Rays get Failing Grade against the A’s
C C Express Still Rolling On
One of the handful of Rays players who have shown up recently with their offense is Carl Crawford. He has not dominated the base paths so far in 2009, but that just might be a matter of time before he gets that part of his game also revving up at top speed. What has been impressive is the fact he got into am early funk, and has been the only player to show signs of remotely trying to regain his form so far for the Rays. In the last 4 games Crawford has gone 8 for 16 to raise his average from .244 to .295 in that short span. He got 4 hits in on Wed in Seattle, which marks the 18th time in his career he has had 4 hits in a contest.
He also currently leads the major leagues with 8 infield hits, and also leads the Rays with 56 stolen bases. His increase in infield hits is based on the fact that Rays Manager Joe Maddon wants to see Crawford put the ball on the ground more in 2009. This is in part to his tremendous speed and acceleration out of the left-side of the batters box. So far in 2009, that has seemed to be key for his offensive explosion. Also on the horizon for Crawford is the Rays franchise RBI record, which is currently 449 RBIs. He is only 4 RBI’s short of Aubrey Huff’s record. Crawford already hold the Rays all time marks in hits, stolen bases, triples, at bats, games played and runs scored in his career.
Since playing in only 108 games in 2008, he is the only Rays to play every game so far in 2009. In Sundays finale in Oakland, Crawford again got two hits during the Rays 7-1 loss. Crawford’s first hit of the day was a beautiful over Jason Giambi head at first base for the Rays third hit of the day off A’s starter Dana Eveland. Crawford also got the last hit of the day off Eveland to lead-off the sixth inning when he hit a single to center field. Crawford has been one of the guys on this Rays squad that have tried to make a difference this season. It is that veteran presence and also his work ethic that makes him a team stand-out this year. Crawford is also one of the Rays leader in hitting with men in scoring position, going 7 for 19 this year for a .364 average. For the roadtrip, Crawford is currently 8 for 30 with 2 stolen bases and 2 RBIs.
Sonny is Looking Kind of Cloudy
Now the first thing people are going to read into that title is the fact I think that something is going on criminally wrong with Sonnanstine right now. I am not trying to drum up thoughts of wrong doing, or hidden motives here, but his stuff is letting him down right now. Our usual “Volvo” of pitching is showing some of the rust in his armor, and that is not good for him. It is criminal that he is not getting that great breaking ball to do what he wants right now. When that pitch is on, it is one of the best on the team. But for some reason it has been absent in several of his starts this year.
And even worse, he has now lost his last 5 starts since September 5, 2008 in Toronto. But in his most recent start in Seattle earlier in this roadtrip, he worked 7 innings and got 7 strikeouts against the Mariners, but also gave up 6-hits and 4-runs to take the loss against Seattle. But it is not for lack of effort that he has either loss those contests or even been given a no-decision in them. Take a recent 2009 start against the New York Yankees at home in which he was opposite lefite Andy Pettitte. He only worked a total of 5 innings, but left with a 4-3 lead and a possible win. But the Rays Bullpen had a bit of a meltdown and they eventually lost that game .
His first start in 2009 was in Baltimore on April 10th during the Rays first road trip of the season. He lost a 5-4 decision in that contest after going 4.2 innings ans surrendering 8-hits and 5-runs in the game. In that game, it was the first time in his major league career he had walked more than three batters in a game. This is not the first time he has taken the mound opposite Dana Eveland. they were both on the mound during the May 1, 2008 game in Oakland that the A’s defeated the Rays 9-1. But Sonnanstine did not start this game with any indication of problems. He pitched a perfect first inning, even getting Orlando Cabrerra, who was batting .400 against Sonnanstine to strikeout.
But in the second inning, the A’s got to him early as Matt Holliday lead-off the inning with a walk. Jack Cust then hit a single to right field just over the head of Ben Zobrist, who was in the shift for the Rays. Nomar Garciaparra then hit a ball over Jason Bartlett’s outstretched arms for a RBI single. Kurt Suzuki then came up and delivered the body blow to Sonnanstine on a breaking ball left up in the strikezone for a one-hooper to the left-center field wall. The A’s scored twice on the play. Sonnanstine then got Travis Buck to hit a ball to Zobrist for the first out of the inning. Mark Ellis then hit a RBI single to left field past Bartlett to stake the A’s to a 4-1 lead.
Coming into today’s game ,Suzuki was hitting . 625 lifetime against Sonnastine. The from that moment on until the sixth inning, Sonnanstine seemed to find his groove and again got help by the Rays defense to keep the A’s in check. But in the fifth inning, he gave up a lead-off double off the scoreboard in right field to Ryan Sweeney. Cabrerra then followed that with an RBI-double to the right-center field gap. Then for the second time today, an A’s batter h
it through the Rays shift as Giambi stroked a ball to right field just out of the reach of the Rays defenders. Holliday then hit a bloop single to center field just in front of a charging B J Upton.
After that play, Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out and got Sonnanstine and his day was over. For the contest, he ended up going 4 innings and givcing up 10-hits and all seven runs. The outing boosted his ERA to 7.78 for the year as he only survived 79 pitches today. I am not sure what is going wrong with Sonnanstine. It might just be a small mechanical adjustment, or maybe he is not getting the bite on his breaking pitches in 2009 that he had in 2008. But what is known so far in 2009 is the fact that the team’s most reliable guy on the mound is having a few issues right now. Hopefully by the time we get home to Tropicana Field, Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey can find a solution to Sonnanstine’s recent problems.
