Results tagged ‘ Chad Bradford ’

Phillies Pounce on Rays’ Mistakes

 

 

Phillies 5, Rays 4

 

 

I remember a couple of years ago I went up to Cleveland for a series against the Indians and the weather turned ugly during the night. A rain system decided to drop over the Great Lakes and dump a bit of rain on the city during the night and at 1 pm that Sat. afternoon it was still coming down pretty good.

I came to the stadium decked out in my Rays outerwear that I got from Jesus Colome when he was still with the club and was running through the stands like a chicken with my head cut off. I always loved playing in the rain in college, and I was one of the crazies who braved the rain during that Tampa Bay Rowdies/ Ft Lauderdale Strikers game back in the early 80′s that left Tampa Stadium a waterfall.

 

 

So you know I was anxous when I saw the same type of system come up from the south and blanket the Philly area for most of the day. I was some tight rain that came down in buckets for a long time, but it was followed by the chilly wind that kid of went straight down to your bones. I am too old now to run like a chicken, but I did look like a turkey gobbling to the Bullpen guys as they came out to get some throwing in before the game.

 

 

Rain is the great equalizer. It can take a fast team and make them slow, or it can make a homer-happy team become the best small ball hitters in the league. I was watching the crew throw down a ton of wet-dry all over the onfield and on the warning tracks beofre the game. I was curious if the added granules would make the ball do funny things when it bounced on an infielder.

 

 

 I know it was not like the kitty litter type dry compound I used to put out at accident scenes, but wondered if it was slick on top of the clay infield.  I guess all was well, becuase no one seemed to have abad hop, or an ill advised ball start to go right and turn left on them. Guess I have a lot to learn about a stadium without a roof.

 

 

Top of the Order

The Rays came into the World Series knowing that they needed more production out of the top of our batting order. In the first few games of the series the top of the order had some impact, but most of it was on ground ball RBI’s and not clutch hits or drives to the deep parts of the ballpark for sacrifice flys.

In tonight game, the top 4 batters went a combined 2-15, with 7 strikeouts. To make matter worse, Evan Longoria, who is mired in a terrible batting slump had a sure thing home run brought back into the park by Mother Nature tonight. you could see the expression on Phillies’ starter Jamie Moyer’s face that he also thought the ball was into the stands and the Rays would have been ahead at the point in the game.

 

 

Instead, the ball was heading out and did a swift drop about 3 feet from the wall into Pat Burrell’s glove for the last out of the 6th inning. To make matters even worse, the Phillie crowd was on Longoria early chanting “Eva” to him on every play and at bat. For the entire night, only 5 balls from the top of the lineup even left the infield. 2of those were singles by B J Upton. Akinora Iwamura hit to long drives to right, but Jayson Werth was under the ball with ease.

 

B J Upton is a Speed Machine

After the last couple of series for the Rays, no one has questioned the drive and determination of Upton. Funny how a few months agowe even wondered if he wanted to play baseball, and now we would be a totally different, and maybe not even in this World Series without him.

Upton hit a nice liner into left just over the head of Jimmy Rollins in the 6th inning. Upton then took off on the first pitch to Evan Longoria with 2-outs and stole his first base of the night. Upton was in position to score, but Longoria hit his towering ball to left that was caught at the track by Burrell to end the inning.

 

 

Then again in the 8th inning, Upton lead-off the inning with a infield single to short that Rollins could not make a play on in time to get the speedy Upton. With no outs in the inning, it was only a matter of time before Upton tried to steal another base tonight.  On the 2nd pitch to Longoria, Upton again stole second for his second swipe of the night.

He then waited  2 more pitches then tried to steal third base, and got in safe, but he kicked the ball towards the Rays dugout and came in to score on the throwing error by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.  that knotted the score at 4-4. The play helped Upton steal an amazing 3 base tonight to tie a World Series record.

 

Last Chance for the Rays

In the bottom of the 9th inning, the score was still tied 4-all, with the Phillies getting the last at bats in the game.  J P Howell remained in the game and got a 2-1 count on Eric Bruntlett before he hit him with a pitch. Howell was then relieved by Grant Balfour in the game.

Balfour then had a 1-1 count on him before he unleashed a Wild Pitch that went to the backstop and came right back to Dioner Navarro. He then tried to get Bruntlett, who was heading to second on the steakl, but the ball sailed to the right of Jason Bartlett and bounced into centerfield for an error on Navarro.

Balfour then intentionally walked Shane Victorino. Gregg Dobbs then came up as a pinch hitter and was also Intentionally walked to load the bases. At this time, Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out and instituted his 5-man infield formation with Ben Zobrist manning up the middle of the infield. Upton and Carl Crawford were playing shallow right-center and left respectfully.

 

 

Ruiz then came up and took the count to  2-2 before putting a slow moving grounder down the third baseline that Longoria fielded. He then tried to toss it over Bruntlett, who was racing for home, but the ball sailed beyond Navarro’s reach and the Phillies won on that play.

Bruntlett did the right thing by running inside of the baseline towards the plate to take away any possible throw from the infield. the ball would have to have been a perfect lob just over his shoulder to get him at the plate.

 

                

 

Carl Crawford also had Some Magic Tonight

Crawford came into the game wanting to be more of an offensive threat for the Rays. He ended up going 2-4 on the night, with 2 runs scored. In the top of the 2nd inning, Crawford lead off with a blooper single into left that was tailing away from Burrell the enitre time it was in the air. the ball fell a foot from him and Crawford slid into second with a double on the play.

 

 

Crawford then made his presence know on the bases by stealing third on the 2nd pitch to Gabe Gross. For the playoffs, Crawford is a perfect 7 for 7 stealing bases. 3 pitches later, Gross hit a sacrifice fly to deep right center to score Crawford and tie the game up 1-all. In the 7th inning, Crawford lead off the inning with a bunt to the right side of the infield that could not be handled by Moyer in time.

Navarro then came up and hit a double to put both men in scoring position with no outs in the inning. Gross then hit a ball deep behind first base that Howard had to stab and Crwford walked in to score for the Rays. 

 

               

 

 Jason Bartlett then hit a grounder to short that Rollins had to throw to first and Navarro scored to make it  a 1-run game, 4-3 Phillies. Crawford and Navarro tonight had 4 of the Rays 6 hits on the night. They also scored 3 of the Rays 4 runs in the game.

 

Navarro’s Throws

Tonight was one of those good news, bad news kind of nights for Navarro. He had a hot bat at the plate, but had a few situations behind the dish that cost the Rays some runs, and put some dangerous people in scoring position. In the 1st inning, there was a Wild Pitch by Garza that darted away from Navarro after hitting the thumb section of his catcher’s mitt. It moved 2 runners into scoring position for the Phillies. the good news is only 1 run scored in the inning, and the Rays were only down 1-0 at the time.

 

 

In the 3rd inning, Navarro made a perfect throw onto the glove of Iwamura that he easily tagged out Rollins trying to steal seond base. It came down in the perfect spot to tag his lead hand before it hit the bag. And in the 8th inning, Navarro called for a pick-off play at second on Werth and got him leaning hard towards third base. J P Howell put a strike into Bartlett who got Werth by a foot.

In the 9th inning, Navarro had no chance on the outside pitch by Grant Balfour that went to the backstop. The ball looked like it was about to hit Shane Victorino, but broke heard at the last moment and went beyond Navarro. On the winning play in the 9th inning, Navarro could do nothing but stand on the plate as the ball as the ball sailed a good 5 feet above him for the winning run.

 

 

Matt Garza’s Wild Night

With the rain delay you have to think that Matt Garza might have over-psyched himself for this game. With the 90 minute plus delay in the start of the game, you have to think he was just sitting there with his Ipod on just chilling and maybe getting into his own head a bit.

He did not come out strong as he gave up a single to Rollins on the 2nd pitch of the game to centerfield. He then walked Werth on 5 pitches, and then threw the Wild Pitch 2 pitches later that moved them both into scoring position.  He got out of that inning only giving up a single run to Victorino. In the 2nd inning,he got 2 quick outs before giving up a fastball inside to Ruiz who slammed it into the stands in leftfield for a solo shot and put the Phillies up 2-1.

 

                  

 

In the 3rd inning, he gave up singles to Rollins and Werth to lead-off the inning before settling down and getting 2 quick outs.  In the 4th, it looked like he was under control as he struck out the side on 19 pitches. In 6th inning he ran into his worst problems of the night as he gave up a solo shot to lead-off the inning to Chase Utley.

 

             

 

Ryan Howard then came up homer-less in the series, and he sent the 2-2- pitch into the rightfield stands for another solo shot and put the Phillies up 4-1 at the time. It was the 14th time in World Series history that a team went back-to-back with homers in a game. For the night, Garza went 6 innings and threw 102 pitches in the game. He had 7 strikeuots, but also gave up 3 solo homers in the contest.

