Results tagged ‘ Dan Johnson ’

Rays Win Last Gameof the Season in 11th Inning

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

I was glad to see that Rays Manager Joe Maddon let Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi take out the lineup card today before the game. I have known Scott now for about 8 years and I know of no one else in the organization who has done more and wished more for every pitcher who has graced the mound at the Trop. From the late Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle, to David Price and Mitch Talbot, Cursi has warmed them all up and made sure they were up to the task of pitching for the Rays. 

 He is one of the unsung heros of that Bullpen that most fans would never know die to his low key demeanor and style. But he ia also a viable reason alot of these guys feel so calm and secure going out to the mound. He is the silent Bullpen Coach. And the honor today was fitting for one of the Rays hardest workers over the last 10 years.

 

                      

I am saddened to know that after today’s game, Detroit Tigers’ Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez was let go by the team. Hernandez was with the Rays in the minor league system before finally coming up tho the major league level and leading the team in t lean years. He was here in the infant days of Scott Kazmir, and as a leftie, he could illustrate and teach Kazmir about the tough job of a lefty in today’s game. I know who ever get this great coach next season will see how fast this guy can fine tune and turn a Bullpen into a winner.

I also want to alert fans of an upcoming video to be shown in the Rays Playoff games. The video will be members of Maddon’s Maniacs, that group that first brought the cowbell into a cult status at the Trop. You might know them more by their bright yellow shirts with the screaming baseball that looks like Rays Manager, Jow Maddon. This group was formed several years ago to act as a cheering conglomerate in their sections of the stadium.  So look for the video on the Jumbotron during the Playoff games, and Go Rays!!!!!!!

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

                               

James Shields

It was just a formality that Rays starter James Shields even hit the mound today. The Rays were using the start as a stretching out period to get Shields some work before he starts the Rays first Playoff game in the Trop. next Thursday. Shields came out and threw 10 pitches in his 1 inning of work and got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3. All 3 outs were on ground balls and were alternated between the 3 infield positions.

 

Mitch Talbot

Talbot is in the mix as one of the guys the Rays were going to discuss before deciding if he was to be on the team’s first ALDS  25-man roster. After today’s performance, I have a feeling that the young rightie will have thrown his last pitch this season for the Rays. It has been a wild season for Talbot, first brought up for 48 hours before heading again for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. In today’s relief appearance, he never looked calm or in control on the mound.

Talbot had an eventless 2nd inning as the Tigers went again down 1-2-3. But in the 3rd inning, the tide began to turn for the young pitcher. Brandon Inge hit a smoker down the leftfield line into the corner and ended up with a double, with no outs in the inning. Inge moved to 3rd on a Wild Pitch by Talbot. Ramon Santiago then walked to put men on the corners for the Tigers. Curtis Granderson then took a 2-1 count the deposited the ball into the leftfield stands for a 3-run homer, and put the Tigers up 3-0.

In the 4th inning, Talbot had a few control issues and gave up 5 walks in the inning. Edgar Renteria singled to right to lead off . After Dusty Ryan flied out to center, Inge, Santiago,Granderson ans Gary Sheffield all walked to scored 2 runs in the inning. With those runs crossing the board, Talbot was done for the day. In his 2.1 innings of work, Talbot gave up 5-runs on 5-hits, and gave up 5 walks on 71 pitches for the Rays.

 

Rays Bullpen

The Rays Bullpen then combined to post 4.2 innings of scoreless work lead by  Rookie David Price going the first 1.2 innings and striking out 2 batters.  After Price, Dan Wheeler came on for 1 inning and posted 2 strikeouts and 2 walks in his time on the mound. With today’s appearance, Wheeler now has 4 straight years of at least 70 appearances in a game.  His 26 holds is tops on the Rays, and 4 short of the AL lead held by the Angels’ Scott Shields.

Then Troy Percival came on and got a hitless inning to boost his chances of being added to the post season roster.  Percival has been on notice that Maddon wanted to see a effort and control during his last  appearance this season. In his last 8 appearances, Percival has not been too impressive, he has given up 7-hits and 9-runs in 5.1 innings of work.  Opponent’s are hitting only .188 against him this year, good enough for 7th in the AL. Trever Miller then came on in the 8th inning and pitched another scoreless frame for the Rays.

 

                          

Edwin Jackson

Then in the 9th inning, Maddon inserted usual Rays starter Edwin Jackson to close out the game for the team. Jackson started the 9th by throwing some hard stuff around 96 M.P.H. plus against the Tigers.  But Sheffield ended up hitting a single into rightfield to lead off the inning for the Tigers. Magglio Ordonez then hit a 2-run homer on a 2-2 pitch to left to tie the game at 7-7 and send the game into extra innings. Jackson ended up pitching 2 innigs and gave up 4-hits and 2-runs, while throwing 43 pitches.  The homer gave Jackson his first blown save of the year.

 

            

 

Powerful 5th inning

 In the end, Jackson ended up winning the game when the Rays won the game in the 11th inning. With the win, Jackson joined fellow starters former Rays Rolando Arroyo and James Shields as the only Rays starters to win 14 games in a season. The win was Jackson’s second in the week and puts him at 14-12 for the season. This is a massive improvement over the 5-15 he posted last season.

