October 2008

World Series Tidbits…………….. The Late Saturday Night Edition

 

 

                    

 

Tonight’s game might not have been the best weather for a baseball game of this magnitude, but it did live up to each teams’ strong points. the Rays have used the small ball philosophy to score alot of runs this year. the base bstealing and the timely hits came for the Rays, but in the end, a well placed ball did them in last night.

Nothing to ashamed of here. This is the time of year where lucky is as good as a .300 hitter. The Phillies did what they do best last night, they sent 3 balls into the stands and posted 3 runs on them.  The Rays almost had a loong ball fo their own, but the baseball gods in Philly did not want Longoria to post one up tonight. That ball seemed to swirl up the air for a bit before Burrell took it into his mitt for the 3rd out of the inning.

The real winner is the fans of both teams who saw a pitcher almost my age post the game of his life. The Phillies needed Moyer to come through in a big way, and he delivered on the mound and in the field. Okay, okay, he did get Upton in time with that amazing toss from his glove, but big old Ryan Howard also blocked the barehanded catch. If the umpire was placed in foul territory, it would have been a no-brainer call.

Case in point, the umpires have made alot of great calls in this series so far, but we all only remember at least one a game for a sheer fact of it either being a bad call, or a judgement call in a nano second. Give me a break,  the baseball umpires have gotten it right more times than not in this series, so let’s stop bringing them into the eqation every night.

 

 

 

Pujols Slams Another Award Home

For each of his first 8 years in the majors, Albert Pujols has produced more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. That already is twice as many as anyone in MLB history. But he said what happened at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night will bring him more gratification than anything in his storied career

The Cardinals’ star first baseman received the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award before the start of Game 3 of the World Series in recognition of the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team. As part of this year’s presentation, Chevy is donating $30,000 and a 2009 Chevy Traverse to the Pujols Family Foundation.

 

 

As is customary before every Game 3 of the Fall Classic, Commissioner Bud Selig made the announcement on Saturday at a news conference that included the recipient as well as Vera Clemente, the widow of the great Roberto Clemente, who died in a 1972 plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. This award was first bestowed by MLB in 1971, and was renamed in Clemente’s honor in 1973.

 

Pujols, 28, had been the Cardinals’ nominee for the 4th year in a row. He was selected from a list of 30 nominees, one from each MLB club. A panel of dignitaries, including Selig and Vera Clemente, selected the overall award recipient. Additionally, fans were able to log on to MLB.com and cast a vote for one of the 30 nominees. The winner of the fan vote was tallied as one vote among those cast by the selection panel.

 

Wild Happenings in Citizen Bank Park on Sat. Night

 

The Phillies had only 2 previous walkoff wins in postseason play: Game 4 of the 1981 N.L. East Playoffs against the Expos (George Vukovich homered in the 10th inning) and Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS against Atlanta (Kim Batiste singled in the winning run in the 10th inning).

 

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hit consecutive home runs for the Phillies in the 6th inning last night. They were the first pair of teammates to hit back-to-back homers in a World Series game since the Giants’ Reggie Sanders and David Bell in 2002 (Game 2, second inning) and the first teammates to do that from the 3rd and 4th slots in the batting order since the Yankees’ Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson in 1977 (Game 5, eighth inning).

( Utley and Howard hit back-to-back homers only one other time: June 13 this year in the first inning of the Phillies’ 20-2 win at St. Louis.)

 

Ryan Howard, who led the majors with 48 home runs this season, had been homerless in 42 at-bats in the postseason this year until he went deep in the 6th inning of Game 3. The only other player to hit at least 40 home runs in one season and then have a home-run drought of at least 40 at-bats in the postseason that year was Manny Ramirez in 2004 (43 home runs, 49-AB postseason home-run drought).

 

The Rays tied the game in the 8th inning when B.J. Upton stole 2nd and 3rd base, and scored on a throwing error by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. Upton was only 4-for-9 when attempting to steal 3rd base during this past regular season. Upton was the only player with more than three attempted steals of 3rd base this season who was caught more often than he made it.

 

 

The Rays premier basestealer, Carl Crawford is now 7-for-7 in steals this post season.

Matt Garza was the first pitcher to allow three home runs in a World Series game since 2002, when the Angels’ Jarrod Washburn (Game 1) and Kevin Appier (Game 2) both did that.

 



 

 

Phillies Pounce on Rays’ Mistakes

 

 

Phillies 5, Rays 4

 

 

I remember a couple of years ago I went up to Cleveland for a series against the Indians and the weather turned ugly during the night. A rain system decided to drop over the Great Lakes and dump a bit of rain on the city during the night and at 1 pm that Sat. afternoon it was still coming down pretty good.

I came to the stadium decked out in my Rays outerwear that I got from Jesus Colome when he was still with the club and was running through the stands like a chicken with my head cut off. I always loved playing in the rain in college, and I was one of the crazies who braved the rain during that Tampa Bay Rowdies/ Ft Lauderdale Strikers game back in the early 80’s that left Tampa Stadium a waterfall.

 

 

So you know I was anxous when I saw the same type of system come up from the south and blanket the Philly area for most of the day. I was some tight rain that came down in buckets for a long time, but it was followed by the chilly wind that kid of went straight down to your bones. I am too old now to run like a chicken, but I did look like a turkey gobbling to the Bullpen guys as they came out to get some throwing in before the game.

 

 

Rain is the great equalizer. It can take a fast team and make them slow, or it can make a homer-happy team become the best small ball hitters in the league. I was watching the crew throw down a ton of wet-dry all over the onfield and on the warning tracks beofre the game. I was curious if the added granules would make the ball do funny things when it bounced on an infielder.

 

 

 I know it was not like the kitty litter type dry compound I used to put out at accident scenes, but wondered if it was slick on top of the clay infield.  I guess all was well, becuase no one seemed to have abad hop, or an ill advised ball start to go right and turn left on them. Guess I have a lot to learn about a stadium without a roof.

 

 

Top of the Order

The Rays came into the World Series knowing that they needed more production out of the top of our batting order. In the first few games of the series the top of the order had some impact, but most of it was on ground ball RBI’s and not clutch hits or drives to the deep parts of the ballpark for sacrifice flys.

In tonight game, the top 4 batters went a combined 2-15, with 7 strikeouts. To make matter worse, Evan Longoria, who is mired in a terrible batting slump had a sure thing home run brought back into the park by Mother Nature tonight. you could see the expression on Phillies’ starter Jamie Moyer’s face that he also thought the ball was into the stands and the Rays would have been ahead at the point in the game.

 

 

Instead, the ball was heading out and did a swift drop about 3 feet from the wall into Pat Burrell’s glove for the last out of the 6th inning. To make matters even worse, the Phillie crowd was on Longoria early chanting “Eva” to him on every play and at bat. For the entire night, only 5 balls from the top of the lineup even left the infield. 2of those were singles by B J Upton. Akinora Iwamura hit to long drives to right, but Jayson Werth was under the ball with ease.

 

B J Upton is a Speed Machine

After the last couple of series for the Rays, no one has questioned the drive and determination of Upton. Funny how a few months agowe even wondered if he wanted to play baseball, and now we would be a totally different, and maybe not even in this World Series without him.

Upton hit a nice liner into left just over the head of Jimmy Rollins in the 6th inning. Upton then took off on the first pitch to Evan Longoria with 2-outs and stole his first base of the night. Upton was in position to score, but Longoria hit his towering ball to left that was caught at the track by Burrell to end the inning.

 

 

Then again in the 8th inning, Upton lead-off the inning with a infield single to short that Rollins could not make a play on in time to get the speedy Upton. With no outs in the inning, it was only a matter of time before Upton tried to steal another base tonight.  On the 2nd pitch to Longoria, Upton again stole second for his second swipe of the night.

He then waited  2 more pitches then tried to steal third base, and got in safe, but he kicked the ball towards the Rays dugout and came in to score on the throwing error by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.  that knotted the score at 4-4. The play helped Upton steal an amazing 3 base tonight to tie a World Series record.

 

Last Chance for the Rays

In the bottom of the 9th inning, the score was still tied 4-all, with the Phillies getting the last at bats in the game.  J P Howell remained in the game and got a 2-1 count on Eric Bruntlett before he hit him with a pitch. Howell was then relieved by Grant Balfour in the game.

Balfour then had a 1-1 count on him before he unleashed a Wild Pitch that went to the backstop and came right back to Dioner Navarro. He then tried to get Bruntlett, who was heading to second on the steakl, but the ball sailed to the right of Jason Bartlett and bounced into centerfield for an error on Navarro.

Balfour then intentionally walked Shane Victorino. Gregg Dobbs then came up as a pinch hitter and was also Intentionally walked to load the bases. At this time, Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out and instituted his 5-man infield formation with Ben Zobrist manning up the middle of the infield. Upton and Carl Crawford were playing shallow right-center and left respectfully.

 

 

Ruiz then came up and took the count to  2-2 before putting a slow moving grounder down the third baseline that Longoria fielded. He then tried to toss it over Bruntlett, who was racing for home, but the ball sailed beyond Navarro’s reach and the Phillies won on that play.

Bruntlett did the right thing by running inside of the baseline towards the plate to take away any possible throw from the infield. the ball would have to have been a perfect lob just over his shoulder to get him at the plate.

