October 2008

What They are Saying About the ALCS…Game 5

 

 

Sox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the Boston papers are saying about the Rays’ 8-7 loss to the Red Sox in Game 5:

Bob Ryan, Boston Globe

”The Red Sox are the defending champions. They always come to play nine innings, and if it takes the greatest postseason comeback in 79 years to stay alive, then they will give you the greatest postgame comeback in 79 years.

”Got that, Rays?”

Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe

”The catatonic Rays have to be doubting themselves after watching their World Series tickets dissolve in Fenway’s midnight madness. If you are a Rays fans, you have to worry. The young bucks choked the way few have choked before. They were inches from a clean getaway, a Fenway sweep that would have embarrassed the defending world champs and elevated the Tampa team to elite status. And they coughed it all up in three ridiculous innings.”

Steve Buckley, Boston Herald

”The Red Sox were dead, and dead teams are not supposed to wake up. It is scientifically impossible. You’re dead, you’re dead.

”Then again, if dead teams did not awaken, we would not have Bobby Thomson and Carlton Fisk and all that.”

Ron Borges, Boston Herald

”It is old magic by now, like seeing the rabbit come out of the hat for the 100th time, but who cares? The Sox are still playing, and the Tampa Bay Rays better understand now what they are up against.

”They are up against a team that understands what winning is all about. It’s about winning one game even when you need three. Winning one game even when you need two. One game.

”That’s what the ALCS is now down to for the Red Sox. One game, which they won last night as dramatically as a team could.”

John Tomase, Boston Herald

”David Ortiz’ three-run homer hit the right field seats, and the Tampa Bay Rays stopped in their tracks.

”One second the young upstarts were happy go lucky and carefree, thinking, World Series.

”The next they were nervous and dry heaving, with Fenway Park [map] rocking, trying not to entertain thoughts like, ‘Holy cow. It’s the ALCS, it’s 7-4, and the Red Sox are coming.’

 

I always love how hometown papers spin thing into a frenzy over the smallest gesture or opinion. It is what i miss about the New York papers this year spilling the innuendo and the propaganda of the pinstripes. But I also like how if they truly felt the end was near, they at least braced the fans for the iceberg’s edge.

The Boston media is sending them to the cliff’s without a parachute. This is a 1 game series period. Rays win won, you go home to play golf until the golf course is covered in snow. the national media might not be wanting a Phillies vs Rays matchup, but the locals sure do. It will be an all-Pinellas county Spring Training brawl with the bats from Broad Street angainst the Salsa Slammers of the Trop.

And Carlos Pena gives dancing lessons for those of you players who do not know how to do his dance……………..

You Asked for It……….Fact or Fiction……………Rays Style

 

 

 

I have gotten more than a few comments and emails today wondering why I think the Rays have what it takes to move to the next step. Okay, I can give you the notion that we have not been there before and might not know how to act accordingly. I can also give you the fact that until we beat you……….you are still the World’s Champions.

But if we beat you tomorrow or Sunday, will you go quietly into the night, or will you just re-post up on Monday morning as Philadelphia Phillies fans just for the sake of arguments. Seriusly, Red Sox Nation-Southern Division, is it such a bad thing that the town(s) some of you now call home be in a World Series agianst someone else from the northern half of the US.

So, you really want me to throw a few stats and tidbits out towards your red carpet to prove we have what it takes to take down the Nation that is the Red Sox.  I thought the noise from your crowd after the 1st inning until the bottom of the 7th inning would be enough to tell you my answer, but you want more………

Okay let’s start off easy and I promise not to bruise your ego too much when I make the facts plain and simple here.

Fact: Even if you beat us in the next 2 games, we have the prize that will eat you up inside until next Spring,..We have the American League East title. Think about it we own the division where you make your bread and butter this year, and that pisses you off.  Get used to it, this is only the first test.

Fiction: You do not mind that we got the AL East as long as you return to the promise land and get your third title in 7 years. But there is a slight problem in that analogy friend, you have to beat us in a stadium where we are 24-3 aginast all comers, even the Red Sox. Secondly, you will be throwing 2 pitchers at us who were shell-shocked last time and might not be the total goods you think they are. So let’s take a look at the Post season ALCS stats on your next 2 starters:

Fact: Josh Beckett went 4.1 innings and gave up 9-hits and 8 Earned Runs in the Game 2 matchup against Scott Kazmir. That gives him a 16.62 ERA for the series. But let’s look at the positive for you………..He did get 5 strikeouts.

Fiction: That upon a return to the scene of the crime, his massacre at the Trop., Beckett will dig dsown deep and bring out the Red Sox pride and win in a thrilling game. That might happen, but the Rays bats’ are still hot, and the Rays leftie dominated lineup did not do too bad against him last time.

Fact: Jon Lester did start at home where he was a god and got rocked by the barrage going out of the park, But he is no Tim Wakefield. In the Game 3 matchup that was suppose to be out of sight and put you up 2-1 in the series, he went 5.2 innings and gave up 8-hits for 5 Earned Runs. That is better than Beckett, but still sets him up for a 6.35 ERA.

Fiction: The Rays hit Lester pretty good at the Trop this year in the regular season.  Oh wait! he never faced tham at the Trop this season. But we did go against him mat Fenway this year in the regular season.  Players like Willy Aybar went .333 against him, while Jason Bartlett batted .500 against Lester.  Carlos Pena hit a homer, and got a double against him.  And Dioner Navarro went 2 for 5, while Justin Ruggiano was 2 for 3, with 2 singles against him this year in Fenway Park.

Fact: Red Sox pitchers have given up a total of  13 homers in 5 games to the speedy Rays. They have also helped set the new ALCS by letting Evan Longoria homer in 4 straight games. Was that a gift to us, or was the guy just getting gopher pitches?

Fiction: A change of scenery to Tropicana Field will do the team good to get away from home and feed the hunger to beat the Rays in their home park. That during the first 2 games of the ALCS the Rays were out-pitched and out-hit by the Red Sox. the Rays have not hit alot of homers against us in the Trop this year……. only 11, with 38 RBIs, and that is not including the 3 homers and 9 RBI in the first 2 games at the Trop in the ALCS.

 

Fact:  The Rays are 24-3 at home with a crowd over 30,000 fans in the seats, including Red Sox fans. They have opened an additional 5,700 seats to make the noise even more deafening to the visiting crowds. On top of that, in the 2008 season, including the ALCS, the Rays are 10-2 in the Trop. Only during the last series of the year against the Red Sox did the Rays drop their first game to them at home. And in the first game of the ALCS, the Rays came out flat and never recovered in time.

Fiction: The Trop. will be Fenway South with a majority of the fans supporting the current Worlds Champs in gear and in voice.  Considering they might be louder down here than the crowd on their hands in Fenway Park, I might have to give you that one.  They will be loud, and they will be crazy, but you forget that the main crowd will be sporting blue and white and they do not take the abuse anymore. It might be a more interesting night for the security and the St. Petersburg Police Department than for the normal fans.

