Rays Clutch History in Their Hands

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Yesterday started a bit early for me, about 4 A.M. as I headed to FErg’s a great watering hole within a baseball throw of Tropicana Field. I was there, with a collection of Maddon’s Maniacs for the WTVT Fox13 Morning show to give an early morning pep rally for the fans coming to the Trop. for our first ever post season game.  Mark Ferguson, a fellow Rays Wall of Famer, was giving us breakfast quich and beverages to soup up our energy for the on-camera shots.

About 25 of the Maniac’s came to the event, and were vocal, visual, and some became less hairy during the boradcasts. 2 of the Maniacs actually got their hair ‘hawked while the cameras were rolling. Alos on hand as the TV station baseball analyst was  former Rays catcher, Mike DeFelice. Mike talked about how everyone 0-0 right now and that nothing that happened during the season matters right now.

That seems kind of phrophetic considering that the Chicago Cubs the night before got hammered by the LA Dodgers. In this case, one of the best records in baseball lost to a team that was sitting at .500 for most of the season befores triking out and winning their division.  Also cavorting around the outside of Ferg’s were a few other TV station circling like sharks looking for tasty morsels left over by the Fox13 crew.

All in all, It was a great day to be a Ray as I was the first person to enter the stadium, and the first in line at 9:57 A.M. I have police visual authentification on that since  a few officers who knew me were joking about me being their so early. I was a bit bummered by the fact that the Rays blocked the public web access for the playoffs and the wireless connection was not working at all at the stadium for the public. I was going to do a game live blog while I was there, but the Rays blew that idea for me.

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Evan Longoria

He became the first player in major league history – rookie or veteran – to go 3-for-3 or better with two home runs in his first career playoff game. At age 22 years old, he is the third-youngest player in major league history to hit more than one home run in a postseason game, behind Andruw Jones  in 1996 (19) and Tony Kubek in 1957 (20). He is only the second player in major league history to hit a home run in each of his first two career postseason plate appearances. Gary Gaetti did it in 1987. He had two home runs and an RBI single in his first three career postseason plate appearances. Only two other players drove in a run in each of his first three career postseason plate appearances: Dusty Rhodes in 1954 (first four) & Ted Kluszewski in 1959. He is the first player since 2004 to hit a home run on the first pitch in his first career postseason plate appearance. Houston’s Jason Lane (Oct. 6) and Raul Chavez (Oct. 7) did it on consecutive days in 2004.

Anyone who was at that game can tell you the sound of the ball off the bat on thst first homer was deafening. It sounded like a small explosion as the ball left Longoria’s bat. I found out after the game that the bat he used during his first two at bats were new Louisville slugger bat’s that had just been delivered to him in the last few days. The bat he used to hit this first homer with had no marks on it before the swing. 

 

 

But the second shot was never in doubt. The minute it left the bat, it was hit so high into the air that you wondered if it might hit a catwalk before getting to the outfield. It was probably hit as high as it was deep. The ball truly seemed to be floating out to the 143 section of the stdium before falling back to earth. After his 2nd blast, the crowd tried to get Longoria back out for a curtain call, but he just flipped the cap for a second and went back down into the dugout.

I understand this, is was minor to him at the time because they had a game to win and at that moment the homer was just a play in the game. But Longo, you have no idea what that simple swing of the bat did to this crowd today. S for the game, Longoria went 3-3, with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. The best part is he is perfect for the series with a 1.000 batting average. What a perfect way to start a Playoff run.

 

 

On TBS After a Foulball

I was told during the game that the foulball hit by B J Upton in the 5th inning to the Bullpen Cafe was on TV during the game. I gave the game used  ball to a friend’s daughter  who was sitting right behind me. I was sitting in the Bullpen Cafe for today’s game because of a friend at Ageon Insurance. I want to again thank him and them for letting me enjoy the game with you yesterday.  

 I am glad she got that ball because their family is a huge supporter of the Rays as Season Ticketholders, and that is a keepsake for the history of this great franchise. I could have been selfish and kept it for my collection, but I think I will get a better catch in the next few weeks during a game.

 

 

Rays Win First Postseason Contest in Franchise History

The Rays beat the White Sox in Game 1 Thursday afternoon. It was the first playoff game in the history of the Rays. Tampa Bay is the third American League expansion team to win its first ever postseason game. The Rangers (formerly the Senators) defeated the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS and the Blue Jays beat Kansas City in the 1968 ALCS opener. The Royals (1976 ALCS), Angels (1979 ALCS), Brewers (1981 AL East Playoffs) and Mariners (1995 ALDS) each lost their first postseason game.

It was a wild day in the Trop., and I only saw a small hanful of seats in certain areas with no one in them. Most likely they are the seat that the scalpers outside were selling for $100 dollars for a seat in the Upper Deck for today’s game.

In contrast, for the World Series, the Upper Deck seat are only going to go for $ 100 dollars  a seat. This is the part of baseball that gets to me sometimes. The greed and utter stupidity of people to feed into these people sense of marking up a ticket over 400 percent for a game. A Upper Deck ticket for face value for this game was only about $ 20.00 a ticket.

