Results tagged ‘ Cliff Floyd ’
What is it about old hairband songs and the American League. I am starting to believe that in this Karaoke inspired world that we are playing too many golden oldies and adapting them to our team as models of our character. Remember a few years ago when the Chicago White Sox were tearing up the playoffs, the chose a Journey song as their muse. “Don’t Stop Believing” is a great song, but not one I would every tag to a baseball team. But then I never thought the Rays would have Survivor of “Eye of the Tiger” cult status do a free concert to celebrate our Playoff success.
The Rays have been comtemplating who should throw out the first pitch at the Rays ALDS games. My choice is first Dick Vitale for obvoius reasons. Vitale was inducted with me in the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame in the same year. I still have his chair sign in my collectible folder. He is also a clssic example of the kind of fan we love. Loud, proud and totally bonkers at times.
But the guy to throw out the second pitch will get alot of debate. I think it should be Kevin Costner. He has done so many concerts both for the Rays and the Durham Bulls this year that he has been a symbol of the new logo, jerseis and attitude since his Straub Park concert. He is also a consumate baseball guy who is a true fan of the game. And his character Billy Chappell, is still one of my favorite baseball heros.
I hope that Placido Planco only has a sprained ankel or a turned ankle after that collision at home plate with Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 1st inning. He came into home pretty hard towards the right foot and shinguards of Navarro and he might have caught his foot under Navarro and twisted before crossing the plate. He was replaced in the top of the 2nd inning and you did not see him on the bench area, so maybe he was sent to get some X-rays to rule out a break or any ligament damage.
B J Upton
What can you say about B J Upton since he came back off the bench a few games ago and has been hitting the cover off the ball. Tonight Upton went 3-4, with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored in the game. And to top it all off, even with his bum shoulder he was able to muscle a homer out to leftfield in the 5th inning. It was only Upton’s 9th homer of the season, but it came at a time when the Rays needed a shot in the arm to get back into this game. His blast put the Rays within 2 of the Tigers, 5-3.
Upton was a combines 1-19 on this roadtrip before tonight’s game, and has played in 8 of the last 9 games for the Rays. Before his injury, Upton was hitting .396 in his last 48 at bats. Upton also stole second base after walking tonight to give him 44 for the season. That is currently good enough for 2nd in the AL, 5 behind Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox.
He has been trying for the last 7th starts to reach his 14th win for the Rays. Tonight was his last chance to grab at that golden ring this season for the Rays. Coming into tonight Sonnanstine has gone 0-2 since his last win against the Los Angels Angels back on August 18th. Alot of the problems have been after his exit in the game, but Sonnanstine also has done some damage himself this season. For example, in his last 3 starts, he has gone 19.1 innings and given up only 2 Earned Runs on 16 hits, while posting a 0.92 ERA.
Usually when you have a almost 3 games worth of totals like that you tend to have at least 2 wins in the books. But Andy has been snakebit and has been awarded nothing in those 3 starts. He is a guy who keeps you in the game and gives you a chance to win every time out. But tonight, he got his 9th loss of the season by just not hitting the right spots to one certain Tiger batter.
Sonnanstine got into trouble in the first inning tonight and it put himself and the Rays in a big hole early in the ballgame. Curtis Granderson fought off Sonnanstine’s pitches and finally walked after 7 pitches to open the game. Sonnanstine then walked Placido Polanco to put the first two Tigers on base. Magglio Ordonez then took a 0-1 pitch the drilled it into the leftfield corner to score both baserunners.
Miguel Cabrera then hit a sharply dipping ball that B J Upton grabbed off the turf and completed a double play by throwing to 2nd base and tagging Ordonez out at 2nd base. The Gary Sheffield came up and hit the first of his 2 homers to righfield to put the Tigers up first 3-0 on the Rays. Ramon Santiago again camne back to bite the Rays tonight in the 2nd inning when he hit a 2-run homer to left to up the score to 5-0 Tigers. Santiago has now hit 3 homers in 2 days against the Rays. He had 1 homer the entire season before this series.
After the 2nd inning, with the Tigers up 5-0, the Rays began to shut down the high powered Tiger offense. The only hits between the end of the second inning and the 8th inning , was a single to left by Sheffield in the 3rd inning and a single by Dane Sardinha in the 6th inning.
David Price came on in the 6th inning with 2-outs and hit the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Brandon Inge. He then walked Sardinha on 4 pitches to load the bases. Price got Santiago to line out to Gabe Gross in right for the final out of the inning. Price then came out in the 7th inning and got 2 quick outs before being replaced by Grant Balfour with Ordonez comint to bat for the Tigers.
Balfour got Ordonez to end the 7th inning. Balfour then got Cabrera to strike out before leaving a breaking ball up and Sheffield hit his 499th career homer to right to put the Tigers up 6-3. Balfour then got Mike Joyce to strike out and Inge to ground out to Akinora Iwamura to end the inning.
Frustration Level: HIGH
In tonight’s contest the Rays left 14 men on base. This is a stat that I have been harping on for almost the entire season. It is one that can make or break a team during a short series like the playoffs. The Rays have had breat opportunities to capitalize and score runs, but something always happens in thses situations.
