Results tagged ‘ Cliff Floyd ’

Yankees Win Round 1

 

 

Yankees 7, Rays 2

 

Best thing about the New York Yankees right now, they are fighting to stay afloat in any playoff situation. But the reality is that if the Toronto Bluejays can win their next 2, and the Yankees lose 2, it is pretty much all over for the Yankees. I know it has been over 11 seasons since the boys from the Bronx have had to make dinner reservations in New York come October 1st.

But the reality is that this team has been pitching weak all year and has gotten some great spot action, but without Mike Mussina, this team would be fighting the Orioles for the cellar. But we all know that this is just a bump in the NY road, and it will be patched by and ready to go in 2009. But then again, the Rays will also be re-loading and will not take on a huge amount of salary that the Yankees will need to offer to get the big guns to finish this transition. While other teams rebuild, the Yankees reload.

Speaking of reloading, it was a great sight to finally come to the Trop and get mobbed by Blue and White, without pinstripes on them. For one of the first times in recent memory, the Rays fanbase came out and supported the cause last night. Every time a Yankee chant started, the cowbells or boo’s were loud and proud. The team did not back down to the Yankees intimidation tactics, or the usual trash talk in the stands. And I only saw a small handful of security-aided situations compared to the usual Yankee series. Maybe the Yankee fans are finally deciding they will have more fun, and be heard more at home than at the Trop. I can not say I will miss them, but it does give more room to the Rays fans to cheer on their team.

 

Yankees 7, Rays 2

 

                  

 

I love to reward hustle and aggressive measures by a player. I think that for us to go far in the playoffs we will have to think outside the box and come up with a few surprises for the rest of the year. But, some of the surprises I saw last night will not fly come playoff time.

In the 2nd inning, Willy Aybar lead off the inning with a single to left and was standing on first when Eric Hinske hit a monster liner to deep centerfield. Aybar raced past second and looked towards Third Base Coach Tom Foley who put up the “stop” sign for Aybar.

Eric Hinske being the aggressive bull that he is, was rolling past second with his head down and did not see that Foley had held Aybar before both players were a few feet apart from each other near 3rd base. Aybar had to committ to home becasue Hinske would never have been able to retrack to second base in time. Aybar sprinted to home, and could have made it had he put a shoulder into Yankee’s catcher Jose Molina.

What is so upsettting is that this set the tone for the Rays night. A few miscues and a few odd errors and the game was not in the Rays’ hands anymore. With Johnny Damon playing centerfield, you know you can run on the guy. He is Johnny Damon, but he is also not the same player who has a rifle attached to his arm anymore. I think if Foley had sent Aybar, it would have given the Rays an early pump of energy that they needed in this contest. 

 

Hinske did go 2-3 on the night, with an additional single to center in the 4th inning. Carlos Pena also got into the action early going 2-4 on the night and getting his average almost back to the .250 mark for the season. Pena walked in the first inning, and had an single in the 3rd inning to put B J Upton in scoring position. Carlos also had a double into the right-center gap, but was stranded on base for the Rays.

Cliff Floyd got the scoring started for the Rays on a single to right that scored Upton in the 3rd inning to bring the score to 3-1.  In the 7th inning, Gabe Gross hit a nice ball down the line into the rightfield corner for a double.

 Shawn Riggans then doubled into left to score Gross and make the score 6-2.  Rocco Baldelli came up to bat for Cliff Floyd in the 7th inning and New York countered by bringing in Joba Chamberlain to face Baldelli. Baldelli  was at the plate with Riggans and Akinora Iwamura on base for the Rays. Baldelli swung at the first pitch and hit a grounder to short that Jeter flipped to Cano for the force out at second base.

 

                                           

 

Matt Garza did not seem totally comfortable on the mound last night. The early runs by the Yankees probably did not help in that matter, but the Home Plate umpire’s strike zone also may have contributed to the situation. All night long, Home Plate umpire Brian Runge’s strike zone seemd to be moving and expanding or shortening depending on the pitch.

Several pitched balls were called strike that were clearly beyond the black of the plate and Garza’s frustration mounted. To add further fuel to the fire was the play in the 5th inning on a lightly hit ball in front of the mound hit by Robinson Cano. Garza picked up the ball and tossed it a good 5 feet above Pena’s head for his 1st error of the year.

Garza ended up going 5 innings and gave up 6 runs on 5  hits and striking out only 2 Yankees all night. Garza ended the night by taking his 8th loss of the season.  Last night’s game was Garza’s 50th career start. He also came into the game 12-4 against the AL East this season, and was 7-2 at home this year.  His last start against the Yankees was the May 12th game to win the opening game of the series , which the Rays ended up winning 3 out of 4 games at home against the Yankees.

 

Several plays during the game helped set the tome for the Rays loss. Willy Aybar’s play at third base when he sat back waiting on the ball to come to him gave Derek Jeter a single. Jeter then stole second on a close play by Riggans to Iwamura at second.

Aki could not hold onto the ball, and had Jeter by two steps for the out. Jeter then scored on Jason Giambi’s sacrifice fly to center in the 4th inning. B J Upton made a play to get Jeter at home, but the ball was high and the tag could not be made in time.

 

Sometimes I get sick of bringing this point up in my blogs. The Rays have a great offense and can stand toe-to-toe with any team in the league. But we have a major concern and issue with our hitting with men in scoring position. Last night the Rays out hit the Yankees 12-9. But the kick was that we stranded 10 men on base that could have helped lower the score.

This is not the first time, or maybe the last time this will come up, but it does need to be addressed. The Rays play a more National League style of play on the bases at times, and it has been to their advantage most nights. Last night was just a night where the ball was hit to people and the hits did not come at the best of times for the Rays.

 

 

                      

 

 Jason Hammel ended up celebrating his birthday by giving up Alex Rodriguez’s 30th homer of the night, and moved A-Rod into 12th on the All Time Home Run list with the blast to left-centerfield. Not the kind of present he was expecting last night. 

It is not that Hammel only pitched 21 pitches in the inning, 18 for strikes, it is that the blast put the dagger into the Rays last night. Hammel has had the odd job of finishing or mopping up games for the Rays lately. That can be a blessing or a curse to some pitchers. It seems this is not the calling for this Young pitcher, and it might end up costing him a roster spot in the spring of 2009. 

 

I do not want to end this blog on a negative or somber note today. I want to commend B J Upton for his play last night in the game against the Yankees. In the 2nd inning, Upton prevented an extra base hit, and maybe homer by Rodriguez by sprinting and catching a ball a few feet from the deep centerfield wall. the play was n amazing display of Upton’s speed and gifts in the outfield.

Also, Upoton had two plays at the plate last night in the game. The first never had a chance to get to the plate in time, but it was a rocket online and to the plate to show he does have the ability to get you if he has the right circumstances. The second was a play on Jeter in the 4th inning that was a bit high and outside, but did get to the plate.

This will set in the minds of the team’s we will be playing the rest of the year that Upton does have the ability to get outs from his centerfield position. This could be a great intimidating weapon down the line for the Rays the rest of the season

 

 

 

Rays Home to Series Win over Jays

 

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2

 

 

Before the contest last night, the members of the Rays/Pepsi Wall of Fame met for a pre-game meal up in the leftfield conference room at the Trop. It was a very informal get together so that we can chat amongst ourselves ans catch up with each other before the game. It was a great event for this small group of extreme fans to just sit, eat and glow about the 2008 Rays squad.

