Results tagged ‘ ALCS 2008 ’

Rays Take Homefield Advantage From Red Sox

 

 

What is that old saying, “It felt like deja vu all over again.” You have to feel that way if you are either a Red Sox or Rays fan right now. Homefield advantage is suppose to be worth at least an opening game victory in a short series. But what happened tonight might have set the whole ball rolling down the hill for the Red Sox in the ALCS against the upstart Rays.

These Rays had the gumption to take the American League East title from the Wrold Champions in 2008. And they also showed alot of energy and national spirit in holding off the Red Sox in the last month of the season to claim that prize. But the straw that might have broken the Red Sox Nation’s back might be hitching your wagon to the young sensations’ shooting star.

Who do these Rays think they are coming into the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park and winning the last 3 games in this landmark.  And how dare these upstarts come in and take that fantasy of a secure 2-1 Red Sox series win away by defeating the unstoppable Jon Lester in his domain. Do we think we might have forgotten that homefield advantage did not work for the Rays, then why could we be sure we might be immune to the same ailment in Boston?

Did the Red Sox forget to tell us we are suppose to be belly-up by now and just treading water before we go down for the last count. This series took a major turn tonight. Not just becuase of a loss by the home team, but that the statistics point to a break for the Rays. In 8 of the last 12 ALCS, if the road team won Game 3, they went on to the World Series that season.  Could the Red Sox have put all their eggs in one basket, and their newly annointed superstar just become human for one night……

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 1

 

 

 

 

Matt Garza

Coming into tonight’s game, Rays starter Matt Garza went back to his season superstition of not talking to the media the day before his start. He did that the entire season before balking from that tradition and talking to the media before his first playoff start against the Chicago White Sox . 

He then went out and had a whale of a time not only with the fowl in the stadium, but with the mound and with the White Sox hitters and had one of the most unusual starts of his career. So he went back with some familiarity and went into media black-out before this start.

 

 

 

 

Garza was coming into this start as the underdog, and was being considered inferior to the Red Sox starter, Jon Lester. The enitre week Garza heard all the hype and the drama surrounding Lester before seeing it all implode in front of him, and the stage was set for Garza to make his national debut as a true fireballer.

 

 

 

 

Garza threw his fastball and curve with such control that it made Dioner Navarro’s job east tonight. He had no pressure on himself since the local pundits decided even before the first pitch that the Rays would bow down to Lester by the 5th inning. Garza did nothing more than shut down the powerful offense and leave the game  after 6 innings of work with 116 pitches, and 5 strikeouts while earning his first Postseason win.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Facts

Coming into this contest, the Rays had won 3 straight in Fenway Park since their last series victory in September. The win tonight took the homefield advantage from the Red Sox and firmly put the emphsis on the Tampa Bay Rays right now.  Coming into this game, when the Rays had at leats 5 runs in a contest, they are a combined 36-0 on the year. In this game, every member of the starting 9 got at least 1 hit in this contest.

Consider that with the fact the Rays also tied the Boston Red Sox for the total homers in a single game in the ALCS series with 4 tonight. The Red Sox set their record last Saturday night at the Trop.

With their 9 homers, B J Uptron and Evan Longoria now have the most homers by teammmates under the age of 25 in ALCS history. They beat the previous record held by Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra of the 1986 New York Mets.  Longoria is also currently tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most homers by a rookie in the AL Playoffs with 4 homers. Cabrera set his record during the Florida Marlins run at the title in 2003.

Since the advent of the best-of-7 series, the Game 3 winner has gone onto the World Series in 8 of 12 past ALCS series.  In ALCS and NLCS, if the road team won Game 3, they have moved onto the Championship in 8 out of 10 series.

 

 

 

 

The BJ and Longo Show

One thing the Rays have been great at this season is timely hitting out of every member of this team. In tonight’s game, the duo of Upton and Longoria went a combined 3-9 at the plate, but accounted for 3 runs scored, and 4 RBI’s. They are both hitting .308 in the ALCS, and playing inspired defense for the Rays.

Longoria got the scoring going tonight by getting a lead-off walk off Red Sox starter Jon Lester. In this contest, Lester let the lead-off man on in 4 of his 6 inning tonight. Longoria moved to second on Willy Aybar’ single to right, then moved to third base on a passed ball by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.  Longoria then came into score on Navarro’s grounder to second to put the Rays up 1-0 in the 2nd inning.

In the 3rd inning, Jason Bartlett got his only hit of the night on a single to center to lead off the inning. Akinora Iwamura then hit a ball off the Green Monster for a double and the Rays had men on second and third with no-outs in the inning. Upton then came up and hit a ball out over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Avenue to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

After Carlos Pena struck out, Longoria then came up and hit his solo shot out into the seat in the Green Monster that a Rays fan luckly caught to put the Rays up 5-0, still in the 3rd inning.

 

 

 

 

Upton then hit a ball off Lester’s glove for a single, and moved to second on Pena’s bunt down the third baseline. Upton then tried to gauge Kevin Youkilis’s  position on the field and over ran second and was tagged out on the quick toss by Youkilis to Alex Cora for the first out of the inning.

 

 

 

 

C.C. Express on Track 1

In the 8th inning, with the Rays up 6-1, the Rays might have made their biggest statement to date on their agrressive stayle on this series. Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a blooper single to center to start the inning.  Crawford moved to third on Aybar’s single to leftfield and set up a first and third situation with no one out in the game.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro hit a grounder to Dustin Pedroia that he quickly gloved and threw to home to get the speeding Crawford at the plate. Crawford braced for a collision with Varitek and brought his elbows up to block and hopefully force the ball from Varitek’s glove.

