September 2008

Boston versus Rays Pregame Statistics for Game 1

Rays Versus Boston………..Game 1 statistics

 
 
This is not to say that this Boston series will be the most important series thae Rays will play the rest of the season. But, this series can set the tone for the rest of the year, and for the next re-match at the Trop in 10 days time. This series have a huge amount of weight on the side of Boston and Fenway Park, but the Rays have won in a few hostile enviorments this year.
 
Coming into tonight’s game, the Red Sox have a chance to set a new MLB consecutive sell-out mark with their 456 sold out event since May 15th, 2003. They will pass the previous record held by the Cleveland Indians at 7:05 P.M. tonight. The overall major sports sellout record is still a distance off for the Red Sox. The Portland Trailblazers of the NBA sold out 744 straight games from 1977-1995.
 
To say that Rays starter Edwin Jackson will be pitching in the game of his life is a true understatement here. Jackson, who is  11-9 is pitching in one of the most important games of the Rays season tonight.  Right now the seasonal series is deadlocked at 6-6, with each team winning the homestand games coming into tonight’s contest. The Rays have not played the Red Sox since they swept them at the Trop from June 29th-July 2, 2008.
 
The Rays come into Fenway having lost their last 8 stright games since September 10th, 2007. On that night, Scott Kazmir defeated Curt Shilling 1-0 for the last Rays win in Fenway Park. The 8 game losing streak matched the Rays prevoius record at Fenway set from July 19, 2005 to April 19, 2006. The Rays have been outscored 45-16 in their 6 losses at Fenway this season. This is also the 30th series against Boston at Fenway, and the Rays have only won 2 series in that time period, both in 1999. The Rays are currently on a 25 series losing streak against the Red Sox at home (0-21-4).
 
 
             Jon Lester is currently 13-5, with a 3.35 ERA for the Red Sox. Against the Rays this season, he is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA. He has allowed only 2 earned runs in the last 12.1 innings against the Rays.  And in his carreer, Lester is 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA with 16 ER in 35 innings against Tampa Bay. He is undefeated in his last 6 starts against the Rays, and had won the last 2 straight starts against them. In his last 4 starts against Tampa Bay, Lester is 3-0 with a 4.64 ERA and 11 ER in 21.1 innings.
 
Akinora Iwamura has gone 3-14 against Lester with 1 homer this season.
B J Upton has gone 4-16 against him with 1 homer.
Carlos Pena is batting .333 against Lester with 2 homers and 2 strikeouts.
Cliff Floyd is 0-2 against him, with 2 strikeouts.
Willy Aybar is 2-3 against Lester, with 2 doubles and a run scored against him.
Eric Hinske is 0-3 against him this season.
Dioner Navarro is 1-3 with 1 strikeout against him this year.
Jason Bartlett is batting .400 against him this season, with 1 strikeout.
 
 
 
                  Edwin Jackson is currently 11-9, with a 4.07 ERA for the Rays. In his 3 starts against the Red Sox this season, Jackson is 0-2, with a 6.19 ERA. Red Sox opponents are hitting .308 against him this year. He is 0-3 lifetime at Fenway Park with a 8.18 ERA in 5 (4 starts) career appearances. The Last time faced the Red Sox was on June 4, 2008 in Fenway and lost a 5-1 decision to John Beckett.
 
But recently Jackson has been pitching better than he has his entire career for the Rays. His road 3.16 ERA is the 9th best in the AL this season, and he is 6-3 on the road this year for the Rays.  In fact, he has pitched to a 2.99 ERA since July 1st, the 2nd best road ERA in the AL, just behind Cleveland’s Cliff Lee.  And he has allowed 1 Earned Runs or less in 11 starts this season.
 
Coco Crisp  has hit .357 against Jackson, with 1 RBI.
Jacob Ellsbury has hit .429, with 3 RBI’s ans 2 runs scored.
Mike Lowell has batted .278, with a double and a strikeout against Jackson.
David Ortiz has hit .455, with an RBI against Jackson.
Dustin Pedroria is hitting .364, with 3 RBI’s and a double and a strikeout.
Jason Varitek is hitting .154 with 2 strikeouts against Jackson.
Kevin Youkilis is hitting .143, with 2 strikeouts and a run scored against Jackson.
Jason Bay is  hitting .200 against Jackson.
Sean Casey is hitting .142 against Jackson.
 
 
This is a “MUST WIN” situation for the Rays to keep Boston at least 2 back in the standings. If the Rays can take this series, they can leave Boston with a minimum of a 2 1/2 game lead going into the Bronx against the Yankees. But I truly think the division will be decided in the Trop. with the 3 game there next Mon-Wed. But this series could take alot of the excitement out of that homestand if the Red Sox again sweep the Rays at home.
 
 
 
 

Rays Lose Pitching Duel and Series to Jays

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

It was great news hearing the Rays thrid baseman Evan Longoria was taken off the Disabled List on Sat., and could see defensive replacement and pinch runner duty in the coming days. It is not known if Longoria will be up to speed in the batting cage by the time the Rays hit Boston on Monday.

Speculation is that Longoria will be back at third maybe during the New York Yankee series this weekend. It is great that he is finally off the DL, but what took so long. Was the injury actually worse than previously announced, or was the rehab just not doing the trick for Longoria. Evan has not been on the field or at bat since the Seattle series last month.

With his set back, Longoria is in the back seat for the Rookie of the Year honors in th American League now. More important is that we can have him back for the next few weeks of the playoff push and for post season. Longoria has been a unofficla barometer of the team this season.

As Evan played well, the Rays played well. But when he got injury there were whispers as to if Willy Aybar could fill Evan’s shoes at the plate, or in the field. Aybar had lived up to the expectations and has had only a fe blemishes on his fielding this year for the Rays. Considering the pressure and the stress of this years race, it is a wonder most night that the entire infield doesn’t crack a bit and have a few miscues. Let’s just hope that the Boston series is event-free and a great series for the Rays and their fans.

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

 

           

 

Worst thing about a pitching duel is………. someone has to lose.  The game on Sunday between the Rays and Jays was a perfect example of what a hot pitcher can do against a great ball club. Coming into the game, the Rays had met Jays’ starter David Purcey only once before in his career. In that game, a 1-0 loss at the Trop, Purcey pitched better against the competitive Rays then in any other start of his career.

 

Matt Garza threw an excellient game for the Rays on Sunday. He went long into the game, and pitched 7 innigs of 6-hit ball and only had a small handful of trouble all day on the mound for the Rays. He also got 7 strikeouts on the day and had the Jays guessing alot as to his pitch selection.

It is not Garza’s fault he got the loss yesterday in this game. He did everything he could to get a win for the Rays in this last game bewteen these clubs’ in 2008. Garza even endured a hard hit ball that struck him in the bottom end of his forearm by Marc Scutaro.

