Rays Prevent Empire Sweep
Last night you saw what I love about baseball. You are never out of a game, no matter what the score is at the time. Even if it is 2-outs, bottom of the 9th inning, if you can put some good wood on the bat, you have a chance to win the game. And the Yankees almost pulled off that theory to sweep us last night.
Now I know, Rays Manager Joe Maddon would not let this win get aways from the Rays, but it got close……..too close. I have seen many a Bullpen implsion in my 11 years following the Rays, and last night was just a blimp on the radar scope of implosions. Becuase of the recent scores in the Yankee games, Jason Hammel had has the duties as the garbage man, or guy who gets to mop up the innings because of the score.
And what has transpired is a bit disheartening. Hammel has pitched in 5 2/3 innings this homestand and has given up 9 hits and 8 runs in his releif appearances. Hammel is being groomed to be a reliever for the Rays and not a starter. With these numbers on a total of 114 pitches, it looks like the experiement will go sour for him. But I am not throwing Hammel out to the wolves here, just that he is a prime candidate for an off season change of scenery.
Since he is from Washington state, maybe the Mariner’s could use a young pitcher with a huge bit of potential. Unfortunately, he is out of minor league options and can not be sent down without going through waivers. If the Rays did subject him to the waiver wire, he would not last long and we would not get anything for him.
So the answer might be to try and salvage his career in the coming months and then find a good suitor who needs young pitching, major league quality pitching. With the backload we already have in the minors, it would not be in his best interest to stay here past 2008.
By the way, the Durham Bulls got beat last night 19-3 by the Louisville Bats and are heading home for the middle games of this best-of-5 series. The series is currently tied up at 1 win each.
Rays Magic number: 21
This is the Magical number of win or Boston losses combined to win the AL East Crown.
Scott Kazmir pitched like the team’s ace last night. He had great control of his fastball, used his change-up well, and threw in a few sliders for good measures. It is by far one of the best performances from Kazmir in 2008. And it came at a time that the Rays needed their ace to deliver. The unfortunate thing is that a high number of pitches got Kazmir an early night and not getting blasted by the Yankee’s bats.
Kazmir lasted 6 innings and left with a 1-hit shutout for his night. Kazmir got 7 strikeouts, but walked 5 tonight to show some slight concern on his high walk totals this year. But the night belonged to Kazmir finally pitching like he did in 2007. He showed confidience and strength on the mound and dominated the Yankee hitters all night long.
Did you know that the Rays’ starting pitchers all have at least 10 wins this season. That has only happened 6 times with a staff where all the starter were under 26 years old or younger. The Rays young guns joined the 1968 Oakland A’s as the only teams in history to have 5 pitchers aged 26 or younger with 20 starts and 10-game winners in the same season.
Willy Aybar put his defensive bad night behind him and came out wanting the win for the Rays. Aybar was spectacluar at third base last night completing several putouts in amazing form. And Willy again came alive at the plate for the Rays. Aybar went 2-4 on the night with 3 RBI’s and a run scored on the night.
But his big hit of the night was his solo shot to right to provide the needed run to secure the win for the Rays. With Evan Longoria still out with his wrist injury, Aybar will be called upon more by the Rays to fill in the gap until Longoria’s return. Aybar hit over .290 on the homestand and has recorded multiple hits in 10 of the last 22 games.
Dioner Navarro also had a career night going 4-5, with a run scored and is creeping up on .300 again this season. Navarro is currenting hitting .297 for the Rays and can raise his average up to over .300 again with a good roadtrip. Navarro collected 3 singles on the night and hit a liner that skidded over the Bullpen Cafe wall for a gorund rule double in the 7th inning (I could not reach that dang ball).
Navarro did have one bad thing happen to him last night. he was tagged out at home when he tried to score from second on Jason Bartlett’s single to centerfield. The Yankee’s Johnny Damon, not known for his arm anymore, put a ball right on target and got Navarro by 10 feet to end the 7th inning.
The 5th inning was key for the Rays last night as they tacked on 5 runs in that inning to set the tone for the night. Eric Hinske and Navarro got the inning off with a pair of singles, and Hinske advanced to third on a wild pitch by Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner. Gabe Gross then hit a double to center to score Hinske and put Navarro at third with no outs.
Jason Bartlett then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Navarro and put Gross at third with 1 out. Akinora Iwamura then hit a single to center to score Gross and put the Rays up 3-0 at the moment. A B J Upton single then put Aki at thrid with BJ at first base with only 1 out in the inning.
Carlos Pena then walked again on 6 pitches and the bases loaded for the Rays. Cliff Floyd then struck out and Aybar came up and hit a single to right that scored both Aki and Upton to raise the score to 5-0. In the inning, the Rays got 5 runs on 6 hits and chased Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner from the game.
The Rays did have one more scoring opportunity in the game in the 8th inning when Iwamura hit a ball into the gap in left center and raced all the way around the bases for a triple. Upton then hit a sacrifice fly to score Iwamura from third base.
Speaking of Upton, I hope all the distractors are happy now to know that Upton has been playing with a slightly torn labium since he pulled his shoulder out in Baltimore earlier in the season. The injury is in his non-throwing shoulder and is not career threathening, so he has been playing in pain for some time. To imagine playing with such an injury, and still be hitting .272 on the year is just incredible to me.
So we know now why the power aspect of Upton’s game is not showing up as he is simply hitting with 1 arm up there at the plate. And to think it is his lead shoulder that is damaged shows the discipline and determination of B J this season. He has not whimpered or cried to the media about this sutation. And not until recently when he asked Maddon if he could limit his batting practice attempts to rest the shoulder did the situation even surface.
I think we all now need to just appreciate this guy more and more in the next few weeks ans know we have a guy who will do anything for his team, no matter what the cost. And you people have been badgering him for months now. Shame on all of us, even me.