 

In the first 4 innings of today’s game, the Rays went down in order and did not seem to have the offensive firepower today. But in the 5th inning, the Rays began to attack Tigers starter Zack Miner. Rocco Baldelli hit  a leadoff homer 423 feet to centerfield to put the Rays finally on the board. Willy Aybar the hit a double into the leftfield corner to put another Rays into scoring position. After 1 quick outs, Eric Hinske hit a 2-run shot to rightfield  402 feet over the scoreboard to bring the Rays to within 2 runs, 6-4.

 

         

 

Big 8th Inning Rally

In the 8th inning, the Rays sent 9 men to the plate and scored 4 runs to Rays up 7-5 in the game. The inning began with John Jason hitting a ball throught the hole between short and thrid for a single. Then Dan Johnson hit a liner about 15 feet off the ground to put 2 rays on base with no outs. Fernando Perez then walked on 8 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Jonny Gomes then hit a ball that went over centerfielder Curtis Granderson’s head and over the wall for a Ground Rule Double.

Gomes got 2 RBI’s on the play. Aybar then walked after Baldelli struck out to give the Rays a man on with 1 out. Ben Zobrist then hit a grounder to right to score Perez and move Gomes to third base and Aybar to second base and Zobrist to first to load the bases again for the Rays. Ruggiano then struck out, and Hinske walked to score Gome and leave the bases loaded for Jaso.  Jaso  was till at the plate when Aybar was called out on a runner’s choice for the 3rd out of the inning. But the score was now 7-5 Rays.

In the 10th inning, with the scored tied, Gomes tried to turn his single into a double and was tagged out at second for the 1st out in the inning. The play was a bit too aggressive, but Gomes could have gotten the base if he slide to the infield side of the bag.  Aybar hit a screwamer into foul territory down the rightfield line that Mike Joyce caught for the third out.

 

             

 

Ben Zobrist

For the game, Zobrist went 2-5 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the team. But it was his solo homer in the 11th inning that sealed the win for the Rays. Zobrist has now hit 4 homers in 4 games against the Tigers this weekend.  In hitting his 12th homer of the season, Zobrist is showing a new power aspect to his game that was not there last season for the Rays.  His 12 homers this season have come in only 198 at bats for the Rays.

 

         

 

ALDS Opponent

The Rays might not know their opponent in the ALDS until maybe Tuesday because of the make-up game tomorrow between the DEtroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have to win that contest to advance into a one-game playoff for the AL Central division title against the Minnesota Twins.

If the White Sox do lose tomorrow, the Minnesota Twins will be the Rays opponent when they start the divisional series on Thursday at Tropicana Field. If the White Sox win both contests, they will represent the AL Central in St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

Apology

 

For some reason I have a mental block some night and get Ben Zobrist’s name wrong.  I want to send a apology through my  blog that it is not intentional, and I love your mohawk a bit more than Trever Millers’. Zobrist has been on fire lately, and I have smoldered a bit by messing up his name.  I am sorry Ben, and I will try and not let it happen again. 

Rays Lose Third Straight to Tigers

 

Tigers 4, Rays 3

 

If Rays fans remember, right before the end of the first half/All-Star break we also had a bit of a losing season and naysayer were predicting that the Rays were about to feel the heat of the closing in Boston Red Sox. We got through that debacle and came out like a rose winning the A L East last night.

 

 I think we are having the same kind of mental laspe and fatigue we suffered in that series versus the Cleveland Indians. If you remember, we came out of the All-Star break on fire and ready to be the dragonslayers of the world. I am of the mind that it is good to sometimes lose right before you need your big wins. It gets you into another mental state, and actually transfixes you on the goal at hand……..to win the ALDS in 4 games.

 

Not know who we will play is not a big thing. We have played the teams in the A L central enough to know that they will both be good opponents for us.  If I had to pick a opponent, I would pick the Chicago White Sox. I know we have had trouble with their lefty pitchers this year, but I also know that we can beat them at U.S. Celluar Field. We did win that series 2-1 earlier in the year, and I honestly think that we match up better with them for a series win.

 

To play against the Minnesota Twins so soon after out homestand debacle might work more into the Twin’s favor than into the Rays. We might have an excuse for the Sunday game (hangover city), but the 3 games played before that day were so closely contested that it was a crapshoot every night as to who might take control of the game. And their lefties also played a few numbers on our guys. So, here to hoping that Chicago wins on Sunday and takes the Tigers to task on Monday at home to win the division and get to come to the friendly confines of the Trop. for the first 2 games.

 

Matt Garza

 

Coming into this series against the Tigers, Rays starter Matt Garza has gone 0-3 in th 4 career starts against the Tigers and has posted a 4.84 ERA against them.  The Tigers Magglio Ordonez has feasted on Garza in the past going 5-11 against him prior to this start.  Garza was making his 30th start of the season. Garza comes into the game with an Opponent’s Batting average of .246 this year, the best on the Rays staff this year.

 

In the game, Garza got off to a great start getting the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 1st inning. But in the 2nd inning, on a 3-2 count, Garza hung a breaking ball that Miguel Cabrera deposited in the leftfield stands for his major league leading 37th homer of the season. Garza got out of the rest of the inning without incident. In the 3rd inning, after issuing a walk to Brandon Inge, Garza got a 3-6 double play to end the inning.

 

In the 4th inning, Ramon Santiago came up and slap a ball to the right of Garza that the pitcher picked up and 1-hopped to Dan Johnson at first base. The play pulled Johnson off the bag and Santiago was safe at first on Garza’s errant throw.  The error was only Garza’s 2nd of the year. Ordonez then got on base on a single to centerfield to put 2 runner on base for the Tigers. Rays catcher Miguel Hernandez then committed a pass ball and the runners advanced to put men on third and second with no outs in the inning.

