September 2008

Rays Score 11 Unanswered Runs Against Orioles

 

 

Rays 11, Orioles 6

 

After tonight’s win lower the number to a level that is obtainable either tomorrow or by Friday at the worst, I got that urge again to see what it might cost to take a flight up to Motown for a celebration with the Rays. I did my usual websites looking for early morning Thursday, or Red Eye flights tonight and found that only 1 flight that might get me to Detroit before the first pitch at 1:05 P.M. 

That flight had me sitting at the airport before 6 A.M. to fly to Atlanta and then sit almost 2 hours before we got back into the seat and arrive at the Detroit/Wayne County Airport at 11:30 A.M. That would give me enough time to drop my bags off at the hotel and then hit Comerica Park in time for the first pitch.  I love the idea of online check-in at airports and hotels nowadays, it makes the baseball day-trip go so much easier. But then again, I can’t go tomorrow, but you can if you have $ 453.00 dollars and a cool boss.

Do not forget that the City of St. Petersburg is setting up a Welcome Home arrival celebration for the Rays at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport on Sunday at 8 P.M. to welcome our guys back to town after their roadtrip and to celebrate the A L East Championship with the homefolks.  That should be a wild night as the Rays will have Monday off before getting back into the swing of things starting Tuesday morning.

 

Rays Magic Number:         

All the Rays need to do is win 1 of their 4 games against the Detroit Tigers and the celebration will begin. This will give the A L East crown to the Rays and send the Red Sox out to L A for the first round of the playoffs ( Boston went 1-8 against the Angels this season).

 

       

 

Edwin Jackson

I am starting to think we need to send a reliever out to start the game and then bring in Edwin Jackson ( 13-11) in the 2nd inning of the ballgame. In his past starts, Jackson has been brilliant after the first couple of innings, but seems to run into trouble early then get things settled down and kicks some butt. That happened to him again last night as he gave up 5-runs on 6 -hits in the 1st inning, then gave up a solo run and 2-hits in the 2nd inning to spot the Orioles a 6-0 score. Even though he spotted the Orioles with a large margin, the Rays rallied several times to put Jackson in line for his 13th win of the season.

Jackson might be pitching his last start of the years as Rays Manager Joe Maddon needs to start setting up his 3 or 4 man rotation for the playoffs now. This might have been a “give me” start by Maddon to reward Jackson who helped reduce the magic number to 1 last week to even be considered for the playoffs. Tonight, it was deja vu all over again as Jackson helped the Rays move the magic number again down to 1, with Scott Kazmir throwing the game tomorrow. Hoefully it is Deja Vu for the Rays, and Rays Clubhouse Manager Chris Westmoreland can get the bubbly cold by the end of the early game.

 

Alot of Hit By Pitches

Coming into this contest, the Rays have seen a abundance of hit batsmen in the last few series. During tonight’s game, the Rays had Evan Longoria plucked in the 4th inning in the stomach, and Longo ended up scoing in the inning to bite the Orioles for the play.

 In the 6th inning, Jason Bartlett got hit for the first of two times today in the knee area. Lucky for the Rays Bartlett had a platic protector on that area becuase of a foul ball hitting the patella earlier in the season. Bartlett also made the Orioles pay for the play by scoing in the inning Then in the 8th inning, the Orioles again hit Bartlett, this time in the hip area and he again scored on the play to frustrate the Orioles.

 

                          

 

2 Superb Innings

The Rays scored 11 unanswered runs in the game starting with  5 runs on 3 hits in the 5th inning. Carlos Pena started by walking on 6 pitches to lead off the inning. Longoria then got hit by a pitch, and Dioner Navarro hit a single into leftfield to load the bases for the Rays with 1 out. Gabe Gross came up with the bases jacked and walked on 6 pitches, scoring Pena on the play. With the bases still loaded, Eric Hinske then hit the first pitch he saw from Orioles starter Radhames Liz to rightfield to score Longoria and leave the bases still loaded for Jason Bartlett.

Bartlett then hit a ball off the hip area of Liz that he could not control and throw in time to get Bartlett. Navarro scored to pull the Rays within 2 runs, 6-4.  Akinora Iwamura then came up and hit a RBI ground out to short that scored Hinske to pull the Rays within a run, 6-5.

 

                              

 

In the 6th inning, Fernando Perez hit a liner to leftfield and stole second base before Bartlett got hit by a pitch for the first time tonight. With men on first and second, Iwamura hit a ball deep into the gap in left center and scored both Perez and Bartlett on a triple. The play put the Rays on top to stay tonight 7-6.

In the 8th inning, Perez got on base again by walking on 5 pitches and stole second again while Bartlett was batting.  Bartlett again was hit by a pitch and the Rays had two men on and no out in the inning. Aki put down a really nice Sacrifice bunt to move Perez and Bartlett into scoring position. B J Upton then walked, and Carlos Pena struck out to give the Rays bases loaded with 2-outs. 

Longoria walked on 5 pitches to score Perez. Cliff Floyd then came up and walked on 6 pitches as the Orioles relievers could not find the plate.  Navarro then came up and hit a liner down the leftfield corner to score 2 runs, but was tagged out at second trying to advance on the play for the 3rd out in the inning. But the Rays were now up 11-6 in the contest. In this inning, the Rays scored 2 runs on a sequence where there were no hits involved.  A hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt, and 4 walks contributed to the big inning.

 

 

Rays on the Basepaths

In this contest, Fernando Perez stole 2 bases and is currently 5-5 on the basepaths this season for the Rays. Iwamura also got a stole second in the first inning after leading off the game with a single to leftfield. It was his 8th stolen base of the season. And B J Upton stole second in the 6th inning for his 43rd stolen base of the year. That currently ranks him 3rd in the AL, one base  behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.

Iwamura hit his 8th triple of the year to move him into 3rd place, 2 behind the Ray’s Carl Crawford in 2nd place in the AL.  B J Upton also got his 13th outfield assist in the bottom of the first inning when he pegged Luke Scott trying to advance to third base on his double for the 1st out in the inning. 

 

 

 And Nick Markakis was thrown out at the plate trying to steal home  on a double steal in the 5th inning of the game. The play started with Aubrey Huff trying to steal 2nd base and Iwamura came up into the grass area behind the mound and cut off the ball to throw it back to Navarro so he could get the sliding Markakis before he touched the plate.  It went into the books as a caught stealing attempt, but it was a brilliant play by both players to prevent a run in the inning.

 

Twins versus White Sox

Sometimes it seems that neither team wants to win the AL Central pennant and maybe face the Rays in the first round of the Playoffs.  The Minnesota Twins again beat the Chicago White Sox to pull within 1/2 of a game of the lead in the division. With 1 more game to be played, the next win might decide the division crown.

The Twins still have 4 games left, with 1 to still play against the White Sox, and a 3-game series at home against the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox have 4 games left to play, including 1 against the Twins, and a 3-game series at home against the Cleveland Indians. in the most probable settings, the winner of this division will start their series away from home at Tropicana Field next week.

 

Odds and Ends

Tonight’s win puts the Rays road record this year at 39-28 going into the 4 games against the Detroit Tigers.  With their 96th win tonightto  have a record of 96-62, the Rays have mirror-imaged their record of 62-96 from 2007. The win also puts the Rays at 4 games over .500 this year. Tonights victory against the Baltimore Orioles was Tampa Bay’s 12th in a row against them, and raises their seasob series record against the Orioles to 15-3 for the year, their best record against any opponent this year.

 

                                 

 

Bullpen Moments

Chad Bradford came on in relief of Jackson in the 6th inning and earned his 21st hold of the season. Bradford pitched 1.1 innings tonight and gave up only 1 hit on 18 pitches in the game. With Ramon Hernandez on first with 1-out, Bradford got Lou Montanez to  hit a ground ball to Iwamura, who tagged out Hernandez for the 2nd out of the inning. 2 pitches later Juan Castro grounded to Iwamura again and he threw to first to end the inning.

