Game 1 LIves Up to It’s Hype

 

Phillies 3, Rays 2

 

 

It was a night filled with energy, endless lines just to get food, and a huge bundle of memories and sights. Everywhere you looked you thought you saw a baseball player or a celebrity. 9 times out of 10 it was just a figment of your imagination. Then there I was getting a oversized Dr. Pepper and who do I see, an old frind who played with the Oakland A’s in the 80′s.

He had recently moved back to the Tampa Bay area after spending his post-MLB years working for a California baseball camp for years. He even had a slight move into the music video world back when it was a single camera and a dream of every singer to be om MTV. But, that was when they used to play only videos 24-7.

He was in a video by Richard Marx in his A’s uniform with Dennis Eckersley on the mound. To this day I still remember the song and the video like I just bought it on Itunes. Funny how a simple thing like a baseball game can transform you back into a simpler time when we used to dream about baseball here in Tampa Bay while sipping cool drinks under the sun at Al Lang watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.

 

 

Bad 90′s Boy Band Flashback

In the 1990′s it seemd that the Backstreet Boys owned the Pop charts in the U.S.( I was not a fan.) They had a nation of women wanting to curl up to Howie or Nick, or AJ ( I was not a fan.) And then they split up to do the solo thing like every other band that sees the light at the end of the cash register line  ( I was not a fan). Then they got back together and made more mature music about things like, well music (I am becoming less tone deaf to them). Then they do the National Anthem at the First  World Series game for the Tampa Bay Rays ( I am listening).

What is upsetting about their performance is not the fact it was an ac capella redition of a timeless classic, but the way it was done. I like harmonies and great vocal ranges, but it was a bit too 90′s Boy Band for me ( But it did have a kind of rhythm). They would have not heard a single boo or chuckle if they came out there and did a harmonious redition with out the free range pitches and vocal runs that made it more of a joke than a serious moment ( I did dig it for a moment). Le’t hope that Los Lonely heard their redition last night and will do a classic sing your butt off National Anthem. It will bring down the house and sedn the Trop into the next level.

 

 

StealabaseStealataco.com

With a 5 second lunge from first to second, Jason Bartlett became the lastest Rays to become the center of a trivia question. By going the 60 feet to second and sliding in before the throw of Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz, he became the favorite Rays for millions of fans in the U.S.

All because of a simple crunchy spicy beef taco. That’s right, Jason Bartlett became the focal point of Taco Bell’s latest ad gimmick, Stealabasestealataco, where everyone in America can run to the border on Tuesday, October 28th, from 2-6 p.m. and eat a simple concoction from old Mexico for FREE.

 

 

Aki Gets the Party Started Right

Akinora Iwamura started off this year’s World Series for the Rays with announcing his order in the lineup on National TV. That is right, Aki spoke english to the masses on Fox last night. For a while now Aki has been speaking english to fans and team mates, but until last night, he did not come out to America that he could speak our native tongue. The vocal was crisp, clean and all-Aki, complete with that smile at the end.

The he goes out in the bottom of the first and makes history on the 6th pitch of the night. that is when Aki put a ball down the first baseline that got both Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard to do a dancing with the Phillies rendition on first base. It was the Rays’ first hit in the World Series, and it also showed there was some rust in the Philies defense.

Aki got taken out by a double play by B J Upton 3 pithces later, but the historical hit was in the book for Aki. Then in the 3rd inning, Aki again came up and ripped a single to right for his second hit of the night. Again Upton took all the thunder away by hitting a smash down to third that turned into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Then in the 5th Aki came up with a chance to also make some more Rays history. After a Bartlett walk with 2-outs in the inning, Aki was at the plate when Bartlett became America’s sweetheart by stealing second base on a 3-1 count. Aki had a front row seat to Taco Time in Tampa Bay.  3 pitches later Aki stroked a double into the gap in left-center and scored Bartlett for  second run of the night for the Rays.  But beyond that, it also put Aki at 3 for 3 on the night and flirting with history.