 

Garza had a bit of bad luck on the first ball hit to leftfield in the 5th inning today. Mike Joyce hit a ball high in the air to Justin Ruggiano in left, and Ruggiano looked prepared to catch the ball for the 1st out, but it missed his glove and bounced over the outfield wall for a ground rule double. This would have been the first out of the inning. Edgar Renteria then hit a high chopper to Ben Zobrist at short and Zobrist took the play to thrid, but the tag on Joyce was not in time. This put men on the corner with no outs in the inning. Inge ten came up and hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Joyce from third and score Detroit’s 2nd run of the game.

 

Granderson then came up and hit a ball down the first baseline that Johnson fielded and threw to 2nd, ten Zobrist tried to complete the double play, but a high throw pulled Johnson off the bag. That put Granderson at first with 2 outs. Santiago then walked, and Ordonez hit a single into rightfield to score Granderson and notch the score at 3-3. For the start, Garza went 5.1 innings, and gave up 4-hits and 3-runs in the game on 74 pitches.

 

 

Jeff Niemann

 

The Rays went to the Bullpen after the top of the 6th inning, and Jeff Nieman came out to pitch for the Rays. Neimann started the inning by walking Gary Sheffield on 6 pitches. Sheffield then tried to steal 2nd base, but Hernandez overthrew the base by 10 feet and the ball sailed into centerfield. Hernandez was given an error on the play, and Sheffield was standing on third with no outs in the inning. Neimann got two quick outs before Renteria hit a double down the leftfield line and put the Tigers up for good today 4-3. Neimann got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 7th inning.

 

In the 8th inning, Cabrera lead off the inning with a double to right on an 0-2 count. Sheffeild walked for the second time in the game to put 2 men on for the Tigers.  Tiger’s catcher Dane Sardinha then came up and  put down a bunt to the right of the 6’9″ Neimann, and he slipped and fell to the turf not able to complete the out.  Neimann did get 2 quick outs to keep the Tigers from adding any runs in the inning. Niemann ended up throwing the Rays last 3 innings,and gave up 3-hits and a lone run to take the loss for the Rays. The loss evened his 2008 total to 2-2 for the year.

 

 

Ben Zobrist

 

With the Rays resting a majority of their starters’, the Rays put Ben Zobrist at short for the game. Zobrist made several key plays for outs in the contest, but it was his bat that did the most damage in the game. Zobrist went 3-4 on the day, with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored in the contest. In his first at bat, he hit a ball to shallow left-center for a single.

 

The play moved Fernando Perez, who had walked to start the game to third with no outs.  Zobrist lead off the 3rd inning with a single to deep center. And in the 5th inning, Zobrist hit his 11th homer of the year on a 1-2 count to put the Rays up 3-1 at that moment.  For this series, Zobrist has now hit 3 homers in the 3 games in Detroit. In his last 4 games, Zobrist has now gone 7-14, with 3 homers and 5 RBI’s for the Rays.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli

 

Coming into the game, Baldelli is hitting .260, and has played in 25 of the last 44 games for the Rays. He was the D.H. today for the Rays against the Tigers. Baldelli went 1-3 today, with 2 RBI’s. It was his lone hit in the 1st inning that set the pace for the Rays. After Perez and Zobrist were on 2nd and 3rd respectfully, Baldelli hit a smash that 1-hopped to the right-centerfield wall and scored both men to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Baldelli also got on base in the 3rd inning when Detroit starter, Dontrell Willis hit him with a pitch.

 

 

Better Defense

 

With the Rays 2 errors today, they have now committed 90 errors for the season. That currently puts them as the 4th best defesne in the American League. Even with this decrease in their defensive mistakes, the Rays are making their mistakes come back to haunt them this season. And in the playoffs, a single error can change the scopre of the game in an instant.

 

 

Twins and White Sox

 

With neither of these teams seeming to want to win the American League Central Division, it looks like the Chicago White Sox will have to conclude their season with a Monday make-up game against the Tigers.  The Twins currently lead the division by 1/2 of a game after both teams lost again today. Both teams will be playing at the same time tomorrow, and if the Twins lose and the White Sox win, it will  come down to the make-up game for the White Sox to take the title and move on to face the Rays on Thursday night at the Trop.

 

 

Cowbell Kid

 

I was on my Myspace page today and got a bulletin from the Cowbell Kid. He was urging fans who might have an extra ticket to share to contact him and he will buy it from you. He was unable to get a ticket through the regular channels and was hoping a generous Rays fan would help him out. He is willing to pay for the ticket and maybe give you a Cowbell lesson.

 

Seriously, I might not agree with the guy on a few issues, but he is a fixture at the stadium and should enjoy it with the rest of us regulars.  And, I feel he has toned himself down a bit in the last few months to the point of everyone loving him again, even the old ladies in the front row.

 

So if you have an extra ticket and think you can spare it for the guy, go to his Myspace page and let him know as soon as possible. He would really appreciate it……………. 

 

 

 

 

Rays Post Historic End to Doubleheader

 

Rays 7, Orioles 5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Rays Magic Number:         

 

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

 

 

Mitch Talbot

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

8th Inning

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

 

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

 

                                  

 

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

 

Odds and Ends

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

ALDS Game 3

 

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

 

Ben Zobrist

 

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

 

 

Bullpen Action

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Rays Come Out Flat in Front of 36,048 Fans

 

Twins 4, Rays 1

 

As you might expect from a team on a emotional high and induced with over 252 bottles of champagne, the Rays came out a bit flat on Sunday. Along with the huge amount of bubbly, they extimated to have gone through 24 case of beer and assorted beverages. Now I am not suggesting that the team was still on a bit of a next day fatigue situation, but they did kinda walk with a different swagger on Sunday.