 

 

 

 

Crawford came in and with total force got Varitek just under the mask and his equipment flew a good 6 feet away from the catcher. Varitek took the force of the collision with his upper body and rolled over and then showed the ball to home plate umpire Brian Onora, who signaled Crawford out at the plate. It was a bold move by Crawford, but showed that the speedy leftfielder was back in shape and ready to take on all comers in the Playoffs.

 

 

        

 

 

J P Howell and Edwin Jackson

The Rays Bullpen then took over the game in the 7th inning for Garza. Becuase of the number of relievers used in Saturday’s game, Garza was under the gun to go at least 7 innings tonight to give the Bullpen some time to refresh and he performed perfectly to plan for the Rays.

J P Howell came on and threw 2 scoreless innings on 20 pitches and gor two more strikeouts to raise his total to 10 in the postseason.  Howell had the first earned run charged to him since August 30th against the Orioles, snapping a string of 20 inning (15 game ) regular and postseason without an earned run.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson, the only pitcher in the Bullpen not used on Saturday night, came on in the 9th inning and  closed out the game for the Rays. In his 1 inning of work, Jackson threw 8 strikes in his 14 pitches in the inning.  He got both Mark Kotsay and Varitek to ground out to Iwamura, who easily threw out both men at first base. He then got Cora to hit a fly to Crawford in left to end the chances for the Red Sox in the game.

 

 

 

 

Socco Rocco

Rocco Baldelli grew up about an hoyr from Fenway Park and dreamed of playing in the stadium in the playoffs. Little did he know back then it would be for the Tampa Bay Rays, and that his 3-run shot would hit the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster and drop back onto the field.  His 3-run blast came right after the play at the plate featuring Crawford and Varitek and Rocco took the 3rd pitch he saw from Red Sox reliever Paul Byrd and popped it into the twilight.

In April, at a news conference in the bowels of Progress Energy Field, Baldelli could not have imagined this day would happen for him this year. At that press conference he announced that he was going on the disabled list to combat his fatigue situation and he began his hard road back to the Rays 25-man roster. 

 Everyone had to admit that Baldelli’s rise from the depths of not even knowing if he might ever play a inning of baseball again, to hitting a 3-run shot over the Green Monster is the thing of movies and fantasies. I can personally say that it could not have happened to a better guy.

He has been a total team mate since his past injuries and excepting his limited role on this team as a specialist against left-handed pitchers in the seond half of the season. I will have to ask him who will play Rocco Baldelli in the movie about his life. They guy who scouts once touted as “Joe DiMaggio’s twin” got to have his childhood fantasy moment after fighting to just get back on the field at all…………..Classic, simply classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Sims to Win the ALCS

 

 

The following is an article posted to ESPN.com  that goes over the chances and probabilities of the Tampa Bay Rays moving onto their FIRST ever World Series.

 

Last week, we ran our Diamond Mind simulation and predicted the Tampa Bay Rays would easily defeat the Chicago White Sox, most likely in three or four games, and the Los Angeles Angels would upend the defending world champion Boston Red Sox … although that prediction came with the stipulation that the odds would swing in favor of Boston if it pulled off a Game 1 victory. In fact, the simulations showed the Red Sox’s odds of winning the series increased from 42.6 percent to 67 percent if they won the opening game — and that Jon Lester would be a factor in whether they did. Sure enough, the Rays did polish off the White Sox in short order, and the Red Sox rode Lester’s stellar pitching to a Game 1 victory and went on to take the series from the Angels.

 

About the simulation

The simulations were done using the Diamond Mind Baseball software, which was developed by renowned baseball statistics expert Tom Tippett. Diamond Mind is widely regarded as the most sophisticated and realistic baseball simulation software.

 
Diamond Mind is owned by Imagine Sports, a Silicon Valley-based Internet company that develops multiplayer online sports games, including Diamond Mind Online, an online baseball management game licensed and promoted by MLB Advanced Media. 

 

So what does our Diamond Mind simulation project for the American League Championship Series? Before revealing our projected results for the ALCS, here is a brief recap of our methodology:

 

    • We updated our projections and ratings for each player based on his 2008 regular-season performance.

      • Although playoff rosters were not yet finalized, we used our best judgment about whom would be selected, the starting rotations, the batting orders and the bullpen and bench roles.

      • We made judgments about players carrying injuries into the postseason. Beyond deciding, for purposes of setting roles, whether or not a player would play, we did not attempt to simulate how such an injury might hamper the player, except to the extent already reflected in his regular-season performance.

      • We then simulated the series 2,000 times.

     

    As unpredictable as the outcome of the regular season can be, luck can play an even greater role in a short series. Nevertheless, the results of our Diamond Mind software showed Tampa Bay winning 1,107 of the 2,000 simulations, a 55.4 percent probability that the Ray will be the new AL champions. This series looks to be higher scoring than we’ve projected for the National League Championship Series — the Rays averaged 4.7 runs per game in our simulations, while the Red Sox averaged 4.3 runs per game. The table below shows the number of times out of the 2,000 simulations that each team could win the series.

    ..TR> ..TR>

     

    Interestingly, the most likely scenario is that the series will go six games, not seven, regardless of which team wins.

     

    The difference? The Rays look like they’ll have a slight edge on the mound. While Boston’s bullpen generally outperformed Tampa’s in our simulations, the Rays’ young starters did much better than the Red Sox’s rotation. Tampa projected to get overall strong performances from Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Matt Garza. With the exception of Lester, however, the Red Sox starters struggled: Josh Beckett, recently hampered by injury, posted an ERA of 4.50 for the simulation runs, and it got worse from there. Daisuke Matsuzaka had an ERA of 5.06, and he’s the starting pitcher for the critical first game.

