Results tagged ‘ American League Wild Card ’

Hope,Fate and Destiny Attend a Rays Game

I don’t think any of us saw these three completely different ladies stroll into Tropicana Field this Sunday. Each of them had different agendas and reasons for being among the 21,008 screaming members of the Rays Republic. By the end of the game though, each knew they were in the right place and firmly gave their commitments to helping this Rays team succeed.

One was there striving to help this young squad that was counted out in early April harness their desire and expectations heading into the Rays final 4 games. She had wanted to give this team a trust and reliance that the fulfillment of their goal was well within their grasp. Her presence has adorned the Trop for a long time this season, but today she made an “ official” appearance.

The second came today to remind this team that the course of human life is never pre-printed or ordained, that spirit as well as courage can sometimes change the sands of time. That she wanted to give a blessing of cause and will to this team as they venture into the final stages of 2011. That she might not be able to give them total control or deed them to success, but she knew the path and was willing to guide them there with no hesitation and no payment in return.

Third lady came today to remind this team that something can be predestined, can be decided way before their time, but that the will of man can change the course, can re-direct the energy and that fortune both good and bad doesn’t always fall on the lucky or cursed. That sometimes the ones who bond together, who all believe the same path of movement can achieve things beyond their dreams, even changing their end result.

What all three saw today was a team before them who had a chemistry about them that was unshakable by feats of other common men. A spirit that rivaled any other other force seen upon this Earth whose ebb and flow moved in unison between both the players and the assembled fans.

They saw an explosion of emotion, a combustion of suppressed energy and a visual display of unified exuberance all around them as the Rays moved towards their 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Each gathered their thoughts, sights and recollections throughout the contest speaking with zeal and emotion taking in everything and forgetting nothing.

After the game ended I approached these 3 ladies who looked emotionally exhausted, but full of fire and energy. I asked if they had been here before and they told me they had attended games in 2008 and 2010, but this was their first journey here as a group this season. I commended them on coming on a day that had so much great game action and excitement throughout the contest.

As they turned to walk away I asked their names. The first one introduced herself as Hope. I went to extend my hand to shake hers and she went on to say, “ And these are my dear friend’s Destiny and Fate”. I stumbled back for a moment at this revelation and hope left me with this final comment, “Don’t worry. We like this team. I have a feeling you will see a lot of us over the next month or so”. Fate just shot me a grin and yelled back to me, “You can count on it!”

I quickly shot back the words: “I truly hope so ladies. The Rays Republic can always use 3 great ladies like you behind these guys!

Pena is Charging the Rays Batteries

 


Mike Carlson / AP

Oh Carlos, how you tend to flirt with our hearts and then break it when you strikeout with men in scoring position, or when the Rays have a chance to cement a victory. How we enjoy seeing that infectious smile and that graceful grin that makes us forgive you for everything that has happened both good and bad this year. But your single in the bottom of the 10th inning last night  push your squad towards the playoff once again in 2009.

And Carlos let me tell you, it was done in classic Pena fashion with a accent mark on the night being that gliding RBI-single that seemed to drift forever before it bounced upon that turf. You wonder how you could have built another layer after hitting two home runs for 3 RBIs before your at bat in the 10th inning. When you took that second pitch from Jason Grilli and drilled it back into centerfield you sent more than our hearts a flutter last night. You also might have silenced the wave of critics that have been building energy and momentum concerning another run by you towards a strikeout crown.

But let’s dwell on the positives today and forget the past shall we. Can we forget that you currently lead the American League in strikeouts with 147 because of the magic of last night.  But a bright side to it all is that you are also tied with Boston’s Jason Bay for the top spot in walks with 78 this season. Also fans are forgetting today about how you have gone 9 for 32 with 5 home runs and 10 RBIs followed by 6 strikeouts. But those numbers might be a bit dwarfed by the last two games where you have been 4 for 7 with 3 homers, 4 runs scored and 5 RBIs.

Also missing from the box score might be the fact that you have now had an RBI on your last 4 hits this series. You have lived up to your leadership role in this series. We are taught from a young age to lead by example, and you have done just that Carlos. That stat really freaks me out to the potential you could have to turn this playoff push into a playoff reality soon if you keep on track and get those timely hits.


Mark Carlson / AP

Now I am not asking for a homer a game, or even a bunch of them. Instead I would love to see a few scattered singles that could produce scoring chances or RBIs in this next road trip. You have done well against the team that drafted you first into the MLB family. Now after three games you will visit another “ex”. When you and the Rays arrive in Detroit, it might be time for you again to show the same fire and the same drive to show the Tigers, just like you did to the Rangers, what it is like to miss Carlos Pena.

Another wild stat from last night, only four other players in the last 15 years have ended a game with an RBI-single after hitting 2 home runs in the contest.  The Cardinals Albert Pujols did it on April 16, 2006, Twin Torri Hunter did it on May 26, 2001, ex-Dodger and Rockie Todd Hollandsworth did it on April 15, 2001 and ex-Brave Brian Jordan did it again on July 15, 1995. Only Hollandsworth and Pujols did it by ending their games on their third home run. Simply amazing that now your name is etched among these players names.

And why don’t we add another kicker to your statistics as you currently have 34 home runs and lead the American League again this season.  But lets add another interesting “Carlos” fact to your player resume’. You are currently on pace to become the third player in major league history to hit as many singles (34) as you have home runs.  Ex-Cardinal Mark McGwire did it 4 times, and Barry bonds did it in 2001. I know the company might look a bit “tainted” right now, but you are in rare air my friend with this feat.

