The Rays are on the everge on something truly “magical” this afternoon. After 890 games in the dome, after countless sodas and buckets of ribs digested this team will see and feel something no other Tampa Bay Rays team has encountered…………..A Sellout that did not involve a top attendance team. By the time I get this posted today, the Rays would have sold out the remaining 5,000 tickets for today’s contest on Fox.
That’s right, for the 12th time this season the little Rays that could will be featured on the Big show of Shows on Saturday. Not only are the Rays going for their first step into their destiny, but they will be sitting pretty from this moment on in the playoff picture. But the final step is being taken today to insure that the Rays can, and will sell out those first 3 dates for the American League Divisional Series come next week.
Do not forget to register on www.raysbaseball.com by tomorrow night to get your chance to buy individual tickets to the postseason. You could find tickets on Stubhub next week, but why pay the extra charges and hassle of waiting for your postman like a dog with rabies. Oh, and the Rays have a chance to put their magical number to make the playoffs away until next year.
Did I forget to mention that after this game, the enitre Tampa Bay area will say they were at this game. That the stadium will hold not 36,000 plus, but 3 million today. I remember when the Lightning won their first Stanley Cup. I had a few dozen friends say they were at the final game, until I asked about the ticket stub. Then somehow it got wet, they dropped it, or they did not think it was important to keep.
Seriously folks, you want people to believe you were there, get a small picture frame tomorrow and put it in there. It might be odd for a visitor to your home to see a ticket in a frame sitting on your bookcase, but it will be your proof of “being there”.
I will be there as usual basking in the glow of the moment, chatting with the Bullpen guys, and truly letting the bad energy finally flow from my body. That is right, after watching 10 years of Rays team try and hit this mark, this team will be the squad that walks through the curtain into endless posibilities. I can think of no better crew to give this kind of gift to, they are one of the best skilled and most team oriented squad we have ever put on the turf. And you know they will celebrate it as a team, and wait to celebrate it as individuals at home, or with friends tonight.
I will find my usual little hideaway to have a few bubbly beverages and celebrate this day of recognition in Tampa Bay. The Rays will have finally gone through the threshold of wannabe’s, to playoff contenders. It has taken a long time, and there have been a few headaches and misery in the past 10 years. But all that will flow away in the next few hours as the sounds and the energy in that building will trasnport all of us to a magical place.
Winning is a contagious. So if you have not gotten your ticket yet for today, you might just have to get a TV fix, bacuase Sunday’s game is an official sell out. Either way, the Rays will be able to celebrate on National television on either day, but it would be great to have it happen today when the area will have so much extra time to celebrate this event. Of course you can celebrate on Sunday too, but with the NFL now going full bore, I do not want your attention diverted by guys hitting each other and odd shaped balls flying through the air.
Saturday is the perfect day to finally have a celebration perfect for the Rays. It is also the day that the faithful Season Ticketholders can relax, think about the future, and finally see that the future is now.
With the Boston Red Sox idle last night with a odd day off before they start their 3 game set against the Toronto Blue Jays, it was a shame we lost 1/2 game to them as they say in a sports bar eating their dinners. This is the type of game that will have you pulling the hair out of your head in the next 10 days. It was a game that we usually win, but let slip away last night. Not that I am blaming anyone, it is just that karma has been kind to use this year in games like this. Hopefully we have not used up our quota for the year.
Be sure to register on www.raysbaseball.com for the Rays post season lottery for single game tickets for the post season. The team will be ataking names and emails until Sunday to be considered for the lottery for playoff tickets. I know I registered for the lottery because I could not bankroll my playoff tickets fast enough through my season ticketholder account. I will be there by hook or by crook we all know that. I will not miss a playoff game after hitting the Trop for 81 games for 11 years and not see the first and last pitch of our first post season game.
Winners of the lottery will be contacted by phone and by email probaby before the tickets are offically announced as early as next Tuesday. With the Rays within 3 games of securing the post season Wild Card as a alternative to winning their division, the Rays might get the lead out and post ticket prices and requests to insure a sellout for the first game.
Rays Magical Number 3
With a little help tonight, the Rays could win a playoff berth tonight with a loss by the Blue Jays, White Sox and Yankees coupled with a Rays win over the Twins.
Usually when you hit 3 home runs in a ballgame you can almost count on winning that contest. Not since July 5th, 2003 when Jonny Gomes hit 3 against the Kansas City Royals has a Rays player popped 3 out in a single game. Evan must have been saving up all that energy while he was on the DL just for tonight. All three blasts were into leftfield and were beyond the 15th row back.
For the game, Longoria was 3-5, with 3 runs scored and 4 RBI’s on the night. Longoria’s hitting also has his average, now at .288 slowly heading up toward the .300 mark. Longoria, now with 25 homers, leads the major leagues in homers for a rookie. Longoria is also first for rookies in exta base hits (55), and took over the RBI lead with his 78th RBI last night.