Trever Miller came on with 2 outs in the 7th inning and got Huff to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning. In the 8th inning, Miller got to quick outs including a strikeout by Luke Scott. He then hit Hernandez with a pitch in the side  as an answer to 3 hit batsmen by Oriole’s pitchers tonight. He then got Montanez to strikeout on 5 pitches to end the inning.

In the 9th, Miller gave up a lead-off single to Juan Castro down the leftfield line, then got two quick strikeouts of pinch hitter Alex Cintron and Guillermo Quiroz. He then got Adam Jone to pop out to Iwamura for the last out of the game.  For his effort, Miller collected his 2nd save of the year for the Rays. In his appearance, Miller threw 37 pitches and got 5 strikeouts in his 2.1 innings of work. 

 

 

 

Rays Post Historic End to Doubleheader

 

Rays 7, Orioles 5

 

After the second game of the twin-bill last night I was thinking again on if, and when the Rays might clinch their first American League East pennant. How that gorgeous banner will look draped in the Trop next Opening Day with the New York Yankees on the field. It should cut them right in the heart.  So with that in mind, I got another scheme in my mindas to how far it was to Orioles Park at Camden Yards and if I could even get there by tonight’s contest.

 

Well, thank god for Mapquest. I found out that it is a 16 hour trek up to Charm city, and that is counting on no Georgia Stae Troopers eyeing my Tampa Bay Rays tag, and no malfunction on I-95 anywhere above South Carolina. The reason I mention that is that my car is a magnet for law enforcement to run the tag on the car. Because I used the new 2-year decal on my vehicle, alot of peolicemen have told me they run it by curiosity more than for warrants or suspended tags.

 

So, let’s see, that is 16 hours if I drive the 65 MPH speed limit through North Florida and Georgia, but what if I turned it up a small notch and sped through South and North Carolina and maybe Virgina?  I still think that I would have had to leave at 3 A.M., unless there is a cheap flight out of town on US Air. There we go thinking like a true Rays fan. Why drive when you can fly and be refreshed and ready for the game.

 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, let’s see, I can get a flight in an hour or so to Baltimore, but I will be stuck in one of those rocking chairs in the Charlotte Airport for about 2 hours and still get to the Baltimore runway just in time for the first pitch in the ballgame. It will only set me back about $ 241 dollars, which is probably less than the gas and food it would have cost me to drive there. And I will be awake for the game.

 

I can call ahead and have a player leave me a ticket at Will Call and that will take care of my ticket situation. Then I have to cab it there and get a BBQ sandwich from Boog Powell’s shack before heading into centerfield and yelling into the Bullpen to let Bobby Ramos and Scott Cursi know I am in town tonight. But what, what is this I am reading? Scott Kazmir is flying ahead of the team to rest for his start tomorrow against the Tigers.

Dang, that ruins the whole thing. I can’t go on a party tour without the guy who is the seesayer of the Rays futures this Spring. I can’t have a taste of sweet bubbly without the K-man.  Well, at least my girlfrind only charges me 6 dollars for a foot log hotdog and a  big beer at the house.

 

Rays Magic Number:         

 

Any combo of a Rays win and a Boston loss gives the team their first American League East title tonight.

 

 

Mitch Talbot

The Rays Rookie went to the mound tonight knowing that the Rays could break into historical ground with a win in the back half of the twin bill against the Orioles tonight. Talbot pitched 4.1 innings of sloid ball that kept the Rays in the ballgame all night long. During his Major League debut, Talbot threw 76 pitches and was consisitanly around the plate all night long.

 

But in the 2nd inning, the Orioles came out and showed that the second game would be just as hard to win as the first half of the doubleheader. Ramon Hernandez cam out and hit a single to left to lead off the inning.  Then with 2-outs in the inning, Orioles catcher Guillermo Quiroz hit a single to right to put Hernandez in scoring position. Juan Castro then hit a liner to centerfield and Hernandez and Quiroz both scored before Castro got caught in a run down between first and second and ptovided the 3rd out of the inning. That put the Orioles up 2-1 in the game.

 

Then in the 5th inning, the Orioles finally did enough damage to get Rays Manager Joe Maddon to take the rookie out of the game. In that inning, Brian Roberts walked on 5 pitches to start the inning and stole second base during Lou Montanez’s at bat. Montanez then walked on 7 pitches. Luke Scott then came up and hit into a fielder’s choice 1-4 force out to remove Montanez from the basepaths. 

 

Roberts was now at third base with 1-out. Maddon then came out and removed the rookie and brought in former Oriole Chad Bradford to face his old team. Bradford, a ground ball specialist got Oscar Salazar to hit a grounder to Evan Longoria, and he threw to Akinora Iwamura to force out  Luke Scott at second for the 2nd out.  Roberts ended up scoring on Salazar’s play and put the Orioles up 3-1.

 

 

8th Inning

The 8th inning of tonight’s game was a firm example of Maddon using his mind and his veterans to secure his 95th win this season for the Rays. In the inning, the Rays scored 8 runs on 6 hits to take control of the game and sweep the doubleheader from the Orioles. Leading off the charge in the inning was Ben Zobrist who hit a creaming triple into the gap in right centerfield and was on base before the throw came in from the outfield. With Zobrist on third with no outs, Willy Aybar hit a grounder to shirt that Castro threw to first, and Zobrist scored on the play.

 

After a Dan Johnson strikeout, Evan Longoria hit a monster shot to the left of the raised Bullpen area in centerfield for a solo home run. It was Longoria’s 26th homer of the season.  The Rocco Baldelli came on to pinch hit for Cliff Floyd and  hit a single to rightfield. Baldelli then moved up on a passed ball and was in scoring position for the Rays. Gabe Gross then came up and walked on four pitches to put 2 on for the Rays with 2-outs in the inning.

 

                                  

 

Jason Bartlett then hit a single to left that  scored Baldelli and put Gross in scoring position. Dioner Navarro then came on and pinch-hit for Michel Hernandez and drove a ball up the middle to score  Gross and Bartlett to put the Rays up 6-5 in the game. Navarro advanced to second on a Wild Pitch by Orioles starter Alfredo Simon. B J Upton then came up and hit a ball down the left field line that scored Navarro and Upton ended up at second base, with still 2-outs in the inning.  Zobrist then came up for the second time in the inning and crashed a ball to left that was caught by Jay Payton for the third out. That inning put the Rays up 7-5 on the Orioles with 1 more at bat for the Birds.

 

Odds and Ends

 

Out of the 11 hits on the night for the Rays, 4 went for extra bases, including the homer by Longoria and the Triple by Zobrist.  The Rays had 4 hits before the barrage in the 8th inning last night. With Maddon using his reserves most of the second game, the Rays starter scame on in the 8th inning rested and ready to hit. Most of the pinch hitters that inning stayed on to add to the Rays defensive alignment.

 

Carlos Pena came into the Doubleheader having had a walk and an RBI in 8 consecutive games.  the streak ended in the 7th inning when  Pena came out to pinch hit for Fernando Perez and struck out to end the inning. It was the longest streak in 58 years, since Ted Williams posted a 9-game dual RBI/Walk streak in 1950.

 

The Rays played in 1772 games before finally getting a sweep in a doubleheader. It is the most games played by a major league squad before getting their first winning twinbill.

 

Longoria and Perez were the only two Rays players to start both ends of the doubleheader yesterday in Baltimore.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins did their p[art to confuse the Playoff parings for the Rays by defeating the Chicago White Sox last night. The two teams are playing a 3-games series that will probably decide the winner of the AL Central division. The Winner of that division will most likely face the Rays at home next week for the opening round of the American League Divisional Series.

 

The start dates of the game are up in the air until the team with the best record in the AL decides what day they want to start their game 1. With the LA Angels having the leg up right now on the Rays by two games, they will get to decide if they want to start on October 1st, or 2nd, with an off day in between the starts. Mostl likely the Rays will begin the playoff season at home on October 2nd in a sold out Tropicana Field.

