Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Papa John’s Also Rewards Fans at Home for 10 K’s

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It is one of those moments that everyone within Tropicana Field await with grand anticipation. Once the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff get to that lucky number “7”, the assembled Rays Republic begins that count down towards double digits with an increased excitement an increased cheering decibel level and that awesome thrill of knowing that something amazing happens when the Rays Center field Strikeout sign clicks to “10”.

oakland-athletics-v-tampa-bay-20130419-195943-980The moment has become symbolic and synonymous to illustrate both the Rays pitching staff’s strikeout proficiency as well as the benchmark for a free morsel of edible goodness that can only be redeemed when that numerical plateau is finally achieved. It seems like forever, or at least since the Blimpies Sub promotion hit the trash can, that Papa John’s has become a part of the Rays late inning fun with such honored events such as the 7th inning stretch, or watching that invisible arrow pierce the sky after a Fernando Rodney save.

So far during the Rays 2013 season this event has transpired only once back on April 5th against the Cleveland Indians when Rays starter Matt Moore combined with relievers Jake McGee, Brandon Gomes and Joel Peralta to post 11 K’s on the Centerfield lighted strikeout board.

The Rays 10- Strikeout Challenge has become a part of our Rays in-game culture, but all that is about to change a bit as everyone within the Rays Republic can now taste the joy and excitement, even from your own couch or comfy recliner. ow, even as you sit at home watching the game on television or your computer or even listening to the contest on the Rays Radio broadcast within Tampa Bay and select Central Florida market locations can also celebrate this feat both home or away with discounted munchies and cold beverages?

That’s right Rays Republic, no matter if you are at home, at the game or even on the move within select Tampa Bay and Central Florida you can benefit from the Rays striking out 10 opponents in a game. All you will have to do is either call or go online to PappaJohns.com submit your order for their tasty products and use the promo code: “RAYS” on your carry out or delivery order and you will get 50% off your total for that order. Of course you will have to use this special code online only the day
AFTER a 10-K game and this offer is not valid with other discounts or offers and is only available at participating Papa John’s locations.

tampa-bay-rays-v-boston-20130413-123341-228So far this season the Rays actually hit that double-digit mark in 2 of their away games, both in Boston on Saturday, April 13th and Monday April 15th when the Rays pitching staff posted 12 and 11 strikeouts respectfully during their weekend series. That would have been 2 additional times we could have utilized this food offer to the extreme joy and excitement of our families and friends. So now whether home or away you can utilize this special offer the next day after the Rays pitching staff hit the double-digit mark in strikeouts. 

I actually did not know of this new Rays promotion with their corporate sponsor Pappa John’s until I recently bought a pizza and chicken poppers from my local franchise here in Northwest St. Petersburg, Florida. There upon the hot and extremely fragrant cardboard pizza box was attached this new Rays strikeout special offer.

papa%20johns%20adSome might say it is only a 50% discount on your entire order, but considering that could be a nice $15.00 windfall on a $30 usual order., but it is another small way you can bring the excitement of watching the Rays strikeout total elevate and get something fantastic even while not sitting within the tilted cap of the Trop. I know I’m hoping the Rays hurlers today post 10 K’s so I can use this special offer knowing that 10 strikeouts by the Rays can get more some great food and beverages as I sit at home hoping for another 10 K result.

Hellboy Adding Some Follicles to his Persona

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We have all known him during his journey as a clean cut, mid-western farm guy with no real scuff or hardness to him. But if you looked closely at Tampa Bay Rays hurler Jeremy Hellickson during his start on Monday in Boston, there are a few changes a brewin’.

201304071321480630708-p2I mean we have all seen a few of these guys come into Spring Training a bit rough with Winter pelts upon their face, but this is the first time I have ever seen even the first stages of a ‘stache and possible goatee on Hellboy. It is not like this would ruin or change his image overnight if he did sprout some facial features, but with guys like Ryan Roberts, James Loney and even David Price sporting some impressive facial accessories, maybe it is just part of the maturation process for Hellickson.

I do not want to make a big thing out of it since I’m one of those guys who is mostly clean-cut 24/7 except to let my hair grown long at times just to prove it still grows up there and is not sent out for a cleaning every 30-days. Still, this could be a nice addition to the Hellboy motif with some sprouting hairs both above and below and besides that trademark tongue appearance that is so-Helly.