Wheeler has been Mr. Consistency for the Rays this season. That is why last night’s debacle is so out of character for the reliever, He is the leading Rays in appearances this season, going to the mound 66 times for the Rays. Coming into this outing, opponents were hitting .175 against him, which was good for 8th in the league. And his 26 holds are just 3 shy of the league lead right now.
But in the 9th inning last night, with the Rays 8-6, Wheeler had his worst night of the season. Wheeler threw only 15 pitches in the inning, but gave up 3-hits and 4-runs in 0.0 innings of work. Denard Span started the bleeding by reaching on a infield single to Jason Bartlett. Then Alexi Casilla homered on the first pitch he saw to tie the game for the Twins.
Joe Mauer then hit a long fly ball into deep centerfield that was misplayed by Fernando Perez and led to a double. That put the Twins winning run in scoring position with no outs in the inning. The Rays then intentionally walked Justin Morneau to pitch to Adam Everett. He then hit the 4th ball he saw to the deep left centerfield gap to score Mauer and move Morneau to third with still no outs in the game.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon then brought on Chad Bradford to pitch to Delmon Young and Young hit a single to right to score Morneau and put the Twins up 10-8. Matt Tolbert then hit a sacrifice fly to left to bring in everett and score the last Twins run of the game.
Rays starter James Shields was making his first attempt at trying to tie the Rays pitching record with his 14 win this season. Shileds was not sharp early in the contest, but pitched effectively over his 6.1 innings of work. Shields gave up 6-runs on 8-hits and tossed 90 pitches in the contest. He left the game with the Rays in front 8-6 and was in line for the win tonight.
Shields was starting his 31st game of the season, which matched his career high set last season. Shields had also become the only Rays pitcher to pass the 200 plus inning mark twice in his career. He held the AL mark for home ERA coming into the game at 2.34, and has one 7 of his 9 home starts this year.
Not to outshadowed by Longoria, Pena hit his 30th homer of the season last night in the 4th inning off Phillip Humber. His 30th homer puts Pena in 10th place this season in the AL. Pena now has 92 RBI’s, which puts him in 29th place in the AL. Considering the amount of time Pena missed due to his injury this season, it is remarkable to be in this top tier in the AL.
Since the All-Star break, Pena is hitting .260, with 16 home runs and 45 RBI’s. He is also posting a .563 slugging percentage for the Rays. He also has 24 walks in the last 20 games. His 30 home runs leads all first baseman in the American League. This season, Pena has also fanned a career high 153 times, 2nd in the AL.
Dioner Navarro also picked up an RBI last night with his homer to left to score Rocco Baldelli and put the Rays up 4-3. It was the second night in a row that the Rays had back-to-back homers in a game. Longoria hit his first of three homers right before Navarro. It was Navarro’s 7th homer of the year.
Navarro’s .290 average is second only to the Twins Joe Mauer among AL catchers this season. Navarro also gunned down Delmon Young in the 9th inning putting the ball right on the glove for Bartlett to tag out Young at second base. Navarro is currently ranked 3rd in the majors with a 34.4 percent caught stealing rate.
Gabe Gross also got an RBI last night on a single to left center in the 1st inning, scoring Ben Zobrist on the play. His hit chased Twins starter Glen Perkins from the game. Gross is now hitting .315 over his last 23 games, and he hit .293 for the month of August for the Rays.
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.
Everyone has seemed to come out of the woodwork and quaetioned this photo but the people wqho were right there. I can honestly say I was a pretty good distance away on the rightfield line, but I also talked to the security guard in the center of this picture after the event. The situation started with the guy being warned to calm down a few inning before the event. I have to admit, there was a weird vibe in the Trop. last night that sparked alot of wild happenings, even bewhind my seat area. But more about that later.
The security guard on the right of the picture normally stands at the west end of the dugout. The guy shown in the picture here is situated about middle of the dugout. So the security guy had to come over 3 sections to detain the guy. They fought and the guy went towards the dugout. A second guard got there and he seemed to calm a bit, but then began fighting them again. By that time the umpires stopped the game for a few seconds to be sure this guy was not going to jump off the dugout and onto the turf.
The St. Petersburg Police offciers pictured here then got to the scene and the guy did not let up again. He became more violent and was thrashing around on the edge of the dugout. The officer with the taser out took it out as a last resort to calm the man down. It was never discharged, and it was never in a unlocked position. It was being used as an intimidation tool on the guy.
Several people feel this is unjust force. If the guy runs on the field you have a entire different bag of worms on your hands. I think the officer did the right thing to calm the situation. It was a non-life threatnening situation, and that is what the taser system was designed for, to quell bad situation without bodily harm. The guy finally calmed down to a point where he could be dragged hog-tied sytle to the paddy wagon outsdie the stadium. I just want to know, was it just the beer, or was there another stimulant in the guy’s body, because I want to stay away from that guy’s beer vendor.