Members from the first years’ class of inductees to the crop of newbies for 2008 mingled and raved about the food and the gifts bestowed on us by the Rays. I do have to say that the Rays have been extremely supportive and responsive to the fan’s needs in the last two years. It is a welcome sight from when the fan hosts and  other Rays personnel used to just be a little less humanitarian and civil to the fan base.

Among the conversations were the play of B J Upton recently and the pricing of the post season ticket packages. I heard a few voices opinions that they will not be able to afford the playoff packages and felt terrible they could not support the team fully right now in their drive for a playoff berth. A few even wished the Rays would push back the date needed for the deposits and full payments so they could build their nest egg to purchase these packages.

It would be a true crime to not have every member of this impressive group there for the playoff contests. But in the economic times that we have, sometimes people have to make a choice in their own financial endeavors. With that in mind, please remember that your post season purchase deadline for Season Ticketholders is Sept 12th. Failure to secure a ticket package by this date will be a forfeiture of the reduced rate and the guarantee of your seats for the playoff games.

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2

 

 

 

 

When Toronto’s Joe Inglett hit  a 1-1- pitch to leftfield that was dipping and moving away from the playing field as it flew down the foul line. Eric Hinske came out of nowhere and leaped to his right and caught the ball in mid flight to secure the first out of the 1st inning for the Rays.

The play was  remarkable to see, and was voted as the 4th best Web Gem on “ESPN’s Baseball Tonight” for Thursday night. Hinske has been impressive both on the field and at the plate in the absence of Carl Crawford in his susal leftfield position. Hopefully the Rays; will reward Hinske for his efforts and give him a nice chunk of change in the off season to remain with the team.

 

 

B J Upton stole his 38th base in the  5th inning after singling to center field. Upton took off on the third pitch to Carlos Pena and arrived before the throw from Jay’s catcher Rod Barajas. Upton was then picked off before the Jay’s Jesse Litsch threw another pitch to Pena. Upton was casually moving off second base and did not see Litsch pivot in time to get back to second to prevent the tag for the third out in the inning.

Upton’s 38th stolen base currently has him ranked third in the Al, 3 behind current leader Jacobs Ellsbury of the Red Sox. Upton’s 14th caught stealing play of the year has him still on top of the list for the major leagues this season. Upton currently has been caught 3 more times than his nearest AL competitor, the Angels Chone Figgans.

 

 

 

 

Willy Aybar has been a great force at the plate and in manning third since the injury to Evan Longoria. Aybar again provided offensive support for the Rays with his 8th homer of the year to deep right centerfield stands. His solo shot in the 6th inning proved to be the game winner for the Rays.

Aybar is batting .277, with 4 homers and 11 RBIs and 5 walks since taking over for Longoria on August 8th in Seattle.

 

 

                        

 

 

Edwin Jackson was rewarded for his great control and firm pitching tonight with his 11th win of the year. Jackson threw 106 pitches over 7 innings and gave the Rays Bullpen a much needed breather tonight.

Tonight was also Jackson’s 100th career appearance in a game.  Jackson has now won a career-high 11 game this season. His previous high was 5 set in 2007. Jackson has also won 5 of his last 6 starts and seems to be peaking this year at the right point for the Rays.  His only loss over those 6 starts was in Texas where he only allowed  1 run on a Ian Kinsler homer in the first inning. In that period, he has a 2.63 ERA over 34.2 innings.

 

Cliff Floyd also hit a monster solo homer in the 3rd inning last night that travels well over 400 feet to within a few feet of the Rays tank in right centerfield. Floyd has been on a bit of an offensive tear lately hitting .311 in the last 14 games, and is currently the second best hitter ( .341 ) to ever play at the Trop trailing only former Yankee Bernie Williams ( .374 ).

 

The Rays other run was scored in the after Akinora Iwamura lead off the game with a double to deep center. Upton then hit a single to left to move Aki into scoring position at third base.  Cliff Floyd then came up and hit a high sacrifice fly to center that score Iwamura and put the Rays up 1-0.

 

 

The Rays finally gave up the shutout in the 8th inning as Alex Rios lead off the innning with a ground rule double that bounced over the centerfield wall before Upton could catch up to it. Jackson then was relieved by Chad Bradford then  got Vernon Wells to ground out to Bartlett who threw to first to get the first out of the inning and  put  Rios at third.

Adam Lind then got an infield single to second to score Rios and put the Jays on the board 3-1. Trever Miller was the  brought in to face Lyle Overbay and got him to strike out for the second out of the inning. Grant Balfour then relieved Miller and gave up a RBI double to Rod Barajas, who scored Lind on the play to put the Jays within one 3-2. Jose Bautista, who is 0-11 since coming up for the Jays, then struck out to end the 8th inning.

 

Congrats to the Rays for having next Weds. game against the Yanbkees picked up by ESPN as their primary broadcast game of the night. Thiss marks the 9th nationally televised contest for the Rays this season. It is by far a franchise high mark for the team.

 

 

 

Dan Wheeler then came on and pitched an inspired 9th inning for the Rays. Wheeler got the Jays out on 12 pitches to earn his 10th save of the year. Wheeler struck out the first two Jays batters before Barajas hit a liner to Aki to end the game.  It also secured the Rays 29th series win, which is tops in the majors this year.

 

Rays Power Their Way Past Halos

 

 

 

Rays 6, Angels 4

 

 

During this series, we will learn more about our club than if we can win or lose these three contests. We might just see if we can stay in a game with a team that matches up quite perfect for us. Both the Angels and the Rays have a superior home win record to boast a pretty even series if played on either teams’ home turf.

But, if we can win our division and have the best record in the AL, it might just trigger something extra special in that the 3, or 4 games needed to win a playoff series could come out of the Trop. And as we all know, the Trop is a pit of cowbells and mass noise this season.

By our sweep victories against the Angels and Red Sox this season, we can establish that a short series could benefit and work into the Rays favor this year. No one other than the Angels in the AL, can boast to have a advantage in their home park like we have encountered this season. And if these two teams meet in the post season, it will be fireworks from the first pitch.

Some teams just match up well becuase of the players and the pitchers on a squad. These two teams match up well because they have both been built on the same premise. Every player believes he can make a contribution. Every pitcher believes he can win when he hits the mound, and every fan believe in both of those thoughts. These three factors can have a monsterious effect on a team’s mental and emotional outlook. And if good vibrations is just a Cali thing, then we have packaged some up and sent it to be transplanted in the Florida sunshine.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine is a pretty mild-mannered guy. You would not expect him to be the guy at the forefront of this playoff push with 13 wins in the season. He is guy who just goes out and competes, and if the cards are lined up right, he will come home with a win. Sonnanstine has average pitches, but fantastic control to enable him to hit the black on the corner of the plate, and not be afraid to throw a breaking ball even with a 3-2 count to a batter.

 It is this confidience and ability that has shown brightly for Sonnanstine this year for the Rays. In one of his biggest starts  of the season, Sonnanstine effectively handled the high scoring Angels to 3 runs over 5.1 innings and improved to 13-6 for the Rays this year. Sonnanstine threw 104 pitches and effectively used his slider and change up to keep the Angels bats at bay for much of the contest.