 

ALDS Game 3

 

The Americal League Divisional Series Game 3 tickets will go up on sale on the Rays website the day after they clinch the AL East title. The reason for the delay is to not  bog down the computer system with all 3 days games being purchased on the same day, combined with the ideal that if the Rays are reduced to the Wild Card team, they will have only 2 games in this round of the playoff series. they would then go uot west and begin the series against the Angels, with game 3 and 4 here at the Trop.

 

Ben Zobrist

 

The Rays Super utility guy had a wild night in Baltimore last night. First he went 2-3 at the plate and scored the first run of the night for the Rays on Dan Johnson’s  single to right in the 1st inning to put the Rays on top first 1-0  in the game. For the night, Zobrist scored 2 runs, getting his second run scored in the big 8th inning after his lead-off triple. But it was his at bat in the 3rd inning that would define his night. Zobrist was up against Simon and fouled off the 1st pitch he saw from him into the plate and up into his right cheek area.  In his next at-bat you could see the raised and  reddened  cheek that will proably turn into a bruise tonight.

 

 

Bullpen Action

 

For the second time tonight, the Rays Bullpen came out and minimalized  the Orioles attack. Chad Bradford came on for Talbot in 5th inning and got 2 straight ground ball out to end the inning for the Orioles. Braford only threw 4 pitches in his 2/3rds of an inning last night.  Bradford still leads all MLB relievers with a 4.38 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio this season.  He has pitched to a 1.07 ERA this year in his 19 appearance for the Rays.  His 66 combined appearances this year between his time with the Rays and the Orioles is his 6th straight year of over 60 appearances.

 

Jeff Niemann came on to pitch in the 6th inning for the Rays and pitched for 2.1 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2-runs, but securing his 2nd win of the season for the Rays.  Earlier this season Niemann started against the Baltimore Orioles ans earned his first major league win in a April 13th game against the team. The only run he gave up in that game was a homer run to Nick Markakis in the 6th inning. He became the first Rays since Scott Kazmir on August 23, 2004, to win his MLB debut for the Rays.

 

J P Howell, normally a set-up guy for the Rays helped close out the game for Tampa Bay’s 95th victory of the year. Howell threw 1.2 innings last night and got the Orioles out 1-2-3 in the 9th inning to earn his 3rd save of the year. Howell has only allowed 11,8 percent of his inherited runners to score this year, berst in the majors.   He is also still leading the majors in strikeouts for a reliever with 92, and also leads all relievers in innings pitched with 89.a this year. And all this while being the youngest reliever ( 25) in the Rays bullpen this year.

 

 

 

Rays Win First Half of Twinbill 5-2

 

Rays 5, Orioles 2

 

With the Rays winning the first game of the doubleheader, I thought it might be interesting to hit up Mapquest and see how long it would take to maybe take a road trip to Detroit Michigan and check out Comerica Park for the last series of the year for the Rays. It was easy enough to find the exact address of the ballpark, and I just popped it into the computer and printed out the directions and the distance.

 

Well, the distance is 1,190 miles of mostly Interstate driving. That is right, I could put the car on cruise control and drive as long as I did not fall asleep at the wheel some time during the 19 hour trip. So I extimated that I would have to leave my house in Clearwater, Florida by maybe, noon on Wed. to give myself about 5 hours of leeway in case of muchies or a traffic accident in Atlanta at rush hour.

 

You see, the great thing about Detroit is it is almost a complete straight line up from where I live on Interstate 75. All I have to do is hit the old Courtney Campbell Bridge and go over to Tampa and get on I-275 and head north until I hit Motown. Now I can’t just pop off and leave like that tomorrow, but I would have been nice to be up there and surprise the guys in the Bullpen on Thursday’s afternoon game. But, I have a few errands to attend to, plus I have to go down to the Trop and pick up my Playoff tickets for the ALDS game 1 and 2 in the morning.

 

By the way, if you have not heard already, Game 1 is an official sell-out except for a few odd and end seats being reserved for 2009 Season Ticket depositors’. At the end of the first game of the doubleheader, I went online with my special password for the day to purchase tickets and found only about 500 seats were left for general purchase for Game 2. By the time I get this onto the website and into MLBogs.com, the game might be an officla sell-out also.

 

If by some chance there is a few hundred or so availiable, they will go on sale at 9 A.M. tomorrow on www.raysbaseball.com . I would not hold mt breath unless you have already put down as little as $ 50.00 for your 2009 Season Ticket deposit. That might be the only way to still secure some seats for the upcoming ALDS games held at Tropicana Field. I got mine today at 9 A.M., hopefully you did also, or you will have to watch on your HDTV at home or in your local watering hole.

 

 Rays Magical Number:         3

This number is a combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure the Rays first AL East title

 

 

James Shields

 

The Rays sent their big game pitcher out to begin this long day  of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. James Shields like to be known as “Big Game James” by his teammates, and  he came out and pitched a masterpiece as the Rays won the front half of the doubleheader, 5-2 against the Orioles. Shields came into the game for his 32ns start of the season, which is a new career high for Shields. He is currently the only Rays pitcher to ever throw two seasons of 200 plus innings of baseball. This season against the Orioles, Shields has gone 3-1 against the O’s, with a 3.27 ERA. The Rays are also perfect with Shields on the mound against the Orioles, going 4-0 this year.

 

In today’s game, Shields came out early and tried to dominate the game, but the Orioles had a different gameplan for Shields. In the 1st inning, Shileds gave up a walk and a single to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones before gaining his composure and sent Aubrey Huff and Oscar Salazar back to the bench with strikeouts. 

 

In the 2nd inning, the Orioles touched Shields for the only runs he would give up all day. Luke Scott struck out to start the inning, but got on base after a passed ball by Dioner Navarro.

 

The Orioles would quickly make Navarro pay for that mistake  when Lou Montanez  took the 2nd pitch he saw from Shields and deposited it in the leftfield stands for an early 2-0 Orioles lead. For the day, Shields went  7 innings and gave up 8 hits and 2 runs in his start. For his effort, Shields got his 14th win of the season tying former Rays Rolando Arroyo for the team wins record as a pitcher at 14.  With 5 games remaining in the year, Shields might not get another start this season before the playoffs begin in October.

 

 

6 through 9 Hitters

 

The Rays 6-9 hitters were on fire today for the team. For the game they went a combined 9-13, and scored all 5 Rays runs in the game. They also contributed to 4 of the 5 RBI’s in the game. The barrage was led by  Dioner Navarro, who was hitting in the 6th slot and went 2-5 on the day, with 2 runs scored. Navarro doubled to left to start the 5th inning and ended up scoring on a Wild Pitch by Orioles starter Garrett Olson to score the first Rays run of the day. 

 

In the 7th spot, Ben Zobrist went 1-3, with a single to right in the 8th inning.  Zobrist ended up scoring in the inning after a  attempted bunt single by Fernando Perez was misplayed by Orioles reliever Alberto Castillo.

 

In the 8th spot, Jason Bartlett went  3-4 in the game, with 2 RBI and 1 run scored for the Rays. Bartlett began his day by reaching on a throwing error by Oriole’s shortstop Alex Cintron in the 3rd inning. Bartlett then singled to center in the 5th inning and escaped from a sure out at second on a bad throw by Castillo to  second baseman Brian Roberts.

 

When Fernando Perez doubled to left, Bartlett scored to tie the game at 2-all. In the 6th inning, Bartlett hit a double to lect that scored Navarro and put the Rays up 3-2 in the game.  He then singled to right in the 8th inning, but did not score for the Rays.

 

In the 9-slot, Fernando Perez went 3-3 on the day and  had 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the contest. Perez started his day by putting down a sacrifice bunt to third base in the 3rd inning. He then got on base in the 5th inning by doubling to  left on a ball hit beyond the reach of Scott, and the ball bounced to the outfield wall. Bartlett scored on the play for the Rays to put the score at 2-2.

 

 Perez then singled to right to open the Rays 7th inning.  Perez ended up scoring on Carlos Pena drive to leftfield in the inning.  Hius last hit was a bad bunt single that Orioles pitcher  Alberto Castillo misplayed in the air and could not convert the out.