You also have to take into consideration the amount of people on the field at that moment, and if theymight be in the guy’s path if you let him wander or jump onto the field of play. It doesn’t matter if he is a Red Sox or Rays fan, that is the type of behavior by fans that will only cement people’s judgements of the Southern lifestyle and of the stadium in general. Considering there might have been 20 small situations in the stadium that night, only one going violent is pretty good odds.
I know of one police officier last night wqho responded to a small fight in the upper 146-148 area last night that told me he got bit in the leg by the guy as they were carting him away from the stadium. I guess the facts that you are ejected from the stadium and issued a tresspassing warrant to not enter these facilities again is not a deterrent to actions like this.
But to put on top of that the actions of running on the field and being arrested, and charged not by the city of St. Petersburg, but by major league baseball doesn’t hit your mind in that condition. Tack on the added bit of jasil time before seeing a judge, and the nice fine around and above $ 1,500 dollars, it doesn’t seem like a wise decision in any sense of the word. But the guy who instigate and prolong these fights are not looking for friends either. This was not the first bad situation in the Trop., and we know it will not be the last. But Boston media are eating this up without even getting into the true facts of the matter.
He was a local Florida guy, not a fan from Boston being carted away. He was warned several times by security to stop and enjoy the game, but decided against it. He did not leave on his own accord, but decided to take a few people with him. Now he is sitting in a detainment facility in the Pinellas County Jail thinking about what he got himself into here. He will be short some cash here soon, and hopefully have a ferw community service hours to think about his actions.
Now, my little slice of heaven came from a guy who was born in Winter Haven, Florida and was a damate believer of the Red Sox credo. That 3 beers makes you more intelligent to speak about anything. This guy began by befreinding a woman behind me, then started to just get stupid with his mouth from that moment on. Her husband did not take kindly to the actions and decided he had seen enough.
Well, the husband went out of bounds by touching the Boston fan and then trying to get him to hit the guy. He was pawing at the guy trying to bait him into a fight. The security crew came over to me and asked what I say. I let them know that even though Mr Boston was the mouth in the situation, the husband was physical on the guy and head to go. Mr Bosot nwas all apologetic at that moment knowing it was up to me if he stayed or was carted off. Since he did not get into anything really foul mouthed and was just being a fly that bothers you, I let the situation slide……….never again will I make that mistake.
He settled down a bit until the 6th inning when a fly ball came into our area. I was about to catch the fly, but decided to let it go, knowing Mr Bosotn was right behind my glove. I pulled my glove back and it hit him in the upper forearm and he started mouthing off like a drunken sailor on leave in Manila. He was all cocky about how the ball found him in a sea of Rays fans, and was trying to justify why he could not even catch a foul ball.
I just sat back and counted the minutes until the end of the game. Seriously, this guy then had the nerve to start cutting down the Rays as minor league and how can they play in this small sandbox of a stadium. He even had the nerve to say our young 5 starting pitchers could not even play for the Red Sox. I beg to differ, Francona would take at least 4 of these guys without a reservation in the world.
I tried to last the game, but in the 9th inning he started his rant that the Red Sox eat 6 runs like a chilidog. Well, they were down 8-3 at the time, so chilli-up I told him. As we all know by the boxscore, 4 batters up, 4 batter down for the victory.
As he was getting up to leave I shook the hands of his two friends, but when he threw his hand out to me I told him to just leave. He got all cocky again and threw his entire beer into my computer bag. Thank goodness I did not bring my laptop tonight. I just had a few balls and my glove in there tonight. But, at that moment he saw I was about to play the civil war on my face and scamped up the section landing for the exits.
I do not condone any of his behavior or the guy in the dugout area. This is a fun game that should be enjoyed. I am not saying do not drink a beer and enjoy the game in your own way, but be respectful and be a true fan. I almost became why I dislike about certain fans, but it did not resort to that thank goodness. It is a great idea it never got to that, because I have a whole season of that kind of behavior sealed up in me this year. I might have to go hit a few hundred tennis balls tomorrow with a picture of his face on it. Constructive anger is a good thing.
Where is the love ESPN? You have Josh Beckett as one of your 3 top performers from last night on the top of the boxscore page, but no Andy Sonnastine love in the house. You have got to be kidding me here guys. This kid as been “money” as Vince Vaugh stated in the movie “Swingers.” He has done everything asked of him this year by the Rays, and have shut the Boston Red Sox machine twice in his last 2 starts.
That is right, Sonnanstine has been a thorn in the side of the Red Sox for twice this week. He has his first start of the year against Bosotn last Wed. night, also against Beckett where he allowed 1 Unearned run in the game. Sonnastine only surrendered 4 baserunners in 7 innings of work. Beckett and Andy both left the game tied 1-1.
7 innings after he left the mound, the Rays finally ended this 5 plus hour marathon on a Carlos Pena blast over the beloved Green Monster to seal their first winning series in Boston this year. And he gets no love from ESPN, the leader in sports. So that proves that there is still comedy on ESPN.
