Rays Homer past Yankees
Sorry I have not posted in a few days. There has been a bit of a rodent-related sucide here at my house, and he decided to take our electrical box with him. I am not one to ever try and figure out the suicidal or normal tendencies of the squirrel family, but this guy had a death wish and took about 5 breakers with him. The result was a $ 2,000 bill for the repair of the rodent-related suicide attempt. I never did ask if he fried, or was just tail-less now running amonst the many oka tree surround the house. Be case scenario, he is basking in the tree with a breeze upon his hairy chest snickering about how he got the humans to feel the heat.
It is fun to be pushed back into pre-electricity Florida lifestyle for three days and forget how lovely the hot water heater, air conditioning, and the televised games from Yankee Stadium can be an everyday luxury. I have been told to remember what it was like to go camping as a kid as the electricians were fixing the problem for the last three days. Finally at 3:45 pm I felt the cool breeze come out of the vents and could again vast in the daily writing of my blog, and also take a great shower for 20 minutes.
Bill Kostroun / AP
Wild Night in the Old Bronx
When you first turned on this game last night you might be hearing all the negative how Yankee starter Andy Pettitte owns the third best record against the Rays lifetime with 15 wins, and that he once had a consecutive streak of 12- wins in 17 starts against the old Rays from 9/25/98 to 7/22/2007. And according to Elias Bureau, that is Pettittes longest streak, and it tied the Rays opponents streak he would share with Boston pitcher Tim Wakefield. So it almost was a forecast of doom and gloom even before the first pitch landed in Jose Molina’s glove.
But there is a strange thing about baseball. It never judges what you have done in the past to anything in the future. Just because you were the king one day doesn’t mean you can not play the pauper tonight. And that would be a great way to segway into this game. Before the first pitch of the game, the Rays hit a iffy .230 against Pettitte in their first meeting of the year in Tropicana Field. And that contest ended up becoming a 4-3 Yankees win and got them the series. But a lot has happened to both team since that day, and tonight would be a fair evaluation of the direction of both teams right now.
The Rays took an early lead off of Pettitte when Jason Bartlett lead-off with a solo shot to right-center field to start the contest. That might have been a great indication of the type of night that Pettitte was about to experience off the Rays. In the game, the Rays hit a combined .333 against Pettitte and hit 4 home runs off him in the game. The only previous home run this year was hit by Carlos Pena in the Rays 4-3 loss to the Yankees at Tropicana Field in April. But in this contest, the game would go back and forth until finally the Rays would take advantage of a guy they usually have a bad game against in the ninth inning.
The game went back and forth in classic fashion until the Rays took the final stand in the top of the ninth inning and chased Mariano Rivera from the contest. Coming into tonight’s game, Revira is 51 of 52 lifetime in save opportunities against the Rays, including a 20-for-20 mark at the original Yankee Stadium. He had converted his last 18 saves against them since his last blown save on 8/16/2005 at Tropicana Field. In that contest, Eduardo Perez hit the only home run given up by Rivera in 82.1 innings pitched against the Rays.
So how big was the ninth inning to the Rays? It made them post their biggest surge against the future Hall-of-Famer by stroking back-to-back homers against the closer. Carl Crawford even took a 9-pitch selection before finally hitting his next offering to rightfield. Evan Longoria then took his fifth pitch and deposited in in the left field stands for the final run of the ballgame.
Longo Love the Long Ball
I was chatting with a few Rays fans during the last game of the home stand about if we had seen the best of Longoria yet this year. It seems like the guy is sometimes just putting on a hitting clinic during games. Even if he is hitting too many double plays balls for my taste (7 this season), he is hitting with a style and grace that is way beyond his young age. I mean he is hitting like a 5-to7 year player picking up the adjustments of the pitcher and drilling them for hits. His current pace has him leading the American League in doubles ( 14), RBI ( 38) and Slugging Percentage ( .754).
But what is especially amazing is his .358 batting average after a short mini slump to end April. He is currently on a 11-game hitting streak into tonight’s Boston game. Carlos Pena has the Rays highest streak last year with 12-games. Longoria is hitting .382 during the streak with RBIs in 9 of the 11 games. He also has 20 RBI in the last 9 games. He is currently only one of five players since 1954 to have 38+ RBI in the first 30 games ( he missed two game dues to a family emergency in April). With numbers like this, it might be a good indicator that he might be in the top tier when the All-Star balloting position are announced for third base.
