Game 5.5 Signals the End of the Rays Run
I was told that J P Howell was taking the loss pretty hard last night after the Philadelphia Phillies ended the 46 hour lay-over of Game 5 of the World Series. I do not know why he is thinking it is the end of all things right now. You have to remember that this years’ team went above every expectation set by the coaches’ and management. they flew beyond any goal or lofty intention of every and any fan, and last, but not least, they made us proud to be Ray Fans.
I did not go out to the Trop last night at 3 a.m., I wanted to cheer and applaud for the Rays for a job well done. But this is private time. I know as an ex-athlete that you need a little space right after a collossial event to get your feet back on the ground. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for the team the last 3 days. And no matter what the outcome, there was going to be some backlash mentally and emotionally.
Just remember guys, on Saturday at the City of St. Pete celebration, it will all seem to fade away. We have 107 days until we start it all over again, and I can not wait personally. Not for the goals and aspirations of 2009, but because the Rays deserve another shot at the title. If Rocco can come back off the canvas, why can’t we get another shot at the ring and the dream.
Congrats to the World Champions
Seriously, it was a great World Series from Game 1-5. The Phillies have been hungry for a title for 28 years in baseball. Heck, Pete Rose was playing third base back then for the Fightin’ Phillies. What was so special was to see 40-something Jamie Moyer go out to the pitching mound and take a pole and wedge that pitching rubber out of the clay and take it home.
It was an exciting series. And do I enjoy the end result………well, no, but I do enjoy the fact that it was settled on the field and not in a boardroom or in a conference call. We got to finish the game, and for that we have to thank Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. He wanted to play these games to their conclusions. He did not want a shortened World Series, or a series that would be questioned. He might still be questioned, but I think it was done with the most respect for both teams and was done as fast and as safe as possible.
Game 5 had to be stopped, and the Rays scoring in the top of the 6th inning on Monday gave him ample cause to suspend it and play it under better circumstances. There were an announced crowd of 44,000 on hand Wed. night. That is about 1,000 less than Monday, but those people might have already been on Broad Street preping for a good time by 8:30 that night. We played out the final 2 1/2 innings and the city got to have a dry and cool celebration after all.
The Rays Bullpen has been a mainstay of this team for so long this season it amazes me that they are taking this loss so personally. If not for the efforts of everyone down there, especially Grant Balfour and J P Howell, we might not have even hit the playoffs at all this season. If you are looking for true MVP’s of this playoff run, you have to consider the entire Bullpen as a whole. They have gone above and beyond themselves all year long, and do not have anything to be ashamed of at all.
Grant Balfour went to the mound in the bottom of the 6th and Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel sent up Geoff Jenkins to pinch-hit for Cole Hamels, who was still the pitcher of record for the Phillies. Jenkins had played with Balfour with the Milwaukee Brewers’ and probably knows his pitching style better than anyone else on the bench.
On a 2-2 count, Jenkins hit a long fly ball into the right-center gap that hit off the scoreboard just out of the reach of a sprawling Rocco Baldelli. The ball fell to the turf and B J Upton went and retrived the ball to keep Jenkins to a double. With Jenkins in scoring position, Jimmy Rollins came up and put doen a sacrifice bunt to move Jenkins less than 90 feet from giving the Phillies the lead in the game.
Jayson Werth then came up and hit a shallow looper to the spot between second base and the outfield. Akinora Iwamura went out to try and pull in the ball, but after trying to catch it via a basket-catch, the ball trickled down from his glove to the turf and Jenkins scored to give the Phillies the lead 3-2. That was the end of the night for Balfour, who went 1.1 innings total in the game, but went 1/3 of an inning tonight, giving up 2-hits and a lone run.
J P Howell then came on to face Chase Utley and got him to strikeout on 3 pitches. Ryan Howard then came to bat and hit a fly ball to Evan Longoria at third for the final out of the 6th inning. In the 7th inning, Pat Burrell came up to start the 7th inning and was hit-less in this years’ World Series. He was currently 0-13, when he hit hanging curveball into the left-center section of the outfield and clipped the high wall to settle for a double.
Burrell was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett at second base. That ended the night for Howell as he went 2/3rds of an inning throwing 7 pitches and giving up 1-hit and 1-run for the Rays. Chad Bradford came on and quickly got Shane Victorino to ground out to Iwamura at second base. This moved Bruntlett to third with 1-out in the inning. Pedro Feliz then hit a ball up the middle for a RBI single and the Phillies were up 4-3 at that time.