Fact: With their backs against the wall before with  3-0 and 3-1 advantages against them the mighty Red Sox have conquered and went to the World Series. I will give you the fact that PAST Red Sox teams had a more intimidating style of play and the pitching had an extra notch or two, but this years club is not the 2004, or 2007 Red Sox Champion Club.

Fiction:  The 2007 Red Sox pitching staff is superior to the Rays staff. I will give you that in the regular season, except we beat you 2 out of 3 with your best player, your closer on the mound for 1 of those games. Josh Beckett is a solid pitcher, but I think he is still reeling a bit with the elbow and is gutting it out for the team. Jon Lester is a force, but we have seen him and beaten him so he is not the force you want him to be here…sorry.

Fact: Last nights win by the Red Sox completely demoralized the Rays and they will be lucky to score 5 runs in the next game. The loss was the first time in MLB  Playoff history that a team faced elimination with more than 6 runs and came back to win the contest.

Fiction: Before the Home Run by David Ortiz, he had gone 2 for 19, with both being extra base hits, that works out to a .105 average. Even if Big Papi is about to explode, who is to say that the Rays pitching staff will be pitching him outside and he will have to turn on the ball to even get a single. Secondly, there are 3 members of your team who are still batting .000, going 0-28 in the ALCS. That has got to hurt ………alot.

Just to throw a little something out there for you Red Sox fans, our batters combined are hitting  .279 for the series, while you team is hitting a lowly .247 at this time. If you want to look for a postive on offense, you do have 3 more doubles than us this ALCS (11to8).

And on the mound, the Rays are throwing with a team ERA of 4.24 . And we have gotten 40 strikeouts as a team. Your squad has a ERA of 7.14, and has given up 51 hits in 46.2 innings this ALCS.  And if you really want to get snappy, we have given up a total of 23 runs to your 38. Those 15 runs have made a difference in the series. And I will be nice and not mention the HR totals.

By the way, I just hit Stubhub.com for you Red Sox fans, and here are some of the prices for certain seats at the Trop. Please be sure to have cash, because scalpers dod not take American Express, Visa or Mastercards on the street corners:

Upper Deck:  Currently the lowest is $ 82.50, but there is an auction in progress for the seats. the highest in the area is $ 287.00 at this time.

Club Level:  Currently the lowest is $250.00, with the highest at $600. at this time. 

Home Plate Club: The lowest is currently $ 1,350. and rising as high as $ 4,000. for the All You Can Eat and Drink section of the stadium.

Sections 102-132:  The current lowest price for a ticket is in Section 128 in the VV row for $177 dollars. the highest is about 3,500 in Section 108, Row J.

Sections 134-138: The current asking low ball price is $ 155 dollars, with the highest going for $ 195 dollars in the Baseline Box area.

Outfield: The outfield in rightfield is showing a low price of  $ 91 dollars in Section 148, to a high ball price of  $ 951 dollars for the front row in Section 146.

                 The outfield in leftfield is showing a low price of  $ 129 dollars in Section 145, to a high price of  $ 380 for front row in Section 139 near the foul pole.

Above Red Sox Dugout: The price to sit in the sections right above the Red Sox Dugout are curently priced at $ 179 dollars for Section 113, Row QQ, to a high price of $ 1,296 dollars for a seat in Section 123 in Row E.

Beach Area:  There is a small section still open, but it is Standing Room Omly in the Beach area going from $ 90-118 dollars a ticket. This area is right behind the Upper Deck Media Pod put in place for the extended Media needs of the MLB.

 

So there you go, big prices for big games. And just think, 65% of the poeple selling ticket on thses sites are Rays Season Ticketholder who got to purchase up to 4 extra tickets to every game this postseason. You might be making my car payment, or even putting my celebration budget a bit higher when you buy my tickets.

And with that, I hope you enjoy your visit to the Trop., and remember to tip your bartenders and waitresses accordingly at Ferg’s.

 

 

Rays Stumble Against Red Sox 8-7

 

 

             

 

Have the media not guessed by now that Rays Manager, Joe Maddon is the Nutty Professor. Yes, he does do something that are not by the book for major league baseball managers’. He jokes with his players’, does not chew them out in public, and has some very unusual tactics for playing this great game.  He has given an Intentional Base on Balls to one of the game new power hitter( Josh Hamilton). He has a persoanl winecellar in his office for post game tasting. And he is the guy who convinced his “lefites” to go “righties” against Tim Wakefield in three games this year, and they won all three of them.

Logic is not just math to Maddon. He truly believes that the game should be played at an advantage, not to an unwritten rule book. If he wants his team to wear garter belts on their uniforms, don’t you think he has earned the respect that the team would do it without question? Then why are people questioning his move of putting his 4 plus years of major league service ace on the mound in place of James Shields.

There is method to the maddness people. One has a horrid record in the confines of Fenway Park, the other has handcuffed the Red Sox on numerous occasions over his career. I think it was a great move, and one that worked out to show he has a bit of mad genius to him. you either see genius or insanity in his moves. But if his moves are insane, you can committ me right now becuase he has us one game away from  a date with the Holy Grail.    Amen Joe, Amen.

 

Red Sox 8, Rays 7

 

 

 

 

Scott Kazmir

People seem to forget that Scott Kazmir has been in the majors now over 4 seasons. They  seem to forget that for years he has been the driving force behind the pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the guy who has been responsible for making it attractive to pitch in Tampa Bay again.

People talk about the big three pitchers and he is not listed first, but should be. He was the young prince who has started that revolution, yet the public gives him the backseat.  Kazmir has done anything and everything for this franchise, why not give him a chance to drive us to the big party against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

Kazmir only came out last night and pitched a superb game in which he threw 6 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball. Let me repeat that again, 2-hit, shutout baseball. And people have questioned his big game mentality. I think he answered them with a huge response in this game. He held this Red Sox team to almost noghting in 6 innings, and they were in a severe chokehold when he left the game.

He also got 7 strikeouts on the night, but then you expect him throwing thunder from the guy who won the 2007 strikeout crown. He was the old Kazmir, darting the fastball and sneaking in the slider to make you look foolish at the plate. I was marveling at the way he was again playing the game with Boston, making them think and try and outwit him at the plate.

 

 

 

 

He is one of this teams young studs, all under 26 years of age. And guess what, you will see him for another 5 years pushing the ball past batters every year and getting better.  And people were questioning why he was getting the start. Look at the boxscore, the answer is clear in black and white.

 

 

 

 

Bullpen Meltdown

When was the last time the Ray’s could say they had a Bullpen sitiation on their hands, last season?  This is not to say that the Rays have to refurbish or remodel the way the Bullpen is used in the series, this was an isolated implosion of unsual proportions. The Rays have been proud and secure in their relievers’ all season long, and tonight they had not reason to doubt them.

Coming into the 7th inning, the Rays had no idea of the meltdown that was to occur in this contest. Grant Balfour entered the game with a modest ERA, he left the game after 2/3rds of an innig last night with a postseason mark of 22.50 ERA. In the 7th inning, Balfour came on and gave up a huge double to Jed Lowrie on the 2nd pitch of the inning. This was one of the first time tonight Boston had a man in scoring position.