Plenty of Scoring Chances
That tonight’s game, in the 3rd inning Upton got a fielder’s choice to the pitcher and scored Bartlett from third base, but Iwamura was forced out at second for the 2nd out of the inning. With Upton on first, Carlos Pena popped up to third to end the rally. Then in the 4th inning after Navarro hit his 27th double down the leftfield line, and Gabe Gross walked to put 2 men on base, Eric Hinske struck out to end the inning.
In the 5th inning, the Rays did start their most impressive rally of the night with Upton hitting his 75th career double to left to start the rally with 2-outs. Pena then hit aball up the middle to score Upton and Evan Longoria hit a ball through the hole at second base to put himself at first and Pena at third with Cliff Floyd coming to bat. Floyd ended up striking out to kill the rally
In the 7th inning after Upton hit his 9th homer of the season, Pena hit a beauty up the first baseline for a single. Longoria followed with a shot through the hole at shortstop and the Rays had 2 men on with 1-out. Rocco Baldelli pinch-hit for Floyd and struck out on 5 pitches. Navarro then hit a long fly ball to center for the 3rd out. In the 8th, the Rays again mounted a rally with 2-outs in the inning.
Jason Bartlett hit a ball deep into the shortstop hole for a single. Iwamura then hit a single just three feet left of Bartlett’s hit to put 2 men on with 2 outs. Uprton then hit a single to short and loaded the bases for Pena. Pena hit a long fly ball to Granderson in center for the 3rd out. In the 9th inning, Baldelli walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays a runner. Navarro then hit a blooper to center for a single. He was then replaced by pinch-runner Jonny Gomes. Willy Aybar then hit a nice ball down the first baseline and scored Baldelli from second base. With Gomes now on third and Aybar at first, he was replaced by pinch-runner Carl Crawford. But two quick fly balls by Zorbrist and Bartlett ended the game and the rally for the Rays.
Rays Win by Default Tonight
With the New York Yankees winning 19-8 against the Boston Red Sox, the Rays’ players and coaches’ and fans will be celebrating into the wee morning hours with their first AL East title in the books. I know this is not the way the guys wanted to win this title, they wanted to win it on the field. It is important for these guys to actually have the chanceto win it on the field for their confidience level going into the playoffs. You never want to back into the playoffs in any manner, much less win your first division title by default.
Still, the excitement of finally fulfilling the goals set in Spring Training should be the thing right now. The fact that the Rays can still win their last 2 games and make tonight a moot point in this default setting. Thi is the first time since the Rays first season that someone other than the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title.
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: 1
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).
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.
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.
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: 2
Any combo of a Rays win and a Boston loss gives the team their first American League East title tonight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back in the first weeks of Spring Training, the local fishwraps here in Tampa Bay asked the Rays starting pitchers’ about a prediction for the season. Most gave a pat, simple answer that it is too early to predict much, but good things will happen to the Rays this year. Only one guy seemed to want to go above the norm and blow the lid off the prediction kettle.
Scott Kazmir came out and predicted that the Rays would be in the playoffs. Plain and simple. He was not under doctors care, he was clean, clear-headed and about to pitch in a simulated game when he answered the question. For a few seconds you might imagine the newspaper guys and the video crews wanted to check Scott’s locker for unsual item, like a Quija board, a fortune telling 8-ball, or a deck of Tarot cards.
It is with great pleasure that I can now deem Scott Kazmir one of the prophets of the Rays Republic. Kazmir is now a member in lifetime standing in the Rays Republic for comments above and beyond the scope of normal citizens. I have to admit I had the Rays at 80-85 wins, which would have been a mass improvement in one year. But I also would not throw away any more than that total.
At the beginning of the season I was unsure of Matt Garza as a total pitcher. Now I think this guy can turn into an ace onb this staff with some time and patience. I also had a few doubts about Jason Bartlett, but those fell by the wayside soon after he made plays that past shortstops would just wave at as they slowly bounced by them. He molded into this team’s 2008 MVP. He was chosen for his defense, his leadership, and for his huge upgrade at the position in general.
Come out for warmups freshly shaved, Scott Kazmir took his cap off and showed the Rays faithful his new ‘hawk, the symbol of this young ballclub this season. I could think of no other pitcher who deserved to be on the mound today to secure the Rays their first Playoff Berth in the club’s short history. Since Kazmir will probably be the next retired Rays number in the Trop. some day, it was fitting and truly an honor to watch this guy hit the mound tonight.
And Kazmir came out with the heat tonight. He went 6 innings of 5-hit shutout ball and picked up 5 strikeouts on the night. Those 5 k’s put him in 10th place in th AL this year with 158 for the year. Kazmir had all thre of his pitches grooving on the plate last night. Gone was the odd feeling of the ball leaving his hand as he talked about in his last start earlier in the homestand. Now the ball felt right in his hand and his slider was especially on today.
Top 6 batters’ in the Order
The top 6 batters’ in the Rays order each got at least one hit today. Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria each had one hit on the day. Carlos Pena made his one hit count as he hit a 2-run double to deep right center that scored Iwamura and Eric Hinske to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Evan Longoria rounded out the top 4 batters with an RBI to deep center that scored Jason Bartlett in the 5th inning.
Cliff Floyd went 2-3 on the night with a homer to right in the 7th inning, and a single to right center in the 4th inning. Floyd was also intentionally walked in the 5th inning when the Rays ended up scoring 5 runs. But the show tonight was centered on the guy who was calling game behind the plate.
