this doghouse again this season. Maddon is quick to show that Cliff Floyd, who has two aching knees, gutted out two doubles last night, and score 4 runs in the Thursday afternoon game.

His knees were probably braking loud and clear before Friday night’s game. But as a veteran oin this club, Floyd also knows it is all about example and execution right now. And he has a World Series ring to prove it.

B J  has to consider himself really lucky to get such multiple chances from Maddon. In the not to distant past, Delmon Young wrote his ticket out of Tampa Bay on just such a play. And he only got the one chance to slack off before being shipped out of here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foresight,Hindsight, Blinded by the LIght

 

 

The final 5 weeks of this season should be a rollercoaster ide of emotions and sweat and determination. The Rays ares showing that they are out of the cellar and kinda love the view from the top this year. With the proposed Yankee payroll maybe itching towards $ 200 million next season, the Rays will be the Costco again of baseball.

Sure we have a few contracts that have a huge upside to them, but we are not paying a pitcher to rehab for the last two years (Pavano), and we do not have a thrid baseman that is making more than our entire infield makes per year. We will have some salary jumps due to arbitration, and some really hard decisions to make over free agents and possible additions to this squad.

We will also have to decide what to do with all our pitchers, both at the minors and up here in the show. We will have to seek and destryo other teams to get another right-handed bat that can deliver us to another realm of success. The aspect of David Price being up in the majors next season might be a easy guess, and a popular one for the Fans’, but will he truly be ready in only one year?

I know I am doing alot of foreshadowing here right now, but the future is now for the Rays. The decisions we make in the next few weeks and the coming months will decide if we get to this same plateau next season and beyond. The Rays might have dodged a bullet by staying pat in the Trade Deadline, but the jury is still out on that silence. Be lieve me, if we miss the playoffs, or get a real early exit, the voices will ber loud and proud that we shortchanged ourselves.

People will not just be happy that we got to the party finally, they want to be the hit of the ball, not the wallflower who goes home alone. This franchise is growing faster than we imagine. Bandwagon fans are screaming for more, and the original fans are just being patient hoping the dream can finally be fulfilled. We shall see if the dream unfolds or implodes. But whatever it does, remember that the bulk of this same squad is intact and signed for next season.

The Rays will be only as successful  as the rest of the league lests it be from now on. The Trop is fastly becoming “The Pit” as Rays Manager Joe Maddon calls it. People hate to come play here, not for the cowbells or the blue-wigged fans, but because this team expects to win in this building now. The hate to come here because no longer is it a golf holiday and a few days of work.  No longer is this the place where people go to play a few more years than retire from baseball. No longer is this team a bunch of rookie or Triple-A talented players trying to compete in the majors. This is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, and it is always 72 degrees in the Trop.

Rangers Shutout Rays

 

 

 

Rangers 3, Rays 0

 

I was strolling through the TV channels today and ran upon the USA vs. Cuba Olympic baseball game. The US squad had tied the match in the 11th inning, and they were about to start this experimental new Olympic  scoring plan.

It seems the Olympic Committee thought that baseball was too dull and had a tendency to be long and boring, So they put their own twist on the tie-breakers/sudden death mode for baseball. The teams will both be able to start anywhere in the 9-man line-up in the inning. They will also have the advantage of having a guy at first and second, and no outs  to start their half of the inning.

I guess the Olympic gurus thought that the possibility of guys on base would make the opposition team play more defense, or pitch their way to a victory.  I understand that baseball can bore someone who is seeing it for the first time. And that if you do not understand all the actions  surrounding the game, it can confuse you. But to tinker with the basics of scoring, and to throw a wrench in the system like this is just foul.

For example, who is charged with the baserunners and what happens to the pitcher on the mound if a run is scored. The pitcher should not have his ERA jacked up because of inherited baserunners that did not even exsist before that inning started. And how can you tack on runs that have no formal basis as to why the guy are on base in the first place. The Olympic Committee has voted before these games that baseball will be dropped after the 2008 Olympics.

Hopefully it is dropped to devise a better way to solve the issues at hand in this game, and not a political hotbed because of the popularity of the sport mostly in the Western hemisphere. Japan and  South Korea have made huge strides in developing talent and teams to compete with the USA’s and Cuba’s of the world. It is a shame they will have to wait “X” number of years until they can meet on the stage like the Olympics again.

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Sometimes you run into a hot pitcher, or a team on a roll in the mnonth of August. And sometimes a team will promote a pitcher to see if they have the right stuff for the near future. The Rays ran into the Ranger’s 2009 rotation addition in Matt Harrison.