Balfour then got two quick fly balls outs to B J Upton before giving up a single to Coco Crisp and putting men on the corners for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia then cam up with men in scoring position for only the 2nd time this series. He made the Rays pay by slapping the ball to right and scoring Lowrie to give Boston it’s first run of the game. David Ortiz then  came up and hit the 2nd pitch he saw deep into the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and pull Boston to within 3 runs, 7-4.

Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, and he got Youkilis to fly out to Gabe Gross in right to end the inning. In the 8th, with Wheeler still on the mound, Jasob Bay walked to lead off the inning.  J D Drew the came up and drilled a 0-1 pitch to right for a 2-run homer to pull Boston within 1 of the Rays. 

 

 

             

 

 

Wheeler then got Lowrie and pinch-hitter Sean Casey for wuick outs before Mark Kotsay hit a ball that changed direction in the air and was within an few inches of Upton pulling it in for the 3rd out. The ball hit the outside of his glove and just popped to the left of his outstretched mitt. This put Kotsay on second with 2-outs, and Coco Crisp at the plate. He hit a liner to right that skipped around on Gross and his throw into the infield looked like a 6 year olds.

 The ball was taken by Carlos Pena who saw that Crisp was trying to advance on the play and got him at second when Akinora Iwamura tagged him out for the 3rd out.  But Kotsay had scored before the 3rd out, and the score was now tied 7-7.

 

        

 

In the 9th inning, J P Howell came on to pitch for the Rays with the score still tied at 7. The Red Sox quickly gave up two outs and the game seemed to be in control, then Kenvin Youkilis came to the plate. Youkilis hit a screamer to Evan Longoria at third that Longoria knocked down, but his throw was a weird one-hopper to Pena that he could not scoop before the ball careened into the stands for an error and Youkilis standing on second with 2-outs.

Jason Bay then came up and was Intentionally walked by the Rays and set up a Howell versus J D Drew matchup.  Howell quickly got behind, and with a 3-1 count, Drew hit a one-hopper over the rightfield wall for a ground rule double and the winning run scored for the Red Sox. Howell took the loss for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Game 5 Tidbits

The Rays have now hit a homer in 4 straight games, which set a new ALCS record.

The Rays 1-4 hitters accounted for 7 out of the Rays’ 8 hits, and  scored  6 of the 7 runs scored tonight.

Evan Longoria is the fourth player in major-league history to hit home runs in each of four or more consecutive games in one postseason. Carlos Beltran holds the record with a five-game streak for the Astros in 2004. Jeffrey Leonard had a four-game streak for the Giants in 1987  and Juan Gonzalez had a four-game streak for the Rangers in 1996 vs. the Yankees.

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria hit consecutive home runs in the first inning in Game 4 of the ALCS and they did it again in the third inning of Game 5. Pena and Longoria are the first pair of teammates in major-league history to hit back-to-back home runs twice in one postseason series.

The Red Sox’ starting pitchers allowed 11 home runs in 16 2/3 innings in Games 2 through 5 of the ALCS. During the regular season, Boston’s starters had the fifth-lowest home run rate in the American League, averaging one home run allowed every 9.4 innings.
Boston Red Sox.

It’s small consolation for the Rays, but with their three homers in Game 5 they set a major-league postseason record for the most home runs by a team over a four-game span (13, Games 2-5), breaking the old mark of 12 set by the Astros in 2004.

 

 

 

 

Rays 1-4 Batters’

The Rays first 4 batters’ went a combined 7 out of the Ray’s 8 hits in the game, and also scored 6 of the 7 runs in the contest. It was the best offensive outbreak by the front of the lineup in the last two games. Akinora Iwamura lead off the lineup going 1-3, with 2 runs scored and 2 walks in the game.

 

 

 

 

He lead off the game with  single to right to end the speculation of another no-hit bid by Red Sox starter, Daisuke Matzusaka. Iwamura came around to score on Upton’s homer three pitches later.  He later walked in the 5th inning and moved to seond on Carlos Pena’s bunt down the third baseline.

He then stole third on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. He then walked again in the 7th inning and committed a double steal with Jason Bartlett to get into scoring position before Upton’s 2-RBI double off the Green Monster. Iwamura stole 2 of the Rays total 4 stolen bases’ in the game. 

 

 

       

 

B J Upton had another career night as he went 3 for 4 with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. He began his night by hitting a slow breaking ball from Matzusaka into the first row of the stands above the Green Monster in the first inning to put the Rays up 2-0 early in the game. He then singled in the 3rd inning to center before Pena’s 2-run blast put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

Upton then came up in the 7th inning and put a blast high off the upper facing of the Green monster for a 2-RBI double to put the last runs on the board for the Rays. Upton did get on base with a walk in the top of the 9th inning, but was erased on Carlos Pena’s double play ball to Pedroia.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena had another great night as he homer for the thrid time in three games to give the Rays a chance to win tonight. Carlos started the night off by hitting a 2-run shot in the 3rd inning. He then put a great bunt down the third baseline in the 5th inning. The Red Sox were in a shift and Pena put the ball down to the left of the pitcher and beyond the reach of Youkilis, who was manning the shortstop position in the shift.

He was Intentinally walked in the 7th inning, but was erased from the basepaths on Longoria’s double play ball. Carlos ended the game by hitting into only hid 3rd double play of the night to end the 9th inning for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

And batting clean-up for the Rays was Evan Longoria. He went 1-4 on the night, but it was his back-to-back homer after Pena that sparked the Red Sox faithful into their seats early in this game.  Matzusaka left up a slider to Longoria, and he put it into the seat in the Green Monster to stake the Rays to a 5-0 lead.

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

With the Rays in the driver’s seat for the rest of the series, all the pressure is on the Red Sox to snap the Rays winning ways at the Trop. The Red Sox have only won twice at the stadium this season, and the Rays are a combined 24-3 with crowds over 30,000 at the games.

With Game 6 and 7 already sold out, it will be at maximum capacity as the Rays unfolded the tarps and opened an additional 5,700 seats for Rays fans. The Rays will  have the advantge only having to win one game to advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

 

What They are Saying About the ALCS

 

I always love to check out other newspapers and read what the are saying about our Tampa Bay Rays. Some articles are starting to have a fatalistic viewpoint, while other still have that optimistic slice of pie you want to read from your hometown fish wrap. Here are some of the recent snippets from the media giants patrolling the ponds of Fenway Park during the ALCS. After the 9-1 Rays win in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, here’s what other sportswriters had to say.

 

Rays Quiet ‘Friendly’ Fenway
Steve Buckley, Boston Herald

Sox fans should have seen this coming. Though the Rays lost 7-of-9 games at Fenway Park this season, those two victories took place in the last two meetings between the two clubs. And overall, the Rays won seven of their last nine regular-season games against the Mighty, Mighty Bostones and captured first place in the rugged AL East.

So for those of you who were banking on the Rays being intimidated, scared, discouraged, this being their first visit to Fenway when big-boy October baseball is being played . . . no.