Dioner Navarro had another banner night when his team needed it most. He went 3-4 in the game and 1 RBI. Navarro started the night hitting a single to deep right in the 2nd inning. Navarro then hit a double to right to get Cliff Floyd into scoring position at third base. Then Navarro hit another double to right that scored Pena and put Longoria and Floyd into scoring position. On his only out of the night, Navarro hit a squibbler down the first baseline that was easily turned into an out. But he had already done the damage that night on the bases.
Bottom of the Order
The bottom of the Rays order has kept them in a huge amount of games in the past few weeks. Tonight the bottom of the order only produced 2 hits, but they also had 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s on the day. Rocco Baldelli walked on 4 pitches in the 4th inning to score Longoria and put the Rays up 5-0 at the time.
Fernando Perez only went 1-4 today, but he also scored a run and got an RBI. Perez homered for his 3rd of the season in the 6th inning. Perez also made another great play in centerfield today on a dying ball hit into shallow centerfield. He quickly got a bead on the ball and caught it about a foot above the turf. Perez also got a outfield assist today when Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to center and Prez quickly got the ball back into the Rays infield where Pena threw to third base to get the sliding Justin Morneau for the second out of the 4th inning.
I have been a huge of everything that Troy Percival has done this year for the Rays. I understand how he wants the ball in key situations, but I also wonder if he might still be nursing an injury a little more severe that he lets on to the public and to Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Percival had a few epidermal injections in the last few days to take a bit of the pain away from his back region.
I am now wondering after this outing if the injury might be a disc problem based on him changing his warm-up routine in the Bullpen area. Troy used to do about 5-10 push-ups dailt and do a bit of yoga back stretching before taking the mound. He no longer does either event and it might be leaving him a bit stiff, or the injury might be limiting his mobility. Either way, it should be a red flag to the Rays that he is not able to be 100 percent for the team right now.
In the 9th inning last night, Maddon wanted his big horse to take these guys to the promised land of securing the playoffs on his broad shoulders. What ended up happening is that Percival gave up 1-hit and 2-runs in his 1/3 of an inning today and might not be the closer we want him to be right now. Brendan Harris got on base on an error by Jason Bartlett on a bad throw to first base. He then stole second to get into scoring position with 1 out in the inning.
Carlos Gomez then walked on 6 pitches to put two Minnesota runners’ on base. Denard Span then hit a ball into the rightfield corner that was mishandled by Rocco Baldelli and Harris scored the first run of the day for the Twins. Span moved to second on the throwing error by Baldelli who actually had a great idea of throwing to second to keep Span from moving up, but there was no one at second to recieve the throw and the ball skidded through the infield before Bartlett got it in the shortstop hole. Alexi Casilla then grounded out to Bartlett, who zipped the throw to first as Gomez crossed the plate with the Teins second run of the inning.
Miller was warming up as Percival was beginning to get into truoble in the top of the 9th inning. Trever came in immediately following Span’s double down the rightfield corner and got Casilla to ground out before getting Joe Mauer to finally hit a foul ball up the third baseline that Longoria cradled for the third out and the beginning of the celebration.
Miller was one of the first people to be interviewed after the on-field celebration, and when he took his cap off, you saw the new mohawk haircut that threw the crowd into hysterics. Miller earlier in the week said he might be the last one in line for a ‘hawk hairdo, but here he was supporting his team by sporting the fashion statement in Tampa Bay. I hope his wife did not mind his hairy donation to the Rays cause.
The rest of the Rays Bullpen quickly came down to Miller side and celebrated between home and the mound and began a 3 hour celebration seen on the Jumbotron for everyone in the stadium. Also having a great night on the mound for the Rays today was Grant Balfour and J P Howell, who each threw an inning of scoreless relief for the Rays.
Where Is Kool and the Gang?
The celebration quickly rang out in the stadium as the P A announced that the Rays were in the Playoffs. The player were still in their white uniforms and celebrated for about 5 minutes on the field before going into the lockerroom for a bit. They quickly came out wearing playoff t-shirts ans hats and began spraying the Rays faithful with champagne. Carl Crawford, Akinora Iwamura, and Edwin Jackson began the fluid barrage on the top of the dugout before moving to the turf and spraying everyone within range with the bubbly.
As this was going on, the Rays announcers were interviewing and looking out for flying suds as the beer as well as more champagne was flowing all over the clubhouse. Rich Hererra and Todd Kalas should get combat pay for the amount of suds and bubbly residue that was soaking on their skin and well manicured hairs. It was a scene of mass hysteria for the right reasons as players came in and psrayed the inteviewees’ more than once. The best of the night was the side explosion approach by Chad Orvella on Jason Hamell.
Shortly after this, the players came out and did a victory lap around the stadium as players and fans hugged and congradulated each other around the stadium. I was propped up at the Bullpen Cafe and got alot of great sloppy hugs from very drenched individuals. It was a time for celebration, and the actions of Gabe Gross getting on the rightfield fencing and cheering to the crowd sent the rightfield into a frenzy.