Bradford got Carlos Ruiz to hit into a 4-6 force out at second, with Ruiz on first on a fielder’s choice. Iwamura made an amazing play behind second base to get the force out on Feliz. Phillies reliever J C Romero the came up and hit a ball to Iwamura that he flipped to Bartlett at second base for another force out to end the inning.
David Price then came on in the 8th inning and got a quick fly out from Rollins and a strikeout of Werth. He then gave up a walk to Utley before getting Howard to strikeout to end the inning for the Phillies.
Rocco Baldelli’s Blast
In the 7th inning, with Ryan Madson on the mound for the Phillies, Dioner Navarro struck out to lead off the inning. Then rocco Baldelli came up and on the first pitch took Madson deep to leftfield on a line drive homer to tie the game at 4-all. The Blast was just the first homer of the World Series for Baldelli, but it put life back into the Rays’ hopes for a Game 6 at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.
Jason Bartlett’s Gamble
You have to be pleased with the effort of Jason Bartlett at shortstop for the Rays this season. He has brought a solid defense and a secure bat to the lineup that the Rays have never had at the position. In the top of the 7th inning tonight, Bartlett hit a single to leftfield to try to keep the rally going after Baldelli’s homer.
J P Howell came up and batted in the inning for the Rays. This was an unsusual play as Rays Manager Joe Maddon could have used a pich hitter to hit for Howell since he had David Price and Chad Bradford warmed up in the Bullpen. But Maddon let Howell take his whacks at the plate for the Rays. Howell put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett to second and into scoring position for the Rays.
Iwamura then came up and hit a infield single to shallow centerfield and Bartlett was rounding third when Utley faked the throw to first and threw to home to get the streaking Bartlett by less than a foot at the plate. Bartlett was tagged out as he was stretching his hand for the plate and it ended the 7th inning for the Rays. It was a gutsy play by the Rays shortstop, and one that almost made a huge difference in the contest.
You have to credit Utley for seeing Bartlett taking a wide turn at third and streaking for home. If Utley has held onto the ball a split second longer, Bartlett would have scored and tied tha game at 4-all for the Rays. So if you have to find a defining moment in this game……..this was the series clincher fo the Phillies…. at the plate.
The Rays did try amd mount another rally in the 8th inning after Carl crawford lead-off with a single to centerfield. B J Upton hit a ball to short that Rollins turned into a 6-4-3 double play to remove the Rays threat in the inning. Pena then hit a weak fly ball to left to end the inning for the Rays.
In the 9th, Evan Longoria lead off the inning by hitting a fly out to second base. Navarro then hit a shattered bat single to right that fell in front of a hard charging Werth. Maddon then sent in Fernando Perez as a pinch-runner for Navarro. With pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist at the plate for the Rays, Perez stole second base on the third pitch to Zobrist and put a runner in scoring position for the Rays.
Zobrist then hit a shot to right that was caught by Werth for the 2nd out of the inning. With 1-out left in the Rays season, Maddon sent up Eric Hinske to pinch-hit for Bartlett. Hinske went down on three pitches to give the Phillies their first championship since 1980 in the majors.
Welcome Home Rays
The Rays were scheduled to be flying into St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport at 3 am on Thursday. The team did not have a planned greeting at the airport and the team was to quickly get on their coaches’ for the trip to the Trop. Several people were at the airport waiting for the team, but they did not come through the baggage area and loaded straight from the plane on the tarmac.
The Rays then trekked from the airport to the back enterance at the Trop. There they were greeted by a few dozen fans who stood out in the cold to cheer for the hometown Rays. Several members of the team did come out and salute the crowd before heading into the Trop to pack and have some private time with team mates and family.
I will be getting the information on the City of St. Petersburg celebration sometime today or tomorrow. Stay tuned to your favorite Rays blog and I will be sure to pass on all the info I get as soon as I recieve it. Again, remember that this team exceeded all expectations of it during the season and should be roundly applauded for their hustle and determination to even get into the playoffs this season.
The Saturday event will be to celebrate not only the team;s efforts, but the increased support and bonding of the Tampa Bay area this season behind the Rays “Magical Summer Tour 2008″. The region has grown from just a spotty support group for the team, to an increasing fan base throughout the country and the world. The Rays are no longer the loveable losers of yesteryear. We now have tasted the fruits of winning, and it is sweet to our mouths, and we yearn for more……….
Pitchers’ and Catchers’ Report in 107 DAYS.