 

 

             

 

 

Garza had thrown the pitch and Scutaro hit it back up the middle and the ball hit Garza flush in the fleshy part of the forearm and Garza picked up the ball and calmly threw it to   Carlos Pena for the 2nd out in the 5th inning. Matt  was examined by the Ron Porterfield, and after a few practice pitches was able to continue for the Rays.

After the accident, Garza still has excellient control and only gave up 1 hit, to Vernon Well to lead off the 6th inning. To show how superior Garza has been against the Jays this season, he has thrown 38 innings against them and only given up 2 runs allowed. Garza was going for his 4th win of the season today against the Jays.

 

 

        

 

 

The only run of the game came in the  2nd inning as Adam LInd led off the inning with a double down the rifght field line and moved to third on Overbays grounder to shortstop.  On a 0-2 pitch, Barajas then hit a scarifice fly to left that scored Lind before Ben Zorbrists’ throw got to the plate. That produced the only run needed by the Jay  for the win.

 

 

The Rays did have offensive flashes in the game, but they could not convert any of them into scoring oppotunities against the Jays. In the 3rd innig, Akinora Iwamura hit a solid ball nito centerfield that was caught just in front of the 375 foot marker in left centerfield by Wells. B J Upton led off the 4th inning with a single to center, but was picked off first by Pursey to end the inning.

 

Aybar then led off the 5th inning with a double to deep center. Aybar at that point was 2 for 2 in the game for the Rays. Aybar would be stranded on second by the Rays after 2 quick outs in the inning.  Upton then again got a single in the 6th inning to center, but Pena hit a long ball to the warning track in center to record the 3rd out of the inning for the Rays.

 

In the 7th inning, the Rays got the first walk of the game when Aybar walked on 6 pitches. But the Rays’  Bartlett and Perez struck  out to strrand Aybar at first. Zorbrist then got another walk in the 8th inning and Pursey gave up a single to Upton for his third hit up the middle today, and Walked Pena to load the bases. Rocco then came up and hit a long fly ball to right for the 3rd out of the inning.moved  In the 9th, the rays went down in order, 1-2-3 to end the game.

 

 

On the day, the Rays did not hit into a single double play, but the Rays did strike out 9 times during the game. The Rays did squander  scoring chances in the 2nd inning as Willy Aybar was picked off at first by Jays catcher Rod Barajas after he singled to rightfield. Aybar did not even have a chance as  Barajas seemed to lose the ball, but quickly tossed it to Lyle Overbay who tagged out Aybar for the second out in the 2nd inning.  4 pitches after Aybar was picked off, Jason Bartlett hit a double over leftfielder Adam Lind’s head.  This was one of a few mental errors by the Rays in today’s game.

BJ Upyon also got caught by Pursey leaning off first base and was pegged with his 15th caught stealing attempt this season to still lead the majors in that category. Shawn Riggans threw his 5th throwing error of the year in the 3rd inning on a steal by Joe Inglett. Aki also had a fielding error in the  3rd inning to let Inglett get on base. It is only Aki’s  6th error of the season.

 

 

Lost in the translation is the fact that the Rays have now lost 7 of their last 13 games. On this roadtrip they have started 0-3, with pivitol game coming against the Yankees and Red sox in their home stadiums.  To put the roadtrip into prospective, the Rays got swept by both team in their home fields to begin the Rays roadtrip losing record going into the All Star break.

The Rays are facing their first set of “must win” games against the Red Sox starting on Monday night when Edwin Jackson takes the mound for the Rays. Jackson, Kazmir and Sonnastine will be the pitchers under the pressure cooker in the Boston series and must perform well enough to keep the Rays in every one of the three games against the Red Sox.

Losing more than 2 games in this series would have the Rays out of first place in the A L East for the last 88 days, and need to stay in first place to put a huge exclamation point on the season.

 

 

 

4 Rays Broadcasters Up for Frick Award

 

I remember the first time I met Joe Mcgrane outside of a baseall uniform. It was here in St Petersburg at a local watering hole and Mcgrane was pitching for the St. Petersburg Cardinals of the Florida State League at that time. I remember the quick and dry wit of Joe and thought he might be an interesting broadcaster some day.

Little did I know that Mcgrane would again come back to St. Petersburg after a long and properous baseball career to form a dynamic duo with Dwayne Staats broadcasting the Tampa Bay Rays games. So it is with great pride and honor that I lket you, the Rays fans know that MLB and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, have nominated  Four current  Rays broadcasters  for the Ford C. Frick Award.

Current on-air Television talents’ DeWayne Staats, Joe Magrane, Todd Kalas and  Radio’s golden tonsils, Dave Wills are in the running for the prestigious award.

Balloting for the 2009 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence is going on now, with the top three recipients of fan votes automatically qualifying for the 10-person ballot that will be formulated by a 20-member committee and announced Oct. 6.

The winner will be announced Dec. 9 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas and will receive the award during an induction ceremony on July 26, 2009, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.  Fans may vote for up to three of their favorites among 210 broadcasters eligible in balloting conducted exclusively on the Hall’s Web site, baseballhalloffame.org, which will carry biographical sketches of each candidate. Fans can vote once a day throughout September. Results will be announced when voting concludes Sept. 30.

Here are the Rays nominees for this great honor:

 

Dewayne Staats
Dewayne Staats
 
Dewayne anchors the Emmy Award-winning telecast in this, his 32nd season broadcasting Major League baseball and his 11th with the Rays. In 2003, he celebrated 4,000 Major League broadcasts. Before joining the Rays, he spent three years calling play-by-play for ESPN in a variety of sports, including the MLB and NCAA baseball, basketball and football. He began his Major League play-by-play career as the radio and TV voice of the Houston Astros from 1977-84, then called radio and TV action for the Chicago Cubs from 1985-89. He was the lead play-by-play announcer for the New York Yankees carried by the MSG-TV network from 1990-94, and spent the 1994 and 1995 seasons calling the action for The Baseball Network (ABC/NBC). Staats began his career as a sports reporter for WSIE Radio while a student at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and began his baseball career as the radio voice of the Oklahoma City 89ers (1973-74). In 1975 and ’76 he was sports director at KPLR-TV in St. Louis and received an Emmy nomination. A 1975 graduate of SIU-Edwardsville, Dewayne earned Distinguished Alumnus-of-the-Year honors in 1987 and was recently listed among baseball’s top 101 all-time announcers by author Curt Smith. He is married to the former Carla Berry and has two daughters, Stephanie Wheeler (30) and Alexandra (24), and grandsons Gabriel (3) and Zachary, born in December
 