As they made it around the Trop. player were jumping up and slapping the hands of the masses who still remained in the stadium and did not want the moment to end. Finally about 8 P.M. the players were agin in the locker room and the post game videos and commentary was shut down for the night. But as you left the stadium in the halls, you could still hear the yells and screams from down by the locker room area from players, family and Rays officials. This was a day that no one with a ticket will every forget…………………I know I will never ever forget this day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where is the love ESPN? You have Josh Beckett as one of your 3 top performers from last night on the top of the boxscore page, but no Andy Sonnastine love in the house. You have got to be kidding me here guys. This kid as been “money” as Vince Vaugh stated in the movie “Swingers.” He has done everything asked of him this year by the Rays, and have shut the Boston Red Sox machine twice in his last 2 starts.
That is right, Sonnanstine has been a thorn in the side of the Red Sox for twice this week. He has his first start of the year against Bosotn last Wed. night, also against Beckett where he allowed 1 Unearned run in the game. Sonnastine only surrendered 4 baserunners in 7 innings of work. Beckett and Andy both left the game tied 1-1.
7 innings after he left the mound, the Rays finally ended this 5 plus hour marathon on a Carlos Pena blast over the beloved Green Monster to seal their first winning series in Boston this year. And he gets no love from ESPN, the leader in sports. So that proves that there is still comedy on ESPN.
Today is the Day that all MLB teams can release their 2009 schedules to the public. I am not sure if the Rays will wait until maybe Thursday during their Fandemodium celebration, or just let it leak out through the channels of the media. But let’s hope we see some Mets, or maybe a few Braves games on the 2009 game list.
I was questioned by a Boston fan last night as to why all of a sudden we are the cowbell capital of the world. Well, I told him in no uncertain terms that it was a device brought to the Trop. to drown out and be a vocal/ musical harrassment to their chants and noise. I also made sure he knew that the Red Sox were not the only group to feel the cowbell wrath. That the team from the Bronx also got a few doses of it every night in the Trop., and that it is a habit and well beloved symbol of the new regime in the A L East. If you to blame anyone for the cowbells, blame Christopher Walken, if not for that glorious Saturday Night Live skit, we might be still sitting on our collective hands.
Rays Magic Number : 12
This is the combination of Rays win and Boston losses needed to secure our first AL East pennant.
Our Rays catching corps would not be the same with Dioner Navarro. He has improved by leaps and bounds both at and behind the plate for the Rays this season. His All-Star nod was a great example of the AL acceptance of this great players as a future and current star of the game.
But his throw last night to get the Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury was a thing of beauty. The ball was thrown right to the foot of Ellbury, and Akinora Iwamura only had to put it in his glove to secure the tag. Perfect throw at the perfect moment to stop a Red Sox threat in the 8th inning. Navarro has thrown out 33.3 percent of the baserunners this year, to rank 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors this season. Of the MLB catcher, who have caught at least 100 games,only Kelly Shoppach ( 35) of the Cleveland Indians has less stolen bases against him than Navarro (42) this year.
Not to be outdone was his walk-off single with the bases loaded into deep centerfield with the outfield shallow to prevent the runner on third from scoring on a fly out. Navarro hit the ball so hard it took a one-hop bounce over the centerfield wall. All Coco Crisp could do was watch the ball fly high over his head and put his head down in disgust after the play.
It was classic Rays walk-off material in that Navarro has been one of the unsung heroes at the plate this season for the Rays. After the team celebrated with Navarro at second base, he quickly found Rays Hitting Coach Steve “Hendo” Henderson and planted a huge hug on the guy responsible for his new offensive numbers. Henderson worked dilligently with Navarro during the second half of last season to improve his stroke and compact his swing a bit for the Rays. On a night like tonight, it played huge dividends for the team.
A classic shaving cream pie was delivered by B J Upton during Navarro’s on-scene interview with Rich Herrera after the game. Upton caught Navvaro totally unaware of his sneaking up and planting a huge shaving cream pie on him during the interview.
You can’t harp on a team not hitting in a pitchers’ duel. You have to accept that the team is taking their hacks and trying to get on base as mush as possible to win the ballgame. But you got to admit, that both theses pitchers were on their game last night. Beckett held the Rays to 3 total hits, and posted 7 strikeouts on the night.
The top of the Rays order, of Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena got needed hits in the ballgame. Cliff Floyd and Dioner Navarro rounded out the other Rays who got on base with hits against Beckett. But then again, we left 6 guys on base in this contest. Just one little tweaker up the middle, or a long hopper into the gaps and this game would have been settled aerlier in the game.
Andy was making his 5th attempt at trying to win number 14 tonight. He has been in a state of suspended animation for about two weeks trying to get that elusive win under his belt. Considering that James Shields is also at 13, he might be the first to hit that plateau this season for the Rays. But you got to admit, just based on his last 2 starts, Sonnanstine deserves that first 14 win placement. This is the guy that in the beginning of the season so many people were wondering if he could make it in the majors, or if he was ready for the big show.
I think the questions have been answered now, and should not come up again for a long time. Last night’s start was also the 30th of the season for Sonnanstine. His 13 wins are second only to Tuesday nights starter Diasuke Matasuzaka for second year pitchers. His current .650 winning percentage is the best in the Rays history with a minimum of 15 decisions. The Rays have gond 13-6 in his last 19 starts. And he is now 4-1 this season against the American League East teams.