Today is the Day that all MLB teams can release their 2009 schedules to the public. I am not sure if the Rays will wait until maybe Thursday during their Fandemodium celebration, or just let it leak out through the channels of the media. But let’s hope we see some Mets, or maybe a few Braves games on the 2009 game list.
I was questioned by a Boston fan last night as to why all of a sudden we are the cowbell capital of the world. Well, I told him in no uncertain terms that it was a device brought to the Trop. to drown out and be a vocal/ musical harrassment to their chants and noise. I also made sure he knew that the Red Sox were not the only group to feel the cowbell wrath. That the team from the Bronx also got a few doses of it every night in the Trop., and that it is a habit and well beloved symbol of the new regime in the A L East. If you to blame anyone for the cowbells, blame Christopher Walken, if not for that glorious Saturday Night Live skit, we might be still sitting on our collective hands.
Rays Magic Number : 12
This is the combination of Rays win and Boston losses needed to secure our first AL East pennant.
Our Rays catching corps would not be the same with Dioner Navarro. He has improved by leaps and bounds both at and behind the plate for the Rays this season. His All-Star nod was a great example of the AL acceptance of this great players as a future and current star of the game.
But his throw last night to get the Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury was a thing of beauty. The ball was thrown right to the foot of Ellbury, and Akinora Iwamura only had to put it in his glove to secure the tag. Perfect throw at the perfect moment to stop a Red Sox threat in the 8th inning. Navarro has thrown out 33.3 percent of the baserunners this year, to rank 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors this season. Of the MLB catcher, who have caught at least 100 games,only Kelly Shoppach ( 35) of the Cleveland Indians has less stolen bases against him than Navarro (42) this year.
Not to be outdone was his walk-off single with the bases loaded into deep centerfield with the outfield shallow to prevent the runner on third from scoring on a fly out. Navarro hit the ball so hard it took a one-hop bounce over the centerfield wall. All Coco Crisp could do was watch the ball fly high over his head and put his head down in disgust after the play.
It was classic Rays walk-off material in that Navarro has been one of the unsung heroes at the plate this season for the Rays. After the team celebrated with Navarro at second base, he quickly found Rays Hitting Coach Steve “Hendo” Henderson and planted a huge hug on the guy responsible for his new offensive numbers. Henderson worked dilligently with Navarro during the second half of last season to improve his stroke and compact his swing a bit for the Rays. On a night like tonight, it played huge dividends for the team.
A classic shaving cream pie was delivered by B J Upton during Navarro’s on-scene interview with Rich Herrera after the game. Upton caught Navvaro totally unaware of his sneaking up and planting a huge shaving cream pie on him during the interview.
You can’t harp on a team not hitting in a pitchers’ duel. You have to accept that the team is taking their hacks and trying to get on base as mush as possible to win the ballgame. But you got to admit, that both theses pitchers were on their game last night. Beckett held the Rays to 3 total hits, and posted 7 strikeouts on the night.
The top of the Rays order, of Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena got needed hits in the ballgame. Cliff Floyd and Dioner Navarro rounded out the other Rays who got on base with hits against Beckett. But then again, we left 6 guys on base in this contest. Just one little tweaker up the middle, or a long hopper into the gaps and this game would have been settled aerlier in the game.
Andy was making his 5th attempt at trying to win number 14 tonight. He has been in a state of suspended animation for about two weeks trying to get that elusive win under his belt. Considering that James Shields is also at 13, he might be the first to hit that plateau this season for the Rays. But you got to admit, just based on his last 2 starts, Sonnanstine deserves that first 14 win placement. This is the guy that in the beginning of the season so many people were wondering if he could make it in the majors, or if he was ready for the big show.
I think the questions have been answered now, and should not come up again for a long time. Last night’s start was also the 30th of the season for Sonnanstine. His 13 wins are second only to Tuesday nights starter Diasuke Matasuzaka for second year pitchers. His current .650 winning percentage is the best in the Rays history with a minimum of 15 decisions. The Rays have gond 13-6 in his last 19 starts. And he is now 4-1 this season against the American League East teams.
Our Small Group of Fans
I am going to address this to the very small segment of our fans who are becoming the one thing we despise about the Boston and New York rowdies. They are constantly badgering and egging on the opposing fans to produce behavior that is more fitting to a dark, seedy bar than in a baseball stadium. I am a bit upset with the bogus taunts and swearing between the masses of fans at the game recently.
I am of the school that you, “act like you have been there before.” In that, I am speaking that you act with class and keep the BS to a minimum concering the fighting and hassles within the stands. I know that their fans can be as obnoxious as a can of limburger cheese, but we do not have to rise, or fall to that level to be a winning team. Let our team do the damage on the field, and not to each other in the stands.
I am the first person to rise up in a incident, and I also do not back down to anyone, but you have to pick your battles. And if it is to take some swipes at a Red Sox or Yankees fan and miss the game………you are on your own. Fighting only get two thing done………you ejected from the stadium for good, and give them a sense that they won by getting you out of your element. So be smart and enjoy the game, the entire game and let the teams on the field do the battling.