WWJoshI know Hellickson is not bowing the peer pressure from those more follicle enhanced on the team, but it just shows another direction and avenue Hellickson could journey down before his career is all said and done. I mean the guy will never produce a hair-masterpiece like Josh Reddick, or even Duck Dynasty’s Jace or Willie, but having a little reminder front and center to people you are not 21 forever and that is a good thing.

I truly hope the goatee and “mustache come in with fullness and robust color and clarity for Hellboy as those high definition camera’s will play a bit of havoc with him until it is fully grown in and it develops it own style. Still, it is a quick reminder that Hellickson is maturing, finding his own way both on and off the mound and truly feels like “one of the guys”, especially now with the Rays all-follicle crew. I know Rays Bench Coach Dave Martinez must like the change since he sports a pretty mean beard and accessories himself.

Great Luck and Solid Game Prep Have Moore Looking Pretty Perfect

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You have to think Rays southpaw Matt Moore has found the key to surviving and conquering his early seasonal pothole that has plagued him over his minor league and MLB career. Possibly it is as easy as a well-rubbed rabbit’s foot nestled in his left rear pants pocket that has helped him guide his 2013 numbers towards astronomical levels.

201303201845675068349-p2It is almost unheard of that a starting pitcher can post a 0.00 Era after 2 starts and not have been in the league at least 3-4 seasons. Even more surprising (in a great way) is the fact Moore is 2-0 even though he has had a few control situation, especially in regards to walks and not had one runner come around to haunt to hoist his ERA skyward.

But it is a confident thing for Rays fans that Moore has developed himself as a key component of this season’s team so early in the campaign especially as fellow ace and leftie David Price has found himself in a bit of a early season rut and showing a few signs of potential downswing from his 2012 Cy Young season. With Moore right now basically leading the Rays in not only ERA, but wins it will bring himself not only a great confidence boost, but could help produce the needed wins that could decide the Rays fate in September.

Right now I want to believe Moore can sustain this pace and post at least 5 or more wins before anything transpires that will de-rail this phenomenal start, but the reality is that we all know the floor will vibrate and finally crack for Moore but as a fan base we hope that happens later more than sooner.

Matt MooreThe reason I implied Moore might have a lucky charm is the pure fact he has given up unexpected walks that could of, should have come back to haunt him, but has miraculously come out unscathed and still holds a spotless 0.00 ERA.

With Price getting roughed up a bit early on this season, the incredible start by Moore is amplified and a much needed boost in the arm for the Rays causes, especially as they headed out for their first road trip of the season. Even more amazing is the fact Moore and the Rays 5th starter, Alex Cobb have kept this club’s pitching staff secure more than a few victories, and heading into their early AL East swing in the schedule, these games could decide any divisional goal of the Rays.

201304101810654390137-p2This is the potential we all hoped would come to the top for Moore who boasted some incredible strikeout numbers and control in his minor league starts, and with his new found rhythm and confidence started by this great string to the start of his 2013 season, the Rays will ride the luck of Moore until he levels out and begins to settle in to the middle of his starts this season.

I hope Moore not only posts more amazing results, but sees his game elevate during this string of starts hopefully possessing the Rays to moving him from his current 4th spot to the 3rd slot in the Rays rotation after an off day. Moore right now is doing the things we always envisioned he would as a starter, and with that he has taken this team firmly on his back and brought victories and smiles to his fellow players as well as the fan who truly want to see Moore succeed and become a pillar of this Rays staff.

Has Niemann Thrown His Last Rays Pitch?

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In reality, it sucks what has transpired over the last few months for Tampa Bay Rays SP Jeff Niemann. He fought and went down swinging this Spring in his battle for the Rays 5th rotation slot with former ace Roberto Hernandez. And as the “Tall Texan” went toe-to-toe with Hernandez, he somehow developed a glitch in his pitching delivery that forced his velocity to decrease to alarming levels.

niemann032713_8colIt is like Niemann had to go through his own trial of Job this Spring before it was finally revealed by the Rays Medical staff that Niemann needed some R&R, or possibly surgery to repair the damage that reared its ugly head this Spring, and now might have cost him more than just the 2013 season.