The best part of winning the first game of a series is the added pressure it puts on the opposing team for the second game. This is a huge plus for the Rays becuase sometime the other team will now try and do a bit extra or push a bit harder and might make a monumential mistake during the game. It is also a plus having the 30,000 plus fans going completely nuts like yesterday to pump up the volume a bit .

 

                    

 

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour entered the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and one out and promptly struck out Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to preserve the Rays’ three-run lead. Balfour struck out 82 batters in 58 1/3 innings this season, a rate of 12.65 strikeouts per nine innings. That was the highest rate for any of the 318 major league pitchers who logged at least 50 innings this season.

 

 

Home Plate umpire, Joe West had his hands full when Balfour and Orlanod Cabrera decided to have a one and one communication 60 feet 6 inches away from each other. During the at bat, when Cabrera showed a bit of disrepect and was shouting towards Balfour, he had no problem coming a few feet off the mound and curse back at Cabrera. I love this guy more for his spunk and energy in the last few months. But the clincher was him pointing to the dugout after the strikeout and basically telling him to go take a seat.  That was pure classic October baseball.

Here is a guy who was sent to the minor leagues after Spring Training to work on a few things, and when he came back, he made it difficult for him to not be in the Bullpen. He has pitched lights out all year long, and today was no exception. In today’s game Balfour only worked 1 inning, but he got whole days worth of talking and oozed confidience and attitude.

I really like the reference by Rays Manager, Joe Maddon to Balfour being like Al Hrbosky, the Mad Hungarian. I think we might have to have a contest to see what kind of nickname we should attach to Grant. Maybe the “Aussie Express”, no that sounds dumb. But we will think of something by the end of this all.

 

                             

 

All White Sox Runs by Homers

All four White Sox runs scored on home runs: a three-run blast by Dewayne Wise and a solo-shot by Paul Konerko. The White Sox scored 811 runs during the 2008 season, 385 of them scored via the home run (47.5%). That was the highest such percentage, by far, for any major league team this season.

I know the Rays pitchers do not like the fact that they did give up 2 homers to the White Sox. But their offense is geared for the big play and is really kind of expected to score on blasts and extra base hits more than bloopers and baserunning like the Rays. That is what will set this series apart, the Rays can run-and-gun all day long, while the White Sox have to be aggressive and play off big hits and Rays mistakes to score their runs.

 

                              

 

Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford, whose last regular season at-bat came on August 9, was in Tampa Bay’s starting lineup Thursday afternoon. Crawford is the first player in the live-ball era to start in his team’s postseason opener without a regular-season at-bat during the month of September.

Alot of fans around the Trop. were wondering which Carl Crawford was going to show up yesterday. The one who can hit the ball all over the park, or the guy who has had a difficult time hitting certain White Sox pitchers. Crawford has been pretty successful against Javier Vasquez in his career. Crawford is hitting .423 against him, and in today’s game went only 1-4, but thet 1 hit was an RBI single to center that scored Willy Aybar to put the Rays up 6-3.

Early in the game Crawford looked a bit rusty in leftfield letting aball drop that he might have sually made a play on, but he has to shake the rust off in the field because these games matter more than the previous 162 we have played this year. Crawfoird did look relaxed at the plate and his stroke looked clean, so it might just be a short amtter of time until he is totally comfortable at the plate again and hitting like a champ. 

 

 

 

James “Big Game” Shields

James Shields has always asked for the ball in games that mattered for the Rays. This 2nd year starter has made a name for himself in coming through in clutch situations for the Rays this season. Considering he tied with Edwin Jackson for team lead in victories ( 14 ), Shileds has always been a “go-to” guy for the Rays.

And today was no exception. In the franchisie’s first journey into the post season, Shields was the man to lead the team to a new high in the Rays history books. Shields pitched 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 3-run ball, but effectively shut down most of the White Sox big slugger all game long. 

Dewayne Wise took advantage of a hanging breaking ball in the 3rd inning on a 2-2 count and put it into Section 140 in rightfield for a 3-run homer. That gave the White Sox and early 3-1 lead. Shields sent down the White Sox 1-2-3 in 5 of his 6.1 innings of work. He also got 4 strikeout on the day against the White Sox.

 

                          

 

What was great about the start is that Shields was also the Opening Day starter for the Rays this season and it shows the confidience Maddon has in him to get the early win in this  best-of-5 series against the Sox.  Isn’t a bit weird to even fanthom that Shield is the oldest of all the Rays starter on this team. That a guy in his second year in the majors is the number1 guy, and is not even near the age of 30………..we might be seeing alot more of this team in the playoffs in the near future with depth like this.

Shields came into this game 0-1 in 3 starts against them in his career. He faced them once this year, at Tropicana Field and gave up only 1 run in 6 innings of work, but did not get the decision due to a Cliff Floyd 9th inning walk-off homer to seal the win. He faced them twice las season (2007), and got a no decison in a May 25th contest and took the loss at the Trop on June 26th, when he struck out 11, but lost 6-1 to the White Sox.

 

 

 





 

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