 

                

 

Carl Crawford also had Some Magic Tonight

Crawford came into the game wanting to be more of an offensive threat for the Rays. He ended up going 2-4 on the night, with 2 runs scored. In the top of the 2nd inning, Crawford lead off with a blooper single into left that was tailing away from Burrell the enitre time it was in the air. the ball fell a foot from him and Crawford slid into second with a double on the play.

 

 

Crawford then made his presence know on the bases by stealing third on the 2nd pitch to Gabe Gross. For the playoffs, Crawford is a perfect 7 for 7 stealing bases. 3 pitches later, Gross hit a sacrifice fly to deep right center to score Crawford and tie the game up 1-all. In the 7th inning, Crawford lead off the inning with a bunt to the right side of the infield that could not be handled by Moyer in time.

Navarro then came up and hit a double to put both men in scoring position with no outs in the inning. Gross then hit a ball deep behind first base that Howard had to stab and Crwford walked in to score for the Rays. 

 

               

 

 Jason Bartlett then hit a grounder to short that Rollins had to throw to first and Navarro scored to make it  a 1-run game, 4-3 Phillies. Crawford and Navarro tonight had 4 of the Rays 6 hits on the night. They also scored 3 of the Rays 4 runs in the game.

 

Navarro’s Throws

Tonight was one of those good news, bad news kind of nights for Navarro. He had a hot bat at the plate, but had a few situations behind the dish that cost the Rays some runs, and put some dangerous people in scoring position. In the 1st inning, there was a Wild Pitch by Garza that darted away from Navarro after hitting the thumb section of his catcher’s mitt. It moved 2 runners into scoring position for the Phillies. the good news is only 1 run scored in the inning, and the Rays were only down 1-0 at the time.

 

 

In the 3rd inning, Navarro made a perfect throw onto the glove of Iwamura that he easily tagged out Rollins trying to steal seond base. It came down in the perfect spot to tag his lead hand before it hit the bag. And in the 8th inning, Navarro called for a pick-off play at second on Werth and got him leaning hard towards third base. J P Howell put a strike into Bartlett who got Werth by a foot.

In the 9th inning, Navarro had no chance on the outside pitch by Grant Balfour that went to the backstop. The ball looked like it was about to hit Shane Victorino, but broke heard at the last moment and went beyond Navarro. On the winning play in the 9th inning, Navarro could do nothing but stand on the plate as the ball as the ball sailed a good 5 feet above him for the winning run.

 

 

Matt Garza’s Wild Night

With the rain delay you have to think that Matt Garza might have over-psyched himself for this game. With the 90 minute plus delay in the start of the game, you have to think he was just sitting there with his Ipod on just chilling and maybe getting into his own head a bit.

He did not come out strong as he gave up a single to Rollins on the 2nd pitch of the game to centerfield. He then walked Werth on 5 pitches, and then threw the Wild Pitch 2 pitches later that moved them both into scoring position.  He got out of that inning only giving up a single run to Victorino. In the 2nd inning,he got 2 quick outs before giving up a fastball inside to Ruiz who slammed it into the stands in leftfield for a solo shot and put the Phillies up 2-1.

 

                  

 

In the 3rd inning, he gave up singles to Rollins and Werth to lead-off the inning before settling down and getting 2 quick outs.  In the 4th, it looked like he was under control as he struck out the side on 19 pitches. In 6th inning he ran into his worst problems of the night as he gave up a solo shot to lead-off the inning to Chase Utley.

 

             

 

Ryan Howard then came up homer-less in the series, and he sent the 2-2- pitch into the rightfield stands for another solo shot and put the Phillies up 4-1 at the time. It was the 14th time in World Series history that a team went back-to-back with homers in a game. For the night, Garza went 6 innings and threw 102 pitches in the game. He had 7 strikeuots, but also gave up 3 solo homers in the contest.

Garza did show some moments of brilliant pitching as he was using both sides of the plate well against the Phillies.  I truly think the extra time either warming up in the Bullpen or sitting in the lockerrom before warming up might have played a bit with his mind. He did not seem to have that normal sharpness we have come to know from Garza early in the ballgame. But he did fight through it and posted a decent game under the circumstances.

 

 

This was one of those games that the Rays sually won during the season. They worked hard all game long to tie up the contest, then sually they go ahead and the Bullpen shuts down the opposition. But tonight the gameplan did not work that way and the Rays found themselves in an unusual position. In the 9th inning, Maddon used a psychological weapon in his 5-man infield, but the plan did not go off without a hitch.

The perfect play would not have been down the third baseline with the runner barrelling down on Navarro without a throwing lane. All Navarro had to do was step on the bag for the force out, but Longoria could not get it to him effectively.

But it is still early in thie World Series and either team can still mount a offensive and take over the series. With a 2-1 series advantage right now, the Phillies do have the upper hand, but the Rays have always been a team to look down the odds and play baseball. I am looking forward to tonight’s contest featuring Joe Blanton and Andy Sonnanstine. Both pitchers like to get the ball fast and rock and fire, so it might be a really fast game.

Considering that tonight’s contests did not get over until way after 1:30 a.m., I think both teams are looking forward to a night game and not an afternoon contest. It will also give the field a few extra hours to drain and dry out in the sun before they re-line it and we play another great World Series contest.

 

 

 

 

 

You Can Have Rocky……. We Have Rocco

 

             

 

 

It’s become the norm for Major League players to arrive at their home clubhouse four or five hours early. Some work out, some play cards and others do crossword puzzles quietly in front of their lockers. Rocco Baldelli doesn’t have that luxury. Instead, the Rays outfielder spends the four hours before every game getting various treatments, taking a cocktail of pills and doing everything possible to offset a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes extreme fatigue.

 

And while his Tampa Bay team may be the best story in baseball, Baldelli’s triumph is that he is suiting up in a Rays uniform at all. The Rhode Island native held a tearful press conference this past spring announcing that he would start the year on the disabled list to try to recover from four years of nagging injuries and mysterious illness.

 

Five months, two rehab assignments and a diagnosis later, Baldelli defied his own doubts and was reinstated to the Rays’ lineup Aug. 10.

 

It is a gift the Rays faithful cherish, as every time Baldelli runs out to right field or steps up to the dish he is greeted with thunderous applause. The sixth overall selection in the 2000 June First-Year Player Draft, Baldelli was a coveted young player full of promise before being struck by his illness.

Now he is a symbol of hope, living proof of the powers of modern medicine.  After returning to the Rays’ lineup, Baldelli played in 46 games down the stretch, hitting .263 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

 

          

 

One of the runs he drove in came on Aug. 30, when Baldelli delivered a walk-off double to clinch a 10-9 victory over the Orioles. Maybe he hasn’t returned to the same physical condition he was in a few years ago, but on that day, Baldelli was back in a big way. And his teammates — who rushed the field to mob Baldelli following the walk-off — couldn’t have been happier.

 

Baldelli shies away from reflecting on the magnitude of what he’s done. The unassuming 26-year-old is perfectly content sitting in front of his locker — tucked away in the right corner of the Rays’ clubhouse — and pretending he is just another ballplayer.

 

But the Rays know better.

 

Baldelli’s fight is far from over. He isn’t cured by any means and could blow out at any second. The Rays declined his option for next year, and his future is uncertain. But right now, the opportunity to lace up his cleats and help his team in the Wolrd Series against the Phiadelphia Phillies  is there. And for Baldelli, that is more than enough.

 

 

The following blog is a reprint of a blog I first posted on March 13, 2008, about 3 hours after the Post game News Conference with Rocco Baldelli during Spring Training:

 

 

Rocco Baldelli was once called “Joe’s twin,” by professional Scout Al LaMacchia. This of course, is referring to the great Joe DiMaggio. Rocco had been compared to the Yankee great since his prep days at Bishop Hendricken H.S. in Warwick, Rhode Island.

 

Baldelli was drafted by the Tampa Bay (Devil)rays in the first round of the 2000 Amateur draft. Rocco worked his way up the Rays’ minor league ladder to be named the team’s starting Centerfielder for the 2003 MLB season. Rocco debuted on March 31, 2003 and hit and powered his way to a third place finish in the Rookie of the Year ballot that year.

                                   

In 2004, Rocco was the returning Centerfielder and was looking to improve on his 2003 stats. His 2003, .289 average, with 11 HRs and 27 stolen bases was just a glimpse of what might be in store for Rays fans in the future. In 2004, Rocco led all MLB Centefielders in range factor with a 3.3.

                                             

Range Factor (commonly abbreviated RF) is a baseball statistic developed by Bill James. It is calculated by dividing putouts and assists by number of innings or games played at a given defense position. The statistic is premised on the notion that the total number of outs that a player participates in is more relevant in evaluating his defensive play than the percentage of cleanly handled chances as calculated by the conventional statistic fielding percentage.

 

In 2005, Rocco began the year with a ACL tear while playing ball in his R.I. backyard with his younger brother. He was on scedule to be back by the All-Star break in 2005, but he sustained a elbow in jury and was lost for the rest of the season. Rocco had “Tommy John’s” surgery to repair his elbow and rehabbed at the Minor League complex in St. Petersburg,Florida.

                                    

Rocco was fired up and ready to roll in 2006, and finally got back on the turf versus the Los Angeles Angels at Anahiem on June 7, 2008.  Baldelli played throughout the rest of the season ending with a .302 average,16 HRs, and 57 RBI’s in only 364 at bats.