Harrison threw 8 innings of 3-hit shutout ball against the Rays on Sat. night. To make matters worse, the Rays struck out 8 times in the contest. It was the 5th shoutout of the Rays this season, and evened the series at 1-1, with the deciding game coming Sunday night.

 

 

 

 

To make matters even worse, the Boston Red Sox had lost to the Toronto Blue Jays earler in the evening 4-1, and the Rays lost a chance to gain more distance between themselves and the Red Sox. In this time of the year, every game is a critical plus or minus for the squad. Wins come at a premium right now for the Rays since they will be playing most of their finalk games against team over the .500 mark.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson came into this game going 5-1 in his last 9 starts.  To put his inprovement into prospective, last year at this time Jackson was 3-12, with a 5.69 ERA. Jackson also threw a complete game shutout against the Rangers on August 12, 2007. In the contest, Jackson threw 110 pitches, and his last pitch of the night registered 99 mph on the juggs gun at the stadium.

Jackson pitched 6 innings of 1-run 1-hit ball against the Rangers. He also got 6 strikeouts on the night. But the game was decided on the first pitch of the ballgame. The Ranger’s Ian Kinsler took Jackson’s first pitch, a four-seam fastball, to the leftfield wall for an early 1-0 score.

 

 

 

 

Rays reliever J P Howell came on in the 7th inning and gave up 3 hits and 2 runs in his 1/3 of an inning for the Rays.  Chad Bradford and Trever Miller came in and finished the rst oif the game for the Rays.

 

The Rays did have ascare in the 3rd inning when Jason Bartlett came up limping after being forced out at second base. It seems that Bartlett’s trail leg caught the edge of the bag and twisted in an odd manner. Rays’ trainer Ron Porterfield looked at Bartlett on the bench and Bartlett returned to the field in the bottom of the inning.

 

The Rays did have a huge momentum swing stolen from them by a former Ray. Josh Hamilton made a remarkable run and jump to rob Ben Zorbrist of a home run to deep center field. Hamilton jumped up and snagged the ball on it’s way down  over the fencing to rob the Rays of a run in the game.  The play was another example of the type of night the Rays’ were having in Arlington, Texas.

The Rays did most of their damage early in the contest against Harrison. In the first inning, the Rays got 4 straight batters on base, but did not knock in a run in the inning. Akinora Iwamura  lead off the game with a single to right, and got forced at second on Ben Zorbrist’s fielder’s choice.

Zorbrist was then erased on a force out at second on  Carlos Pena hit back to Harrison. Rocco Baldelli then came up and singled to leftfield, but was stranded on first after Willy Aybar lined out to leftfield.

The Rays did not get another baserunner until the Bartlett single in the 3rd inning. After the 3rd inning, the Rays were effectively shut down by Harrison, and Eddie Guardado came on in the 9th inning for his 4th save of the season.

 

Pena blasts Rays to Series Win versus A’s

 

Rays 7, Athletics 6

 

Rays Assistant Pitching Coach, Brian Anderson has been in the booth the past few games for the Rays Television Network.

 

 Brian originally came to Spring Training to get in pitching shape and help this squad in either the Bullpen,or as a spot starter for the Rays. But Anderson toiled on until his shoulder again began to bother him near the end of Spring Training and his pitching career was in jeopardy.Knowing that his career might have neded in the Florida sunshine, the Rays originated a position on their staff for Anderson, as a Assistant Pitching Coach.

 

Being a left-handed pitcher, it made it easier for Brian to show players like Scott Kazmir and J P Howell the grip and delivery Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was trying to teach to them.  Hickey, a right-handed thrower, used to have to use a bit of mirror image to show the lefties what he was trying to illustrate to them. With Anderson, they have a former pitcher who can show them and work on mechanics with them.

 

Anderson also used to do some television work while with the Cleveland Indians recovering from a pitching injury. During that time he developed a passion for the game from the high perch in the booth. He became a great analyst of the game and strived in his new role.

 

When he came to the Rays as a player, he never invisioned that he would again be behind the mike with Dewayne Staats for any period of time. Anderson is beginning a tempoary assignment up in the booth with Staats in turn because regular analyst, Joe Magrane is in New York doing the USA baseball telecasts. Ander son and fellow boradcaster Todd Kallas will be tag-teaming the analyst spot until Joe returns after the Olympics.

 

Anderson has been doing the last two nights in the booth, and you can already see a diffrence is style from the two guys. Brian is more technical, without being stiff and doesn’t use the sarcasm and quick-wit jokes that Magrane has become famous for on his telecasts. It is refreshing to learn that a gut turned on a back-door slider that stayed over the plate for a homer, than to just hear some faint story or phrase to accompany the play.  It has been a great time listening to him, and hopefully he can turn this into a full-time gig somewhere next year in the MLB.