You got to admit that it looked great watching Ellsbury look up at the ball as it landed only a row beyond the fence last night in the game. The people in Section 143 were going bonkers, and the fans were on their feet for the blast. The opposite field shot by Pena was his 29th homer of the season and gave the Rays a tie with the Red Sox 1-1. No one was more happy than Pena as he slapped his hands together as he ran between first and second to silence the Boston fans in the stands.
This was Pena’s second balst against the Red Sox in 7 days, and that one also put the Red Sox in line for the loss. Pena is also doing it on the bases with his 22 walks over the last 18 games, and he is currently 5th in the Al with 85 for the year. He also has leads the majors this year with 7 bases-loaded walks. His 29 homers as a first baseman is the best in the AL this season.
Tonight is the last game between these two giants during the regular season. This contest will decide where the two teams stand before embarking on their last 11 days of the 2008 season. The Rays will send hard-throwing Matt Garza to the hill. Garza will be seeking his 13 win on 3 days rest and is a rematch against Red Sox Tim Wakefield. Both pitchers started the contest on July 1,but Garza got the decision on a 3-1 Rays win.
Against Boston in his career, Garza is 3-1, with a 3.54 ERA in 5 starts. For 2008, Garza is 1-1, with a 4.15 ERA. In his only loss of the season against Boston this year, Garza pitched 5.1 innings of 7-run, 6-hit ball and yielded homers to J D Drew and Mike Lowell.
I have always loved to write about sports. When I was a lot younger, I idolized the guys like Tom McEwen and Bob Chick of the Tampa Tribune. I wanted to be able to ask that tough question right after a bad loss, or be there for the celebration of a magnificent win. I did get to do both of those, but I was on the other side of the pen and paper. This is the time that the hard questions have to be asked. That the players’, coaches’ and team officials have to be honest with themselves before the press gets into the locker room.
They all have to ask themselves the worst questions in the world right now. “Are we ready for all this?”, “Was this a stumble, or a prelude to a fall?” All these questions and more will dig into your psyche and erode a level of your confidence. But, they have to be asked to cleanse yourself of a game like this. When you have a game that put doubts in people’s minds you have to re-evaluate yourself a bit here.
It is nothing personal. It is not a frontal or rear attack on your character, but people are curious about the smallest cracks in the armor. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is very mystical when he chats sometimes with the media. His “Joe-isms” have become buzzwords in the league this year. I was not there for the post-game press conference, but I can imagine that last night, Maddon simply said that the Rays will play another day, and that this game is behind them and they will regroup for the next one. They will play another day for the next 13 days, but what happens tomorrow could effect what is on the table after September 28th.
I am going to get this out of the way fast and furious today. I know of no other guy in that locker room who has called out teammates, and said comments that were meant to pull his team up, or question heart and hustle on this team than Kazmir. He is the first player to even say the “P” word, and this was during Spring Training.
For the Rays to get to the playoffs, it will need a confident Kazmir. It will need the guy who has been balls to the wall for the last 3 years. Who has carried this team on his pitching arm for so long. It will need the youngest of the teams 5 starting warriors to again mount up and battle to the death. We are too close to the prize now to become an afterthought. And if you believe it or not, Kazmir is the key to that journey.
Jaso gets First Hit
It was a great sight to sit there in the Trop. last night and see John Jaso come up to bat. Here is the guy everyone was thinking could replace Dioner Navarro as the Rays catcher in the near future. Jaso came on to pinch hit in that wild 7th inning and got a nice grounder to right-center for his first major league hit.
The Red Sox almost put the ball back into the pitchers hands before First Base Coach George Hendricks asked for the ball. You will want to keep that one John. Jaso then went behind the plate to finally get his feet wet at this level as a catcher. He should get used to this staff, because he will be catching them more next year as Navarro’s back-up. And, in the great at bat in the 7th, he also got to cross home plate for the first time on Justin Ruggiano’s homer to right for his first run scored in the majors.
Scott Kazmir is the youngest member of our starting rotation, but he is also the Rays all time leader in Strikeouts, ERA, Innings Pitched, and Quality Starts( 61). Now Kazmir might be the all-time leader in quality starts, but last night will be the top entry in his bottom 5 all time games. I have always watched the Bullpen warm-ups of our starters for years from my seat in 138, and I have noticed a subtle change to Kazmir’s warm-ups the last few starts.
Scott used to be a big “long toss” guy. that is where you start about 30 feet from each other tossing soft to loosen the muscles and proceed outward at intervals before coming back in the same way and then throwing off the mound. Scott used to get to a maximum of about 250 feet away from the catcher and wing a few balls to deep stretch out his muscles. I have only seen him go maybe 100 feet,125 tops in the last few starts at home. Could this small change in his pre-game routine not have him loose enough by the time he hits the pitching rubber?