 

In 2007, Rocco began his trip onto the DL after pulling his hamstring during Spring Training. the injury seemed to slowly heal, but while on a Minor League rehab assignment, the injury became worse. Rocco spent the rest of the year inactive, but a very important part of the team. He could be seen on the bench either taking down the pitch stats, or intentively watching the opposing pitcher for signs of him tipping off his pitches or pitch outs to first base. Joe Maddon felt that Rocco had an energy and a positive attitude that was beneficial to his young squad and took him on away games the rest of the season.

 

During this time, Ron Porterfield, the Rays’ Head Trainer, and the medical staff did exclusive tests on rocco to try and pinpoint the situation and maybe finally get some positive results.

 

During  the Spring Training in2008, Rocco was an early arrival to camp. He was out there every day trying to get his body to function correctly so he could get back on the field with his comrades. He was used sparingly this Spring until on March12, 2008, Rocco released the following statement to the press after the last Spring Training game at Progress Energy Field, the Rays’ Spring Training stadium:

 

This offseason, because of the physical problems I’ve been having, I started along with the team’s help to search them out and go see some doctors and try to find out what’s going on.

 

I was having a lot of problems the last couple years with my muscles and muscle strains. I think a good way to describe it is literally muscle fatigue and cramping, way before my body should be feeling these things. I would go out there and I was pretty much incapable of doing basic baseball activities as far as running and hitting and throwing.

 

These were things that I had done my whole life pretty easily and at some point in the last two years – we’re not exactly sure why – these things started to change. It was tough for me to deal with, but with the team’s help, they sent me to specialists, basically flying me around all over the country to try to figure out what was going on.

 

What the doctors eventually found through all of this was I have some type of metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities. Basically, somewhere along the line in my body – I don’t want to get too deep into the medicine because it’s not really my expertise, but either my body isn’t making or producing or storing ATP the right way and therefore not allowing, apparently, my muscles to work as they should and, especially, recover on a day-to-day basis. So it becomes very difficult to get on the field every day and play.

 

When I say fatigue, I go out there and my body is literally spent after a very short amount of time out on the field, which makes it extremely frustrating and difficult, but it’s something that’s kind of a reality right now and something we’re dealing with the best that we can.

 

As far as my baseball career, I’m not here to stand in front of you telling you I’m retiring. We’re still going to pursue every avenue that we can to try to figure out what is going on, have a better understanding of what is going on. But at this time, throughout all of the extensive testing that we’ve done, we don’t have a concrete answer. The doctors’ consensus is that these are the problems that I’m experiencing and there’s a lot of medical proof of these things, but they’ve been unable to specifically identify an exact reason or an exact problem down to a specific name. That’s kind of frustrating, but that’s why we’re going to continue along with the team’s help to find out what’s going on.

 

I feel comfortable about this because the team has been so good to me and supported me in every possible way I could imagine. Without that, I don’t know really where I’d be right now, because this is as probably as difficult and frustrating a thing as I’ve ever had to deal with as a person. Like I said, we’re going to do everything we can to fix and hopefully solve this problem, and that’s pretty much where I’m at right now.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli announced that he has a mitochondrial metabolic abnormality during a press conference on Wednesday.

 

 

I put his entire statement here to reflect and hope that a solution or a cure can be found for this promising player. I have personally chatted with Rocco on occasion, and I can tell you there is no better guy in the clubhouse than him. He knows what was expected of him on Day 1, and he has done his best to make it back onto the diamond.

 

The Rays’ are in a pickle here tho. They were looking for Rocco to be a Centerfield back-up this season to give BJ Upton some needed rest during the season. Maybe the Rays will look at their Minor leaguers in camp, or sign a veteran like Kenny Lofton to relieve BJ, and Jonny Gomes through the year.

 

Here is a guy who could have rewritten a few passages in the books, and now might be done in because a metabolic nightmare within his body. I hope the doctors’ can find a solution soon, and have a positive prognosis so we can get this great talent back on the field sometime in the not to near future.

 

I will miss not seeing Rocco out there on another Opening Day in Baltimore on March 31,but his health is more important than the game right now.

 

Here is  a short example of what ATP and the human body have in common. I found this on a website, and I hope it is easy to comprehend and understand.

 

For your muscles — in fact, for every cell in your body — the source of energy that keeps everything going is called ATP. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the biochemical way to store and use energy.

 

 

The entire reaction that turns ATP into energy is a bit complicated, but here is a good summary:

  • Chemically, ATP is an adenine nucleotide bound to three phosphates.
  • There is a lot of energy stored in the bond between the second and third phosphate groups that can be used to fuel chemical reactions.
  • When a cell needs energy, it breaks this bond to form adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a free phosphate molecule.
  • In some instances, the second phosphate group can also be broken to form adenosine monophosphate (AMP).
  • When the cell has excess energy, it stores this energy by forming ATP from ADP and phosphate.

 

ATP is required for the biochemical reactions involved in any muscle contraction. As the work of the muscle increases, more and more ATP gets consumed and must be replaced in order for the muscle to keep moving.

 

Because ATP is so important, the body has several different systems to create ATP. These systems work together in phases. The interesting thing is that different forms of exercise use different systems, so a sprinter is getting ATP in a completely different way from a marathon runner!

 

World Series Tidbits……….The Friday Edition

 

 

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, Philadelphia, the cradle of American Democracy, the town that has as much history in it’s streets ans it does in the Mummer’s Museum. To the Rocky statue, to the outskirts of King of Prussia, the City of Brotherly Love is about to embrace our Rays.  But I must warn you if you are going up for the 3-games in Philly. You will not find another town in this country that will attack your moral fiber and make you question the world’s sanity than Philly during a sports weekend.

The people up there work hard for their wages, and they play just as hard to enjoy their lives. Sports is their salvation. And we are coming up there trying to take something that is special and meaningful to their fans. They are hungry for a sports championship in any terms.

 And to make matters worse for Rays fans, the Eagles have a home game 7 hours before our first pitch. That means as many as 110,000 fans will travel that small section of the lower city seeking and destroying themselves and others. With that in mind, I have a few thing to tell you to keep you out of the mouth of the lion while in Philly.

If a group of fans do beging to badger you or prod you with insults, just move towards a safer crowd or near a police officer. The Philly policemen might not be totally impartial, but they are fair and they will calm the unruly fans and get you to the game in one piece. You can wear your jersey inside the stadium, but outside the park, you might want to cover it up with a jacket, or just put it .. you get into the ballpark.

The reason is that it makes you a simple target for harrassment and possible mischief.  the town is full of amazing people, but becuase you have a 1 p.m. kick-off for the Eagles game, the crowd will swell to large numbera about 4 p.m. Between the times of 4 p.m. and when the gates open, you will be in a sea of green and white (Eagles) and red and white ( Phillies).

I have found that the baseball fans are the modt forgiving of the bunch, but I also can see them all getting a bit tense in this close quarters on Sunday. Most of all, watch what you say, and to whom. The basic move in Philly is one guy is the antagonist, but he has a huge group behind him. Mob mentality is big in this town. They make the Red Sox boosters on Yawley look like boy scouts.

 

Cheesesteak Empires:

But if you are going to truly go and have the best Philly experience, you will have to first pick out what kind of Cheesesteak you want to eat in town. Both of the best storefronts for this Philly concoction are within a few hundred feet of each other. And each has it]s own loyal fans who swear by their food. It is more of a personal choice in ingredients, as both places put their own twist on this great meat sandwich.

First there is World Famous Pat’s King of Steak: Who makes the best cheesesteak? Pat’s Steaks is a perennial heavyweight in the battle for the ultimate title among Philly cheesesteak makers. The thin steak strips, Italian rolls, hot peppers, onions and Cheeze Whiz (playfully called “whiz” or “cheddar” when ordering) are very popular anytime of the day or night. It’s all outside seating, which can be a bit chilly in January. Most people order and then drive to a warm building to eat.

Then there is a quaint little storefront with the neon so bright and hot you do not need a coat in the dead of winter, Geno’s: Geno’s Steaks has been a key member of the famous Philadelphia Cheesesteak triad (Geno’s, Pat’s, Jim’s) for as long as memory serves. A typical topic of conversation among Philadelphians is which one of these masters of the rib eye reigns supreme. Some say Geno’s sandwiches are bigger but Pat’s are better. Truth be told, any of the three do justice to the city’s signature sandwich. Located across from arch-nemesis Pat’s in South Philadelphia near the Italian Market. Outside seating only.

there is a third shop in the trio of meat conglomerates, but by now you are either hungry for one of these two, or you are going the opposite way to the Sinapore Kosher Chinese restaurant down the street.

 

 

The Sports Complex

 

Mapping Out the Philly Sports Complex:

 

COMPLEX COULDN’T BE a better term to explain what it will be like this weekend to negotiate the streets around the stadium complex in South Philadelphia. What already was a weekend packed with events took on a new dimension once the Phillies made the World Series, with Games 3, 4 and 5 at Citizens Bank Park. That sets up the following scenario:

Tomorrow: Flyers vs. Devils at 4 p.m. at the Wachovia Center; the Celtic Thunder dance troupe at the Wachovia Spectrum at 8 p.m.; and Game 3 of the World Series at the ballpark at 8:35.

Sunday: Eagles vs. Falcons at 1 p.m. at the Linc; the Who performing at the Center at 7:30; and Game 4 of the World Series at 8:35.

Monday: Game 5 of the World Series at 8:29 p.m.