 

I know I saw a few Rays out on the town having a great time. I viewed Scott Kazmir, B J Upton and Cliff Floyd at the Push nightclub in St. Petersburg having fun and living it up in the VIP area. None of the ball players was beyond the scope of reason, but Kazmir did have a look of euphroia on his face from his prediction coming true for the team.  I know of another group that hit a few beach spots on St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Beach, and then called it a night at someone’s home in St. Petersburg, but he asked me to keep this quiet.

 

                              

 

I even got a present from a friend on the team and I made sure to get as many signatures as I could on the bottle. This is a special time for the Rays and their fanbase. I know a lot of the community was there Saturday afternoon, even if they did not have a ticket. I have had al least 30 people tell me they were there on Sat. that I know were not at the ballpark. No I did not have facial recognition systems around the stadium to record every face. You can just tell if someone was there by the way they described the celebration and the aftermath in the Brewhouse.

Well, it is Day 1 of post celebration with a mission of 8 more games until the Playoff begin for the Rays. Hopefully  we can catch up to the L A Angels ans get the home field advantage throughout the entire playoff system.  But then again, we have to win or have Boston lose a total of 7 to win our First pennant for the Trop’s back wall.

 

Rays Magical Number:         7

 

Andy Sonnanstine

 

Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine probably was home asleep by 10 P.M. on Saturday night. He had the uncanny mission of pitching the first game since the Postseason celebration and probably did not know what kind of Rays team would show up for the contest. Andy pitched 6.2 innings of 7-hit, 4-run ball for the squad. It might not have been his best performance of the year, but his defense also was not up to their usual stingy self.  Several errors or near errors kept the Rays in a hole for most of the game.

 

Sonnanstine came into the game hoping to pick up his 14th victory for the 6th time this season. He was also facing Minnesota for the first time today in his career.  Sonnanstine comes into the game not allowing a single earned run in the last 16 innings of work.  The Rays have gone 13-7 in his last 20 starts.

 

                              

 

Rays Errors

 

Coming into the game, the Rays had the third fewest errors of any team in the major leagues. It is becuase of this tough defense that the Rays have gotten into position to fight fo their first A L East crown. But on Sunday, the Rays defense was to the point of breaking several times in the contest.  Rays Rookie Evan Longoria took the blunt of the scorer by being hit with 2 errors in the game, both on throws to first base.

  

But several times in the game, the Rays did not field the ball cleanly and could have been charged with as many as 3 more errors. Willy Aybar had a bad read and turn and throw to second base to Ben Zobrist that took him off the bag and provided the Twins with a runner in scoring position in the 4th inning.

 

It was also in the 4th inning where the Twins did all their damage on Sunday to defeat the Rays.  Longoria committed his first error in the middle of the inning, and two runs crossed the plate on his throw to Dan Johnson that got away from him and down the line in rightfield.

 

Rocco Baldelli could have been charged with an error on his throw hom that sailed towards third and hit the Twins dugout railing to remain in play. Ben Zobrist also dropped a few balls in his glove that are normally sure things for him. All in all, the day was not a complete disaster for the Rays, but some defensive miscues did turn the corner for the Twins on their way to the victory.

 

 

Rays Rested the Weary

 

The Rays did not start many of their usual starters in this game today. This was not  sitting down because of the celebration, but to give a few guys a day off going into a stretch where the Rays will be playing 8 games in 7 days this week. The upcoming double-header on Tuesday will be a long night for Maddon’s troops, so he decided to rest his starters today before leaving for Baltimore to start their 4-game series with the Orioles on Monday.

 

 Rays Manager Joe Maddon also got some needed innings out of B J Upton and Rocco Baldelli in the field to be sure they are up to the challnge come playoff time. Upton looked fluid in the field and committed a few nicely aimed balls to Dioner Navarro in the game.  Upton also got an outfield assist on a shallow fly ball hit to centerfield that Carlos Gomez miss read and was picked off first base for a double play by Upton. It is Upton’s 13th outfield assist of the year. He is currently sitting 3rd in the AL in that category.

 

 

B J Upton

 

The Rays starting centerfielder looked more like his old self at the plate hitting lead-off in the game and went 3-3 on the day, also with a walk. That pushed his average up to .277 for the season. The walk also put Upton in 4th in the AL with 92 for the year. Not bad considering he has been day-to-day now since suffering a quad injury in Boston.

 

Upton hit a bunt single to the pitcher to lead off the game for the Rays. Upton put it perfectly down the third base side of the mound for an easy single to start the rays off with a baserunner in the game.  Upton then came up in the 3rd inning and hit a double down the leftfield line to put Michel Hernadez in scoring position at third for the Rays.

 

Carlos Pena hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Henandez on the next pitch and give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. Upton then hit a bunt single down the third baseline that cradled the foul line but stayed fair to put him on first and Fernando Perez in scoring position for the Rays. Upton then walked on 6 pitches, the last 4 balls to get on first with  2-outs in the 7th inning. B J was then caught off first base by Twins starter Francisco Liriano on a pick off attempt, and was tagged out by the shortstop, Adam Everett for the 3rd out of the inning. It was Upton’s 16th caught stealing attempt of the year, which has him ranked 1st in the majors this season.