 

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Those Rays fans yesterday at Smokey Bone’s in Clearwater got their money worth watching this game. It was an interesting turnout of fans that ate some BBQ and spread some Rays cowbells throughout the dining rooms. Rays Radio guru, Rich Hererra was all over the restuarant during the breaks meeting and greeting with the Rays’ faithful in attendance.

 

These events have been very successful for the Rays this year. I believe that the Rays have a winning record in these remote telecasts this season.  Nothing better than be surrounded by fine food and drinks and the fans that get really rowdy for our Rays.

 

  

For all you Rocco Baldelli haters out there, shame on you. 

 

Hr might not be where you want him offensively right now, but defensively, you have to be beating a drum and waiting for the homestand so you can offcially welcome him back to the fold. Again yesterday, Rocco made a very hard and impressive dive for a ball in rightrfield to save an extra base hit during the 6th inning. The A’s Bobby Crosby hit a screaming low liner doen the  first baseline that Baldelli sprinted from righfield and gloved without a problem.

 

What was truly unqiue is that the Rays had just inserted reliever Chad Bradford into the game. Bradford in known throughout the league as a groundball pitcher, and the Crosby hit was his only fly ball of the game. 

 

Also do not forget that Baldelli singled in the 11th inning. On the single by Ben Zobrist, Baldelli tried to force the A’s hand by trying to score from first and was just tagged out by Kurt Suziuki at the plate to keep the game tied 5-5. 

 

  

I think we can truly say right now that Carlos Pena is back. And it could not have come at a better time for the Rays. Shrouded in injuries and needing its veterans’ to pull this team up, Carlos hit his 23rd homer of the season out in the 12 inning to secure the victory and the series win for the Rays. Pena only went 1-5 on the day, but connected at the right time to help his team maintain their 3-game lead over the Boston Red Sox.

 

Pena has now hit 8 home runs in his last 19 games. And with the majority of his hits going to the centerfield and right center gaps, is showing that he has regained the form we saw alot of last season. The guy who is smiling most right now is Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

 

Maddon has had Pena’s back all year over skeptics opinions that Pena might need to be sat down, or another guy put in his spot. Pena is finally rewarding Maddon for his consistant comments that he (Pena) will find his way, and we will be a better team because of him.

 

  

 

In the 3nd inning of the game, Willy Aybar doubled to right centerfield and gave the Rays their first run  of the day. Aybar then got to third on a fly out to right by Eric hinske, and scored on a Scarifice Fly by Dioner Navarro to put the score at 2-2.

 

Aybar got into the scoring again after Floyd walked in the third inning. Aybar hit a screamer into rightcenterfield that Carlos Gonzalez could not grab and ended up with a triple. Floyd scored on the play and the Rays went up 3-2. Aybar ended up going 2-5 on the day with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the Rays.

 

Cliff Floyd has made no bones this season about his sore knees. He has played thru pain and aches and has shown the Rays the senior leadership they have been missing for years. Floyd walked 4 times in the game today and scored 4 times for the Rays.  This is the kind of leadership and sacrifices these young players need to see from their veterans.

 

Floyd has said the right things to the media, and can be seen talking and chatting up the Rays every day on the bench. He is also one of the first guys to jump up and congradulate a teammate coming into the dugout. He is a underlying reason why this team is showing more professionalism and a great energy around the clubhouse.

 

 

Dioner Navarro also had a great game for the Rays going 2-4 and getting 2 RBI’s on the day. But it was Navarros calm behind the plate and the game calling that got James Shields out of trouble a few times in this contest. Shields did not display his good stuff today and quickly got behind 2-0 to the Oakland A’s.

 

Shields went to the mound today knowing the Rays needed this win to secure the series and keep their roadtrip on the winning edge. Shields seemed to be forcing his change-up and curve early in the game and the A’s took advantage of his unusual lack of control. The A’s got 2 runs on 3 hits in the first two innigs to put pressure on Shields.

 

Shields then shut the A’s down ending the day with 4-hits and 4-runs on the day. The unusual statistic is that he walked 5 men today. Shields has been in the top of the league most of the year in walk to innings ratio. But then again, the A’s are one of the best team in the majors at drawing walks and making you throw consistant pitches to them inning after inning. 

 

  

The Troy Percival saga again reared its ugly head in this game. Troy came on and pitched the 9th inning. Troy walked the first batter, Jack Hannahan, and Marc Ellis stood at the plate. Ellis hit a weak bunt attempt to Percival, who ran down the line to tag out Ellis. Troy came off the mound a bit unbalanced and was sprinting to Ellis before pulling up after the tag.