 
Joe Magrane
Joe Magrane
 
Joe returns as television color analyst for the Rays in 2008, his 11th season with the club. He also appears on numerous FOX Network telecasts. In 2002, he served as postgame reporter for the National League Championship Series. Joe was a color analyst for NBC’s baseball coverage of the last two summer Olympic Games: 2000 in Sydney, Australia and 2004 in Athens, Greece. Before coming to the Rays, the 10-year Major League veteran worked as an analyst on regional ESPN Major League games in 1997 and worked with Rays play-by-play man Dewayne Staats on ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series. An All-America selection at the U. of Arizona in 1985, Magrane compiled a 56-67 Major League record with the St. Louis Cardinals (1987-93), California Angels (1993-95), and Chicago White Sox (1996). He finished third in the 1987 NL Rookie of the Year voting, helping lead the Cardinals to the World Series. He won the ERA title in 1988 while with the Cards (2.18) and the following year won 18 games, placing third in the NL Cy Young voting. His nephew, Jim, is a pitcher in the Nationals’ system. He and his wife, Renee, have two daughters, Shannon and Sophia, and reside in Tampa
 
 
Todd Kalas
Todd Kalas
 
Todd begins his 11th season with the Rays and 16th in the Major Leagues. Kalas returns as pregame host and in-game reporter for every Rays telecast on Fox Sports Net Florida and the Rays Television Network. In addition, he hosts “Inside the Rays” on FSN. He has also filled in with play-by-play and color on both the Rays television and radio networks. Prior to joining the Rays, Kalas worked on the radio broadcast team of the New York Mets (1992-1993) and the television broadcast team of the Philadelphia Phillies (1994-1996). After graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University in 1988, he moved to the Tampa Bay area as sports director at Vision Cable in Clearwater before beginning his baseball career with the Louisville Redbirds in 1991. In the offseason, Kalas has worked the last five years with Cox Sports Television in Louisiana handling play-by-play of college basketball, football, baseball and arena football. In addition, he is an announcer for USF basketball games and also fills in as pregame host for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Todd is the son of longtime Phillies broadcaster, Harry Kalas, a 2002 Hall of Fame inductee.
 
 
Dave Wills
Dave Wills
 
 
Dave begins his fourth season in the Rays radio booth. He came to Tampa Bay having spent 11 seasons as part of the Chicago White Sox radio broadcast team hosting the pre- and postgame shows and filling in for John Rooney in the booth when necessary. His first play-by-play action came with the Class-A Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League from 1991-95 where he was the franchise’s first radio voice. He was the radio voice of University of Illinois-Chicago men’s basketball from 1997-2005 and served as a play-by-play announcer for various high school basketball and football games on Comcast Network-Chicago as well as the lead anchor for the network’s highlight show, Sports Weekly from 2000-2005. He also appeared as the pre- and postgame show host for Notre Dame football and basketball as well as the co-host of the Kevin White Show while with ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago for nine years before joining TB. Wills served as the pitching coach/recruiting coordinator with Elmhurst College (Ill.) in 1989 and as the interim head coach at the University of Chicago in 1990. He owns bachelor’s degrees in Speech Communication and Urban Studies from Elmhurst where he played ball for three years. Dave and his wife, Elizabeth, have a son, Alex and a daughter, Michelle; they reside in Lutz, Fla.
 
 
So go on the Hall of Fame website today and vote for your favorite broadcaster nominated for the Frick Award. Remember, all voting will be final as of September 30th, 2008.  So vote as often as you can to get one of our award winning Rays’ broadcasters in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 2009.

 

 

Zaun Zaps Rays for Series Win

 

 

Blue Jays 7, Rays 4

 

It is simply amazing that the Rays still have the best record in baseball considering we have lost 3 out of our last 4 games this week. I know the Chicago Cubs, and the L A Angels have had their handsful this week also, but who would have thought you could hold onto the best record this late in the season after losing three games in 4 tries.

 

That is just a sure sign that there are alot of teams out there gunning right now for the guys at the top. This is the month of the year that teams can play the spoiler role and make a good team squirm under pressure or fold like a deck of cards. The Rays are squirming a bit, but they have not shown any intention or reaction to acting like a house of cards.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon is as optimistic today as he was after sweeping the Cubs at the Trop. He knows you have to play them one at a time, and the baseball gods will sort it all out for you. But seriously, this is the time of the year that the Rays need to make an offensive statement and not just try to win the game. They need to gather steam this month and use it to propell them to success in the post season.

 

The worst thing you can do as a playoff team is coast into the post season with no forward momentium or enegry. That would produce a flat result, which could mean an early exit from the playoffs. I consider this season a success just becuase we finally got a winning season.

 

 I truly believed we had the motors to roll over Boston and New York, but that they needed another year to mature and rise to the occasion. But I will take all the positives and hope that the Rays are just taking a light breather and will come out and be fir on ice against the Red Sox and Yankees in their home turf this  next week. We can not have a sweep at either stadium, or it might just push us below Bosotn for the first time in a long while. And if we pop below the Red Sox, it might take a small miracle to get basck to the top before the end of September.

 

 

Rays Magical Number :     21

This is a combined number of Rays wins, or Bostons losses to finish as AL Est Champions.

 

 

James Shields has gotten the nickname, “Big Game James” this year from his teammates. Little did he know that the game would go so far into the afternoon, and little did he know how huge his pitching performance would hinge on the Rays either winning or losing this series to the Blue Jays.

 

Shields threw 8 innings today and gave up only 3-runs on 6 hits to the Jays. He only had trouble in a few inning today, but they were costly problems for the Rays. In the 1st inning, Shields looked a bit frazzled as the Jays put the first two men on base as Joe Inglett singled to left, and Marc Scutaro hit into a fielder choice to remain at first for Alex Rio. he then took a 1-1- pitch to deep center field and scored Scutaro to put the Jays up early 1-0. The ball was hit so hard the B J Upton could only watch it bounce to the wall before getting it and preventing a triple by Rios.

 

Shields only had one situation in the 2nd inning, when he gave up a solo homer to Lyle Overbay on the thrid pitch of the inning. That put the Jays up 2-0 at the time. In the 4th inning, Overbay again became a nemesis of Shields as he hit another homer after going 2-0 against Shields to stake the Jays to a 3-0 lead.

 

 

 

Shields did get the Toronto batters to go down 1-2-3- in the 5th, 7th and 8th innings to shut down the Toronto offense and give the Rays a chance to tie the game. Shields left after throwing 96 pitches in the 8 innings of work, but the Rays were down 3-0 at the time.

 

 

 

 

The Rays offense was stymied until the 9th inning by the pitching of  Jays starter Shawn Marcum. In the first 8 innings of the game, several Rays tried to put the team up early against the Jays. Akinora Iwamura went 3-4 in the game and hit the first pitch he saw today for a single to centerfield. Aki did it again in the 3rd inning, hitting the first pitch for a single up the middle. So on the day so far, Aki had  2 singles on 2 pitches from Marcum.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro did get a single in the 5th inning to right, but was stranded there by the Rays. In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena got a single to right but was left on base after a pop out to leftfield by Cliff Floyd.   In the 8th inning, the rays had a sliver of light when both Ben Zobrist  and Aki walked to put a man in scoring position for only the second time today. Up to that point, only Aki had been beyond first base for the Rays today. So in all, the Rays collected only  4 hits on the day, and  4 walks by Pena, Upton ,Zobrist and  Willy Aybar.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Willy Aybar, he was caught leaning in the 2nd inning after walking on 7 pitches from Marcum. Aybar had a late break to second and never had a chance to really steal the base. Jays catcher Greg Zaun threw a lox strike to Scutaro to nail Aybar with a foot to spare to erase the Rays only base runner in the 2nd inning.

