August 2008

Open Letter to Andrew Friedman

 

The following is an open letter to the Rays organization following the recent injury bug that has plaqued the Rays.

 

Dear Andrew Friedman,

 

Being a great fan of the Rays, I thought I might write you a letter concerning my views on the recent injury situations hitting the club at this important point in our season.  I hope this letter shows some insight into the thoughts and ideals that we, as vital Rays clogs in the machine see going forth to our October destiny this year.

On the subject of irrational roster moves or acquiring players. Please do not feel like you need to make a monster move to suppliment the injuries suffered by  our All-Star leftfielder Carl Crawford. I think we have enough of a back-up both in Justin Ruggiano, and Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, and Rocco Baldelli to feel secure in our 15 day to whenever that Crawford will be out of the lineup.

Remember, that Crawford has also been a bit aggressive at the plate this season and is not hitting his usual awesome numbers. I also want to state that the time off for Carl might also help rehabb that hamstring injury that has been plaguing him this year. A few weeks rest might be good for Carl, and the Rays have more than adequate people in house to keep the position secure with the power and speed that is required.

Also by using our farm system instead of going out for over-priced vets like Kenny Lofton, you are making a sound miessage that you will not be “making a deal to make a deal,” that you also have a secure feeling about the personnel already on board for the Rays.

 By not sinking to talk about signing Barry Bonds to a contract, you are keeping the clubhouse chemistry alive and not tampering with fate. You understand that overall feeling in the clubhouse is that they can overcome this set back and come out of it with a stroner team unity and purpose going into the playoff push.

The team chemistry on this squad is the best in Rays history. I have never seen the Bullpen and the bench players root for their teammates as mush as this season. The Rays seem to be more in tune with the entire team concept this year, and they adhere to it’s unwritten rules and conduct.

The squad awards confidience and positive feedback into the media like a stream down a mountain side. Do not try and change that dynamic. It is a rare thing that you have 25 people, and a coaching staff al feeling the same way at the same time. There is noone on this team that feels they are above the group, and the team has done great in keeping that in line this year.

You have made great pitching decisions this year in giving Edwin Jackson a fair shake in the rotation, and he has rewarded you with career highs in wins and a lower ERA. You made a unpopular trade at the time for a shortstop and a young pitcher that made iot seemed like you got low-balled on the deal.

About right now, the Twins might give you the entire farm for these guys back in their fold. Matt Garza has grown alot this year, and the ceiling is only growing with every start this year. But he was not the steal of that deal by a long shot.

Even tho, Jason Bartlett has had a injury plagued season, he has been an instant sparkplug in the Rays machine by playinbg excellient defense, and coming up with timely hits for the Rays this year.

In closing, Andrew, I know it is only about 7 weeks left in this season, but do not make a forceful move just to save some sort of face with the media and fans base. Make the secure moves that might include a certain pitcher in Durham for security in the ‘pen or rotation, but do not be hasty to make the decision to stand pat if the Rays are rolling and it might hurt the flow.

In the end, you are the guy the fans will look at if we fail ro succedd. Either way, the season has been a wild ride, with plenty of more in store for this team in the next 5 years ………..or more

 

Your Season Ticketholder for Life,

 

Ray’s Subs Help Secure Series over Mariners

 

 

Rays 11, Mariners 3

 

 

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Starting today, you will see a different type of blog written by me online. I am about to undertake a few changes to my blog that will throw more opinion and information on the events. I have come to the conclusion from a few people that the paragraphs in the newspapers online, and the ESPN summaries give then the simple stats needed to know what happened on the turf.

I am going to try and dig a bit and offer some opinions and hopefully valuable insight into the game with more personalized writing. I hope you enjoy it more, and let me know how you feel about the renwed look.

I have made a few huge changes this year with the blog with the deletion of my “Good,theBad, and the Ugly” sets, and the Trivia Fact of the Day. I hope it has become a more informative and interesting reasdfor you everyday.  Thanks to all my current readers’ and welcome to the ones who ramble by the page

Rays Renegade

 

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Today is the last game this season against the Mariners, but this series will have consequences all the way to October 1st for the Rays. Not that the lost first game on Thursday will matter hugely in the standings, but that their young Rookie went down with a pitch to the wrist.

Evan Longoria is thought to be out a minimum of 15 days with a wrist injury. Now is this 15 days retro to Thursday, or starting on Sunday?

This is huge question because of the series lurking in the future for the Rays. If it is retro to Thursday, then Longoria could be back during the L A Angels series at the Trop next week.  If not, he wil miss that important series, plus maybe a few in Chicago White Sox series. This is a bad time to have somethingf happen to our offense.

I am not looking past the A’s or the Rangers’, but we are suppose to be able to hold our own with those two teams. It is the two division leaders that we have to defeat and set a tone for a possible October rematch. We have to set a pressure-filled sneario that they do not want to come to the Trop., or even play this team when they are heating up for the playoff run.

 I know the media and the fans have already called for re-enforcements to be acquired or traded for to bolster the offense. But didn’t the guys who are our “super subs” do a great job in the 3 games in Seattle? Didn’t Willy Aybar hit the ball  out of the field a few times? Didn’t Ben Zobrist look comfortable at both the plate and in the field?  And didn’t seeing Rocco in right just make you think about 2006 and what he could do for this team?

The answer to all three questions is yes. The Rays will be fine. Several time this year we have struggled to get going after an injury. But Sunday, didn’t we just look like we just reloaded and went hunting for big black bear?

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Edwin Jackson, I know you read my blog, you have commented to me before about them and I just want to say to you right now. Just keep doing what you are doing dude.  You have come a milliom miles in just a short time and you just have to remember that you will always get better.

 

With that in mind, will the Jackson-haters please admit that he is beginning to look like the pitcher we have been wanting for our 5 spot all year long. He is getting mucho run support now, and with that support comes the confidience and the ease to pitch his own game without worrying about men on base or getting into a huge jam.

 

Ask Scott Kazmir or Matt Garza how pitching with a lead can make you put yourself into a different mindset on the mound. How when you have a lead even the walks and swibble hits do not seem to bother you. That when your defense makes incredible plays, you just relax more and trust your pitches.

 

Edwin went into the game  strating his 23rd game of the season for the Rays.  He has already now won 9 games, a career high compared to his 5-15 record in 2007. 

 

In his last 9 starts, he is 5-1, and has allowed 3 Earned Runs or less in 8 of those games. He is also 4-0 in last 4 starts. His 3.70 Road ERA is the best on the Rays staff this year. By the way, last year at this time he was 2-11, with a 6.35 ERA.

 

I would say he has shown the Rays’ and their fans’ that he is for real, and ready to go for more this year.  And you all are calling for him to go to the Bullpen. Come on now, you never take a guy out who is on a roll in baseball.  The Rays should stay with the hand they dealt after Spring Training. Jackson lately has been all aces.