Aki came up to bat in the 8th inning wondering if the magic was still there for him to maybe do the unthinkable and go 4 for 4 tonight. He worked the count to 3-2 against Phillie reliever Ryan Madson then got a nice ball to drive to right, but he hit a little under the ball and Jason Werth made an easy play to end the streak for Aki.

 

 

Mental Errors

There were a few plays that turned the tide for the Rays last night. The pick-off at second base of Chase Utley might have gone the Rays way if the throw was a few inches lower to the bag. The Rays did have him dead-to-rights at second, but a Kazmir throw sailing a bit high made the tag more difficult and time consuming.

 

 

Another play by Kazmir that had a few heads shaking was the light toss to Pena on a play hit back to Kazmir in the 5th inning. The play unfolded as Burrell was pitched inside and only got a bit of the bat on the ball hit back done the line at first. Kazmir came off the mound and picked up the ball and tossed a light-hearted effort to Pena over Burrell’s left shoulder.

 

 

Because Burrell was racing right down the line it took out the angle for Kazmir to fire a bullet for an easy out. Pena could not handle the throw and bobbled the ball before finally letting it hit the dirt. It was scored as a error on Pena, his first in a long time.

 

That was not the only play that showed the Rays nervousness and lack of initial concentration. Upton had a ball he sprinted in for hop beyond his glove and Ben Zobrist backing Upton up on the play made a nice grab to keep the runner from scoring. It was a aggressive play by Upton, that I will not find fault in, but at the wrong time in the ballgame.

 

 

The infield also had a few balls come up hard on them and forced bad looking plays at second and shortstop. But both Aki and Bartlett swallowed the ball instead of making a late, and maybe costly mistake on the field for the Rays. All in all, it was a night that showed the anxious nature of the team.

 

           

 

B J Being B J

No, I am not comparing him to Manny here. Upton just had one of those nights you just have to sit back reflect on for 10 seconds then flush it down the drain and get off your butt and start all over again. Upton became the first player in major league baseball history to ground into double plays on his first two at bats in the World Series. Not a record for the scrapbook, but it did look bad at the moment.

In reflection, Upton just had a few bad pitches up tight inside that he fought off to get contact on and hit to people instead of the holes or over people. It is the place where he will see pitches for the rest of the series.

They will be crowding him up by his armpits or tossing it outside, low hoping for a low driving ball for more double plays. Upton just has to adjust a bit and he will be back into the hitting fold and wrecking havoc on everyone in the Phillies jersey. Upton also had a play down the first baseline right to Howard that ended the Rays rally in the 5th inning. The ball squirmed its way to Howard who made an easy run to first to end the inning for the Rays.

 

 

Then there was the play that everyone in the stadium buzzing Upton’s name for long after the play. Shane Victorino is a huge baserunning threat on the Phillies lineup. So when he singled in the 2nd inning off Kazmir, you knew the night was about to get very exciting. 2 walks in the inning put Victorino on third base with 1 out in the inning.

You knew that a fly ball anywhere in the stadium could score the speedster from third.  Jimmy Rollins then came up and took the 2nd pitch from Kazmir into mid centerfield. Upton took the ball in and locked and fired within a nano second to home. Victorino had tagged up and was chugging down the line at Navarro. The ball came in as a strike to Navvaro even before Victorino began to slide.

 

 

Because the ball got there early, Navarro was able to position himself up the line a bit and took Victorino totally out of the play and tagged him out for the 3rd out in the inning, and end the Phillies rally.  Lost in the moment weas the throw by Upton that pegged him at the plate. It was aperfect example of what Upton will be able to do for the Rays in this series. you could hear Matt Garza yellng “You do not want to test the cannon” on the bench after the play. But that was just B J being B J.

 

 

Fans Can Get into the Game

I am a firm believer in fans having a say in the game on the sidelines. Now I am not talking about yelling and clanging our cowbells, but if the ball comes beyond that green devider on the field, the players enter the “fan zone.”