     

    As for the hitters, Boston actually out-hit Tampa, posting a slightly better batting average and hitting significantly more home runs. Tampa’s edge, however, came from getting more baserunners — the Rays walked more, and on-base percentage is a big key to scoring runs. Tampa’s lineup also projected to share the load more evenly. Upton and Longoria led the Rays in getting on base (each averaged a .346 OBP in the simulations) and scored the most runs, while Cliff Floyd provided the most power (.500 slugging average) and led the team in RBIs along with Carlos Pena, who provided a high number of clutch hits.

     

    Boston was paced by Dustin Pedroia and Youkilis, who posted the best overall numbers of either team. Pedroia, who had been slumping before a big hit in Game 4 of the ALDS, led both teams in hits while posting an OPS of .846, showing he’s ready to break out of the slump. Youkilis, who also had a rough ALDS, led Boston in RBIs and runs scored and posted an OPS of .860, best of either team. Drew also chipped in with an OPS of .789 and some clutch home runs in some of the simulations. Other than some decent but unspectacular numbers from Bay, however, the rest of the Boston lineup did not contribute much, although Ortiz projected to contribute a bit more than he did in the ALDS.

    Looking for a surprise star … another David Eckstein, perhaps? The simulations say you might want to keep an eye on the catchers. Boston’s Jason Varitek, who mustered only three singles over the course of the ALDS, hit a surprising number of big home runs in the simulations, and Dioner Navarro stayed hot and led the Tampa starters in batting average and had a fair number of clutch hits in the 2,000 simulation runs, usually doubles. And if you really want a rabbit pulled out of the hat, the simulations showed surprising contributions from Alex Cora for Boston and Gabe Gross for Tampa, both coming off the bench.

     

    However, before you go putting your money on the Rays, there’s one huge caveat …

     

    As we noted in our division series previews, the odds can swing dramatically in favor of the winner of Game 1 of a short series. In fact, the winner of the first game went on to win every series in the 2007 playoffs, and the same is true so far in 2008. If the Red Sox win Game 1, watch out — the odds swing heavily in their favor, as was true of their series with the Angels. When the Red Sox won Game 1 in the simulations, they went on to win the series 1,220 times, or 61 percent. And this points to a key leverage point — if the Boston starting pitchers, particularly Matsuzaka and Beckett, perform better than the simulations projected, Boston is likely to take Game 1 and the series. That’s more likely to happen if the Red Sox can keep the Tampa hitters off the base paths. So key indicators of this series will be Tampa’s team on-base percentage and the control of the Boston pitchers.

    Another key leverage point you might want to watch are the home runs; our simulations show Boston might need to out-homer the Rays to win. That said, we still see the upstart Rays continuing their Cinderella season and advancing to their first World Series … but they’d better win that first game.

     

     

     

     

    TAM in 4 TAM in 5 TAM in 6 TAM in 7 BOS in 4 BOS in 5 BOS in 6 BOS in 7 Overall
    145 263 371 328 282 291 226 94 1,107-893 TAM

    What They are Saying About the ALCS

     

     

    I have a habit of traveling through the Internet seeking the truth and wisdom of the old school journalists and what they think of our upstart ballclub.  I hit the web based sports sections of the major newspaper of the city and also some of the lesser known blogs and fan-based websites looking for some good and bad press about the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 success. Here are a few thing I found on Saturday about our beloved ballclub:

    Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe

    On Friday and Saturday:

     “Now they call it Tropicana Field and it is truly hideous. Catwalks above. FieldTurf below. All-dirt base paths. Foul poles hanging from the ceiling like sleeping vampire bats. It’s baseball’s Big Top.”

     “Somebody’s got to stand up to the Red Sox and right now it doesn’t feel like the Rays can do it. They had everything going for them last night and they came up short time and again.”

    On Sunday:

      Watching the Red Sox strand 13 runners and waste four homers, Boston fans were left asking one vital question: What’s up with Josh Beckett? He was Bob Gibson in October 2007. Now he is John Wasdin in October 2008.

     

    Sean McAdam, Boston Herald

    On Saturday: 

    “In blanking the Rays, 2-0, the Red Sox did more than take a lead in the ALCS; they effectively won back home-field advantage. Thanks to their shutout victory, the Sox could conceivably win the pennant without worrying about another win at Tropicana Field.”

    On Sunday:

      The Red Sox already knew they would have to defend their World Series crown without Mike Lowell. Come to find out, they’re going to have to do it without Josh Beckett, too. Or at least the Josh Beckett to which they’ve become accustomed. Because this Josh Beckett is not that Josh Beckett. Not even close.

     

     

    Jack Curry, The New York Times

    On Saturday:

    “With the suddenly captivated fans of the Rays ringing cowbells and trying to implore their worst-to-first team, [Daisuke] Matsuzaka’s precise pitching acted as the ultimate silencer.”

    On Sunday:

    The Red Sox pushed, but the Rays shoved back. The Red Sox slapped the Rays, but they smacked back. It was a game the Red Sox wanted to win but one the Rays desperately needed to win. The game dragged and dragged, past midnight, past bedtimes and past last call. This was playoff baseball, at its longest.

     

    You got to love October baseball. This might be our first entrance into the fraternity guys, but we will have a seat at this table for a few more years. So you better set a place for us and  climb on and enjoy the ride.