 

Percival had twisted his knee during the play and had to be replaced by Grant Balfour. This will probably be Percival’s third trip to the DL for a short time this season. Now I know a 38 year old pitcher will have bumps and bruises throughout the season, but when do you make a decision to shut him down for a while.

  

 

Maybe the Rays should bring up Juan Salas, or another Durham reliever to re-fortify the Bullpen until Sept 1st. Let Troy relax and rehab a bit until the Sept 1st call-up, then reactiviate him and he should be fresh for the stretch run. Percival will be a valuable commodity come playoff time, but right now he just needs to get in the right shape and get game ready for the stretch run against the major players in the AL East.

 

Let’s not forget that Hannahan did come around to score the tying run for the A’s in the 9th and the blown save is credited to Percival.  Cliff Pennington came on to run for Hannhan and scord on Frank Thomas’s single to deep right centerfield.

  

 

Not lost in the game was in insertion of Jason Bartlett at shortstop for the Rays in the 12 inning. Bartlett is seeing his first action on the turf since his injury to his finger during the last homestand. Bartlewtt showed his rusty ways by committing a throwing error to first to put Emil Brown aboard for the A’s.

 

Brown moved to second on Bobby Crosby’ single and moved on to third on Jason Hammel’s wild pitch. Brown ended up scoring on Suzuki’s double play and got the A’s with one run 7-6.

 

Trever Miller came on in the 12th inning after Brown scored and got the a’s to commit a ground ball out to save the game for the Rays. It was Miller’s first save of the season. 

 

 

 

Zorbrist Key to Ray’s Victory

 

 

Rays 3, Athletics 2

 

 

There is a swirling Internet rumor that someon ein the AL East put in a claim for Seattle leftfielder Raul Ibanez. Now we all know that the claiming party has 47 1/2 hours to complete the trade, or the Mariners’ can take him off the board. It would be a blessing if the Rays did get into that scenario, but I believe someone below us in the standing has gotten the outfielder before we could claim him.

The way the Waiver wire claim list goes is from least winning/playoff bound team from the same league, to the top dogs in the league. The Rays are currently the second top dog and everyone else in baseball would get a shot at Ibanez in the AL before the Rays even get to sniff daylight.

My personal opinion is that the Toronto Blue Jays, who were kicking the tires on Ibanez in the wee hours of the Trade Deadline might have finally gotten their guy. But the Jays have to submit a trade request which will probably have to contain at least two top prospects, to counter the two picks they will recieve as compensation if Ibanez walks away after this season.

Seattle’s new GM might be young, but he was not born yesterday, so the Jays will have to make it almost a “no-brainer” type of offer, or the Mariners’ might just take Ibanez off waivers and take their chances with their two Compensation picks in next years’ draft.

This is the time of year that a GM can make or break his name in the upcoming Winter discussions for players or for trades. A great move or shrewd business deal right now can set the parameters for future discussions. It will show either a willingness to deal, or a subborn syreak to hold onto prospects and MLB ready guys who are stuck at the Triple-A level.

Hopefully the Rays did get a surprise and Ibanez fell into their laps, but Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman would not be that kind to Andrew Friedman. Now, if we were below those two teams, we could have snapped him up wihout incident. Oh, how the winning ways can be a crime sometimes…………..or we might have stolen a prize without a fight.

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This season, the Rays are finally seeing what Ben Zorbrist can do at this level. As Rays analyst, Brian Anderson quoted during the game last night, ” Zorbrist is hitting like he has had enough of Durham.”

I actually love that quote. It shows the changes and the maturity of Zorbrist as a player and as a hitter for the Rays. Zorbrist is fast becoming a hitting factor for the Rays.  And with Jason Bartlett about to come back to his position at shortstop, Zorbrist has to give the Rays reasons to keep him up here, and not deposit him back to Durham until the Sept 1st expanded roster call-ups.

Zorbrist did all he could to cement his image in Rays Manager Joe Maddon mind by going 1-4, with a RBI producing double down the rightfield line to put the Rays up 3-2 last night. Zorbrist hit a blistering shot past A’s rookie third baseman, Cliff Pennington to score pince-runner Justin Ruggiano and complete the scoring for the Rays.

In the 4th inning, Zorbrist hit another hard shot towards rightfield, but A’s second basebman Marc Ellis jumped high to snare the ball and prevent a Rays rally.  His 5 homers this season have all come in the last 24 games for the Rays. With a  roster decision coming concerning Bartlett, you have to hope the Rays will give Zorbrist more time to hit and play the infield and even the outfield in the coming weeks for the Rays.