In his 25th start of the season, Sonnanstine tied Scott Kazmir’s 2007 record with his 13th vicotyr of the season. The all-time leader in wins for the Rays , Rolando Arrojo has 14th wins, and is in jeapoardy of losing that record in Sonnanstine’s next start.  Sonnanstine is a combined 2-4 against the AL West this season, and 11-2 against everyone else in the majors this year. Andy has now allowed 3 earned runs or less in 13 of his last 15 starts for the Rays.

 

 

B J Upton again learned the value of knowning your surroundings as he was picked off by a heads up play by Angels first baseman, Mark Teixeria on a ball hit to deep right center in the bottom of the 4th inning. Teixieria was trailing the play, when Upton broke for second base for a double. Teixeria sneaked in behind Upton and tagged him as he was strolling into second base to end the Rays’ offensive spurt.

Upton looked dazed and confused as he lingered on second for a few moments before surrendering to the fact that the Angel got him again not huslting at 100 percent. Upton was expecting to go into second without incident, before Teixeria tagged him out.  I do not expect a disciplinary action after this, it is just that Upton might have finally gotten that wake up call he has been sleeping through by the Angel’s hustling effort.

Cliff Floyd said before Sunday’s contest that he could see himself watching television after he retires and still see Upton playing ball, but that the desire and the hustle have to be there for him to be successful.  Amen, Cliff, Amen.

 

 

To Upton’s credit, he did have an impressive play in the outfield in the 6th inning to rob Juan Riveria of a extra base hit. Upton took a great route on a fluttering ball to deep center over his shoulder to keep the Angels from having a big inning on the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Eric Hinske has been on a bit of a homer roll lately for the Rays. This is not a huge surprise to the team, and is a welcome sight because of his increased playing time since Carl Crawford’s injury. Hinske hit a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning to give the Rays an earlyt lead in this ballgame, 2-0.

Hinske’s homer was his 19th of the season. Hinske also had an RBI single in the 3rd inning after Cliff Floyd’s homer to  right.  In his last 6 games, Hinske is batting .434, with 10 hits in his last 23 at bats.  He also has 10 RBI’s in his last 37 games . Hinske went 2-3 in the game and has inceased his average to .256 this season.

Since Crawford’s injury, Hinske has been effective as a replacement in leftffield handling the task with great ease. But it is his bat at the plate that has stood out for the Rays’ since Crawford’s absence. Hinske has responded by hitting the ball cleanly and effectively to help the Rays in this injury-plaqued month. Hinske has to consider this a great time to come alive both in the field and at the plate to help secure a spot with the Rays in 2009.

 

 

 

             

 

 

Cliff Floyd has been on fire lately at the plate for the Rays. Floyd is actually looking as calm and collected at the plate as when he was a member of the World Champion Marlins’ in 1997. Floyd has been a monster on the basepaths, and has not shown any effects of his two sore knees during this past two weeks.

Floyd has gone 8-20 in the last 5 games, with 8 runs scored. Prior to this offensive outspurt, Floyd was hitting .156 on the road for the Rays. Last night, Floyd hit a liner drive 2-run homer to right that just cleared the yellow line to put the Rays up 5-0 on the Angels. Floyd also had a infield hit to first in the 5th inning.

Floyd has been the emotional leader in the Rays clubhouse all year, but now that the playoff push is in full gear, he has been more and more vocal almost nightly into the Ray’s push for their first playoff spot. Floyd has been a excellient example on the baepaths and at the plate in what it will take to finally get that spot and succeed in the playoffs.

 

 

                        

 

 

Also having a huge week for the Rays has been Willy Aybar. Aybar filling in for the injured Evan Longoria at third base hit .306 on the recent roadtrip, with 7 extra base hits. Aybar has been another great example of players coming off the bench and filling the offensive void for the Rays during this recent injury situation. Aybar went 3-4 last night with 3 singles last night. Aybar also scored 2 runs last night for the Rays.

 

 

Gabe Gross also had an RBI single to complete the Rays’ scoring last night in the 8th inning. The run helped boost the Rays to 6-4, and cushion the victory margin for the Rays. Gross did hesitate a moment on his advancement  from first to second, and almost repeated the Upton error situation from prior in the game. Gross did get into second without incident.

 

 

With the victory, the Rays have tied the Angels for wins in tha AL, with 74 wins. This will be significant in the coming weeks to help determine the opponent, and the team we face in the playoffs. I know I am talking all “playoffs” right now, but I also feel it is better to be positive than to struggle with phrase like, “need to”, or ” critical that we….”  right now.

When on a win “high” it seems also most intoxicating to just keep the positives and the high-fives coming. I have no reason to doubt that the Rays can keep this momentium going for the next month, even with 28 of the following game against teams above .500 right now.

The level of competition will actually help the Rays more than it hurts them. By playing at a optimium level, the team will keep their emotional level and expectations high for the next month. And that could just be the simple answer to winning in September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kazmir Posts 9th Win Against Rangers

 

 

 

Rays 7, Rangers 4

 

 

I always like to watch these Ranger series games in Arlington. Not that the female fans are the only reason to want to see the scan shots of the seats in the stadium, but sometimes you see that gut who doesn’t know he is on camera  and the dip in his mouth is drooling down the side. To make matters worse, he did not know it and kissed his girlfriend who promptly popped his cowboy hat off his head.

Seriously tho, this series is one of the wildest series the Rays usually have during the year. Both squads are equally matched and the Rangers have an offensive advantage in their home digs, but the heat gets to both teams. That is the main reason this game is played at night instead of 3 PM. The temperature on the field would be around 105 degrees and fluids would be flowing like water in the dugouts between innings.

Heck, with that kind of heat, you might as well put a water cooler behind the pitcher’s mound, or at least have semi-inning sprinklers come on to drench the players.  I know playing outdoors in August in Florida is usually both a humidity bath and a sweat factory. Now when the Marlins and Rays play in South Florida, the afternoon games begin at 11 AM to try and fool the Florida heat, but that never seems to work for either team.

But the Texas heat can be murder in the middle of the day more because of the non-humid conditions that tend to have the sweat bake on your sakin and a huge sunburn can be blistering and reddening by the 9th inning.  So, thse night games might seem weird for viewing fans, but the players love it because of the slight wind that does sneak into the stadium at night fall. 

 

***************************************************************************************************************

 

 

Scott Kazmir has had problems with his pitch counts in most of his 2008 starts. Kazmir has been averaging 18 pitches per inning this year and needs to bring that number down to be able to stay in the ballgames longer and help the Rays’ Bullpen situation.

Tonight, Kazmir collected his 9th win of the season, and went 6 inning. He still threw 114 pitches, but did not have the control he wanted in the game. Kazmir walked 4 in the game and struck out 7 Rangers’. In his previous two starts against Texas, Kazmir was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.

 

Kazmir only ran into real trouble twice in this ballgame. In the 3rd inning,  after a Ian Kinsler double and a Walk to Brian Boggs, Michael Young hit a  single down the leftfield foul line that just fell in by a foot to score Kinsler and give the Rangers  their first run of the night.

In the  5th inning, Travis Metcalf took a 0-2 pitch deep to left field for a solo homer for the Rangers. That was the end of the Ranger’s scoring against Kazmir.