  

 

In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena hit a shot that will be a postive viewpoint for instant replays concerning Home Run calls and disputed outfield calls. With the Rays up 8-1 at the time, the call would not effect the game, but would have made a point to the MLB brass that this upcoming replay idea might have some firm ground.

 

In the inning, Pena took a 2-2 count from knuckleballer R A Dickey and deposited it onto the top of the right centerfield wall for a triple. The problem is that the wall has a bold yellow line on it that designates that it is a home run if it hits bavoe that line in the outfield.

 

To make matters worse, the ball bounced a few times on the said line and then plopped onto the field. A fan looked like he was about to grab the ball, but he did not touch it, so they did not call a ground rule double, but let Pena sit at third base with a triple. The call was blown by the umpiring crew and was a great example of the kind of call that will be made by the review process.

 

Pena is fighting to regain his power numbers from last season, and that homer would have boosted him into a tie with Longoria for the team lead. Baseball is all about stats, and to have something like that homer taken away from you can be a trying experience. Good thing that homer did not become a game deciding play. It would have been a huge crome for that play to be magnified on ESPN as a game breaker for the Rays.

 

Instant replay might not be the savior of the sport, but at times it can redeem a team and it’s players by it’s simple result.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli, how we all missed you since we last saw you play on May 9,2007. That was the last time we saw Rocco hit a ball in a major league game before going on the DL with a plethra of injuires and watching your facial hair expand. Rocco, we never knew how much we missed you until you got up to the plate on Sunday, all clean shaven and stroked that single into left center in the 3rd inning.

 

How it must have felt like a ton of bricks off your chest to be back in the box again in a major league game and hit that ball for not only your first hit of 2008, but a first RBI in a long time by driving in B J Upton. You looked perfectly calm and at ease in the box Rocco, and we need that from you for the rest of this year. We need to see how much you missed this, and how much you are going to struggle, but succedd this year both at the plate and in the field.  

 

 I was there during your Press Conference at Progress Energy and saw the look on your face that you might never set foot on a major league diamond again. I saw the hidden pain and suffering that you want to believe, but that this ailment was winning over you at the moment. I also know and saw the tone of your voice that you wanted to come back, defeat this inner deamon and help this team reach a new high.

 

Well Rocco, you were on the field when they won their 71st contest, the best in team history. You were also on the field when they won their 70th a few years back and knew the road was only up for this team.

 

We need you Rocco. We need you to be the smiling guy who came in and stole that certain single from Bryan LaHair in the5th inning to show you still had the wheels and the heart to want to be out there.

 

But most of all, we want to thank you for becoming the centerpiece of a remarkable story that kids can look up to for years. That while the Rays were sorting out their problems in the infield, and you wanted to play, you were silient and going about your business, not causing stress or friction in the clubhouse or with the team.

 

We want to thank you for being the model guy who will alsways have a play on this team.

  

 

Andrew Friedman, let me tell you something fella, you have a wild knack for finding talent where most do not even think it exsists anymore. We got “super subs”, Willy Aybar and Eric Hinske for a pretty penny. We did not trade alot to get Aybar, but he has turned into a clutch performer for this ballclub.

Eric Hinske has always had a bat, but he also has a renewed vigor that on a daily basis he can help this squad reach new heights. With the addition of the inspirational play of Zobrist, and the inhuman work of Shawn Riggans, the bottom of the Rays lineup were superior in this contest.

Not only did the number 7-8-9 guys go 6-14 in this game, with 4 extra base hits,but tney also made key defensive play that help the Rays win this contest. Aybar and Riggans both hit monster shoits to leftfield for homers in this game, but the play of Riggans behind the plate, and Aybar filling in at third made Rays Manager Joe Maddon secure in knowing the Rays will be in great hands during the injury situations. 

Hinske will probably get more at bats in left and right during the Carl Crawford injury, and that might actually be a good thing for the Rays. they will be substituting power for speed in this move, but Hinske also has not been slow on the basepaths. We might be scarificing a bit on defense, but with a projected power increase, the Rays should not have any problems in the rst of this roadtrip.

 

 

 

 

Rays Post 70th Win in Seattle

 

Rays 8, Mariners 7

 

 

Seattle fans have a special place in their hearts for the Tampa Bay Rays. If it was not for this upstart community. the Seattle area might not have professional baseball right now.  Back in the mid 1990’s the city was at odds as to what to do with their crumbling Kingdome, and the team did not have a great following at the box office.

The team needed a miracle. That miracle came in the form of a Baseball Ownership Group, based out of St. Petersburg, Florida that wanted to purchase the Mariners’ and move them to a new domed stadium in the hot Florida sun. The team got as far as make an offer and had the intial aggreement to purchase the team, until Major League Baseball stepped in and gave the Seattle area a chance to save their team.

As we all know, the Team got a backing and financial offering from the video game giant Nintendo that gave them both security, and business foundations for the first time in franchse history. What Nintendo wanted now was a new stadium to showcase their new club, and a way to get renewed vigor and excitement over the squad. A improvable playoff run, and a really energetic squad led by a young A-Rod and amazing young talen Ken Griffey Junior, helped propell the city and it’s citziens to vote for a new facility.

In 1999, a new 656 million dollar stadium opened with improvements like a roof that would transform the playing field into a waterproof enviorment in Seattle’s unexpected climate. The roof was a 3-section humongous steel section that when opened and closed would play Richard Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries”. This song was made famous in the film, “Apocalyse Now”.

The stadium also features a baseball in motion sculputre as you enter the building in the foyer area. The amazing sculpture starts with a backswing and revolves like a chandelier until it reaches the top point of a batters’ swing. Also amazing is the leftfield viewing station that gives you a breathtaking panorama of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound.

Outside the stadium is a garage door feature that has  full body profile paintings of all the Mariner’s regulars either at the plate, or up to bat at the plate. The Press Box area uses garage doors to open to the elements and not the conventional glass windows or opening. Among the wild items throughout the stadium is the compass set in the floor of the front enterance that has the signatures of the original team to play their first game in this fantastic ballpark.

Hidden behind the stadium seats is the world class Diamond Club. The Diamond club looks like a 5-star restaurant with beautiful gold gilding and very impressive photos littering the walls. Photos like Babe Ruth as a pitcher for the Red Sox. A Honus Wagner photo, A photo of both Ruth and Lou Gherig on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. What is so unique about that photo, is it is the only photo of the two Yankee stars outside of the stadium in each other’s company.

As you can tell, it is my favorite stadium in the US. I enjoy the fact of hearing the train whistles as they sneak under the east end of the stadium, or the taste of the sushi or local veggie offerings from the snakc bars. The Seattle area is a complex mix of all that is good, and their stadium incorporates it in pure excellience.

