Longo goes Long-O

 

                 Rays 6,       Red Sox 2


Chris O’Meara / AP

Red Sox Amnesia

Is it me, or did it seem like the Boston Red Sox came into this series forgetting about the recent history between these two polar opposite record teams. Did the mighty Red Sox forget that before coming in on Monday, the last time they stood in Tropicana Field was to watch the Rays celebrate their advancement to the World Series. It close but no cigar for the Red Sox. So as Red Sox Nation is now throwing their hands up in the air wondering what is wrong with their team, the answer is quite simple and easy to digest. These two teams have scouted each other to the point they know what breakfast cereal to have in the clubhouse. They might even know the collective birthdays and anniversaries of every one on the two teams staffs too.

This is becoming a vital rivalry. It is not to the level of the dreaded Red Sox versus Yankees yet, but it can be if they let it grow and mature. Right now the Red Sox faithful treat this series only like a bump in the road, not a legitimate contender. Sure there is the wordspeak that they do not take the Rays lightly, but do their actions match their words……Not yet. This series had all the drama and the suspense of their other 7 series this season, including one where this unknown squad from St. Petersburg dared to come into Fenway Park and win two out of three games. Boston is beginning to believe in the rumors and the half-truths about this team.

They know the Rays can play baseball, they just have to believe it is at their level right now. For some reason they seemed to be thinking it is 2000 or earlier, and this is still a bunch of rag tag second-tier players seeking that last chance to play professional baseball outside of the minor league system. The Rays have grown, just like David Ortiz’s waistline to become more of a burden to these guys from Beantown. But lest we forget, after tonight, not only have the Rays now beaten the Red Sox in 4 of the 5 games this year, but here in the gentle burg, they have lost 12 out of the last 14 games. Make more sense that they would want a case of simple amnesia when they hit the tarmac at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport.


Chris O’Meara / AP

Rays are being Pests Again

I was amused last night when a Red Sox fan behind me was jawing about the Rays and their base runners annoying the Boston starter Justin Masterson. I find it really humorous that he was sitting their complaining that our guys were trying to steal bases and not just take what the defense is giving them at the plate. I wanted to turn around and just give it to him by stating that it is an aggressive style of baseball that your own Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedoria love to play, but they have to be on base to get steals. Instead I just glanced up at the scoreboard and saw that beautiful 6-2 score shining bright.

But that is something that the Rays have done the entire year. They have been aggressive some times to the point of running themselves out of innings and scoring opportunities. How many times have Rays fans looked at that TV screen or the base paths at the Trop., and cursed a play or two because of the lack of concentration by a base runner. But that is going to be the style that we are either going to sink or swim with in 2009. It has had its moments of failures, like when B J Upton or even Carlos Pena get caught in “no-mans land” between the bases and have to almost concede an out. But then you have moments like during the last home stand against the Chicago White Sox where Akinora Iwamura was also caught between bases and some how got his hand into second base ahead of the toss to steal the moment and keep the White Sox from getting that easy out.


The aggressive style will either help or hinder you, but so far in 2009, the arrow is pointing more into the help column. Coming into tonight’s game, the Rays have a combined 189 stolen bases. That is currently tops in the American League, but there are teams nipping at their heels like the Texas Rangers ( 187 ) and the Cleveland Indians ( 184 ). The rays aggressive system has caught the eyes of other teams too now, and they are adapting their own set of parameters to their own offensive battle plans. Even the Florida Marlins, who are tied with the Rays for the MLB lead with 189 stolen base have adjusted their game to include aggressive base policies. This is the style of play that is evolving in baseball. Small ball is back in a big way, and the Rays are the leader of the pack.


Consider in the last two nights, both starting pitchers have been taking extra time and slowed their wind-ups and throws to the plate hoping to catch the speedy Rays out of position and get some easy outs and erase base runners. For the most part, it is not working, but they are getting their chances. In Thursday nights game, only once did the Rays attempt to steal a base of Josh Beckett. Carl Crawford, the Rays head theft took third base off of Beckett and back-up catcher George Kottaras in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was all made possible by a double by Crawford. The aggressive nature of the Rays is not going away, and teams are beginning to experiment with ways to combat these pests on the base paths.