 

Rays’ 5 hits

 

Besides Upton’s 3 hits on the day, only two other Rays produced hits in the contest against the Twins. Rays catcher Michel Hernandez had a single to left in the 3rd inning to lead off that inning, and ended up scoring on Pena’s Sacrifice fly in that inning. And Rocco Baldelli had a single to left with 2-outs in the 6th inning. On the day, the Rays also got 4 walks off Liriano in his 7 innings of work today.

 

Loss with over 30,000 fans

 

This was only the 2nd time this season that the Rays have lost a game where at least 30,000 fans have been in attendance. The offical attendance for the Rays was 36,048 for the game. The Rays also lost their first game of the year against the Seattle Mariners with same 36,048 in house for the home opener for the Rays. So the team have effectively bookended the season with their only 3 losses with over 30,000 as their first and last game of the year.

 

 

 

Rays Get Clobbered in First Act 13-5

 

 

Red Sox 13, Rays 5

 

I have always loved to write about sports. When I was a lot younger, I idolized the guys like Tom McEwen and Bob Chick of the Tampa Tribune.  I wanted to be able to ask that tough question right after a bad loss, or be there for the celebration of a magnificent win. I did get to do both of those, but I was on the other side of the pen and paper. This is the time that the hard questions have to be asked. That the players’, coaches’ and team officials have to be honest with themselves before the press gets into the locker room.

They all have to ask themselves the worst questions in the world right now. “Are we ready for all this?”, “Was this a stumble, or a prelude to a fall?”  All these questions and more will dig into your psyche and erode a level of your confidence. But, they have to be asked to cleanse yourself of a game like this. When you have a game that put doubts in people’s minds you have to re-evaluate yourself a bit here.

It is nothing personal. It is not a frontal or rear attack on your character, but people are curious about the smallest cracks in the armor. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is very mystical when he chats sometimes with the media. His “Joe-isms” have become buzzwords in the league this year.  I was not there for the post-game press conference, but I can imagine that last night, Maddon simply said that the Rays will play another day, and that this game is behind them and they will regroup for the next one.   They will play another day for the next 13 days, but what happens tomorrow could effect what is on the table after September 28th.

 

Red Sox 13, Rays 5

 

 

                        

 

 

Scott Kazmir

I am going to get this out of the way fast and furious today. I know of no other guy in that locker room who has called out teammates, and said comments that were meant to pull his team up, or question heart and hustle on this team than Kazmir.  He is the first player to even say the “P” word, and this was during Spring Training.

For the Rays to get to the playoffs, it will need a confident Kazmir. It will need the guy who has been balls to the wall for the last 3 years. Who has carried this team on his pitching arm for so long. It will need the youngest of the teams 5 starting warriors to again  mount up and battle to the death. We are too close to the prize now to become an afterthought. And if you believe it or not, Kazmir is the key to that journey.

 

 

 

 

Jaso gets First Hit

It was a great sight to sit there in the Trop. last night and see John Jaso come up to bat. Here is the guy everyone was thinking could replace Dioner Navarro as the Rays catcher in the near future. Jaso came on to pinch hit in that wild 7th inning and got a nice grounder to right-center for his first major league hit.

 The Red Sox almost put the ball back into the pitchers hands before First Base Coach George Hendricks asked for the ball. You will want to keep that one John.  Jaso then went behind the plate to finally get his feet wet at this level as a catcher. He should get used to this staff, because he will be catching them more next year as Navarro’s back-up. And, in the great at bat in the 7th, he also got to cross home plate for the first time on Justin Ruggiano’s homer to right for his first run scored in the majors.

 

 

                  

 

 

Kazmir,Part 2

Scott Kazmir is the youngest member of our starting rotation, but he is also the Rays all time leader in Strikeouts, ERA, Innings Pitched, and Quality Starts( 61).  Now Kazmir might be the all-time leader in quality starts, but last night will be the top entry in his bottom 5 all time games. I have always watched the Bullpen warm-ups of our starters for years from my seat in 138, and I have noticed a subtle change to Kazmir’s warm-ups the last few starts.

Scott used to be a big “long toss” guy. that is where you start about 30 feet from each other tossing soft to loosen the muscles and proceed outward at intervals before coming back in the same way and then throwing off the mound. Scott used to get to a maximum of about 250 feet away from the catcher and wing a few balls to deep stretch out his muscles. I have only seen him go maybe 100 feet,125 tops in the last few starts at home. Could this small change in his pre-game routine not have him loose enough by the time he hits the pitching rubber?

I will try and get with him on the side soon and see if this is just a change in routine because of the time of the year and he has a bit of arm fatigue that hits every pitcher sometime during the season. Whatever it is, it sure came at the wrong time for the Rays.

Scott had his worst outing of the year and threw 72 pitches in those 3 innings of work last night. And for Kazmir to give up 9-hits and 6 runs in that span is something he has never done while he has been with the Rays. Time that with his previous worst start giving up a few homers  was a  3 homers against  start against the Baltimore Orioles on April 6,2006. Last Night Kazmir gave up 4 in just those 72 pitches.

Something that also came to light was the fact that he did not hit his spots in his first 9 pitches to the plate. That set up another sub-par Kazmir event of walking the first two batters of the night. Kazmir did not hit his worst walk totals last night, but the 4 he did give up were not spaced out enough to give him any comfort room for error in the game.