I will try and get with him on the side soon and see if this is just a change in routine because of the time of the year and he has a bit of arm fatigue that hits every pitcher sometime during the season. Whatever it is, it sure came at the wrong time for the Rays.
Scott had his worst outing of the year and threw 72 pitches in those 3 innings of work last night. And for Kazmir to give up 9-hits and 6 runs in that span is something he has never done while he has been with the Rays. Time that with his previous worst start giving up a few homers was a 3 homers against start against the Baltimore Orioles on April 6,2006. Last Night Kazmir gave up 4 in just those 72 pitches.
Something that also came to light was the fact that he did not hit his spots in his first 9 pitches to the plate. That set up another sub-par Kazmir event of walking the first two batters of the night. Kazmir did not hit his worst walk totals last night, but the 4 he did give up were not spaced out enough to give him any comfort room for error in the game.
Aki to the Rescue
Akinora Iwamura made this crowd cheer last night. With the Rays already down 4-0, Aki hit a nice blast into the left off of Daisuke Masuzaka that breathed a bit of life into the Trops crowd. It was only Aki’s 6th homer of the year, but it was an important blast at a moment that the Rays faithful had their heads down a bit. 4of his 6 homers have come against Boston this season.
Justin Ruggiano’s 2nd homer of the year in the 6th inning against Red Sox reliever Chris Smith. His 2-run blast put the score at 13-3 and looked like the Rays were going to try a bit of a rally in the inning. But after his blast, Hinske and Gomes went down in order for the Rays. Dan Johnson wishes we still had 16 games against the Red Sox. In his two games against Boston, Johnson has hit 2 homers out, and seems very comfortable at the plate for the Rays.
Talbot Gets Rude Debut
Poor Mitch Talbot. He got to see another team earlier in the week celebrate on his home stadium’s turf, and tonight the Boston Red Sox ruined his major league debut by pounding the ball all over the Trop. on him. Talbot came in to relieve Kazmir in the 4th inning, with no outs, and gave up run scoring plays to Dustin Perdroia and David Ortiz and a homer to Kevin Youkilis before settling down and getting the next two batters out to end the inning.
He had a better 5th inning until Jacoby Ellsbury hit a homer to right for the only score of the inning. Talbot was in control of the Red Sox until the Youkilis came up again in the 6th inning and doubled home Chris Carter to tack on the 13th and final run of the night.
Oh how Andrew Friedman must be pacing and thinking “what ifs” about Jason Bay right now. Bay was the Pittsburgh outfielder the Rays coveted in the Trade Deadline before the Red Sox swooped in and grabbed him right before the clock struck 12. You got to even wonder yourself, what if?
As you remember, he is the guy who beat the Rays with a extra inning homer in the Pittsburgh/Rays series in Riverfront. He is the guy who homered on September 9th off Dan Wheeler in the 8th inning to bring Boston back in that game. And he is the guy who set into motion Edwin Jacksons bad 1st inning in the first game of that last Boston Series on Sept. 8th by hitting a 2-run homer to put the Red Sox up 3-0 in that game.
This is the guy that many Rays fan envisioned playing our Right Field for a few years with the determination and spunk needed to be a Rays. Instead, we get to watch this guy who is now 5-11 in his last 3 games, and as hit safely in 30 out of 40 games since being acquired from the Pirates. It is beginning to look like Bay is the true “one that got away” from the Rays.
I was chatting with a friend today online and he stated that the Rays might be folding like a cheap deck of cards right now becuase of the young pitching staff and a failure to drive in our guys in scoring position. Both points have a huge amount of merit there. The Rays hit a combined .124 with runners in scoring position in this recent roadtrip. And the young starters did falter in a few areas during their games. But with the also apparent upside of this team still having the best home record in baseball, and the fact that the players trive in fron tof over 25,000 fans, you know the next 7 games will be the total accumylation of this season for the team.
I hate to bunch the next seven as the “biggest, most important home stand in the team history.” We already know that is the fatcs, and the reality is that if the fan base doesn’t come out and stack themselves to the rafters, it sets a huge set of cards into motion. If the owners finally put up a competitive team and people did not come out, who is to blame? Larry Rothchild? If the Rays make the playoffs, major league baseball takes over the daily stadium operations. And you know the Trop will be sold out even if they have to find a busload of people to sit in those high seats in the 300 areas.
This last week is the week that the bay area needs to show its support or its want for baseball in this area. It is about civic pride right now more than anything. For about a month or so, the talking heads of the broadcast monopoly have stressed that the Rays are still not drawing fans to the stadium. But I also see a bulk of that footage showing people wearing green and white Rays gear. So maybe they are showing vintage 2007 footage, but then again, some night it is still a graveyard at the Trop.
But, in the last two home series we have also had a few teams in that do not bode well for traveling fan bases. Toronto is not a hot bed of traveling fans to their away games. And the New York fans have stayed home to relax in their lazyboys and watch the game on TV rather than fight the increasing Rays fanbase hassle. No longer is this the Fenway-South, or Little Bronx. It is Tropicana Field, where the Rays play and other come to lose.