 

 

 

Rays Errors and Mistakes

 

For the most part, the first game did not have alot of drama or misplays. But it did have a few plays that could have changed the course of the game. In the 6th inning, Ben Zobrist tried to score on Bartlett’s double to left and was thrown out at the plate by Montanez.  At the time, the score was only 3-2 Rays, and the error in judgement could have come back to haunt the Rays.

 

In the bottom of the 5th inning, Jeff Fahey hit a 1-2 pitch to  the base of the scoreboard in rightfield. Perez could have made a play on the ball on the warning track, but let the ball hit and Fahey got a double on the play.  Fahey was standing on third base waiting for a hit through the hole when Huff hit into a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning. At the time, the score was 2-all in the game.

 

Odds and Ends

 

Today is the 14th time the Rays have played a doubleheader, and it is the second one in  7 days. In the most recent day/night doubleheader, the Rays split the games with the New York Yankees.  The Rays have never won both bills of a doubleheader in their short history.  They have been swept 6 times, and have split the games 7 times.  This will be the Rays 3rd doubleheader against the Orioles at Camden Yards. They split a pair on August  26, 2000, and lost both games on July 5, 2004.

 

94th Win

This win ties the Rays with the 1991 Atlanta Braves as the only 2 teams to ever go to the playoffs after going from worst to first in their divsion the following season.  The Rays also tied the 1991 Braves for the most wins by a team that had the worst record the prior year.

 

If the Rays win 3 out of their last 7 games to go 96-66, they will have reversed their record from last season ( 66-96) amd finish with a 30 game improvement over the last season. Only 9 teams since 1900 have improved 30 plus games from one season to the next.  The Rays are also 1 of 4 team to ever win 93 plus wins after 10 plus years of consecutive losing seasons. 

 

Rays Bullpen  

 

The Rays Bullpen again came through for the Rays by pitching 2 innings of no-hit ball to secure the 94th win of the season for the Rays. Grant Balfour came on in the 8th inning and got 2 strikeouts on 16 pitches in the inning.  Balfour has struck out  6 percent of the batters he has faced this season, which is tops in the major leagues.  His 1.42 ERA is currently tied with the Twins Joe Nathan for second in the majors.

 

Dan Wheeler then came on and threw a scoreless 9th inning to get his 1th save of the season.  his 285 appearances since 2005 is tied for 6th among active relievers in the majors.  His 26 holds is currently only 4 shy of the major league lead held by Scott Shields of the L A Angels.  Dan was the 34th pick of the Rays in the innaugural draft in 1996 and is in his 2nd tour with the team.

Rays Use Orioles Miscues to Get Win # 93

 

 

Rays 4, Orioles 2

 

Congrats to Carlos Pena for being selected as the American League Player of the Week for last week. Pena batted .368 for the week with 3 home runs and 11 RBI’s for the Rays. Pena was also involved in the history-making process of having the first overturned Instant Replay call on a homer run hit by Pena against Minnesota reliever Boof Bonser.  Pena also boasted a .947 Slugging Percentage and a .500 On-Base Percentage for the week. This is the 2nd Weekly honor that Pena has recieved while with the Rays. He got his first award in October 1, 2007.

 

 

The local media and fans base have gone “hawk wild lately with the new hairstyle of the Tampa Bay Rays. Sports Psychologists say that by uniting with a common denominator, like the hait sytle can foem a closer bond and collective unit going into the playoff games. Just as hockey has it’s playoff beards, the Rays have adopted the Mohawk as their focal point for team unity and committment. I am still waiting for Bullpen mates,  catcher Scott Cursi and Coach Bobby Ramos to board the “Hawk Express” and motor on to the American League Divisional Series.

Starting last night, the people who were selected by the Rays Lottery system got their passwords to select up to 4 seats for the upcoming ALDS game 1 and 2 seats. The password will work on the ticketmaster website until 11:59 P.M. tonight, then tickets will go on sale to the general public tomorrow at 9 A.M.  Stubhub.com also has the Rays post season tickets on sale, but the prices are hugely marked up pertaining to the actual price of the seat in the stadium. It listed a Upper Deck 300-level seat for almost $ 100 dollars today.

 

Rays Magical Number:      4

 

This is the combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure the American League East title for the Rays.

 

Just a short note about the “Magical Number” for tommorrow’s double-header. If the Rays win both games of the double-header, the number could effectively go down to 2. But coupled with the result of the Cleveland Indian verus Boston Red Sox game, it could move down to within 1 game with a Boston loss tonight. This is the time of year that the numer could jump as low as one with 2 Rays wins and a Boston Loss, but can also remain at 4 with both games of the double-hearder lost by the Rays and a Boston win. Tonight’s contest should be a great barometer to the extent of the rest of the week for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Jason Bartlett

So how do you follow up a day after you were selected by the local Sportswriters as the Rays 2008 MVP?  Well, you go 2-3 with an RBI and steal a base for the Rays in your close victory over the Orioles.  Bartlett hit two doubles in the game to give him 24 for the year. But it was his double down the leftfield line that made the night interesting for the Rays.

 

                                   

 

On the play, the ball was heading to the corner when an Orioles fan reached into the field of play and took the ball to give Bartlett a ground rule double because of Fan Interference. The guy in the stands definitely reached beyond the seats, actually almost falling on the field before retreiving the ball. The 3rd base umpire, Tim Timmons decided that Fernando Perez was not beyond the bag at third and had to return to third base to take a run off the board for the Rays. But Gabe Gross did score before the fan touched the ball and put the Rays up 3-2 at the time.

 

Bartlett also had his 20th stolen base of the year tonight for the Rays. He is also the team leader in steals of third base this year with 9 bases. He is within the leaders in the league in steals of thrid base this season.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Several times last night the Rays rookie got handcuffed on balls hitting the clay in the Oriole’s infield and had them come up on him fast and furious. On one play, the ball appeared to hit Longoria in the chest after hitting the clay.

Longoria had one play against Luke Scott in the 5th inning that had the ball coming up hard on him and hitting the heel of his glove to give him his 3rd error in two games. Scott ended up coming around to score for the Orioles on a bases loaded walk to Juan Castro in the inning.

 

                                      

 

Orioles Miscues and Rays Hits

The Rays did take advantage of a few Baltimore miscues in the game.  Gross reached on the 8th error of the season by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and ended up scoring on Akinora Iwamura’s single in the 5th inning.  The Rays also got 8 walks in the game against Baltimore pitching. They used it to their advantage in the 5th inning when 3 walks in a row were issued to Gross, Hinske and Bartlett. Gross and Hinske ended up scoring in the inningto tie the score at 2-2 at the time. 

 

B J Upton

In the 6th inning, with Aubrey Huff on second base, Luis Salazar hit a ball hard to centerfield that was dropping rapidly. Huff, thinking that B J Upton could not make the play on the ball was on the move and at third base when Upton took the ball in and threw to second to complete a double play on Huff. It was Upton’s 13th outfield assist this season. He is currently in 3rd in that category in the AL.

 

 

                    

 

Rays Hitting

For the night the Rays only managed 3 hits against the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. Orioles starter  Brian Bass only gave up 2-runs in his 4.2 innings of work last night. But it was the 8 walks issued by the pitchers, and the timely hitting of the Rays that secured this win. In the first 3 innings tonight, the Rays went down in order 1-2-3, before Carlos Pena got a single in the 4th inning.

It was not until the Rays had 2 outs in the 5th inning that the team got on the board first tonight and scored 2 runs in the inning. In the 6th inning the Rays went down on order again. In the 7th inning, the Rays came alive thanks to 2 Oriole walks and a error on Roberts.  But then again in the 8th inning, they Rays went down in order for the 5th time in the game.

 

        

 

David Price

But the rue star of the night has to go to Rays rookie pitcher David Price, who made his Major League first start tonight aginst Baltimore.  The lefty had all three pitches going tonight and was constantly getting the first pitch over for a strike all night long. At times it seemed like the home plate umpire might be crowding Price a bit, but he kept hitting the outer corners of the strike zone and began to get thos calls later in the contest.