 

Lester’s Dominance Takes Big Hit From Pesky Visitors
Sean McAdam, Boston Herald

For the Sox, here’s the sobering reality: They have to win at least one of the next two just to force the ALCS back to Tropicana Field. And should they get there, the rotation is lined up that the two Sox pitchers set to go in potential elimination games have been tattooed the first time around in the series.

 

Rays Take Control, At Least For Now
Clubhouse Insider, Boston Herald

The Rays are young, fresh, and just new enough at all this not to be cowed by the stage. They don’t know any better.

The Sox are defending champs, but the Rays right now look like the team to beat.

 

Rays Knock Red Sox Onto Their Heels
Jack Curry, New York Times

They are two significant parts of the future for the Tampa Bay Rays, the smooth third baseman and the even smoother center fielder. They are such talented twenty-something players that they give the Rays endless hope for the next decade or more. But on Wednesday, with Evan Longoria at third and B. J. Upton in center, the future was already here.

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Display of Power Lets the Air Out of Fenway
Harvey Araton, New York Times

Through the summer months and into September, the consensus on the neophyte Rays was that they weren’t quite ready to complete the regular-season marathon, that they would fade to the wild card, if not out of the playoff picture entirely. But they ran away from the $200 million Yankees, withstood the September challenge of the defending champion Red Sox, brushed off the White Sox in their franchise October debut.

All those thresholds handsomely met, how daunting should best of seven be for a team that had proved itself in best of 162?

 

               

 

Tampa Bay Rays fans know that slugger Carlos Pena is hot on the field.

Now Bay area baseball lovers can show their support for No. 23 by sporting shirts with “Holla Pena” or “Jala Pena” on the front and a cheer for him to “Do That Dance” on the back.

Part of the shirt sales proceeds will benefit the Children’s Cancer Center.

Pena teamed up with Encore Select to make the shirts.

“Everyone in Tampa Bay needs to be doing the ‘Holla Pena,’” Encore Select President Richard Moore said.

The T-shirts and sweatshirts will be available soon at www.encoreselect.com and at retail stores.

Also on the website is two different variations of a shirt sporting Evan Longoria on them. Both have the AL Rookie of the Year candidate’s jersey number and phrasing that is all about the heavy-hitting young Ray.

The Rays lead the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, three games to one. Game 5 is at 8:07 tomorrow at Boston’s Fenway Park.

 

 

Workout Day………….Checking Out the Sites

 

 

Great part about being a Tampa Bay Rays fan is the fact that we have not gotten cocky or jaded yet on our teams’ new success. Now that is not to mean that there are not any Rays’ fans out there who are beyond the term”civil”, but that we have enjoyed this ride to the top without the benefit of expectations or illogical  thinking. We have been lucky enough to get a ride on this shooting star, and it should shine for a while, but we will not take it for granted and respect the wins and take the losses as we have for the last 10 years in St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

But, some of the Red Sox faithful have already pulled the plug on Boston’s life support system. They forget the only reason there is a Game 5 is that their Game 1 pitcher had the game of his career at the right moment. Daiska Matsuzaka had the kind of game most pitchers’ dream of in the major leagues. He was not in total control of his pitches, but they found the right spots and  he held out long enough to awaken the Red Sox bats and escape with a rare win in Tropicana Field by the opposition.

 

Do not under estimate the severe positive that played not only on your team’s minds, but on the Rays’ faithful that this was going to be a bloody knuckle fight to the death. Little did we know that after we left the Trop., we would see even more success at Fenway Park than we have seen in years. Even with that in mind, this series is not over, and the Red Sox have come back from a worse setting to win the ALCS, twice.

So the games are not decided, the pitchers’ not icing down their arms, and the hitters are not bracing for another at bat tonight. It is a day of rest before the 5th battle in this war of titans in the American League East. This series is not even the end of this war, it will go on again next season for a minimum of 17 games, before maybe meeting again in the playoffs………..and part 2.

 

 

As usual, I spend my waking moments in the morning hitting the opposing team’s local newspapers and blogs to see what kind of interaction is brewing on the fan-front. One of the thing I found on www.Boston.com  was this Confidience Meter.

 

You would think it is the mentality of a team who has been here in 2 of the last 4 years to not surrender or put up even a beige flag so early in the ALCS series. But by the posted responses, it seems that the hidden voice of the Red Sox Nation might be at best, quiet optimisim, with a dash of pessimestic tendancies.

 

What I find surprising is that the Red Sox fans have come into our home park and screamed, growled and never went out with a whimper even in a bad loss. But to read this meter today on the website, it is like there is a sub culture ready to pack it in and get to the Boston Bruins games. In recent games, the Rays have made the Boston faithful basically put their hands under themselves early in the games.

 

This is not a casual response, but more of one of a teams’ followers who are in disbelief that this is happening to them. Shock has already set into the mindset of the Red Sox Nation. The next move is one of either panic or re-establishing the positive building blocks and rebuilding the support from the bleachers down to the guy behind home plate.

 

I have come to expect more from the Boston sports fan, and want them to be that cocky, arrogant, and vocal force until the 3rd out of the 9th inning. the question now is:  Do they still have the passion in them, or is it already packed up in wardrobe boxes and ready for shipping to Fort Meyers for Spring Training?

 

The thing you got to love about the Red Sox fans’ is their undying support and quick come-backs to the opposing teams’ fans.  I was at Ferg’s after the game last weekend and a Red Sox fan came up and asked me how I could be a “Rays” fan. I explained that first off, I was not fresh off the bandwagon and was with the original wagon train that pulled into the Trop even before we had a team.

I have worn several teams colors before the Rays. I was a Florida White Sox, Tampa Bay Mariner, Tampa Bay A’s, Tampa Bay Giant, Tampa Bay Twin, and a overlooked Expansion choice in favor of the Florida Marlins. But in the beginning, even before the MLB whispered, “If We build it, they will come…” I was a firm supporter of the St. Petersburg Cardinals, out Class-A team here for a long time. I even met current TV guru, Joe Mcgrane when he was a striking young lad on the diamond at Al Lang Field a long time ago.

I told her that I was there the first night when Wilson Alvarez threw that first pitch for a strike. And that I was there when current Toronto pitcher Jesse Litsch used to guard the Bullpen guys in the early 2000′s. And I was there when two of my dear friends pitched for the Rays before their untimely deaths, one from a unforseen heart aliment, and another in a tragic plane accident.

I was a born and bred St. Peterburg resident who did not move here from anywhere but from Central Avenue north to the Tyrone area. And that I used to play in the current Tropicana Feild site when it was a City of St. Petersburg Gas Plant used by the city for it vehicles and was full of underground passages and concrete bunkers surrounding the area.

In closing, I was a true Rays fan. Not the kind that is spotted wearing a mohawk to fit in, or the guy who is wearing the Rays shirt to meet that cute brunette at the end of the bar. I was the real thing, just like her…..A native who is rooting for his home team and loving every minute of this dream season. And with that, I asked her where she was born up north, she replied without battling an eyelash, “oh, I was born at Tampa General Hospital, and i have lived here all my life.”