Everyone knows that I am a huge Jackson fan. And that I am a true believer in his increasing education as a pitcher for the Rays. So it is a big thing when I come out and stress the importance of a win in his next start or give the start to another pitcher. The time is too severe for us to use this opportunity to hope for victory, but know it is within our grasp.
With that in mind, it is disheartening to see that he only lasted 53 pitches and 2 innings today against the Yankees. I could see in the beginning that home plate umpire Gerry Davis was squeezing his strikezone to tight it was screaming out in horror. But Jackson did to respond in the right manner. He did not adjust quick enough to set the ball in the right direction, instead he left a few pitches over the plate and his day was drastically changed from that point on.
Edwin did give up two monster homers that not only cost the Rays a chance at the win, but might have put doubt into his next start for the Rays. With David Price and Mitch Talbot, and Jeff Niemann sitting on the bench, do you use your Triple-A studs to get you that win, or rely on Edwin to rebound and put together a few innings before leaving. Jackson has gone 0-3 in his last 3 starts. He has also even his record at 11-11 for the season.
The decision is in hand by the Rays manger, Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach, Jim Hickey. I know they still have a load of respect and admiration for the work he has done to improve this year. But do you pull the plug when you have so much riding on the next 14 days?
I want to take a moment to thank Jerry Crasnick for his awesome article on the Rays. It was a great read, and if you are a true Rays fan, you need to red this article. I am glad people at ESPN like yourself and Peter Gammons are coming out to the Rays defense. I remember a few years ago when Peter was here for the FanFest and he was glowing about the future of this franchsie. He has since been a closet supporter of the good going on here, but has never doubted the Rays this year. Hopefully you can talk some sense into those mutton-heads on Baseball Tonight to see this for what it is………..great baseball played by a team of confident young players wanting to wi every night.
How can you measure how much this Ivy league educated guy has been on the bases and at the plate for the Rays this September. Perez came to the plate in the 2nd inning and slammed his first major league homer run to the rightfield stands and put the Rays back into this game 4-3 at the moment. Considering this guy has been tooling around learning to hit more as a leftie this year at Triple-A is amazing. Considering that he is doing everything possible for this team to take a deeper and more intense look at him next spring is the basis of what the future Rays will be…………hustle, speed andetermination.
There was an episode in the 2nd inning, right before Perez’s shot that might have made that game more intense and stressful for everyone had Cliff Floyd not gone over and quelled the anger right away. He did what Shelly Duncan did not do, he went over and got with Robinson Cano after accidently smacking him in the side of the head on his slide attempt on Sunday. He made sure that Cano knew it was an accidental move and not a premeditated thing that could have festered into an on-field altercation. But then again, that is the class that Floyd shows every night on the diamond.
Has there been another pitcher in the last few years for the Rays that has gotten the kind of press and accolades that David Price has gotten for the Rays. Price was selected at the Minor League Player of the Year last week and is celebrating it a the major league level with the Rays. Price got to the stadium on Saturday and did not know in what measures the Rays would use him this month.
But since Jackson could not complete his game on Sunday, Price was put into the game as a long reliever to try and hold the Yankees offense to a minimum so the Rays could mount a comeback. Price came in an immediately got the Yankees attention by sending down the batter in order in the 3rd and 4th innings. For his 5.3 inning, Price recorded 4 strikeouts.
But Price is also going to be a footnote in the career bio for Derek Jeter. Price put a slow slider off the plate that Jeter hit into the rightfield bleachers for his 12,69th hit in Yankee Stadium. That hit put him into a tie with the Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig for the Yankee All-Time hit Lead at the stadium. After that little hiccup, he put the Yankees down in order in the inning.
Again the issue of getting hits with runners in scoring position came out to bite the Rays today. In the 6th inning, Perez came up for the thrid time in the game with at least 2 men on base. He did walk in that inning,but Jasob Bartlett following him hit a strong dipping liner that was caught for the 3rd out of the inning. The Rays left 10 men on base in the game, and 5 times left men in scoring position with 2 outs.
After the 6th inning in todays’ game, the Rays only mounted one serious attack on the Yankees to try and win this contest. In the 7th inning, Willy aybar hit a single with 2 outs to try and put pressure on the Yankees’ bullpen. But he was left stranded on first after a long ball hit by Dioner Navarro to centerfield for the last out. In the 8th inning, the Rays went down in order, with the last two outs being long fly balls into centerfield.
In the 9th inning, Akinora Iwamura started the inning by walking on 7 pitches, before Jason Bartlett hit a fly out to right and Carlos Pena struck out for the third time today. With 2 outs, Evan Longoria hit a single up the middle and gave the Rays a chance in the inning. But Aybar struck out to end the game and the Rays chances to come back home more than a single game up over the Boston Red Sox.