 

 

 

 

 

Aki to the Rescue

Akinora Iwamura made this crowd cheer last night. With the Rays already down 4-0, Aki hit a nice blast into the left off of Daisuke Masuzaka that breathed a bit of life into the Trops crowd. It was only Aki’s 6th homer of the year, but it was an important blast at a moment that the Rays faithful had their heads down a bit.  4of his 6 homers have come against Boston this season.

Justin Ruggiano’s 2nd homer of the year in the 6th inning against Red Sox reliever Chris Smith. His 2-run blast put the score at 13-3 and looked like the Rays were going to try a bit of a rally in the inning.  But after his blast, Hinske and Gomes went down in order for the Rays. Dan Johnson wishes we still had 16 games against the Red Sox. In his two games against Boston, Johnson has hit 2 homers out, and seems very comfortable at the plate for the Rays.

 

 

Talbot Gets Rude Debut

Poor Mitch Talbot. He got to see another team earlier in the week celebrate on his home stadium’s turf, and tonight the Boston Red Sox ruined his major league debut by pounding the ball all over the Trop. on him. Talbot came in to relieve Kazmir in the 4th inning, with no outs, and gave up run scoring plays to Dustin Perdroia and David Ortiz and a homer to Kevin Youkilis before settling down and getting the next two batters out to end the inning.

He had a better 5th inning until Jacoby Ellsbury hit a homer to right for the only score of the inning. Talbot was in control of the Red Sox until the Youkilis came up again in the 6th inning and doubled home Chris Carter to tack on the 13th and final run of the night. 

 

 

Jason Bay

Oh how Andrew Friedman must be pacing and thinking “what ifs” about Jason Bay right now. Bay was the Pittsburgh outfielder the Rays coveted in the Trade Deadline before the Red Sox swooped in and grabbed him right before the clock struck 12.  You got to even wonder yourself, what if?

As you remember, he is the guy who beat the Rays with a extra inning homer in the Pittsburgh/Rays series in Riverfront. He is the guy who  homered on September 9th off Dan Wheeler in the 8th inning to bring Boston back in that game. And he is the guy who set into motion Edwin Jacksons bad 1st inning in the first game of that last Boston Series on Sept. 8th by hitting a 2-run homer to put the Red Sox up 3-0 in that game.

This is the guy that many Rays fan envisioned playing our Right Field for a few years with the determination and spunk needed to be a Rays. Instead, we get to watch this guy who is now 5-11 in his last 3 games, and as hit safely in 30 out of 40 games since being acquired from the Pirates. It is beginning to look like Bay is the true “one that got away” from the Rays.

 

 

Pena and Rays Pull off Upset Win and Series

 

Rays 4, Red Sox 2

 

Coming into the Boston series, I would have loved to know the Rays were going to “meatloaf” the defending World Seires champs. But when you have lost 8-straight in a stadium you kinda take what that team gives you. What Boston might have gave Tampa Bay last night was an inside track to winning their first of many A L East titles. The Rays are not looking to just make the playoffs, but make a statement about the AL East for the next 4 years or so. And I think the Bosot nfaithful now believe that the Rays are going to be the pests from the south for a long time.

 

What the Rays showed in this series is that sometimes you just need timely hits and great walks to secure a one or teo run game for your squad. You do not have to always blast a 3-run homes to win, but it sure does help. The Rays have been great all years in not having one guy take the blunt of a loss, or that too many guys get caught up in the winning that they forget where they were last season. With veterans on this squad like Carlos Pena, Eric Hinske, Trever Miller, and Cliff Floyd, you know the team is loose and can bounce back after any small blip this year.

 

Becuase we have a few guys in that clubhouse who have World Series Rings, it brings a sense of confidience that the Rays have the guys to lead them out of the cellar and into the light. This season has been a true sunburned exsistance for the Rays, but the work is not done yet. Every series and game from this poinr on is not only a new mark for the franchise, but a new level of security and cofidience for the future. Starting next season, the Rays can talk about getting back to this level, and moving beyond last years expectation to a new heights in the light.

 

I want to commend Jason Hammel on showing the moxy he has on the mound the other night. He came in pretty cold compared to most nights on the mound and did an excellient job securing the win.  I have been critical of him this season, and maybe I just expect more out of him since he has no options left and must almost daily show why he should be here in 2009. I have a weird feeling he might not be with this squad in 2009 only becuase of the depth pushing upward from the Triple-A level. But last night he showed that he is a better pitcher than I thought he was, and that he is  a clutch performer.

 

Rays  Magical Number:    16

Combined Rays wins and Boston losses needed to secure their first AL East crown

 

          

Last night was Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine’s 4th attempt at win number 14. It is a pity that he did not factor into the decision, as he pitched one of the best games of the year for the Rays. Considering that he held the Boston offense to 1 run for so long is amazing. Not to say that he is not a great pitcher, but Boston could smell the blood in the water and knew thay had to quell these Rays before they could figure out how to win this contest.

 

Sonnanstine went 7 innings and pitched a 4-hit, 1 run gem that will go down as one of the most important games of this year for the Rays. It was not just a one man effort, which is just what they Rays have been all year long. They are 1 team. Sonnanstine also got 7 strikeouts on the night and really only had one inning where the Red Sox thought they could open this game wide open for a win.

