Pitching and Defense Providing Perfect Harmony

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Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon has
always preached that his “pitchers set the tone of a game“. I’m
not sure, but I think the Rays skipper forgot to tell his young
outfield and his rookie Shortstop.


On a night when the Rays offense struck
early against usual Rays-killer Edwin Jackson, the Rays defensive
unit kept the pressure off southpaw hurler David Price with
incredible plays in both in infield and the outfield. Possibly this
young Rays fielding unit has finally found the right note to play in
harmony with their pitching staff.


Rays outfield Sam Fuld who wandered
over to his more familiar Centerfield spot again left his feet for an
incredible catch, and Ben Zobrist looked more like a sprinter going
towards a ball near the Rays Bullpen that was just a inch out of his
reach.

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Everyone of the Rays outfielder last
night made incredible running catches last night to help synchronize
Price’s artistic game on the mound. Rays SS Reid Brignac also got his
own note in with a deep ball hit towards the edge of the Rays new
AstroTurf surface, then turned and fired a strike that would have
made any pitcher envious for the 6-3 put out.


Little by little this Rays patchwork
Blue defense is gelling and beginning to showcase not only their
defensive skills, but show great support for their Rays pitching
staff by boosting their offense. I have to say, this might be one of
the best Rays athletic defenses we have seen in a while from corner
to corner…Sorry Carl Crawford.

Tell me this little quote will not infuriate the Red Sox
Nation. Rays Maddon on Sam Fuld’s LF defense compared to
Carl Crawford, who won a Gold Glove last year:

“There’s no drop-off. There’s no drop-off. To say
that right now, I would just be appeasing everybody. That’s
not true. Sam’s playing that level of defense right now. He
throws the ball better. And right now, all the different
things he’s doing defensively, I can’t tell you that Carl’s
better. I can not.”

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High praise for Fuld from a Rays
Manager that got to see Crawford nightly from 2007 to 2010 along with
a duo of trips to the post season. But this entire Rays outfield
right now is torqued to perform and to provide moments that even ESPN
would be proud. Interesting enough, Fuld currently has a comfortable
points lead (18) on the ESPN Web Gems standings over both Braves SS
Alex Gonzalez and Marlin OF Chris Coghlan.


Interesting enough, Rays 2B Sean
Rodriguez is in a 3-way tie for fourth place with 9 points, and Rays
1B Dan Johnson has 7 points. The Rays as a team currently have 36
points and are being chased hard by the Rockies (24) and the Royals
(19) in this early stage of the season. The Rays current .986
Fielding Percentage ranks second in the American League.


Before tonight’s broadcast, FSN Florida had an on-air interview with Price and his quote says it all: “ I hear that water covers 75% of the World, the other 25% is covered by Sam Fuld.”


Pitching may ” set the tone”, but
if you have your defensive unit also in unison playing extremely
stingy defense, it helps lighten the burden of the pitching staff.
When a pitcher is down 3-1 or 3-2 in a count and his defense is
playing with humongous gloves, they can skirt a ball in on the hands
or outside hoping for a ground ball and a sure fire out.

The overall confidence the pitching
staff can gain by the Rays defense playing superior right now will
play into guys trusting the players behind them and let the game
unfold instead of the pitchers’ trying to win it all on their own
shoulders.


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Acrobatic plays, leaping grabs and full
sprint catches might seem like a rare occurrences on a baseball
diamond, but here in Tampa Bay, it is just business as usual for Fuld
and crew. When I played football, my Coaches used to preach that
“defense wins championships “.


Right now the Rays are playing a tune
like “Take It On the Run” by REO Speedwagon in with both starting
and relief pitching strumming along, hitting banging hard to provide
tempo and the entire fielding unit playing in harmony. Maybe Maddon
is right because right now pitching is setting the tone…. and it is
simply beautiful to the ear.

20 Comments

I was able to see Brignac’s play, and it was pretty sweet. I’m glad he’s doing so well down there. Pitcher’s love seeing thier defense makes those types of plays in the field, and gives them so much more confidence on the mound.
–Mike
‘Minoring In Baseball’
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

The Rays are clearly on a roll after that shaky start. Seems to me you don’t miss Crawford and company as much as you expected to.

http://www.janeheller.com/confessionsblog

Defense has always been one of the Rays’ strong points, but it seems even more so this year so far. It’s like the defense is fueling everything else in their game. Even tonight, a great diving catch by Joyce and some sick plays by Shoppach behind the plate… I can’t help but feel they’re feeding off each other.

The starting pitching has to be feeding off of it too. In a time when offense is scarce, those two aspects are absolutely necessary.

Mike,
The Rays came home from their last road trip only 3-3, but that is a huge plus since the team was 0-5 before they left home. That might have been a huge turning point because ithe Rays defense became better the moment Manny Ramirez left and Sam Fuld had to be an every day contributor.
I do not want to hang this on one guy, but his plays caught the team’s attention and they all raised their game. The result, a 5-game winning streak, and a new 2-game winning streak….with defense making the exclamation point in each win.

Rays Renegade

Jane,
When Rays Manager Joe Maddon spoke on Fuld’s defense being on par with Crawford’s, I thought an avalanche of hate posts, rude comments and odd configured posts would develop.
It is still early, but Fuld has been completely on par with what Crawford did here with both his bat and his glove so far. Consistency was Crawford’s key, and if Fuld can maintain some level of that…..He might also be Golden (Glove) sooner than we all think. But then again, the whole unit as pushed up the tempo on defense, and wins have come in.