Can the schedule-maker who has the Phantoms on a five-game road trip please take a bow? That Flyers game already was moved from 7 at night to 4 in the afternoon to try and ease congestion tomorrow. It will a bit, although a 1 o’clock start would have helped a lot more. But a NHL Players Association rule restricts two teams that play the night before from playing too early the following day. The Flyers and Devils play at 7 tonight at New Jersey before heading to Philly to complete the home-and-home series.

To help alleviate some of the crush on the roads, SEPTA has said it will run Broad Street Line “Sports Express” trains from 6:25 to 7:35 p.m. all 3 days. That means that trains will operate from Fern Rock every 10 minutes and stop at Olney, Erie, Girard, Spring Garden, Race-Vine, City Hall and Walnut-Locust. Local service also will be running. That puts the last express train down at the ballpark around 8:05, giving fans plenty of time to settle into their seats and see some of the pregame festivities. Express trains will leave the stadium complex after the game.

Express service also will be implemented Sunday morning to handle the throng headed to the Eagles. Those will run from 10:10 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Service on the Market-Frankford Line also will be upgraded starting at 6:30 p.m., but you are reminded that shuttle buses will replace regular El weekend train service between 30th Street Station and 69th Street Terminal because of construction.

 

Game 3 To Have Wind, Rain and Possible Cold Weather

Scouting is an important part of baseball, but it is not limited to what happens on the field. Even before the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays played Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night, Major League Baseball officials were monitoring the weather forecast for this weekend in Philadelphia. Rain is expected tomorrow when the teams are scheduled to play Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park.

A Saturday rainout of the first World Series game here in 15 years would change the effective date of more than 125,000 tickets. Currently, Games 3, 4 and 5 between the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights at Citizens Bank Park.

A storm system heading north from the Carolinas, however, is expected to bring six or more hours of rain to the Philadelphia area on Saturday, with a 90 percent chance of evening showers, according to the National Weather Service. The rain could be heavy at times, with thunderstorms possible, said Gary Szatkowski, chief meteorologist at the service’s Mount Holly office.

The thunderstorm activity is most likely in the afternoon, and the rain is expected to be lighter here than in Central and Western Pennsylvania, he said. Forecasters should have a clearer picture on Saturday morning, though predicting might still be tricky around game time. Major League Baseball officials, who make the final determination, will monitor the situation using a private weather service, said spokesman Pat Courtney.

A postponement of Saturday’s game would bump all three local games back a day, making Game 3 tickets good on Sunday night, Game 4 tickets good on Monday, and Game 5 tickets good on Tuesday, Courtney said. Every ticket-holding fan, whether going to one, two or all three games, would have to revise at least two dates on his or her calendar.

Many fans would have to reschedule flights, hotel stays, or long car trips. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would still be played Wednesday and Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Forecasts have been wrong before, of course.

A lingering nor’easter with periods of heavy rain was predicted for the last weekend of the season, especially threatening the night game of Friday, Sept. 26. That game was played without a rain delay. The following afternoon, a 4-3 win clinched the division title.

Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee and Rays manager Joe Maddon declined to speculate about possible adjustments to their teams’ rotations.

Phillies ace Cole Hamels is scheduled to pitch Monday, which could wind up being Game 4 instead of Game 5. That likely wouldn’t change his being unavailable to start a decisive Game 7 – unless a second rainout postpones that matchup past Thursday.

Rainouts seldom happen in the World Series. The postponement of Game 4 in 2006 was the first washout since Game 1 of 1996, Courtney said. A few games, though, were rained out multiple times, including Game 4 in 1911 in Philadelphia. The A’s were hosting the New York Giants, and the game was delayed “a ******** six days,” according to Major League Baseball’s Web site, mlb.com.

 

 

Rays Even the Series Against Phillies

 

 

 

From Batting Practice on last night the Tampa Bay Rays looked loose and in control compared to the stiff and “deer in the headlights” stares from Weds. night. As the Rays get some playoff vibes they will no longer have those gitters and butterflies. It was just a case of International stage fright last night. They came out on fire and ready to rock the house on Thursday night.

From the offset, the Rays were joking around and just more “rays-like” last night. Gone was the pressure to put a 2-spot up on the Phillies and make them play like a champion up in their park this weekend. Also gone was the aspect that the Rays did not belong here, that luck and a great pitching staff got them here, not offensive talent.

Funny that Fox put a mic on Jonny Gomes last night. Of all the people to mic up on the bench, Jonny can give you the best sound bytes, but you have to keep a censor near you too. The conversation between him and Andy Sonnanstine was fantastic. I do not know what  it is about the bandwagon comments by the Philly fans, but alot of us have been here for a long time, and we are not going anywhere.

I get so upset when the Philly media calls the are a “bandwagon community.” There is that cottage element in every town. Some poeple just do not want to believe until it is thrust into their faces 24/7, then they jump on a bandwagon with gusto. But to say that ALL Rays fans are bandwagoneers is just plain stupid and lacks a certain amount of braincells.

 Prove I have not been a long time fan if you are so inclined, and I will pull out the tickets tubs and stadium giveaways to prove you are full of it all. Prove I am only going to the game becuase we are in the Playoffs and I will show you pictures from Rays finctions and events you do not even know about. Prove I was not here in 1998, and I will hit you in the head with my purple seat cushion given out at the first game ever for the Rays.

 

 

Los Lonely Boys

Now that was a National Anthem. It was clean, concise and had a great amount of harmony without needing a timeout to just catch up with the octave changes. I really enjoyed their performance alot. Just goes to show you that a band that has a more country-based roots can wing it with the best of them.

But, I do have to take exception to an article I saw in a local fishwrap. MLB must be crazy to not give the Rays the top choices in the anthem singers. I saw that the Phillies will have Taylor Swift singing on Sat. night. Guess we are not worthy yet of a breakthrough country artist in the dirty south. Guess we would not understand her country twang and  great vocals.

Guess it is back to the pumpkin patch for all of us. And the Sunday anthem singer might just be the best of all of them. I loove hearing Patti LaBelle sing period. That is my music era, and I relish it. I am really anxoius to hear that woman belt out a tune on her pipes. It might be the best one I have heard since that Whitney Houston performance at the Tampa Super Bowl a million years ago.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Fist off Evan, congrats on the nod by The Sporting News  for top  AL rookie this year in the MLB. There is no one else in the American League right now that can touch you defensively or offensively. It is a great honor and one you truly deserve this year.

With that out of the way, let’s get doen to business here. What is going on with you at the plate dude. In the ALDS and ALCS you started out slow and by now got your groove on, but so far you are in a tire rut of  a major hole. In the World Series, you are currently hitting goose eggs for 8, with 4 strikeouts.

Granted if anyone on this team deserves some slack, it is you. But I do not consider you  a rookie. You do not act or play like one, and to not throw that label on you is a treu hnor in itself. But, dude this team needs that clean-up guy to poke a few balls into the holes and provide some protection for Pena and Crawford in the batting order.

 

 

So far the only people scared of you is the couple in the front row of Section 110, who have seen a ball flash before their eyes in the past couple of series from either your glove or Jason Bartletts’. The ball down the line last night was not within your reach, and that error charged to you was for force of the ball, not your effort. We all know you are the second coming of Brook Robinson at third, but why do you have to be hitting like Vinny Castilla right now on the biggest stage of your life.

 

    

 

Upton and Pena Wake up from Slumber

Last night the 2-3-4 hitters for the Rays went 2-11, but the two were hits by B J Upton. That does not tell all of the story here. The trio also scored 3 RBI’s in the game, even though there was no hits by Pena and Longoria.  The Rays scored 2 runs on ground outs in the 1st inning. During the regular season, the Rays only drove in about 53.2 percent of the men from third base with less than 2-outs, which was the 6th worst percentage in the majors.

But last night, the Rays put the Phillies down early as Akinora Iwamura walked to lead off the game, and Upton hit a beauty into rightfirld that was mishandled by Jason Werth. With the ball bouncing on the ground towards Werth, he took his eye off the ball long enough to make a bad adjustment and the ball hit the outside of the glove and bounced away from him. That left men on the corner with no outs for the Rays.

Pena then hit a strong grounder to Jimmy Rollins at short and he had to make the play at first base. With that smash, Iwamura easily scored from third and Upton moved over to thrid base on the play. Evan Longoria then hit another screamer to Rollins, who had to duplicate his throw again to first and Upton came in to score to put the Rays up 2-0.

 

 

Rays Keep Pressure on Phillies

The Rays came out again in the 2nd inning and kept pressure on the Phillies on the bases. Dioner Navarro hit the first of his two hits to right in the inning and Rocco Baldelli walked on a controversial call.

With the count, 3-2, Rocco  was apparently rung up by Home Plate Umpire Kerwin Danley, but in an appeal to first, First Base Umpire Feildin Culbreth signaled that Baldelli checked his swing and a ball was called on the play. Replays showed that the Rays might have gotten a gift from that call as Baldelli’s wrist did break, and the play should have been a strikeout.

 

 

Bartlett then came up and hit a smash down to Pedro Feliz at thris that he could not get a handle on, and Bartlett reached on an infield single. This loaded the bases for the Rays with the top of the order coming up for the Rays. Aki quickly popped up to Rollins before Upton hit a ball to right. With Werth having trouble before on a grounder to right, Third Base Coach Tom Foley sent Navarro to the plate.