Price went 5.1 inning and threw 88 pitches in his debut. Impressive enough with his control in the game, Price put 60 out of 88 balls over for strikes in the game. Price did get 3 strikeouts to go with his 3 walks, but it was a totally impressive performance by the young rookie, and might bode well for him in the coming weeks.

Prices ERA at the start of the game was 3.00 for his relief appearances this year, but after the start, he had lowered it to 2.38 for the Rays.  He got the Orioles in order in the first inning, and only had a bad moment in the 2nd inning during a 10-pitch at bat by Luke Scott before walking him. Price adjusted and got the Orioles again in order in the 4th inning. In the 5th, Price had the only trouble of the night when Scott again got on base after a Longoria error and then Price issued two straight single to Ramon Hernandez and Lou Montanez to load the bases.  Price ended up giving up 2 runs in the start, but was totally impressive from hjis first pitch to the last one.

 

Bullpen Trio

The Bullpen Trio of Grant Balfour, J P Howell and Dan Wheeler closed out the contest for the Rays. Balfour came on in the middle of the 5th inning and worled 1.2 innigs of scoreless relief for his 6th victory of the year. With the win, Balfour is now tied with Howell for the team lead in wins by a reliever. Balfour and Howell are also one win away from tying the Rays reliever victory recod held by Shawn Camp.

J P Howell  leads all MLB relievers with 87.2 innings this season.  He also leads all AL relievers with 92 strikeouts this season, and  got three strikeouts in a row last night against the Orioles. He is still boasting a 0.00 ERA in September for the Rays over 13.1 innings of work. He is currently on pace to throw the most innings by a leftie reliever since the Twin’s Greg Swindell threw 112.o in 1997. 24 of his 63 appearances this season have been over 2 innings.

 

                                   

 

Dan Wheeler came on with one out in the 9th inning and gave up a single to Ramon Hernandez . But he got Montanez to strike out, and had pinch-hitter Kevin Millar fly out to Bartlett to end the game and give the Rays their 93rd win of the season.  It also gave Wheeler his 12th save of the year for the Rays.  Wheeler has 60 plus appearances in a game for the 4th straight season. He currently has 68 appearances for the team, and is on pace to have his   4th straight 70 plus appearances year after his next 2 outings.  Batter’s are hitting .188 against him this season, lowest in the league among relievers.

 

 

 

Bartenders, Let’s Show Some Rays Spirits


 

When the Rays clinched a playoff spot Saturday afternoon, the bartenders at Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill sprang into action and whipped up an instant Rays Victory Punch.

The blue concoction, made with “lots of vodka and blue Gatorade,” according to bar manager Trish Snyder, was a hit with the crowd (even if being free might have had something to do with it), and they made a frozen version after Sunday’s game.

That got us thinking that there are ample opportunities for restaurants and bars all around the bay area to get into the spirit of the Rays by creating Rays’ spirits. Here are some suggestions for some signature libations:

Aki Sake. Has a great kick, just like Aki when he’s lasering balls up the middle to get on base.

Pena Colada. This one has been screaming for a drink special at the Trop all year: $1 Pena Coladas every time he blasts a home run.

Scottch, neat. Pitcher Scott Kazmir’s got some strong stuff, and so does this drink.

Bartlett pear vodka and tonic. Refreshingly smooth, just like the shortstop’s throws to first.

Big Brown Pale Ale. Cliff Floyd’s clubhouse nickname makes for a perfect match with this bold brewski.

Longoria Iced Tea. So many ingredients have gone into making him an All-Star, why not do the same for his drink?

Miller Highlight. Ahh, this beer for our man, Trever, goes down best when served with the video of the last two outs he pitched to get the team into the playoffs.

El Perezadente Margarita. Packs a powerful punch, just like Perez’s throws from the outfield.

Carl’s ‘Burg Pilsner and CC and Seven. A team member who’s been here the longest, Carl Crawford deserves at least two drink specials.

• Navi Agave Tequila Shot. Served straight up, just like when Dioner Navarro pounces on a runner trying to steal second.

Grant’s Foster Lager. Balfour, the pitcher from Down Under, would feel right at home with this Australian brand.

Zobrist Zombie. Ben’s calm demeanor no matter where he’s fielding make this the perfect concoction.

Mercy! Perci Flamer. Troy Percival’s recent penchant for getting jammed up as a closer has earned him the nickname of Firestarter around some parts. Why not celebrate it with a flaming drink?

Mohawk Malt Liquor. Comes in 24-ounce cans, perfect for those longs innings when the Rays’ bats are hot.

Malfunction at the Photo Day Junction

 

                            

 

I am not one of those people who take thing lightly in life. If I see a problem, I speak my mind and if the problem is fixed in the future, then no one ever hears about it again. With that inmind, I need to address a situation that happen both outside and inside the Trop. during the Season Ticketholder Photo Day.

Now I am willing to take into account that the day was postponed from yesterday (Saturday) because of the committment to Fox Television for the MLB Game of the Week featuring our Rays against the Twins. And for Fox, the game turned into rating gold as the Rays battled the Twins and finally got to celebrate their first Postseason Berth in franchise history.

Because of that event, I can see the reason to postpone the  annual Photo Day until Sunday. I can honestly see the reasoning and the logic behind the change and want this to become the event I remember from last year, and the years before. It was turned into a fiasco outside by the Security team letting everyone take the main corridor into the stadium for the Season Ticketholders. Instead of snaking two lines, one north, one south, everyone was corralled into one central line with a line all the way out to the security enterance beyond the tiled walkway.

We finally got it together and the line was split not more than 10 minutes before we got into the building. So, for this I will give half credit to the Security guys to take the bull by the horns and make the situation better before it got worse. With that in mind, what happened inside after we got to the blue ropes was a tremedous disappintment to me and a huge number of Season Ticketholders who remember the last 8 Photo Days, even back when Fuji Film used to sponsor the event.

 

                              

 

As we sat there waiting for the first group to arrive out at the roped off area, it was after 11:10 A.M. before the first guy, Mitch Talbot got to the line and began talking, shaking hands and getting his photo taken with a few people. During this time a small group of guys finally got out there and did their time walking the line talking to friends, and meeting new ones. I have to admit, the first group got through the lines, which stretched the entire length of the outfield in good amount of time.

But the next group, which included rookie David Price was whisked by so fast you almost had to set your camera for a action shot to even get him in focus. The other guys meandered by taking photos with the people until it was about 11:35 A.M. Then I overheard someone talking to one of the interns that we had to speed this up. Considering that about 18 players actually got out there today, it went pretty fast.

But what set me off and a few of the other people was when Eric Hinske was ushered around with not even a stop every 10-15 feet so you could get a picture of him, much less with him. He was rushed by so fast we only got to see the side of his head, and did not get a chance to even say Congrats to him. Now I am an ex-professional player, and I know that sometimes these events can be draining, but this turned into a public relations disaster for the team.

It would have been better to postpone it for after the game instead of try and rush just these 18 guys around like cattle and then get the field ready for the game. After the win last night, you would think that these guys would enjoy a little down time to just chat and BS with the fans. The pressure put on them by the sales staff was unprofessional in my mind. By the way Jeff Tanzer, before you rush to even try and condemn me for this, I do have adegree in communications and marketing and I know how to sell a brand. Just ask to see my national Pepsi rings.

 

                               

 

I heard and saw Jeff give the rush orders not once, but twice concerning the amount of time they had on the field and what time they had to get the players back into the locker room. It was a disgraceful event, and I know I am not the only one that will complain about it. But I will be the only one to put it on my website and on MLBlogs for the rest of baseball to see how you treated a sacred event to us, your Season Ticketholders.

We are not the Corporate sponsors, or the deep pocket people, but we are the ones who are friend with each other and can make a voice heard. We are also the group of people who have seen Photo day before where almost every player came out and participated, even for a few minutes. Missing from the event was player favorites like, Carlos Pena, B J Upton, Jonny Gomes, Rocco Baldelli, Scott Kazmir, Dioner Navarro, and Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Not even one Coach came out for the event.