Our Small Group of Fans
I am going to address this to the very small segment of our fans who are becoming the one thing we despise about the Boston and New York rowdies. They are constantly badgering and egging on the opposing fans to produce behavior that is more fitting to a dark, seedy bar than in a baseball stadium. I am a bit upset with the bogus taunts and swearing between the masses of fans at the game recently.
I am of the school that you, “act like you have been there before.” In that, I am speaking that you act with class and keep the BS to a minimum concering the fighting and hassles within the stands. I know that their fans can be as obnoxious as a can of limburger cheese, but we do not have to rise, or fall to that level to be a winning team. Let our team do the damage on the field, and not to each other in the stands.
I am the first person to rise up in a incident, and I also do not back down to anyone, but you have to pick your battles. And if it is to take some swipes at a Red Sox or Yankees fan and miss the game………you are on your own. Fighting only get two thing done………you ejected from the stadium for good, and give them a sense that they won by getting you out of your element. So be smart and enjoy the game, the entire game and let the teams on the field do the battling.
You got to admit that it looked great watching Ellsbury look up at the ball as it landed only a row beyond the fence last night in the game. The people in Section 143 were going bonkers, and the fans were on their feet for the blast. The opposite field shot by Pena was his 29th homer of the season and gave the Rays a tie with the Red Sox 1-1. No one was more happy than Pena as he slapped his hands together as he ran between first and second to silence the Boston fans in the stands.
This was Pena’s second balst against the Red Sox in 7 days, and that one also put the Red Sox in line for the loss. Pena is also doing it on the bases with his 22 walks over the last 18 games, and he is currently 5th in the Al with 85 for the year. He also has leads the majors this year with 7 bases-loaded walks. His 29 homers as a first baseman is the best in the AL this season.
Tonight is the last game between these two giants during the regular season. This contest will decide where the two teams stand before embarking on their last 11 days of the 2008 season. The Rays will send hard-throwing Matt Garza to the hill. Garza will be seeking his 13 win on 3 days rest and is a rematch against Red Sox Tim Wakefield. Both pitchers started the contest on July 1,but Garza got the decision on a 3-1 Rays win.
Against Boston in his career, Garza is 3-1, with a 3.54 ERA in 5 starts. For 2008, Garza is 1-1, with a 4.15 ERA. In his only loss of the season against Boston this year, Garza pitched 5.1 innings of 7-run, 6-hit ball and yielded homers to J D Drew and Mike Lowell.
I was chatting with a friend today online and he stated that the Rays might be folding like a cheap deck of cards right now becuase of the young pitching staff and a failure to drive in our guys in scoring position. Both points have a huge amount of merit there. The Rays hit a combined .124 with runners in scoring position in this recent roadtrip. And the young starters did falter in a few areas during their games. But with the also apparent upside of this team still having the best home record in baseball, and the fact that the players trive in fron tof over 25,000 fans, you know the next 7 games will be the total accumylation of this season for the team.
I hate to bunch the next seven as the “biggest, most important home stand in the team history.” We already know that is the fatcs, and the reality is that if the fan base doesn’t come out and stack themselves to the rafters, it sets a huge set of cards into motion. If the owners finally put up a competitive team and people did not come out, who is to blame? Larry Rothchild? If the Rays make the playoffs, major league baseball takes over the daily stadium operations. And you know the Trop will be sold out even if they have to find a busload of people to sit in those high seats in the 300 areas.
This last week is the week that the bay area needs to show its support or its want for baseball in this area. It is about civic pride right now more than anything. For about a month or so, the talking heads of the broadcast monopoly have stressed that the Rays are still not drawing fans to the stadium. But I also see a bulk of that footage showing people wearing green and white Rays gear. So maybe they are showing vintage 2007 footage, but then again, some night it is still a graveyard at the Trop.
But, in the last two home series we have also had a few teams in that do not bode well for traveling fan bases. Toronto is not a hot bed of traveling fans to their away games. And the New York fans have stayed home to relax in their lazyboys and watch the game on TV rather than fight the increasing Rays fanbase hassle. No longer is this the Fenway-South, or Little Bronx. It is Tropicana Field, where the Rays play and other come to lose.
Everyone knows that I am a huge Jackson fan. And that I am a true believer in his increasing education as a pitcher for the Rays. So it is a big thing when I come out and stress the importance of a win in his next start or give the start to another pitcher. The time is too severe for us to use this opportunity to hope for victory, but know it is within our grasp.
With that in mind, it is disheartening to see that he only lasted 53 pitches and 2 innings today against the Yankees. I could see in the beginning that home plate umpire Gerry Davis was squeezing his strikezone to tight it was screaming out in horror. But Jackson did to respond in the right manner. He did not adjust quick enough to set the ball in the right direction, instead he left a few pitches over the plate and his day was drastically changed from that point on.
Edwin did give up two monster homers that not only cost the Rays a chance at the win, but might have put doubt into his next start for the Rays. With David Price and Mitch Talbot, and Jeff Niemann sitting on the bench, do you use your Triple-A studs to get you that win, or rely on Edwin to rebound and put together a few innings before leaving. Jackson has gone 0-3 in his last 3 starts. He has also even his record at 11-11 for the season.
The decision is in hand by the Rays manger, Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach, Jim Hickey. I know they still have a load of respect and admiration for the work he has done to improve this year. But do you pull the plug when you have so much riding on the next 14 days?