 

 

                           

 

 

Andy Sonnanstrine became the fastest Rays pitcher in history to reach his 12 win last night.  Sonnanstine pitched  6 innings of 6-hit, 2-run ball last night and struck out 6 A’s batters in the contest.

 

Andy started the game by getting in a little trouble, but was bailed out by a great 3-6-3 double play to end the 1st inning.  In the 3rd inning, Sonnanstine gave up a single to A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki that was barely missed by Zorbrist up the middle. 

 

 

 

 

 Suzuki moved into scoring position after Sonnanstine threw a  Wild Pitch.  Marc Ellis hit a single into leftfield that Eric Hinske fielded and  quickly threw to Willy Aybar. Suzuki was heading for home and Aybar threw a strike to Dioner Navarro that got Suzuki in time and stopped the A’s rally.

In the 5th inning, the A’s scored their only runs of the ballgame . Bobby Crosby lead off the inning withdouble that  1-hopped off the leftfield wall that came down within a foot of the foul line.  Jack Hannahan then hit a looper into center that fell in front of a charging B J Upton, and Crosby moved to third on the play.

Sonnanstine then walked Suzuki on 5 pitches to load the bases for the A’s. Eric Patterson then  came up and put a ball down the first baseline, just out of the reach of a diving Carlos Pena. Hannahan scored and the A’s tied the game 2-2.   A 5-4-3 double play got the Rays out of the inning.

 

 

 

Carlos Pena is beginning to warm up at the plate, and that could mean some trouble for starting pitcher the rest of this season. Pena took a  rolling backdoor cutter from A’s starter Justin Duchsherer and deposited it in section 146 up about 20 rows for an early 1-0 Rays lead.

The shot was Pena’s 22nd homer of the season, which teid him with Evan Longoria for the team lead.  In his last 7 games, Carlos is 10-29, with a .345 average, * RBI’d and 3 homers. He  now has  a season high average of .243 for the Rays. Pena also has 7 homers in the last 18 games, and has hit 11 since July 4th.

 

 

 

 

Eric Hinske also added a shot of his own in the 2nd inning  on a fastball over the plate. The homer was Hinske’s 17th of the season and upped his RBI total for the season to 50 RBI’s.  Hinske also has a pair of 3-hit games in his last 2 starts.

Last night Hinske went 3-3, with 1 RBI and 1 run scored for the squad. His last start on Sunday, Hinske went 3-5 with 3 runs scored. His 17 homers are the most in his career since he hit 24 as a rookie for the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

 

Even with their troubles on the left side of the infield with injuries, the Rays again came up big and got two double plays that helped out Sonnanstines pitching performance. Aybar completed a nice around the horn (5-4-3) double play to end the 5th inning threat.

 

 

On a somber note, Dave Price, the Rays 2007 first round pick is no longer undefeated as a professional. Price started Wed night’s game for the Durham Bulls and went 4 innings and allowed 3 runs on 7 hits in a losing effort. Price did get 6 strikeouts of the Tide’s batters.

The Bulls nearly came back after scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth, but they could not push across the tying run in the ninth and took a 7-6 loss.

Price went 7-0 with a 1.89 ERA in nine starts at Double-A Montgomery. The left-hander pitched 57 innings for the Biscuits and walked just 16 while striking out 55. Prior to joining Montgomery, Price went 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in six starts at Class A Vero Beach.

This will be a big test for Price to see how he rebounds after this outing and loss. Just like in the movie “Bull Durham”, can Price pull off a “Nuke” LaLoosh and impress the Rays’ upper management with his next start. Speculation is that Price will be in a Rays uniform by Sept. 1st, and could be used in a variety of situations.

 

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I want to take a few moments to thank a few people. This is my 75th blog entry on MLBlogs.com. I began to write on this site due to the support  of people with the Rays organization. Darcy Raymond, Director of Fan Experience told me it might be a great expereience to write on this site, not just for future considerations by a larger publication, but to let Ray fan;s know we have a voice in the MLB.

I also want to thank Brian Killingsworth, Marketing guru with the Rays and Rays radio voice Rich Hererra for their comments and support in trying to help Rays-nation in any way possible.

 

Rich, you are truly right to comment that this will be a “Magical Summer”. It is almost over, but I could not have thought this possible without the positive comments and critique voiced by you on the Rays Radio Network. We are very lucky to have you with us during this adventure.

 

 

 

 

  

Ray’s Run into Trouble with A’s

 

Athletics 2, Rays 1

 

 

The Rays Television networks had originally scheduled for three games to not be televised during this 10 game road trip. But the Ion network and FSN both picked up one contest in the Texas and the Mariner’s series to make only last night’s game the lone radio and MLB gamecast only game on this trip.;

Little did they know they might have picked the perfect game for no one to want to watch.  For people to view anything on this game, they would have had to purchase or already have the MLB Television package, and would have gotten the Oakland A’s broadcast team commenting on the game.