Guess that is why I am who I am, and she is cruising back over the Howard Franklin home to her home 1,400 miles away from the city on her chest. I guess the bandwagon can go in reverse too……….but I am trying to break that gear on the transfer case as we speak.

 

                                 

 
 
 
 

Rays Shock Red Sox Nation to go 3-1 in ALCS

 

 

                                         

 

I was reading a blog the other day by a Red Sox supporter that was commenting on the huge amount of noise in the Trop. during the game that they could not enjoy watching the game. Well, after watching the crowd in Fenway basically sitting on their hands the last 2 nights, I will take the noise any day.

I always find it odd when people are commenting and grumbling about crowd noise in a baseball game these days. The game has become very interactive with the fans in the videos, the player at bat intor songs, and the small segments, like the Pepsi Race at Tropicana Field. It is not like the usual baseball fan has any bouts with ADD at all.

If they did, that fan would be the one hit by every foul ball in the place. The reason I really love my seats in Rightfield is that I can actually be part of the game sometimes. If a foul ball comes into my section, I usually try and see if I can get it without killing a massive amount of women and children. Seriously, I catch about 7 a season, and maybe 3 end up in my bag for another time.

The people who usually get my booty is the kids or a person at ther first baseball game. I remember last month, during the Orioles series there was a dad and his two sons from Denmark sitting in the Bullpen Cafe. I made sure that Bobby Ramos got them a ball before they left, not to get another Rays fan, but to get another kid to love the game of baseball.

With the appeal of the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, and another in the near future, the popularity of our great sport will rush like the wind into the nooks and crannies of Europe and we might actually have a real World’s Championship before I leave this earth. I can dream can’t I. Think about it, South Africa playing Iraq in a quarterfinal match, or maybe even Israel playing Syria in another match. It could change the way we see crisis in the future……..but I can dream can’t I?

 

 

Rays 13, Red Sox 4

 

 

 

 

Game 4 Facts and Figures

Coming into tonight game, Akinora Iwamura was chasing Darin Erstad’s record of consecutive games with a hit. Iwamura had hit at least once in all 7 of the Rays games until tonight. Iwamura unfortunately went 0-5 on the night and dropped his postseason average to .222 for the playoffs.

The Rays have now scored 9 plus runs in 3 consecutive games. That is the first time in history that a Playoff virgin team has won so many games in a row to start their playoff career. The Rays have also scored 31 runs on 39 hits since the Game 1 loss at home last Friday night.

B.J. Upton is the first player to hit five or more home runs in a single postseason after hitting fewer than 10 home runs during the preceding regular season.  I loved looking at the attendance at Fenway Park tonight. They had a total of 38, 144 people in the building, which rounds out to 104 percent capacity for the Park. Guess it is true you cram everyone and their brother into a building at playoff time.

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine

How can you find fault with a guy who has been a thron in the Red Sox side the entire year. Sonnanstine came into this start not giving up a earned run to the Rex Sox in his last 2 starts. He might not be in the Rays top 3 pitchers’ this postseason, but he is almost as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning for the Rays.

Sonnanstine always gives you a chance to win with his off-speed pitching stytle and great control. And tonight was another great example of why he has won Pitcher of the Year awards all throughout the Rays farm system. Consistant strikes and blazing the corners with his slider and curveball.

 

 

 

 

Sonnanstine went 7.1 innings tonight throwing 97 pitches before heading to the showers. He got only 2 strikeouts on the night, and gave up only 4-run on 6-hits to the Red Sox. It is kind of funny that his old Triple-A catcher, Kevin Cash is the guy who took him long tonight. Sonnanstine did his usual job of not beating himself and put together a great game to help the Rays go up 3-1 in this best-of-7 series.

 

 

Unusual Errors on the Night

Coming into this series the Rays have not gotten alot of defensive mistakes and  baserunning errors. But in tonight contest, the Rays committed  3 errors, most after the game was already in the Rays hands.  Evan Longoria committed 2 errors tonight, one on a ground ball, and the other on a throw to first in the 2nd inning on a ball hit down the line by Jason Bay.

Longoria lost concentration on the ball and it stumbled a bit near his feet before he got the ball and threw a bullet to first. Un fortunately Carlos Pena could not get the ball and it rolled into the Red Sox dugout, and put Bay in scoring position for the Red Sox. The Rays ended up getting a 4-6-3 double play and erased Bay from the basepaths to ease Longoria’s mind.

In the 8th inning, with Jed Lowrie on second base, Dusitn Pedroia hit a ball into shallow center that B J upton over ran and had to go retrieve the ball. Lowrie scored and  Pedroia ended up on second on the error. Pedroia did come back to haunt Upton as he scored when Kevin Youkilis hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI- double and Pedroia scored with ease to put the score at 13-4.

Willy Aybar did not get charged with an error, but more of an error in judgement when he was caught leaning towards second on a single in the 5th inning after singling to left. As the ball was coming back towards the plate for a play on Carl Crawford, Aybar leaned a bit too far towards second, and Youkilis intercepted the throw and tossed a bullet to Mark Katsay who tagged out Aybar for the 2nd out of the inning.

 

 

 

Carl Crawford is Back

Coming into this series, everyone was questioning if Carl Crawford was at full strength and could be a factor in this years’ playoff race. After tonight’s performance, I think those skeptics will put that notion away until next season. Crawford went 5-for-5 tonight, with 2 stolen bases and 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. It tied the ALCS record with Paul Blair of the 1980′s Orioles, and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui for a perfect 5 at bat night. Carl is currently hitting 9 for 18 in the series, or a .500 average for the ALCS.

Crawford got the party started early when he smacked a double to right in the 1st inning.  Crawford kept his most controversial hit for the next at bat when he hit a soft grounder towards the area to the right of the pitching mound that Red Sox starter, Tim Wakefield had to come off the mound to handle. Wakefield had to sprawl out on the turf to glove the ball and could not get the ball to first in time to save the infield single to Crawford. He ended stealing second base, then scored on Willy Aybar’s homer in the inning.

 

 

 

 

Crawford then got another double off the Green Monster in left and again scored on Aybar’s single to shallow left. He came up again in the long 6th inning and hit a blooper single into left to score Upton from third base. Carl ended up being stranded on base at the end of the inning.

In the 8th inning, Crawford hit a ball into the gap in rightfield that was barely missed by J D Drew as he claosed in on the ball. The ball went off the outside of his glove and went to the wall. At the end of the play, Crawford was standing on third with an RBI-triple. On the play, Pena had ran from first to home and scored easily on the play.

 

 

        

 

Willy Aybar’s Wild Ride

Another guy that was having a banner night was Willy Aybar for the Rays. He was inserted in the lineup to bat right-handed against Wakefield, and the rolling of the dice again by Rays Manager Joe Maddon came up “7′s” across the board.  Willy came on and got 5 RBI’s on the night, while going 4-5 at the plate. He shares a current .500 ALCS  batting average with Crawford.

