Rays Take the Fight to Red Sox
Tell me that the last few games have not set you back a few dollars in aspirin or antacid. I do not have those problems yet, but the playoffs might bring about some bodily changes. Seriously folks, tell me that the last three nights have not been great baseball. I am not praising or cutting down either team, but it was just great pitching one night, extra base hits galore another night, and a combination of an entire team picking themselves off the mat to answer that last bell to take the prize.
If it wasn’t for the security and police officers having to restore some peace and general order every 10 minutes, we might have seen every play of this great series. But where do we go from here. Do the Rays rise above their fate and win their division? Do the Red Sox accept that for them to get farther in the playoffs, they might be a better Wild Card draw for the L A Angels? Or does Alyssa Milano like the Rays or Red Sox?
I think the next 11 days are going to be some of the best baseball this season. Every team that the Rays play from today on will be gunning to make a mark against them. Considering after this weekend, we play 8 games in 7 days and all of them are against teams that would love to kick the feet out from under us this time of the year. It might just be a great gut-check for the Rays to see if they will be able to withstand all the fuss and gruff of being a winner. Stay tuned .
Rays Magic Number: 12
Combination of Rays wins or Boston losses to equal the magical number will award the Rays their First A L East pennant.
I got to give it up first tonight for Matt Garza for coming out to start this game on 3 days rest for the first time in his career. And in doing so, the Rays had a set number of pitches for Garza before he would get the hookin the contest. Garza has gone 12-6 this season against the AL East, and had the 2nd lowest ERA against this division at 2.56 coming into the game. Boston’s Jon Lester had the lowest at 2.13 ERA this season. So you could say that the Rays were pulling an King from the deck tonight against the Red Sox.
Garza lasted 4.2 inning tonight and gave up 3-runs on 5-hits before Grant Balfour relieved him with two outs in the 5th inning. Garzas strikeout-towalk ratio was not impressive tonight (3/2), but he did have great control of his breaking stuff after the 2nd inning. In the first 2 innings, David Ortiz was dictating the game to Garza. Big Papi came up with Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and drilled a 1-1- pitch into rightfield to put the Red Sox up early 2-0. In the 4th, Ortiz hit a 0-2 count fastball into right for a solo shot, and the last run scored that night by the Red Sox.
Red Sox Pitching Errors
With the score 5-2 in the 3rd inning. The Boston Red Sox pitching staff began to make a few costly errors in the game. After Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield gave up a double to Evan Longoria, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona replaced him with Devern Hansack. On a 1-1- count, Willy Aybar hit a shot to Dustin Pedroia that hit the heel of his glove and he could not make the play to get Aybar at first base.
With Longoria sprinting for home, Pedroia tried to get the Rays third baseman at the plate. On the throw home Aybar moved into second base.Hansack then tried to pick off Aybar at second, but the throw was high and sailed into shallow centerfield. Aybar went to third on Hansack’s error and stood there with 1-out in the inning.
Hansack walked Dioner Navarro on 6 pitches and got the next batter, Justin Ruggiano to strikeout. With 2 outs, Francona pulled Hansack and inserted Jose Lopez to pitch to Gabe Gross. Lopez threw a pitch outside to Gross that he just got the end of the bat on and Lopez threw wildly to first. Gross was safe at first base and Aybar scored for the Rays. The next batter was Fernando Perez, who hit a 0-2 pitch into shallow right and scored Navarro to put the Rays up 8-2 in the game.
With the emergance of Perez this September with the Rays, there is talk among the coaching staff od him maybe taking over centerfield for the rest of the year and letting B J Upton play right the rest of the year to let his shoulder heal and to give the Rays another cannon in the outfield.
Perez, who Baseball America called the fastest baserunner in the International League has been impressing the Rays’ Coaching staff since coming up from Durham last week. He has played in 12 games and started in 8 since his recall to the Rays.
During last night’s game, Perez went 2-3 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. He also hit his 2nd homer of the season as the back piece of a Gross and Perez back-to-back home run streak. Perez also made a nice diving play on a dropping ball in shallow centerfield on the Red Sox’s Sean Casey. The ball was dipping fast and Perez got under it and did a small 360 degree spin on the Fieldturf before coming up with the ball.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon made an effort to put some offense up at the plate against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Rays usual DH Cliff Floyd did not have an attractive average against Wakefield, so Maddon gave him the night off and let Willy Aybar DH for the night. Aybar had never hit against Wakefield, and Maddon was gambling that he would get good results against him.
Aybar ended up going 3-5 against Wakefield and scored 2 runs and got 3 RBI’s on the night. Aybar started the scoring early on a homer in the 1st inning with Jason Bartlett aboard to put the Rays up 1 run on the Red Sox 3-2. Aybar again got into the offensive attack when he on an infield single in the 3rd inning, scoring Longoria. He again got into the act in the 4th inning when he was safe on a error by Red Sox reliever David Aardesma. Since August 27th, Aybar is .348, and has 15 multi-hit games in his last 32 games.
Grant Balfour came in to relieve Garza and got his 5th win of the year last night. Balfour leads all MLB relievers with a 12.93 strikeout/9 innings ratio, and has struck out 35.9 percent of the batters he has faced, which is tops in the majors too. Coming into tonight, he has also been scoreless in 12 of his last 13 appearances.
J P Howell leads all MLB reliever with 88 strikeouts this year. He also leads the MLB in innings pitched with 85.1 innings this year. Howell also owns the lead for allowing only 11.8 percent of his inherited runners to score in a relief appearance this year. He currently owns a 0.00 ERA in September, with 11.0 innings pitched so far this month.
Chad Bradford leads all MLB relievers in a 4.70 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio. He has pitched to a 1.20 ERA in 17 appearances for the Rays since being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles. He worked a 1-2-3- inning in the 9th tonight to shut down the Red Sox.
With their 90th win last night, the Rays joined a group of 6 other clubs that went from gathering 90 plus wins after 10 plus years of losing baseball seasons. The other teams sharing the title with the Rays are: the 1912 Washington Senators, 1914 Boston Braves, 1956 Cincinnati Reds, 1979 Montreal Expos, and the 2006 Detroit Tigers.
The next team on the Rays plateau to wins is the 1991 Atlanta Braves who posted 94 wins in going from worst to first that season. The Rays are within range of that total and will shoot for that goal this weekend.
Also of importance is the the Rays current record of 90-60 is 3rd best in the majors and is 27 wins better than last season. If the Rays play .500 ball the rest of the season, they will post a 30 win improvement over last season. Only 9 teams have posted 30 plus games from one season to the next.