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The Matt Garza that so many of us have seen this season did not show up early in the contest against the Seattle Mariners’. Seattle took advantage of Garza’s off night by scoring 5 runs on him in the first 2 innings.  Garza, who had been 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA did not look sharp and seemed out of sorts on the mound early.

 

 

In the 1st inning, Garza  gave up a lead-off homer to Ichiro Suzuki to put the Rays in an early hole 1-0. Against the Mariners lifetime, Garza was 1-1, with a 9.70 ERA in 4 starts. Tonight, Garza posted  5 runs on 7 hits in just the first two innings. For the night, Garza went 5.2 innings and gave up 10 hits, but he also posted 5 strikeouts on the night.

 

 

In the 1st inning, the Rays got a scare from a ball pitched by Seattle starter, Rowland-Smith, that bounced off Carlos Pena’s chin and lip. The ball seemd to glance off Pena’s chin before hitting him squarely in the lips. Pena was okay’ed by the Rays trainer, Ron Porterfield to continue play.

 

Pena was involved in critical situations in the game. In the 5th inning, Pena struck out with the bases loaded.  In the Ray’s big 6th inning, Pena came up and singled to rightfield to score Carl Crawford, but was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a double to end the inning.

In the 9th inning, Pena singled to right, but was stranded on third by the Rays.  In the 10th inning, Pena strcuk out looking. In this series, Pena has gone 5-12, with 1 RBI. 

 

 

 

Gabe Gross got an odd start tonight based on his heroic hitting in recent games. Gross responded by hitting a solo homer in the 2nd inning to put up the Rays’ first run of the ball game. Gross played excellient in right, on one play throwing the ball in quick enough to keep Ichiro to a single and preventing a Seattle run by freezing the guy at third base. Gross went 2-6 tonight with 2 runs scored and a RBI.

  

Carl Crawford had the best night of this series by going getting on base 4 times for the Rays. Crawford went 2-4 at the plate with 2 runs scored and  2 RBI’s on the night. Crawford also walked twice tonight to put pressure ..land-Smith.

 

In the 3rd inning, Crawford hit an infield single to third, but was stranded by a Pena strikeout. In the 6th inning, Crawford hit a single to right center that he stretched into a double and barely beat the incoming throw to the bag. Crawford scored on Pena’s double off the rightfield wall to put the Rays up 7-5 in the game.

  

 

Akinora Iwamura went 3-5 tonight leading off the game tonight with a single in the 1st inning. Aki scored 1 run and got 1 RBI during the contest. In the 3rd inning, Aki was involved in one of the missed plays by the umpires in this game.

 

Aki hit a screaming low liner to leftfield that appeared to be caught by Raul Ibanez. On review of the play, Ibanez had trapped the ball and Aki was actually safe on the play. Rays Manager Joe Maddon asked  the umpires about the botched play, but was overruled by the umpires crew chief. 

 

In the  Ray’s huge 6th inning, where they sdcored 6 times, Aki got on base with a single to second baseman Jose Lopez that he could not handle in time to get the speedy Aki. In the 8th inning, Aki singled to center, but was stranded on first by two quick Rays outs.  In the 10th inning, Aki was one of 3 walks issued by J J Putz in the inning and was stranded at thrid by a Pena strikeout and a Eric Hinske liner to shortstop.

 

 

 

In the 10th inning, Joe Maddon took a hunch and played a new defensive scheme with the bases loaded and 1 out in the inning. Maddon pulled B J Upton up to almost the second base bag, and positioned Crawford and Gross towards the centerfield area as the two lone outfielders.

 

The scheme was to induce a ground ball  double play by newly acquired pitcher, Chad Bradford. Coming into the game, Bradford was one of the leagues’ leaders in gorund ball outs.

 

Adrian Beltre was at the plate, and put the ball in play down the third baseline on the ground. Willy Aybar, filling in again for the ailing Evan Longoria, threw the ball to Dioner Navarro to secure the first out, then Navarro threw to Pena to finish the double play and get the Rays out of the inning with the game still tied at 7-7.

  

 

Dioner Navarro was instrumental in the winning run for the Rays in the 11th inning. Ben Zobrist lead off the inning with a walk and stole second base on the next pitch. After a 3-1 play by Aybar, Navarro hit a long ball into centerfield and Zobrist scored on the Sacrifice Fly to put the Rays up 8-7.

 

Troy Percival came on in the 9th inning to secure the win for the Rays. Percival got his 26th save of the season by throwing 14 pitches and getting Bryan LaHair to strike out to end the game. The save came on Percival’s 39th birthday, which should make for an interesting post-game celebration for both Troy and the Rays’.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Finally Win in Seattle

 

 

Rays 5, Mariners 3

 

 

If you ever hit the Pacific Northwest, and wander up to coastline to Seattle, you must go see the insitution that is Pike’s Market. The Market is a electic, energizing collection of great food stands and aisle-side entertainment. Every one knows about the Flying Fish boys, but fish tossing is low key compared to a few hidden treasures in the Market.

One of my favorite sights in the Market has nothing to do with the tossing of any kind of fish. It is the Spoon man. Here is a guy who can do things with a simple set of  breakfast utensils that it boggles the mind. I went for the Rays 4-game series a few years back and made sure to hit the Market and see this guy ewvery day I was there.

 I got lucky because my hotel on Braodway was right down the street from the rail system that took me right to the Market parking lots for some small change. To park in Seattle is an expensive transaction. I paid 40 dollars to just park my rental car in the hotel lot.

Anyways, beside the cheese vendors and the seafood for miles in the market, you will find some of the most interesting smelling incense, herbs and  odd looking veggies. I however, am not a coffee-holic, so Seattle was lost on me in that area. But, the  Russian Perogie stand made my life a simple joy the three days.

 I made sure to hit their stand and try the pasta of Eastern Europe. I had an amazing crab perogies’ one day, and a wild borscht that had a wild mushroom broth. The last day there I was treated to a reuben perogie and a simple Russian tea that woke me up after just one sip.  I was buzzing the entire day long until after the ballgame when a few players got me buzzing in another way at a local dive called the Swanee.

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Carlos Pena has been on a huge tear at the plate lately. In the 2nd inning, Pena blasted a ball to deep right center for his 21st homer of the season. For the game, Pena went 2-3, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored.  In the 5th inning, Pena was issued an Intentional Walk.

Carlos is currently tied for 10th in the AL in homers, even tho he missed almost 3 weeks with his finger injury.  The homer was Pena’s 6th in the last 14 games. Pena is currently only 1 homer short of the Rays team lead. Evan Longoria currently has that lead with 22 homers this season.