     

    Rays Put Extra Effort into Win

     

     

     

    The worst part of that victory tonight is that a host of the well-wishers who wanted to toast to the Rays victory had to drive over to Hillsborough county to do it. Becuase the game ended after 1:30 a.m. local taverns and lounges had already put the tills to bed and were doing the final prep work to leave and re-open in the morning for the football crowds. I heard people upset that they should suspend the county ordinance stopping the flow of beer and alcohol as a show of support for the Rays.

    Really, the show of support for the team is based on a bubbly beverage with a frothy head? I thought the team was about confidience and energy and emotional willpower, not of it was cold-aged, or comes in a green bottle. I know the game went too long for most people to enjoy a post game beverage, but sometimes that happens in the world of sports. But the straw that stirs the drink is the amount of people who stayed in their seats until that last out.

    But for you people who stayed until B J Upton hit that 160 foot fly ball to right…Thank You. To the people who worried more about the team going 0-2 than when “last call” was that night………..Thank You too. But the people I really want to thank are the multitudes of Red Sox fans who came down here and had class during the game and actually cheered both teams after the effort.

    They did not only cheer as the Red Sox left the field, but gave the Rays their due in the marathon match.I am not afraid to clap or cheer for maximum effort by a team. Sweat, blood and the energy expelled last night hit an all time high in both dugouts.  Rays’ fans showed their exuberance and passion by clapping and banging their cowbells all night long. But it was the Boston fans applauding the Rays effort that showed the true class of the night.  Baseball has been blessed with great fans for a long time, but when another team shows their repsect for the efforts of their opponents…………………..priceless, truly priceless.

     

    Rays 9, Red Sox 8

     

    Records Everywhere

    Everywhere you looked last night a record was about to fall, be tied, or broken like a pane of glass. 435 pitches is amazing enough, but the 19 strikeouts and 13 walks played a major role the win and loss last night. For 5 hours and 27 minutes both team fought, clawed and scraped to put together enough to win this match.

    Both teams hit enough long balls to tie a longstanding home runs per game record that should stand for a long time. 17 runs is amazing in the game between these 2 teams, considering this waqs suppose to be a pitchers’ duel. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett lost the lead 3 times in the contest  for the first time in his great career.

    4 Boston players had 3 hits in the game, but no other Boston hitter had a single hit. It is the first time in postseason history that a team had more than 1 player with at least 3 hits in a game, and those 4 players accounted for ALL of the Red Sox’s hits.

    Dustin Peroia tied  ex-Red Sox Todd Walker’s 2 homer night in last night game. Walker hit his dual homers in the 2003 ALCS serie against the Oakland A’s. It was only the 3rd time in the ALCS history that at leats two homers were hit in a game. Adam Kennedy of the Angels hold the all-time mark with 3 homers during the 2002 series against the Minnesota Twins.

     

     

    Scott Kazmir

    One of the big questions on Rays fans this season is, “Which Scott Kazmir will show up tp pitch tonight?” On a night when both starters’ were suppose to be the duel of the night, it’s became the bats from both teams that took the spotlight and shine bright into the night for both teams. Kazmir went to the mound with his 21st career start against the Red Sox.  He is 6-7 lifetime against them with a 3.62 ERA.

    In 2 starts against Boston this year, Kazmir is 0-2, with a 9.00 ERA. In his last home start against the Red Sox, he endured his worst home start by giving up 9 earned runs and 4 home runs , and allowed only his 2nd homer of the year to a leftie when David Ortiz homered to right in the game.

     

                  

    Kazmir got into early trouble in the game walking David Ortiz, then giving up a single to Kevin Youkilis to put 2 on base with 2-outs. Jason Bay hit a ball off the leftfield wall to score both runners and put the Red Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  In this 1st inning, Kazmir threw 38 pitches.

    In the 3rd inning, Kazmir gave up a lead-off homer to Dustin Pedroia to put Boston up 3-2. Coming into the at bat, Pedroia was 15-27 against Kazmir this year.   Kazmir got through the inning and did not have another bad inning until the 5th inning.

     

     

    This inning would be the longest of the night, and featured Kazmir giving up 2 homers in 3 at bats. Both Pedroia and Youkilis hit the 2nd pitches they saw from Kazmir for solo homers and  Youkilis’s shot tied the game at 5-all in the inning. After that, Kazmir left the game after throwing 98 pitches over 4.1 innings.  On the night, Kazmir also got  only 2 strikeouts and issued 3 walks in the contest.

     

                  

     

    B J Upton

    For a guy who has been playing hurt since a shoulder injury in May of this year against Baltimore, you could not tell that B J Upton’s power has been diminshed at all at the plate. With the game on the line, and the Rays almost exhausting all their relievers out of the Bullpen , Upton hit a 160 foot fly down the rightfield line that was the mightiesy hit of the night. His sacrifice fly to J D Drew was far enough away from home plate to score speedster  Fernando Perez from third base and end the marathon game for the Rays.

    But that was not the only contribution from Upton tonight. He went 1-4 in the game, but his one hit was a solo homer in the 3rd inning off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett to tie the game at 3-all. He also got on base in the  twice on a walk in the 5th inning and stole second base. He then came home on a single to right by Carlos Pena to bring the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.

     

     

    Evan Longoria

    Tampa Bay’s rookie third baseman went a combined 3-5 last night with 3-runs and 3 RBI’s on the night. But it was his 2-run homer on a change-up up in the strikezone that tied the game for the Rays in the 1st inning. Longoria hit a drive deep into rightfield and scored Pena on the play to tie the game 2-all. Longoria was not done as he came up in the 3rd inning and hit a ball to the base of the leftfield wall for a double.