I want to take a moment to thank Jerry Crasnick for his awesome article on the Rays. It was a great read, and if you are a true Rays fan, you need to red this article. I am glad people at ESPN like yourself and Peter Gammons are coming out to the Rays defense. I remember a few years ago when Peter was here for the FanFest and he was glowing about the future of this franchsie. He has since been a closet supporter of the good going on here, but has never doubted the Rays this year. Hopefully you can talk some sense into those mutton-heads on Baseball Tonight to see this for what it is………..great baseball played by a team of confident young players wanting to wi every night.
How can you measure how much this Ivy league educated guy has been on the bases and at the plate for the Rays this September. Perez came to the plate in the 2nd inning and slammed his first major league homer run to the rightfield stands and put the Rays back into this game 4-3 at the moment. Considering this guy has been tooling around learning to hit more as a leftie this year at Triple-A is amazing. Considering that he is doing everything possible for this team to take a deeper and more intense look at him next spring is the basis of what the future Rays will be…………hustle, speed andetermination.
There was an episode in the 2nd inning, right before Perez’s shot that might have made that game more intense and stressful for everyone had Cliff Floyd not gone over and quelled the anger right away. He did what Shelly Duncan did not do, he went over and got with Robinson Cano after accidently smacking him in the side of the head on his slide attempt on Sunday. He made sure that Cano knew it was an accidental move and not a premeditated thing that could have festered into an on-field altercation. But then again, that is the class that Floyd shows every night on the diamond.
Has there been another pitcher in the last few years for the Rays that has gotten the kind of press and accolades that David Price has gotten for the Rays. Price was selected at the Minor League Player of the Year last week and is celebrating it a the major league level with the Rays. Price got to the stadium on Saturday and did not know in what measures the Rays would use him this month.
But since Jackson could not complete his game on Sunday, Price was put into the game as a long reliever to try and hold the Yankees offense to a minimum so the Rays could mount a comeback. Price came in an immediately got the Yankees attention by sending down the batter in order in the 3rd and 4th innings. For his 5.3 inning, Price recorded 4 strikeouts.
But Price is also going to be a footnote in the career bio for Derek Jeter. Price put a slow slider off the plate that Jeter hit into the rightfield bleachers for his 12,69th hit in Yankee Stadium. That hit put him into a tie with the Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig for the Yankee All-Time hit Lead at the stadium. After that little hiccup, he put the Yankees down in order in the inning.
Again the issue of getting hits with runners in scoring position came out to bite the Rays today. In the 6th inning, Perez came up for the thrid time in the game with at least 2 men on base. He did walk in that inning,but Jasob Bartlett following him hit a strong dipping liner that was caught for the 3rd out of the inning. The Rays left 10 men on base in the game, and 5 times left men in scoring position with 2 outs.
After the 6th inning in todays’ game, the Rays only mounted one serious attack on the Yankees to try and win this contest. In the 7th inning, Willy aybar hit a single with 2 outs to try and put pressure on the Yankees’ bullpen. But he was left stranded on first after a long ball hit by Dioner Navarro to centerfield for the last out. In the 8th inning, the Rays went down in order, with the last two outs being long fly balls into centerfield.
In the 9th inning, Akinora Iwamura started the inning by walking on 7 pitches, before Jason Bartlett hit a fly out to right and Carlos Pena struck out for the third time today. With 2 outs, Evan Longoria hit a single up the middle and gave the Rays a chance in the inning. But Aybar struck out to end the game and the Rays chances to come back home more than a single game up over the Boston Red Sox.
Cliff Floyd,Part Deux
Cliff Floyd had a great day at the plate for the Rays. Floyd went 2-3, with 2 doubles to set the pace for the Rays. Floyd has been leading by example on this roadtrip and has begun to set the bar high for his fellow Rays batters. Considering Floyd has been in these September pennant fever runs before can only be benefical to the Rayd down the stretch. All the young Rays have to do is listen and learn from Big Cliff and the team will come out fine in the long run.
I have to make a comment here. What was Carlos Pena thinking when he went over for a pop-up in front of the mound and smack the ball out of Longoria’s glove for a sure out. I have to give kudos to David Price for getting away from the situation and letting his infielders’ have a crack at it, but Longoria clearly had the rights and the ball before it was dislodged out of his mitt by his collision with Pena.
The third baseman should have the right to catch a ball hit to his side of the mound. But some peole say that Price needs to play traffic cop and tell someone to take the ball. either way, it was an embarrassing play ans one that went for a double for Cody Ransom. Pena was given an eror on the play, only his 2nd error of the year
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.
Somethings you just look forward to this time of year. Like the last time you have to face a certain team. or a pitcher that seems to have your teams’ number. It is for that reason that I am glad the we are almost done with the Toronto BlueJays. This is one of those teams that have had the Rays numbers for years and years. For some reason, we can’t seem to win alot at the Rogers Centre.
But sometimes that happens in sports. A certain team and a certain pitcher can just handle you like a ragdoll and all you can do is just take the beating. Well, with the Jays, it is two-fold. We have had Roy Halliday’s number most of the year, but he truly shows hoe great a pitcher he is by rebounding and taking the last 2 games from us to go into 2009 on a winning note against the Rays.