Garza did show some moments of brilliant pitching as he was using both sides of the plate well against the Phillies.  I truly think the extra time either warming up in the Bullpen or sitting in the lockerrom before warming up might have played a bit with his mind. He did not seem to have that normal sharpness we have come to know from Garza early in the ballgame. But he did fight through it and posted a decent game under the circumstances.

 

 

This was one of those games that the Rays sually won during the season. They worked hard all game long to tie up the contest, then sually they go ahead and the Bullpen shuts down the opposition. But tonight the gameplan did not work that way and the Rays found themselves in an unusual position. In the 9th inning, Maddon used a psychological weapon in his 5-man infield, but the plan did not go off without a hitch.

The perfect play would not have been down the third baseline with the runner barrelling down on Navarro without a throwing lane. All Navarro had to do was step on the bag for the force out, but Longoria could not get it to him effectively.

But it is still early in thie World Series and either team can still mount a offensive and take over the series. With a 2-1 series advantage right now, the Phillies do have the upper hand, but the Rays have always been a team to look down the odds and play baseball. I am looking forward to tonight’s contest featuring Joe Blanton and Andy Sonnanstine. Both pitchers like to get the ball fast and rock and fire, so it might be a really fast game.

Considering that tonight’s contests did not get over until way after 1:30 a.m., I think both teams are looking forward to a night game and not an afternoon contest. It will also give the field a few extra hours to drain and dry out in the sun before they re-line it and we play another great World Series contest.

 

 

 

 

 

Red Sox Force a Game 7 Showdown

 

 

I got a text about 2 minutes before the first pitch that TBS had some sort of malfunction in Atlanta and most of the country got to watch an old Dick Clark America’s Funniest Videos for a while. I guess some one either for got to plug in one plug, or Atlanta decided that the “Heidi Game” needed a 2008 twist.

I was told that the channel got it corrected about the middle of the 1st inning and all was well in TV-land. I even heard that they were kind enough to recap the inning and show B J Upton’s catwalk homer to the home audience. Well, TBS (Totaled Botched Signal) I guess we can forgive you if you can lay off the pro-Boston comments for at least one more day. I am sorry we are ruining the networks plans of a Boston vs. LA series, but another team also is at fault………..blame Philly, they throw snowballs at Santa Claus.

 

Red Sox 4, Rays 2

 

 

 

Umpire Goes Down

It was a night for the weird and unusal at the Trop. I was told by a friend in the St. Petersburg Police Department that only about 7 people had to be escorted out of the building tonight. That is a major improvement over the 32 or more that had a bad night about a week ago for Games 1 and 2. But that was not even the wildest thing to happen in the game.

In the top of the 4th inning, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek finally hit something tonight. He actually got his first hit off the home plate umpire, Derryl Cousins. It saeems that when Varitek fouled off  his 0-2 pitch, it hit the mask of Cousins and traveled down towards the shoulder and chest area.

At the top of the 5th inning, Cousins conferred with Umpire Crew Chief  Tim McCelland ans they decided that he had to be removed from the game and transported to a local hospital. McCelland came out in his gear and officiated the rest of the game as the home plate umpire.

The rest of the umpires then did the Harlem Shuffle and they left the leftfield outfield area vacant becuase they did not have an additional umpire on hand to take Cousins’ position. Word finally came back that Cousins had suffered a bruised Clavicle and would possibily return for Sunday’s contest.

 

 

B J Upton’s En Fuego

To say that B J Upton is hot is an understatement in the ALCS. His 1st inning shot off the “C” ring at the Trop. would have cleared the Green Monster tonight again. It was a grand high shot that would have maybe reached the Beach if the ring was not there. That give Upton now 7 homers in this playoff season, which tied him with Former Angel Troy Glaus, who hit 7 in 2003. It might only be 4 homers in the ALCS, but Upton is putting on a show at the plate during this series.

 

 

James Big Game Shields

The Rays were questioned when they decided to swap their starters for Games 5 and 6. I really do not see the hassle since tonight’s starter was a combined 9-2 at home this year and it would also have put him back in line to pitch the first game if we clinched tonight. Shields has been one of those guys this year who wants the pressure cooker situations and has come out smelling like a rose on most nights.

Tonight, tho, he did get into trouble early, when Red Sox lead-off man Coco Crisp laid down a bunt towards Evan Longoria, but it was moving so slow there was no play. Shields did make amends as he picked Crisp off  of first after the thrid pitch to Dustin Pedroia.

 

 

Shields then got into trouble early in the 2nd when lead-off batter, Kevin Youkilis hit a 1-2 count hanging fastball overe the left-centerfield wall to tie the score at 1-all. He then gave up 2 hits to the nest three batters before getting control of the inning and getting the last 2 bstters to fly out to strand 2 Boston baserunners.

In the 3rd inning, he walked Pedoia, who advance to third on David Ortiz’s double down the rightfield line. Youkilis then hit a ball to Jason Bartlett and Pedroia waltzed in to put Boston up 2-1.  In the 3rd inning, Shields threw 31 pitches and issued 3 walks to the Red Sox.

Shields was cruising along until in the 5th inning, J D Drew hit a liner just over the glove of Gabe Gross in rightfield for a double. Drew ended up getting stranded on base.  In the 6th, Shield gave Jason Varitek his first hit in the ALCS, and his first homer that went into the first row of Section 146 in the Trop. That did not end the scoring in the inning.

Crisp then came up and hit a single off Shields that deflected to Akinora Iwamura, but he could not get a throw off in time.  Shields exited the game after Crisp’s hit and went 5.2 innings and gave up 9-hits and 4 runs on the night.

 

                   

 

Rays Bullpen Troubles

Rays reliever J P Howell then came on to try and get the last out of the 6th inning for the Rays. This brought up Pedroia again, who hit a ball to Bartlett, but the throw went high and wide of Pena and the Red Sox had runners at the corners with 2-outs.

David Ortiz then hit an RBI-single to center to score Crisp and put the Red sox up for good 4-2.  Howell threw 1 inning tonight and got 1 strikeout and gave up a single hit for the night. His ERA is sitting at 3.60 for the Rays. He also hit Jason Bay in the 7th inning to put a Red Sox runner on with 1-out.

Grant Balfour then came on in the 7th inning and walked the first batter, Jed Lowries before settling down and getting Varitek to fly out to Gross for the last out of the inning.

 

 

Chad Bradford then came on in the 8th inning and Pedroia hit a ball back up the middle that hit Bradfors in his leg and he completed a high but good throw for the first out of the inning. The Rays then Intentionally walked Ortiz. The plan worked out great for the Rays as Youkilis hit into a perfect 5-4-3 around-the-horn double play to end the inning.

Bradford then came out for a quick fly out by Drew to left, and a grounder to Bartlett for an easy 2nd out before leaving the game. Trever Miller then came in and got Mark Kotsday to hit a pop up to Longoria to end the top of the 9th inning.

 

                

 

Jason Bartlett

The mighty shortstop is not known for his power, but tonight hit a slowly curving ball that evaded the leftfield foulpole for his first postseason homer of his career. It was also the 2nd homer this year for Bartlett. They Rays did not have alot of offensive power tonight as both their runs came off homers by Bartlett and Upton.

 

 

Unusual Offensive Night

The Rays had a few plays that made you just sit and wonder tonight.  With the Red Sox up 2-1 Bartlett got hit on the elbow by a pitch and the Rays could not capitalize on the play. The Rays usually could and would have gotten somehting out of that play in recent games.

In the 4th inning, Carl Crawford reached out for an outsdie pitch and sent a dying quail into left for a single. He then stole second base and with Cliff Floyd at the plate, the Rays looked like they were about to do something in this game. But Floyd hit a hard ball down the rightfield line that was stopped by Kotsay, who barely got the throw to Beckett in time to get Floyd.

 

 

Then in the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro hit a nice single to center to start off the inning. Then he tried to steal second base, and was gunned down by Varitek.  After Zobrist hit a long fly to center for the 2nd out, Bartlett hit his homer to left. If Navarro had not tried to steal the base, it would have been a 2-run shot for Bartlett. Longoria walked in the 6th inning, but a Crawford double play ball ended the inning for the Rays.

 

In the 7th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3 on 12 pitches. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Bartlett was again hit by a pitch and was stranded on base by a quick strikeout and 2 pop ups to second base. In the 9th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3-, with Willy Aybar hitting a strong liner down the third baseline that Youkilis grabbed to end the game.

 

                  

 

Gabe Gross in Rightfield

I mentioned the play in the 5th inning before, but above is the picture of that liner hit by Drew. Gross started to go back on the ball, and either it changed flight, or he lost it for a second in the lights as the ball went about  6 inches to his right before falling to the turf.