 

 

After he scored Foley also sent Baldelli to the plate and Rocco came in comepletely sideways into Phillies’ catcher, Carlos Ruiz, but could not dislodge the ball. It was a funny play to actually watch, becuase Baldelli did evrything he could to make Ruis drop the ball, but a overhead camera shot showed if he stuck his hand out beofre hitting Ruiz, he was safe at the corner of the plate.  But that is hindsight.

 

 

In the 4th inning, Cliff Floyd led off with a single to center for the Rays. Navarro then came up and hit a ball up the middle to put 2 men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then came up and hit a ball off the end of the bat to Feliz, who threw to seocnd base to get Navarro. Utley tried to get Baldelli at first, but could not get his throw off in time to snag the speedy outfielder.

 

 

So with guys at the corners and 1-out, Bartlett came up and attempted  a suicide squezze on the first pitch, but bunted it foul. Floyd was breaking for home on the play and might have taken the ball into his body if not for the foul. Bartlett then attempted to bunt on the next pitch and put down a perfect safety squeeze bunt in front of  Phillie starter, Brett Myers. Myers only play was to first and Floyd easily scored to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

Phillie Errors

Phillie made two key errors in the game, but only one cost them any runs. The error in the first inning by Werth in right is the only play in the game to cost the Phillies. On that play, his slow movement to the ball coupled with  not watching the ball into his glove cost the team a early run.

 

 

In the 5th inning, Pena walked and was leading off first while Longoria was at the plate. On the 2nd pitch to Longoria, Ruiz fired a throw down to first hoping to catch Pena leaning, but instead the ball hit Howards in the glove and bounced over Pena into rightfield. Pena advanced to second on the play, but was stranded on base by 2 quick outs by the Rays.

 

            

 

James “Big Game” Shields

Considering this was a huge game for the Rays, what other pitcher did you want to hit the rubber than James Shields. He went out there and had problems in every innig, but remained cool and trusted his defense and came out with a win on the night. Shields went 5.2 innings and gave up 7-hits, but shut out the Phillies during his start.

But his night was not without drama. In the 2nd inning he gave up a double to Ryan Howard that 1-hopped to the wall in centerfield to lead off the inning. He then walked Pat Burrell  and threw a Wild Pitch to put both men in scoring position before settling down and getting 3 quick outs to strand the 2 Phillie runners on base.

 

 

In the 3rd, he again gave up a double to Ruiz down the leftfield line that bounced around in the corner on Crawford before setting down the next 3 Phillie batters in order. In the 4th, he gave up another lead-off single to Howard and gave Shane Victorino a infield single to second on a ball that hit the turf seam and bounced up on Iwamura. He again got it under control and set the next 2 Phillies down to strand both men on base.

 

 

In the 5th inning he got some help from Baldelli in getting out of the inning. With 1-out in the inning, Utley sent a shallow fly to right that Baldelli tracked down and caught in time. Werth had wandered too far off first base and was doubled up on a throw by Baldelli to Pena to end the inning.

In the 6th, Shields got two quick outs then issued a single to Victorino to right.  Greg Dobbs then came up and hit a 1-hopper to center that Upton could not catch in time and the Phillies had 2 men on with 2 outs. That was it for Shields and Rays Manager Joe Maddon went to the Bullpen.

 

 

The Price is Right in the Bullpen

Dan Wheeler then came in for the Rays and got Feliz to ground to Longoria, who threw to Iwamura for the force out and end the 6th inning.  Wheeler came back out in the 7th inning and gave up a walk to Ruiz to lad-off the inning.  He then got Rollins and Werth to strikeout to post two quick outs in the inning.

 

 

Maddon then came on and brought on David Price, the rookie to face Utley and Howard. Price gave up a walk to Utley befoe strking out Howard on 5 pitches to end the 7th inning. In the 8th, Price came back out and got 2 quick outs before Eric Bruntlett came on to pich hit for Burrell.

Bruntlett homered to left on the first pitch from Price to break the shutout for the Rays.  Price rebounded by getting Feliz to hit a grounder to short to end the inning with the Rays up 4-1. In the 9th inning, Ruiz lead off with a double down the left field line. Price then got Rollins to pop out to shallow center to Bartlett.

 

 

 

Longoria then had a ball ride up his glove and bounce away from him for his 1st error of the World Series. Ruiz scored on the play by Werth and pulled the Phillies to within 2 runs, 4-2. Utley then struck out and Howard hit a ball to Iwamura backing up behind first to end the game for the Rays. 

 

      

 

Remember Pitchers’, Chicks Dig the Long Ball

The Rays pitchers got their first real chance to step into the cages today during Batting Practice. With the games heading to the National League park, the Rays’ pitchers will have to bat in their games. Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine were seen taking their licks in the cages today.

 

 

Scott Kazmir also got into the action by hitting a few long and deep for the Rays during BP. All three batters/pitchers have a good stroke, and it will all get at least 2 at bats per outing up in Philly. The Rays pitchers’ have not had to bat since the Florida Marlins series in July of 2008. In the Interleague series this year, Andy Sonnanstine was the big pitcher’s stud hitting .400, or 2-5, with 2 walks in the series.  Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir went hitless going 0-4 and 0-2 respectfully.

 

 

 

World Series Tidbits……….The Thursday Edition

 

 

You ever wonder how all those baseballs get rubbed down and ready for the games. Well, there is an attendant that works in the Umpire’s room who duty it is to put the old Delaware River mud on the World Series Rawlings baseballs and get them ready for the umpires to use for the nightly games.

 

 

I am not sure, but he probably starts during that night’s games getting the next batch ready for the following night’s contest. At least that is what I would do.   Think about all the man-hours used to press and massage that mud into the balls with an even consistency. You would think they would have developed a machine to do that job, but I am told nothing does the job better than a good set of hands and a constant massage on the old  balls.

 

 

I remember back in June of this year there was an article about a pizzeria in the state of Colorado that was going to give out FREE pizza if the Rays won the World Series. In the little town of Lakewood, a small suburb right outside of Denver there  is just such a place where magic is said to happen to any event, or team goal put on their estuarant’s window.

John Keiley isn’t really that big of a Rays fan. It’s more that he likes a good story and a big underdog — and a little publicity — as much as he likes making a good pizza. And, oh yeah, he hates the Red Sox and the Yankees.

So that’s how he came to make this offer, and paint it on the front window of his Johnny’s New York Pizza & Pasta shop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood: Free pizza for the world if the Rays win the World Series.

He made his first such deal in June 2007, offering free pizza in the unlikely event his hometown Rockies swept the Yankees. They did, and Keiley gave away 2,500 pizzas — at a cost of about $12,000.

As football season kicked off, he figured he would do it again: Free pizza if any NFL team went 16-0. The New England Patriots did. So on a Sunday in January, Keiley gave away about 1,500 pizzas. A few weeks ago, he was impressed watching on ESPN as the Rays rallied to beat and sweep the Red Sox. He called a childhood buddy from New York (they were Mets fans), George Vricos, who now lives in Clearwater. The more he heard about the Rays, the more he liked. So he made his latest offer.

I’m rooting for the Rays,” he said. “And if the Red Sox and Yankees don’t get in the playoffs, that would be heaven.”

 

 

You might be wondering, since there was a stolen base in tonight’s game, do we now get 2 free  crunchy, spicy beef  tacos from Taco Bell?

 

 

The unfortunate answer to that puzzling question is NO. Even though Carlos Ruiz stole second base in the 7th inning of Game 2 of the Wrold Series, the promotion will deliver one free taco to everyone in America if there was a stolen base in any of the games from Game1-4.

There will be another chance to get another FREE taco when they get to Game 5, which will be played in Philadelphia on Monday, October 27th. If someone steals a base from Game 5-7, then they can redeem their FREE taco on November 3rd from 2-6pm at a participating store.

 

Odd Facts and Tidbits on Last Night Game

The Phillies were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday night. That’s the most at-bats without a hit with men in scoring position for any team in any game in World Series history. The previous record was 0-for-12, done four times, most recently by Kansas City in Game Five of the 1980 World Series.

 

Chase Utley‘s two-run home run in the top of the first inning gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was the first time in 42 years that a player hit a home run in the top of the first inning in Game One of a World Series. That last happened in 1966, when Baltimore’s Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson hit back-to-back home runs off Don Drysdale at Dodger Stadium.

Utley added two stolen bases to become the first player in major-league history to hit a home run and steal two bases in a World Series game.

 

Ryan Howard is only the second player in major-league history to strike out three times and commit an error in his first career World Series game. Dodgers’ pitcher Preacher Roe did that in Game Two of the 1949 World Series, but he threw a complete-game shutout to beat the Yankees!

 

Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard were a combined 0-for-9, with five strikeouts in Game One of the World Series. In their five seasons as major-league teammates, they have never before been hitless in nine-or-more at-bats with five-or-more strikeouts in the same regular-season or postseason game.

Cole Hamels allowed a home run to Carl Crawford in the fourth inning. During the regular season, 12 of the 28 home runs allowed by Hamels were hit by left-handed batters (42.9%), the highest percentage against any left-handed pitcher in the majors who allowed at least 15 home runs in 2008.

Cole Hamels is the fourth pitcher to win Game One of the Division Series, Championship Series, and World Series in the same year. That was also done by John Smoltz (1996 Braves), David Wells (1998 Yankees), and Josh Beckett (2007 Red Sox).

