Dice-K Rolls a Winner in Game 1 of ALCS

 

 

 

Why is it that people have doubted this team from the beginning of the year, but now they are coming out of the woods saying they knew they were for real. I can say with total honesty I thought it might be a year away and that this year we would break .500 for sure. But now there are people, beside Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir who said they predicted this all along.

Local TV station, channel 10 anchor Reginald Roundtree did make a prediction the Rays would be superior this year, but even he must be surprised at the total upward climb of this franchise. Scott Kazmir came out during Spring Training that this team was good enough to go into the Playoffs. It was laughed upon then, but now Kazmir can make the first move towards fulfilling the total fantasy tonight in his start against the Red Sox.

Why is it people have to be overly flamboyant and uber chic when they claim their year long love for the Rays.  You have the kids with the multicolor and etched mohawk hairs this season that might have not even seen a game last year. And you have the bandwagon fans who jumped on the Bucs, Storm and Lightning wagons during their Post season adventures. 

I can say with total confidience I have never been on the Buc bandwagon, and even if they do sweak out a magical season of their own, you will not see a Bucs blog on this page……………….ever. But can you say that about other fans. I know that on MLBlogs.com, there has been a huge upswing of Rays blogs since August.  Are you telling me that fans did not have a dream of writing about this team until they were winning?

Just a question fans, if the Rays go 62-100 next season, will you still be wearing the colors, or will you be looking for the team du Jour? Just a thought as I sit on my Opening Night seat cushion on the computer chair. looking at a picture of Wilson Alvarez throwing the first pitch in 1998.

 

Red Sox 2, Rays 0

 

              

 

James Shields

You have to admit that “Big Game” James Shields did have an awesome night on the mound last night. It is rare that a guy can get a loss in a game where he only gives up 2-runs on 6 total hits by the opposition. Shields has been money for so long this eason that alot of people seemed in shock when it was the 7th inning and he was stil out there pitching for the Rays.

You have to know that he went into that dugout and got totally political and talked Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Rays Manager Joe Maddon into letting him get this game for the team. He did everything in his power to secure a win for the Rays and start the Red Sox in a hole in the ALCS. But his 8-2 mark since the All-Star break, and his great ERA at home did not make the difference in the ballgame. The Red sox used their hits and walks to their advantage and played the Rays’ game and stole this first game .

Shields went 7.1 innings and had 6 strikeouts in the contest. He also  had 25 pitches in th first inning, but got out of the inning without any scorinbg by the Red Sox, a major plus at the time.  But the Ground Rule Double into the rightfield corner in the 2st inning by Kevin Youkilis ended a 0-17 streak by Shields in conquering one of the Red Sox bashers. It made a huge exclamation point in this game and set the tone for the later innings.

 

                

 

Sheilds was in total control from the 2nd inning until the 5th, setting down the Red Sox 1-2-3 until the 5th inning. In that inning, the lead-off walk to Jason Bay would come back to haunt Shields as he quicly moved from first to third base on a first pitch check swing blooper to left by Mark Kotsay, and scored  3 pitches later on a Sacrifice Fly by Jed Lowrie to put the Red Sox up 1-0 at the time.

Shield got back under control in the 6th inning setting the Red Sox down on order and came out in the 7th wanting more. But J D Drew led off the inning with a double up the middle on 2nd pitch, and Bay connected on a single tthrough the hole at short to out 2 men on base in a total of 5 pitches.

 

                     

 

Akinora Iwamura made a excellient grab of Kotsays’ diving fly ball to prevent any scoring in the inning. After that 1st out, the Red Sox ended up stranding both baserunners.  Shields came out to the delight of the crowd in the 8th inning and quickly got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to him as he took a weak grounder and threw low to CArlos Pena at first to gert the first out in the inning. Then he gave up a single to left to Dustin Pedroia and that was the end of Shields night. He had thrown 115 pitches on the night and had given the Rays a chance to take the lead in the entire game.

 

              

 

Unfortunately, Perdroia was on 2nd base when Kevin Yuokilis got his 3rd hit of the night off J P Howell and scored and his run was credited to Shields. He did everything he could to post the win for the Rays, but his best was not good enough tonight. It was not a wasted effort as the Red Sox did comment after the game that he was on tonight, but that another pitcher was hotter and suppressed the Rays’ bats.

 

                    

 

Rays at the Plate

Tampa Bay last night started out in the 1st inning like this was going to be a totally different ballgame. They had Aki lead off the game with a walk and after a well struck fly out by B J Upton looked like they might be posting a nice little rally. After Upton, Carlos Pena also walked on 5 pitches to put 2 men on base for the Rays with 1-out.  Evan Longoria then went down via a strikeout on 4 pitches and Carl crawford walked on 7 pitches to load the basaes for the Rays. Cliff Floyd then came up with 2-outs and grounded out to second base to prevent a Rays score and shut down the inning.

From that 1st inning on, the Rays only had a Pena walk in the 3rd inng as the only Rays baerunner until the 6th inning. In the 3rd to the beginnig of the bottom of the 7th inning, the Rays went down in order and looked perplexed by Red Sox starter Diasuke Matsuzaka. Not until the 7th inning did the Rays even manage a hit against the Red Sox.