It is usually a wild night to hear another teams’ boradcast duo tell you things about your squad. Usually you only here the comments concerning their squad, which is acceptable, but every once in a while you hear and see something that makes you chuckle. Last night it was the comment near the end of the night that we were a team in flux, without two stars who spun the moon and created the heavens and we were not the same Rays team last night.

I know this team will be in that flux for a few weeks, but they also are professional players and need to suck it up and show that they have the gumption and the fortitude to climb this mountain without hesistation. I did not see that in their faces or actions last night, but I know it is just a small problem within the clubhouse that will get fixed immediately.

Either that, or our 3 game lead over Boston will be gone after Friday night’s game in Texas. The Rays have had a few key guys go down before this season. The must rebound and re-sound to the MLB nay-sayers that this team is about heart and hustle and not playing with a set of mirrors this season. If they do not make the strides to correct themselves, they will be victim to those October blues called the “what if’s”.

 

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Rays starter Scott Kazmir has been off his game a few times this season. If you looked totally at the boxscore and did not venture to see what really happened in this contest, you would have thought he had another bad outing.

 Kazmir actually had a great outing, he was consistant in his placement of the ball over the plate and struck out 6 in the game while walking 2 batters.  He really only had otwo critical mistakes in his 2-run, 2-hit effort on the night. And both of those errors happened back to back to secure the win for the A’s.

Oakland’s Emil Brown started the 2nd inning off by walking on 6 pitches from Kazmir. Then Bobby Crosby battled Kazmir from a 3-2 count to hit a hanging pitch to left center to put the A’s up for good 2-0. In his 5 innings, Kazmir never had another rough inning but the 2nd inning. He retired the side, three up, three down in both the 1st, 4th,and 5th innings of the game.

 

 

Before the game it was announced that Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford will undergo surgery to correct his hans issues and will be out at least 6-8 weeks for the Rays. The injury happened during the 10th innnig of the Seattle Mariner’s game on Saturday night. Crawford heard a “popping” sound in his hand area and the Rays suggested immediate X-rays to rule out a break.

The Ray quickly put him and Evan Longoria on a red eye flight back to Tampa Bay to see the Rays doctors about their injuries. The X-rayson Crawford were examined by the Rays local doctor, who advised Crawford to have surgery on Thursday to eliminate any future  problems.

the injury is to his middle index finger on his right hand down near the joint area where the finger meets the hand. The tendon that rests on top of his fingers was being forced out by him swinging the bat at the plate. The tendon normally sets in a groove in this area and flexs and moves without incident. But Crawford’s tendon was flexing and not returning to it’s right position and had to be manually manipulated to be put back into it’s tendon area.

Crawford is expected to be out a maximum of 6-8 weeks, but the decision will be Crawfords and the medical staff to decide if the injury heals faster, or is season ending at that time.

 

 

 

 

The 4th inning of last night’s game did not look like a first place team playing another squad that was 20 games out of first place. It looked more like two struggling squads just trying to get a few runs and hold onto a lead to win a contest that neither wanted to lose.

In the 5th inning, with Ben Zorbrist on third and Jason Bartlett on first, Akinora Iwamura tried to put dowmn a safety squeeze play to get the Rays the tying run in the game.  Iwamura did get down a bunt on the play, but it was right in front of the mound and Zorbrist mis-read the play and sprinted for home.

In the run down, Zorbrist was tageed out between third and home to stop the Rays’ plans to score. Iwamura was safe on first with a fielder’s choice, and Bartlett moved to second on the play. Then  A’s starter, Gio Gonzalez picked off Bartlett on second and ended the Rays threat in the inning.

A good safety squeeze would put the ball towards the first base side so the pitcher would not have eye sight of the runner on thrid and take to logical raoute of getting the out at first base. With the play right in front of the mound, Gonzalez only had to look over his shoulder to see Zorbrist caught between the bases for an easy out. To make matters worse, B J Upton singled  following the play and would have scored either Zorbrist and possibly Bartlett to give the Rays the lead in the game.

 

 

The Rays scored their lone run of the game in the 3rd inning. Zorbrist walked on 4 pitches and went to third on Jason Bartlett’s double to deep left centerfield. Aki then hit a sacrifice fly to score Zorbrist from third and bring the Rays with in 1 run of the game 2-1. 