 

 

 

 

Aybar got the scoring going with a 2-run homer out of the building and over the Green Monster in the 3rd inning.  He then got an RBI-single in the 5th, but was picked off by being too aggressive on the bases tonight. In the 6th inning he hit an RBI single to left that scored Crawford. And in the 8th inning he hit a single to right to score Crawford again to finish his 5-RBI night.

 

 

 

Evan Longoria

When he came up after the Ray’s first 12 games this season, you knew he was going to have a fantastic season for the team. But you can bet Maddon and Andrew Friedman could not imagine the total domination this rookie has had at the plate during the playoffs this season. Longoria went 1-4 tonight with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.

 

 

 

 

His first RBI came off his blast into the Green Monster in the 1st inning. the shot went long and deep into the high section and it put the Rays up 3-0 at the time.  With the homer, Longoria became the new holder of the rookie home run record in the playoffs with 5 for the postseason and counting. But that was not the only time Longoria got on base tonight as he walked in the 6th inning and got another RBI off the walk-in of Iwamura on the play.  It was is 6th RBI of the playoff series.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena

Because he is hitting between the twenty-something tandem of Upton and Longoria, Carlos Pena has been seeing alot more breaking balls and  off-speed pitches this postseason. But becuase of the recent onslaught of both  players’ hitting more homers for the team, opposing pitchers’ have been picking their poison by pitching to Pena this series.

And with his solo blast in the 9th inning last night, Pena has now homered twice on the last 3 pitches he has seen this series.  His 2-run homer in the 1st inning gave the Rays an early lead 2-0 tonight. For the night, he went 1-3, with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored. He also got 2 walks tonight to get on base 60 percent of his chances tonight.

 

 

 

 

Carlos’s shot over the Green Monster tonight gives him 3 unbelievable shots  in the section this season at Fenway Park. Before this year, he had never homered into the Green Monster against the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, his walk loaded the bases for the Rays as they scored  5 runs in the inning.  In the 8th, he walked on 6 pitches and scored on Crawford’s triple to right.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson

Most people already know how I feel about Edwin Jackson as a pitcher for the Rays. It take a certain kind of pitcher to adjust from being a starter to going to the Bullpen, to going back to a starter, to switching into long relief or clean-up roles in the Bullpen. 

I think Jackson has done a great job adjusting to the new role in the ALCS, and I hope if the Rays hit the World Series he is still on the 25-man roster to fulfill the same role in the Rays next step. For the night, Jackson came on and went 1.1 innings and gave up a single walk and got 4 strikeouts on 25 pitches. But his biggest job was to shut down the Red Sox from trying to gain momentum and try and get back into this contest.

Jackson came on toirelieve Trever Miller, who threw 1/3 of an inning and got 1 strikeout on 5 pitches. Jackson quickly got Jason Bay to strikeout to end the 8th inning. He came out in the 9th and got pinch-hitter Sean Casey to strikeout and then walked both Coco Crisp and pinch-hitter Jocoby Ellsbury on 4 pitches each to put a man in scoring position for the Red sox.  Jackson then buckled down and got Jed Lowrie and Kotsay to strikeout to end the rally and the game for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

How much do you think the last few games have taken out of the confidience of the Boston Red Sox.  The fact that in the last 2 games their pitching staff has given up a total of  7 home runs to the Rays.  Tonight’s starter, Tim Wakefield was pitching for the first time in the last 16 days.

The Red Sox pitching staff  has given up a total of  10 home runs in the 4 games so far in this series. The staff has a ERA of 7.17 in the ALCS, and we might have more games to play. They have allowed 43 runs and 17 walks in 37.2 innigs in this series.

Combine that with the Red Sox currently hitting .232 as a team, with Jacoby Ellsbury hitting .000, and David Ortiz is batting .071, with only one extra base hit (triple tonight).  Cather Jason Varitek is also hitting .000, having gone 0-10 so far in the series. Combine that with 1 stolen base by Dustin Pedroia and 5 total homers in the series and you have a team searching for an offensive identity right now.

I am not trying to wake up the Boston bat’s, or throw the pitching staff under the bus here. But without Daisuke Matsuzaka’s great game 1 performance, this series might be over tonight.  The rematch on Thursday night will be a true test to the moxy that is the Boston Red Sox.

Maybe this day off is coming at the right time for this team and they can pull it together enough to give a aggressive and expected effort in the last game at Fenway Park this season against the Rays. But you got to remember, as of tonight, the Rays’ have now won 4 straight games at Fenway, something they could not do earlier in the 2008 season.

 

 

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Sox Decision Time: Keep Toby Hall or Go Fishing

 

Last year,Chicago White Sox General Manager Kenny William’s decisions seemed more clean cut than the changes that will fall into his lap this offseason. He has to decide what pieces might need to be dissolved from the White Sox roster, and what small bit pieces can be added to make this squad a litttle tougher and more versatile than the 2008 Sox 25-man roster.

But there is one big decision that won’t so easy. 
*************

Difficult decision: Toby Hall

Two routes:

  1. Exercise his one-year option for $2.25 million.
  2. Buy him out for $150,000 and look for a new backup catcher.

Why keep Hall?

The last three years have illustrated that getting a competent backup catcher isn’t as easy at it seems.  Back-up catching prospects wander from the inexperienced rookies’ looking for a chance to succeed, to veterans on their last few years of organized ball before looking beyond the game for a job. Putting another year on the trusty backup catcher chart, Hall posted the best OPS for the position since 2005:

Compared to Chris Widger, Gustavo Molina, Sandy Alomar Jr. and one-armed Toby Hall, the two-armed version was a marked improvement, even if still below-average — especially considering he more than held up his end against lefties.

Hall hit southpaws to the tune of .377/.411/509 over 56 at-bats, with more homers (2) than strikeouts (1).  Even while his overall numbers took a nosedive in the second half, he had seven hits in 21 at-bats when the match-up was in his favor.

He also saw significant improvements in his catcher’s ERA (3.68, compared to 6.12 in 2007) and his caught stealing rate (17 percent, up from 10), which isn’t awful.

The Sox don’t really have anybody else, as Cole Armstrong is still a season or so away at the very least.  And even if you don’t like Hall, it’s hard to say he was much of a problem.  The Sox went 22-14 when he started, a near reversal of his 2007 record.  Perhaps they played better because his teammates were hoping for one of his delightful pies.

The case against Hall

A.J. Pierzynski is 31 years old and has a two-year extension ahead of him, and yet his plate appearances keep shooting up.  He set a  personal record for plate appearances while catching more than 130 games for the third consecutive year.  Not surprisingly, he went into a major slump at the end of the year.

Hall isn’t helping lighten Pierzynski’s workload much, mainly because he’s so miserable against righties.  He posted a .431 OPS in such situations, including a .321 OPS after the break (.133/188/.133 in 30 ABs).  God forbid a foul tip ever catch Pierzynski the wrong way, because the Sox would likely receive zero production in his absence.

And one full year after his shoulder injury, he still had trouble generating extra-base power.  Part of it was due to his inside-out swing that is built to dump singles to right field, but he lost out on a handful of doubles because he couldn’t outrun a glacier.  Paul Konerko grows impatient watching him.