This is the kind of team that battles just like the Rays, but they had some pitching concerns earlier in the year, and that might have cost them a better ending to this season. They now currently have the best staff ERA in baseball, and it shows against the Rays. So we will not be sad to finally get out of town on Sunday, but will miss the competitive fire in these Jays the rest of the way through the season.
You know this Jays’ team is a team in transition. They will have to make a few hard decision this winter as to the true direction of their franchise. They have big names ready to check out the free agent market, and they have some up and coming guys who will have to be rewarded to stay and mature with this team. I do not fear a team upgrading itself this off season in the AL East, it will just make us work harder and try to regain the fire and status we achived in this “magical summer.”
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine did not have a bad outing last night in Toronto, but he did have a few bad pitches that came back to haunt him in a big way. Andy went 6 innings last night and gave up 4-runs on 5-hits as the Jays defeated the Rays 6-4. Sonnanstine was going for his 14th win of the season for the second time this year. The win would have tied him with Rolando Arroyo for the wins record with the Rays.
Sonnanstine started out in good shape getting ther Jays 1-2-3 in the 1st inning. But he started to have trouble in the 2nd inning when Vernon Well doubled on the first pitch he saw in the inning. Adam Lind then came up and got on with an infield single to shortstop to put pressure on the Rays. Jays catcher, Rod Barajas then came up and singled into center to lod the bases for the Jays.
Lyle Overbay then came up and hit a 2-run double to score Wells and Lind and put Barajas at third with no outs. Scott Rolen then came up and hit a Sacrifice Fly to right to score Barajas and put the Jays up 3-2. After the 2nd inning, Sonnanstine then only had trouble with Alex Rios in the 3rd inning when he gave up a solo shot to center on a hanging breaking ball to put the Jays up for good, 4-2.
Andy then took control of the contest and only gave up a single walk before leaving the contest. On the night, Sonnanstine threw 80 pitches and only issued 1 walk and got 3 strikeouts on the night.
The Rays only collected 10 hits on the night off Jays’ pitching and again left 8 men stranded on base. Halladay had good control of the game only letting the Rays get 2 runs off him in th 1st inning before settling down for the game. For the night, Halladay, Scott Downs and B J Ryan combined to strike out the Rays 10 times in the contest. The top 4 batters in the Rays order accounted for 7 of those strikeouts.
In the 1st inning, the Rays got on the board first when Akinora Iwamura was safe at first on a error by Jays second baseman Joe Inglett. B J Upton then doubled to deep right on the second pitch he saw and put both Aki and himself in scoring position. Carlos Pena then hit the first pitch from Halladay for a Sacrifice Fly to score Aki and move Upton to third. Cliff Floyd then came up and hit another Sacrifice Fly to right to score Upton and put the Rays up 2-0 early on the Jays.
But the surprise of the night was the bunt single put down by rookie Fernando Perez in the 9th inning of the game. Perez came up as a pinch hitter for Dioner Navarro and put down a laxy bunt down the first baseline that made the first baseman Lyle Overbay committ, and Perez used his sprinter speed to run down the line and avoid the tag from Overbay, before hook sliding into first base. Perez’s bunt was na amazing display of his athletic skill and seems to pump the Rays up a bit at the time.
With Perez at first, Jasob Bartlett came up and hit a double to deep center that scored Perez from first base and pulled the Rays within 2 runs of the Jays. Aki then struck out to give the Rays 2 outs in the inning. Upton then got to first on an error by shortsrtop John McDonald, and move Bartlett to third base. Upton then stole his 34th base of the year before Carlos Pena struck out for the third time tonight to end the game.
Grant Balfour has been a lights out pitcher for the Rays this season since coming back up from the minors. But his one mistake tonight on a pitch to Alex Rios in the 8th inning. Balfour came out tonight throwing the ball in the high 90’s, with most pitches staying near the 96-97 mph mark on the radar gun.
But it was a hanging high slider that did him in tonight as Rios hit a 2-run shot to left to give the Jays the needed run to secure the win tonight. Balfour came into the game In tonight’s game, Balfour allowed a double and the Rio’s homer. Before those two exta base hits, Balfour had only allowed 6 extra base hits all season long. And the homer to Rio was onlt the 2nd given up by him this year.
Upton’s 42nd stolen base put him currently in 2nd place in the AL. But that is not the only high marks for Upton this season. He also still leads the majors in caught stealing attempts, and is currently 6th in the majors with 89 walks. over his last 8 games, Upton is hitting .394, with 5 RBis, and 4 stolen bases.
The Durham Bulls had their Friday night Governors Cup game cancelled due to concerns over Hurricane Hanna. The game will be played on Saturday evening if the weather permits. Jeff Neimann will get the start for the Bulls against the Louisville Bats. The Bats are one of the highest scoring team in the International League this season. The best-of-5 series is currently tied 1-all going into the game.
Last night you saw what I love about baseball. You are never out of a game, no matter what the score is at the time. Even if it is 2-outs, bottom of the 9th inning, if you can put some good wood on the bat, you have a chance to win the game. And the Yankees almost pulled off that theory to sweep us last night.
Now I know, Rays Manager Joe Maddon would not let this win get aways from the Rays, but it got close……..too close. I have seen many a Bullpen implsion in my 11 years following the Rays, and last night was just a blimp on the radar scope of implosions. Becuase of the recent scores in the Yankee games, Jason Hammel had has the duties as the garbage man, or guy who gets to mop up the innings because of the score.