In the bottom of the inning, Gross was pinch-hit by Ben Zobrist, who remained in the game in rightfield for the Rays. For the ALCS, Gross has gone 0-10 and had a few mis-guided play in right. Some poele say he had a chance for the ball on Thursday night, but we will never know as the ball skirted over the wall for the game winning single.

Weird thing there, since Drew did not go past first base, he was credited with a single only and not a ground rule double on the game ending play. Some say that Gross had a straight shot at the ball if he left his feet and dove at the ball. But that is hind-sight at this point.

 

 

 

In the 9th inning of tonight’s game, the Rays bench did not have that electric look it has had all season long. It seemed a bit subdued and emotion-less for the first time in a long time. If the Rays are to win tomorrow’s Game 7 showdown with the Red Sox, they need to regain that fire tonight.

There is no time to sulk or pity anything tonight. They have to get that motivation back and recharge themselves to take the Red Sox on by the throat and throttle them tomorrow night. It is a due or die situation, with the winner getting to play again on Weds. against the Phiadelphia Phillies. With a Rays loss, not only is their season over, but they will give the Home Field Advantage gaunlet to the Red Sox.

They have to come out like gangbuster and take this series back, or head to the golf course. I personally want to see a little more baseball this year guys, so let’s go out and kick some bean-town booty tomorrow night. This town has been crazy the last month or so, more than it has in a long, long time. And you guys are the reason for it. Treat yourself, treat the fans, and treat the nation to a little more Rays-ball this Fall.

 

See you at the Champagne bin.

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.

 

Rays Take Both at Home, Heading to Chi-town for Winner

 

Rays 6, White Sox 2

 

I can not tell you how much eletricity and energy is rolling through the catwalks and walls of the Trop. right now. I sometimes feel like I am living in a dream instead of sitting here in the Bullpen Cafe looking on as the Rays take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-5 series against the Chicago White Sox.  the crowd has been intense, and the cowbells have been in full force in this series.

I was checking on a few stats with the Elias Sporting Bureau and found out that the Rays are the first team in major league history to win its first 2 games of its playoff history, overcoming a deficit of at least 2 runs in their wins. I also found out a few other great facts about this high-charged series.  During the 2008 season, the Rays won 28 games after trailing by at least 2 runs, the most in the major leagues this year.

I can tell you that this team has always been a team that never counts itself out until the last out in the 9th inning. that should bode well for them in the coming weeks as the baseball gods will be testing this young team. Lets just hope that this young squad can keep up this scoring-by-committee approach all the way to the last game of the year.

I was listening to the deafening noise last night near the end of the game, and Rusty, the Rays MC, announced that the crowd noise was the 3rd loudest in MLB history last night. The Rays magical number to have their ticker tape parade is : 9 wins

 

 

 

                                    

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Coming into last night, Scott Kazmir has had a few mixed reviews in his last 5 starts for the Rays. If his 37 pitches in the first inning did not scare you, here is a fact that will about last night.  In his 124 career starts, Kazmir has thrown over 35 pitches in the first inning only once.  He did it as a rookie on September 19, 2004 at Toronto in his 5th start of his career ( 38 pitches).

I have been critical of Kazmir lately that maybe he has not been warming up like he did in the beginning of the year. But I was sitting right behind him and was watching him warm up and he was doing all the things that he did in prior years to get warm and loose on the sidelines. Maybe it is just a case of nerves for Kazmir, because after the first couple of innings he calms down and seems to hit his marks better.

Last night’s first inning was no different. Kazmir hit Orlando Cabrera with the first pitch of the game. It is also the 11th time in the playoffs that the lead-off batter has been hit in a game by a pitch.  Nick Swisher then was walked on 5 pitches to put the first teo men on base for the White Sox. Jermaine Dye then hit a soft looper to left to load the bases with no out in the 1st inning.

Kazmir then gave up an RBI single to Jim Thome, and a sacrifice fly to Alexi Ramirez to put the White Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  Kazmir then got out of the inning when Juan Uribe struck out, but had given up 2-runs on 3-hits in the inning.

 

 

                 

 

 

Scott Kazmir,Part Deux

After the 1st inning, Scott Kazmir gave up only 5 hits the rest of the night. He effectively shut down the White Sox powerful offense by finally getting his slider and change-up to pick apart the corners of the plate. In the first inning, Kazmir was all over the plate high and low and could not get a consistant grip on the strike zone.  In the 2nd inning, the only batter to reach base was Swisher on a walk, but he was stranded on base that inning.

 After that, Kazmir spread out the hits to retire the White Sox 1-2-3 in the 3rd inning, and giving up a lone hit in the 4th-6th innings. For the day, Kazmir gave up 2-runs on 8-hits and got 4 strikeouts in his 84 pitch outing. For his efforts, Kazmir earned his first post season victory and helped the Rays take a 2-0 lead in the series.

 

Carl Crawford

Alot of people had forgotten about the basestealing presence of Crawford in this series. Since this was only the 2nd game since his return after a finger surgery, most thought he would be silient on the bases and just try and regain his edge in later rounds of the playoffs. But in the 8th inning, with Evan Longoria at the plate, Crawford stole his first postseason base of  his career. Octavio Dotel had just come on to relieve Mark Buehrle in the inning. Crawford stole the base on a 1-2 count to Longoria and set up the Rays 4th run of the game.

 

 

 

 

B J Upton

Coming into this contest against Buehrle, B J Upton had gone 5-13 this year against the White Sox starter, and he again became a thorn in the White Sox’s side. In the 8th inning, Upton hit a sharp ball into centerfield for a tirple , and put the lead-off man on third with no outs in the inning. For the night B J might have only gone 1-4, but his triple produced the 4th run of the game to secure the win for the Rays.

 

 

White Sox Error

In the 2nd inning, Rocco Baldelli hit a screaming liner to second base that Alexi Ramirez gloved for the first out of the inning. Willy Aybar had hit a single to left to lead-off the inning and was scrambling back to first base to avoid a pick off play. Ramierez overthrew first baseman Paul Konerko and the ball rolled into the camera well in the Rays dugout. Aybar was awarded 3rd on the error and the Rays had a man on 3rd with 1-out in the inning. Aybar ended up scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single to right to score the Rays first run of the game. 

 

 

 

 

Akinora Iwamura

Just when you were wondering who might step up to the plate for the Rays in this game, Akinora Iwamura came up and hit a blast to leftfield to score Jason Bartlett and put the Rays up for good 3-2. Iwamura went 1-4 on the night, but like Upton, his timely hit produced the needed runs to put his club in contention for the win.  After Aki’s blast the crowd chanted his name until he came up on the dugout steps and tipped his batting helmet to the crowd.

 

 

 

 

Rocco Baldelli

Not to be lost in this series is the play of  Rocco Baldelli. He was not expected to start this game, but when given the opportunity he presented the Rays with more reasons to count on him this post season. In the 8th inning, after an RBI single to right to score Crawford, Baldelli was on first with 2-outs. When Navarro hit a bloop single into a  group of White Sox players, Baldelli headed around second with a full head of steam.

Baldelli blew past the stop sign by third base coach Tom Foley and scored just ahead of the throw from shallow centerfield. And that is the reason that Baldelli could be a huge difference in a game this post season. His aggressive style and calculated risks make for a winning combonation on the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Rays Bullpen

Grant Balfour again came on to relieve the Rays starter tonight and the first man he faced was Cabrera, who he had a shouting match with on Thursday night. Balfour got him to ground out to second on 3 pitches and the events of the prior night seemed to be in the past for both players. Balfour ended up throwing the last two outs of the inning, but gave up 2 hits in the outing.

J P Howell came out in the middle of the 7th and got 6 of the 7 men he faced to go down in the innings. In the 8th inning, Howell got all three White Sox outs on called third strikes. Over the last 7 seasons, the White Sox have only struck out three times looking one other time.

In the 9th inning, Chad Bradford came on and gave up a lead-off single to Dye before he was retired on a double play ball 5-4-3 to set up the last out of the game. Bradford then got White Sox slugger Thome to strike out on three straight pitches to earn his first post season save.

 

 

Fast Plane to Chi-town

With the Rays leaving within the hour for Chicago on their chartered flight, the team had to make haste as it got ready to fly tonight to the windy city. This made it easier to have a warm-up and pratcie on U.S. Cellular’s Field before playing their first road game this year.

 

 

 

Rays Score 11 Unanswered Runs Against Orioles

 

 

Rays 11, Orioles 6

 

After tonight’s win lower the number to a level that is obtainable either tomorrow or by Friday at the worst, I got that urge again to see what it might cost to take a flight up to Motown for a celebration with the Rays. I did my usual websites looking for early morning Thursday, or Red Eye flights tonight and found that only 1 flight that might get me to Detroit before the first pitch at 1:05 P.M. 