The Rays did however put themselves in holes today on the bases by committing  5 double plays on the day. The ended the 1st, 5th ,8th innings on double plays.  The Rays also struck out 7 times in the first 8 innings, with Aybar and Eric Hinske each getting 2 strikeouts for the Rays.

 

 

The Rays did finally get on the offensive board in the 9th inning. With Jays closer B J Ryan on the mound, the Rays quickly evened the score at 3-3. Ryan started the rally by hitting Pena with a pitch in the back arm.  Then Rocco Baldelli came out ans pinch hit for Cliff Floyd.  Rocco took a 2-2- count breaking ball to leftfield for his 3rd homer of the season and quickly got the Rays back into this game.

 

 

 

 

Aybar then walked on 5 pitches and was replaced by pinch runner Fernando Perez. Perez quickly got the Jays attention by stealing second base ans scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single. Navarro was gunned down trying to stretch the play into a double at second by  Jays centerfielderVernon Wells.  But the score by Perez evened the score at 3 and the team went into extra innings.

 

 

The Jays had a chance to win in in regulation as Scott Rolen doubled with 2 out to left center and stood in scoring position for Toronto.  Zaun then came up and hit an infield single to  Jason Bartlett. Bartlett could not get a throw off to first in time, but caught Rolen sneaking off third, and the Rays got him in a run down to secure the third out of the inning and get the game into extra innings.

 

 

Aki again hit a single in the 10 th inning, but was  the victim of a Upton double play to end the inning for the Rays. In the 11th inning, Pena hit a single down the first baseline and moved to second on a wild pitch to Justin Ruggiano to get into scoring position. But Ruggiano struck out to end the inning for the Rays. 

 

In the 12th inning, the Rays had their best scoring chances of the game as Zobrist  got a double with 2 outs in the inning. Aki and Upton then walked to load the bases for Pena. Pena then hit a high towering shot to right that was grabbed by Alex Rios for the 3rd out of the inning. Coming into that at bat, Pena was hitting .328 with the bases loaded for the Rays.

 

The top of the 13th inning had Rocco single to left to start the inning and Perez hit into a fielder’s choice with Baldelli out at second. Perez then went to second on the pinch hit grounder to first by John Jaso. Perez then got his 2nd stolen base of the night by taking 3rd, aone pitch before Navarro singled to right to score Perez and pout the Rays up 4-3. Bartlett then walked on 7 pitches and set up another scoring opportunity with Zobrist at the plate. Zobrist ended up striking out on 5 pitches to end the inning.

 

 

 

 

From the bottom of the 9th inning until the 13th, the Rays  sent 5 reliever to the mound. Dan Wheeler lead off the 9th inning, with J P Howell, Chad Bradford,and Grant Balfour pitching up to the 13th inning. During that span, the Rays only let 1 batter get into scoring position, and that was Rolen in the 9th inning.

 

 

 

 

The Rays sent their closer, Troy Percival out for the 13th inning against the Jays.  Percival got the hot hitting Rio to pop out to Pena before giving infield single to Wells, on a bobble by Aki at second base. Then Brad Wilkerson hit a 0-2 pitch to left field for a single and put Wells in scoring position.

 

Overbay then came on and hit into a fielder’s choice, with Wilkerson out at second to put men on the corners with 2 outs in the inning.  Rolen then waked on 4 pitches to load the bases for Zaun. Percival then tried to get Zaun to chase a curveball, but Zaun hit the first pitch over an out-stretched Baldelli hanging on the rightfield wall for a walk off grand slam and the victory for the Jays.

 

 

                              

 

 

That shot by Zaun sealed the series for the Jays and put the Rays in a spot to go within 2 games of the Bosotn catching the Rays for the AL East lead. This was Percivals’ 4th blown save of the year. Since coming back off the DL on September 1st, Percival now has a blown save, and a loss in his last 2 appearances for the team.

 

In that time Percival has thrown for 1.1 innings, and given up 4-hits and 6-runs, and 2 homers. This was the first game this year that the Rays lost when he blew a save opportunity. Coming into this game, the Rays were 33-0 with Percival on the mound, and won in extra innings the 3 other blown saves he encountered this season.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Come Up Short Against Jays

 

Blue Jays 6, Rays 4

 

Somethings you just look forward to this time of year. Like the last time you have to face a certain team. or a  pitcher that seems to have your teams’ number.  It is for that reason that I am glad the we are almost done with the Toronto BlueJays.  This is one of those teams that have had the Rays numbers for years and years. For some reason, we can’t seem to win alot at the Rogers Centre.

But sometimes that happens in sports. A certain team and a certain pitcher can just handle you like a ragdoll and all you can do is just take the beating. Well, with the Jays, it is two-fold. We have had Roy Halliday’s number most of the year, but he truly shows hoe great a pitcher he is by rebounding and taking the last 2 games from us to go into 2009 on a winning note against the Rays.

This is the kind of team that battles just like the Rays, but they had some pitching concerns earlier in the year, and that might have cost them a better ending to this season. They now currently have the best staff ERA in baseball, and it shows against the Rays. So we will not be sad to finally get out of town on Sunday, but will miss the competitive fire in these Jays the rest of the way through the season. 

You know this Jays’ team is a team in transition. They will have to make a few hard decision this winter as to the true direction of their franchise. They have big names ready to check out the free agent market, and they have some up and coming guys who will have to be rewarded to stay and mature with this team. I do not fear a team upgrading itself this off season in the AL East, it will just make us work harder and try to regain the fire and status we achived in this “magical summer.”

 

 Blue Jays 6, Rays 4

 

 

 

Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine did not have a bad outing last night in Toronto, but he did have a few bad pitches that came back to haunt him in a big way. Andy went  6 innings last night and gave up 4-runs on 5-hits as the Jays defeated the Rays 6-4.  Sonnanstine was going for his 14th win of the season for the second time this year. The win would have tied him with Rolando Arroyo for the wins record with the Rays.

 

Sonnanstine started out in good shape getting ther Jays 1-2-3 in the 1st inning. But he started to have  trouble in the 2nd inning when  Vernon Well doubled on the first pitch he saw in the inning. Adam Lind then came up and got on with an infield single to shortstop to put pressure on the Rays.  Jays catcher, Rod Barajas then came up and singled into center to lod the bases for the Jays.

 

Lyle Overbay then came up and hit a 2-run double to score Wells and Lind and put Barajas at third with no outs. Scott Rolen then came up and hit a Sacrifice Fly to right to score Barajas and put the Jays up 3-2.  After the 2nd inning, Sonnanstine then only had trouble with Alex Rios in the 3rd inning when he gave up a solo shot to center on a hanging breaking ball to put the Jays up for good, 4-2.