 

 

 The Rays would again threathen in the 4th inning when Rocco Baldeii and Willy Aybar both walked with 1 out, but Dioner Navarro and Justin Ruggiano both struck out to smother the threat for the Rays.  In the contest, the Rayts stranded 9 men on base without scoring a single run.

This has been a re-occuring theme in the Rays’ game this season. They have one of the leagues worst percentages of hitting with  men in scoring position. This is a statistic that will be further magnified in the coming weeks as to the either downfall or upward swing of the Ray’s season.  The Rays need to put the bat on the ball more in theses positions with postive results before the season comes down to missed opportunities on the basepaths.

 

 

Talking about the basepaths. In the 8th inning, Aybar started a rally off by singling to leftfield.   Eric Hinske then came on to pinch hit for Jusitn Ruggiano. Hinske hit a high fly ball to left field that was caught by Emil Brown.

 Aybar had taken off from first thinking the play was over Brown’s head and realized he had caught the ball as he rounded second halfway to third base. Brown noticed Aybar beyond second and knew he had no real chance of retreating to first and threw the ball to first baseman Daric Barton to double up Aybar on the play.

Now, I know Aybar was trying to make something happen, but even in Little League, we are told to keep our heads up and watch the ball before sprinting to another base on a fly ball hit deep. This is an example of the night’s errors that cost the Rays this game. I am not saying that the next batter would have gotten a needed hit to move Aybar, but the point is moot if he is not even on the basepaths.

 

 

A true positive in this game was the hitting of DH Bartlett. He went 2-4 on the night and hit for contact on his other two at-bats in the game. The Rays are expecting to put Bartlett back at shortstop during  Friday night’s in Texas.

The Rays have missed his offensive power in the past few games, but they did sandwich three great games in between their two losses during this roadtrip. Having Bartlett back in the hole will free up Zorbrist to either play third base, or even hit the outfield for a few innings.

Also of positive note for the Rays was the 8 innings of play by Rocco Baldelli in rightfield. Rocco seemd to be loose and calm out in right all game long. This is a good bit of news for the Rays as Rocco just might be that right-handed batter we have been seeking the past few months for our lineup.

Rocco only went 1-3 on the night to raise his average to .283, but he hit with power in his at-bats and could see the ball well at the plate. All good signs for the Rays.

Ray’s Run into Trouble with A’s

 

Athletics 2, Rays 1

 

 

The Rays Television networks had originally scheduled for three games to not be televised during this 10 game road trip. But the Ion network and FSN both picked up one contest in the Texas and the Mariner’s series to make only last night’s game the lone radio and MLB gamecast only game on this trip.;

Little did they know they might have picked the perfect game for no one to want to watch.  For people to view anything on this game, they would have had to purchase or already have the MLB Television package, and would have gotten the Oakland A’s broadcast team commenting on the game.

It is usually a wild night to hear another teams’ boradcast duo tell you things about your squad. Usually you only here the comments concerning their squad, which is acceptable, but every once in a while you hear and see something that makes you chuckle. Last night it was the comment near the end of the night that we were a team in flux, without two stars who spun the moon and created the heavens and we were not the same Rays team last night.

I know this team will be in that flux for a few weeks, but they also are professional players and need to suck it up and show that they have the gumption and the fortitude to climb this mountain without hesistation. I did not see that in their faces or actions last night, but I know it is just a small problem within the clubhouse that will get fixed immediately.

Either that, or our 3 game lead over Boston will be gone after Friday night’s game in Texas. The Rays have had a few key guys go down before this season. The must rebound and re-sound to the MLB nay-sayers that this team is about heart and hustle and not playing with a set of mirrors this season. If they do not make the strides to correct themselves, they will be victim to those October blues called the “what if’s”.

 

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Rays starter Scott Kazmir has been off his game a few times this season. If you looked totally at the boxscore and did not venture to see what really happened in this contest, you would have thought he had another bad outing.

 Kazmir actually had a great outing, he was consistant in his placement of the ball over the plate and struck out 6 in the game while walking 2 batters.  He really only had otwo critical mistakes in his 2-run, 2-hit effort on the night. And both of those errors happened back to back to secure the win for the A’s.

Oakland’s Emil Brown started the 2nd inning off by walking on 6 pitches from Kazmir. Then Bobby Crosby battled Kazmir from a 3-2 count to hit a hanging pitch to left center to put the A’s up for good 2-0. In his 5 innings, Kazmir never had another rough inning but the 2nd inning. He retired the side, three up, three down in both the 1st, 4th,and 5th innings of the game.

 

 

Before the game it was announced that Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford will undergo surgery to correct his hans issues and will be out at least 6-8 weeks for the Rays. The injury happened during the 10th innnig of the Seattle Mariner’s game on Saturday night. Crawford heard a “popping” sound in his hand area and the Rays suggested immediate X-rays to rule out a break.