 

Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir, both 24 years old, were only the third pair of starting pitchers in Game One of a World Series each under the age of 25. The previous occurrences: 1912 – Smoky Joe Wood, Red Sox (22) vs. Jeff Tesreau, Giants (23); and 1970 – Jim Palmer, Orioles (24) vs. Gary Nolan, Reds (22).

 


 



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.

 

 

World Series Tidbits……….The Weds. Edition

 

FREE TACO PROMOTION

Everyone in America must send a Thank You note to the Tampa Bay Rays’ shortstop Jason Bartlett for stealing second base in the 5th inning of Game 1 of the 2008 World Series. As you might know. If a player steals a base during any of the 2008 World Series Games, the public can steal a taco on Taco Bell. Well, in the first game tonight, America can get it’s Mexican food fix in a few days. Read below for the time and date you can go to your local Taco Bell location and get your freebie.

 

 

As you might know by now, everyone in America  will get a FREE Taco Bell Crunchy Spicy Beef Taco on Tuesday October 28th, between the hours of 2-6 p.m. 

Here is how to obtain your FREE Taco.

 If an eligible base was stolen during the Games, Taco Bell will make an announcement through selected media channels, including a press release and its web site (www.tacobell.com), that eligible consumers can obtain their free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 (if base is stolen in Games 1-4 on October 22, 23, 25 or 26) OR Monday, November 3, 2008 (if base is stolen in Games 5-7, October 27, 29 or 30) (“Redemption Date”) only. To obtain the Free Taco, consumers must visit any participating Taco Bell® restaurant in one of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. (local time) on the Redemption Date only and request a Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco. Free Tacos will not be offered on any other date or time, regardless of circumstance. Limit one (1) Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco per person. Participating Taco Bell restaurant manager reserves the right to deny Free Taco to any person he/she reasonably believes has already received a Free Taco or has engaged in any other fraudulent activity. All eligible consumers: Everyone in line at a participating Taco Bell restaurant before 6:00 p.m. local time will receive a Free Taco, even if it is provided after 6:00 p.m. Free Taco offer is subject to store availability and Taco Bell reserves the right to substitute an item of equal or greater value if due to unavailability. All restaurant managers’ decisions are final regarding to Free Taco offer. As a condition of the offer, each consumer agrees: (a) to release, and hold harmless Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., Major League Baseball Enterprises, Inc., MLB Advanced Media, L.P., MLB Media Holdings, Inc., MLB Media Holdings, L.P., MLB Online Services, Inc., the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Clubs, and each of their respective shareholders, employees, parents, directors, officers, affiliates, subsidiaries, representatives, agents, successors, and assigns (hereinafter, “MLB Entities”), Sponsor and each of their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, retailers, sales representatives, distributors and franchisees, and each of their officers, directors, employees and agents (“Promotional Parties”), from any and all claims, demands, losses, promises, causes of action, injuries, damages and/or liabilities, that may arise, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from the participation in this Promotion or from the receipt or use or misuse of the Free Taco, or any travel or activity related to the receipt or use of the Free Taco (b) under no circumstances will entrant be permitted to obtain awards for, and participant hereby waives all rights to claim, punitive, incidental, special, consequential, or any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses; (c) all causes of action arising out of or connected with this Promotion or any Free Taco or any advertising, marketing, promotion or publicity materials in connection therewith, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action; and (d) any and all claims, judgments, and award shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, excluding attorneys’ fees and court costs. By participating, each consumer agrees that all issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Terms and Conditions, consumer’s rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with this Promotion, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of State of California, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rule

After reading all of that I was hungry for a Triple steak burrito too.

 

Handheld Camera Guy Rocks

By now, you’ve probably noticed those mobile close-up shots during the TBS telecasts when a player trots toward the plate after a home run. It’s the handiwork of veteran cameraman Matt Cunningham, 44, of Kansas. Cunningham lugs a 35-pound camera in his right arm as he follows alongside players, a gimmick approved by Major League Baseball three years ago. He makes many of the decisions on who to follow, and when, on the spur of the moment.

“It’s hard and takes a lot work,” said Cunningham. “I look down at the viewfinder occasionally, but I’ve got to be aware of not running into players and umpires. I can’t step into the field of play, all kinds of stuff.”

Cunningham has become a master of running with the camera over the past three seasons, always keeping track of who’s at bat or on base. “When (B.J.) Upton and (Evan) Longoria are up, I don’t want to be out in the crowd,” he said. In Game 6, he was getting a shot in the Red Sox bullpen when Jason Bartlett homered and he had to dash a good 40 yards in order to follow the shortstop to the plate. Players occasionally get annoyed with him. “Some have an attitude,” he said, “but most are pretty good about it. It’s a moment of glory for them anyway.”

 

Bad 1990’s Flashback

I was sitting there at the game and got a really bad 1990’s flashback when the Public Address Announcer told us that the Back Street Boys were going to do the National Anthem. Now I was never a huge fan of their music, but I did dance to it if a woman I was trying to date was shaking herself on the dance floor.

They got out there, and thank goodness they looked older. You know how sometimes you see a band 20 years later and they still try and do the tight leather pants and red bandana (Wonder what Band that was at the Trop?), but are about 40 pounds heavier and more winded after one song.

Anyways, they started out with a really unique redition of the National Anthem, with a few a capella moments and harmonies thrown in for good measures. I actually thought it was a great rendiation, but please do not tell me at tomorrow game that I can download the recording on Itunes.com, or that it is availiable for sale in the Rays store.

 

What City Do We Play In Again?

Just because this area was called Hillsboro Point before the city of St. Peterburg was incorporated by John Williams many. many years ago should we even be considered a Tampa location. I am getting sick and tired of seeing my hometown blown away by the “Tampa” label. Rox Basbeall Announcer, Tim McCarver twiced called the area the”Tampa Rays.”

And someone who used to manage the Clearwater Threshers called this area and the team the “Tampa Rays” when he was announcing the Philadelphia Phillies lineup for the night.  It got so bad at one point that another Fox Announcer, Joe Buck,  put the Phillies  Class-A , Florida State League team on Clearwater Beach instead of their current site right off US 19 and Drew Street in Clearwater.

 I know mistakes happen, but can we at leats admit we made a mistake so we know you see the error in your ways.  This area is a proud area and we do take offense to the multiple errors in geography and miscalculations on the distance between us and the Tampa skyline. I saw two backgrounds of the skyline off the Hillsborough River tonight, when we were about 20 miles to the west of that location.

At least get a picture of the St. Petersburg Pier, or the sailing academy on Demens’ Landing sending those little crafts out into Tampa Bay. The worst part is the assumption of people who live either south, north or east of us to think that this area is not a metropolitan zone. Did you know that over 921,482 people living in Pinellas county. That makes it the 3rd largest county in the state of Florida. We are also the most densely populated county in Florida. Can’t we at least get the National media to know we have out own identity in this stadium.

 

Corporate Slinging Here and There:

1B Carlos Pena wiping his brow with a Gator­ade towel. Rays’ Manager Joe Maddon drinking from a Gator­ade cup. Players digging into Gatorade coolers for bubble gum and sunflower seeds on the back of the dugout benches. Huge orange coolers’ sitting on the Bullpen benches in plain sight of the camera as it pans the crowd or follows the ball down the foul line on the ground

Talk about getting your brand out.

If you look in the dugouts and on the postgame interview podiums, the Gator­ade logo will be the only brand seen in the major-league playoffs. Gatorade — created by a group of UF medical researchers — maintains exclusive rights to the  MLB postseason.

In both dugouts, the labels of water bottles have been ripped off, and Gatorade cups — sometimes they are empty — are strategically placed in the postgame interview room.

Interesting enough, the unidentified water bottles are from Aquafina, the official MLB water that is also owned by Gatorade’s parent company, PepsiCo.

I know having been a Pepsi Sales Representative. for the  Tampa Bay Rays for over 5 years that the presence of a certain energy drink has gotten more exposure than they deserve because of Pepsi Bottling Group’s  lack of  enforcement to rid the stadium of the rival beverage.

The local saleman of this rival brand bring caes upon cases into the Rays clubhouse for distribution, and none of the Pepsi branded energy drinks are provided for the players or the fans in the Trop. I could see if the local vendor did not offer an energy alternative that they would allow it to be distributed in the stadium. Pepsi Bottling Group has over 6 different versions and sizes of energy drinks that can be sold at concession stands, or even the imported beer stands in the stadium.

You see players on the bench and coming from the Bullpen bathroom areas with small silver and mlight blue cans sticking out of their pockets and pouring them into cans on the bench area. I know that you can also purchase this beverage in the Budweiser Brewhouse at anytime during the game, or after it and can mix it with Vodka to become a drink called, “The Cowbell.”

I just find it a bit moronic that you can purchase a drink that can give you wings in a place where the top soda provider does not have at least a sampling of their wares to entice or at leats give an alternative to this one drink. It might be more job pride than anything here, because I know we can sell alot of this type of drink during the Rays games.  Maybe I should just go back and sit in the Budweiser Brewhouse and drink another Coors Light and think about all of this for a while.

 

World Series Matchups…..Starting Pitchers’ and Bullpens’

 

This World Series will probably come down to the effectiveness of these two pitching areas of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies. Most people know that there is going to be a high scoring offensive juggernaut put up on certain nights, but a pitchers’ duel here and there might also set up a Bullpen matchup to either lead to a meltdown, or a shut down of an opposing lineup.