He’s part of the reason why the Sox struggle against the turf teams (Minnesota, Toronto, Tampa Bay).  He can’t turn deep gappers into doubles easily, and he can’t throw runners out unless he gets a lot of help from the pitcher.

So what to do?

There’s actually an OK crop of backup catchers’ out there, with a few interesting buy-low candidates like Javier Valentin, Josh Bard and David Ross.  But Bard is an offense-first catcher who stopped hitting (his rate against basestealers is worse than Hall’s, although Padres pitchers are more indifferent to runners than even Sox pitchers),  and Valentin and Ross both lost their jobs on a bad Cincinnati ballclub.

Below them are guys like, well, Paul Phillips.  That wouldn’t help, either.

Everybody else would cost more than Hall’s $2.25 million salary (especially adding the $150,000 it’d take to buy out Hall in the first place).  So I see the Sox picking up his option, citing the way he handles the pitching staff and his antics as clown prince of the dugout.

Perhaps one more year off his shoulder injury coinciding with a contract year will show Sox fans they haven’t seen the best of him yet.  Chances are he’ll make Pierzynski the most valuable member of the club for a third straight year, so hold your breath that he survives.

Tarps to be Gone at Trop. For Games 6 and 7 of ALCS

 

Rays to remove tarps for games 6, 7

The Rays announced today they will remove the tarps on upper level seats, making 5,762 more tickets available if the ALCS goes to Game 6. The seats, mostly with obstructed views of the field, haven’t been sold for previous games this season.

 

“Interest in Rays postseason tickets was extraordinary,” team president Matt Silverman said in a statement. “Although the seating capacity we established provides optimal fan experience, Rays fans have made it very clear that they want us to make every possible seating opportunity available.”

 

Tickets will go on sale Wednesday to those who won the right through the team’s postseason ticket lottery. Those eligible to purchase will be determined by lottery and notified by e-mail. Fans still can sign up for the potential lottery for World Series tickets at raysbaseball.com. Those who previously registered do not need to do so again.

Rays Take Homefield Advantage From Red Sox

 

 

What is that old saying, “It felt like deja vu all over again.” You have to feel that way if you are either a Red Sox or Rays fan right now. Homefield advantage is suppose to be worth at least an opening game victory in a short series. But what happened tonight might have set the whole ball rolling down the hill for the Red Sox in the ALCS against the upstart Rays.

These Rays had the gumption to take the American League East title from the Wrold Champions in 2008. And they also showed alot of energy and national spirit in holding off the Red Sox in the last month of the season to claim that prize. But the straw that might have broken the Red Sox Nation’s back might be hitching your wagon to the young sensations’ shooting star.

Who do these Rays think they are coming into the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park and winning the last 3 games in this landmark.  And how dare these upstarts come in and take that fantasy of a secure 2-1 Red Sox series win away by defeating the unstoppable Jon Lester in his domain. Do we think we might have forgotten that homefield advantage did not work for the Rays, then why could we be sure we might be immune to the same ailment in Boston?

Did the Red Sox forget to tell us we are suppose to be belly-up by now and just treading water before we go down for the last count. This series took a major turn tonight. Not just becuase of a loss by the home team, but that the statistics point to a break for the Rays. In 8 of the last 12 ALCS, if the road team won Game 3, they went on to the World Series that season.  Could the Red Sox have put all their eggs in one basket, and their newly annointed superstar just become human for one night……

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 1

 

 

 

 

Matt Garza

Coming into tonight’s game, Rays starter Matt Garza went back to his season superstition of not talking to the media the day before his start. He did that the entire season before balking from that tradition and talking to the media before his first playoff start against the Chicago White Sox . 

He then went out and had a whale of a time not only with the fowl in the stadium, but with the mound and with the White Sox hitters and had one of the most unusual starts of his career. So he went back with some familiarity and went into media black-out before this start.

 

 

 

 

Garza was coming into this start as the underdog, and was being considered inferior to the Red Sox starter, Jon Lester. The enitre week Garza heard all the hype and the drama surrounding Lester before seeing it all implode in front of him, and the stage was set for Garza to make his national debut as a true fireballer.

 

 

 

 

Garza threw his fastball and curve with such control that it made Dioner Navarro’s job east tonight. He had no pressure on himself since the local pundits decided even before the first pitch that the Rays would bow down to Lester by the 5th inning. Garza did nothing more than shut down the powerful offense and leave the game  after 6 innings of work with 116 pitches, and 5 strikeouts while earning his first Postseason win.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Facts

Coming into this contest, the Rays had won 3 straight in Fenway Park since their last series victory in September. The win tonight took the homefield advantage from the Red Sox and firmly put the emphsis on the Tampa Bay Rays right now.  Coming into this game, when the Rays had at leats 5 runs in a contest, they are a combined 36-0 on the year. In this game, every member of the starting 9 got at least 1 hit in this contest.

Consider that with the fact the Rays also tied the Boston Red Sox for the total homers in a single game in the ALCS series with 4 tonight. The Red Sox set their record last Saturday night at the Trop.

With their 9 homers, B J Uptron and Evan Longoria now have the most homers by teammmates under the age of 25 in ALCS history. They beat the previous record held by Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra of the 1986 New York Mets.  Longoria is also currently tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most homers by a rookie in the AL Playoffs with 4 homers. Cabrera set his record during the Florida Marlins run at the title in 2003.

Since the advent of the best-of-7 series, the Game 3 winner has gone onto the World Series in 8 of 12 past ALCS series.  In ALCS and NLCS, if the road team won Game 3, they have moved onto the Championship in 8 out of 10 series.

 

 

 

 

The BJ and Longo Show

One thing the Rays have been great at this season is timely hitting out of every member of this team. In tonight’s game, the duo of Upton and Longoria went a combined 3-9 at the plate, but accounted for 3 runs scored, and 4 RBI’s. They are both hitting .308 in the ALCS, and playing inspired defense for the Rays.

Longoria got the scoring going tonight by getting a lead-off walk off Red Sox starter Jon Lester. In this contest, Lester let the lead-off man on in 4 of his 6 inning tonight. Longoria moved to second on Willy Aybar’ single to right, then moved to third base on a passed ball by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.  Longoria then came into score on Navarro’s grounder to second to put the Rays up 1-0 in the 2nd inning.

In the 3rd inning, Jason Bartlett got his only hit of the night on a single to center to lead off the inning. Akinora Iwamura then hit a ball off the Green Monster for a double and the Rays had men on second and third with no-outs in the inning. Upton then came up and hit a ball out over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Avenue to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

After Carlos Pena struck out, Longoria then came up and hit his solo shot out into the seat in the Green Monster that a Rays fan luckly caught to put the Rays up 5-0, still in the 3rd inning.

 

 

 

 

Upton then hit a ball off Lester’s glove for a single, and moved to second on Pena’s bunt down the third baseline. Upton then tried to gauge Kevin Youkilis’s  position on the field and over ran second and was tagged out on the quick toss by Youkilis to Alex Cora for the first out of the inning.