 

 

 

 

During the contest, viewers at home did not see the result of Carlos Pena’s broken bat in the his first inning at-bat. The baseball fan, in the red shirt, is assisted by security and medical personnel after being hit in the face with a portion of a broken bat. Rangers. Pena popped out to third during the at-bat and the fan was escorted away following his injury.

 

 

                         

 

 

The Rays got hot in the start of the 3rd inning as Gabe Gross led off with a double down the leftfield line that Gross originally thought was foul and hesitated out of the batters’ box. Considering the situation with B J Upton on that Friday night, Gross looked more embarrassed than worried about Rays Managers Joe Maddon’s comment to him later in the inning.

B J Upton then came on and doubled down the leftfield line also to score Gross and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.  It was Upton’s 55th RBI of the year, and his 28th double of the season. Ben Zorbrist then 1-hopped a ball to the wall in rightfield and settled for a single.

 

 

 

 

With men at first and third, Carlos Pena came up to bat. Pena took the second pitch he saw from Ranger’s starter Dustin Nippert and deposited it in the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and an early 4-0 Rays lead. Pena now has 6 homers in his last 12 games for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

But the Rays were not finished with the scoring in the game. Eric Hinske lead off the 4th inning with a double to deep left centerfield. Jason Bartlett then came up with 2 outs and hit a single to right that scored Hinske.

Then BJ Upton, who was batting in the lead-off spot tonight, hit a 2-run homer to right for his 8th homer of the year. The homer put the Rays up 7-1.

 

 

 

 

The Rays did have some Bullpen trouble in the 9th inning as Grant Balfour came in for the Rays. Balfour  started by walking  Ramon Vasquez on 9 pitches to load the bases for the Rangers.

Balfour then got Brian Boggs to commit  a potential double play, but the Rays only got one out on the toss by Iwamura to Bartlett. The Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to argue that Vasquez went intentionally for Bartlett’s legs, but was overruled by the second base umpire, Tim Timmons. Boggs then went to second during Michael Young’s at bat on fielders indifference and put 2 runners in scoring position for the Rangers.

 

 

                    

 

 

With Josh Hamilton up to bat next for the Rangers, Maddon decided to intentionally walk Hamilton and let  Chris Davis score from third on the walk. The play was a calculated guess by Maddon that the walk would be the least amount of damage by Hamilton, and the Rays were still leading by 3 runs at the moment.

After the walk, Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, who came in and struck out Marlon Byrd to record his 5th save of the year.

 

 

Before the game, Rays Television guru, Todd Kalas talked with Cliff Floyd  about the recent B J Upton situation. Floyd did agree with the punishment and the severity of the situation and will take Upton under his wing the rest of the year and try and mentor him to be more aware of game situations in the future.

Floyd also stated that Upton has to be careful how he is percieved from this moment on. Players who have shown a tendency to be difficult or problem children have had a hard time finding a position in the majors. He commented that showing respect by running every play out, by playing hard every moment of the game will make this sitation disappear faster than words at this time.

Great comments by a veteran player who is also the barometer of the clubhouse right now for the Rays. The Rays had a chance to get Floyd a few years ago right after he became a free agent with the New York Mets, but Floyd went to the Chicago Cub instead that season. Maybe if the Rays had such a veteran leadership in the clubhouse a few years ago, this year would be more expected than as a surprise to most teams in the league.

 

 

 

Garzas Shutout dooms Rangers

 

 

Rays 7, Rangers 0

 

 

Some nights you just turn on the television and want to see an offensive explosion on the tube. Going into this Texas series, the Rays are going to encounter the team that leads the majors in runs scored per game. This squad is even more potent tha the Chicago Cubs, who have won an easy dozen more games than the Rangers.

But the firepower on this roster is well documented. The stadium is a true hitters’ ballpark, and the incoming teams have to deal with the heat and humidity that only the Florida Marlins could love. Arlington Texas can be a boiler room during the months of August and September, the temperatures can read 90-ish, but feel more like wet sauna.

The Rays come in here cool, calm and relaxed, and a few more wins will make this feel more like the Artic than the Sahara. Winning breeds success, and right now, the Rays are a success story for the ages. Coming in an impressive 6-2 during this roadtrip can put an exclamation point on the roadtrip. The Rays have to go above .500 in their road series to truly envision a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history.  If last night’s performance is only a glimpse into the future, the the future is so bright………you have to wear shades.

 

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

When the Rays looked into their crystal ball before trading for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, did they see this kind of success this early for the pair. Did they see that Garza would come back to the scene of a major emotional and mental meltdown and redeem himself three-fold on the diamond. Could they have envisioned that Garza is considered by many in baseball right now to have the best stuff ( pitches) on the team’s roster. Do you think they thought Matt could mature and accept so soon to be a force on the mound every time he steps to the rubber?

 

Matt Garz threw his thrid complete game last night for the Rays. In the 7-0 shutout, Garza’s sinker ball was amazing last night, and was a true key to Gara winning his 10th win of the season. His sinker was hitting the spots last night with a great downward break at the last moment. Considering he throws it consistanly above 90 MPH, is true testement to his improvement on the mound.

Garza had Ranger batters’ swinging and missing at his pitches last night. Going into the 6th inning, only Josh Hamilton had reached base on a walk for the Rangers. Garza struck out 9 last night and looked totally in control on the mound.

 

 

 

 

Garza’s last start in Texas was a million miles away as you saw him pause before pitching each inning and look into his hat for inspiration and mental notes to get him focused in ths game. The only time Matt truly showed emotion in this contest was in the top of the 9th when he went over to Rays Manager Joe Maddon and  Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and asked to finish out the game.

It was truly a great night to be a Rays fan.

 

 

The Rays struck out 12 times last night against the Rangers. In the last 4 games, the team has now struck out 39 times at the plate. This puts the Rays at 890 strike outs for the season. This is pale in comparison with the major’s leading strikeout squad, the Florida Marlins, who have struck out 1,056 times this year.  But the Rays are within the range of the AL leading  Oakland A’s who have 930 strikeouts.

It brings about a glaring statistic that could play out more down the road for the Rays. There is a difference in being aggressive at the plate, and being a bit foolish and letting a player strike out looking at a pitch than swinging. The Rays have had more strikeouts looking lately than in a long time.

This has to be nipped in the bud a bit to be able to compete come  the September crunch time when baserunners will come at a premium for the team. In the coming weeks, teams will be bringing up the  young fireballers out of the minors to intice us to swing at air. We need to exercise a bit more plate discipline and either swing with authority or take the pitches.

 

 

 

 

Willy Aybar started the barrage in the 4th inning by slamming his 7th homer of the season to rightfield and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. The homer was a impressive shot that curled into the Rangers pinic area above rightfield and maybe put the Rangers’ Marlon Byrd on the bench with an injury. Byrd went up for the ball and got his wrist or upper hand stuck in the railing area and came down without his glove.

At this point in the contest, the Rays had Rangers’ starter Kevin Millwood at 60 pitches and he was slated for an early exit to the game.

 

 

 

 

But the Rays put the game and Millwood on the bench in the 5th inning. Carlos Pena hit  a 3-2 pitch into the right field stands for his 24th homer of the season. Pena went 1-3, with 3 runs scored, and 2 walks in the game. Pena now has 9 homers in the last 20 games, and one on each of the last 3 contests for the Rays.