                          

                                      

 

In the 3rd inning, Jed Lowrie led off with a single down the first baseline just out of the reach of the outstretched Carlos Pena.   Jason Varitek then hit a fielder’s choice, and Lowrie was safe at second on a bobble by Akinora Iwamura on the exchange with  Jason Bartlett at second base.  Aki was caught for his 7th error of the season, and the Red Sox had the first two batters on base in the inning. 

 

Dioner Navarro the tired to pick off Lowrie, who had strayed a bit at second, but he got under Barlett’s tag at second. Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a 6-4-3- double play to give the Rays some breathing room, with Lowrie now at third base. Dustin Pedroia, a thron in the Rays’ pitching staff this season, then hit a liner down into the leftfield corner to score Lowrie and put Pedroia on second with his 46th double of the year. David Ortiz the  hit a high popped to centerfield to end the inning with the score tied 1-1.

 

In Sonnanstine’s last inning, he threw 13 pitches and got the Red Sox in order. But what is more amazing is that he threw 6 straight strikes before giving up a ball to Lowrie before striking him out.  Sonnastine then gave up a single to Jason Varitek, but then got Ellsbury to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning.

 

         

 

You have to admire the job that Cliff Floyd has done with the Rays this season. Bad kness and all, Cliff has been the hustle and the leadership needed by this young team. He had lead by example and told the team to follow him, and they will end up in the promised land. I like that kind of mentality. 

 

Floyd took a 0-1 pitch and slammed a hard grounder to Pedroia at second that caught the end of the turf behind the pitching mound and inceased its velocity towards him. Pedroia could do nothing with the ball and Floyd ended up with an infield single to second on the play. 

 

Willy Aybar then took the first pitch from  Red Sox starter,Josh Beckett and put it into the rightfield corner for a triple. Floyd was hustling so hard running from first to home you thought the guy was going to fall on his face from exhaustion after the play. But Floyd was all smiles as he strolled back to the smiling bench area knowing the Rays drew first blood in the game.

 

In the 2nd inning, the Rays caught a break when a fan reached out into the field of play and interferred with a ball hit down the line by Mike Lowell. On the replay, it looked like the ball might have just fell into fair territory if the fan did not touch it, but the thrid base umpire, Mark Wegner, was quick to call the out on the fan.

 

Dan Johnson, who was playing in the outfield for the first time in his MLB career, was sliding under the play when the fan reached out and changed the path of the ball.  I honestly feel that Johnson would have gotten the ball, but it is great to see that the umpire was not gun shy in making that call in the perils of Fenway Park. Johnson did not have the proper glove to play the outfield,  and had to use Floyd’s glove in the game.

 

The Rays had plenty of chances to blow this game wide open during the first 9 innings. In the 5th inning, the Rays had the bases loaded after Bartlett hit a single into the leftfield corner and Johnson and Pena got walks in the inning. But Floyd hit a long high fly ball to right to end the inning.

 

In the 6th Aybar hit a dying liner into centerfield that Ellsbury got within a few feet of falling to the turf. On the next play, Hinske hit a hard liner down the line at first that Kevin Youkilis knocked down and threw to Beckett for the force at first. Both these plays were of web gem quality. 

 

Both squad suffered at the plate in this game with runners in scoring position. At one point, the Rays were 0-7 on the night, and were a combined 1-29 in the series against the Red Sox.  Both squad have been on their best defensive behavior this series.

 

In the 8th inning, Pena lead off with his 21st double to the bottom of the Green Monster and put a man in scoring position early for the Rays. Ben Zobrist then walked on 7 pitches and the Rays had an early rally. Aybar the n popped up to Youkilis, and Fernando Perez wa issued a intentional walk to load the bases for  Dioner Navarro. Navvaro ended up striking out, and Gabe Gross hit a gronder to second to end the inning for the Rays with the score still tied 1-1.

 

The Rays the n had another chance in the 11th inning to end the game, after Gross hit a liner into the leftfield corner, but Bartlett hit into a grounder to Pedroia who made the throw to Youkilis to end the inning.  At that point, the Rays were 0-11 with runners in scoring position in the game.  In the 13th, the Rays started a rally when Zobrist hit a ball into the rightfield corner for a double. This put another Rays in scoring position with no out in the inning. Aybar the walked, before leaving after a 6-4-3 double play on the ball hit by Perez. This put Zobrist at third with 2 outs.  Navarro then hit a ball to first that Youkilis tossed to Red Sox reliever  Manny DelCarmen for the last out.

 

                                  

 

In the 14th inning, the Rays already had two outs in the inning when Aki singled to centerfield. Rocco baldelli then  came on and singled to leftfield to put Aki in scoring position. Pena then came up and then hit the second pitch from Mike Timlin over the Green Monster for a 3-run homer. His 28th homer was his first over the  Green Monster in Fenway Park. This put the Rays up 4-1.

 

                    

 

The bottom of the 14th inning saw Rays closer Troy Percival take the mound. Percival gave up a quick double to right center to get the lead off batter on for the Red Sox. Perdroia and Ortiz then walked on a total of 9 pitches before the bases were loaded for the Red Sox.  Rays Manager Joe Maddon then came out and confronted Percival on the mound with Rays trainer Paul Harker. You could visually see that Percival and Maddon were having a very elevated discussion before Maddon signaled for a reliever and Percival went into the dugout.

 

It was found out after the game that Percival had been experiencing back problems while warming up in the Bullpen. Percival thought it was just a tight muscle and would loosen during the inning. Maddon did not take this as great news and immediately replaced Percival. You could see Percival grimicing on the mound during his pitches and even a bit when talking to Maddon.