You have to think this “down time” during his surgical rehab might be the final curtain for his Rays tenure, especially as Niemann will again go through the salary arbitration process this Winter, and with the advancement of the young talent down at Triple-A Durham, there might not be a place for Niemann on the Rays past the 2013 season. Of course this is just speculation right now that the young budding staff will remain healthy in 2013, but for all purposes, Niemann probably threw his last pitch ever as a Rays this Spring.

Throwing even more darkness on a hopefully return by Niemann after his rehab to returning to the Rays is the fact until he begins throwing possibly towards the end of the 2013 Rays campaign or during the Winter, there will be nothing but doubt and wonder if Niemann can regain not only a chance of playing again for this team, but get his velocity to a point that would warrant a longer look by the Rays staff in retaining him via the arbitration process.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red SoxWe all know that the Rays value depth in their pitching corps, and possibly the only future path for Niemann to find a spot on this team’s roster past 2013 might be in his newly defined role in the Rays Bullpen as a long-reliever. Even in this instance, Niemann window of opportunity has dimmed a bit as the club did not get to utilize him in this new role and subsequently it would be a gamble on the Rays part baring a complete recovery to set a-side possibly $3-4 million dollars for a player who has question marks attached to them.

We all know Niemann has already completed the surgery portion of his recovery, but now comes the hard part for both sides as time will elapse and both the Rays and Niemann wait patiently until he can again begin some sort of throwing program to regain his strength and show progress or relapse capacities. I have gotten to know Niemann pretty well over his Rays years from his early rehab in the minors, the multiple Rays events he has attended.

I have confidence he will do whatever is needed to again step upon the clay of a MLB squad and throw that ball with vigor and vitality. I want to be confident Niemann will have a place, but the business of baseball might decide his fate and not the relationships and friendships he has established as a member of this team.

The worst thing is it might not be with the Rays name emblazoned upon his chest as the team might have to part ways with a guy who has embodied and lived his MLB career as a Rays and epitomizes the values and character needed to be a member of this franchise. 

 

 

Bad Luck Follows the Rays on the Road

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I want to be the first to stand up and applaud new Tampa Bay Rays James Loney and Shelly Duncan for their vocal barrage from the Visitor’s dugout railing tonight as they snipped with merit at the horrific job Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster made on the last pitched ball during the Rays 5-4 loss against the Texas Rangers.

c2s_rays040913_10589862_8colBelieve me if the Rangers had any deputy powers, they should have arrested Foster for impersonating a Umpire, but I digress. Seriously though, if the Rays were to lose that game even with their hottest hitter , Ben Zobrist at the plate, it should have been a ground ball, missed swing, not a called third strike to end a highly contested game that came so far out of left field Rangers closer Joe Nathan might have been the last person on the field to notice the game was over.

You can be sure there will either be a voice mail or a nice cordial phone call to Foster from someone within the MLB hiearchy, possibly his immediate supervisor asking him if he drank a frothy beverage as the teams changed positions for the top of the 9th inning instead of guzzling a nice, cool Gatorade. And the worst thing is you can not fathom or find a suitable excuse like the usual hot and hostile Texas heat or gnats that descended from purgatory (Texas) to make the sight lines into the Texas catcher’s glove impossible.

This was purely and truthfully just a blown call that possibly seconds after it’s conclusion Foster wishes he could take back or get a proverbial “mulligan”. And these things happen during a 162 game season, but it didn’t need to happen to this Rays team who struggled back to within a run of changing the outcome and who were still nursing a TKO in their Sunday home matinee.

tampa-bay-rays-v-texas-20130408-201736-861But maybe this is the way the Rays will have to find ways to win in 2013. Possibly the high hype of their return to glory 5 years after their first surprising rise has more than a few people casting spells or making voodoo Longo dolls or Hellboy personas.  But the Rays did have chances before this moment and could of taken the fate of their resurgence out of Foster’s hands before the top of the 9th inning.

On the same day their might Tall Texan, Jeff Nieman decided to partake the knife and sideline himself for the rest of the 2013 campaign, this team needed some sign of impending good fortune and change of fortune. The problem was as in in most Texas sagas, the man in the black cap shot the Rays in the foot and took their victory off into the sunset.

Maybe we can find a way to blame the call on long-time Rays nemesis and current Rangers catcher AJ Pierzenski, he was the guy who framed that last pitch for Foster…….Nah, Foster blew the call.