     

     

                  

     

    He ended up scoring on Carl Crawford’s  rightfield gap shot from second base to put the Rays up 4-3. Then in the 5th inning Longoria again hit a liner down the leftfield line and scored Pena. Longoria was again driven in by a Crawford single to put the Rays up 8-6 in the game.  With his homer and 2 doubles, Longoria became only the 3rd rookie to ever have 3 extra base hits in a playoff game

     

               

     

    The 3 C’s Have a Big Night

    The three members of the Tampa Bay Rays with “C”s in their names went a combined 5-12 on the night , with 4 RBI’s and scored 3 runs for the Rays.  Cliff Floyd made a statement early in the  4th inning by hitting a blast 400 feet over the  dead centerfield fence to put the Rays up 5-3. Floyd’s blast had Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crsips climbing the wall trying to get the ball before it went over the green wall.

     

     

    Carlos Pena went 2-5 on the night, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the game. Pena hit a double into deep left center to start the Rays’ rally in the 1st inning. He then scored on Longoria’s homer to left. Pena then moved Upton over with a single to right in the 5th inning, and both players scored on Longoria’s double to left.  Pena then hit a hard liner to Mark Kotsay at first that was destined for the rightfield corner in the7th inning.

     

     

    Carl Crawford got into the game in the 3rd inning with an RBI single to the gap in rightfield to score Longoria and put the Rays up 4-3 at the time. Crawford then was picked off even before the next pitch when he was glancing away from  the pitcher Beckett, and was tagged easily for the 3rd out in the inning. It was an unusual play for Crawford to not even be looking at the pitcher when he stepped off the base.

    Crawford then faced Javier Lopez in the 5th inning in the middle of the Rays huge rally. Lopez was brought in just to face Crawford, and Crawford got a RBI single to score Longoria and send Lopez to the dugout.  In the 10th inning, Crawford hit a drive back into the middle that struck Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon right below his right arm, near his side that deflected straight to Pedroia who completed the play for an out at first base.

     

     

     

    Dan Wheeler

    The Rays had great success from their Bullpen in the regular season and during the ALDS. But during this ALCS with Boston, the Rays Bullpen has run into some trouble and was again put to the test tonight. Grant Balfour came in and replaced Kazmir in the 5th inning and promptly gave up a solo shot to Jason Bay. Balfour then gave up 2 quick walks before being replaced by J P Howell with 2 men on base.

    Howell got the last 2 batters’ of the inning to close out the Red Sox threat.  In the 6th inning, Howell got Jacoby Elssbury to fly out to Pena before issuing a walk to Pedroia. He the struck out Ortiz before leaving the game. For their time tonight Balfour went 0.0 innings and gave up a run on 1-hit and also gave up a walk. Howell was credited with 1-run on 1-hit and got 2 strikeouts.

    Chad Bradford then came on to relieve Howell and gave up two straight hits to Youkilis and Bay before getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to center to end the inning. Bradford threw for 1.1 innings and gave up 1-run on 4-hits before Trever Miller came on to face Pedroia in the 8th inning. Miller gave up a single to Perdroia and was replaced by Dan Wheeler.

    Wheeler ended up throwing 38 pitches last night in his 3.1 innings of work. It was one of the longest relief appearances of his career. Wheeler quickly got Youkilis to ground into a double play, but Pedroia moved over to third on the play. With 2-outs in the inning, the Rays looked like they might get out of the inning without a hitch.

     

     

    Bay came up to bat and Wheeler threw 3 straight pitches outside for balls, before sailing a pitch over Dioner Navarro’s head to the backstop. Navarro sprinted to the backstop and tossed a errant ball towards Wheeler covering home. The ball did not get within Wheeler’s glove in time and skipped away from him, letting Pedroia score and tie the game at 8-all in the 8th inning.

    It was only the 2nd Wild Pitch given up by Wheeler all year long. Wheeler then got the next 3 Red Sox batters in order before Coco Crisp put a ball in the air in centerfield that shifted on Upton in the air and he watched as it skipped over the centerfield wall for a Ground Rule Double.

    Wheeler then got Ellsbury to strikeout to end the 9th inning. He then came out again in the 10th inning and got 3 quick outs on 10 pitches to set the Red Sox down in order. Wheeler then came out in the 11th inning and got a quick strikeout of Bay before issuing a walk to Lowrie and giving the Red Sox a baserunner.

    Rays rookie David Price then came on to pitch and quickly issued a walk to Drew before getting Kotsay on a strikeout and making Crisp hit into a 5-4 ground out to finish the inning. By being the pitcher of  record in the 11th inning, Price earned his first postseason victory in the game.  It was his first major league victory, and marked only the 3rd time a play earned either a win or loss for his first in the postseason.

     

    11th inning

    The 11th inning started with Navarro walking on 3 straight balls after getting a 1-2 count in the at bat. Boston’s Pitching Coach John Farrell was ejected right after the at bat when he was arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Speedster Fernando Prez then came on to run for Navarro and gave the Rays a dose of speed on the basepaths. 

    Ben Zobrist then walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays another baserunner with no outs in the inning.  Perez was stealing 3rd when Jason Bartlett hit a hard grounder to Youkilis who could not get Perez in time and had to go to first base for the 1st out in the inning.  Akinora Iwamura was then Intentionally Walked to load the bases for the Rays. 

    Then Upton came up and quickly got an 0-2 count on him before hitting his 160 foot fly into  shallow right to Drew.  He quickly threw the ball into the infield, but the throw was off line and was about 5 feet up the line towards third as Perez slapped his hand on the plate for the winning run.  