Rays Renegade

Your Rays are playing awesome defense this series against my Sox. Kudos to them. Frustrating the hell out of me along with the White Sox being bad. Although I like poking my Cub fan friends with: Garza for Fulds (and others) trade… Advantage Rays!

~Ed
http://2ndgenerationsoxfan.mlblogs.com/

I think Ozzie’s been reading your blog, because he pretty much said the same thing at his press conference following last night’s events in Tampa in re: the importance of good defense to back up the pitching.

And, as a fan, I know that a day of bad pitching is easier for me to swallow than a day of bad defense. Everyone has a bad day, but when at least 3 or 4 of your defensemen are having bad days at the same time, and the bad days keeping piling up, it gets pretty discouraging.

And, sometimes, there really isn’t anything you can do when the other team is just that much better (and I think that may have been the case with your Rays these last 2 days, no matter how good we could have been), but it doesn’t mean we have to keep giving things away. And, foor the second day in a row, I will bow down, tip my hat to your squad, and hope that we can pull it together.
-K
Watching the Dandelions Grow

Charm,
I guess we are seeing “Another Way” to win here. Starting to believe defense is the answer to the Rays offensive woes at times. If we keep the score down, we should be able to notch 2-4 runs a game…..even without Manny.
Just hope Johnny can grip a bat soon. Getting ready to get into AL East games and we need all hands ( bad pun) on deck for Toronto.

Rays Renegade

Ed,
It is just another faction of this team that got better this Spring. Defense has been the momentum that has pushed this team towards the .500 mark after that horrific start.
White Sox will be glad there is noly two more games, then no more Rays unless they both meet in the post season.

Rays Renegade

I’ve picked up Sam Fuld in a few fantasy leagues. It’s hard to deny what the guy is doing. It would be great if he could sustain it through the season. I also have much respect for Sean Rodriguez, and it would be good to see him take it to the next level.

Scott
http://fotr.mlblogs.com

As a member of Red Sox Nation all I can Say about Sam Fuld is …. WOW . This guy ( From New Hampshire ) can flat out play . http://beatownbaseball.mlblogs.com/

K,
I do not think Ozzie reads my stuff, but we do talk at least once a series. I have always gone over and done the plesantrties asking how he and the family is doing ever since he was number 13 for the D-Rays in what seems like a long time ago.
I am not one of those “journalist of substance” that some people puff out there chest. JUst a blogger who loves his home team, loves writing and made a marriage of the two…
But, it would be nice to have someone of stature of Ozzie reading it, buit then again, I never know who reads my stuff (until they complain).

Rays Renegade

I, as a Red Sox fan can understand how important defense is to the team. Sam Fuld has been doing really good for the Rays. So far, he reminds me of Jacoby Ellsbury. David Price is also an amazing pitcher. I hope David Price has a good year, as long as he does not beat Boston for a second time. Sam Fuld can be the guy that replaces Carl Crawford for the Rays. I can see Fuld making diving catches and gems that could possibly save the Rays in intense situations. Sam Fuld robbed the Red Sox of a hit. I cannot believe that he is this good already. He’s only a rookie, but he plays like a veteran.

Matt Joyce is really coming into his own too. Yeah, his offensive outburst has been huge, but we all knew he would eventually find his stroke. I think he sold most Rays fans on his talents last year, with all those clutch homers.

However, his defense has been sensational so far. Seems like every night he and Fuld are robbing someone of extra bases. Even last night, the angle at which he caught that ball near the wall was extremely weird, yet he made a great play on it. I think our outfield is pretty much set for the rest of the year.

Scott,
Fuld has been one of those great finds that just produce like they have been here for years. Only person hating Fuld right now is Rays top OF prospect Desmond Jennings who is wishing for a B J Upton trade to WAshington to free up LF for Jennings.
Another great athlete with a roadblock to the MLB…..And that is a great problem to have… any day.

Rays Renegade

Beantown,
Fuld has been one of the best surprises from the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs. We knew we were getting a quality guy who might be a nice utility or 4th outfielder, but he has done everything but sell beer and cotton candy in the stanbds so far this season.
But a 8-1 turnaround from 1-8 has brought us back to square one . It has been a team effort with defense providing nightly exclamation points.

Rays Renegade

RedSoxLover,
Both our squads have met the wall early on in 2011, and how we go from here over the next few weeks might decide a lot more than division and post season. Injuries have not created a huge hole yet, but that bug can cripple a team faster than a defection by a player (Ramirez).
Considering the facts, the Rays have been amazing going 8-1 since posting up a MLB worst 1-8 start. Getting to .500 was critical, and the teAm did not over stress or worry too much… they just played their hearts out.

Rays Renegade

first series of the year for the Jays and Rays and this Jays fan knows the only way for the Jays to take this series is through their bats
http://jaysin3rdeh.mlblogs.com/

Charm,
I am glad that Joyce has found his fifth gear and is starting to show the potential and the ability we all wanted to see when we traded Edwin Jackson to Detroit.
But then again, this is the first season the Rays have stood behind him and let him know it was his job to lose in RF.
Now Joyce just has to get more at bats against lefthanders so the team can throw more starts and more opportunities to Joyce.

Rays Renegade

Jaysin3rdeh,
The Toronto/Rays series has always been one where you could not handicap the game based on how well these two teams match-up against each other. It is rare to get a blowout, and more likely to feature a closely contested game with one blast or game action to decide it all.
And with both teams tied with the same record right now, it is a series to put a little distance between the two.
Going to be a pure and simple throwdown.

Rays Renegade

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