In this area, it is our duty as the home fans to make it as difficult and as hard for a visiting team;s player to get that ball as possible. If you stand there and not let them get a good glove on the ball, or even grab it yourslef before the player gets it, the umpire will just chuckle. But if you interfere by touching him or slapping it out of his glove, then you will get poped by the Fan Interference rule.

I have done this a few times down the rightfield line in my 11 years following the Rays. Have been in the face of a few players as they have attempted to catch, and eventaken 1 away from another team’s right fielder. I took a sure thing foul ball away from the New York Yankees Raul Mondesi about 5 years back, and I used to talk to him every game at the Trop after that play. He respected that I knew the rules enough to make sure I was in my zone before darting my glove up and taking the ball before it hit his glove. It was nothing personal, and the batter struck out on the next pitch, but it gave my team a chance, and that is the Fan’s way to impact a game.

 

     

 

Kazmir Take the Loss

Scott Kazmir did not deserve to take this loss tonight. I was a hard fought game that turned into the pitchers’ duel we all knew it would be. It had great moments by both pitchers, and some Kazmir moments we have all come to expect during his starts. Kazmir went 6 innings of 3-hit 3-run ball. His command was all over the place at times, then his slider took control of the game a few times too.

Kazmir got the game started with a bang by issuing an early walk to Jayson Werth then Chase Utley hit a hanging pitch for a 2-run shot to right that gave the Phillies an early 2-0 lead. Kazmir again got into trouble early in the 2nd inning by giving up a leadoff single to Victorino and then  issuing 2 more walks, before Upton gunned down Victorino at the plate to end the inning.

In the 3rd, Kazmir gave up a double to Werth, who was leading off the inning down the rightfield line. He rebounded in the inning and got two quick strikeouts from Howard and Burrell to end the inning. In the 4th, Victorino again got a blooper single to center to lead-off the 4th inning.  Pedro Feliz then hit a ball right by Kazmir for a single to put two mwn on in the inning.

 

 

Carlos Ruiz then came up and got a grounder to short that scored Victorino and gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the game. He had an uneventful 5th inning, then gave up another lopping single to Pedro Feliz to open the 6th inning before 2 straight fly ball ended the inning for the Phillies. Kazmir ended up with 4 walks and 4 srtikeouts on the night for the Rays.

 

 

Carl Crawford Makes Ray’s History

In the bottom of the 1st inning the Rays players’ each introduced themselves on Fox before they began the game. When the camera got to the fifth ray, Carl Crawford, he announced he was”hitting leftfield”. It was a classic moment in the Rays’ first foreray into the International spotlight. Crawford immediately looked off camera and asked if there was going to be another take. When he was told it was all live, he got back into true CC character and smiled that dimpled smile and did his line correctly for the camera.

When Crawford came up in the 4th inning, the Rays already how 2-outs in the inning. He got Cole Hamels to serve him up a nice curveball and deposited that first pitch into the rightfield stands for the Rays first run in the World Series. With that swing, Crawford became to trivia answer for, scoring the first run, the first homer, and first RBI in a World Series game for the Rays.

 

 

Missed Opportunities

The Rays missed some golden moments in the game against the Phillies that might have tied or won the game for them tonight.  The Rays missed a huge opportunity in the 3rd inning when Zobrist hit a single to left. He moved to second on Bartlett’s walk and then advanced to third on a shallow single by Aki into rightfield.

The Rays could have tested Werth’s arm in right, but decided that 1  out in the inning, they would get another chance to score. 3 pitches later, Upton hit into his second double play of the night.

Upton, Pena and Longoria went 0-12 tonight , with 5 strikeouts. None of those three batters even hit a ball out of the infield all night long. If the Rays are to get even in this series tonight, the 2-3-4 hitters of the rays have to step up and prove that the Rays deserve to be in this World Series.

Before tonight’s game, this 3-man unit of the Rays have produced  37 hits, 16 homers and 34 RBI’s in the 2008 postseason for the Rays.  For the team to tie the series up against the Phillies, this group needs to reconnect with the ball and begin to produce for the Rays.

 

 

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