 

               

 

 

I am only saying that if you think the event can not be run with great results, why did you not postpone it or run it after the game. You would of already had the players out there for the “Shirts Off Their Backs” promo, and with our wristbands, it could have been a controlled situation. But instead it became a frazzled and mis-aligned mess that will have repercussions beyond that day.

It is a day I look forward to every year. I get to chat and take a picture with the guys I respect and admire for what they can do on the turf. It is a day we can put confidience and a feeling of unity with the guys who sweat and bleed between the line for us during the season. But instead, we saw guys sprint by us like  they were missing their flights.

I have heard rumors that you guys are thinking of having a send-off party at the airport, or a welcoming party at the airport upon return from a out-of-town set of games. If it is run correctly, I know we all would love to come and be a great part of this year. If it is run like today, why bother when it is clear that some in the management of the Rays do not have the fans best interest. We love this team and what it stands for more than anything in this world, but we also do not want to be treated like a outsider in our own town.

Do the right thing and think twice from now on. Oh by the way, since I have this platform to voice my displeasure, let me give you Jeff Tanzer, the Director of Season Tickets amd Sales, the option to hear other fans voice their comments to you. You can reach Jeff at (727) 825-3193, or (727) 825-3204.  I hope you call and at least just let him know what you thought of the event. I am not trying to blow the phonelines off the wall, just want the Rays Republic to be able to voice their concerns and suggestions.

In closing, I want to thank these players for coming out today for the Photo Day, Akinora Iwamura, Mitch Talbot, Justin Ruggiano,Gabe Gross, Ben Zorbrist, Edwin Jackson, Juan Salas, Dan Johnson, David Price, Eric Hinske, Jason Bartlett,Trever Miller, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour,Jason Hammel,Michel Hernandez, Jeff Niemann,John Jaso,Chad Bradford,Matt Garza and James Shields. Andy Sonnanstine had a great reason to miss today since he was the starting pitcher for the Rays today 

And Jeff, you can reach me at Raysrenegade@yahoo.com, or ask anyone in the building who knows me for my number.  Have a better Day. 

 

Rays Come Out Flat in Front of 36,048 Fans

 

Twins 4, Rays 1

 

As you might expect from a team on a emotional high and induced with over 252 bottles of champagne, the Rays came out a bit flat on Sunday. Along with the huge amount of bubbly, they extimated to have gone through 24 case of beer and assorted beverages. Now I am not suggesting that the team was still on a bit of a next day fatigue situation, but they did kinda walk with a different swagger on Sunday.

 

I know I saw a few Rays out on the town having a great time. I viewed Scott Kazmir, B J Upton and Cliff Floyd at the Push nightclub in St. Petersburg having fun and living it up in the VIP area. None of the ball players was beyond the scope of reason, but Kazmir did have a look of euphroia on his face from his prediction coming true for the team.  I know of another group that hit a few beach spots on St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Beach, and then called it a night at someone’s home in St. Petersburg, but he asked me to keep this quiet.

 

                              

 

I even got a present from a friend on the team and I made sure to get as many signatures as I could on the bottle. This is a special time for the Rays and their fanbase. I know a lot of the community was there Saturday afternoon, even if they did not have a ticket. I have had al least 30 people tell me they were there on Sat. that I know were not at the ballpark. No I did not have facial recognition systems around the stadium to record every face. You can just tell if someone was there by the way they described the celebration and the aftermath in the Brewhouse.

Well, it is Day 1 of post celebration with a mission of 8 more games until the Playoff begin for the Rays. Hopefully  we can catch up to the L A Angels ans get the home field advantage throughout the entire playoff system.  But then again, we have to win or have Boston lose a total of 7 to win our First pennant for the Trop’s back wall.

 

Rays Magical Number:         7

 

Andy Sonnanstine

 

Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine probably was home asleep by 10 P.M. on Saturday night. He had the uncanny mission of pitching the first game since the Postseason celebration and probably did not know what kind of Rays team would show up for the contest. Andy pitched 6.2 innings of 7-hit, 4-run ball for the squad. It might not have been his best performance of the year, but his defense also was not up to their usual stingy self.  Several errors or near errors kept the Rays in a hole for most of the game.

 

Sonnanstine came into the game hoping to pick up his 14th victory for the 6th time this season. He was also facing Minnesota for the first time today in his career.  Sonnanstine comes into the game not allowing a single earned run in the last 16 innings of work.  The Rays have gone 13-7 in his last 20 starts.

 

                              

 

Rays Errors

 

Coming into the game, the Rays had the third fewest errors of any team in the major leagues. It is becuase of this tough defense that the Rays have gotten into position to fight fo their first A L East crown. But on Sunday, the Rays defense was to the point of breaking several times in the contest.  Rays Rookie Evan Longoria took the blunt of the scorer by being hit with 2 errors in the game, both on throws to first base.

  

But several times in the game, the Rays did not field the ball cleanly and could have been charged with as many as 3 more errors. Willy Aybar had a bad read and turn and throw to second base to Ben Zobrist that took him off the bag and provided the Twins with a runner in scoring position in the 4th inning.

 

It was also in the 4th inning where the Twins did all their damage on Sunday to defeat the Rays.  Longoria committed his first error in the middle of the inning, and two runs crossed the plate on his throw to Dan Johnson that got away from him and down the line in rightfield.

 

Rocco Baldelli could have been charged with an error on his throw hom that sailed towards third and hit the Twins dugout railing to remain in play. Ben Zobrist also dropped a few balls in his glove that are normally sure things for him. All in all, the day was not a complete disaster for the Rays, but some defensive miscues did turn the corner for the Twins on their way to the victory.

 

 

Rays Rested the Weary

 

The Rays did not start many of their usual starters in this game today. This was not  sitting down because of the celebration, but to give a few guys a day off going into a stretch where the Rays will be playing 8 games in 7 days this week. The upcoming double-header on Tuesday will be a long night for Maddon’s troops, so he decided to rest his starters today before leaving for Baltimore to start their 4-game series with the Orioles on Monday.

 

 Rays Manager Joe Maddon also got some needed innings out of B J Upton and Rocco Baldelli in the field to be sure they are up to the challnge come playoff time. Upton looked fluid in the field and committed a few nicely aimed balls to Dioner Navarro in the game.  Upton also got an outfield assist on a shallow fly ball hit to centerfield that Carlos Gomez miss read and was picked off first base for a double play by Upton. It is Upton’s 13th outfield assist of the year. He is currently sitting 3rd in the AL in that category.

 

 

B J Upton

 

The Rays starting centerfielder looked more like his old self at the plate hitting lead-off in the game and went 3-3 on the day, also with a walk. That pushed his average up to .277 for the season. The walk also put Upton in 4th in the AL with 92 for the year. Not bad considering he has been day-to-day now since suffering a quad injury in Boston.

 

Upton hit a bunt single to the pitcher to lead off the game for the Rays. Upton put it perfectly down the third base side of the mound for an easy single to start the rays off with a baserunner in the game.  Upton then came up in the 3rd inning and hit a double down the leftfield line to put Michel Hernadez in scoring position at third for the Rays.

 

Carlos Pena hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Henandez on the next pitch and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. Upton then hit a bunt single down the third baseline that cradled the foul line but stayed fair to put him on first and Fernando Perez in scoring position for the Rays. Upton then walked on 6 pitches, the last 4 balls to get on first with  2-outs in the 7th inning. B J was then caught off first base by Twins starter Francisco Liriano on a pick off attempt, and was tagged out by the shortstop, Adam Everett for the 3rd out of the inning. It was Upton’s 16th caught stealing attempt of the year, which has him ranked 1st in the majors this season.

 

Rays’ 5 hits

 

Besides Upton’s 3 hits on the day, only two other Rays produced hits in the contest against the Twins. Rays catcher Michel Hernandez had a single to left in the 3rd inning to lead off that inning, and ended up scoring on Pena’s Sacrifice fly in that inning. And Rocco Baldelli had a single to left with 2-outs in the 6th inning. On the day, the Rays also got 4 walks off Liriano in his 7 innings of work today.