I am going to matchup the first 4 games with the respective pitchers going on the mound for the teams. In this way I can point out the positives’ and negatives’ of each member of the pitching staff. I will then  seperate the Bullpen by righties and lefties and summarize the chance of success or failure of the segment. I will then look at the closers’, and what effect they might have on the outcome of the series.

 

 

Game 1 Starters :      Cole Hamels ( L ) versus   Scott Kazmir  ( L ).

Cole Hamels comes into the World Series with an 3-0 record and a 1.23 ERA in the postseason.  He has thrown a total of 22.0 innings and given up 6 walks while earning 22 strikeouts in the National League playoffs.

Hamels is a great fastball/changeup pitcher. His changeup is rated as one of the best in the game. He has great arm action on his pitches and it dies as it nears the plate. He can also drop in curve balls on unaware batters close up in the box. Lefties tonight will have to be aware of his late break on his curve on the outside corners.

His fastball is usually in the 87-96 m.p.h. range, while his changeup sits steady at around 77-85 m.p.h.  His curve is breaking at around 73-80 m.p.h. with a great arch at the end of the pitch.

 

Scott Kazmir has been the Rays young gun for several years before the emergance of this pitching staff in 2008. Kazmir is the All-Time Rays leader in ERA, Strikeouts and Innings Pitched at 25 years of age. In the 2008 playoffs, Kazmir is 1-0, with a 4.02 ERA and has thrown 15.2 innings and given up 10 walks while earning 18 strikeouts.

 

Kazmir has a common repertoire, but has amazing stuff. He is not afraid to throw inside, particularly with his low-mid 90’s fastball. He uses it to put hitters’ on their heels before popping his slider off, or using his changeup outside fading it away from the plate. Kazmir prefers to use the slider against left-handers, and the changeup against right-handers. Kazmir has already led the American League in Strikeouts, and threw 4 straight no-hitters in Texas as a high schooler.

His fastball comes in at around 88-95 m.p.h., and his slider is timed at 80-84 m.p.h. with a sharp late break. His change up is a great out pitch for him at around 75-80 m.p.h.

 

ADVANTAGE:    Toss Up  This will be a true pitchers’ duel as both can take over a game fast and make it their own, or get into a bind early in the contest. Whoever gets to the 5th inning without alot of collateral damage will probably win this contest. I am taking Hamels if the Rays left-handers get behind early in the counts.

 

 

Game 2 Starters:            Brett Myers ( R ) versus James Shields ( R )

Brett Meyers might be known more this season for the Spring Training prank pulled on fellow Phillies’ pitcher Kyle Kendrick. He was told he was traded to a Japanese team by the Phillies. But in the 2008 playoffs, Meyers has gone 2-0, with 12 innings pitched and has issued 7 walks while strking out 10 batters.

Meyers was really struggling early in 2008, enough to get a rehab assignment in the minors. Since returning, he is improved dramatically. He still has a moving fastball and a hard overhand curveball, and had relied on this combo in the 2nd half of the season. During his career he has changed from a splitter and a changeup as his off speed pitch. He currently uses both sparingly in games. He also throws a slider that has more action like a cutter than a traditional slider.  

His fastball is hitting the gun at between 85-92 m.p.h. now, and his curve is breaking at 73-78 m.p.h. His slider is moving at 82-87 m.p.h.. When used, his changeup is topping out from 78-83 m.p.h., and his splitter is hitting 78-83 m.p.h. on the guns

 

James Shields was the Rays Opening Day starter in both the playoffs and during the ruglar season. In his second year, he has fast developed a reputation as being a big game pitcher. During this years playoffs, Shields is 1-2, with a 3.72 ERA. He has thrown 19.1 innings and giving up 6 walks to posted 13 strikeouts for the Rays.

 

Shields has been a huge surprise for the Rays in the last 2 seasons, quickly turning into one of the best pitchers in baseball. He throws hard, mixing his 90+ m.p.h. fastball with a razorblade cutter that breaks bats.  However Shields money pitch is his sinking changeup, which is considered one of the best in the game. He also has a huge breaking curveball with good command, making him a true 4-pitch starter for the Rays.

His fastball has been clocked from  90-94 m.p.h., while his changeup tops out between 80-85 m.p.h. His cutter has been known to hit around 87-91 m.p.h., with his curve topping out at 76-77 m.p.h.

 

ADVANTAGE:   The do not call him “Big Game” Shields for nothing. This right-hander has the kind of stuff that could hold the Phillies offense in check in Game 2. If he is in control in the first 3 innings, the night will be over quick for the Philly batters.

 

 

Game 3 Starters:             Matt Garza ( R )  versus Jamie Moyer ( L )

Everyone in baseball knows about the June incident in Texas with Garza, but since that time he has shown more control and been a shut-down pitcher for the Rays. His improvements showed his true abilities as he won the American League Championship Most Valuable Player award for going 2-1, with a 3.32 ERA in 19.0 innings. He gave up 10 walks and got 13 strikeouts in the playoffs to date.

 

Garza has the stuff to be the next great starting pitcher in baseball. He will throw a hard fastball in the mid -90’s to go with his duo of breaking balls. He has a plus slider in the low-mid 80’s that gets great drop. It looks like a hard curve, but is deceptive in motion. He can then change up the pitch by slowing the ball down into the mid-70’s making a great 12-6 break on his curveball. His 4th pitch is a straight changeup in the low 80’s.

His fastball comes in at 90-95 mph, while his slider hits the gun at 84-88 mph. His great curve is clocked between 75-78 mph, and his changeup sits between 82-83 mph Jamie Moyer began the season in the American League with the Seattle Mariners. He is one of two members of the Phillies staff who has faced the Rays in 2008before the World Series. Moyer got his only start against the Rays at the Trop during the Rays’ first homestand of the season. He comes into the series with an 0-2 mark and a 13.50 ERA.He has had a bit of a control issue, giving up 10 hits in his 5.1 innings of work in the post season. In those innings, he has also issued 3 walks and gotten 5 strikeouts.

Moyer throws a four -pitch repertoire. He has a fastball/cutter combo that he will use to any hitter ,on both sides of the plate. His velocity on these pitches sits around 80 mph. His breaking ball is a curve that he spikes with his index finger. His fastball hits the gun at 79-83 mph, while his cutter breaks at 77-80 mph. His deceptive changeup comes over between 73-75 mph, and his curve breaks at 67-71 mph.

Advantage:  Garza. There is a reason he is the ALCS MVP. He has learned to hit his spots and take no prisioners’ at the plate. He is not afraid to pitch inside and if his emotions stay in check, it will be a long night.

 

 

 

Game 4 Starters:      Andy Sonnanstine ( R ) versus Joe Blanton ( R )

Andy Sonnanstine comes into the World Series having pitched the Rays into position to try and take the series in 5 games. He is a great pitcher who uses his off speed pitches to fool the competition. For the 2008 playoffs,Sonnanstine has a 2-0 record, with a 3.46 ERA. He has thrown for 13 innings and given up only 2 walks and gotten 5 strikeouts for the Rays.

Sonnanstine uses a cutter as his primary fastball pitch, mixing in the occasional 2-seamer to fool batters’. Both of these pitches come in approximately the same velocity, around the mid-80’s. Sonnanstine will throw the cutter over the top, giving it a slight drop, or drop his arm angle down to 3/4 which give the pitch more horizontal movement. Sonnanstine also uses a standard slider, a slow 12-6 curveball and a sinking changeup. He has the ability to throw strike with all his pitches, which keeps his walk totals extremely low and keeps him in the games.

His fastball comes in at between 87-90 mph, while his cutter hits 86-90 mph. The huge curveball breaks between 74-76 mph, and his changeup drops to around 81 mph. His occasional slider hits the gun at 80-82 mph.

Joe Blanton is the second member of the Phillies who has pitched against the Rays in 2008. He was a memeber of the Oakland A’s at the time. Blanton comes into the series with a 1-0 record, with a 3.27 ERA. He has thrown 11 innings and issued 4 walks and gotten 11 strikeouts in the postseason.

Blanton throws the four basic pitches. His round frame delivers a straight fastball. To lefties, Blanton perfers to work with his changeup as his second pitch. To righties, he uses a fastball/slider combo. He will deviate from this, but not often. Blanton’s 4th pitch is a 12-6 curveball. He prefers to work quickly and doen’t shake off his catchers. his fastball comes in at 86-91 mph, while his slider breaks the plate at 80-84 mph. His changeup come over at 80-83, and the curve is timed between 73-76 mph.

 

ADVANTAGE:  Sonnastine. He has kept the Rays in every game he has pitched in the 2008 playoffs. He uses his deceptive arm motion to fool the batter into a lull, while working quickly. With both Blanton and Sonnastine on the mound, we might have one of the shortest games in World Series history as both do not shake off their catcher alot and want to pitch quickly to the plate.

 

 

Phillies’ Bullpen

JC Romero

Romero is your standard lefthanded reliever. He has an average fastball, and relies on his junk to get outs. He has a big slider and a soft changeup. The slider primarily thrown to lefties, will sweep across the hitting zone. Romero will save change up for the righties, and attempt to fade this pitch off the plate. He seems to lose more velocity each season, but has put together a couple of decent seasons with the Phillies.

Ryan Madson

Madson is a fastball/changeup pitcher, but seems to be using his cutter more and more. the cutter can get some huge movement sometimes, sliding across the hitting zone. Madson’s changeup is still his best pitch, often diving down just as it reaches the plate. His fastball is very straight and hittable. He does have a slow curve as his 4th pitch.

