Rays are Stymied by Tigers Again
What is it about old hairband songs and the American League. I am starting to believe that in this Karaoke inspired world that we are playing too many golden oldies and adapting them to our team as models of our character. Remember a few years ago when the Chicago White Sox were tearing up the playoffs, the chose a Journey song as their muse. “Don’t Stop Believing” is a great song, but not one I would every tag to a baseball team. But then I never thought the Rays would have Survivor of “Eye of the Tiger” cult status do a free concert to celebrate our Playoff success.
The Rays have been comtemplating who should throw out the first pitch at the Rays ALDS games. My choice is first Dick Vitale for obvoius reasons. Vitale was inducted with me in the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame in the same year. I still have his chair sign in my collectible folder. He is also a clssic example of the kind of fan we love. Loud, proud and totally bonkers at times.
But the guy to throw out the second pitch will get alot of debate. I think it should be Kevin Costner. He has done so many concerts both for the Rays and the Durham Bulls this year that he has been a symbol of the new logo, jerseis and attitude since his Straub Park concert. He is also a consumate baseball guy who is a true fan of the game. And his character Billy Chappell, is still one of my favorite baseball heros.
I hope that Placido Planco only has a sprained ankel or a turned ankle after that collision at home plate with Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 1st inning. He came into home pretty hard towards the right foot and shinguards of Navarro and he might have caught his foot under Navarro and twisted before crossing the plate. He was replaced in the top of the 2nd inning and you did not see him on the bench area, so maybe he was sent to get some X-rays to rule out a break or any ligament damage.
B J Upton
What can you say about B J Upton since he came back off the bench a few games ago and has been hitting the cover off the ball. Tonight Upton went 3-4, with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored in the game. And to top it all off, even with his bum shoulder he was able to muscle a homer out to leftfield in the 5th inning. It was only Upton’s 9th homer of the season, but it came at a time when the Rays needed a shot in the arm to get back into this game. His blast put the Rays within 2 of the Tigers, 5-3.
Upton was a combines 1-19 on this roadtrip before tonight’s game, and has played in 8 of the last 9 games for the Rays. Before his injury, Upton was hitting .396 in his last 48 at bats. Upton also stole second base after walking tonight to give him 44 for the season. That is currently good enough for 2nd in the AL, 5 behind Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox.
He has been trying for the last 7th starts to reach his 14th win for the Rays. Tonight was his last chance to grab at that golden ring this season for the Rays. Coming into tonight Sonnanstine has gone 0-2 since his last win against the Los Angels Angels back on August 18th. Alot of the problems have been after his exit in the game, but Sonnanstine also has done some damage himself this season. For example, in his last 3 starts, he has gone 19.1 innings and given up only 2 Earned Runs on 16 hits, while posting a 0.92 ERA.
Usually when you have a almost 3 games worth of totals like that you tend to have at least 2 wins in the books. But Andy has been snakebit and has been awarded nothing in those 3 starts. He is a guy who keeps you in the game and gives you a chance to win every time out. But tonight, he got his 9th loss of the season by just not hitting the right spots to one certain Tiger batter.
Sonnanstine got into trouble in the first inning tonight and it put himself and the Rays in a big hole early in the ballgame. Curtis Granderson fought off Sonnanstine’s pitches and finally walked after 7 pitches to open the game. Sonnanstine then walked Placido Polanco to put the first two Tigers on base. Magglio Ordonez then took a 0-1 pitch the drilled it into the leftfield corner to score both baserunners.
Miguel Cabrera then hit a sharply dipping ball that B J Upton grabbed off the turf and completed a double play by throwing to 2nd base and tagging Ordonez out at 2nd base. The Gary Sheffield came up and hit the first of his 2 homers to righfield to put the Tigers up first 3-0 on the Rays. Ramon Santiago again camne back to bite the Rays tonight in the 2nd inning when he hit a 2-run homer to left to up the score to 5-0 Tigers. Santiago has now hit 3 homers in 2 days against the Rays. He had 1 homer the entire season before this series.
After the 2nd inning, with the Tigers up 5-0, the Rays began to shut down the high powered Tiger offense. The only hits between the end of the second inning and the 8th inning , was a single to left by Sheffield in the 3rd inning and a single by Dane Sardinha in the 6th inning.
David Price came on in the 6th inning with 2-outs and hit the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Brandon Inge. He then walked Sardinha on 4 pitches to load the bases. Price got Santiago to line out to Gabe Gross in right for the final out of the inning. Price then came out in the 7th inning and got 2 quick outs before being replaced by Grant Balfour with Ordonez comint to bat for the Tigers.
Balfour got Ordonez to end the 7th inning. Balfour then got Cabrera to strike out before leaving a breaking ball up and Sheffield hit his 499th career homer to right to put the Tigers up 6-3. Balfour then got Mike Joyce to strike out and Inge to ground out to Akinora Iwamura to end the inning.
Frustration Level: HIGH
In tonight’s contest the Rays left 14 men on base. This is a stat that I have been harping on for almost the entire season. It is one that can make or break a team during a short series like the playoffs. The Rays have had breat opportunities to capitalize and score runs, but something always happens in thses situations.
Plenty of Scoring Chances
That tonight’s game, in the 3rd inning Upton got a fielder’s choice to the pitcher and scored Bartlett from third base, but Iwamura was forced out at second for the 2nd out of the inning. With Upton on first, Carlos Pena popped up to third to end the rally. Then in the 4th inning after Navarro hit his 27th double down the leftfield line, and Gabe Gross walked to put 2 men on base, Eric Hinske struck out to end the inning.
In the 5th inning, the Rays did start their most impressive rally of the night with Upton hitting his 75th career double to left to start the rally with 2-outs. Pena then hit aball up the middle to score Upton and Evan Longoria hit a ball through the hole at second base to put himself at first and Pena at third with Cliff Floyd coming to bat. Floyd ended up striking out to kill the rally
In the 7th inning after Upton hit his 9th homer of the season, Pena hit a beauty up the first baseline for a single. Longoria followed with a shot through the hole at shortstop and the Rays had 2 men on with 1-out. Rocco Baldelli pinch-hit for Floyd and struck out on 5 pitches. Navarro then hit a long fly ball to center for the 3rd out. In the 8th, the Rays again mounted a rally with 2-outs in the inning.
Jason Bartlett hit a ball deep into the shortstop hole for a single. Iwamura then hit a single just three feet left of Bartlett’s hit to put 2 men on with 2 outs. Uprton then hit a single to short and loaded the bases for Pena. Pena hit a long fly ball to Granderson in center for the 3rd out. In the 9th inning, Baldelli walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays a runner. Navarro then hit a blooper to center for a single. He was then replaced by pinch-runner Jonny Gomes. Willy Aybar then hit a nice ball down the first baseline and scored Baldelli from second base. With Gomes now on third and Aybar at first, he was replaced by pinch-runner Carl Crawford. But two quick fly balls by Zorbrist and Bartlett ended the game and the rally for the Rays.
Rays Win by Default Tonight
With the New York Yankees winning 19-8 against the Boston Red Sox, the Rays’ players and coaches’ and fans will be celebrating into the wee morning hours with their first AL East title in the books. I know this is not the way the guys wanted to win this title, they wanted to win it on the field. It is important for these guys to actually have the chanceto win it on the field for their confidience level going into the playoffs. You never want to back into the playoffs in any manner, much less win your first division title by default.
Still, the excitement of finally fulfilling the goals set in Spring Training should be the thing right now. The fact that the Rays can still win their last 2 games and make tonight a moot point in this default setting. Thi is the first time since the Rays first season that someone other than the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title.