 

                                     

 

Andy then took control of the contest and only gave up a single walk before leaving the contest. On the night, Sonnanstine threw 80 pitches and only issued 1 walk and got 3 strikeouts on the night.

 

The Rays only collected 10 hits on the night off Jays’ pitching and again left  8 men stranded on base.  Halladay had good control of the game only letting the Rays get 2 runs off him in th 1st inning before settling down for the game. For the night, Halladay, Scott Downs and B J Ryan combined to strike out the Rays 10 times in the contest.  The top 4 batters in the Rays order accounted for 7 of those strikeouts.

 

In the 1st inning, the Rays got on the board first when Akinora Iwamura was safe at first on a error by Jays second baseman Joe Inglett.  B J Upton then doubled to deep right on the second pitch he saw and put both Aki and himself in scoring position. Carlos Pena then hit the first pitch from Halladay for a Sacrifice Fly to score Aki and move Upton to third. Cliff Floyd then came up and hit another Sacrifice Fly to right to score Upton and put the Rays up 2-0 early on the Jays.

 

But the surprise of the night was the bunt single put down by rookie Fernando Perez in the 9th inning of the game. Perez came up as a pinch hitter for Dioner Navarro and put down a laxy bunt down the first baseline that made the first baseman Lyle Overbay committ, and Perez used his sprinter speed to run down the line and avoid the tag from Overbay, before  hook sliding into first base. Perez’s bunt was na amazing display of his athletic skill and seems to pump the Rays up a bit at the time.

With Perez at first, Jasob Bartlett came up and hit a double to deep center that scored Perez from first base and pulled the Rays within 2 runs of the Jays.  Aki then  struck out to give the Rays 2 outs in the inning. Upton then got to first on an error by shortsrtop John McDonald, and move Bartlett to third base.  Upton then stole his 34th base of the year before Carlos Pena struck out for the third time tonight to end the game.

 

Grant Balfour has been a lights out pitcher for the Rays this season since coming back up from the minors. But his one mistake tonight on a pitch to Alex Rios in the 8th inning. Balfour came out tonight throwing the ball in the high 90′s, with most pitches staying near the 96-97 mph mark on the radar gun.

But it was a hanging high slider that did him in tonight as Rios hit a 2-run shot to left to give the Jays the needed run to secure the win tonight. Balfour came into the game In tonight’s game, Balfour allowed a double and the Rio’s homer. Before those two exta base hits, Balfour had only allowed 6 extra base hits all season long.  And the homer to Rio was onlt the 2nd given up by him this year.

 

Upton’s 42nd stolen base put him currently in 2nd place in the AL. But that is not the only high marks for Upton this season. He also still leads the majors in caught stealing attempts, and is currently 6th in the majors with 89 walks. over his last 8 games, Upton is hitting .394, with 5 RBis, and 4 stolen bases.

 

The Durham Bulls had their Friday night  Governors Cup game cancelled due to concerns over Hurricane Hanna. The game will be played on Saturday evening if the weather permits.  Jeff Neimann will get the start for the Bulls against the Louisville Bats. The Bats are one of the highest scoring team in the International League this season. The best-of-5 series is currently tied 1-all going into the game. 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Prevent Empire Sweep

 

 

Rays 7, Yankees 5

 

Last night you saw what I love about baseball. You are never out of a game, no matter what the score is at the time. Even if it is 2-outs, bottom of the 9th inning, if you can put some good wood on the bat, you have a chance to win the game. And the Yankees almost pulled off that theory to sweep us last night.

Now I know, Rays Manager Joe Maddon would not let this win get aways from the Rays, but it got close……..too close.  I have seen many a Bullpen implsion in my 11 years following the Rays, and last night was just a blimp on the radar scope of implosions.  Becuase of the recent scores in the Yankee games, Jason Hammel had has the duties as the garbage man, or guy who gets to mop up the innings because of the score.

And what has transpired is a bit disheartening. Hammel has pitched in 5 2/3 innings this homestand and has given up 9 hits and 8 runs in his releif appearances. Hammel is being groomed to be a reliever for the Rays and not a starter. With these numbers on a total of 114 pitches, it looks like the experiement will go sour for him. But I am not throwing Hammel out to the wolves here, just that he is a prime candidate for an off season change of scenery.

Since he is from Washington state, maybe the Mariner’s could use a young pitcher with a huge bit of potential. Unfortunately, he is out of minor league options and can not be sent down without going through waivers. If the Rays did subject him to the waiver wire, he would not last long and we would not get anything for him.

 So the answer might be to try and salvage his career in the coming months and then find a good suitor who needs young pitching, major league quality pitching. With the backload we already have in the minors, it would not be in his best interest to stay here past 2008.

By the way, the Durham Bulls got beat last night 19-3 by the Louisville Bats and are heading home for the middle games of this best-of-5 series. The series is currently tied up at 1 win each.

 

   Rays Magic number:     21

This is the Magical number of win or Boston losses combined to win the AL East Crown.

 

 

                                  

 

Scott Kazmir pitched like the team’s ace last night. He had great control of his fastball, used his change-up well, and threw in a few sliders for good measures. It is by far one of the best performances from Kazmir in 2008. And it came at a time that the Rays needed their ace to deliver. The unfortunate thing is that a high number of pitches got Kazmir an early night and not getting blasted by the Yankee’s bats.

Kazmir lasted 6 innings and left with a 1-hit shutout for his night. Kazmir got 7 strikeouts, but walked 5 tonight to show some slight concern on his high walk totals this year. But the night belonged to Kazmir finally pitching like he did in 2007. He showed confidience and strength on the mound and dominated the Yankee hitters all night long.

 

 

                                   

 

 

Did you know that the Rays’ starting pitchers all have at least 10 wins this season. That has only happened 6 times with a staff where all the starter were under 26 years old or younger. The Rays young guns joined the 1968 Oakland A’s as the only teams in history to have 5  pitchers aged 26 or younger with 20 starts and 10-game winners in the same season.

 

 

 

 

Willy Aybar put his defensive bad night behind him and came out wanting the win for the Rays. Aybar was spectacluar at third base last night completing several putouts in amazing form. And Willy again came alive at the plate for the Rays.  Aybar went 2-4 on the night with 3 RBI’s and a run scored on the night.

 But his big hit of the night was his solo shot to right to provide the needed run to secure the win for the Rays.  With Evan Longoria still out with his wrist injury, Aybar will be called upon more by the Rays to fill in the gap until Longoria’s return.  Aybar hit over .290 on the homestand and has recorded multiple hits in 10 of the last 22  games.

 

 

                           

 

 

Dioner Navarro also had a career night going 4-5, with a run scored and is creeping up on .300 again this season. Navarro is currenting hitting .297 for the Rays and can raise his average up to over .300 again with a good roadtrip. Navarro collected 3 singles on the night and hit a liner that skidded over the Bullpen Cafe wall for a gorund rule double in the 7th inning (I could not reach that dang ball).