“Mama Said There’ll be Days Like This”

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I guess The Shirelles had it right when they said….”Momma said there’ll be days like this”. It is one of those thing that happen to every pitcher at some point in their season, a game just gets away from you and no matter what you do to adjust or stop the bleeding, something springs a leak again and all you can do is shake your head at “ what could or should have been”.

David PriceThat the most honest and to the point reasoning I come to what transpired to Rays ace David Price and any other Rays hurler that took their tun on the Rays mound on Sunday. I mean usually one pitcher gets rattled a bit and someone comes in and reverses the course or stems the tide a bit, but for some reason Sunday it seems no matter if the Rays went left or right they had a obstacle in their way.

I’m just going to chalk this horrific outing all around to a pitcher who was on his game on Sunday and a team that was tired of being embarrassed and shut out by this Rays pitching staff. You know this type of game seems to get into some pitcher’s heads once thew runs and hit begin to fall they try and adjust a bit on their grip, location and then instead of good things happening, the bottom falls out of their game.

cleveland-indians-v-tampa-bay-20130407-124501-670Sure this is not a typical Rays outing, especially from Price, but the reality is this type of games do happen over the course of the season even to a guy who has a Cy Young on his home mantle. Some times things do sideways and you can not recover, and that seemed to happen to Price, Kyle Farnsworth, Brandon Gomes and Fernando Rodney all seeing their appearances become small disasters while Jamie Wright and Cesar Ramos got out of their innings unscathed and not permitting any run damage.

But this outing will have raise a few questions, with maybe one or two about Price. I thought he was trying to utilize his off-speed stuff a bit too much when things got dicey, but I also do not have the benefit of the Indians pitching report and possibly they are a team that showed some glaring weak spots in the breaking pitch department in the first two shutout wins, but on Sunday seemed to be waiting for some pitches and just launching them skyward.

There will definitely be a few muffled voices within the stands and fan base as to if Fernando Rodney is going through that usual “dead arm” sequence that sometimes hows up in Spring Training now in his first few appearances of 2013. But even if Rodney is suffering a bit with his delivery, do no fret, this is not a resurfacing of the 2011 Rodney that seemed to lose control at will and defeated himself on the hill.

201304071354500660776-p2And the third pitcher that might warrant a few odd opinions is Farnsworth who also did not seem at all settled and loose on the mound Sunday and might have some lingering effect he is trying to play through or might reoccur if he throw the bullet a bit higher in velocity. This is someone who prides himself on his craft and right now Farnsworth doesn’t seem to have all the materials he usually has at his side to fluster and confuse hitters.

This is not to suggest the Rays greatest asset, their pitching staff has concerns. It is just the plain truth that Sunday when the Rays sent their best to the mound, sometimes things do not groove in the right order, follow the norm and the unexpected rises its head up and introduces itself to your team. Maybe there is more life wisdom to that Shirelles song than we want to admit to at times. “There’ll be days like this my mama said”. 

Moore Finds His Groove and Posts a Beautiful Shutout Win

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If Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore who is usually a slow starter to begin the season as he gains velocity and control gets even a tad bit better for his second start, he might throw the Rays second No-Hitter. Seriously though, the fact Moore seems to have found a nice balance against the Cleveland Indians on Friday night and allowed only 2 hit to go with his 8 K’s and took home the “W” in his first start of the young season.

cleveland-indians-v-tampa-bay-20130405-172823-107Maybe we can attest this change of routine to the fact Moore looked a little scruffy on the hill, not his usual clean-cut All-American cover boy self. Possibly Moore has taken a page from fellow southpaw David Price and just go with the flow and what the hitters give you and not stress the small stuff or missed borderline calls.

Or maybe it is really as simple as Moore took the mound during his Spring Training gigs like it was already the season and he used those 4 starts as his “early season” roller-coaster starts. No matter what the true reasoning is, it was great to see Moore showing great control, eliminating his walks and going6 innings while throwing an even 100 pitches. The pure fact Moore got to the 6th inning and helped the Bullpen is huge as it gave newly called-up reliever Brandon Gomes a chance to shine as well as give Jake McGee a solid outing to get that huge ERA starting it free-fall towards some sort of normalcy.

