Rays Machine Churning and Burning Right Now

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“Over 162 games, if my big guys are
hitting and we get even halfway decent pitching, we’ll beat their (
our opponents) brains out.”


The above quote might seem more in
place possibly coming out of the mouth of someone within the Tampa
Bay Rays organization after the the solid efforts during Thursday’s
day/night double bubble victory tour against the hapless Minnesota
Twins. But it was not a quote from anyone within the Rays.

This quote was spoken loud and clear by
the late Cincinnati Reds Manager Sparky Anderson back when his “Big
Red Machine
” was still churning on 4 economical cylinders. But the
quote did have pertinent reference points to the Rays dismantling of
the Twins.


For some reason the outdoor confines of
the Twin’s Target Field seemed more welcoming to the style of play by
the visitors over the last three games. For some reason the usually
consistent Twins pitching staff turned into Batting Practice pitchers
at times, while at other resembled a mire shell of themselves.

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Some say the Rays were inhospitable
house guests as the two teams concluded their seasonal series with
the Rays knocking the breath of out the chests of the Twins in all
three contests. Heroes emerged for the Rays, pitching became a rising
star for this squad.


Anderson is so right, when all
cylinders are churning and both ends of the Rays machine is
producing, it is a glorious time to boast about the Rays. From this
series special moments like Johnny Damon extending his new Rays April
hitting streak record to 16 games. Damon had a 15-game streak last
season when he was with the Tigers. Matt Joyce, who is daily finding
more confidence and swagger went 4 for 8 and saw his average rise
from .290 to .313 during the twin bill.

Rays starters Jeremy Hellickson and
Jeff Niemann never seemed under duress or in any significant danger
of losing their contests at any point with each going past the 6.1
inning mark while both securing wins for their efforts. Before the
double-dipper, the Rays starters had gone 11 games still standing on
the mound during the 7th inning. The team had collectively
tossed a 2.67 ERA up, and held their opponents to a .215 batting
average.

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Niemann especially had me at hello last
night tossing some of the best baseball of his career and held the
Twins hitless until the bottom of the 7th when Tampa
native Denard Span who was facing a 3-2 count sent a ball into
shallow leftfield out of the reach of both OF Sam Fuld and SS Elliot
Johnson. Neimann ended up surrendering his only other hit of the game
on an RBI single by Twins 1B Justin Morneau. Great to see Jeffery the
Giraffe finally show why we all like his downhill pitching style


At no point in either of these games
did the Rays pitching staff have any significant threats or run
producing explosions to duplicate the Rays sudden offensive
bombardment. In three games the Rays posted 29 runs to the Twins 6
runs. It wasn’t a case of the Rays going against the Twins at their
low point, it was the Twins error to be playing the Rays as their
offense awoke and decided to thrust its might.

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But you can not discount the
significant and tremendous role uber utility man extraordinare Ben
Zobrist provided in this series. Zobrist who had been struggling a
bit at the plate at times with consistency has now hit 6 Home Runs in
his last 12 games. Finally Zobrist is materializing back into the
“Zorilla” of 2008 that we need right now to lead this club
offensively.


We all know Worldwide about his Rays
record 8 RBI eruption in the day game of the double douse y, but
overall Zobrist went from 31st in the RBI Leaders list to
Numero Uno in a lightning flash. Zorilla eclipsed the previous Rays
RBI record of 7 RBI’s held by Carlos Pena, and was the first
explosion of it’s type since Blue Jay Adam Lind back on August 2009
when he posted 8 RBIs on the Texas Rangers.

Lost in all the big numbers is the fact
Zobrist is now riding a 3-game hitting streak himself and boosted his
own batting average from .203 to .258 at the end of the night. Along
the way in this back-to-back series of game Zobrist produced a solid
7 for 10 stream along with 5 runs scored and a staggering 10 RBIs.
Suddenly Google searches for “Zorilla” have gone through the
roof.


That is the same mechanics that helped
build the “Big Red Machine” into MLB prominence before most of
this Rays squad other than Damon ( 1973 ) or relief pitchers Kyle
Farnsworth (1976 ) and Joel Peralta (1976 ) were even born.

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Suddenly this Rays team is posing some
problems for those people who wanted to believe that so much team
composition and transition would eliminate the Rays from any chances
of competing, but still the Ray keep pushing wins across the board.
Great teams have to gain their sturdy basic roots somewhere, possibly
this is the Rays chance to thrust them deep and solidify their team
structure and confidence.