So Carlos, I can’t not love what you are doing right now, but for this team to thrust itself back into contention and make the playoffs they need your clubhouse leadership and your bats to stay upbeat and hot right now. Last night was your third multi-homer game of the season, And more might be needed before it is all said and done on October 3rd, but we know you have it in you Carlos. We do believe! 


Steve Nesius/ AP

The fact you now have 8 homers in the last 14 games shows you can do it in the clutch, and nothing is more clutch than coming through for you team in the playoff push. With you next home run you will also own the top two season spot for home runs in a season, and we all know that just might be a matter of time before that record of 46 you set in 2007 will fall too. So now is the time Carlos, we want to again see you “do that dance” in the dugout. We want to again see that Pena smile go deep into October, and last but not least, we love to see those team meetings at the plate!

  

Get Ready for a Power filled Series

 


Steve Nesius / AP

It is that time of the season where a single loss can be a train derailing event towards a successful run at the postseason. Every single nuance of the game has to be clicking in rhythm from the get-go or the dream could come shattering down on you like a broken pane of glass. With the Tampa Bay Rays about to a begin a 3-game weekend set against the team many around baseball have dubbed the “2009 Rays”,maybe it is time for them to remind people around baseball that they are still in this American League Wild Card race.

So what if the Texas Rangers have been anointed this seasons “Rays”. Funny,but aren’t those pesky Rays still only 3 games behind the Rangers and 4 games behind the Boston Red Sox stalking both team’s every moves,and daily taunting them to lose so the Rays can creep up in the standings. Aren’t these the same Rays that people have put in correlation with the “2007 Colorado Rockies” and have stated time and time again will not repeat into the 2009 Playoff scene. How dare those Rays make ESPN’s Baseball Tonight look like fools. They do such a good job of that all by themselves. 

But there is a problem with that premise….Someone forgot to tell the Rays they are not suppose to be in this thing. But the honest truth is that all of this can change in the blink of an eye this weekend. With all three of the  current contenders for the Wild Card race playing key opponents this weekend,separation in the standings will occur this weekend,by hook or by crook.

The Red Sox host the New York Yankees for three while the Rays tuck a 3-game series against the Rangers into the weekend. This combination of six games could,and should bring about a better overview of the Wild Card hierarchy for the last four weeks of the season. After these two series conclude,someone will be chasing someone else for that last spot into the 2009 playoffs. And behind it, the reality, that another team could begin a free fall that will fade them from the Wild Card. 


Jim Prisching / AP

Not to say that the Yankees have the A L East division all locked up yet,but a major fall from grace would have to occur,and all the stars align just right for the Rays to again take the A L East crown. But right now,all the Rays fears and the attention has to be on a team that really does mirror the 2008 edition of the Rays in so many ways. And with Elvis in the building,you never know what is going to happen.

But the key to this series is going to be all about power. Power hitting and power pitching might be the key elements to post a series win, and a leg-up in the Wild Card race. If the Rays take the series 3-0, it could boost them to within one game of the Rangers, and depending on what happens in Boston, could get them within a few games of the top spot. But it is going to be pure adulterated power that defines this series.

And both teams have the power in their line-ups to take any of these game into routs in a single innings. Both the Rays and the Rangers have done just that this season. Each teams boasts a A L MVP candidate, and a A L Rookie of the Year candidate, and both could be riding high after this series. But as usual in events that place power above all else, it could be the simple fact of control pitching and getting first pitch strikes that dominates this series.

And both teams have competent pitching staff from the starters to the closers that could take either team out of rally situations with a single pitch. But that is the fun of it all. To see if Scott Kazmir tonight can get a blast of the past glory and take down the Rangers early and often and control the plate. Or if it is going to be Dustin Nippert, who is 2-1 with a 4.21 ERA in his 4 starts this season taking control of the Rays and shutting them down.

But there might be a slight advantage to the Rays right now just based on the pitching match-ups for the weekend. The Rangers are going to send three straight right-handers to the plate to combat the left-handed Rays. That could play right into the Rays hands as they have feasted on right-handers in 2009. But this is not so one-sided as it might seem. The Rays will combat this with the hard-throwing Kazmir going tonight, then follow with another power pitcher Matt Garza on Sat. night. The series will conclude with rookie David Price taking the mound Sunday.

But the Rangers also boast a pretty good offense themselves this season.  The Rangers have hit a total of 181 home runs this season easily out-pacing the Rays 155 so far in 2009. And both teams are only .007 clicks away in team average this year. This could be a well-balanced series with defensive mistakes proving to be the big indicator of the series winner. The Rangers are modeled after the Rays successful defensive philosophy,and is currently ranked 8th in the AL in total defense. The Rays sit  about 3 slots below Texas at this time.

But even with the Rays defense having an off year, the Rays have a distinctive advantage on the base paths over the Rangers in this series. So could Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett and B J Upton prove to be turning points in this series? Only if they get on base and have the right situations to steal bases and get into the Rangers pitching staff’s heads. 

The entire series might come down to the basics of baserunning.  If the Rays get the chance to run, it might be a long night for Texas. But if Texas can control the running game and keep the Rays out of scoring chances, it might turn towards the Rangers advantage. Right now I am feeling confident on the Rays chances to get close again in this Wild Card race.


Marc Avery / AP

Rich Herrera, who does the Rays Postgame Show on the radio always says, “The next game is the most important game of the season.” And that is so true. They are all equally as important as wins to get to that spot you want to be in before that last series of the year against the Yankees in Tropicana Field.

Hopefully at that point the Rays will have either made their play, or will still be right in the thick of it up until the end. Either way this series might be a chance for the Rays to make a statement against all those so-called experts who have doubted, and rooted against the team for most of the season. It is time to play the “Rays Way” and then let the cards fall where they may.

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