All in all, the Rays have been caught stealing six times in 2009, which is pretty middle of the pack. The only team that has a lopsided stolen base to caught stealing ratio right now is the Toronto Blue Jays, who have stolen 11 and been caught only once. Take last night’s game into consideration. Masterson also began to make slower movements on the mound and also threw a few sidesteps to combat the Rays base runners. It had its moments, but the Rays still attempted their steals.  Crawford and B J Upton both got steals of second last night, but the Rays also got caught twice last night.
In their game of base larceny, you do get caught some times.

Gabe Gross got pegged at third base by Kottaras in the sixth inning. Upton got nailed at third base also, but in the bottom of the first inning. Even when they know the Rays are going to attempt steals it doesn’t matter to this young aggressive squad. They do not do it for the sake of the larceny, they do it for the pure fact that it disrupts the pitcher and can cause havoc in the mind. And that is a pure Joe Maddon trademark….The mind can win or lose games for you.

   
    
Chris O’Meara / AP

Does Tim Tebow Wear Longoria Underwear?

I found it funny the first time I heard that line that superman wears Tim Tebow underwear. The Florida Gator quarterback seems to be able to do what ever he feels like it in a game. I am getting the same vibe about Evan Longoria this season. He has just finished the fourth best April batting average by a second year player who won the Rookie of the Year award by belting a grand slam off the Boston Red Sox to send Red Sox fans either to the beer stand, or home. But people seem to forget that Boston put him in that position. If Masterson has been able to get the inning over with quickly, there would be no “Longo” chants bellowing in the Trop. Heck, if he had been able to do his job, there would not be a “6″ spot on the scoreboard. But the second year player is quickly putting himself up there with some great names to be considered again for dominance at the plate and in the field.

Sure the guy did not have a killer night at the plate, only going 1 for 3, but that one made the difference in this ball game. That one hit puts him solely into the lead for the American League RBI race with 28 for the season. And coming up behind him is team mate Carlos Pena with 25 RBIs. But that is not the only category right now that Longo is showing dominance. He is also the current Slugging Percentage leader ( .736 ) and also the doubles leader ( 10 ). The kid is beginning to get a cult following around the league, and no more chants of “Eva” have been filtering down from the stands. Maybe that is because Eva could never have a year like this.

And if you think about it, the Rays third baseman is in a perfect position right now. He has Crawford and Upton in front of him to help in RBI’s, and he has Pena and Pat Burrell behind him to force pitchers to pitch to him. He is sitting in a great spot to explode with number unseen in a while for a second year player. And with this emergence, he should get more than his share of votes for the All-Star game in St. Louis this season.  With Longoria and Pena setting up the first Rays duo to ever produce at this level consistently for an entire season. The potential of this duo is off the charts, the reality is that the Rays will go as far as these two can take them in 2009.


 
Chris O’Meara / AP

Sonny is not Sure Money

Last year at this time Andy Sonnanstine was sitting pretty with a 3-1 record and a 5.28 ERA. He had begun the season as the number three starter and was making his sixth start of the year on April 30, 2008. He would win that contest and become the first Rays pitcher to even win four games in April, plus tie the mark for the best record of any month by a Rays pitcher. Life was looking grand for Sonny.  But what a difference a year can make in a pitchers’ life. It is not that he is throwing the ball any different, or even is off the mark by a wide margin. small little things have seem to plague him this season.

His breaking balls is not producing the awesome bite or even plus or minus it had in 2009. This is not for lack of him throwing it in the same manner. He is still throwing it with good mechanics, maybe the league has caught up to him. He is never going to win your teams pitch speed record, or even make a run at a 10 strikeout night, but he has been so consistent for so long with the team that if there is a problem, it is amplified beyond the mound. This year is just an off season for him. He is losing the count he used to get easily with his breaking balls. Not for lack of it hitting the plate, but for people hitting him better this year.  