 

 

In that 7th inning, Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a single to right, and Floyd hit a beauty into the leftfield-center gap to put Crawford at 3rd with no outs in the inning. It looked like the Rays had Matsuzaka on the ropes ands might be getting to him, but a short leftfield fly ball to Bay that Crawford could not score on put the pressure on the Rays.

Gabe Gross struck out on a mean looking breaking ball, and Jasob Bartlett hit into the Rays’ only double play of the night to ens the Rays threat in the 7th inning. At that point, the Rays were 0-5  on the night with runners in scoring position.

 

In the 8th inning, Aki lead-off with a single to left field for the Rays. Upton then came up and Aki went to second on a Wild Pitch by Matsuzaka. Upton then smashed the 3rd pitch he saw towards third base and Youkilis could not handle the shot and Upton was on base with a single with men at the corners ans no outs.

Matsuzaka was then removed and Red Sox leftie reliever ,Hideki Okajima came on to pitch Pena. He got Pena to hit a soft fly ball to right to get the first out in the inning. He was then removed for  Justin Masterson, who got Longoria to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.  

 

 

Rays Confidience Level

After tonight’s game you have to think that the Rays confidience level might be at an all-time low for the season. They fought long and hard tonight, but did not take advantage of Boston’s gifts and loss a close game by every standard. Hopefully they will do the same thing they have done all years and let go of this loss within 15 minutes and recharge for a re-match tommorrow night at 8:07 p.m.

I do not doubt the Rays’ energy level or their offense, but sometimes a game like this can take you down a notch and it takes longer to rebound. In a best-of-7 series, you have to automatically rebound or you could find yourself down 0-3 faster than you can imagine. The Rays need to shake this off and get back to business and take it to Red Sox starter Josh Beckett tomorrow early and often in the game.

 

                  

 

To split the series at home is not in the origianl plans of the Rays, but reality has them now maybe playing 5 or more games in this series. You had to believe that the Rays would be playing at least 6 games even before tonight’s loss. Reality is that this might be the series that could make or break the World Series for the team. Either one of these clubs match up great with the National League clubs still in the hunt, and either of them can knock them out of the World Series.

Tomorrow night’s game will set the tone for the rest of this series as to if the Rays are up to the challenge of beating the current World Champs and taking on all commers in the next round.

 

 

Rays Bullpen

You have to go back into the regular season to find a time that the Rays’ Bullpen has not been stellar this season. Coming into the game the Bullpen has been the shining star of the Rays’ pitching performances. I think this is just a hiccup, but  J P Howell did not look his usual stop=gap self tonight. His pitches did hit the zone hard and break great, but he did not have to constant pressure we have gotten to expect from the gifted leftie. He went only 12 pitches tonight and gave up a hit and a walk to put pressure on the Rays defense.

That is not the usual case for Howell this season.  To give Howell some slack, the ball hit to Carwford in left that he missed with his glove by a micro of inches is usually a solid fly out and not even a factor, but the walk to Ortiz did put him on 3rd after the odd play and almost put the game out of the Rays reach at that point.

Grant Balfour came on and threw 1.1 innigs of shutout ball to put the Rays into a solid place to try and get this game.  He did however hit the first batter, Drew in the right shoulder and it alsmost looked like an intentional shot until you look at the video replay and you actually see his release point was beyond it’s usual spot. It was an accidental throw, but got both benches up on the rail to watch the rest of the inning.

Balfour then calmed down and threw strikes to get Bay to strikeout and Kotsay to pop out to Longoria to end the inning.  In the 9th, he got 2 quick fly outs to Upton in center before David Price came on to pitch to Ellsbury to end the inning. It might seem odd that the Rays broyught Price in for one batter, but Maddon wanted  to use Price in another situation besides a long-relief role to give him extra experience this post season.

 

Crowd Noise

Worst part of last night is the fact that the Rays faithful kept their noise up for 5 inning, then became part of the background unless the Rays got a runner on base. There did not seem to be that constant echo or noise factor that was there in previous games, and it seemed that the Rays fans were doubting the team for the first time in a long, long time.

 

Buck up Rays faithful, we have come to far and made too much noise to be a wallflower now. In the first 4 innings you could see and hear the crowd vocally and musically getting into the game. But as the score seemed to put itself more concrete in the fan’s memories, the fans took themselves out of the game. By the 8th inning, you heard the first really vivid “let’s Go Red Sox” cheer and no noise to drown them out.

The Rays might have gotten caught up in a shock wave of emotion, but the fans have to be the thermostat and crank up that heat again when the team is seeking an answer. The 10th man is needed more this series than ever before. And how we respond as fans will determine who will come out of all of this as the American Leagues’ rep. in the World Series.

So tune up your vocal chords, and get those arms flexed and loose to ring those cowbells for 9 innings tonight andd get into the Boston players’ heads and get a moral and vocal victory for the Rays. We have done it before, and we can do it again Rays’ fans………..just put hand “A” together with hand “B” and repeat until they become beet red.

 

 

 

 

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