Over the 12 losses this year for the Rays, they have scored a total of 24 runs. that is an anemic 2 runs a contest. Considering that most of the teams in the American League are scoring at least 3-4 runs a game, the Rays are sitting in the bottom their looking up right now in the American League East. But it is not for lack of effort. The team is getting their hits, but they are not coming with extended at bats or even extended rallies that could produce more runs.
Consider Sundays game as a great example. In the game the Rays got multiple base runners only twice in the game. In the second inning, Pat Burrell, who has been a walking machine in recent games got on base with a lead-off walk. Then Willy Aybar, who has seen minimal at bats this year so far got a single to left field to put two men on base with no outs. Ben Zobrist then moved Burrell to third, but Aybar was out on a force out and second base. That put men on the corners with one out. Dioner Navarro then put down a great bunt
to score Burrell down the first baseline. Navarro put the ball in front of Jason Giambi, who had to come in and take the ball, and finally threw to Mark Ellis covering first for the out.
That produced the Rays only run of the game. But that was not for lack of effort that the Rays did not plate another un. In the third inning, Jason Bartlett battled with Eveland for nine pitches before finally singling to center field. He then moved to third on Carl Crawford’s single, but was stranded there after Evan Longoria hit into a double play to end the inning. Then in the sixth inning, Carl Crawford singled to center to give the Rays their third man on base to lead-off an inning in the contest.
Longoria then walked to put two men on base, but a double play by Burrell left only Crawford an third base with two outs. Aybar the hit a foul ball out to third baseman Nomar Garciaparra to end the inning. From that point on, the A’s relievers shut down the Rays. The A’s Bullpen retired the next 9 men in a row to send the Rays to their 11th loss.
Trade Winds Resort Rays Watch Parties for 2009
The Trade Winds Island Grand, the Offical Beach Reosrt of the Tampa Bay Rays are inviting all baseball fans out for a fun-filled, family-friendly event to watch our Rays while basking in the glow of the bautiful Florida sunshine. I went out for yesterday’s event, but I did not take my camera because it was the first time I had been to the reposrt in 10 years and did not know if the hotel had accomodations to secure it while I was frolicking on the beach. I did however get my traditional first sunburn of the season, but it is not a birght red lobster color, but a mild case of me forgetting to use sunscreen on my legs and stomach again.
Speaking of stomach, the Resort did a first class job of having snacks and ample food selections for the hungry Rays fans. There was a wide array of food options from burgers and grilled chicken, to wings and bratwurst with hot sauerkraut for purchase at the event. As many of the kids went to the three-story inflatable waterslide( me too), the adults took their spots in front of the huge viewing screen to get an early spot for the Rays broadcast.
The game was broadcast right there on the beach so you could enjoy sun, sand and the Rays all in one small area. The Rays Radio Network, including Rich Herrera did the pre game and post game shows live on WDAE 620 during the event. The event also featured giveaways from both the Rays and the resort. One sought after prize was the gift certificate for stays at the Resort in the future. I have to say it was an awesome event, with a great turnout and will not be the last one this year for either the Rays or the Trade Winds. Here is a list of future Rays Watch parties in case you want to place them on your calendar:
Thursday, May 7 – 7:05 p.m. – vs. New York Yankees
Sunday, June 7 – 1:05 p.m. – vs. New York Yankees
Sunday, July 19 – 2:10 p.m. – vs. Kansas City Royals
Sunday, August 30 – 1:05 p.m. – vs. Detroit Tigers
Sunday, September 13 – 1:35 p.m. – vs. Boston Red Sox
These events are open to the public, and the Resort will be giving complimentary parking to Rays fans until the lots are full. I was a blast spending the day at the bach along with fellow Rays fans and employees. Hidden in the crowd were members of the Rays front office and staff enjoying this great weather outside watching their favorite team take on the Oakland A’s. So be sure to mark those calendars to come on out and participate in future Rays Watch parties here at the Trade Winds Resort on St. Petersburg Beach. Only thing better would have been a Rays victory.
Sundays Semiconscious Thoughts
**** To illustrate the importance of Jason Bartlett since the 2008 All-Star break, he is the highest hitting shortstop in the majors since that time hitting for a .340 average. In 2009, Bartlett is currently hitting . 364, which includes his 1 for 3 effort Sunday. Bartlett trailed only Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees in 2008, with a .286 average. On Friday he had his 6th career day of gathering 4 hits when he went 4 for 5 in the Rays win over the A’s. He is also hitting .409 this season against right handers going into Sunday game.
**** After today’s loss, the Rays are now 1-7 against left-handers in 2009.
They have now lost their last five series since taking 2 out of 3 in Boston to begin the season.
The Rays are now 7-12, which equals their start in 2000 and also 2004. From 2006 to 2008, the Rays were 8-11 after 19 games. And are currently one game off of their 2008 pace.
**** Evan Longoria ( .375 ) and Jason Bartlett ( .365 ) are neck and neck in their pursuit of the best April in Rays history. Longoria currently hold the top spot with former Ray Rocco Baldelli ( .366 ) holding the second spot with his great start in 2003.
The Rays lead the majors in infield hits with 25. Carl Crawford has8 of those hits, and Bartlett has the 7 to be currently first and second in the MLB in that category.