Rays Squander Chances versus Red Sox
Scott Kazmir will take the mound tonight in one of the most important games for the Tampa Bay Rays franchise tonight. If the Rays lose, they will be out of first place for the first time in almost 2 months. to add a bit more pressure to ther young lefty, the Rays have not won in Fenway now for 8 games, and the last time they won was on a night that Kazmir beat Curt Shilling 1-0.
Not lost on Kamir is also the bravado and vigor he has thrown out in the last week about accountability and playing for the moment. The lefty is the youngest member of the starting rotation, but he has the demeanor at times of a 10 year veteran in the MLB trenches. But that is also one of the things you love about they guy. He is not afraid to put it on his back and try to carry the team.
Considering if the Rays walk out of Fenway on Wed. night not getting a single win in Fenway this season, they will leave in second place, down by 1 1/2 games to the Red Sox. Not lost on the Rays or Bosotn is the fact that in 9 days they will do it all over again at the Trop., where the Rays have dominated the Red Sox this season.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon is quick to point out after a series whne reporters ask him what series is important. He has said almost reliously, “the next one” all year long. This series might be important more for the team’s morale and their confidience coming back home after 3 more in the Bronx. This is the time of year where the winners step up, and the also rans get left by the roadside. And I can not see Maddon hitchhiking back to St. Petersburg.
It was one of those rare nights that you thought the league should not give a loss for such a pitching effort. Edwin Jackson might have lost the game to the red Sox 3-0, but it was his composure and his confidience after the 1st inning that registers high on my admiration meter. Jackson came into this first “must win” game probably a little more psyched and enegetic than he wanted to be when he tossed that first pitch to Mark Kotsay.
Jackson had a rough 1st inning against the Red Sox last night. Of course Kotsay started it all by walking on 5 pitches, but Jackson got the AL average leader, Dustin Pedroia to line out to Akinora Iwamura to set the defensive tons for the night. David Ortiz then came up and hit a ball high off the Green Monster that if B J Upton would have hustled a throw to second, Ortiz would have been tagged out and sitting on the Boston bench. Ortiz’s blast scored Kotsay from first and gave the Sox an early 1-0 lead.
Kevin Youkilis ( You-kill-us) then came up and hit a ball up the middle that Upton got early and tried to get Ortiz at the plate, the throw was cut off and the Rays go Youkilis in a run down trying to advance to second on the throw for the second out. Jason Bay, who the Rays desperately tried to trade for at the trade deadline then came on and hit a solo homer over the Green Monster to put the Red Sox up 3-0. In that first inning, Jackson ended up throwing 28 pitches and it looked like an early night for him.
Jackson rebounded from the 1st inning to throw until J P Howell relieved him in the bottom of the 8th inning. Jackson ended up throwing 98 total pitches on the night. He threw 70 pitches from the 2nd inning on last night.
Jackson also shut the Boston offense down by only giving up 5 more hits the entire night before leaving with 6 strikeouts. The rebound by Jackson was a great pick-me-up for the Rays in that they saw this young pitcher battle through his demon 1st inning and regain control of the game and pitch effectively from that point on. With that in mind, it is a pity that such a pitching display as to result in his 10th loss of the year.
The last time the Rays suffered back-to-back shutouts was against the Boston Red Sox in April 2004 at Fenway Park.
Several plays stick in my mind as to the tunring points in this first game of the series. In the 1st inning, Upton bunted a ball into the air and Red Sox starter, Jon Lester picked it out of the air and threw to first to double up Aki to get two quick outs on the Rays. The Rays went down in order, 1-2-3 4 times until they came alive in the 5th inning against Lester. Rocco Baldelli ended up striking out on all 4 of his plate appearances last night.
The Rays finally showed a glimmer of offense in the 5th inning when Dioner Navarro started a potential rally by walking on 7 pitches. Jason Bartlett then came up and hit a single into left to advance Navarro to second base. But Gabe Gross hit a weak grounder down the first base line and Youkilis tosed the ball to Lester to get out of the inning without a run.
The Rays again started a potential rally when Aki singled to left, and Ben Zobrist walked. Both men advanced on Carlos Pena long drive to centerfield, but were stranded when Rocco Baldelli struck out to end the 6th inning. The again tried to mount an attack in the 8th inning when Ben Zobrist hit a ball off the upper half of the Green Monster for a long single.
Carlos Pena then hit a sharply hit ball down the first baseline that was grabbed by a fan with his white cap for a ground rule double. This put 2 rays in scoring position with 2 outs. Baldelli again struck out to end the inning. In the 9th inning, Eric Hinske came on as a pi9nch hitter for Jason Bartlett and delivered a single to centerfield and moved over on defensive indifference to get into scoring position with 2 outs.. Gabe Gross however struck out to end the game for the Rays.
B J Upton came out of the game in the beginning of the 3rd inning. Upton was hurt on the drive by Ortiz off the Green Monster in the 1st inning. It is a pulled hamstring muscle and Upton will be day-today at this time.
The Rays did keep themselves in the game with some fantastic defensive play during the game. In the 1st inning, that play on Youkilis saved at least 1 run in the game on the quick decision by Navarro to cut off the throw and get the sneaky Youkilis at second base. In the 4th inning, Jason Bay was awarded a single on a very close play at first on a fantastic backhand grab deep in the hole by Bartlett.
The Rays ended up with a 5-4-3- double play on the next pitch to Mike Lowell to erase Bay from the basepaths. In the 5th inning Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek tried to be a bit fancy and bunted towards thrid, and Aybar took the ball barehanded and threw out Varitek at first base. Kotsay tried to advance on a single in the inning and was gunned down by Gross to get the 2nd out of the 5th inning.
Fernando Perez, who moved from left to center with Upton out, made a great running catch on Dustin Pedroi’s deep fly out near the Red Sox Bullpen wall. And Rays reliever, J P Howell picked off Coco Crisp on first after a single to leftfield. Important is the fact that Howell had just come on to relieve Jackson and picked off Crisp before even throwing a pitch in the game.
Great news that Rays reliever Juan Salas is fine after suffering a epileptic seizure prior to Monday night’s game vs. the Red Sox and was taken to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure, but was released shortly after the contest began.
“He’s had it before,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It just normally takes hours to get him back and he should be back by tomorrow. … We’ve gone through it before. He’s fine, he’s fine.”
I hope that Rays television analyst, Joe Magrane asked Rays equipment manger, Chris Westmoreland for a fielders’ glove after last nights game in Boston. Twice during the telecast, Magrane had to shimmy out of the way of wayward foul balls hit into the broadcast booth by Rocco Baldelli and Dioner Navarro. Magrane was okay on each incident and plowed onward and upward in his on camera moments.