That flight had me sitting at the airport before 6 A.M. to fly to Atlanta and then sit almost 2 hours before we got back into the seat and arrive at the Detroit/Wayne County Airport at 11:30 A.M. That would give me enough time to drop my bags off at the hotel and then hit Comerica Park in time for the first pitch.  I love the idea of online check-in at airports and hotels nowadays, it makes the baseball day-trip go so much easier. But then again, I can’t go tomorrow, but you can if you have $ 453.00 dollars and a cool boss.

Do not forget that the City of St. Petersburg is setting up a Welcome Home arrival celebration for the Rays at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport on Sunday at 8 P.M. to welcome our guys back to town after their roadtrip and to celebrate the A L East Championship with the homefolks.  That should be a wild night as the Rays will have Monday off before getting back into the swing of things starting Tuesday morning.

 

Rays Magic Number:         

All the Rays need to do is win 1 of their 4 games against the Detroit Tigers and the celebration will begin. This will give the A L East crown to the Rays and send the Red Sox out to L A for the first round of the playoffs ( Boston went 1-8 against the Angels this season).

 

       

 

Edwin Jackson

I am starting to think we need to send a reliever out to start the game and then bring in Edwin Jackson ( 13-11) in the 2nd inning of the ballgame. In his past starts, Jackson has been brilliant after the first couple of innings, but seems to run into trouble early then get things settled down and kicks some butt. That happened to him again last night as he gave up 5-runs on 6 -hits in the 1st inning, then gave up a solo run and 2-hits in the 2nd inning to spot the Orioles a 6-0 score. Even though he spotted the Orioles with a large margin, the Rays rallied several times to put Jackson in line for his 13th win of the season.

Jackson might be pitching his last start of the years as Rays Manager Joe Maddon needs to start setting up his 3 or 4 man rotation for the playoffs now. This might have been a “give me” start by Maddon to reward Jackson who helped reduce the magic number to 1 last week to even be considered for the playoffs. Tonight, it was deja vu all over again as Jackson helped the Rays move the magic number again down to 1, with Scott Kazmir throwing the game tomorrow. Hoefully it is Deja Vu for the Rays, and Rays Clubhouse Manager Chris Westmoreland can get the bubbly cold by the end of the early game.

 

Alot of Hit By Pitches

Coming into this contest, the Rays have seen a abundance of hit batsmen in the last few series. During tonight’s game, the Rays had Evan Longoria plucked in the 4th inning in the stomach, and Longo ended up scoing in the inning to bite the Orioles for the play.

 In the 6th inning, Jason Bartlett got hit for the first of two times today in the knee area. Lucky for the Rays Bartlett had a platic protector on that area becuase of a foul ball hitting the patella earlier in the season. Bartlett also made the Orioles pay for the play by scoing in the inning Then in the 8th inning, the Orioles again hit Bartlett, this time in the hip area and he again scored on the play to frustrate the Orioles.

 

                          

 

2 Superb Innings

The Rays scored 11 unanswered runs in the game starting with  5 runs on 3 hits in the 5th inning. Carlos Pena started by walking on 6 pitches to lead off the inning. Longoria then got hit by a pitch, and Dioner Navarro hit a single into leftfield to load the bases for the Rays with 1 out. Gabe Gross came up with the bases jacked and walked on 6 pitches, scoring Pena on the play. With the bases still loaded, Eric Hinske then hit the first pitch he saw from Orioles starter Radhames Liz to rightfield to score Longoria and leave the bases still loaded for Jason Bartlett.

Bartlett then hit a ball off the hip area of Liz that he could not control and throw in time to get Bartlett. Navarro scored to pull the Rays within 2 runs, 6-4.  Akinora Iwamura then came up and hit a RBI ground out to short that scored Hinske to pull the Rays within a run, 6-5.

 

                              

 

In the 6th inning, Fernando Perez hit a liner to leftfield and stole second base before Bartlett got hit by a pitch for the first time tonight. With men on first and second, Iwamura hit a ball deep into the gap in left center and scored both Perez and Bartlett on a triple. The play put the Rays on top to stay tonight 7-6.

In the 8th inning, Perez got on base again by walking on 5 pitches and stole second again while Bartlett was batting.  Bartlett again was hit by a pitch and the Rays had two men on and no out in the inning. Aki put down a really nice Sacrifice bunt to move Perez and Bartlett into scoring position. B J Upton then walked, and Carlos Pena struck out to give the Rays bases loaded with 2-outs. 

Longoria walked on 5 pitches to score Perez. Cliff Floyd then came up and walked on 6 pitches as the Orioles relievers could not find the plate.  Navarro then came up and hit a liner down the leftfield corner to score 2 runs, but was tagged out at second trying to advance on the play for the 3rd out in the inning. But the Rays were now up 11-6 in the contest. In this inning, the Rays scored 2 runs on a sequence where there were no hits involved.  A hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt, and 4 walks contributed to the big inning.

 

 

Rays on the Basepaths

In this contest, Fernando Perez stole 2 bases and is currently 5-5 on the basepaths this season for the Rays. Iwamura also got a stole second in the first inning after leading off the game with a single to leftfield. It was his 8th stolen base of the season. And B J Upton stole second in the 6th inning for his 43rd stolen base of the year. That currently ranks him 3rd in the AL, one base  behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.

Iwamura hit his 8th triple of the year to move him into 3rd place, 2 behind the Ray’s Carl Crawford in 2nd place in the AL.  B J Upton also got his 13th outfield assist in the bottom of the first inning when he pegged Luke Scott trying to advance to third base on his double for the 1st out in the inning. 

 

 

 And Nick Markakis was thrown out at the plate trying to steal home  on a double steal in the 5th inning of the game. The play started with Aubrey Huff trying to steal 2nd base and Iwamura came up into the grass area behind the mound and cut off the ball to throw it back to Navarro so he could get the sliding Markakis before he touched the plate.  It went into the books as a caught stealing attempt, but it was a brilliant play by both players to prevent a run in the inning.

 

Twins versus White Sox

Sometimes it seems that neither team wants to win the AL Central pennant and maybe face the Rays in the first round of the Playoffs.  The Minnesota Twins again beat the Chicago White Sox to pull within 1/2 of a game of the lead in the division. With 1 more game to be played, the next win might decide the division crown.

The Twins still have 4 games left, with 1 to still play against the White Sox, and a 3-game series at home against the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox have 4 games left to play, including 1 against the Twins, and a 3-game series at home against the Cleveland Indians. in the most probable settings, the winner of this division will start their series away from home at Tropicana Field next week.

 

Odds and Ends

Tonight’s win puts the Rays road record this year at 39-28 going into the 4 games against the Detroit Tigers.  With their 96th win tonightto  have a record of 96-62, the Rays have mirror-imaged their record of 62-96 from 2007. The win also puts the Rays at 4 games over .500 this year. Tonights victory against the Baltimore Orioles was Tampa Bay’s 12th in a row against them, and raises their seasob series record against the Orioles to 15-3 for the year, their best record against any opponent this year.

 

                                 

 

Bullpen Moments

Chad Bradford came on in relief of Jackson in the 6th inning and earned his 21st hold of the season. Bradford pitched 1.1 innings tonight and gave up only 1 hit on 18 pitches in the game. With Ramon Hernandez on first with 1-out, Bradford got Lou Montanez to  hit a ground ball to Iwamura, who tagged out Hernandez for the 2nd out of the inning. 2 pitches later Juan Castro grounded to Iwamura again and he threw to first to end the inning.

Trever Miller came on with 2 outs in the 7th inning and got Huff to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning. In the 8th inning, Miller got to quick outs including a strikeout by Luke Scott. He then hit Hernandez with a pitch in the side  as an answer to 3 hit batsmen by Oriole’s pitchers tonight. He then got Montanez to strikeout on 5 pitches to end the inning.

In the 9th, Miller gave up a lead-off single to Juan Castro down the leftfield line, then got two quick strikeouts of pinch hitter Alex Cintron and Guillermo Quiroz. He then got Adam Jone to pop out to Iwamura for the last out of the game.  For his effort, Miller collected his 2nd save of the year for the Rays. In his appearance, Miller threw 37 pitches and got 5 strikeouts in his 2.1 innings of work. 

 

 

 

Rays Post Historic End to Doubleheader

 

Rays 7, Orioles 5

 

After the second game of the twin-bill last night I was thinking again on if, and when the Rays might clinch their first American League East pennant. How that gorgeous banner will look draped in the Trop next Opening Day with the New York Yankees on the field. It should cut them right in the heart.  So with that in mind, I got another scheme in my mindas to how far it was to Orioles Park at Camden Yards and if I could even get there by tonight’s contest.

 

Well, thank god for Mapquest. I found out that it is a 16 hour trek up to Charm city, and that is counting on no Georgia Stae Troopers eyeing my Tampa Bay Rays tag, and no malfunction on I-95 anywhere above South Carolina. The reason I mention that is that my car is a magnet for law enforcement to run the tag on the car. Because I used the new 2-year decal on my vehicle, alot of peolicemen have told me they run it by curiosity more than for warrants or suspended tags.