But that was only the start of the barrage for the Rays. Cliff Floyd, who was 2-5 on the night, hit his second double of the game to setup the next heroics for the Rays. After a Aybar srikeout, Eric Hinske came to the plate.

 

 

 

 

Hinske took a Millwood pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark and above a leaping Josh Hamilton to spot the Rays to a 4-0 lead over the Rangers. Hinske hit that ball into the grassy batter’s eye area in centerfield for his 18th homer. In his last 5 games, Hinske is batting .438, with 2 homers and 3 RBI’s.

But that was not the end of the big blasts for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Rightfielder Gabe Gross also got into the action by hitting the first pitch he saw from Millwood into the Rays Bullpen area for his career-high 10th homer of the year. In the game, the Rays hit 4 homers for the 4th time this season.  Gross aslo got a stolen base off Millwood in the 2nd inning.

 

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett also started at shortstop for the first time since his in jury on August 3, 2008. Bartlett had been a DH a few times in the last week before finally taking thenfiled for the Rays tonight. On the night, Bartlett went 2-4 at the plate and  was the pivot man in the Rays’ only double play of the night.

 

 

Now for the upsetting news. You would have thought he got the message a week ago when Maddon benched him for slowly running to first base on a play, but B J Upton is again in the Rays doghouse. Maddon pulled Upton after he took 5.5  seconds to lollygag to first on a double play attempt.

Upton said after the game he thought the Rays had two outs at the time, but also commented that he now knows he has to hustle all of the time and not just take breathers on the basepaths.  Upton is a great young talent, and Maddon is truly not flexible on this action. He expects everyone to run hard and give maximum effort on every play.

That is a truly commendable trait, and one that Upton probably will have time to reflex on since he will be sitting out the Sat night game against the Rangers’ for his actions. Upton must understand that everyone on this squad is responsible for either its losses’ or successes this season. The Rays have a unique opportunity to change history and nothing short of 100 percent will do right now.

Beyond that, Upton will probably be wise to not get into this doghouse again this season. Maddon is quick to show that Cliff Floyd, who has two aching knees, gutted out two doubles last night, and score 4 runs in the Thursday afternoon game.

His knees were probably braking loud and clear before Friday night’s game. But as a veteran oin this club, Floyd also knows it is all about example and execution right now. And he has a World Series ring to prove it.

B J  has to consider himself really lucky to get such multiple chances from Maddon. In the not to distant past, Delmon Young wrote his ticket out of Tampa Bay on just such a play. And he only got the one chance to slack off before being shipped out of here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays on Wrong End of Walk Off Tonight

 

 

Mariners 2, Rays 1

 

Since we are in my favorite city besides the Tampa Bay area for 4 games, I am going to let you all know some of the secrets and adventures to be had in the Emerald City. The original Seattle was built just below sealevel and since they did not have concrete and asphalt road systems back then, the roads would become a quagmire of mud, dirt, and anything else that was swept down by the rain from the hills.

Another interesting fact is that all the original houses had to put their toilets on the second floor of the houses due to the low sea level building. Unlucky people who had a toilet on the first floor knew nightly when the tide had come in becuase of the gurgle and onrush of seawater into their homes.

An intresting place in Seattle to visit is the Ballard Locks that seperate  Puget Sound from Lake Washington. The locks are a series of basic boating transports to take any marine travelers down from the upper level of Lake Washington, to the low lying Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. Another interesting part of the locks is the salmon ladder.

It ia an interesting series of windows next to the salmon swimway made so people could watch the fish as they try and swin upward towrd theri spwaning grounds beyond Lake Washington. It is really wild to watch these fish struggle and fly in the air on their trip up the ladder system towards freedom again.

Tomorrow I will blog a bit about Pike’s Market. It is ine of my favorite things about the city.

 

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine knew he was in for a pitcher’s duel last night in  Safeco Field. He was matched up against the Mariner’s 22 year old ace, Felix Hernandez. It was not the first time this season that Sonnanstine has had to go opposite a teams’ ace, but the kid did pretty good for himself. The game was a close one with Sonnanstine and Hernandez orchestrating a game that only lasted 2 hours and 9 minutes. The current Rays record for the shortest game away from home this season was 2 hours and 1 minute set against the L A  Angels.

 

Both pitchers worked fast on the mound, and at one point, Sonnanstine had retired 17 straight Seattle batters to set a new Rays pitching record. Sonnanstine also went 7.1 innings and gave up a lone run on 5 hits on the night. He worked fast on the mound and kept the Mariners’ on their heels by throwing to his spots perfectly last night.

 

 

 

 

 

Andy had one of his best nights in his disgusing his breaking ball and watching it clip the corner consisstanly last night. Sonnanstine struck out 4 batters and issuing no walks on the night.

 

Carl Crawford was back in leftfield last night, but did not look comfortable and made two critical errors in the game. In the 2nd inning, Crawford missed a fly out from Jose Lopez that ended up as a double and was one of the only baserunners in scoring position last night. Lopez got to third in the inning before being stranded by three quick outs by the Mariners.

Then in the 8th inning, with Miguel Cairo pinch-running on first.  Yuniesky Bentancourt hit a sacrifice fly that tied the score at 1, and Crawford did not throw the ball back into second to keep Cairo on first. Cairo advanced to second on the mistake and was in scoring position with 1 out in the inning. Luckly for the Rays, Cairo was also stranded on base by two quick outs.

 

 

 

 

Rays-nation held it breath for a few minutes last night as Evan Longoria got plucked by J J Putz with a fastball in his throwing hand. The ball seemed to bounce off his right wrist and Longoria was treated by the Rays trainers, but had full motion in the hand and wrist area.

The ball was intended to get Longoria off the plate a bit and Longoria did not have time to bail or evenduck the pitch. He was awarded first and went to third on Carlos Pena’s single to centerfield. Longoria was left stranded on third by the Rays.

 

 

 

The Rays scored their lone run in the 4th inning. Crawford lead off the inning by walking on 5 pitches to get a man on base for the Rays.  Evan Longoria then singled to center to put Crawford on second, and in scoring position. 

Carlos Pena then grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Longoria out at second. Crawford was now standing at third with 1 out in the inning.  Cliff Floyd was at the plate,and on the 6th pitch, Hernandez threw a wild pitch that scored Crawford from third and put the Rays up 1-0 in the game.

Pena moved to second on the wild pitch and the Rays had another runner in scoring position. Floyd eneded up walking, and the Rays quickly got two more outs from Dioner Navarro and Eric Hinske to end the inning.

 

 

 

 

It has been a rare occasion that Dan Wheeler is on the mound in a losing cause for the Rays. Wheeler came in to pitch in the 8th inning of the game.

Wheeler has been pretty automatic this year for the Rays. Coming into tonight’s game, Wheeler has lead the Rays with 49 appearances this year. Opponents have batted a lowly .170 against him this year, lowest among MLB relievers. They are also batting .185 against him with runners on base, and .156 with runners in scoring position. Wheeler also leads the AL with 25 holds this season, and is one away from the MLB lead.