In his last 15 games, Pena is batting .314, with 6 homer runs, 14 RBI’s and 11 base on balls. Pena also leads all first basemen with a .999 fielding  percentage, the best in the AL this season.

 

 

After the game, Rays Manager, Joe Maddon told the media that to make a roster spot for incoming reliever Chad Bradford, the Rays had designated for assignment, Al Reyes.

Reyes has spent two stints on the DL this season for different ailments, and went 2-2, with a 4.37 ERA in 26 appearances.  Everyone remembers that last year, Reyes  was the Ray’s closer and finished the season with 26 saves.

 

 

                     

 

 

Rays starter James Shields did not have the greatest game for the Rays, but picked up his 10th victory on the heels of the Rays great 3rd inning.  Shields pitched 6.2 innings of 9-hit, 3-run ball.  Shields has now won 3 of the 10 games that Troy Percival has come on in save opportunities this year.

Shields  retired the first 6 Seattle batters’ until  Wladimir  Balentien  hit a 2-run homer to left that also scored Jose Lopez to put the Mariners up 2-1.  Shields then coasted  until the bottom of the 4th where he lead off by hitting Adrian Beltre , and  gave up 3 hits in the inning and let the Mariner’s plate their last run of the game.

 

 

 

 

B J Upton went 2-3 last night with 1 RBI last night. Upton was also on base 4 times in the game also getting 2 walks in the contest. B J  also stole his 35th base of the year and is now tied for 2nd in the AL with Ichiro of the Mariners.

In the 4th inning, Mariner’s catcher Jeff Clement hit a blast off the centerfield wall for a double. Upton got the ball in fast to the infield and kept Clement from stretching the play into a triple.

 

 

Last night, Maddon and the Rays’ traning staff took the precationary course and sat Evan Longoria down for the game. Longoria had been hit in the wrist area during Thursday night’s game and the wrist was swelling during the night.

X-rays came back negative, but Longoria could not throw without pain during BP before the game.  Longoria is not expected to miss alot of time, but might sit the next few games to rest the wrist and to give him a breather.  Longoria has not taken many days off since coming up in the Rays 11th game of the season. The injury might be a blessing in disguise to give the Rays’ rookie some time off.

 

 

                

 

 

Troy Percival came on in the 9th inning and  shut down the Mariner’s offense on 11 pitches for his 25th save of the year. Percival got 2 strikeouts in the 9th inning, and got Brad LaHair to fly out to centerfield on the other out of the inning.

Percival picked up his 349th save last night and is closing in on another reliever, Jeff Reardon, who is next on the All-Time list with 367 saves.  The Rays are 30-0 when Troy enters the game in a save opportunity. His 25 saves currently places him 7th in the AL this year.  Opponents are currently hitting .167 off him this year.

 

 

 

 

The Rays had a few stumbles on defense last night, but they did not lead to opponents runs. Willy Aybar, filling in for Longoria  stumbled while trying the field a  ball down the third base line and gave Seattle an infield hit. Ben Zorbrist also could not find the handle after diving for a ball in the hole and could not complete a shovel pass the Aki  for the third out in the 4th inning.

 

 

Prior to midnight  last night, I got a call from a Rays insider that told me that  Rays top prospect and phenom pitcher David Price will be heading to Triple-A on Sunday and will get his first start  for the Durham Bulls on Wed. night.  Price will start against the hard-hitting Norfolk Tides for his Triple-A debut.

In the Rays system, Price has now gone 11-0  in his first professional season. In Montgomery, Price pitched 57 innings and struck out 55 while walking 16 batters’.  

 

 

Tomorrow  I will give you some insight to a few interesting things about Safeco Field and some of it’s history, which also includes the Rays.

 

Rays on Wrong End of Walk Off Tonight

 

 

Mariners 2, Rays 1

 

Since we are in my favorite city besides the Tampa Bay area for 4 games, I am going to let you all know some of the secrets and adventures to be had in the Emerald City. The original Seattle was built just below sealevel and since they did not have concrete and asphalt road systems back then, the roads would become a quagmire of mud, dirt, and anything else that was swept down by the rain from the hills.

Another interesting fact is that all the original houses had to put their toilets on the second floor of the houses due to the low sea level building. Unlucky people who had a toilet on the first floor knew nightly when the tide had come in becuase of the gurgle and onrush of seawater into their homes.

An intresting place in Seattle to visit is the Ballard Locks that seperate  Puget Sound from Lake Washington. The locks are a series of basic boating transports to take any marine travelers down from the upper level of Lake Washington, to the low lying Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. Another interesting part of the locks is the salmon ladder.

It ia an interesting series of windows next to the salmon swimway made so people could watch the fish as they try and swin upward towrd theri spwaning grounds beyond Lake Washington. It is really wild to watch these fish struggle and fly in the air on their trip up the ladder system towards freedom again.

Tomorrow I will blog a bit about Pike’s Market. It is ine of my favorite things about the city.

 

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Andy Sonnanstine knew he was in for a pitcher’s duel last night in  Safeco Field. He was matched up against the Mariner’s 22 year old ace, Felix Hernandez. It was not the first time this season that Sonnanstine has had to go opposite a teams’ ace, but the kid did pretty good for himself. The game was a close one with Sonnanstine and Hernandez orchestrating a game that only lasted 2 hours and 9 minutes. The current Rays record for the shortest game away from home this season was 2 hours and 1 minute set against the L A  Angels.

 

Both pitchers worked fast on the mound, and at one point, Sonnanstine had retired 17 straight Seattle batters to set a new Rays pitching record. Sonnanstine also went 7.1 innings and gave up a lone run on 5 hits on the night. He worked fast on the mound and kept the Mariners’ on their heels by throwing to his spots perfectly last night.

 

 

 

 

 

Andy had one of his best nights in his disgusing his breaking ball and watching it clip the corner consisstanly last night. Sonnanstine struck out 4 batters and issuing no walks on the night.

 

Carl Crawford was back in leftfield last night, but did not look comfortable and made two critical errors in the game. In the 2nd inning, Crawford missed a fly out from Jose Lopez that ended up as a double and was one of the only baserunners in scoring position last night. Lopez got to third in the inning before being stranded by three quick outs by the Mariners.

Then in the 8th inning, with Miguel Cairo pinch-running on first.  Yuniesky Bentancourt hit a sacrifice fly that tied the score at 1, and Crawford did not throw the ball back into second to keep Cairo on first. Cairo advanced to second on the mistake and was in scoring position with 1 out in the inning. Luckly for the Rays, Cairo was also stranded on base by two quick outs.

 

 

 

 

Rays-nation held it breath for a few minutes last night as Evan Longoria got plucked by J J Putz with a fastball in his throwing hand. The ball seemed to bounce off his right wrist and Longoria was treated by the Rays trainers, but had full motion in the hand and wrist area.

