Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Rays Have Engine Troubles
Something last night just seemed off. There was this weird vibe in the air that brought you to an immediate sense of complacency. That for some reason it just wasn’t going to be enough no matter what happened, that the end result was already predestined even before Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price’s first pitch. Sure you can throw the obvious roadblock up that the thunderstorm bellowing it’s wind and rain outside Tropicana Field made an immediate impact when the lights dimmed inside But the reality is it just postponed the obvious for about 20-some minutes.
The Rays came out totally flat and produced only one run on a night when their young pitcher was going for a Rays franchise record 15th victory. It should have been a night where all cylinders were cranking loud and proud, but for some reason, the usual V-8 Rays engine was sputtering and gasping for even a base hit or a reason to stay positive. And that is not what happens to teams that want to play deep beyond the 162 game mark. Sure there was the late rally that has been a consistent trademark of the “Comeback Kids” Rays for a long time, but in the extra frames, that passion also seemed to be flushed like the rapid rain waters funneling outside the Trop.
With usual Rays component Ben Zobrist again in the Rays line-up. All night long the Rays seemed to be one click, one swing or even one second slower than they needed to be to best the Minnesota Twins. Even the difference of two inches to the west side of the leftfield foul post produced a moment that should have gave everyone within the Trop a sense of impending drama and heartbreak. But even as they fought with their engine down a cylinder, they evened the score at 1-all and gave it a fighting chance, but it was not enough. For the second time since their June 20th 13-inning contest in Baltimore, the Rays ended up on the wrong end of a extra inning affair.
Immediate blame was cast towards Rays reliever Lance Cormier, who was also the losing pitcher in that June 20th late inning loss, but Cormier was definitely pitching on fumes after throwing a 30-pitch side session for that night’s Rays contest. Those 30 pitches combined with his 3-inning total of 59 pitches pushed him to almost 90 pitches thrown by Cormier in less than 4 hours time…or a usual Rays starting pitcher’s pitch count before 2010. It almost seemed like the Rays Coaching staff was hoping and praying that Cormier could put his finger into every possible dyke leak after the 9th inning and plug them long enough for the Rays to fix their sputtering engine and take the game.
Credit the Rays for their ninth inning rally to even play beyond the initial innings, but after that, the Rays machine just seemed to shut itself down for the night. Two former Durham Bulls helped the Rays get their tying run in the ninth inning as Evan Longoria doubled to lead-off the inning. Matt Joyce hit a screaming ball to right field that advanced Longoria to third base. Dan Johnson, who has been up as a offensive replacement while Carlos Pena’s injured foot ligament heals, singled to right to drive in his first Rays RBI of 2010. All done on the watch of newly acquired Twin’s closer Matt Capps, who lost his chance to save the game by allowing the Rays run on only five pitches.
Five pitches decided the night for the Rays. Five consecutive pitches brought the game into extra innings and set-up Cormier to again be the fall guy for a lack of Rays offense. At least in the June 20th contest it was a 11-10 loss and both teams had their offensive units in power mode, while last night it seemed termites had invaded the Rays bat rack for most of the game. Pity, because Price deserved a better result from his teammate last night. Price deserved his team to be on -point and hunting for bear to give the young pitcher a franchise first 15-game winner. It should have been a night of celebration into the wee hours, not still playing the same game until around midnight.
This is not the stuff that makes a championship team. A champion fights until the last out with gusto and bravado of no tomorrow. Losses like this come back to haunt a team in the end by not mustering the stamina to sustain a offensive attack. The Rays offense went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Last night the Rays totally forgot their mantra of “Get The Man In”, instead it turned into making the opposition’s pitcher look like the All Star, not Price. And that will not work over the next two months . Losing games you are suppose to win is not enough now. This series the Rays had the Twins by the throat and never administered that chokehold needed by a champion.
The instruments are in the Rays toolbox to fine tune this team and get this Rays team motor purring like a fierce cat right away. And a 8-2 home stand with one game to play would make most teams happy as a clam, but most teams are not trying to fight toe-to-toe with the New York Yankees right now. The Rays need to again gain that mojo, that swagger, that “Rays Way” of thinking that propelled them to 67 wins before tonight. The Rays have now conjured up three consecutive winning seasons, and the sky is still the limit for 2010 to exceed all previous Rays teams, if they again fight to the last out.
Hopefully this Rays team is not seeking an excuse or a person to take responsibility for last night’s loss. The real explanation for this defeat can be seen in every mirror inside every Tampa Bay locker.
This Rays team as a whole has to take this loss equally on their own chins and get up again in less than 12 hours and fight, or be left behind in the carnage. The sputtering Rays offensive machine doesn’t need an overhaul, doesn’t need a modification, it only needs to have all eight cylinders cranking away with the same objectives, goals and emotions. Otherwise, this season could quickly be headed to an early end and an unfortunate trip to the junk pile.
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