But in the 9th inning last night, Raul Ibanez needed only one Wheeler fastball to turn the Rays away with a walk-off homer to rightfield. It was Wheelers’ 5th loss of the season

Rays Strikeout against Royals

 

 

Royals 4, Rays 2

 

 

Worst thing about watching this game last night, I wish I was there. I have always wanted to go to Kansas City to check out the areaand attend a game at Kaufmann Stadium.

I have been there a few times to play football, but the Royals were already done for the season, and you hate to walk through a vacant ballpark.

I used to love to eat at Bryant’s or get some great ribs off a corner storefront, but I have never had the pleasure of watching a game in that ballpark. I almost went in 2003, but decided to take a trek to Cleveland that season instead. I like the surrounding of the stadium, and will get there before it is gone.

Something about that park gets me giddy to check it out. Maybe it is the water foutain and falls effect, maybe it is the flashs of the cute mid-western girls.  Maybe it is because so much baseball history has flowed through those stands. George Brett and Bo Jackson used to play there. And there have been World Series games, and an All Star game played there too.

And, to let a fellow Rays’ fan know, they do not have tractor parking at the ballpark. Sorry to ruin your vision of the ballparks’ patrons like that.

 

***************************************************************************************************************************************

 

When you have a game like this, where do you start.

I will start with the glaring reason I think we lost this game. The Tampa Bay Rays have 742 strikeout this season as a team. That places them 8th in the majors. We also have 3 Rays in the top 10 in strikeouts in the AL. Carlos Pena, even though he was out for a period of time, is currently 3rd with  98 strikeouts. B J Upton (87), and Evan Longoria (88) round out our top 3 K-artists.

The game last night saw the Rays get to Royals starter Gil Meche early in the game with a high pitch count in the first three innings. The Rays did not take advantage of this, and Meche walked away with his 8th victory of the season.

Tampa Bay had Meche at 31 pitches in just the 1st inning. Evan Longoria and Pena battled with Meche with extended at-bats, with only Longoria getting a single off him.

At the end of the 2nd inning, the Rays had Meche at 48 pitches, and should have been able to close the door on the starter. But they let him escape with only a single by both Dioner Navarro and Jason Bartlett in the inning.

With Meche on the ropes with a high pitch count, the Rays  ended  both the 3rd and 4th innings on strikeouts. The Rays let Meche survive until the 8th inning.  That was a major mistake by the Rays batters in this game and a huge key to this loss.

 

 

 

One of the positives of this game was the return of  shortstop Jason Bartlett for the Rays.

Bartlett, who had been out for the past 16 games with a right knee sprain suffered while stealing 3rd base on July 2nd.  While he was on the DL, The Rays went 7-9 without him in the lineup.

Not that I think he is a huge cog to this Rays hitting machine this season, but he certainly been a consistant  force at the plate for the Rays offense this year. Bartlett went 3-3 tonight with 2 singles and a double.

 His double in the 8th inning to deep left help set up the Rays first run of the night. Bartlett scored on a Upton grounder to short to put the Rays on the board. 

Bartlett played a great game on defense. The Rays had two double plays tonight with Bartlett attributing to both plays.  

 If I had to pick a player of the night, it would be Bartlett without any reservations. He was a huge threat at the plate, and showed great poise and enegry in his first game back for the Rays.

 

 

Matt Garza  now has a lifetime record of 0-4 against the Royals. Some teams just seem to get to certain pitchers. Maybe KC is the achilles heel for Garza. 

Matt got in trouble early tonight giving up to singles in the 1st inning, and letting the Royals draw frist blood on a Sacrifice Fly by David DeJesus to put them up 1-0.

But the 3rd inning, saw Garza pitch 24 pitches and set the tone for the rest of the game. In the 4th, Garza gave up 3 hits in the inning before making a critical mistake at first base.

Mitch Maier put down a soft grounder to the right of the bag at first that pulled Carlos Pena off the bag. Garza got a late break for the bag and Mier beat the toss to Garza for an infield hit. Mentally, it seemed that Garza did not connect the play in time to get the out. With the Royals already up 4-0 at the time, Garza’s fate was sealed for the night.

 

The Worst part about this loss, is the fact it brought the Rays even with the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Rays had an extra game tonight to put a small cushion between them and the Red Sox, but could not get the victory. With the Rays till playing three more in KC before leaving for Toronto, it is very important that they take this series with the Royals.

Boston will be entertaining the New York Yankees this weekend, and it can put either more distance between the Rays and the Yankees, or put Boston in the drivers’ seat for the rest of the season. Either the Rays come out 3-behind Boston( Red Sox sweep), or even with the Yankees (Yankees sweep) in the AL East. 

This weekend is critical for the race for the playoff for all three teams. With two of the top 3 playing each other, it could help knock one team to a comfortable distance behind the other two with less than 60 games to play this season. Or, it could be a split series by all three and the standings would put all three within 2 games of each other. Fun, Fun , Fun.

 

Evan Longoria went 2-3 last night, and scored the second run for the Rays in the 9th inning. Longoria had a single in the 1st inning that moved Carl Crawford into scoring position, but the Rays did not capitalize on the inning.

For the season, the Rays are currently hitting only .248 with runners in scoring position.

 

 

In the 9th inning, Longoria hit a double off Royals’ closer Joakim Soria and moved to third on Pena’s single to center. The ball was not deep enough for Longoria to try and stretch for home on the play.  Cliff Floyd then came up and hit a deep ball to center that scored Longoria for the Rays final run of the game.

 

The Rays had 5 strikeouts on the night, all 5 were by two Rays players. Pena had 2 strikeouts, ans Eric Hinske was guilty of three on the night, including the last out of the game on a called third strike.

 

J P Howell came on for Garza in the 6th inning and pitched a 1-hit inning for the Rays.  J P is now only 2.2 innings away from a Rays record for relief innings by a left-hander set by Doug Creek in 2001.

Howell currently leads all AL lefties in relief innings this season. J P moved back to 2nd in both the AL and majors in innings pitched 2/3 of an inning behind Brian Bass of the Twins ( 60.2 innings).  In his last 14 appearances, Howell has a 0.47 ERA, with 22 strikeouts.

 

Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler threw scoreless 7th and 8th innings respectfully to close out the contest for the Rays. In those 2 innings, each pitcher retired the side on 10 pitches.

 

 

 

Rays escape with Victory # 57

 

 

Rays 6, Blue Jays 4

 

 

Last night, MC Hammer rocked the Trop with his songs and his high energy dancers. This group had all the energy of 3 Energizer bunnies with some pink fluff to spare. It was one of the best visual concerts I have even been to in my life.

 

Hammer had his music programmed, so he did not have to move around band members or stage equipment. The entire stage for set up for “Hammertime”, and he delivered a lights out show for the Trop fans.

 

I was especially looking forward to a old sone called, “They put me in the mix.” It is a great song with some expanded bass and awesome backbeats. It was also a favorite of mine when I was a skaterat a long time ago.

 

 

Last night’s game was a pitcher duel as expected. We all knew that the first pitcher to blink and show some form of weakness would be the loser in this contest. And the game lived up to it’s billing totally. Toronto ace, Roy Halladay was consistent on the mound for 6th inning.

 

In the Rays bottom of the 6th, the game took a turn for the Rays when Ben Zobrist led off the inning with a single to left. Akinora Iwamura then pushed a bunt single down the third baseline that hugged the white chalk before resting in fair territory for another Rays’ hit. It was Aki’s 15th infield hit of the year.