cleveland-indians-v-tampa-bay-20130405-192808-9463 times during his 6 inning stint Moore set the side down in order with only three hitters coming to the plate. And only during the top of the 3rd when Cleveland had 5 hitters come to the plate and advanced Mike Aviles to Third Base did a hitter reach third base. Moore even helped his own cause by pitching inside to Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera who hit a weakly hit ball right to Evan Longoria who rocketed the ball to Jose Lobaton stationed at Home Plate to gun down Cabrera and keep the shutout intact for Moore.

cleveland-indians-v-tampa-bay-20130405-172837-183That is the kind of pitching that will elevate this team and keep them in ballgames. Playing to the oppositions weaknesses and strangling their run scoring opportunities by keeping the ball in the park, and on the ground. Of the 10 balls hit and put into play last night, 6 were on the ground and were converted with no problems at all. If Moore can keep playing to the Rays strength of a solid and well-oiled Rays infield defense, this is only the first of the wins for him in 2013.

Longoria Admitting his Error Shows his Leadership Maturity

One of the greatest traits a leader can have is admitting they are not perfect and just as the rest of us can make decisions that can be called into debate or discussion. Last night Tampa Bay Rays Clubhouse leader and Third Baseman Evan Longoria proved he was a leader and took responsibility for his error in his aggressive base running judgment during the Rays attempt to rally towards a possible 9th inning overtaking of their divisional foes, the Baltimore Orioles, but Longo’s gaffe might have been to try and amp up the energy for the rally, but it just as quickly put the Rays on their heels.

baltimore-orioles-v-tampa-bay-20130404-162917-201Some say it is a cardinal rule of baseball to never just watch the ball, but also have a keen visual on any base runners in front of you to keep just such a situation of coming to fruition or costing your team a must needed chance to pull out a possible victory. Depending on which school of thought you adhere towards, either Longoria was wrong by watching the ball, or was being aggressive with a possible 9th inning rally in mind. Either way, it might be up to your own interpretation, or at the very least your viewpoint and visual judgment when viewing the above video which showed both the Rays and Oriole’s broadcast crews.

If you did not see the play, it occurred in the bottom of the 9th with the Rays trailing 6-2 to Baltimore and followed a lead-off plucking of pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez and a Ben Zobrist single to right to put two runners on the base path with no outs in the inning. Longoria then hit a ball deep to left-center field that was played off the upper portion of the wall and then the unfortunate again raised it ugly head.

009Zobrist is a calculated and safe runner. Since the ball’s path was blocked by the advancing fielders, Zobrist had to play upon the hunch it might still be caught and he would have to jettison back to first to avoid possibly being involved in a double play situation. Longoria who has that aggressive nature to his base running that has be haphazard before with at least one instance involving Zobrist in the past felt the outfielders could not make the play and was looking for a double and possible triple on the play.

This is where the error of Longo’s search for that vital punch to the Oriole’s chances took a solid uppercut to the Rays proverbial jaw. Longoria in his haste to make this a possible 2-RBI moment over ran the lead runner (Zobrist) and in that situation was immediately called out by First Base Umpire James Hoye which then had Zobrist stop his progress at Third Base and Longoria producing the first out of the inning. This did not ultimately destroy the Rays chances of securing additional runs in the inning, but it did hamper the game strategy that Rays Manager Joe Maddon could employ if there was no outs and two runners in definite scoring position.

Some will banter that the Second Base Umpire and Crew Chief John Hirschbeck should have convened a small meet with Home Plate Umpire Jim Reynolds who had a better visual vantage point as to if Longoria had passed Zobrist or if the two had been in the same area without cause for the out decision.

011If you look at the video, Longoria is strutting at quarter speed when he rounds first base possibly remembering his past base running mistake where he also passed Zobrist to produce an out in that past contest. The true angle or vantage point of the video doesn’t make it concrete in either decision’s direction, but the visual angle from behind Home Plate could have been a secondary check mark to Longo’s gaffe, or been a reason to question the play all together and have the Umpires convene for a discussion.

MLB Rule 7.08 (H), clearly states that any base runner is to be called out when he “passes a preceding runner before such runner is out”. Hirschbeck’s clarification in his decision was that this movement was akin to a runner missing a base and stated the situation “was kind of the thing you see or you don’t”. Maddon himself situated on the top step of the Rays dugout had a different point of view to the situation and possibly might have been the one person off to the side of the play besides Reynolds who could of see if Longo did in fact pass Zobrist or lagged a bit behind him as a precaution to having just this type of event unfold again for the pair.