 

So, let’s see, that is 16 hours if I drive the 65 MPH speed limit through North Florida and Georgia, but what if I turned it up a small notch and sped through South and North Carolina and maybe Virgina?  I still think that I would have had to leave at 3 A.M., unless there is a cheap flight out of town on US Air. There we go thinking like a true Rays fan. Why drive when you can fly and be refreshed and ready for the game.

 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, let’s see, I can get a flight in an hour or so to Baltimore, but I will be stuck in one of those rocking chairs in the Charlotte Airport for about 2 hours and still get to the Baltimore runway just in time for the first pitch in the ballgame. It will only set me back about $ 241 dollars, which is probably less than the gas and food it would have cost me to drive there. And I will be awake for the game.

 

I can call ahead and have a player leave me a ticket at Will Call and that will take care of my ticket situation. Then I have to cab it there and get a BBQ sandwich from Boog Powell’s shack before heading into centerfield and yelling into the Bullpen to let Bobby Ramos and Scott Cursi know I am in town tonight. But what, what is this I am reading? Scott Kazmir is flying ahead of the team to rest for his start tomorrow against the Tigers.

Dang, that ruins the whole thing. I can’t go on a party tour without the guy who is the seesayer of the Rays futures this Spring. I can’t have a taste of sweet bubbly without the K-man.  Well, at least my girlfrind only charges me 6 dollars for a foot log hotdog and a  big beer at the house.

 

Rays Magic Number:         

 

Any combo of a Rays win and a Boston loss gives the team their first American League East title tonight.

 

 

Mitch Talbot

The Rays Rookie went to the mound tonight knowing that the Rays could break into historical ground with a win in the back half of the twin bill against the Orioles tonight. Talbot pitched 4.1 innings of sloid ball that kept the Rays in the ballgame all night long. During his Major League debut, Talbot threw 76 pitches and was consisitanly around the plate all night long.

 

But in the 2nd inning, the Orioles came out and showed that the second game would be just as hard to win as the first half of the doubleheader. Ramon Hernandez cam out and hit a single to left to lead off the inning.  Then with 2-outs in the inning, Orioles catcher Guillermo Quiroz hit a single to right to put Hernandez in scoring position. Juan Castro then hit a liner to centerfield and Hernandez and Quiroz both scored before Castro got caught in a run down between first and second and ptovided the 3rd out of the inning. That put the Orioles up 2-1 in the game.

 

Then in the 5th inning, the Orioles finally did enough damage to get Rays Manager Joe Maddon to take the rookie out of the game. In that inning, Brian Roberts walked on 5 pitches to start the inning and stole second base during Lou Montanez’s at bat. Montanez then walked on 7 pitches. Luke Scott then came up and hit into a fielder’s choice 1-4 force out to remove Montanez from the basepaths. 

 

Roberts was now at third base with 1-out. Maddon then came out and removed the rookie and brought in former Oriole Chad Bradford to face his old team. Bradford, a ground ball specialist got Oscar Salazar to hit a grounder to Evan Longoria, and he threw to Akinora Iwamura to force out  Luke Scott at second for the 2nd out.  Roberts ended up scoring on Salazar’s play and put the Orioles up 3-1.

 

 

8th Inning

The 8th inning of tonight’s game was a firm example of Maddon using his mind and his veterans to secure his 95th win this season for the Rays. In the inning, the Rays scored 8 runs on 6 hits to take control of the game and sweep the doubleheader from the Orioles. Leading off the charge in the inning was Ben Zobrist who hit a creaming triple into the gap in right centerfield and was on base before the throw came in from the outfield. With Zobrist on third with no outs, Willy Aybar hit a grounder to shirt that Castro threw to first, and Zobrist scored on the play.

 

After a Dan Johnson strikeout, Evan Longoria hit a monster shot to the left of the raised Bullpen area in centerfield for a solo home run. It was Longoria’s 26th homer of the season.  The Rocco Baldelli came on to pinch hit for Cliff Floyd and  hit a single to rightfield. Baldelli then moved up on a passed ball and was in scoring position for the Rays. Gabe Gross then came up and walked on four pitches to put 2 on for the Rays with 2-outs in the inning.

 

                                  

 

Jason Bartlett then hit a single to left that  scored Baldelli and put Gross in scoring position. Dioner Navarro then came on and pinch-hit for Michel Hernandez and drove a ball up the middle to score  Gross and Bartlett to put the Rays up 6-5 in the game. Navarro advanced to second on a Wild Pitch by Orioles starter Alfredo Simon. B J Upton then came up and hit a ball down the left field line that scored Navarro and Upton ended up at second base, with still 2-outs in the inning.  Zobrist then came up for the second time in the inning and crashed a ball to left that was caught by Jay Payton for the third out. That inning put the Rays up 7-5 on the Orioles with 1 more at bat for the Birds.

 

Odds and Ends

 

Out of the 11 hits on the night for the Rays, 4 went for extra bases, including the homer by Longoria and the Triple by Zobrist.  The Rays had 4 hits before the barrage in the 8th inning last night. With Maddon using his reserves most of the second game, the Rays starter scame on in the 8th inning rested and ready to hit. Most of the pinch hitters that inning stayed on to add to the Rays defensive alignment.

 

Carlos Pena came into the Doubleheader having had a walk and an RBI in 8 consecutive games.  the streak ended in the 7th inning when  Pena came out to pinch hit for Fernando Perez and struck out to end the inning. It was the longest streak in 58 years, since Ted Williams posted a 9-game dual RBI/Walk streak in 1950.

 

The Rays played in 1772 games before finally getting a sweep in a doubleheader. It is the most games played by a major league squad before getting their first winning twinbill.

 

Longoria and Perez were the only two Rays players to start both ends of the doubleheader yesterday in Baltimore.

 

 

The Minnesota Twins did their p[art to confuse the Playoff parings for the Rays by defeating the Chicago White Sox last night. The two teams are playing a 3-games series that will probably decide the winner of the AL Central division. The Winner of that division will most likely face the Rays at home next week for the opening round of the American League Divisional Series.

 

The start dates of the game are up in the air until the team with the best record in the AL decides what day they want to start their game 1. With the LA Angels having the leg up right now on the Rays by two games, they will get to decide if they want to start on October 1st, or 2nd, with an off day in between the starts. Mostl likely the Rays will begin the playoff season at home on October 2nd in a sold out Tropicana Field.

 

ALDS Game 3

 

The Americal League Divisional Series Game 3 tickets will go up on sale on the Rays website the day after they clinch the AL East title. The reason for the delay is to not  bog down the computer system with all 3 days games being purchased on the same day, combined with the ideal that if the Rays are reduced to the Wild Card team, they will have only 2 games in this round of the playoff series. they would then go uot west and begin the series against the Angels, with game 3 and 4 here at the Trop.

 

Ben Zobrist

 

The Rays Super utility guy had a wild night in Baltimore last night. First he went 2-3 at the plate and scored the first run of the night for the Rays on Dan Johnson’s  single to right in the 1st inning to put the Rays on top first 1-0  in the game. For the night, Zobrist scored 2 runs, getting his second run scored in the big 8th inning after his lead-off triple. But it was his at bat in the 3rd inning that would define his night. Zobrist was up against Simon and fouled off the 1st pitch he saw from him into the plate and up into his right cheek area.  In his next at-bat you could see the raised and  reddened  cheek that will proably turn into a bruise tonight.

 

 

Bullpen Action

 

For the second time tonight, the Rays Bullpen came out and minimalized  the Orioles attack. Chad Bradford came on for Talbot in 5th inning and got 2 straight ground ball out to end the inning for the Orioles. Braford only threw 4 pitches in his 2/3rds of an inning last night.  Bradford still leads all MLB relievers with a 4.38 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio this season.  He has pitched to a 1.07 ERA this year in his 19 appearance for the Rays.  His 66 combined appearances this year between his time with the Rays and the Orioles is his 6th straight year of over 60 appearances.

 

Jeff Niemann came on to pitch in the 6th inning for the Rays and pitched for 2.1 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2-runs, but securing his 2nd win of the season for the Rays.  Earlier this season Niemann started against the Baltimore Orioles ans earned his first major league win in a April 13th game against the team. The only run he gave up in that game was a homer run to Nick Markakis in the 6th inning. He became the first Rays since Scott Kazmir on August 23, 2004, to win his MLB debut for the Rays.

 

J P Howell, normally a set-up guy for the Rays helped close out the game for Tampa Bay’s 95th victory of the year. Howell threw 1.2 innings last night and got the Orioles out 1-2-3 in the 9th inning to earn his 3rd save of the year. Howell has only allowed 11,8 percent of his inherited runners to score this year, berst in the majors.   He is also still leading the majors in strikeouts for a reliever with 92, and also leads all relievers in innings pitched with 89.a this year. And all this while being the youngest reliever ( 25) in the Rays bullpen this year.