The ball was intended to get Longoria off the plate a bit and Longoria did not have time to bail or evenduck the pitch. He was awarded first and went to third on Carlos Pena’s single to centerfield. Longoria was left stranded on third by the Rays.

 

 

 

The Rays scored their lone run in the 4th inning. Crawford lead off the inning by walking on 5 pitches to get a man on base for the Rays.  Evan Longoria then singled to center to put Crawford on second, and in scoring position. 

Carlos Pena then grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Longoria out at second. Crawford was now standing at third with 1 out in the inning.  Cliff Floyd was at the plate,and on the 6th pitch, Hernandez threw a wild pitch that scored Crawford from third and put the Rays up 1-0 in the game.

Pena moved to second on the wild pitch and the Rays had another runner in scoring position. Floyd eneded up walking, and the Rays quickly got two more outs from Dioner Navarro and Eric Hinske to end the inning.

 

 

 

 

It has been a rare occasion that Dan Wheeler is on the mound in a losing cause for the Rays. Wheeler came in to pitch in the 8th inning of the game.

Wheeler has been pretty automatic this year for the Rays. Coming into tonight’s game, Wheeler has lead the Rays with 49 appearances this year. Opponents have batted a lowly .170 against him this year, lowest among MLB relievers. They are also batting .185 against him with runners on base, and .156 with runners in scoring position. Wheeler also leads the AL with 25 holds this season, and is one away from the MLB lead.

But in the 9th inning last night, Raul Ibanez needed only one Wheeler fastball to turn the Rays away with a walk-off homer to rightfield. It was Wheelers’ 5th loss of the season

Rays Pena Blasts the Rays to series win against the Indians

 

 

Rays 10, Indians 7

 

The Rays this morning completed a waiver trade for Orioles reliever Chad Bradford. The trade will consist of a “player to be named later,” and Bradford will be in uniform Friday night for the Rays as they visit the Seattle Mariners.

 

A corresponding roster move will be made prior to gametime, which is 10:10 PM EST, and might include such names as Al Reyes, Trever Miller, or maybe optioning Ben Zobrist back to Durham until Sept 1st.

 

Everyone knows Bradford as the sidewinder who seems to rub his knuckles on the mound in his unsual pitching sidearm motion.  Bradford had been effective this season, going 3-3, with a 2.45 ERA.

 

 Bradford has a 0.00 ERA in 17 playoff games spanning 15.1 innings. The move is viewed as a Bullpen upgrade to bring more experience and a different look to the Rays staff. 

 

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Weds. afternoon, Rays starter Scott Kazmir looked rough and not in the mental state to be effective in the game. On one occasion, Kazmir did not cover home on a play coming in from the outfield, and looked confused and into his head throughout the contest.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon noticed this problem with Kazmir and gave him a few innings to gather himself before removing the ace after 4.1 innings. Kazmir did not have his usual control, and issued 4 walks and only got 3 strikeouts in the game.

 

 In 4.1 innings, Kazmir threw 97 pitches. To make matter worse, the Indians’ Jhonny Peralta was putting on a hitting clinic at Kazmir’s expense. Peralta went 3-3, with a single, double and homer against Kazmir today. For the contest, Peralta ended up going 5-5, with 2 RBI’s.

 

 

In the 1st inning, Ben Zobrist, batting second for the Rays hit a 3-1 count ball to center for a single to give the Rays a runner on base early in the ball game.  Zobrist then stole second, and Carlos Pena ended up walking on  7 pitches. Pena was then caught stealing second, and Zobrist moved to third on a runners fielders’ choice.

 

With Zobrist 90 feet from scoring the first run, Evan Longoria hit a single up the middle to let Zobrist plate the first run for the Rays. With Longoria at first, Dioner Navarro came up and hit an opposite field 2-run homer to put the Rays up 3-1 on the Indians. It was Navarro’s second home run in two days.

 

Jason Bartlett played today as the DH, three days after injuring his finger in the finale against the Tigers. Bartlett, who began to take batting practice on Tuesday, look great at the plate going 3-4, and scored a run on Eric Hinske’s double in the bottom of the 9th inning.

 

I understand that Rays Manager Joe Maddon wants tp put the best lineup out there to win every night. And against the Indians this season that is a tall task. But, to suject your injured starting shortstop to re-injuring an already healing ailment might have pushed the envelope a bit.

 

 I understand nothing happened to hamper Bartlett from maybe returning to short during the Mariners’ series, but was the gamble really worth maybe losing Bartlett for more time on the DL. Since the gamble rolled perfect, it might just be a moot question now.

 

     

In his post game interview with Rich Herrera, Carlos Pena remarked about Gabe Gross and his ability to be the “guy at the right place” this season for the team. Again today, Gross was an instrumental part of the Rays comeback in the 9th inning. Gross, who went 1-4 on the day, saved his best for last.

 

In the bottom of the 9th, Bartlett got on by doubling to deep left center and Eric Hinske hit a blast to the corner in righfield that put the Rays down 7-5. Gross came up and hit the 6th pitch to the back wall of the Trop in right to tie the score at 7-7.

 

                  

 

After Gabe Gross’s homer, Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge put in reliever Masa Kobayashi to face Akinora Iwamura. Iwamura hit a controversial infield single and was out by inches, but was called safe by first base umpire Ed Rapuano. Wedge came out to argue the call, but Aki was awarded first and put the winning run on base for the Rays.

 

What is so special about this play, it would have been the 3rd out of the inning and neither B J Upton or Pena would not have batted in this inning if the play had stood as an out.

 

 

 

  

What came next in the next few plate appearances, might go down as the most pivitoal point in the Rays’ offense this season. With Akinora at first base after the missed call, Ben Zobrist came up and walked on 4 pitches. This set the stage for Carlos Pena, who has hit some monster fly out in the past few games to see if he could end the game with a bang.

 

Pena stood in th box and  hit the first pitch he saw for a 3-run homer off the lower wall below the Batter’s Eye in centerfield.  The play ended the emotional game for the Rays, and as  Rays’ Radio guy, Andy Freed commented, “set off a team meeting at home plate”. 

 

The Rays mobbed Pena at home and took the home series form the Indians 2-1. This is a remarkable chain of events considering on Monday, the Tribe had beaten the Rays for the 5th game in a row.

 

 

Peralta started the 9th inning with his 5th hit of the night, a single to center.  Shin-Soo Choo then tried to sacrifice bunt Peralta over, but Trever Miller threw him out at second base.  Miller was then replaced by Troy Percival. Choo then stole second and got in scoring position for the Indians.

 

Andy Marte hit a grounder to short that moved Choo to third. Choo scored on a Troy Percival wild pitch and put the Indians up at that point 7-4.  Percival then went on to finish his scoreless 2/3rds of an inning and was awarded his second win of the season.