All in all, Longoria did admit he was not running full speed and was watching the flight of the ball intensely with regard to possible extra bases, but he also did admit he did not know where “Zo was, but as soon as I saw the ball hit the ground, I took a hard step. And it seemed when I took that one hard step, I saw Zo to my left”. ”

014Some might find fault in Zobrist in this instance because he is a more careful and less flamboyant base runner who didn’t want to be a factor in losing this game due to a base running gaffe. With his Zobrist’s visual sight lines blocked by the advancing outfielders to the ball off the wall, he erred on the side of caution and in that moment could of set the wheels in motion for this gaffe, but he doing so to prolong the inning and not to be overly aggressive on a play that still could have been made by his sight angle.

In the end, it was great that Longoria did not throw anyone under the bus about the incident but took the right path and accepted the responsibility as well as showed he has grown as a leader of this club plus is willing to admit an error in judgment. Some players might have immediately pointed their finger to the runner in front of them or gone off full nuclear towards the Umpires, but Longoria used tact and accepted his plight the way a leader should and that commands a bit of respect.

But please Longo, the next time this situation comes during a game, please error on the side of caution, especially if you have a conscientious runner like Zobrist in front of you. Making this same type of mistake 3 times in your career is not a charm.

Of Course You Got to Re-Joyce About This Moment

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Boom goes the dynamite….and it couldn’t of happen to a better player. Tampa Bay Rays RF took a hanging pitch from Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter deep high and into the seats for the Rays first win of 2013 in the classic walk-off fashion.

201304032124770819669-p2What better way for the Rays faithful and the dugout to remember their first victory of the season than seeing @sweetswing20 (Joyce’s Twitter handle) doing the circle around the bases and jump into a impromptu team meeting at Home Plate. I know I’m not the only one who hopes a moment like this jump-starts a killer season for Joyce as he has been one of those guy I truly feel should have a chance to play every day…even against those nasty lefties.

201304032128773019683-p2As anyone who has followed the Rays for even the slightest amount of time, Joyce has somehow been put in bubble wrap and stuffed on the bench against most left-handers, but I think this season Rays Manager Joe Maddon needs to put Joyce in a few key slots in the lineup against capable southpaws and see if Joyce rises to the occasion or Maddon’s insight is warranted and Joyce platoon with Zobrist or any other guy Maddon feels has the advantage against lefties.

201304032133776149722-p2Maybe all Maddon needs or should do is take the blinders off and let Joyce either make his case to play against both right-handers and lefites, or be banished to platoon duty and be the key component against right-hander in left or right field. Joyce has shown before he can hit left-handers if given the chance, so maybe it is time to rely more on your capable young player than keep doing the lineup merry-go-round based on the side of the rubber a hurler uses.

Matt JoyceWednesday Joyce made a huge statement in not only securing the Rays first win, but also showing he can be the guy to get the Rays the needed offense if his name is called more often. Of course the season is young, and maybe Maddon will release the reins a bit this year and get Joyce some quality plate appearances against lefties, or he will be pigeon-holed for good not only with the Rays, but with any other team that might want to take a chance on him if the Rays ever decide they need a guy who can hit pitchers that hoist the rock from either side of the hill.

If I was Maddon, I think Joyce has proven he can get it done, but imagine what he could do if he played daily. I think a few pitching staffs would shudder at that thought.

Rays Opener Produced a Mixed Bag of Moments

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Baseball defines itself by its unscripted single plays and moments that can easily decide victory or defeat. Where the crack of the bat meeting the ball can electrify a crowd, a defensive play that illustrates brilliance can boost your confidence for success, or a misplaced pitch left flat and lifeless can become a isolating factor in the contest.

201304021221444815482-p2These moments and more showed themselves vividly on Tuesday afternoon as the Tampa Bay Rays opened their 16th Major League baseball campaign against divisional rivals, the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays were riding a 2-game home opener winning streak and with a third win in a row could get Rays Manager Joe Maddon back to the .500 mark in his Rays tenure. Instead, the Rays showed us all the ways they have improved over the Winter, but also gave us a quick dose of reality that some things still need some fine tuning to succeed in 2013.