 

Carl Crawford put down another bunt single to the pitcher to load the bases and set up the drama for Carlos Pena. Pena responded by driving a single to the opposite field and score Zobrist. With the Rays up 1-0, and the bases again loaded Evan Longoria came up and on a 0-2 pitch drilled a grand slam to left.

 

With the bases empty,  B J Upton reached on a infield single to thrid, while Dioner Navarro put down another beautiful bunt to get on for the Rays. Zorbrist ended the Rays inning by grounding out to first.

 

 

B J  Upton had another caught stealing last night against the Blue Jays. Upton, who leads the majors with 12 caughts stealing situation this season, was out significantly on the play.

 

I have said it before, sometime this team give too much leeway to Upton on his baserunning decisions. Most of his baserunning blunders have been self-imposed  because of ill advised leads or bad jumps. But this steal was a perfect example of the cather knowing his tendencies and reacting to them without a flaw.

 

                            

 

Cliff Floyd  has gone 6-20 in the last 6 games. He has also srated in 5 of the last 10 games, and with a single on Friday night, snapped a 0-20 streak  with men in scoring position.

 

Floyd expanded on his streak by 1-4 with his 7th homer of the year. The homer would provide a cushion for the Rays later in the game. Floyd has a .340 average lifetime at the Trop.

 

 

Rays starter Matt Garza pitched 7.2 innings of 2-hit shutout ball before giving the ball to the Rays bullpen. Garza got 6 strikeoyut on 102 pitches to get his 8th win of the season.

 

Garza pitched a brilliant game mixing his pitches against the Jays and retired the first 6 batter to face him before Scott Rolen singled to leftfield.  Garza then retired the next 12 Toronto batters before giving up a single to  Matt Scutaro to start the 7th inning.

 

Garza was replaced by J P Howell in the 8th inning. Howell got ther last out of the inning and was replaced by Trever Miller to start the 9th inning.

 

The 9th inning turned out to be the big inning for the Jays. Miller, who had come on to relieve Howell gave up two  quick hits to put Adam Lind and J oe Inglett on second and third with no outs.

 

Miller was replaced by Al Reyes, who had just come off the DL with shoulder tendonitis on Friday night.  Reyes quickly gave up a single to Marc Scutaro that scored both Lind and Inglett.

 

Then Reyes got Alex Rios to pop out . Reyes then serving  up a ground-rule double to  Matt Stairs to right that hopped over the short wall  by the Bullpen Cafe’ area. That put Scutaro and Stairs in scoring position with 1 out.

 

Dan Wheeler came on without a huge amount of warmup time and got Rod Barajas to ground  out to second base. The play scored Marc Scutaro and the Jays slimmed the Rays lead to 6-3.

 

Wheeler then gave up a double to Lyle Overbay that scored Stairs and cut the lead again to 6-4. Wheeler then got Rolen to foul out to Navarro for the last out and secure his 4th save of the year.

 

All in all, it was an intersting game for the Rays. For the first time in a while, the Bullpen did not come through for the team and gave up 4 runs in less than an inning. But the Rays defense stiffened and got the 57th victory of the year for the squad.

 

The Rays did show that they are overcoming their problem with hitting with men in scoring position, but still left  7 men on base, 3 in scoring position.

 

Last night’s come-from-behind victory was their 25th of the season, which is ranked 6th in the AL. The Rays also improved to 17-11 in 1-run games, only the Ranger at 19-11 have a better record than the Rays in the major leagues this season.

 

Since the Rays swept the Jays at Disney World April 22-24th, they are 20 games over .500.  They entered that series in 5th place in the AL East at 8-11.

 

 

Rays break Pitching Duel for Win

 

 

Rays 2, Blue Jays 1

 

 

We learned a few very valuable facts last night at the Trop.

It would take 264 million gallons of gasoline to fill the Trop, and people will go absolutely nuts for gas.  The Rays and Hess Express gave out 23,706 $5 dollar gas cards last night. To top it all off, if you had  known the above number, you could have won $1500. worth of liquid gold.

The second thing we found out, is that the Rays formula for winning still works. Simple plan of putting the bat on the ball, and transferring the ball from glove to glove can get you wins.

Simple actually, but recently simple seemed oh so hard and foreign to the team. But an injury replacement player gave the Rays their life support for another day. 

 

                                     

 

Best thing about the bottom of the 7th inning, you can stretch out a bit and get ready for the Rays surge to a victory. Most nights we have not had to wait so late in a game for such drama, or have we?

There is something about the Rays and having 2 outs before we can get something going. And tonight was no different. After Cliff Floyd and Dioner Navarro posted out for the Rays, Eric Hinske drew one of three walks issued by Toronto starter A J Burnett last night.

This set the stage for Ben Zorbrist to come up and swing at the first pitch he saw last night, and deposit it in the rightfield stands for a 2-1 Rays lead. Before his homer, Zorbrist had gone 5-30 (.167) since coming back up for the Rays.  Timely hits have been the life and death of the Rays this season. It was Zorbrist’s 4th homer of the year for the Rays.

 

Grant Balfour has been a huge clutch guy for the Rays since he came up from Durham on May 29th. He has appeared in 16 of 39 games since his call-up. Balfour last night earned his 4th save of the season and has now  fanned 36 in 23.1 innings. Grant has fanned 36 of 87 ( 41.3 %) batters face this season. 

 Balfour had another perfect 9th inning to preserve the win for the Rays, who moved back into a tie with Boston for the lead in the AL East. With Boston playing the tough L A Angels, it is a chance for the Rays to pick up valuable games and wins.

 

 

           

 

 

Jame Shields won his first start of the second half to up his record to 8-6 for the Rays. Shields pitched 7 innings of 4-hit 1-run ball while throwing 105 pitches. Shields is now 5-0 lifetime against the Bluejays. Shields is also now 5-1 since he came off the suspension for the Boston brawl in June. He currently ranks 3rd in the AL with a 2.13 ERA at home.

 

 Some people in the crowd were mumbling that Maddon should have let Shields finish the game, but Maddon has October in his foresight, and a rested Shields is a valuable commodity come playoff time.  Also, Shields is the oldest starter on the Rays staff this season at a young 26 years of age.

 

By limiting his pitchers now, Maddon can orchestrate a manuver where his staff will not be going through a “Dead Arm” period come playoff time. This is a new concept in the Rays terminology sine we have never been in contention this late in a season.

With the pitchers only going a set number of pitches or innings, the staff will not be totally drained and fatiqued come the end of the regular season. Even with a expanded roster in September, experienced arms might be the key to the Rays getting the needed wins to push for a playoff berth and beyond.

So kudos to Joe and his staff for beginning to think like a team in contention and starting to conserve his young staff’s valuable assets.

 

The Rays have 2 of the top 5 guys to get caught stealing in the AL right now. B J Upton is number 1 with 11 CS, while Carl Crawford is sitting at 7 this year.

 

 

 

Last night, Carl Crawford did not even get time to settle in at first before he was caught in a rundown play between first and second base.  A J Burnett caught Crawford shuffling his feet towrd second, and got him off balance enough to force him into a run down for an out. It almost looked like Crawford was looking at his shoetop right before Burnett threw the Ball to Lyle Overbay at first base.