 

The afternoon matinee was the second Parks and Recreation Day for the Rays this season. The kids were treated to Rays bangsticks and a Rays mouse pad as door prizes.

 

I understand the bang sticks to be used to terrorize their seatmates, but the mouse pads had me scratching my head. How many of these under 12 year old kids had computers to even put the pad under, or would they just lose them before even getting them home to Mom and Dad.

 

The answer soon came to me after the game as I saw about 300 mouse pads circulating under the trash and empty Dipping Dots containers. Maybe this was not the right crowd to give the mouse pads to, or at leadt maybe give them to the people watching the kids for after the game.

 

I know I will have a Rays mouse pad for about the next 15 years, as I scooped a few for friends and to distribute to people I know that have computers, and love the Rays.

 

 

The Rays now head off on a 10 games in 11 days roadtrip that will take them through Seattle, Oakland and Texas before coming home for 3 against the  L A Angels. This is the first in a stretch of long roadtrips for the team that will spell out their chances for the post season.

 

There is nothing more fulfilling to a team out of the race than to knock off someone who is above you and has a chance to make the playoffs. Each of the next tree opponents would like nothing better than to help the Rays struggle in the last two months of the season.

 

In these three series, the Rays will only have 2 games telecasted against the Oakland A’s.  The Tuesday game against the Oakland A’s will be broadcast only  on MLB.TV.

 

Most of the West Coast games are set to start at 10:05-10:10 PM EST, with the Sunday finale in Seattle coming on at 4:05 PM. One game in the Oakland series will be an afternoon game to start at 3:35 PM.

 

The Sunday Finale in Texas will be broadcast at 8:05 PM to combat the Texas heat during the day.

 

 

Ray’s Season Ticket Information Concerning Post Season

 

I know I have been getting a million questions and requests for information about the Rays possible Playoff ticket senarios. So I decided to copy and para-phrase the Tampa Bay Rays Post Season information that I have recieved via Email, and let everyone decide for themselves if they fit into the categories needed to arrange Playoff packages.

 I would recommend that you purchase a pro-rated 2008 package to secure a spot in the ticket request system. If you do not purchase a  pro-rated rest of the Season Ticket arrangement, you will probably have to wait until the general public tickets go on sale on either ticketmaster or www.raysbaseball.com.

 

I can say without reservation, that the Rays  current 2008 Season Ticketholders will probably be in great shape to secure the packages.

Now the following information that  pertains to  all Rays 2008 Season Ticketholders, but it will give you a general  idea of what is going to happen here in the next few weeks concerning possible  purchasing of Playoff tickets.

As you may know, the MLB puts aside about 500 tickets per game for clients, host teams employees’ and players’ requests, and the visiting teams’ ticket requests. This number is generally considered to be in the 500 ticket range. The General Public will be offered ticket purchases after the requests and packages have been processed by the Rays Sales management team.

Without further ado, here is the E-mail we all recived from the Tampa Bay Rays:

 


Rays Crowd How many postseason packages will I be able to purchase?

If you are a Season Ticketholder, you will have the opportunity to purchase the same number of postseason packages equal to the number of season tickets in your account. Now is the last chance for the general public to purchase prorated season tickets for the 2008 season and get a priority number for the post season ticket packages.

 

How many additional postseason ticket packages will I be able to purchase?

Current Ray’s Full Season Ticket Holders will be able to purchase additional postseason packages in the Upper Deck. The number of additional packages available for purchase will be equal to the number of season tickets in your account.

I share my season tickets with others. What should be communicated to them about their
postseason options?

The Permanent Rights Holder is the primary name on the season ticket account. That person decides how the postseason tickets will be shared. Only Full Season Ticket Holders have the opportunity to purchase additional Upper Deck postseason packages.

You will want to make sure your share partners don’t miss out on the postseason. In order to have the opportunity to purchase postseason packages, season ticket share partners are encouraged to purchase prorated season tickets for the final 19 games of the 2008 season. Seat locations are limited in our premium locations.

How does the postseason work?

Eight teams, four from each league, qualify for postseason play. In both the American League and National League, the qualifiers will be the three division champions and the second-place team with the best winning percentage. There are three rounds of play in the Major League Baseball postseason. There is a best-of-five Division Series played in a 2-2-1 format in which Team A will host two games, Team B will host two games and Team A will host the final game (Games 4 and 5 are only played if necessary). The best-of-seven League Championship Series and World Series are played in a 2-3-2 format.

The Rays could host 11 possible postseason games (three in the Division Series, four in the League Championship Series, and four in the World Series). Your invoice will reflect the amount for all 11 games.

What payment will be due?

Payment for all 11 possible postseason games will be due; however, any balance for games not played may be rolled over toward your 2009 season ticket renewal or you may request a refund by following the instructions included with your postseason ticket invoice.

The payment deadline will be included on your invoice and is expected to be approximately the first week of September. After this time, your postseason ticket discount will no longer be available.
Tickets will be shipped to the address on the season ticket account approximately two weeks after the payment deadline. Signature will be required for delivery.

Will I be able to purchase single game tickets for postseason games?

Only Current Ray’s Season Ticket Holders are the only ones guaranteed the opportunity to purchase postseason ticket packages. All possible 11 postseason games are included in the package and any remaining balance for games not played may be rolled over toward your 2009 season tickets.

Single game tickets for postseason games will be available when they go on sale to the public.

Who should I call if I have questions?

Please call the Season Ticket Services Department at 727-825-3250 if you have any questions or need assistance.

We are extremely excited about the possibility of postseason games at Tropicana Field and look forward to working with you throughout this process.

 

Remember, this is only a short explanation of what you might be up against if you do not purchase a pro-rated ticket package for the final 18  home games of the Rays’ season.

I know I will hawk a kidney if we make the Playoffs. This will be a historic event that I would not miss for the world.

Good Luck, and see you at the Ballpark.

Rays Finally Conquer Indians’ Curse

 

 

Rays 8, Indians 4

 

 

I am going to start today with a few things I have been hearing pop up around the Trop. Either in the clubhouse area, Press box, or maybe even the Men’s bathroom. These are things that are popping all over the Trop., and might be of interest to fans.

Everyone knows by now that Shawn Riggans made his first appearance in the field Monday night, but did you know that he had to use Jonny Gome’s glove in leftfield that night. Shawn does not own a fielder’s glove, only his catching gloves.

There is a rumor, since David Price has now won his second Pitcher of the Week award at Double-A Montgomery, that he will be promoted sometime this week to Triple-A Durham, and might be in a Rays uniform by the  L A Angels or Toronto Bluejays homestand. He is on a really fast track to the major’s now after winning his first 10 games of his career.