The Ray quickly put him and Evan Longoria on a red eye flight back to Tampa Bay to see the Rays doctors about their injuries. The X-rayson Crawford were examined by the Rays local doctor, who advised Crawford to have surgery on Thursday to eliminate any future  problems.

the injury is to his middle index finger on his right hand down near the joint area where the finger meets the hand. The tendon that rests on top of his fingers was being forced out by him swinging the bat at the plate. The tendon normally sets in a groove in this area and flexs and moves without incident. But Crawford’s tendon was flexing and not returning to it’s right position and had to be manually manipulated to be put back into it’s tendon area.

Crawford is expected to be out a maximum of 6-8 weeks, but the decision will be Crawfords and the medical staff to decide if the injury heals faster, or is season ending at that time.

 

 

 

 

The 4th inning of last night’s game did not look like a first place team playing another squad that was 20 games out of first place. It looked more like two struggling squads just trying to get a few runs and hold onto a lead to win a contest that neither wanted to lose.

In the 5th inning, with Ben Zorbrist on third and Jason Bartlett on first, Akinora Iwamura tried to put dowmn a safety squeeze play to get the Rays the tying run in the game.  Iwamura did get down a bunt on the play, but it was right in front of the mound and Zorbrist mis-read the play and sprinted for home.

In the run down, Zorbrist was tageed out between third and home to stop the Rays’ plans to score. Iwamura was safe on first with a fielder’s choice, and Bartlett moved to second on the play. Then  A’s starter, Gio Gonzalez picked off Bartlett on second and ended the Rays threat in the inning.

A good safety squeeze would put the ball towards the first base side so the pitcher would not have eye sight of the runner on thrid and take to logical raoute of getting the out at first base. With the play right in front of the mound, Gonzalez only had to look over his shoulder to see Zorbrist caught between the bases for an easy out. To make matters worse, B J Upton singled  following the play and would have scored either Zorbrist and possibly Bartlett to give the Rays the lead in the game.

 

 

The Rays scored their lone run of the game in the 3rd inning. Zorbrist walked on 4 pitches and went to third on Jason Bartlett’s double to deep left centerfield. Aki then hit a sacrifice fly to score Zorbrist from third and bring the Rays with in 1 run of the game 2-1. 

 

 

 The Rays would again threathen in the 4th inning when Rocco Baldeii and Willy Aybar both walked with 1 out, but Dioner Navarro and Justin Ruggiano both struck out to smother the threat for the Rays.  In the contest, the Rayts stranded 9 men on base without scoring a single run.

This has been a re-occuring theme in the Rays’ game this season. They have one of the leagues worst percentages of hitting with  men in scoring position. This is a statistic that will be further magnified in the coming weeks as to the either downfall or upward swing of the Ray’s season.  The Rays need to put the bat on the ball more in theses positions with postive results before the season comes down to missed opportunities on the basepaths.

 

 

Talking about the basepaths. In the 8th inning, Aybar started a rally off by singling to leftfield.   Eric Hinske then came on to pinch hit for Jusitn Ruggiano. Hinske hit a high fly ball to left field that was caught by Emil Brown.

 Aybar had taken off from first thinking the play was over Brown’s head and realized he had caught the ball as he rounded second halfway to third base. Brown noticed Aybar beyond second and knew he had no real chance of retreating to first and threw the ball to first baseman Daric Barton to double up Aybar on the play.

Now, I know Aybar was trying to make something happen, but even in Little League, we are told to keep our heads up and watch the ball before sprinting to another base on a fly ball hit deep. This is an example of the night’s errors that cost the Rays this game. I am not saying that the next batter would have gotten a needed hit to move Aybar, but the point is moot if he is not even on the basepaths.

 

 

A true positive in this game was the hitting of DH Bartlett. He went 2-4 on the night and hit for contact on his other two at-bats in the game. The Rays are expecting to put Bartlett back at shortstop during  Friday night’s in Texas.

The Rays have missed his offensive power in the past few games, but they did sandwich three great games in between their two losses during this roadtrip. Having Bartlett back in the hole will free up Zorbrist to either play third base, or even hit the outfield for a few innings.

Also of positive note for the Rays was the 8 innings of play by Rocco Baldelli in rightfield. Rocco seemd to be loose and calm out in right all game long. This is a good bit of news for the Rays as Rocco just might be that right-handed batter we have been seeking the past few months for our lineup.

Rocco only went 1-3 on the night to raise his average to .283, but he hit with power in his at-bats and could see the ball well at the plate. All good signs for the Rays.

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