 

 

 

Rays lose Shootout at Trop

 

Twins 11, Rays 8

 

With the Boston  Red Sox idle last night with a odd day off before they start their 3 game set against the Toronto Blue Jays, it was a shame we lost 1/2 game to them as they say in a sports bar eating their dinners. This is the type of game that will have you pulling the hair out of your head in the next 10 days. It was a game that we usually win, but let slip away last night. Not that I am blaming anyone, it is just that karma has been kind to use this year in games like this. Hopefully we have not used up our quota for the year.

 

Be sure to register on www.raysbaseball.com for the Rays post season lottery for single game tickets for the post season. The team will be ataking names and emails until Sunday to be considered for the lottery for playoff tickets. I know I registered for the lottery because I could not bankroll my playoff tickets fast enough through my season ticketholder account.  I will be there by hook or by crook we all know that. I will not miss a playoff game after hitting the Trop for 81 games for 11 years and not see the first and last pitch of our first post season game.

 

Winners of the lottery will be contacted by phone and by email probaby before the tickets are offically announced as early as next Tuesday. With the Rays within 3 games of securing the post season Wild Card as a alternative to winning their division, the Rays might get the lead out and post ticket prices and requests to insure a sellout for the first game.

 

Rays Magical Number  3   

 With a little help tonight, the Rays could win a playoff berth tonight with a loss by the Blue Jays, White Sox and Yankees coupled with a Rays win over the Twins. 

 

                           

 

Evan Longoria 

     

Usually when you hit 3 home runs in a ballgame you can almost count on winning that contest. Not since July 5th, 2003 when Jonny Gomes hit 3 against the Kansas City Royals has a Rays player popped 3 out in a single game. Evan must have been saving up all that energy while he was on the DL just for tonight. All three blasts were into leftfield and were beyond the 15th row back.

 

For the game, Longoria was 3-5, with 3 runs scored and 4 RBI’s on the night.  Longoria’s hitting also has his average, now at .288 slowly heading up toward the .300 mark. Longoria, now with 25 homers, leads the major leagues in homers for a rookie.  Longoria is also first for rookies in exta base hits (55), and took over the RBI lead with his 78th RBI last night.

 

                                      

 

Dan Wheeler

 

Wheeler has been Mr. Consistency for the Rays this season. That is why last night’s debacle is so out of character for the reliever, He is the leading Rays in appearances this season, going to the mound 66 times for the Rays.  Coming into this outing, opponents were hitting .175 against him, which was good for 8th in the league. And his 26 holds are just 3 shy of the league lead right now.

 

But in the 9th inning last night, with the Rays 8-6, Wheeler had his worst night of the season. Wheeler threw only 15 pitches in the inning, but gave up 3-hits and 4-runs in 0.0 innings of work. Denard Span started the bleeding by reaching on a infield single to Jason Bartlett.  Then Alexi Casilla homered on the first pitch he saw to tie the game for the Twins.

 

Joe Mauer then hit a long fly ball into deep centerfield that was misplayed by Fernando Perez and led to a double. That put the Twins winning run in scoring position with no outs in the inning.  The Rays then intentionally walked Justin Morneau to pitch to Adam Everett. He then hit the 4th ball he saw to  the deep  left centerfield gap to score Mauer and move Morneau to third with still no outs in the game. 

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon then brought on Chad Bradford to pitch to Delmon Young and Young hit a single to right to score Morneau and put the Twins up 10-8.  Matt Tolbert then hit a sacrifice fly to left to bring in everett and score the last Twins run of the game.

 

                          

 

James Shields

 

Rays starter James Shields was making his first attempt at trying to tie the Rays pitching record with his 14 win this season. Shileds was not sharp early in the contest, but pitched effectively over his 6.1 innings of work. Shields gave up 6-runs on 8-hits and tossed 90 pitches in the contest. He left the game with the Rays in front 8-6 and was in line for the win tonight.

 

Shields was starting his 31st game of the season, which matched his career high set last season.  Shields had also become the only Rays pitcher to pass the 200 plus inning mark twice in his career.  He held the AL mark for home ERA coming into the game at 2.34, and has one 7 of his 9 home starts this year.

 

Carlos Pena

 

Not to outshadowed by Longoria, Pena hit his 30th homer of the season last night in the 4th inning off Phillip Humber. His 30th homer puts Pena in 10th place this season in the AL. Pena now has 92 RBI’s, which puts him in 29th place in the AL. Considering the amount of time Pena missed due to his injury this season, it is remarkable to be in this top tier in the AL.

 

Since the All-Star break, Pena is hitting .260, with 16 home runs and  45 RBI’s. He is also posting a .563 slugging percentage for the Rays.  He also has 24 walks in the last 20 games. His 30 home runs leads all first baseman in the American League.  This season, Pena has also fanned a career high 153 times, 2nd in the AL.

 

RBI guys

 

Dioner Navarro also picked up an RBI last night with his homer to left to score Rocco Baldelli and put the Rays up 4-3. It was the second night in a row that the Rays had back-to-back homers in a game. Longoria hit his first of three homers right before Navarro.  It was Navarro’s  7th homer of the year.

 

Navarro’s .290 average is second only to the Twins Joe Mauer among AL catchers this season.  Navarro also gunned down Delmon Young in the 9th inning putting the ball right on the glove for Bartlett to tag out Young at second base. Navarro is currently ranked 3rd in the majors with a 34.4 percent caught stealing rate.

 

Gabe Gross also got an RBI last night on a single to left center in the 1st inning, scoring Ben Zobrist on the play. His hit chased Twins starter Glen Perkins from the game.   Gross is now hitting .315 over his last  23 games, and he hit .293 for the month of August for the Rays.

 

 

Rays Take the Fight to Red Sox

 

Rays 10, Red Sox 3

 

Tell me that the last few games have not set you back a few dollars in aspirin or antacid. I do not have those problems yet, but the playoffs might bring about some bodily changes. Seriously folks, tell me that the last three nights have not been great baseball.  I am not praising or cutting down either team, but it was just great pitching one night, extra base hits galore another night, and a combination of an entire team picking themselves off the mat to answer that last bell to take the prize.

If it wasn’t for the security and police officers having to restore  some peace and general order every 10 minutes, we might have seen every play of this great series. But where do we go from here. Do the Rays rise above their fate and win their division?  Do the Red Sox accept that for them to get farther in the playoffs, they might be a better Wild Card draw for the L A Angels?  Or does Alyssa Milano like the Rays or Red Sox?

I think the next 11 days are going to be some of the best baseball this season. Every team that the Rays play from today on will be gunning to make a mark against them. Considering after this weekend, we play 8 games in 7 days and all of them are against teams that would love to kick the feet out from under us this time of the year. It might just be a great gut-check for the Rays to see if they will be able to withstand all the fuss and gruff of being a winner.  Stay tuned .

 

Rays Magic Number:  12

Combination of Rays wins or Boston losses to equal the magical number will award the Rays their First A L East pennant.

 

 

Matt Garza

I got to give it up first tonight for Matt Garza for coming out to start this game on 3 days rest for the first time in his career. And in doing so, the Rays had a set number of pitches for Garza before he would get the hookin the contest. Garza has gone 12-6 this season against the AL East, and had the 2nd lowest ERA against this division at 2.56 coming into the game. Boston’s Jon Lester had the lowest at 2.13 ERA this season. So you could say that the Rays were pulling an King  from the deck tonight against the Red Sox.

Garza lasted 4.2 inning tonight and gave up 3-runs on 5-hits before  Grant Balfour relieved him with two outs in the 5th inning. Garzas strikeout-towalk ratio was not impressive tonight (3/2), but he did have great control of his breaking stuff after the 2nd inning. In the first 2 innings, David Ortiz was dictating the game to Garza. Big Papi came up with Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and drilled a 1-1- pitch into rightfield to put the Red Sox up early 2-0. In the 4th, Ortiz hit a 0-2 count fastball into right for a solo shot, and the last run scored that night by the Red Sox.

 

Red Sox Pitching Errors

With the score 5-2 in the 3rd inning. The Boston Red Sox pitching staff began to make a few costly errors in the game. After Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield gave up a double to Evan Longoria, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona replaced him with Devern Hansack.  On a 1-1- count, Willy Aybar hit a shot to Dustin Pedroia that hit the heel of his glove and he could not make the play to get Aybar at first base.

With Longoria sprinting for home, Pedroia tried to get the Rays third baseman at the plate. On the throw home Aybar moved into second base.Hansack then tried to pick off Aybar at second, but the throw was high and sailed into shallow centerfield. Aybar went to third on Hansack’s error and stood there with 1-out in the inning. 