Niemann is Becoming an Enigma
This is the game you wanted the right-hander to come out and just be explosive on the mound for the Rays. To show that he is ready for all challenges and can be the man if needed for the team. But sometimes you just look at the guy and you see just a tall giraffe of a pitcher who is tossing the ball into a spot instead of trusting his tuff and launching into the catcher’s mitt. He did hold his own deep into the bottom of the fourth inning before getting into trouble with the Yankee hitters. But I do have a question on why he was taken out with the only trouble-some situation of the night for him?
Seriously here, did anyone else question the reasoning to take the big guy out after two Yankee base runners. I mean Melky Cabrera did walk on five pitches, and Ramiro Pena did hit a nice single after battling back from an 0-2 count against Niemann. But up to that point, he had only given up 3 hits all night long to go with a hit batsman and a wild pitch. I do not think he would have done any worse that Rays Reliever Lance Cormier, who let Jose Molina double on the second pitch and then after striking out Derek Jeter, give up another RBI-double to Johnny Damon to plate the first two Yankee runs.
But I do think the big guy could and should have been given the opportunity to get out of the inning on his own since he was only at 78 pitches at that moment. To pull him this early with the threat of a scoring chance can be damaging to Niemann. I know he is viewed more as a rental player right now by some on the Rays, but you do not ruin a kid’s confidence like that. If you let him face those three batters and the same thing happens to him, then it is a building opportunity for him. He was going to get hit with those two runs anyways, you might as let him earn them instead of sit on the bench and watch them score from the dugout.
But that is where maybe myself and the Rays pitching conglomerate differ at times. I remember past years and game where they have let the guy take a few licks and then get him out of there before he destroys himself. But this year they seem to be babying the big guy a bit too much. I know he can handle it, he is by and far the becoming a better pitcher each ti
me out this year, and he had adjusted pretty well considering he is thrown into the mix. I mean coming into this game, he has won his last two road starts, which is a big thing for a Rays pitcher. Plus he his 16 strikeouts coming into this game are tied for fourth among rookies.
The guy has been tasked with manning the fifth spot in this rotation, but it seems at times that the Rays have put more emphasis in their controlling of his progress than in letting him take the highs and lows of being a major league pitcher. The guy got lite up in his first start and rebounded to retire the next 15 out of sixteen in that Orioles contest. Niemann actually threw a no-no for the first four innings against the Seattle Mariners on the road for his first win of the season.. His ERA has come down from a lofty 10.13 ERA to a more respectable 5.65 ERA after tonight game.
The guy is showing massive improvement and a few steps back every outing, but the Rays seem to be more concerned with their own endeavors than in Niemann’s right now. By not letting this guy grow on the mound, they are going to need him in a game and he will not be in tune with the music the Rays want to hear. He already has people calling for him to be replaced along with Andy Sonnanstine, and the Rays have not come out hard in his defense. I think that is a crime. As long as he is in a Rays uniform, the Rays coaching staff should be defending this guy to the hill and back. But instead we get mumble jumble about looking tired or showing anxiety. Give me a break, every batter would make me a bit anxious on the mound. To be Niemann is standing tall among the rubble at times.
*** Do not forget that the Rays Radio network will be holding a Rays Watch party at the Hooter’s Restaurant on West Hillsborough Avenue tomorrow starting at 3 pm. The afternoon contest will be featured on Fox Television, but the Rays will have Rich Herrera out there for the pre game and post game show and they will feature drink and food specials during the game.
*** During last night’s game, Carl Crawford’s consecutive stolen base streak ended at 9 games. But do not fret, since 1954, he is one of four players to accomplish that feat. With his major league leading 20 steals, CC also is in royal company as he is tied with Neon Deion Sanders for the most stolen bases after 29 games since Sanders did it in 1997 with the Cincinnati Reds.
*** The Rays also currently have the major league lead in steals with 45, that is the most since the Florida Marlins started off with 48 steals in the 2003. It is also the most by an AL team since the Yankees stole 46 bases in 29 games to begin the 1998 season.
*** The Rays are currently in a stretch where they will play 9 games against the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in 11 days. They are 5-1 so far in that endeavor. By the end of the weekend, they would have played them both 15 times so far this season ( out of 34 games) The Rays are 8-4 so far this season against the pair.
*** Pena and Longoria are the first teammates to reach 30 RBI in 30 games since Alex Rodriguez (31) and Edgar Martinez (30) with Seattle in 2000. They are also the fifth set of teammmate to hit that feat since 1954. They are also the first set of team mate to have 10+ home runs since Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher for the Oakland A’s in 2006.