     

     

    Please Come to Boston

    The Rays will board a charter to bean-town on Sunday morning  because of a late work-out schedule in Boston on Sunday. They will have a 6:30 p.m. work out before retiring for the good nights sleep in Boston before Monday’s 4 p.m. start.   

    Here are a few facts heading into the 3-games in Boston:

    This is only the 19th time in 39 American League Championships that the series was tied 1-1 at this point.

    37 players who were used in last night’s game, tied the American League record for the most ever used in a playoff game of any length.

     

    What They are Saying About the ALCS

     

    One of the greatest things about being successful is that you can create a buzz about your team from sea to shining sea in the United States. After we disposed of the Chicago White Sox in 4 games, the Tampa Bay Rays have set their sights on an old nemesis, the Boston Red Sox.

     

    In years past this was not a rivalry, much less a lamb to the slaughter type of series. But with the Rays having claim to the American League East as the only team NOT from the Northeast to hold it since 1997, it will be sweet and delightful on the palate.

     

    I am not saying this will be a one-sided, you lay down now type pf series. Both teams have alot of pride and their character will be tested early on in this matchup. Boston has to bring its Chowderheads into the sunshine and deposit their faithful in the new horror of the American League. There have been hundreds of comments on the cowbells and either you love them, or you hate them.

     

    I am a card carrying, latin percussion cowbell guy, and I got the broken cowbells and bell-beatened cowbells to prove it. I am one of the first of the Maddon’s Maniacs group and I stand tall in the use of this musicial phenomenon to pulsate and deafen the Boston cheers. You can say you still hear them from time to time in the Trop. Well, we might let them have a little to make them think they can do more, then shut the door on them with the clanging and the slapping of our little noisemakers of choice.

     

    We do not have the 7th inning staple of singing Neil Diamond yet, but I would not sing Neil Diamond for World Series tickets …………sorry.  We have had a few rap and local bands produce theme songs this year, and you know we will have a musical mentor by the end of the series. It will not be Journey and their classic “Don’t Stop Believing”, it is already been done and is a bit cheesy at best to me.

     

    But then  again, we will not go totally retro or even modern by pronouncing a rap or hard rock act as our mentors in this series. Just becuase we adopted the cowbell from a Blue Oyster Cult track does not mean we will play “Don’t Fear the Reaper” 2 million times over the next few games. We will also not be a Loverboy mark and over play “Working for the Weekend” until your ears bleed.

     

    We are a team that is still searching for it’s musical voice. But you can be sure that if we hit the big stage at the World Series, we will have a song and a prayer in our corner to hop aboard the big train and ride baby ride.

     

    I have ebbn curious about what the local and national media hounds think about the series starting tonight at Tropicana Field. I have gathered a few snippets and really odd predictions from the media masses from coast to coast. Enjoy as you see local and Boston journalists’ pick the locals and the visitors’ as victors in this war  for the right to represent the American League in the World Series:

     

  • Boston Globe: Dan Shaughnessy, Nick Cafardo, and Amalie Benjamin pick the Sox in seven, while Adam Kilgore and Tony Massarotti like the Rays in six.

  • St. Petersburg Times staff: Marc Topkin and Gary Shelton pick the Rays in six. Joe Smith and Dave Scheiber go with Rays in seven. Brent James and John Romano both like the Sox in a series to go the distance.

  • Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post: Red Sox in seven. “There’s been no stopping the Rays, but Boston takes it up a notch in October.”

  • ESPN.com staff: Jason Stark and Jerry Crasnick pick the Sox in six, while Steve Phillips goes with Boston in seven. Rob Neyer and Buster Olney both pick the Rays in six.

  • Tim Kurkijan, ESPN: Red Sox in seven “The Rays averaged only 3.7 runs per game in the 18 games against the Red Sox this year. Boston did a really good job on B.J. Upton, who went 5-for-39 (.128). Lester was dominant against the Rays, as were Boston’s two primary left-handed relievers, Hideki Okajima and Javier Lopez, who did not allow a run in 15 1/3 innings. The two pitchers the Rays did hit hard were reliever Justin Masterson and starter Tim Wakefield, who combined for four losses and 19 runs allowed in 29 2/3 innings.”
  • CNNSI.com staff: Jon Heyman and Ben Reiter pick the Red Sox, while Tom Verducci, John Donovan, Ted Keith, Albert Chen, Lee Jenkins, and Gennaro Filice all toss their support Tampa Bay’s way.

  • Ken Rosenthal, FOXsports.com: Rays in six.” The Rays are more athletic, and their offense is at full strength now that Carl Crawford is back from his finger injury. The Sox’s vast edge in experience cannot be dismissed, but the Rays are a more complete team. By the end of this series, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton could be major stars. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but everything adds up.”

  • Danny Knobler, CBS Sports: Red Sox. “They won’t back down against Boston, either, and they won’t be intimidated by Fenway Park. They’ll run on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek when they can, and they’ll keep coming at the Red Sox all the way through. Still, the prediction here is that they’ll fall just short. The young Rays are good enough to win, but the Red Sox are just a little bit more prepared to come out on top when it really counts.”

  • Dan Connolly, Baltimore Sun: Rays in six.

  • Jose Mota, Yahoo! sports: Rays.” The Rays seem like the Team of Destiny, circa 2008, and with the young and talented weapons they possess, the baseball culture is already changed in Florida.”

  • Yahoo! sports staff: Steve Henson and Gordon Edes pick the Red Sox in seven, while Tim Brown likes Boston in six. Jeff Passan goes with the Rays in six.

  • Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News: Red Sox in seven. “Tampa Bay has played excellent baseball since the start of the season and stared down the Red Sox and Yankees to win the AL East. They have home-field advantage and won the season series 10-8. But it’s impossible to argue against the Red Sox’ postseason experience. The bullpen is in better shape. And there is no telling what kind of madness the Rays are going to experience at Fenway Park in October.”

  • Ron Shandler, BaseballHQ.com in USA Today: Red Sox in seven. “The Red Sox need a healthy Beckett, or Lester to pitch every game, to guarantee their third trip to the World Series in five years. Failing that, this is going to be a very close, possibly high scoring series, and may simply come down to experience.”

  • Ryan Fagan, The Sporting News: Red Sox in seven. “Francona’s postseason resume with the Red Sox is impressive (two World Series titles), as is his ability to keep his team on an even keel when trouble arises. He kept his team focused when down three games to none to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and again last year when the Sox trailed the Indians 3-1 in the ALCS. Even against the Angels, when Lowell was hurting and Beckett and Matsuzaka delivered subpar efforts, the Red Sox still lost only one game.”

  • My pick: Rays in seven. 

                                                                               

  • Say what you want about the rotation being set up the way it is, but ultimately, it’s a game that is won and loss most night in the first 6 innings of the game.  I think that the Rays, if they get ahead early and establish a consistant pitching performance from their big 4, it will be lights out for the Sox. The Sox do not want any part of our Bullpen streaming the game along after 7 with setting down the batters one by one until the Rays celebrate the win.

     
  • We Still Get No Respect

     

    Somewtimes it is just hard to get respect when you had a losing team for so long. I know the Buc and Lightning fans understand this bad aura that hangs over your team like a huge albatross. But with the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays to the top of the American League East Championship, and on the doorstep of leaning in for the big prize, how could this happen to our local paper.

    I opened the local fishwrap, the St. Petersburg Times the other day and found a reamrkable sight. It was not a huge picture of the Rays celebrating a win, or a local politician with a mohawk. It was a simple crossword puzzle enjoyed by millions each day that is supplied to the paper by a publishing syndicate. Well, upon gazing at this great puzzle of black and white, I noticed one line that read “Home of the Rays” on  16 Across.

    And what do you think I thought when the word “St Pete” would not fin into that space. I pondered and wondered what other city could be used in that spot. “Trop. City” was too big. “Title town” had the righr feel, but was also too bog. So I filled in lines 9 down and found that the town had to have a “T” in it.

    Can you believe that the copy clerks at the St. Petersburg Times, or even at the original publication let this error fly all the way into our little nest. Imagine the embarrassment and the humiliation that the Mayor of St. Petersburg must be feeling. You see “St. Petersburg, Home of the Tampa Bay Rays” on a rolling banner behind home plate every game, yet this error is in out hometown newspaper.

    Rodney Dangerfield has made a career and a living out of trying to get respect. I find it a bit funny that now the city that started the commercial airlines business and the air postal idea is being bookended with the town to our East again. Even though the town that is now St. Petersburg was once a part of Hillsbough county in the past, it was actually called Hillsbough Point until John Williams established the city of St. Petersburg among the orange groves and sandy beaches.

    Maybe we have to win it all to get that respect and have people remember who we are in St. Petersburg. I know I was born here and always have showed alot of pride to be from Florida and St. Petersburg. I never said I was from Tampa Bay because that is a regional name and not a city name in the region. Guess we just have to hoist a World Series parade on ESPN with a huge marching band from St. Petersburg High School with the huge word blazoned on their lead banner “St. Petersburg, Florida” on it. But then again, the announcers will just say it is a city in Tampa Bay.

     

     

    I have had a few people ask me for a prediction on the ALCS this year. I know that the Boston faithful who have read this have commented and been a bit one-sided, but then again I understand civic pride. So for me to comment would be kind of anti-climatic. You know who I am rooting for, and what I hope will be the end result.

    To put a finite number on a game______ ending would just ruin the focal point of the whole thing. We might have been Playoff virgins in the beginning, but we are 4-1, just like you in the playoffs so far this year. We might not be the reigning “World Champions”, but that is okay. They always say that time brings about change. To put it lightly, did you really expect me to post that the Red Sox were a better team. I only see a few spots where they might have an edge outside of Fenway Park.

    But to be totally honest with you, does it matter what the homefield would be right now. Based on the 2008 statistics, we went 8-1 against you at home, and might have only went 2-7 at Fenway, but who won the last @ game there this year? Base the ideal on who has the better Bullpen and it is very one-sided. You might have a dominant closer, but we have a reliever triade that has stopped powerful team in their tracks all year long.

    Tell me your Red Sox guys will pop back at Grant Balfour when he gets into his four-letter word fiasco on the mound. I could see a 98 m.p.h. earmuff if that happen too much in this series. Remember, this team is not scared of the Red abd White anymore. They have their own dish of confidience and they are not afraid of anything or anyone at this moment.

    I am expecting a huge amount of ticket scalping to go on for this game and the Boston faithful will be the ones helping the local economy this weekend. I know of a few people who are selling their $ 55.00 tickets in the Baseline Box area for over $200 dollars. The one thing Rays fans loved about ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush is he gave the little guy the voice to sell tickets above their face value again. Now, the Rays vs Red Sox matchup might not get the prices the Superbowl will get in a few months, but wait until the World Series, you might see a new high in Rays demand.