Hansack walked Dioner Navarro on 6 pitches and got the next batter, Justin Ruggiano to strikeout. With 2 outs, Francona pulled Hansack and inserted Jose Lopez to pitch to Gabe Gross.  Lopez threw a pitch outside to Gross that he just got the end of the bat on and Lopez threw wildly to first. Gross was safe at first base and Aybar scored for the Rays. The next batter was Fernando Perez, who hit a 0-2 pitch into shallow right and scored Navarro to put the Rays up 8-2 in the game.

 

                               

 

Fernando Perez

With the emergance of Perez this September with the Rays, there is talk among the coaching staff od him maybe taking over centerfield for the rest of the year and letting  B J Upton play right the rest of the year to let his shoulder heal and to give the Rays another cannon in the outfield.

Perez, who Baseball America called the fastest baserunner in the International League has been impressing the Rays’ Coaching staff since coming up from Durham last week. He has played in 12 games and started in 8 since his recall to the Rays.

During last night’s game, Perez went 2-3 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. He also hit his 2nd homer of the season as the back piece of a Gross and Perez back-to-back home run streak.  Perez also made a nice diving play on a dropping ball in shallow centerfield on the Red Sox’s Sean Casey. The ball was dipping fast and Perez got under it and did a small 360 degree spin on the Fieldturf before coming up with the ball.

 

                             

 

Willy Aybar

Rays Manager Joe Maddon made an effort to put some offense up at the plate against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Rays usual DH Cliff Floyd did not have an attractive average against Wakefield, so Maddon gave him the night off and let Willy Aybar DH for the night.  Aybar had never hit against Wakefield, and Maddon was gambling that he would get good results against him.

Aybar ended up going 3-5 against Wakefield and  scored 2 runs and got 3 RBI’s on the night. Aybar started the scoring early on a homer in the 1st inning with Jason Bartlett aboard to put the Rays up 1 run on the Red Sox  3-2.  Aybar again got into the offensive attack when he on an infield single in the 3rd inning, scoring Longoria. He again got into the act in the 4th inning when he was safe on a error by Red Sox reliever David Aardesma. Since August 27th, Aybar is .348, and has 15 multi-hit games in his last 32 games.

 

Rays Bullpen

Grant Balfour came in to relieve Garza and got his 5th win of the year last night. Balfour leads all MLB relievers with a 12.93 strikeout/9 innings ratio, and has struck out 35.9 percent of the batters he has faced, which is tops in the majors too.  Coming into tonight, he has also been scoreless in 12 of his last 13 appearances.

J P Howell leads all MLB reliever with 88 strikeouts this year. He also leads the MLB in innings pitched with 85.1 innings this year. Howell also owns the lead for allowing only 11.8 percent of his inherited runners to score in a relief appearance this year. He currently owns a 0.00 ERA in September, with 11.0 innings pitched so far this month.

Chad Bradford leads all MLB relievers in a 4.70 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio. He has pitched to a 1.20 ERA in 17 appearances for the Rays since being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles.  He worked a 1-2-3- inning in the 9th tonight to shut down the Red Sox.

 

                                 

 

90 Victories

With their 90th win last night, the Rays joined a group of 6 other clubs that went from gathering 90 plus wins after 10 plus years of losing baseball seasons. The other teams sharing the title with the Rays are: the 1912 Washington Senators, 1914 Boston Braves, 1956 Cincinnati Reds, 1979 Montreal Expos, and the 2006 Detroit Tigers.

 

The next team on the Rays plateau to wins is the 1991 Atlanta Braves who posted 94 wins in going from worst to first that season. The Rays are within range of that total and will shoot for that goal this weekend.

Also of importance is the the Rays current record of 90-60 is 3rd best in the majors and is 27 wins better than last season. If the Rays play .500 ball the rest of the season, they will post a 30 win improvement over last season. Only 9 teams have posted 30 plus games from one season to the next.

 

Yankees Take the Night Cap Against The Rays

 

 

Yankees 6, Rays 5

 

By winning the first game today, the Rays have vanquished the New York Yankees plans to embarrass us again with a sweep in the 3 game series. As you might remember, before the All-Star break, we came inot the Bronx and were tossed around a bit before leaving town for Boston and getting kicked a few more times up there.

 

Today starts a streak where the Rays will be playing 16 games in 15 days, with another doubleheader planned for the last series in Baltimore on Tuesday, September 23rd.  With boston losing the first game to Toronto today, it puts the Rays back up 2 games  above the Boston Red Sox.  It also reduces the Rays number to make it into the playoff to 9 games.

 

 Rays Magic Number:        14

This is the combined number of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure their first A L East Crown.

 

            

 

During the early parts of this second game in the doubleheader against the New York Yankees, Rays starter, Matt Garza did not look comfortable on the mound . Garza’s focus was not great tonight and it got him in early trouble against the Yankees.  Garza led off the game by walking Brett Gardner on 4 pitches. Derek Jeter then came up and set down a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate that was handled by Garza. Garza threw a low throw to first that was scooped by Carlos Pena for the force out, but the play moved Gardner into scoring position at second  base.

 

He then walked Bobby Abreu on  6 pitches to put men on the corners for the Yankees.  After a  Garza balk moved both men into scoring position, Alex Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield that Fernando Perez had to make a leaping catch for the out. Gardner tagged up at third base and scored to put the Yankees up 1-0. For the night, Garza went  5 innings and gave up 6-hits for 3-runs. He threw 83 pitches on the night. Garza’s lack of control got him an equal 3 walks and 3 strikeouts in the game.

 

                              

 

The night did not turn out any better for the Rays in the 2nd innig as Ben Zobrist lost a Robinson Cano looper down the leftfield line to lead off the inning. Cano did not harm the Rays in that inning, getting stranded on second to end the inning.

 

              

 

During the 4th inning, Wilson Betemit hit a Garza 2-seamer to rightfield for a solo shot to pull the Yankees within 2 runs of the Rays, 4-2. Garza seemed still upset about the homer as he pitched to Ivan Rodriguez.  Rodriguez then singled to left on the first pitch from Garza. 

During Cody Ransom’s at bat, Rays catcher Dioner Navarro tried to throw out Rodriguez stealing second, but threw the ball to the right of Akinora Iwamura and into centerfield. Rodriguez advanced to third on the throwing error by Navarro.  Rodrigues scored on a  Brett Gardner grounder to second to put the Yankees within one run 4-3.

 

In the top of the 4th inning, the Rays scored  4 runs and went ahead of the Yankees 4-1.  Navarro lead off the inning by walking on 6 pitches.  Gabe Gross the hit a liner to rightfield for a single and put Navarro in scoring position at second base. Perez then hit into a 1-4  play to force Gross out at second base. 

 

 Akinora Iwamura then walked on 4 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Ben Zobrist then came up with the bases loaded.  Zobrist then hit a 1-2 pitch for his 8th homer of the year, and his seond Grand Slam of the season. Zobrist hit a Grand Slam on August 29th against the Baltimore Orioles in the 4th inning of that contest.

 

J P Howell came on to pitch in the bottom of the 6th inning and put the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the inning. In the 7th inning, the Rays began to unravel a bit behind Howell when Jeter reached on a infield single to third that Aybar could not handle. The next batter, Bobby Abreu, hit a ball to Zobrist at short that Zobrist threw towards the second base side of the bag and beyond the reach of Iwamura. The ball went sailing into rightfield and Gabe Gross was given an error on his over running of the ball in rightfield.

 

Jeter ended up scoring on the overthrow and Abreu advanced to second on Gross’s outfield mistake. This put Abreu in scoring position, and the Yankees and the Rays were tied 4-all at this point.  Carlos Pena then went for a foul ball on the firstbaseline near the infield tarp and appeared to have the catch before falling in between the tarp and the stadium wall and losing the ball out of his glove.

 

Abreu moved to third on a wild pitch by Grant Balfour during Xavier Nady’s at bat. Nady then hit a ball up the middle and scored Abreu from third to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead in the game. Robinson Cano then  came up and hit the bag at third and it settles near the foul line for another double in the inning. Betemit then struck out swinging to end the inning for the Yankees.

 

 

The Yankees then got an insurance run in the 8th inning off  Rays reliever Chad Bradford.  Cody Ransom reached base on a infield single to shortstop that Zobrist could not get to first in time for the out.  Gardner then hit into a fielder’s choice, taking out Ransom at second base. Gardner then stole second on the 2nd pitch to Jeter. Jeter ended up walking on 6 pitches and set up men at second and first for Abreu.  Abreu then hit a blooper single to rightfield thast scored Gardner and put the Yankees up for good, 6-4.

 

The Rays came out in the top of the 9th against Mariano Riveria and gave a valiant effort to tie this contest. Gabe Gross lead off the inning with a single to leftfield. Gross ended up going 3-3 on the night for the Rays.  Fernando Perez then popped out on a bunt single to the pitcher for the first out. 