Everyone might have notived that Rusty, the Rays trusted announcer has not been at the games since the beginnig of this homestand. Well, Rusty had a great reason to not be here. He is currently up in Minnesota, and married. Rusty got married on Sat. night, and that is the reason he missed LL Cool J, and the last few cardiac moment games.

Congrats Rusty………………………

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Since my last blog, you know that I will defend Edwin Jackson to the death here. It is with great pride that I announce that Jackson won his 8th game last night and is currently 8-7 for the Rays.

Jackson pitched effectively for the win and gave up 3-runs on 7-hits  keep the Indians close and secure the  win. Jackson did have trouble in the 1st inning  giving up 3 hits and spotting Cleveland a 1-0 score. 

Jackson had another mistake in the 3rd inning when he hung a curveball to Jhonny Peralta, who deposited it in right field for a 2-run homer. That put the Indians up  3-1.  Jackson struck out 4, but also gave up 4 walks to the Indians.

 

 

 

 

 

BJ Upton was patient and got a free pass to first last night in the 1st inning. On the second pitch to Evan Longoria, Upton stole second for his 34th stolen base of the season.  The theft puts Upton currently 3rd, but within 3 stolen bases of the AL lead.

In other news, Upton was chastised by Rays manger Joe Maddon after the game for not running out a ball in play to first in a timely manner. Upton seemd to pull up a bit and did not hustle to the bag.

In a recent team meeting, Maddon stressed that the team needed to be accountable for every action, that a hestitation could be the key to losing momentum or a game. 

If you remember last season, Delmon Young did the same thing on the second to the last game of 2007, and Maddon disciplined Young by making him sit out the last contest. Stay tuned, someone else might be playing centerfield in the afternoon game tomorrow.

 

                          

 

 

If you have to find a trade that has made this Rays season more successful, you only have to look to rightfield and see Gabe Gross. He has done everything but sell hot dogs and beer at the ballpark this year and has come away with walk-off hits and runs with consistancy.

Gross again became the man of the hour when he ended a 8 pitch at bat with a triple into right centerfield. Dioner Navarro scored on the play and it put the Rays up 4-3.  For the night Gross went 2-4, but held his own in rightfield. In the 8th inning, Gross’s arm kept Grady Sizemore to a single by his rifle arm getting the ball into second before Sizemore could turn at first base.

Gross is currently 5-11 on this homestand.

 

 

                                        

 

 

Carlos Pena is finally feeling more relaxed at the plate and not leaning back on his follow through and the ball is constantly getting hit long and hard by the first baseman. Carlos last night went 2-2 last night with 1 rbi and scored 2 runs for the Rays.

 

 

                      

 

 

Pena hit a scarifice fly in the first to score Akinora Iwamura for the first run of the ball game. In the 4th inning, Pena walked to start the inning before Longoria also walked on 5 pitches.  Pena and Longoria each advanced a base on Cliff Floyds ground out to first, before Navarro singled to center to score both Longoria and Pena.

 

 

The Rays Bullpen tonight gave up 5 hits and 1 earned run in 4.2 innings of work. J P Howell had the shortest turn tonight pitching 5 pitches, then being replaced by Grant Balfour. Dan Wheeler had the most difficult time tonight pitching 1.1 innings, and allowing 3-hits and the lone run on a Grady Sizemore RBI single in the 8th inning.

 

 

But the true fireworks did not start until the 7th inning when Indians’ reliever Rafael Betancourt came on pitch.  Betancourt started by striking out Upton and issuing a walk to Pena before Longoria came up to bat.

Betancourt threw a curveball outside that Longoria took a cut at and deposited just foul of the leftfield foulpole, he then threw a low slider that missed the strike zone. Longoria then was sitting on another curveball that was inside and hit it harder and farther than his last foul ball just off the post again. LOngoria then fouled off two more balls before Betancourt threw another fastball outside for a 2-2 count.  Longoria deposited the next haning fastball into the leftfield stand just right of the foulpole for his 22nd homer of the season.

That gives Longoria the new rookie record for homers in a season. Ironically, the previous recordholder, Jonny Gomes had just been optioned to the Durham Bulls before the game and did not see the historic shot.   Longoria is currently leading the Rays and all MLB rookies in homers this season. He is also the leader with 51 extra base hits, and has a .349 on-base percentage. His homer put the Rays up 6-3.

But that was not the end of the excitement in the inning. After Eric Hinske struck out, Cliff Floyd came up and hit the 4th pitch he saw for his 8th homer. During this homestand, Floyd is currently 4-8 on this homestand. But the Rays were not done yet.

 

 

After the Indians replaced Betancourt with Juan Ricon, the next batter, Navarro deposited his 5th homer of the season into the rightfield stands. The solo homer ended the Rays scoring for the night, but not before Navarro ended his 0-14 hitting streak with a 2-3 night with 3 RBI’s.  

 

The victory give the Rays 67 wins on the season, 3 short of the franchise all time win record. Tonight;s Rays win also equaled last years record for wins (67-95).  The Rays currently have the 2nd best record in baseball bettered by only the LA Angels (70-42). This is also the earliest the Rays have ever reached the 67 win plateau. The previous record was in game 156, on September 29th, 2004

 

The Rays 44 home wins are the most wins in the majors this year, but puts them currently second for the best home record in the majors this season. The Chicago Cubs ( 42-16 , .724 ) owe the record right now by percentage points over the Rays ( 44-17 , .721 ).

 

The Rays have currently hosted 1,316,159 million fans this season, a 30 percent increase over last season. The increase is the biggest jump in attendance in the majors this season.  

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Flat in Loss to Indians

 

 

Indians 5, Rays 2

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Rays Win Wild Shootout Against the Tigers

 

 Rays 6, Tigers 5

 

This game had everything a fans would want. Extra innings, which is like “free” baseball. Drama and possible defining moments for this team. A closer episode that was close to implosion, and a setup guy who gave up only his first homer of the year in his appearance.

To say you went home from the game on Sunday thinking you got ripped off or missing any form of excitement would be criminal. The Rays battled back again and again in this hard fought contest and never seemed to raise the white flag to the Tigers. It was defining moment for this club that showed not only heart, but will in wanting the win.

It was a instant classic Rays moment that also had some sadness to it. We might have lost our starting shortstop for a few games, and saw a fan favorite get hit with a 96 MPH fastball square in the area of the heart. It was a pitch that made everyone in attendance gasp and also hold their breath for a few seconds. Oh, and we also had over 30,000 fans on a Sunday, which is a first in this team’s history.

 

                                       

 

It might not have been a picture perfect day outside for the fans to do other things, but hopefully the action and the determination on the field will want them to come back again, and again this year.  And we had the first official “Grizzly Rocco” sighting on the Rays bench during the game.