Cliff Floyd,Part Deux
Cliff Floyd had a great day at the plate for the Rays. Floyd went 2-3, with 2 doubles to set the pace for the Rays. Floyd has been leading by example on this roadtrip and has begun to set the bar high for his fellow Rays batters. Considering Floyd has been in these September pennant fever runs before can only be benefical to the Rayd down the stretch. All the young Rays have to do is listen and learn from Big Cliff and the team will come out fine in the long run.
I have to make a comment here. What was Carlos Pena thinking when he went over for a pop-up in front of the mound and smack the ball out of Longoria’s glove for a sure out. I have to give kudos to David Price for getting away from the situation and letting his infielders’ have a crack at it, but Longoria clearly had the rights and the ball before it was dislodged out of his mitt by his collision with Pena.
The third baseman should have the right to catch a ball hit to his side of the mound. But some peole say that Price needs to play traffic cop and tell someone to take the ball. either way, it was an embarrassing play ans one that went for a double for Cody Ransom. Pena was given an eror on the play, only his 2nd error of the year
This entire year the Tampa Bay Rays have been thought of as a small fish in a big pond. Well, with less than 14 days until the end of the season, it seems the food chain has been reversed this season in the A L East. The Rays were considered at one time a marine animal that coasted and glided in the shallows and deeps of the gulf of Mexico just off our beautiful beaches.
But the renewed logo is trying to push the swimming rays to the wayside and come upon a new meaning to the word “Rays”. Be it the “Rays of Light”, or maybe the “Rays of Hope”, Tampa Bay has seen a multitude of Rays references for most of their games. How could this team that had never won more than 71 games a season be flirting with 90 wins in their 11th season in the league. And how dare those Rays push the $ 200 million dollar souls of baseball long gone to the wayside come playoff time.
You know there has to be a few dozen Fox Television executives anxious with the fact that the Rays might make it past the first round of the playoffs. And if they do make it past that round, would a Brewers versus Rays match up just make the suicidal. But let’s not get to far ahead of ourselves. We have a huge week ahead of ourselves here at home at the Trop. We have the mighty Boston Red Sox, defending Worlds Series Champs looking up at us from below, but not far from the surface. This series will be a huge playoff decider for either team. The Rays could come out with another sweep and put themselves up 4 games when the Red Sox leave town. Or, the Red Sox could win a game or two and make it still a closer race with a game or less margin for error by either team going into their last 11 days of the season.
We have the upstarts of the wild card, the Minnesota Twins coming in for 4 games near the end of the week to stage either a playoff dance for the Rays, or a sense of urgency for both teams if they split that series. Of course during that Twins weekend we have the Troy Percival figurine night, which come complete with a steel back to promote better stability, and sturdy internal construction to keep the hamstrings and back fully straightened throughout the weekend.
But seriously folks, I for one thought we might see this kind of upward mobility by the team in 2009, when the high draft pick pitchers had a year or two at the Triple-A level. Now am I upset that Evan Longoria did not start up here instead of come back a mere 11 games later……..Of course it was an issue. Am I upset that David Price did not get to hold that MLB ball before Sunday? Actually I was not upset about this one at all. He had a chance to feel the championship atmosphere and attitude down in Durham last week. He will know the expectations and the committment needed to secure that covoted prize and yearn to have one for himself and his team. He got to watch as another team another team celebrate a title on his Durham Bulls home turf, and hopefully it lit a fire in him to not see that again this season up in St. Petersburg, Florida.
We have a unique opportunity to shock the world by getting into the party, much less crash the prom. This team has been one with the motto, “We are One Team,” from the ticket sales, to marketing to commercial that seemed a bit corny in April, but now seem like a fortune teller knew something us fans could not even fathom after Spring Training. Life is special here right now. This is the last local franchise that has not won a league championship.
The Buccaneers got their Lombardi in San Diego, California after years of struggling like the Rays. They fought for respect with a number of coaches before 1 guy stood above the crowd and you believed he was the man to lead them to the promised land. The Tampa Bay Lightning began their career in Tropicana Field, back then called the Thunderdome, eons ago, and even set the old NHL Playoff attendance record in the building. There were a huge crowd of shivering Florida hockey fans loving the fact we could watch a hockey game when it was 90 degrees outside. The Lightning moved to their new home in Tampa, and in a few years got to play a Calgary Flames team that had a dominating offense, but the Lightning was a team of destiny that year and brought the Stanley Cup to the sands of Tampa Bay.
Now it is time for the Rays to try and make it a threesome by gaining that experience and that motivation to secure our own piece of the World Series Trophy and have a ticker tape parade 1st Avenue South from the site of Al Lang Field/Progress Energy Park, the site of the Spring revival, to the sloped roofed Trop., the site of the best team in Florida. Such things have happened here in Florida before, we have had winners here before this season. And with the way this squad has been assembled, you will be hearing the name, Tampa Bay Rays for a long, long time in the major leagues.