    So, Boston fan, if you can’t get a seat in the Upper Deck for the ALCS, come on down to Ferg’s and enjoy the game with the locals. Or you can just retrats to your hotel’s cozy little fern bar and hope they will let you watch the game. Whereever you are at 8:37 p.m. tonight, you will hear a loud scream for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox have been a great team for the last 6 years, maybe it is time for the new world order to take over for a while………….It’s okay Boston, it will only hurt a little while……………Rays in 6 games 

    Boston Fans Hate the Cowbells……….Really Now?

     

    My wish for the ALCS at the Trop – “A little less cowbell!”

    The following is a reprint of a blog on www.SoxandPinstripes.com from October 8th, 2008. It was a submission by Jeff Louderback to the site.

    I will giv e a bit of commentary here before the piece and let you know that some of the comment by him are just a Boston fans looking for negative in a hostile enviorment, but I understand that since I ahve been to Fenway Park wearing a Rays jersey in the last 2 years. The atmosphere has changed in Boston too, so do not throw stones at our glass house when yours also has some pretty picture window in front.

     

    Gone from this October’s post-season excitement are the Thundersticks and the Rally Monkey. Taking their place in the ALCS are cowbells. Yes, cowbells, which clang amid the worst venue in Major League Baseball – Tropicana Field. It’s bad enough that the first two games and, if necessary, the last two games of the series will be played in a roach-infested, odd-shaped dome where balls bounce off catwalks in fair territory and the game is played on artificial turf. Now, the cowbells will be louder than ever as the Rays step onto the national stage Friday night.

     

    (Roach infested, have you not been to a game at either Yankees Stadium or Shea in the last year. Since they are tearing the structures down, the stadium crews have done the minimum to keep these structure working before the wrecking ball takes it first on deck swings.)

     

    Legend has it that the Rays introduced cowbells to Tropicana Field to drown out the boisterous chants of “Let’s go Red Sox!” during Red Sox-Rays series. One of my favorite modern-day Saturday Night Live skits involves Will Ferrell and a parody of Blue Oyster Cult in the studio recording “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” For those of you who appreciate classic rock, the clattering of the cowbell plays a significant role in the actual song. In the SNL skit, Christopher Walken’s character, a music producer implores, “A little more cowbell” and Ferrell’s character obliges.

     

    (one of the reason for the addition of your worst nightmare aka cowbells was for the drowning out of the opposition. It was not only a process for the Boston faithful, but for Chicago, New York, and the Florida Marlin. You can be egotistical enough to think it was all for the Wrold Champs, but it did serve it purpose. You have been a bit quieter this year, or did the scoreboard bring on some hoarse moments.)

     

    Believe me, if Walken was watching a baseball game at the Trop, those words would not leave his mouth. Cowbells, Thundersticks, Rally Monkeys and white towels may be appropriate at an NBA arena or an NFL stadium, but can’t we experience a baseball game without cheesy gimmicks to induce noise. Can’t fans work themselves into a frenzy on their own?

     

    (I agree with you about the white towels, but considering that Major League Baseball and TBS handed out over 60,000 at the Trop last week, and even during today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, all fans will be presented with a towel upon entering the building. Some call these towels collectibles, others call them just annoying tools of the fan trade.)

     

    Fenway Park has traditions that some consider corny, such as the singing of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. That, I admit, is a little embarrassing, though I love hearing “Dirty Water” after a Red Sox victory. However, Red Sox fans don’t need noise pollution and novelty items like cowbells to become immersed in the game. Can you imagine a cowbell or a Thunderstick at Fenway Park? Just walking into the hallowed baseball sanctuary is inspiration enough to make some noise when the game begins.

     

    ( I guess when we have been around as long as the Boston faithful fans, we can resort to other means of making noise. But since we are still in our first 25 years, we are growing the young following by small baby steps. I think the fans in Tampa Bay are really educated on the game, but some have not seen how to watch and be active participants yet in the great game. You do not have to paint your body blue, or wear Marge Simpson’s faux wig to get attention if you are a true fan….but then again, those are also the people they first interview after a tornado in the Midwest.)

     

    Maybe, just maybe, if Tampa Bay maintains its winning ways for a few more seasons, the cowbell will disappear and the noise level from Rays fans alone will drown out Red Sox fans and Yankees fans who crowd the dome. For now, since many Tampa Bay residents don’t even know there is a Major League Baseball team that calls St. Petersburg home, we will have to tolerate the clattering of cowbells from the 5,000 Rays fans who actually bother to show up. At least that number has increased in recent months. There was a time earlier this season when Tampa Bay was lucky to get 1,000 people at the Trop rooting for the Rays when the Red Sox and Yankees were in town.

     

    (For you information, we have had more sellouts this season than at any other point in our franchsie history, and that is only in it’s 11th year. When we have been around as long as you, we will have inherited seats and lotteries to get unspoken for season ticketholder seats. But, right now this team is also in an area of the country where there are a million things to so in the sun for fun some days and nights. For that reason, the fan base is not great yet, but winning does breed the possible addition of 5,000 or more for even the Seattle series every night next year.)

     

    My suggestion to Rays supporters who attend the ALCS this weekend – yell yourself hoarse if you must, that is part of the baseball experience, but a little less cowbell, PLEASE!

     

    (By the way, please take this as a compliment that I am writing about your blog. It should not be viewed as a Rays fan dogging you, but I respect you position and offer my counterpoint to it. No matter what happens in this series, remember this. Of these 2 teams, the best will rise to the top and face the National League. And after the battles that will take place on the field in the coming days, remember that these guys area laying it all out on that field for the fans and for pride. Hopefully both teams fans will show the same class in the stands during this ALCS both here and at Fenway.     Let’s enjoy the sights and sounds and relish that a new rivalry is established this year in the A L East.

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