 

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Sometimes I have a great seat to hear if the outfeilders or infeilders call a ball in the air during the game. But in the 2nd inning, Akinora Iwamura and Eric Hinske were silent when Matt Joyces hit dropped to the turf in between them for a single in rightfield.

Neither player voiced any loud attempt to get the fly ball, and both seemed to pull up just inches from the scene of the crime.  I am not going to thrown either of them under the bus here, just from now on guys, sing it loud and proud you want that horsehide.

 

                                

 

Rays starter, James Shields had a pretty good outing today, but the Tiger’s offense picked their spots on him today and spotted up a 1-0 score after 3 innings. In the next 3 innings Sheilds only gave up 3 hits and another lone run to let the Tigers gain a 2-0 lead on the Rays.

Shields did enough to earn his win today by pitching 6.1 innings of 2-run ball, but the Tigers were stiff on the defensive side and Sheilds left with the Tigers still up 2-0 on the Rays.

 

                                   

 

The Rays were down 2-1, when the Tigers’ replaced starter Armando Galarraga in the 8th inning with newly acquired reliever Kyle Farnsworth.  Eric Hinske hit the a fastball on the third pitch he saw from Farnsworth  to right for his 18th homer of the season.

Hinske hit his 101st homer of his career, and the Rays are now 15-4 when he homers in a game. It started a Rays 8th innig that saw two great shots over the wall.

 

 

           

 

 

B J Upton, who had not hit a homer in his last 25 games. B J  hit a high 2-run shot to center that cleared the wall by less than a foot. It helped put the Rays up 4-3 in the 8th inning. Going into today’s contest, the Rays have gone 58-0 when leading after 8 innings.  Upton also got his 25th double of the season to go along with his 8th homer of the year for the Rays.  On the day, Upton got 2 RBI’s to put him at 49 for the season.

 

 

                                  

 

In the top of the 8th, Grant Balfour came out and gave up on his only homer run of the season to Gary Sheffield to put the Tigers up 3-1.  Balfour had given up only 4 extra base hits prior to Sheffields homer, all doubles.

 Balfour had been the best reliever  coming into the game with a .103 opponents average against him. He also  has a 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings mark, tied for best in the majors this season. He has shutout the opponents in 21 of 25 appearances this season. and earned the win last night in the game for the Rays to improve to 3-1 on the year.

 

 

When Rays closer comes on in the 9th inning, you can usually close the book on the game. Today, Troy was not sharp in the 9th inning and gave up a solo shot to Curtis Granderson to tie the game on the first pitch. Percival  then took 10 pitches to get out of the inning.

Troy Percival has not pitched 2 straight innings for the Rays this season.  Percival went back out in the 10th inning and  gave up another homer to Miguel Caberra to put the Tigers’ up 5-4 on the Rays.

 Trever Miller then came in and finished the inning for the Rays.

 

                                     

 

If you left this game after the 9th inning, you missed one of the most exciting Rays’ rallys in our history. With the team down 5-4,  Tigers reliever Frenando Rodney came in to pitch the 10th inning.

Rodney walked the first batter Willy Aybar after a 9 pitch at bat. Jason Bartlett came up next and the real ecitement started for the Rays. Bartlett tried to put down a bunt on the first pitch from Rodney, but caught his index finger on the bat and split it open.

 Bartlett was taken from the game and back-up catcher Shawn riggans was inserted to finish the at-bat. Riggans  came up with one strike on him after Bartlett’s failed bunt attempt.

 

 

 

 

On the first pitch from Rodney, going about 96 mph, Riggans was hit squarely in the chest near the heart ans went down immediately to the ground.

The Rays medical staff rushed out to the field and in a few minutes Shawn was standing on first base, but had  a difficult time breathing normally.  the pitch had hit with enough force to knock the wind out of Riggans and left him gasping for breath on the ground.

Akinora Iwamura then hit a scarifice bunt to the catcher to advance Aybar and Riggans. Rays Manager Joe Maddon said after the game that Iwamura put the bunt down himself without the signal from third base coach Tom Foley. The play ended up being as brilliant move by Aki and helped put both men in scoring position with Upton coming to bat for the Rays.

Upton walked on 6 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Carl Crawford then sliced a single to left that scored Aybar and tied the game at 5-all. Riggans was now on third and looked labored running around the bases for the Rays. Becuase Maddon had used everyone on his bench, he could not substitue anyone for Riggans to run for him.

Evan Longoria struck out and put the Rays with one out left in the game to try and get Riggans home from third base.

Carlos Pena came up and was down  to a 1-ball, 2-strike count early in the at-bat. Carlos then saw 3 straight balls to earn a walk-off walk and secure the win for the Rays. It was Pena’s second RBI of the game, and one of the Rays most important of the season. 

 

                                     

 

Upon issuing the walk, you could see Curtis Granderson in centerfield slap hid glove down in frustration in giving up 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th inning.

 

The game also saw another record go by the way-side. Trever Miller entered the contest decision-less in his last 122 appearances. Miller finally got to celebrate as he earned the win for the game, and put this huge gorilla of a monkey off his back.

Ex-Rays Bobby Seay, who was also in the game for the Tigers’ is the player Miller passed to secure his record. Seay had gone 116 straight appearances from Sept. 5th, 2001-Aug 24, 2007 without a decision.

 

What was lost in the victory was the alignment on the field if the Rays did not score the final run. Maddon had used all avaiable field players in that inning, and did not have any fielding substitues for Riggans, who has never played any position beside catcher in his career.

Maddon remarked that Edwin Jackson, who was drafted vy the L A Dodgers as an outfielder, volunteered to play rightfield for the Rays. Maddon quickly turned down the sincere offer.

Maddon had planned on moving Longoria to short, put Aybar at third, and taken Gomes off the DH to secure the 9 players needed to field the inning. With that alignment, the Rays would have lost the DH position and the pitcher would have had to bat for the Rays.

Great thing we did not have to find out how this all turned out for the team. Riggans could not have played regardless becuase of the labored breathing he was showing on the bases. He would have had to be pulled as a possible precaution in case of a chest injury or possible rib situation.

 

Post Game note:

Both x-rays on Riggans and Bartlett came back negative and both will sit out at least the next game to recover from their injuries.  There is no timetables set yet as to the length of time either will spend recovering, with Bartlett seen bandaged and ready to go that afternoon.

Maddon will probably sit Bartlett for Monday’s game and re-evaluate the situation nightly after the games. Longoria will play short in his absence, if it is short-term. If the injury lingers, or Bartlett goes on the DL again, Ben Zorbrist will be brought up again from  the Durham Bulls.

Riggans should be fine after a few days off and might catch again during the weekday homestand finale on Wed afternoon.

 

 

 

 

  

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