Navarro did have one bad thing happen to him last night. he was tagged out at home when he tried to score from second on Jason Bartlett’s single to centerfield. The Yankee’s Johnny Damon, not known for his arm anymore, put a ball right on target and got Navarro by 10 feet to end the 7th inning.

 

 

            

 

 

The 5th inning was key for the Rays last night as they tacked on 5 runs in that inning to set the tone for the night.  Eric Hinske and Navarro got the inning off with a pair of singles, and Hinske advanced to third on a wild pitch by Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner.  Gabe Gross then hit a double to center to score Hinske and put Navarro at third with no outs.

Jason Bartlett then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Navarro and put Gross at third with  1 out. Akinora Iwamura then hit a single to center to score Gross and put the Rays up 3-0 at the moment.  A B J Upton single then put Aki at thrid with BJ at first base with only 1 out in the inning.

Carlos Pena then walked again on 6 pitches and the bases loaded for the Rays.  Cliff Floyd then struck out and Aybar came up and hit a single to right that scored both Aki and Upton to raise the score to 5-0. In the inning, the Rays got 5 runs on 6 hits and chased Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner from the game.

 

                          

                                     

 

The Rays did have one more scoring opportunity in the game in the 8th inning when Iwamura hit a ball into the gap in left center and raced all the way around the bases for a triple. Upton then hit a sacrifice fly to score Iwamura from third base.

Speaking of Upton, I hope all the distractors are happy now to know that Upton has been playing with a slightly torn labium since he pulled his shoulder out in Baltimore earlier in the season. The injury is in his non-throwing shoulder and is not career threathening, so he has been playing in pain for some time. To imagine playing with such an injury, and still be hitting .272 on the year is just incredible to me.

So we know now why the power aspect of Upton’s game is not showing up as he is simply hitting with 1 arm up there at the plate. And to think it is his lead shoulder that is damaged shows the discipline and determination of B J  this season. He has not whimpered or cried to the media about this sutation. And not until recently when he asked Maddon if he could limit his batting practice attempts to rest the shoulder did the situation even surface.

I think we all now need to just appreciate this guy more and more in the next few weeks ans know we have a guy who will do anything for his team, no matter what the cost.  And you people have been badgering him for months now.  Shame on all of us, even me.

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Controversy Dooms Rays

 

Yankees 8, Rays 4

 

I am going to lead with this today to get this off my chest and out of my system.  I have replayed that video so many times that ESPN has prompted me to stop becuase it is tying up valuable  Internet traffic space. I have used the slow motion, the isolated and the paused shot of the ball hitting the “D” ring about 3 feet to the left of it( which makes it foul).

Now that I know the ball hit in foul territory, did it go over the foul pole, or to it’s right on the path from home plate. The reactions from three different people can tell the tale of the tape here. Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, of course, would want it to be foul. As he saw it, the ball clearly hit the back ring in foul territory. The Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez wants it to be fair because it makes him the lone holder of 12th place All Time on the home run list, finally pushing ex-Phille Mike Schmidt to the sidelines. 

 

     

                                                                                                             

And then you have the home plate umpire, Greg Gibson who knew we had the technology now to view it and make a correct call, asked for an umpires conference. Crew Chief  Charlie Reliford decided to wander into the replay alcove and call MLB/ NYC Central and get the final video review and to post their findings. After 2 1/4 minutes, the umpires came out and Gibson immediately signaled a home run for A-Rod.

 

                                                         

 

I do not agree with the call, I think the ball did slice to the left of the foul pole above it’s highest point, but I am of this decision not as a Rays’ fan, but as a guy who wants them to get it right finally. In this game there were 4 different calls either at the plate or at first base that did not flow right. I heard the commentary of the radio crew on the replay and on the suspected plays on the diamond and know that they were botched calls.

But perception is key here. At what angle do you take as being true in the replay. The uppper deck  video camera on the first base side set about 50 feet to the right of the pole, or the thrid base side camera in the upperdeck that is set about 15 feet to the right of the poles’ center.

I will just leave it up to everyone to form their own opinions. I am just glad the play did not decide the game….that would have been a true crime story.

Here is the video from ESPN:

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/videopage?categoryId=2378529&brand=null&videoId=3568472&n8pe6c=2

 

 

Yankees 8, Rays 4

 

 

 

 

It is finally coming out to light that B J Upton’s shoulder has been bothering him most of the second half of the season. If you sat where I do and watch his swings and his posture at the plate you can tell that he is shifting his weight to compensate for something. I am glad that he finally came clean with the information and that we now know that Upton is doing more for pain management than just going through the motions at the plate.

Upton again came up big for the Rays last night going 2-5 with 33rd double and his 41st stolen base after a single to left in the 5th inning. His 41st stolen base moves him into second place in the AL, just three behind Boston’s Jacob Ellsbury.  His double also moves him into a tie for 15th in the AL in that category. Also with his 40th steal on Sunday, Upton became only  Ray, besides Crawford to reach the 40 steal plateau in a season.

 

 

               

 

Eric Hinske’s dive for Robinson Cano’s blooper single to left would not have been an error in any fashion. The ball was tailing away from Hinske when he left his feet, and he made a galliant effort to even get the ball within his body to keeo Cano from extra bases. Hinske’s hustle this season while Carl Crawford has been on the DL is a welcome sight. His bat is superior to Crawford’s right now, but his outfield defense is below par for the Rays’ expectations right now.

 

Speaking of expected and undetected errors, the Rays were very lucky the official scorer did not dot the scorebaord with at least 3 errors in last night’s contest. The play of the Rays infield defense last night was not in accordance to their usual stellar performance.

Third baseman Willy Aybar seemed to be playing about 15 feet farther back tonight in the game and cost the Rays at least two outs on the night. In the 3rd inning, Robinson Cano hit a liner to Aybar that he fumbled with and did not get to Carlos Pena in time for the out.

In the 4th inning, Johnny Damon got on base after a botched play by Jason Bartlett at shortstop. To give Bartlett credit, that ball did take a nasty hop in front of him, but he regained the ball in time to get Damon, but could not execute the play.  The next batter, Derek Jeter got another infield single on a well hit ball hit to Aybar that did not reach Pena in time to catch Jeter. Again, Aybar was playing behind the bag at third and did not come up and attack the ball to imporve his chances of getting Jeter at first base.

In another play in the 4th inning, Carlos Pena knocked down a Jason Giambi ball and started a 3-6-2 double play. The ball reached second in time to get Alex Rodriguez, but first base umpire ruled Giambi safe at first after Rays reliever Chad Bradford apparently dragged his foot off the bag at first. This inning gave the Yankees 3 more outs to play with, and they made the Rays pay with another un to up the score to 6-1.