Akinora Iwamura also was caught stealing ( 3 ) second in the 7th inning after a fantastic bunt single down the third baseline. Aki set a ball perfectly down the line at thrid that hugged and tugged the line, but stayed fair all the way to the bag. It was Aki’s  15th infield hit of the year.

 

Dioner Navarro went 1-2 last night with a double to deep left center in the 2nd inning. Navarro  threw out Alex Rios trying to steal second in the 6th to end the inning for the Bluejays. Navarro is coming off a fantstic All Star game appearance where he had several key plays and threw out a base runner.

 

The Rays before the game reinstated  pitcher Al Reyes to the roster. A roster move did not have to be made since the Rays sent Reid Brignac back to Durham after Sunday’s game in Cleveland.

 

With Evan Longoria (22), Dioner Navarro (24), and Scott Kazmir (24), the Rays became the first team since the 1986 NY Mets to have 3 players under the age of 24 on the All Star roster. 

All 3 played significant roles in the AL’s 4-3, 15-inning win in Tuesday.  Kazmir became the 7th youngest pitcher lifetime to win an All Star game.  Longoria’s ground-rule double in the 8th inning was the first RBI by a rookie in an All Star game since Tom Tresh in 1962. Navarro contributed a outstanding throwe to second to throw out a NL runner, and also got a key single in the 15th inning for the AL.

 

 

Rays Score, But Still Fall to Indians

 

 

Indians 8, Rays 4

 

 

The worst thing about this 6-game losing streak is the fact it will make the nay-sayers’ and doubters’ more than happy to see a Tampa Bay slump. All year long the media in the upper East Coast has been wanting and hoping for such a slide.

To consider that this squad has not has a losing streak of any length before now is really quite amazing considering it’s history, but the “no”-boys only see the kink in the Rays armor. I have read a few blogs and viewpoints where the Rays have been thrown again to the wolves and are considered only a “comet that shines bright then fades into the black.”

Wow, nice imagery, but what worse is it is from a popular magazine that has seemed to have our backs most of the year. Now, they have taken a “let’s see” approach to us even having a rebound or playoff type year.

All I have to add to this is tha fact that this team has never been here before. We have nopt had a late season push for the playoffs and folded, or even made it then imploded.

Can’t you just reward the effort and know that the best years are still in the can. If we hit the playoffs this year, it will not be the last time. If we get past a few rounds, it might not be the only time you see us in that position. But, can we at least get in that position before the world decides to knock us down…………….and we will get back up and go for it all over again, and again, and again.

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro has had a helluva week. He is going back to New York as an All-Star, and he is going to re-visit his Yankee past while he is there. Remember Navarro was a first round draft pick of the Yankees in 2000.

He has been a constant force on this team this season, both at the plate, and behind it. He will only the 4th youngest Ray to ever make the All-Star team, and the first Rays’ catcher to have that honor.

 

 

When the season began, I questioned his ability as a leader with the pitching staff. Since Texas, I have seen this guy grow by leaps and bounds both in confidience, and in leadership with this young starting pitching staff. You do not find alot of staffs that have a catcher as young as it’s up and coming aces. And you usually do not see them in contention for a divisional title while going through their aches and pains.

For that reason, I applaude and respect the job Navarro has done for the Rays in this first half of the season.

 

                                

                                   

 

Navarro again did it at the plate for the Rays on Sat. night. In the game Navarro went 2-3 on the night and hit a timely 2-run double down the rightfield line in the 8th inning. It helped the Rays extend their scoing in the inning, and help boost the morale on the Rays bench.

 

Cliff Floyd has had an intersting first half to this season. He has battled knee aliments, been shuffling in and out of the line-up, but has come to play every day.  The 14 year veteran has made 34 starts this year, all at DH for the team.

Floyd’s 2-run single  in the 8th inning, snapped an 0-21 streak for runners in scoring position for the Rays. His scoring play was the first Rays runs since Jonny Gome’s 2-run blast in Thursday nights game. Floyd went 2-4 in the contest and ends the first half with a .264 average and 18 RBI’s for the season.

 

                                 

 

Rays starter Matt Garza was trustingf his pitches early on in this game, before he ran into trouble in the 2nd inning. The IUndians took advantage of a control issue with his 2-seam fastball and slider that were just missing and up on the night.

Garza worked  only 5 innings, and gave up 11-hits and 7 runs before being relived by JP Howell,Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. Garza had 6 strikeouts on the night and gave up two homers to Grady Sizemore and Ryan Garko.

 

Eric Hinske had a great night himself on Sat. night for the Rays. Hinske, who had been odd-man out with two straight lefties starting for the Indians took advantage of his time by going 3-4 on the night with 3 singles.

Hinske, who has batted .278 against right-handed pitching this season, seemed in control at the plate and in the field. Hinske was batting 3rd for the Rays tonight in place of B J Upton, who was given the night off by Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

Hinske responded with an outfield assist in the 2nd inning, and several close plays in the game. On one play in the 2nd inning, both Hinske and Gross left their feet to try and get a dying ball hit into rightcenterfield. Gross ended up throwing out Carroll on the play.

 

Grant Balfour came on in the 8th inning and worked 1/3 of an inning and gave up a run on 1 hit to end the game for the Rays.

 

Tampa Bay did get 3 outfield assists in the game against Cleveland. The first came in the bottom of the second on a ball hit to shallow rightfield  that Eric Hinske got back into second in time to catch Ben Francisco over-running the bag and being tagged out by Ben Zorbrist for the second out of the inning.

The second was a play at the plate involving  Indian Jamey Carroll, where he tried to score on a ball off the centerfield wall. Gabe Gross retreived the ball and threw it to Akinora Iwamura, who turned and fired a strike to Navarro for the tag-out at home to end the inning.

The last outfield assist involved  Carl Crawford in the 8th inning. Casy Blake had singled to left, and Jhonny Peralta was trying to sneak into third on the play. Crawford put a bullet on-line to Evan Longoria who applied the tag for the 3rd out of the inning.

 

The Rays have hit .210 in this series and have only scored 6 runs. They are hitting .187 on the roadtrip, with 7 runs. The Rays have also only hit .200, with 11 total runs on the 6 game losing streak. The Rays are also hitting only 0.85 ) 4 for 47) with runners in scoring position.

The Rays are currently on pace to allow 665 runs, more than 284 runs less than last season. Only 2 teams in the modern era have had such a huge run drop-off from one year to the next. It would be the 8th greatest run decrease in the history of the league.

 

Trever Miller logged his 116th consecutive relief appearance without a decision last night tying former Rays Bobby Seay for the longest such streak in the last 50 years. Trever’s last decision was a win in Atlanta on Sept. 30, 2006.

Prior to this series, Rays starters have allowed 3-earned runs or less in 20 of the last 21 games. In this series, they have allowed, 6, 5,and 7 earned runs in the first 3 games.

The Rays pitching staff had held opponents to a .244 average this year, 3rd lowest in the majors. But, Cleveland has batted .352 and have scored 26 runs

 

The Rays starters have failed to go 5+ innings only once in their last 30 games.  The Rays have made 22 erros in their last 23 games. The Raya began the season by only committing 30 in their first 71 games.

 

                      

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 283 other followers