J A Happ

Happ shows some promise. He is 6 feet tall. lefthanded and throws a 90 mph fastball. He has consistently posted good minor league numbers and looks like he might translate it to the major league level. Happ owns a tight slider that he uses often. He likes to try and go inside on righties with it,burying it at their ankles, or throwing away from lefties. Happ will also show a changeup to righties and mix in a very slow curveball.

Scott Eyre

Eyre is your typical leftie reliever. He throws  a 90 mph fastball, a sweeping slider, and an occasional changeup. He has bounced around 5 different teams and issues too many walks to stick around anywhere.

Chad Durbin

Durbin has been a reliable member of the Phillies Bullpen in 2008. His stuff looks average, but he is been getting outs. He will throw 2-seamers and a straight 4-seam fastball. He will throw alot of tight sliders in the upper-80’s.  Durbin finishes his 4 pitch selection with a  standard curve and a changeup.

Clay Condrey

He deals with a sinking fastball with a big slider, He also mixes in a sharp cutter at high velocity, and fades a change up away.

 

 

Phillies Closer:                             Brad Lidge

Lidge still throws it in the mid-90’s with a sick slider. He uses these two pitches, and that’s basically it for him. The fastball rises as it approaches home plate. Then he breaks off a hard downward breaking slider that misses bats. Lidge has experiemented with a changeup in the past, and with a cutter early in 2007. Neither pitch produced great results, but he can rack up the K’s as a closer.

 

       

 

Rays’ Bullpen:

 J P Howell

Howell throws with alot of movement on all of his pitches. His fastball sinks, tails and/or cuts on its way to the plate. It only reaches about 88 mph, but it looks much faster these days. He mixes in a changeup that he tends to overthrow and it ends up only about 5 mph slower than his fastball. Howell’s breaking ball is in the upper-70’s and may touch the low 80’s. It has become a real weapon against all hitters’. especially lefties.  The imporvement of Howell’s pitches from 2007, to 2008 is dramatic.

Trever Miller

Miller is a lefthanded specialist that has a simple selection of pitches. He throws a fastball in the mid-upper-80’s and a weak slider off of that. His changeup doesn’t vary more than 7 or 8 mph from his fastball. However, he will never give in to hitters’, preferring to walk a batter before throwing one down the middle of the plate.

Chad Bradford

Bradford has a very slow sidearm delivery. His fastball barely touches 80 mph, but since his hand almost scrapes the mound at his release point, hitters find him difficult to pick up. He also throws a sweeping slider and shows a changeup.

 Edwin Jackson

Jackson throws a hard, straight fastball in the low-to-high 90’s, and a slider to counter it. He throws a straight changeup and has added a curveball in 2008. Jackson seems to be continuing to improve as a pitcher every outing for the Rays.

Grant Balfour

Balfour is an intense dude. He throws hard, challenges hitters, and swears at himslef on the mound even if things are going well. He owns a tight slider and a curveball, but he will go multiple outings without throwing anything but fastballs.

David Price

The 2007 1 overall pick, David Price has reached the major leagues in his first season of professional baseball. Price dominated the NCAA ranks with his mid-90’s fastball and tight slider, two pitches that have easily translated into the pro game. David has been working on his changeup for years, and is still in the development stages with it. He could be the secret weapon for the Rays this postseason because no teams have a book on him and he will be pitching a limited amount of innings in the playoffs.

Dan Wheeler

Wheeler has never had dominant velocity, but is still able to produce as a setup man every year. He has a 90 mph moving fastball and mixes in alot of breaking pitches. His slider has slowed over the years and now site somewhere around 80 mph with a good drop. Wheeler will mix in split-fingers to lefties,  a pitch that can cut  drop bats. In the past, Wheeler experimented with a cutters,changeups and may still mix in the occasional 12-6 curveball. He is hittable and prone to allowing the long ball.

 

 

 

Rays Closer:                     Closer by Committee

 

Rays Manager, Joe Maddon has decided to go with a closer by committee aspect until someone shows they want to position. In the last game against the Red Sox, Maddon used 5 relievers in 1 inning and then gasve the ball to the rookie, David Price to save the game for the Rays. Price might be the sentimental favorite of Maddon right now. Dan Wheeler has the only other save for the Rays in the 2008 playoffs.

 

Advantage:    Phillies by a nose.

Philadelphia has a designated closer, so they have someone who knows his role every game, every night. With the Rays going by clsoer by committee at this time, they will have to adjust their prospective nightly on who is fresh, and who has the good stuff. I am giving this solely on the merit of a closer for the Phillies.

I feel that the games will come down to the Bullpens’ to either win or lose in the World Series. If the Rays can establish and hold at least two leads for wins, that will put all the pressure on the Phillies Bullpen from then on to shut down the Rays’ offense. A single mistake could open the floodgates for either team in this series.

 

 

World Series Predictions From Around the MLB in 2008

 

 

Here are some of the predictions from the Third Ward. You know, those guys who know sports so much better than some of us who either played them, or even starred in them in college or above. I always find it interesting that a guy who enver played baseball can make a comment on hitting a slider when he has never even taken an at bat, or been in the box with a guy throwing 96 m.p.h. at him in a game situation.

But I guess it could be worse. My banker could have given me my mortage paperwork written on beverage naps from a local tavern, or styed at the Holiday Inn Express the night before signing day. So enjoy some of the pundits picks and reasons below. I will make my predictions on the bottom of the blog.  Enjoy reading some of the recpas on their picks:

 

Marc Topkin, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 6: They don’t know any better to be intimidated by the stage, and their homefield advantage will leave the Phillies hearing cowbells all winter.

John Romano, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 6: Too much depth, too much flexibility, too much heart. The team that wouldn’t quit finally reaches the finish line.

Gary Shelton, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 7: What could be more dramatic than winning a Game 7 at home against the Red Sox? How about winning a world championship in a Game 7 at home?

Joe Smith, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 7: Every time you count them out, they make you pay. And with starters like Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir getting back on track (and David Price a not-so-secret weapon), their pitching depth will carry them through.

Brant James, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 5: The Rays should have their way if they keep Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino from creating too much chaos on the bases and Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Chase Utley in the ballpark.

Dave Scheiber, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 6: A relaxed Rays team rides the emotional wave from beating Boston, benefiting from their high-decibel homefield advantage and a surging pitching staff bolstered by rookie phenom David Price.

Eduardo A. Encina, St. Petersburg Times

Phillies in 7: Door closers Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge shorten the game and end this year’s run of late-inning Rays heroics.

Tom Jones, St. Petersburg Times

Rays in 6: The Bucs won their first Super Bowl. The Lightning won its first Stanley Cup. The Rays will win their first World Series. It’s karma, baby.

Tim Kurkjian, ESPN the Magazine

Rays in 7: They have speed, power, pitching and four games at home.

Peter Gammons, ESPN

Phillies in 7: I had the Rays in the first two series. I have the Phillies in this one and the biggest reason is the last two innings of the Phillies’ bullpen, Madson and Lidge.

Tracy Ringolsby, Rocky Mountain News

Phillies in 6: Lidge makes the difference.

Harold Reynolds, MLB.com and TBS

Rays in 7: The key will be the bullpen. David Price and Edwin Jackson will play a big role.

Ken Rosenthal, Fox and FoxSports.com

Rays in 7: The AL is a stronger league and this is a strong, deep team.

Gordon Edes, Boston Globe

Rays in 5: No stopping them now.

Gerry Fraley, FoxSports.com

Phillies in 6: After a season in Philadelphia, playing in Tropicana Field seems like a no-stress holiday to the Phillies.

Dave Sheinin, Washington Post

Rays in 4: They steal Game 1 off Hamels and that’s it. They have better pitchers in the next three.

Mark Feinsand, New York Daily News

Rays in 6: I think Hamels is the only pitching matchup in (the Phillies’) favor at all.

Mel Antonen, USA Today

Rays in 6: I love their pitching and defense.

John Smallwood, Philadelphia Daily News

Phillies in 6: They’ve got to be patient at the plate and make the Rays starters throw a lot of pitches to get to the bullpen.

Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe

Rays in 5: Rays will destroy the Phillies’ pitching after Hammels.

 

 

I know that all of America are anxious on my picks here. I am actually going to pick the winner of the World Series and the World Series MVP in this blog. It might be no surprise what team I am picking, but the person who I am picking for the MVP might be a no-brainer too.

 

I am taking the Tampa Bay Rays in 6 Games to win the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. I am holding alot of faith and respect for the left arm of our secret weapon out of the Bullpen , reliever extrordinaire, David Price.

I am also going to make him a candidate for the MVP, but he will lose out to teammate B J Upton, who will set the new record for homers by and individual in the playoffs this year. He is one away noe from tying the record, and I think in a 6 game series he will expolde at least twice to push the new record to 9 homers total in the playoffs.

This along with an outfield assist on a throw to home to peg  Shane Victorino some time during the series will seal the deal for Upton. The earlier the better for the Rays.

 

So with that all done, let’s get to doing what we do best here in Tampa Bay and get our cowbells primed and ready for a shootout in the old Trop tonight. I agree that if the Rays steal a win tonight, it puts more pressure on the Phillies to come up big in their home ballpark. And the Rays have become road warriors this postseason.

 

 

 

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