This Spring there was great worry among
the Rays Republic about this team and their inherent structure and a
possible backslide in talent and abilities. Suddenly that same
worrisome thought process is being erased by the bats of Damon,
Zobrist, Joyce and the consistency of this all under-30 pitching
rotation.


I think I am just going to sit back a
bit more this short home stand and relax as this Rays team shows not
only me, but all of the Rays Republic and MLB that not only was
Anderson right with his quote, but we have nothing to worry
about….this team is out of hibernation and hungry for wins. Wonder
if the Los Angeles Angels are nervous yet about playing the red hot
Rays?




12 Comments

It really seems like Big Ben has found his power stroke this season. Even before this tear, I noticed he had not been missing his pitches to drive.

I don’t know if he’ll bat close to .300, but I don’t think 30 homers, 100 RBIs with a .260 AVG is is overly optimistic. His powerful swing is the real deal.

The Rays as a whole right now are just clicking. And just think, we’re getting Longo and The Dude back here soon.

Charm,
You are so right. Zorilla seems to be finding that swing plane that is exploding the ball on impact right now. Going to be fun to see how the Angels pitching staff adjusts and pitches to him starting tonight.
Seriously, right now the Rays 2-3-4 hitters have been consistent and showing why when Longo does come back, this streak from 0-6 to 13-11 is not a fluke.
Zobrist has to be high on the list for AL Player of the Week right now.

Rays Renegade

Hey, love the blog and would love to send you a copy of Andy Sonnanstine’s new Rays’ history / trivia book. Send me an email if you’d like one — and anyone else who would like to check it out, take a quick look at my blog post:

http://sportsbythenumbers.mlblogs.com/archives/2011/04/zorilla_and_sonnanstine_1.html

Thanks.

Tucker,
Would love to spend a few quiet moments at home getting to know Andy Sonnanstine’s version of Rays history.
Going to give him a bad time in an hour for not telling me he had a book published, he always makes wise cracks on my blog (lol).

Rays Renegade

I’m glad the Rays are streaking. It gives the Yanks a run for their money.

—Mark Gauthier
http://cubden.mlblogs.com/

Mark competition is good for the heart and soul of a team. Not having someone pacing with you or pushing you from behind can make a team a bit lazy and malcontent at times.
That is the greatest thing to this April. The Rays started out in the muck of the bottom and are now swimmimg near the surface….What a difference 30 days can make.

Rays Renegade

I can’t believe the Rays are just 1.5 games behind the Yanks! Ahhh! They won’t just go away…
-Virginia
http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com

Virginia,
What should scare you more is the fact Evan Longoria is returning to this line-up on Tuesday night, and RP JP Howell will be back in about a week….Two vital cogs to the Rays machine.

Rays Renegade

Maddon should let Joyce see some more left handed pitching. He has been nothing but consistent this season and his power is starting to come around as well.

Unlike Reid and SeanRod, Joyce has shown that he can step up and be a major league hitter.

Shhhhhhhhhh Charm,
I was going to write that tomorrow.
Oh well, guess everyone knows Joyce has broken out of the bubble and can be a total everyday player like Zobrist.
Got to tell you that play he almost made in the Bullpen area early in the game ius the fastest I have ever seen him book…I was wildly impressed.
I think Maddon is riding the Matt Joyce bandwagon right now….or I hope he is about to commandeer the dang thing!

Rays Renegade

Oh, I’m sure the Angels were a little nervous coming into this series against the Rays. I know I was nervous for them. I was pleased to take the win against Price, which was no easy feat and then today, wow. What a pitchers’ duel! I was thrilled that Pineiro pitched so well – fresh off the DL and only the one real mistake. But as good as he was, James Shields was even better. Wow! If we had to lose today, I wish Shields had gotten the win. Seriously, your guys have scary bats, an even scarier starting rotation and a lot of heart. I knew the Rays weren’t going to stay down at the beginning of the season and I fully expect to see them right there contending at the end of the season. Tomorrow’s game should be a heck of a matchup too.
Kristen
This is a very simple game…

Kristen,
Pinero did have a great outing until Joyce decided to give the fan’s a special gift. But that is what is so great, and scary to the competition about this team. They flex but do not break often.
Sure mistake pitches or defensive errors happen, but this team tends to mold around them and fight like heck to bring that victory home.
The mantra of “Another Way” spelled true today…..lead-off hitter stretches single into double, moves over on next ground ball and scores on a Wild Pitch for a Walk-off win……Not in the baseball play books, but now in the record books.

Rays Renegade

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