 

Lost in all the drama of the replay and miscues by the Rays defense in this game was the hitting of the Rays tonight. In the 1st inning B J Upton doubled for the first Rays’ hit of the night.  Cliff Floyd then came up and hit a ball into the right center gap for a double and scored Upton to put the Rays up early 1-0. On the play, Floyd looked like he wanted to turn the play into a triple, but his knees let him know that a double would be fine. Floyd now has a team high 9 RBI’s on this homestand, all of them coming in the last 4 games.  Since moving into the cleanup spot for the Rays, Floyd is hitting .308, with 2 homers, 12 RBI’s and a .590 Slugging Percentage.

 

 

                                   

 

Rays starter Edwin Jackson did not last 4 innings last night in the game against the Yankees. It was by far the worst showing for Jackson in 2009. Jackson actually lasted 3.1 innings for the Rays giving up 6 runs on 10 hits while throwing only 70 pitches on the night. The strike zone seemed to be squeezed for Jackson early in the game, but he produced  2 quick strikeouts in the 1st inning.

 

The Yankees began to get to Jackson in the 2nd inning when Robinson Cano hit the ball to Hinske in the left and scored Xavier Nady who had  walked earlier in the inning. Ivan Rodriguez then hit a short popper down the first baseline that hit inside fair territory before bouncing into the foul area behind first base. Cano scored on the play, and Rodriguez was standing at seocnd with another double to put the Yankees up 2-1.

In the 3rd inning, Bobby Abreu doubled to left and was in scoring position for A-Rod when he hit his double and Abreu scored on the play. With Rodriquez at second, Jason Giambi came up and doubled to the deep left center gap that scored Rodriguez.  Hideki Matsui then hit a single to center that scored Giambi and put the Yankees up 5-1. 

Coming into the game, Jackson had decreased his ERA to 3.81, the lowest since May 29th.  Jackson was also riuding a August that saw him go 4-1 with 2.27 ERA, it was the best ERA on the staff in August, and 6th best in the AL.  Jackson needed 5 inning to match his career high of 161 innings pitches set in 2008.

 

 

Gabe Gross provided one of the games best highlights for the Rays on his 2-run homer in the 4th inning. The homer brought the Rays to within 3 runs at the moment. It was Gross’s 12th homer of the season. Dioner Navarro scored on the play after getting double to deep center to be in scoring position for Gross.

Gross is hitting .313 over his last 11 games, and hit a robust .283 for August. Gross’s 12th homer is also his career high in the majors. His previous high was 9 homers with the Brewers in 2006. Gross was not done for the night as he walked in the 9th inning on 4 pitches and then scored on Akinora Iwamuras double to left field.

 

 

 

 

Yankees Win Round 1

 

 

Yankees 7, Rays 2

 

Best thing about the New York Yankees right now, they are fighting to stay afloat in any playoff situation. But the reality is that if the Toronto Bluejays can win their next 2, and the Yankees lose 2, it is pretty much all over for the Yankees. I know it has been over 11 seasons since the boys from the Bronx have had to make dinner reservations in New York come October 1st.

But the reality is that this team has been pitching weak all year and has gotten some great spot action, but without Mike Mussina, this team would be fighting the Orioles for the cellar. But we all know that this is just a bump in the NY road, and it will be patched by and ready to go in 2009. But then again, the Rays will also be re-loading and will not take on a huge amount of salary that the Yankees will need to offer to get the big guns to finish this transition. While other teams rebuild, the Yankees reload.

Speaking of reloading, it was a great sight to finally come to the Trop and get mobbed by Blue and White, without pinstripes on them. For one of the first times in recent memory, the Rays fanbase came out and supported the cause last night. Every time a Yankee chant started, the cowbells or boo’s were loud and proud. The team did not back down to the Yankees intimidation tactics, or the usual trash talk in the stands. And I only saw a small handful of security-aided situations compared to the usual Yankee series. Maybe the Yankee fans are finally deciding they will have more fun, and be heard more at home than at the Trop. I can not say I will miss them, but it does give more room to the Rays fans to cheer on their team.

 

Yankees 7, Rays 2

 

                  

 

I love to reward hustle and aggressive measures by a player. I think that for us to go far in the playoffs we will have to think outside the box and come up with a few surprises for the rest of the year. But, some of the surprises I saw last night will not fly come playoff time.

In the 2nd inning, Willy Aybar lead off the inning with a single to left and was standing on first when Eric Hinske hit a monster liner to deep centerfield. Aybar raced past second and looked towards Third Base Coach Tom Foley who put up the “stop” sign for Aybar.

Eric Hinske being the aggressive bull that he is, was rolling past second with his head down and did not see that Foley had held Aybar before both players were a few feet apart from each other near 3rd base. Aybar had to committ to home becasue Hinske would never have been able to retrack to second base in time. Aybar sprinted to home, and could have made it had he put a shoulder into Yankee’s catcher Jose Molina.

What is so upsettting is that this set the tone for the Rays night. A few miscues and a few odd errors and the game was not in the Rays’ hands anymore. With Johnny Damon playing centerfield, you know you can run on the guy. He is Johnny Damon, but he is also not the same player who has a rifle attached to his arm anymore. I think if Foley had sent Aybar, it would have given the Rays an early pump of energy that they needed in this contest. 

 

Hinske did go 2-3 on the night, with an additional single to center in the 4th inning. Carlos Pena also got into the action early going 2-4 on the night and getting his average almost back to the .250 mark for the season. Pena walked in the first inning, and had an single in the 3rd inning to put B J Upton in scoring position. Carlos also had a double into the right-center gap, but was stranded on base for the Rays.

Cliff Floyd got the scoring started for the Rays on a single to right that scored Upton in the 3rd inning to bring the score to 3-1.  In the 7th inning, Gabe Gross hit a nice ball down the line into the rightfield corner for a double.

 Shawn Riggans then doubled into left to score Gross and make the score 6-2.  Rocco Baldelli came up to bat for Cliff Floyd in the 7th inning and New York countered by bringing in Joba Chamberlain to face Baldelli. Baldelli  was at the plate with Riggans and Akinora Iwamura on base for the Rays. Baldelli swung at the first pitch and hit a grounder to short that Jeter flipped to Cano for the force out at second base.

 

                                           

 

Matt Garza did not seem totally comfortable on the mound last night. The early runs by the Yankees probably did not help in that matter, but the Home Plate umpire’s strike zone also may have contributed to the situation. All night long, Home Plate umpire Brian Runge’s strike zone seemd to be moving and expanding or shortening depending on the pitch.

Several pitched balls were called strike that were clearly beyond the black of the plate and Garza’s frustration mounted. To add further fuel to the fire was the play in the 5th inning on a lightly hit ball in front of the mound hit by Robinson Cano. Garza picked up the ball and tossed it a good 5 feet above Pena’s head for his 1st error of the year.