 

Loss with over 30,000 fans

 

This was only the 2nd time this season that the Rays have lost a game where at least 30,000 fans have been in attendance. The offical attendance for the Rays was 36,048 for the game. The Rays also lost their first game of the year against the Seattle Mariners with same 36,048 in house for the home opener for the Rays. So the team have effectively bookended the season with their only 3 losses with over 30,000 as their first and last game of the year.

 

 

 

Where is Kool and the Gang When You Need Them?

 

 

Rays 7, Twins 2

 

Back in the first weeks of Spring Training, the local fishwraps here in Tampa Bay asked the Rays starting pitchers’ about a prediction for the season. Most gave a pat, simple answer that it is too early to  predict much, but good things will happen to the Rays this year. Only one guy seemed to want to go above the norm and blow the lid off the prediction kettle.

Scott Kazmir came out and predicted that the Rays would be in the playoffs. Plain and simple. He was not under doctors care, he was clean, clear-headed and about to pitch in a simulated game when he answered the question. For a few seconds you might imagine the newspaper guys and the video crews wanted to check Scott’s locker for unsual item, like a Quija board, a fortune telling 8-ball, or a deck of Tarot cards.

It is with great pleasure that I can now deem Scott Kazmir one of the prophets of the Rays Republic. Kazmir is now a member in lifetime standing in the Rays Republic for comments above and beyond the scope of normal citizens. I have to admit I had the Rays at 80-85 wins, which would have been a mass improvement in one year. But I also would not throw away any more than that total.

At the beginning of the season I was unsure of Matt Garza as a total pitcher. Now I think this guy can turn into an ace onb this staff with some time and patience. I also had a few doubts about Jason Bartlett, but those fell by the wayside soon after he made plays that past shortstops would just wave at as they slowly bounced by them. He molded into this team’s 2008 MVP. He was chosen for his defense, his leadership, and for his huge upgrade at the position in general.

 

Rays 7, Twins 2

 

 

                               

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Come out for warmups freshly shaved, Scott Kazmir took his cap off and showed the Rays faithful his new ‘hawk, the symbol of this young ballclub this season. I could think of no other pitcher who deserved to be on the mound today to secure the Rays their first Playoff Berth in the club’s short history. Since Kazmir will probably be the next retired Rays number in the Trop. some day, it was fitting and truly an honor to watch this guy hit the mound tonight.

And Kazmir came out with the heat tonight. He went 6 innings of 5-hit shutout ball and picked up 5 strikeouts on the night. Those 5 k’s put him in 10th place in th AL this year with 158 for the year. Kazmir had all thre of his pitches grooving on the plate last night. Gone was the odd feeling of the ball leaving his hand as he talked about in his last start earlier in the homestand. Now the ball felt right in his hand and his slider was especially on today.

 

 

 

 

Top 6  batters’ in the Order

The top 6 batters’ in the Rays order each got at least one hit today. Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria each had one hit on the day. Carlos Pena made his one hit count as he hit a 2-run double to deep right center that scored Iwamura and Eric Hinske to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Evan Longoria rounded out the top 4 batters with an RBI  to deep center that scored Jason Bartlett in the 5th inning.

Cliff Floyd went 2-3 on the night with a homer to right in the 7th inning, and a single to right center in the 4th inning. Floyd was also intentionally walked in the 5th inning when the Rays ended up scoring 5 runs. But the show tonight was centered on the guy who was calling game behind the plate.

Dioner Navarro had another banner night when his team needed it most. He went 3-4 in the game and 1 RBI. Navarro started the night hitting a single to deep right in the 2nd inning. Navarro then hit a double to right to get Cliff Floyd into scoring position at third base. Then Navarro hit another double to right that scored Pena and put Longoria and Floyd into scoring position. On his only out of the night, Navarro hit a squibbler down the first baseline that was easily turned into an out. But he had already done the damage that night on the bases.

 

 

Bottom of the Order

The bottom of the Rays order has kept them in a huge amount of games in the past few weeks. Tonight the bottom of the order only produced 2 hits, but they also had 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s on the day. Rocco Baldelli walked on 4 pitches in the 4th inning to score Longoria and put the Rays up 5-0 at the time.

Fernando Perez only went 1-4 today, but he also scored a run and got an RBI. Perez homered for his 3rd of the season in the 6th inning. Perez also made another great play in centerfield today on a dying ball hit into shallow centerfield. He quickly got a bead on the ball and caught it about a foot above the turf.  Perez also got a outfield assist today when Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to center and Prez quickly got the ball back into the Rays infield where  Pena threw to third base to get the sliding Justin Morneau  for the second out of the 4th inning.

 

 

Troy Percival

I have been a huge of everything that Troy Percival has done this year for the Rays. I understand how he wants the ball in key situations, but I also wonder if he might still be nursing an injury a little more severe that he lets on to the public and to Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Percival had a few epidermal injections in the last few days to take a bit of the pain away from his back region.

I am now wondering after this outing if the injury might be a disc problem based on him changing his warm-up routine in the Bullpen area. Troy used to do about 5-10 push-ups dailt and do a bit of yoga back stretching before taking the mound. He no longer does either event and it might be leaving him a bit stiff, or the injury might be limiting his mobility. Either way, it should be a red flag to the Rays that he is not able to be 100 percent for the team right now.

In the 9th inning last night, Maddon wanted his big horse to take these guys to the promised land of securing the playoffs on his broad shoulders. What ended up happening is that Percival gave up 1-hit and 2-runs in his 1/3 of an inning today and might not be the closer we want him to be right now. Brendan Harris got on base on an error by Jason Bartlett on a bad throw to first base. He then stole second to get into scoring position with 1 out in the inning.

Carlos Gomez then walked on 6 pitches to put two Minnesota runners’ on base. Denard Span then hit a ball into the rightfield corner that was mishandled by Rocco Baldelli and Harris scored the first run of the day for the Twins.  Span moved to second on the throwing error by Baldelli who actually had a great idea of throwing to second to keep Span from moving up, but there was no one at second to recieve the throw and the ball skidded through the infield before Bartlett got it in the shortstop hole.  Alexi Casilla then grounded out to Bartlett, who zipped the throw to first as Gomez crossed the plate with the Teins second run of the inning.

 

 

Trever Miller

Miller was warming up as Percival was beginning to get into truoble in the top of the 9th inning. Trever came in immediately following Span’s double down the rightfield corner and got Casilla to ground out before  getting Joe Mauer to finally hit a foul ball up the third baseline that Longoria cradled for the third out and the beginning of the celebration.

Miller was one of the first people to be interviewed after the on-field celebration, and when he took his cap off, you saw the new mohawk haircut that threw the crowd into hysterics. Miller earlier in the week said he might be the last one in line for a ‘hawk hairdo, but here he was supporting his team by sporting the fashion statement in Tampa Bay. I hope his wife did not mind his hairy donation to the Rays cause.

 

 

Rays Bullpen

The rest of the Rays Bullpen quickly came down to Miller side and celebrated between home and the mound and began a 3 hour celebration seen on the Jumbotron for everyone in the stadium. Also having a great night on the mound for the Rays today was Grant Balfour and J P Howell, who each threw an inning of scoreless relief for the Rays.

 

 

Where Is Kool and the Gang?

 

          

 

The celebration quickly rang out in the stadium as the P A  announced that the Rays were in the Playoffs. The player were still in their white uniforms and celebrated for about 5 minutes on the field before going into the lockerroom for a bit. They quickly came out wearing playoff t-shirts ans hats and began spraying the Rays faithful with champagne. Carl Crawford, Akinora Iwamura, and Edwin Jackson began the fluid barrage on the top of the dugout before moving to the turf and spraying everyone within range with the bubbly.

 

                                    

 

As this was going on, the Rays announcers were interviewing and looking out for flying suds as the beer as well as more champagne was flowing all over the clubhouse.  Rich Hererra and Todd Kalas should get combat pay for the amount of suds and bubbly residue that was soaking on their skin and well manicured hairs. It was a scene of mass hysteria for the right reasons as players came in and psrayed the inteviewees’ more than once. The best of the night was the side explosion approach by Chad Orvella on Jason Hamell.