 

In 3 innings tonight, the Rays Bullpen gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, and only one of those runs was a earned run tonight.  In his 1.2 innings, Howell did the most damage tonight by getting 4 strikeouts in the game. It is one of the first times in a while that the Rays Bullpen did not hold the lead for the Rays.

 

                                

 

 Aki then struck out on three pitches before Evan Longoria came up as a pinch-hitter for Zobrist. Longoria hit a RBI single to rightfield, scoring Gross and pulling the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.  Justin Ruggiano then hit into a 6-3 force out to ends the game for the Rays.

 

                          

 

Zaun Zaps Rays for Series Win

 

 

Blue Jays 7, Rays 4

 

It is simply amazing that the Rays still have the best record in baseball considering we have lost 3 out of our last 4 games this week. I know the Chicago Cubs, and the L A Angels have had their handsful this week also, but who would have thought you could hold onto the best record this late in the season after losing three games in 4 tries.

 

That is just a sure sign that there are alot of teams out there gunning right now for the guys at the top. This is the month of the year that teams can play the spoiler role and make a good team squirm under pressure or fold like a deck of cards. The Rays are squirming a bit, but they have not shown any intention or reaction to acting like a house of cards.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon is as optimistic today as he was after sweeping the Cubs at the Trop. He knows you have to play them one at a time, and the baseball gods will sort it all out for you. But seriously, this is the time of the year that the Rays need to make an offensive statement and not just try to win the game. They need to gather steam this month and use it to propell them to success in the post season.

 

The worst thing you can do as a playoff team is coast into the post season with no forward momentium or enegry. That would produce a flat result, which could mean an early exit from the playoffs. I consider this season a success just becuase we finally got a winning season.

 

 I truly believed we had the motors to roll over Boston and New York, but that they needed another year to mature and rise to the occasion. But I will take all the positives and hope that the Rays are just taking a light breather and will come out and be fir on ice against the Red Sox and Yankees in their home turf this  next week. We can not have a sweep at either stadium, or it might just push us below Bosotn for the first time in a long while. And if we pop below the Red Sox, it might take a small miracle to get basck to the top before the end of September.

 

 

Rays Magical Number :     21

This is a combined number of Rays wins, or Bostons losses to finish as AL Est Champions.

 

 

James Shields has gotten the nickname, “Big Game James” this year from his teammates. Little did he know that the game would go so far into the afternoon, and little did he know how huge his pitching performance would hinge on the Rays either winning or losing this series to the Blue Jays.

 

Shields threw 8 innings today and gave up only 3-runs on 6 hits to the Jays. He only had trouble in a few inning today, but they were costly problems for the Rays. In the 1st inning, Shields looked a bit frazzled as the Jays put the first two men on base as Joe Inglett singled to left, and Marc Scutaro hit into a fielder choice to remain at first for Alex Rio. he then took a 1-1- pitch to deep center field and scored Scutaro to put the Jays up early 1-0. The ball was hit so hard the B J Upton could only watch it bounce to the wall before getting it and preventing a triple by Rios.

 

Shields only had one situation in the 2nd inning, when he gave up a solo homer to Lyle Overbay on the thrid pitch of the inning. That put the Jays up 2-0 at the time. In the 4th inning, Overbay again became a nemesis of Shields as he hit another homer after going 2-0 against Shields to stake the Jays to a 3-0 lead.

 

 

 

Shields did get the Toronto batters to go down 1-2-3- in the 5th, 7th and 8th innings to shut down the Toronto offense and give the Rays a chance to tie the game. Shields left after throwing 96 pitches in the 8 innings of work, but the Rays were down 3-0 at the time.

 

 

 

 

The Rays offense was stymied until the 9th inning by the pitching of  Jays starter Shawn Marcum. In the first 8 innings of the game, several Rays tried to put the team up early against the Jays. Akinora Iwamura went 3-4 in the game and hit the first pitch he saw today for a single to centerfield. Aki did it again in the 3rd inning, hitting the first pitch for a single up the middle. So on the day so far, Aki had  2 singles on 2 pitches from Marcum.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro did get a single in the 5th inning to right, but was stranded there by the Rays. In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena got a single to right but was left on base after a pop out to leftfield by Cliff Floyd.   In the 8th inning, the rays had a sliver of light when both Ben Zobrist  and Aki walked to put a man in scoring position for only the second time today. Up to that point, only Aki had been beyond first base for the Rays today. So in all, the Rays collected only  4 hits on the day, and  4 walks by Pena, Upton ,Zobrist and  Willy Aybar.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Willy Aybar, he was caught leaning in the 2nd inning after walking on 7 pitches from Marcum. Aybar had a late break to second and never had a chance to really steal the base. Jays catcher Greg Zaun threw a lox strike to Scutaro to nail Aybar with a foot to spare to erase the Rays only base runner in the 2nd inning.

The Rays did however put themselves in holes today on the bases by committing  5 double plays on the day. The ended the 1st, 5th ,8th innings on double plays.  The Rays also struck out 7 times in the first 8 innings, with Aybar and Eric Hinske each getting 2 strikeouts for the Rays.

 

 

The Rays did finally get on the offensive board in the 9th inning. With Jays closer B J Ryan on the mound, the Rays quickly evened the score at 3-3. Ryan started the rally by hitting Pena with a pitch in the back arm.  Then Rocco Baldelli came out ans pinch hit for Cliff Floyd.  Rocco took a 2-2- count breaking ball to leftfield for his 3rd homer of the season and quickly got the Rays back into this game.

 

 

 

 

Aybar then walked on 5 pitches and was replaced by pinch runner Fernando Perez. Perez quickly got the Jays attention by stealing second base ans scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single. Navarro was gunned down trying to stretch the play into a double at second by  Jays centerfielderVernon Wells.  But the score by Perez evened the score at 3 and the team went into extra innings.

 

 

The Jays had a chance to win in in regulation as Scott Rolen doubled with 2 out to left center and stood in scoring position for Toronto.  Zaun then came up and hit an infield single to  Jason Bartlett. Bartlett could not get a throw off to first in time, but caught Rolen sneaking off third, and the Rays got him in a run down to secure the third out of the inning and get the game into extra innings.

 

 

Aki again hit a single in the 10 th inning, but was  the victim of a Upton double play to end the inning for the Rays. In the 11th inning, Pena hit a single down the first baseline and moved to second on a wild pitch to Justin Ruggiano to get into scoring position. But Ruggiano struck out to end the inning for the Rays. 

 

In the 12th inning, the Rays had their best scoring chances of the game as Zobrist  got a double with 2 outs in the inning. Aki and Upton then walked to load the bases for Pena. Pena then hit a high towering shot to right that was grabbed by Alex Rios for the 3rd out of the inning. Coming into that at bat, Pena was hitting .328 with the bases loaded for the Rays.

 

The top of the 13th inning had Rocco single to left to start the inning and Perez hit into a fielder’s choice with Baldelli out at second. Perez then went to second on the pinch hit grounder to first by John Jaso. Perez then got his 2nd stolen base of the night by taking 3rd, aone pitch before Navarro singled to right to score Perez and pout the Rays up 4-3. Bartlett then walked on 7 pitches and set up another scoring opportunity with Zobrist at the plate. Zobrist ended up striking out on 5 pitches to end the inning.

 

 

 

 

From the bottom of the 9th inning until the 13th, the Rays  sent 5 reliever to the mound. Dan Wheeler lead off the 9th inning, with J P Howell, Chad Bradford,and Grant Balfour pitching up to the 13th inning. During that span, the Rays only let 1 batter get into scoring position, and that was Rolen in the 9th inning.

 

 

 

 

The Rays sent their closer, Troy Percival out for the 13th inning against the Jays.  Percival got the hot hitting Rio to pop out to Pena before giving infield single to Wells, on a bobble by Aki at second base. Then Brad Wilkerson hit a 0-2 pitch to left field for a single and put Wells in scoring position.

 

Overbay then came on and hit into a fielder’s choice, with Wilkerson out at second to put men on the corners with 2 outs in the inning.  Rolen then waked on 4 pitches to load the bases for Zaun. Percival then tried to get Zaun to chase a curveball, but Zaun hit the first pitch over an out-stretched Baldelli hanging on the rightfield wall for a walk off grand slam and the victory for the Jays.

 

 

                              

 

 

That shot by Zaun sealed the series for the Jays and put the Rays in a spot to go within 2 games of the Bosotn catching the Rays for the AL East lead. This was Percivals’ 4th blown save of the year. Since coming back off the DL on September 1st, Percival now has a blown save, and a loss in his last 2 appearances for the team.

 

In that time Percival has thrown for 1.1 innings, and given up 4-hits and 6-runs, and 2 homers. This was the first game this year that the Rays lost when he blew a save opportunity. Coming into this game, the Rays were 33-0 with Percival on the mound, and won in extra innings the 3 other blown saves he encountered this season.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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