And what has transpired is a bit disheartening. Hammel has pitched in 5 2/3 innings this homestand and has given up 9 hits and 8 runs in his releif appearances. Hammel is being groomed to be a reliever for the Rays and not a starter. With these numbers on a total of 114 pitches, it looks like the experiement will go sour for him. But I am not throwing Hammel out to the wolves here, just that he is a prime candidate for an off season change of scenery.
Since he is from Washington state, maybe the Mariner’s could use a young pitcher with a huge bit of potential. Unfortunately, he is out of minor league options and can not be sent down without going through waivers. If the Rays did subject him to the waiver wire, he would not last long and we would not get anything for him.
So the answer might be to try and salvage his career in the coming months and then find a good suitor who needs young pitching, major league quality pitching. With the backload we already have in the minors, it would not be in his best interest to stay here past 2008.
By the way, the Durham Bulls got beat last night 19-3 by the Louisville Bats and are heading home for the middle games of this best-of-5 series. The series is currently tied up at 1 win each.
Rays Magic number: 21
This is the Magical number of win or Boston losses combined to win the AL East Crown.
Scott Kazmir pitched like the team’s ace last night. He had great control of his fastball, used his change-up well, and threw in a few sliders for good measures. It is by far one of the best performances from Kazmir in 2008. And it came at a time that the Rays needed their ace to deliver. The unfortunate thing is that a high number of pitches got Kazmir an early night and not getting blasted by the Yankee’s bats.
Kazmir lasted 6 innings and left with a 1-hit shutout for his night. Kazmir got 7 strikeouts, but walked 5 tonight to show some slight concern on his high walk totals this year. But the night belonged to Kazmir finally pitching like he did in 2007. He showed confidience and strength on the mound and dominated the Yankee hitters all night long.
Did you know that the Rays’ starting pitchers all have at least 10 wins this season. That has only happened 6 times with a staff where all the starter were under 26 years old or younger. The Rays young guns joined the 1968 Oakland A’s as the only teams in history to have 5 pitchers aged 26 or younger with 20 starts and 10-game winners in the same season.
Willy Aybar put his defensive bad night behind him and came out wanting the win for the Rays. Aybar was spectacluar at third base last night completing several putouts in amazing form. And Willy again came alive at the plate for the Rays. Aybar went 2-4 on the night with 3 RBI’s and a run scored on the night.
But his big hit of the night was his solo shot to right to provide the needed run to secure the win for the Rays. With Evan Longoria still out with his wrist injury, Aybar will be called upon more by the Rays to fill in the gap until Longoria’s return. Aybar hit over .290 on the homestand and has recorded multiple hits in 10 of the last 22 games.
Dioner Navarro also had a career night going 4-5, with a run scored and is creeping up on .300 again this season. Navarro is currenting hitting .297 for the Rays and can raise his average up to over .300 again with a good roadtrip. Navarro collected 3 singles on the night and hit a liner that skidded over the Bullpen Cafe wall for a gorund rule double in the 7th inning (I could not reach that dang ball).
Navarro did have one bad thing happen to him last night. he was tagged out at home when he tried to score from second on Jason Bartlett’s single to centerfield. The Yankee’s Johnny Damon, not known for his arm anymore, put a ball right on target and got Navarro by 10 feet to end the 7th inning.
The 5th inning was key for the Rays last night as they tacked on 5 runs in that inning to set the tone for the night. Eric Hinske and Navarro got the inning off with a pair of singles, and Hinske advanced to third on a wild pitch by Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner. Gabe Gross then hit a double to center to score Hinske and put Navarro at third with no outs.
Jason Bartlett then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Navarro and put Gross at third with 1 out. Akinora Iwamura then hit a single to center to score Gross and put the Rays up 3-0 at the moment. A B J Upton single then put Aki at thrid with BJ at first base with only 1 out in the inning.
Carlos Pena then walked again on 6 pitches and the bases loaded for the Rays. Cliff Floyd then struck out and Aybar came up and hit a single to right that scored both Aki and Upton to raise the score to 5-0. In the inning, the Rays got 5 runs on 6 hits and chased Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner from the game.
The Rays did have one more scoring opportunity in the game in the 8th inning when Iwamura hit a ball into the gap in left center and raced all the way around the bases for a triple. Upton then hit a sacrifice fly to score Iwamura from third base.
Speaking of Upton, I hope all the distractors are happy now to know that Upton has been playing with a slightly torn labium since he pulled his shoulder out in Baltimore earlier in the season. The injury is in his non-throwing shoulder and is not career threathening, so he has been playing in pain for some time. To imagine playing with such an injury, and still be hitting .272 on the year is just incredible to me.
So we know now why the power aspect of Upton’s game is not showing up as he is simply hitting with 1 arm up there at the plate. And to think it is his lead shoulder that is damaged shows the discipline and determination of B J this season. He has not whimpered or cried to the media about this sutation. And not until recently when he asked Maddon if he could limit his batting practice attempts to rest the shoulder did the situation even surface.
I think we all now need to just appreciate this guy more and more in the next few weeks ans know we have a guy who will do anything for his team, no matter what the cost. And you people have been badgering him for months now. Shame on all of us, even me.