 

                                   

 

Shortly after this, the players came out and did a victory lap around the stadium as players and fans hugged and congradulated each other around the stadium. I was propped up at the Bullpen Cafe and got alot of great sloppy hugs from very drenched individuals. It was a time for celebration, and the actions of Gabe Gross getting on the rightfield fencing and cheering to the crowd sent the rightfield into a frenzy.

 

                    The beaming Rays celebrate their playoff berth with their jubilant fans after the game.   (AP)

 

As they made it around the Trop. player were jumping up and slapping the hands of the masses who still remained in the stadium and did not want the moment to end. Finally about 8 P.M. the players were agin in the locker room and the post game videos and commentary was shut down for the night. But as you left the stadium in the halls, you could still hear the yells and screams from down by the locker room area from players, family and Rays officials.  This was a day that no one with a ticket will every forget…………………I know I will never ever forget this day.

 

Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth

 

 

 

 

It might have looked like a mob scene out oif your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you up. From out-to-out yesterday this game was won by the time they got on the field. Seriously folks, I have never felt to drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Brewhouse having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years.

This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports.  I am so spent right now I have not come down fron this yeat, and I have Season Ticketholder Picture Day in 6 hours. All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more before the playoffs are all over with this year!

THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans.  From interview to interview last night, the guys to a T talked about the fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchsies memory forever.

You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exaxt moment. When the guys came down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fistbump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir.  I have chatted almost daily with these guys on the way to the Bullpen back area and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.

 

 

Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen,  he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile alot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.

 

From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outter perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fanbase. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidience, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a  job or work.

 

                        

This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Febuary to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.

The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the lockerroom in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.

I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adreneline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wrexk right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeing. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a rollercoaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.

 

                                

 

I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truely spectacular group of guys.

Rays Use Smallball to Beat Twins 11-1

 

 

Rays 11, Twins 1

 

With their backs against the wall now, you know the Minnesota Twins will come out and play the game of their lives today. And to suspect anything else would insane. Both these team are within a cat’s hair of getting into the postseason. The Twins hang by a thread, while the Rays control their own destiny enroute to their first A L East crown. Both these squada will be energized and ready for war when the first pitch is thrown about 3:55 P.M. today.

But you also know that when this game ends, either the Rays will be one of the 8 teams to get into this crazy playoff race, or they will just regroup and do battle tomorrow with it being another “it” day. But I seriously think that today’s game will be the deciding blow for either team. It is on a national stage, being seen in three markets in the country. One being the Tampa Bay region, second being the Minnesota area, and the third is the city of true revolution, Boston. You heard me right, one of the three cities to get today’s game will be beantown.

Funny how that worked out, but it will give the Boston fand another look at why this team is for real, and to watch their new rival play before the Red Sox take the field tonight in Toronto. It is also another time for the Rays to put doubt and serious karma to work on the Red Sox Nation. I am not asking that it be overthrown, or dismantled, just  a little doubt, and a little concern is all I desire here.  And maybe a bead of sweat on the long time Red Sox fan about maybe playing this Rays team again in the playoffs.

 

Rays Magical Number:      9

Combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure our first A L East crown.

 

                                

 

Edwin Jackson

Okay, you almost had me worried when you bounced a few during warm-ups Edwin, but thank you for one of the clutch pitching performances of this year. Seriously, you hit the right spots and put the pedal to the metal at the moment that not only the Rays, but the crowd needed last night. To say the outing was a success would be an understatement. You could have beaten any team last night with the way your stuff was breaking. And the fatc that your last pitch of the night was clocked at 98 m.p.h. tell me you still love throwing the heat.

 

Edwin Jackson has finally arrived as a major league pitcher. At a time when he needed a big game for himself and his team he responded with a 7-hit,1-run gem that will be talked about all the way until next Spring. Jackson went  7.2 iinings last night and threw 114 pitches enroute to getting his 12th victory of the year. Jackson also got 5 strikeout on the night for the Rays.  Tonight was his 30th start of the season and was coming into the game 0-3 in September.  With this win, Jackson is on solid ground to try and have his first winning season since he was 2-1 in 2004.

 

             

 

Instant Replay, Part Deux

Again we got to see the magic that is the MLB Control room in New York go to work on give the multi-viewed video of Carlos Pena’s “maybe” 31st homer. Carlos came up in the bottom of the 4th inning against  Boof Bonser and hit a ball high and into the first row of Section 148 in the Trop. Because the fumble fingered fan who tried to catch the ball let it bounce off his digits and back onto the turf, the second base umpire, Gerry Davis, signaled for Fan Interference and put Pena at second base.

 

                                       

 

After  some discussion by all four umpires and some prodding by Rays Manager Joe Maddon, the umpires went into their little cave under the stand beyond the visitor’s dugout to call MLB central command and get the video replays and do some idle chatting. About 5 minutes later, with Pena still standing on second, Gerry Davis came out and signaled homer run and Carlos was finally allowed to finish the home run trot for his 31st homer of the year. 

So the Rays again make Instant Replay history with the first reversal of an on-field call last night. That makes twice this year that ESPN has been in the house and we have had replays. We are only 1-1 on replays this year, but the call was right and baseball can be proud that the system is working as it was envisioned. Now if we can just get the Qwest system to taser the unpires on bad strikezone calls…………or is that asking too much?

 

            

 

Carlos Pena

Pena not only hit  a 3-run homer for his 31st of the season, but he also doubled to right in the 1st inning and scored the second run of the game for the Rays. But he also got a bases loaded walk in the 2nd inning that scored Eric Hinske and put the Rays ahead 5-0 at the time. But it was his blast in the 4th inning that shook and triggered the celebration for Tampa Bay. With Eric Hinske and Akinora Iwamura on base via walks in the inning, Pena hit his monster shot to right that had the celebration delayed a few minutes for further review. But after the unpire’s replay review Pena was able to celebrate his 4-RBI night in style with his team.

 

Gabe Gross

 Gross has gone about his job this year in rightfield without a lot of fanfare. But several times during this game the rightfield faithful cheered and saluted Gross for his contributions in this contest. Gross tipped his cap to the crowd and you could see that smile was a mile long on his face. In this contest Gross went 2-4, with 1 run scored, but set up several Rays runs by advancing the runners in the game.

 

Akinora Iwamura

Here is another guy who just goes about his job with a smile. Aki at one point last night caught a hard liner to second by Jason Kubel for an out and then doubled up Justin Moreneau on the play. All you saw on the video screen was a sheepish grin on Aki’s face as he threw the ball around the infield. In the game, Aki took the second pitch by Twin’s starter, Nick Blackburn and put it into the gap in left centerfield and sprinted around the bases to get his 8th triple of the year.

 Aki ended up scoring on Jason Bartlett’s grounder to short to put the Rays up 1-0.  For the day, Aki was offically 1-2, but his 2 walks in the contest helped him score 4 runs in the game. In the 2nd inning, the Twins intentionally walked him to get to former  Twins’ teammate Bartlett.  Aki ended up scoing in the inning on Evan Longoria’s sacrifice fly to left. 

 Aki again walked in the 4th and was on base for Pena’s “alleged” blast to right. While the umpires decided the fate of Pen’as ball, Aki was already sitting in the dugout after scoring on the play. In the 6th inning, Aki was safe at first on the first of 2 errors that inning by Twin’s second baseman Alexi Casilla.

 

Entire Team

On the night, the Rays scored 3 runs in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th inning. They also got 2 runs in the 6th inning to finish the scoring for the night. In the contest, every Rays starter but Dioner Navarro got a hit in the game. But we cane give a mulligan to Navarro since he caught and called that great game by Jackson.

People comment that this team is not a team of superstars. I think that is the reason this team is the way it is this season. There are no huge egos or prima donna complexes on the staff. If someone does develop a complex, the leadership of Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena, along with Troy Percival would squash that problem like a bug. This team is a team that depends on every player to work and sweat for 9 innings. And with that aggression comes a price of securing their first post season berth in th club history.

 

 

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