Garza ended up going 5 innings and gave up 6 runs on 5  hits and striking out only 2 Yankees all night. Garza ended the night by taking his 8th loss of the season.  Last night’s game was Garza’s 50th career start. He also came into the game 12-4 against the AL East this season, and was 7-2 at home this year.  His last start against the Yankees was the May 12th game to win the opening game of the series , which the Rays ended up winning 3 out of 4 games at home against the Yankees.

 

Several plays during the game helped set the tome for the Rays loss. Willy Aybar’s play at third base when he sat back waiting on the ball to come to him gave Derek Jeter a single. Jeter then stole second on a close play by Riggans to Iwamura at second.

Aki could not hold onto the ball, and had Jeter by two steps for the out. Jeter then scored on Jason Giambi’s sacrifice fly to center in the 4th inning. B J Upton made a play to get Jeter at home, but the ball was high and the tag could not be made in time.

 

Sometimes I get sick of bringing this point up in my blogs. The Rays have a great offense and can stand toe-to-toe with any team in the league. But we have a major concern and issue with our hitting with men in scoring position. Last night the Rays out hit the Yankees 12-9. But the kick was that we stranded 10 men on base that could have helped lower the score.

This is not the first time, or maybe the last time this will come up, but it does need to be addressed. The Rays play a more National League style of play on the bases at times, and it has been to their advantage most nights. Last night was just a night where the ball was hit to people and the hits did not come at the best of times for the Rays.

 

 

                      

 

 Jason Hammel ended up celebrating his birthday by giving up Alex Rodriguez’s 30th homer of the night, and moved A-Rod into 12th on the All Time Home Run list with the blast to left-centerfield. Not the kind of present he was expecting last night. 

It is not that Hammel only pitched 21 pitches in the inning, 18 for strikes, it is that the blast put the dagger into the Rays last night. Hammel has had the odd job of finishing or mopping up games for the Rays lately. That can be a blessing or a curse to some pitchers. It seems this is not the calling for this Young pitcher, and it might end up costing him a roster spot in the spring of 2009. 

 

I do not want to end this blog on a negative or somber note today. I want to commend B J Upton for his play last night in the game against the Yankees. In the 2nd inning, Upton prevented an extra base hit, and maybe homer by Rodriguez by sprinting and catching a ball a few feet from the deep centerfield wall. the play was n amazing display of Upton’s speed and gifts in the outfield.

Also, Upoton had two plays at the plate last night in the game. The first never had a chance to get to the plate in time, but it was a rocket online and to the plate to show he does have the ability to get you if he has the right circumstances. The second was a play on Jeter in the 4th inning that was a bit high and outside, but did get to the plate.

This will set in the minds of the team’s we will be playing the rest of the year that Upton does have the ability to get outs from his centerfield position. This could be a great intimidating weapon down the line for the Rays the rest of the season

 

 

 

September Call Ups Part 1

 

I know a few names might be missing off the suspected roster call ups on September 1st, but you got to remember that two of our farm teams have playoff aspirations and might not have their players brought up until mid September of this year.

With the success of the Triple-A Durham Bulls, and the playoff push by the Montgomery Biscuits, the two teams will have to haorde a few players until their playoff aspirations are completed, or they win the whole thing.  With that in mind, the Rays did a great bit of foresight by protecting at least two spots on the post season roster for players still involved in the farm system playoff races.

With the Rays bringing up injured reliever Jae Kuk Ryu to the major league disabled list, it makes him and injured reliever Chad Orvella the two guys who could be dropped off the roster due to injury, and two other guys inserted into their spots. Most people have opinions on whose those two players should be, and who should  see the playoffs from the stands.

I can tell you this, the addition of Fernando Perez to the roster is a great additon based on speed and ability to play any outfield position. If he can get us a few extra runs down the stretch as a pinch-runner, all the better. But if he can give us more depth and give the guys in the outfield a few days off, it will help refresh a few of these guys and get their minds sharp for the post season.

Now I have already heard a few grumbles about David Price or Wade Davis not being here right now, but think about it, they are getting valuable experience playing in the Triple-A playoffs right now. That is the kind of education you can not buy or substitute. It will give them a taste of what will be October right now. So iof either of them are put on the Post Season Roster, they will be mentally prepared for the excitement and the adrenaline rush that comes with the call up.

I am a bit upset not to see two of the Rays’ veterans not get a shot up here this September. I am a huge fan of thinking that Mike DiFelice has done everything asked of him this year, and did not get rewarded with even a call up. I know he is entering the twi-light of his career, but name another player who has sweated and been there for the Rays since 1998.

Even though he was not with the franchsie for a few years, you know he watched and wanted those guys to have the excitement and the dream of a playoff berth. And now he is not even invited to be up here just for the September run.  Pity, he deserves better from the Rays.

And, this might not a popular pick, but I feel Jonny Gomes needs to be here as soon as the Durham playoffs are over. People have been knocking him all year, but as soon as he got some extra at bats in Durham, he exploded and is hitting with more power and even placing the ball into the oppositie fields.

I am not asking that Gomes be put on the post season roster unless he shows his bat is alive and deserving of a shot, but that he is the heart and soul of more than the players here in Tampa Bay. I think the crowd will aslo feed off Jonny’s vibe and get into this playoff push with more vigor and enegry. He has been the poster boy for a few years of the confidience and the energy of this team. It would be a shame if he can not even come up and help them get to October 1st without even picking up a bat.

 

I understand the bringing up of John Jaso is a call up to get him some familiarity with the major leagues. Jaso is our future catcher, and might even be a back-up in 2009 for the Rays. He has improved alot at Triple-A, and with a teacher like DeFelice, you can go wrong. His increased awareness behind and at the plate will work in his favor when he is up here with the Rays. He can also get a few spot starts and get the feel for the type of abilities he will have to display and improve on to be here next year.

 

We have a young team in many areas, and it will just get better with a maturation process in the next few years. Players will be added and subtracted to make this team stronger and more flexible in the near future. I know a few familiar faces might not even be here next season for the Rays, and that might just be a true sign of the level of competition we have finally reached on this team.

 

This team is about to hit a stretch run from hell, but with the pitching starting to click on all 8 cylinders, and the hitting supporting itself, we might just see a push for 100 wins this year. I am not counting on that total, but it might be a fun sight to see the drive for it this year. I am still stuck on my number of 95 wins will be needed to secure a playoff spot.

The great bit about the playoffs is that we can beat every team that is fighting for the positons. The Angels, White Sox and Red Sox all know we can beat them.

The Twins have not been around us enough yet, but you know they do believe they will have to make a statement in the next homestand against us here at the Trop.  That series might be one of the best played series in the Trop. this year, with a playoff spot as the reward for both teams.

Hopefully we can pop the champagne before they leave for Baltimore or Detroit, but that will take alot of help from other team for that to happen at the Trop before that 8-game roadtrip to end the season.

And do not forget, besides the Detroit 4 games, we have a makeup contest from the first week of the season against the Orioles. That game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on  September 23rd, with game 1 presently being telecasted on FSN at 5:05 P.M.

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