Take last night game for example, He went out there and did the basic Sonny routine of getting balls hit at people. You know nice easily routine ground outs and great fly balls that can be caught without episode. But for some reason, this season that formula has been broken at times and he has been subject to big innings. In the third inning last night it was single by Pedroia and a double by Kevin Youkilis that set up trouble for him. He ended up issuing a walk to J D Drew on 4 pitches. He then did the same for Jason Bay to plate the first run for the Red Sox. In the past, with two outs in the inning, he would have served up a nice ground ball to get the Rays out of the inning. But maybe hitters are wise to him now and are waiting him out at the plate.

Whatever the reason, the one run third inning for the Red Sox did not break the bank for him tonight. Mostly because two pitches later Mike Lowell grounded out to get him out of the inning.  But that with standing, this is a different Sonny on the mound this season. Maybe he traded in the “Volvo” mentality for a sporty new compact model, but it is not working for him right now. But I do not have fear in me about this. Sometimes a pitcher has to rediscover his stuff at points in the season. Maybe in 2009, he is having to do it a bit earlier than anticipated. Whatever the reason, Sonny has to regain that killer instinct that served him so well in the beginning of 2008. This team is going to need every pitcher to go out there and think they have a win every night. If that doesn’t happen, they might see themselves sitting in the Bullpen, or worse this year.

11 Comments

You were lucky. I thought the Red Sox would come back yesterday after the day before. Nice job. Check out my daily trivia on my blog.

http://metsgo.mlblogs.com/

People keep forgetting that we have their number at home. We are beginning to get them in Fenway Park, but we own them since 2007 at home.
It was a great classic Rays style of game. We do not get going for some reason until the fifth innings some nights. But we have come to the conclusion in Rays-ville that you do not count this team out until that third out.
If you do, they will pull a Walk-off on you.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

O. I didn’t realize that. Good luck today. Also check out my trivia on my blog.

http://metsgo.mlblogs.com/

I was at that game last night, not too far from where the big grand slam landed. I have never personally seen a game and a crowd turn around as quickly as it did last night. That could be a turning point for the entire season. Masterson and the Red Sox will have a very difficult time living that one down.Brentonhttp://braverays.mlblogs.com

Brenton,
It was like that Thursday night too. It seemed a huge chunk of the Boston faithful left to watch the Celtics game insitead of the baseball game.
But that was fine with us. We stay until the last out, well most of us Rays fans.
Glad you got back to the Trop last night.
Hope to see you there a lot more this year (If your studies allow you the time).
You are one of the original Rays bloggers, so it is always good to hear from you.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Good for the Rays! Boston fans have been getting a little too full of themselves lately, what with the Celtics and the Bruins, and the Red Sox’s 11 game winning streak. It’s about time somebody put them in their place! -Erinhttp://plunking-gomez.mlblogs.com

That what 100 years of bashing and trashing can do, it builds up some of the “not worthy” of their fans into semi hooligans, while the good ones suffer by comparison.
Worst thing is 75 percent of the fans are great people, it is just that the other 25 make it so difficult not to point themselves out.
Such is life. Maybe we can be like that in 88 years when er have been around 100 years.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

That is very similar with our 2 teams – it ain’t over till it’s over. Nice to see guys who just won’t quit!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Erin – the Boston Fans have had their share of many, many, MANY seasons in all our sports with out winning teams! I lived a lot more years then many of the blogger here and I’m seen many more losing seasons then winning ones. And please, people need to STOP judging the real fans of a team by the idiots who show up in other parks. The Yankees fans who show up in Fenway are NOT the nicest of fans, but I also know that they do not represent the vast majority of Yankees fans. Rays – sorry for the Rant, but the more the Boston teams win, the more the “hate” comes out in the fans of other teams.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Jenn,
That is one of the things that has transferred over from the 2008 team. They truly feel they are in every game, and can win every night now.
That is the attitude they got from wining last season. Winning is a crazy thing, it can make you addicted to it to the point of insanity at times.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Julia,
I have to say seriously here, I have been in sports most of my adult life either as a player, coach or a fan. I have seen the New York crazies and the Chicago fanatics, but Boston fans do get violent after losing both at home and away.
I guess it can come from high expectations and unfulfilled goals, but nothing should turn violent or come to harming of others.
But that is a staple of sports that we have to adjust to, and combat. They are not the wrost at it, but they do live up to the reputation some nights.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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