 

 

 

 

C.C. Express on Track 1

In the 8th inning, with the Rays up 6-1, the Rays might have made their biggest statement to date on their agrressive stayle on this series. Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a blooper single to center to start the inning.  Crawford moved to third on Aybar’s single to leftfield and set up a first and third situation with no one out in the game.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro hit a grounder to Dustin Pedroia that he quickly gloved and threw to home to get the speeding Crawford at the plate. Crawford braced for a collision with Varitek and brought his elbows up to block and hopefully force the ball from Varitek’s glove.

 

 

 

 

Crawford came in and with total force got Varitek just under the mask and his equipment flew a good 6 feet away from the catcher. Varitek took the force of the collision with his upper body and rolled over and then showed the ball to home plate umpire Brian Onora, who signaled Crawford out at the plate. It was a bold move by Crawford, but showed that the speedy leftfielder was back in shape and ready to take on all comers in the Playoffs.

 

 

        

 

 

J P Howell and Edwin Jackson

The Rays Bullpen then took over the game in the 7th inning for Garza. Becuase of the number of relievers used in Saturday’s game, Garza was under the gun to go at least 7 innings tonight to give the Bullpen some time to refresh and he performed perfectly to plan for the Rays.

J P Howell came on and threw 2 scoreless innings on 20 pitches and gor two more strikeouts to raise his total to 10 in the postseason.  Howell had the first earned run charged to him since August 30th against the Orioles, snapping a string of 20 inning (15 game ) regular and postseason without an earned run.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson, the only pitcher in the Bullpen not used on Saturday night, came on in the 9th inning and  closed out the game for the Rays. In his 1 inning of work, Jackson threw 8 strikes in his 14 pitches in the inning.  He got both Mark Kotsay and Varitek to ground out to Iwamura, who easily threw out both men at first base. He then got Cora to hit a fly to Crawford in left to end the chances for the Red Sox in the game.

 

 

 

 

Socco Rocco

Rocco Baldelli grew up about an hoyr from Fenway Park and dreamed of playing in the stadium in the playoffs. Little did he know back then it would be for the Tampa Bay Rays, and that his 3-run shot would hit the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster and drop back onto the field.  His 3-run blast came right after the play at the plate featuring Crawford and Varitek and Rocco took the 3rd pitch he saw from Red Sox reliever Paul Byrd and popped it into the twilight.

In April, at a news conference in the bowels of Progress Energy Field, Baldelli could not have imagined this day would happen for him this year. At that press conference he announced that he was going on the disabled list to combat his fatigue situation and he began his hard road back to the Rays 25-man roster. 

 Everyone had to admit that Baldelli’s rise from the depths of not even knowing if he might ever play a inning of baseball again, to hitting a 3-run shot over the Green Monster is the thing of movies and fantasies. I can personally say that it could not have happened to a better guy.

He has been a total team mate since his past injuries and excepting his limited role on this team as a specialist against left-handed pitchers in the seond half of the season. I will have to ask him who will play Rocco Baldelli in the movie about his life. They guy who scouts once touted as “Joe DiMaggio’s twin” got to have his childhood fantasy moment after fighting to just get back on the field at all…………..Classic, simply classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forbes Puts Rays on “Most Likely to Move” list

 

 

Click here for more potential movers

 

I was doing my usual trolling around the Internet tonight and found and interesting articles on Forbes.com. Now I am not in the demographic that subscribes or even knows a single thing about investments or even how to save even a dollar, but what caught my eye was the titel of a story on the front page. ” The 10 Sprots Franchises Most Likey to Move.”

It is an article talking about the limitations of the Tampa Bay Rays and thier stalled stadium situation is choking the financial life out of our franchise. It then goes on to mention that the Rays might be “ripe for the picking” and could be moved to another locale.  Here is a short example of the article:

“Based on franchise valuations, revenue and attendance trends over the past few years, the most stagnant team businesses – those with the greatest likelihoods of hitting the road at some point – are those stuck in outdated arenas and stadiums. While market size drives local sponsorship deals and TV money, souped-up venues that drive revenue through high ticket prices, luxury suites and corporate packages are the order of the day. You don’t have that, you’re not in the game.”

The article goes on to state that the Rays have been at or near the bottom of the league in attendance for a decade, thanks in part to the dreary stadiums they call home. Sports marketing experts call  Tropicana Field a “major impediment” to success. Even a Rays World Series title this year, which is entirely possible, is unlikely to keep the franchise from bolting if voters don’t approve the team’s public-private offer for a new waterfront home in St. Petersburg.

I am wondering where this Forbes team got their information first and foremost. The Rays current owner, Stu Sternberg has publicly said he hopes for a substantial increase in the attendance next season. But you have to admit that will be more vested in the team playing better baseball and the playoff appearance this season for the Rays should generate a buzz in the community and rebound the tickets sold for 2009.

Also interesting is the fact that the article does not mention the possible lawsuits and financial penalties of the team leaving before it has fulfilled the contract it currently has with the City of St. Petersburg. There is about 20 plus years still left on the iron-clad contract, and the pther city will have to pony up a considerable amount of money before the team can even entertain such an adventure.

But some people have found it interesting that the team’s current logo is basically a sunburst, or ray of light instead of the original stingray cousin the franchsie was born with in 1997. Considering that the team has been promoting the “burst” on everything from shirts to uniforms, you can see that the team is pulling away from the marine life, and moving towards a more futuristic or even solar exsistance for the team.

Also not mentioned in the article is the fact that the stadium issue is not dead, but sleeping in suspended animation right now while the entire group rebounds and considers other options to the present plan set by the waterfront area of St. Petersburg. People in Tampa have grumbled and groaned for years that the city should build a ballpark in their county and propose a move by the team.

But considering that the city of Tampa and Hillsborough county are still paying for two stadiums in their area (Raymond James and the St. Petersburg Times Forum), plus the added expense of recent additons and planned building for the Florida State Fairgrounds, both governmental agencies are tapped out for the next 10 or so years.

I do not see any quotes or even mention of anyone talking with the team’s front office, so these suggestions of a move might be a subconscious attempt of Forbes to stir the pot and see what rises in Tampa Bay. I am sure that the team might have had thoughts of moving at one point, and might have those discussion in-house in the future, but as of tonight I think the team’s management is celebrating with the players’ on a spectacular run in this years ALCS series.

This story to me seems a bit out there and nottally factual at this time and could just be a opinion with a minimum amount of factual backing. This team is rising high right now with their recent victories and future aspirations. To bring something like this to light now is a bit irresponsible, or might be a genius way of making you go……..Hmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Facts taken from Forbes article:

Tampa Bay Rays

MLB

Value: $290 million (29/30)
Value three years ago: $176 million (30/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 22,259 (26/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 17,820 (28/30)
Market size: 2.7 million (No. 19 nationally)

“As the Rays rocketed to first place this year, attendance rose too–all the way to 26th in the league from 29th. To replace the eyesore that is Tropicana Field, owner Stu Sternberg has proposed a public-private 34,000 seat stadium on the waterfront. If voters don’t go for it, even a World Series championship is unlikely to save baseball in Tampa.”

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