Rays ace David Price took the hill hoping to begin another trek towards a stellar season, but some crafty hitting and patience by the O’s hitters bore into the small holes of opportunity and had Price on the ropes early in this contest. Sure Oriole’s sluggers Adam Jones and Chris Davis had great starts to the 2013 season against Price, but C Matt Wieters seemed to be the biggest nemesis to Price on this day.

201304021528557035843-p2Not only did Wieters stake Baltimore to a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning, but his 13-pitch at bat in the top of the 3rd inning that ended up as a walk, which included 8 foul balls did load the bases for a potentially bad situation, but a Davis ground ball to Yunel Escobar began a nifty double play that ended the inning without any further incident. Wieters did have a secondary effect on Price that his long plate appearance did elevate Price’s pitch count and hastened his exit from the game after 6 innings.

Jake McGee then came on in the 7th inning and made a few pitch location mistakes. Jones made the first impression with a 2-RBI to deep left center to give the Orioles the lead again at 4-3. Misfortune again reared her ugly head for McGee in the inning after he intentionally walked Wieters and David blasted a 396-foot 3-run Home Run to right and posted the eventual runs needed to secure the O’s first win of the new season. McGee just never seemed comfortable out on the mound yesterday and might have thrown 18 strikes in his 25 pitch outing, but the Baltimore hitters made his exit swift after 2/3rds of an inning.

baltimore-orioles-v-tampa-bay-20130402-125456-149Mistakes happen in ballgames, that is par for the course. A pitch that stays flat or doesn’t break away from the plate is destined to be put into play and bad things can become the immediate result. Both Price and McGee had moments of flatness in this game and it cost both of them dearly with McGee getting the loss plus posting up a ballooned 67.50 early ERA. Both pitchers will find their grooves and make amends this season, but their small mistakes on this day definitely played into the Rays breaking their home opener streaks and taking Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s career home opening day mark to 3-5.

But there were also some moments in this contest that made you not only feel good inside, but built upon the confidence that a few pieces that falters at times in 2012 have been fixed and made great starts to building confidence on the field and in the stands. All around the field yesterday there were defensive plays and great moves on the base paths that showed this team again has that attitude that no game is decided until the 27th out. That kind of mentality will pay huge dividends down the road and even in this initial loss, we saw more than a few reasons to think our defensive debacle in 2012 has been rectified.

201304021523553955827-p2Evan Longoria definitely showed he is psyched for 2013 with 2-straight impressive defensive plays in the top of the 5th inning with the second play coming with a throw on his backside at third against the speedster Jones with his throw bouncing across the turf until James Loney secured it to end the inning. Sam Fuld who replaced Matt Joyce in left also made his presence known as well as Ryan Roberts who replaced Ben Zobrist at 2B when Zorilla went to RF and SS Yunel Escobar showed brilliance on the pivot providing a crucial 6-3 double play in the top of the 3rd to stop the O’s scoring chances.

From the Rays first hit of the season, a solo Home Run by Zobrist to RF, to Desmond Jennings RBI double in the 6th inning then scoring on a Sac Fly by Zorilla. Jennings again provided some needed magic beating out an infield single to the shortstop, then stealing his first base of the season in the bottom of the 7th inning putting him in great scoring position to secure the Rays 4th run of the game on a ground ball to 2B by Fuld in the bottom of the 8th inning. These plays show great glimmers of hope the Rays offensive woes from 2012 might have also vanished over the Winter as the Rays employed both long and short ball concepts during this first contest.

baltimore-orioles-v-tampa-bay-20130402-154433-217All in all it might have been a mixed bag of results for the Rays, but the team showed the type of hustle and strive for victory you need when in the course of a season a single win or loss could decide not only your fate. I know that might seem a bit fatal thinking a single loss can be so detrimental to a team, but in this high contested AL East, especially against a division rival who wants to improve on their 90+ win totals from 2012, a single loss can put you behind the 8-ball early on in the season.

Tuesday the Rays might have come out on the losing end of it all, but there were multiple bright spots to show this team’s improvement and 161 more chances to grab back this loss and get on with the grand scheme of things this season…which is securing another ticket to play deep into October.

Do not forget, this season is the 5th anniversary of the “Miracle of Baseball”, and that 2008 Rays campaign also started off with a opening day home loss to these same Orioles ( 9-6).  And we all know how that season ended up…….Coincidence, I think not.

 

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