 

Now this puts the Rays in a weird situation. You know that the team will have to evaluate the situation and make either an effort to give Percival some time to relax, or maybe give another one of the Bullpen guys like Dan Wheeler or Grant Balfour the ball at the end of the game. I honestly love the fighter mentality of Percival to give his all before bowing out, but at what cost will this have for the Rays. You have to admire the spunk and determination, but in this playoff enviorment, do you play favorites, or go for the jugular.

 

I say that we monitor Percival and limit the save oppotunities the rst of the season. If it looks like Percival will not be a great back end guy for the playoffs, let another of the young studs do the job and shut down Percival for the rest of the year. By giving his roster spot to another guy, you will open the situation of a up and coming guy to get valuable expereince for the years to come.  I do not want to see Percival shut down, but sometimes a executive decision will have to be made on his on going injuries this year.

 

 

 

Rays versus Red Sox…………Rubber Match Preview

 

The Rays will be going for a unsuspected series win tonight in Fenway Park. Last night’s expolsive last 2 innings propelled the Rays to a 1 1/2 game advantage on the Red Sox. The win guaranteed that the Rays will be in first place not matter what the outcome of tonight’s game, when they leave Boston.

The Rays used recently called-up players Fernando Perez and Dan Johnson to get the first win in Fenway since September 2007. Not a coincidence, Scott Kazmir was the starting pitcher that nigth against the Red Sox. Here is the lowdown on both starting pitcher tonight. Rays starter,Andy Sonnanstine has not faced the Red Sox in 2008, so his batter statistics will be taken from his rookie seson, 2007, against the Red Sox.

 

                             Andy Sonnanstine is currently 13-7 for the Rays, with a 4.66 ERA. He is going for his record tying 14th win for the fourth time in 2008. He is shooting to share the record on a temporary basis with Rolando Arroyo. It is considered by many that the Rays will have at least one more pitcher hit the 14 win mark before the end of the regular season.

Over his last 50 starts, Sonnanstine has posted 19 wins, which ties him with Kazmir and Victor Xambrano for the Rays top honors. His .650 winning percentage as a pitcher is the high water mark for the Rays. This season, Sonnanstine is 4-1 against the AL East, but has pitched to a unimpressive 6.46 ERA during those starts.

Sonnanstine is averaging 1.6 walks per 9 innings, which rankes him 5th in the AL. Andy has also posted a 3.37 strikeout to walk ratio, which puts him at 9th in the AL in that category. The Rays have gone 11-6 in Sonnanstine’s last 17 starts, and since August 15, 2007, he is one of only 6 pitchers to post at least 18 victories in that span.

Sonnastine has not face Boston this year, but during his rookie season, he faced them 4 times and went 1-1, with a 8.85 ERA. He had made 2 previous starts at Fenway Park, going 1-0, with a 7.20 ERA. On August 15, 2007, Sonnastine defeated Daisuke Matsuzaka for his firsat win in Fenway Park against the Red Sox.

 

2007  Boston batters’ statitics against Sonnanstine:

 

Coco Crisp                  3-8                   3 runs,double, 2 RBI’s, 1 strikeout

Mike Lowell               6-9                   5 runs, double, 1 walk

David Ortiz                3-10                  2 runs,double,triple, 1 RBI, 1 CS

Dustin Pedroia          1-10                  1 walk, 1 strikeout

Jason Varitek            4-6                    2 runs, 1 HR, 4 RBI’s

Kevin Youkilis          1-8                     1 run, double, 2 strikeouts

 

 

                              Josh Becket is currently 12-9, with a 4.20 ERA for the Red Sox. Josh just completed his first game back on Friday in Arlington, Texas following a 15 day DL visit for an elbow strain.  In the 8-1 win agianst the Rangers, Beckett threw 40 pitches in the first 4 innings and struck out 7 for the game. But during the next 2 innings, Beckett needed 40 additional pitches to complete the 6th inning.

 

Beckett has faced the Ray 4 times this season going  2-1, with a 2.57 ERA.  Becket has gone at least 6 innings in his last 8 starts against Tampa Bay, but might be undeer close eye by Red Sox Terry Francona because of his recent stint on the DL. In his 5  starts against the Rays since 2007, Becket has posted a 4-1 record, with a 2.72 ERA and has a 40/5 strikeout to walk ratio against the Rays.

 

After a Bullpen session last week  where Francona watched Beckett throw 58 pitches, the mangaer decided to activate the righ-hander and start him against Texas last Friday night. Becuase this is Beckett’sa second start since coming off the DL, it is projected that he will be on a 80-90 pitch count for tonight’s game.  Beckett’s velocity is still down after the DL stint, but his control is still there and should have his usual array of off-speed pitches to stay with the Rays’ batters.

 

Rays batters’ against Josh Beckett:

Akinora Iwamura              3-9               1 run, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K’s, 1 BB

Carlos Pena                       2-7               1 double, 2 strikeouts

Cliff Floyd                         1-3               1 strikeout

Dioner Navarro                 1-9               1 run, 3 strikeouts 

Eric Hinske                       4-9               1 run, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 2 K’s      

Gabe Gross                       1-7                1 run, 1 HR, 2 RBI’s, 2 K’s, 1 BB

Jason Bartlett                  1-7                1 run

 

Evan Longoria is the lone Ray not playing tonight who has a great line against Beckett this year. Evan has gone 4-9 against him this season, with a double, 2 runs and 2 strikeouts. Oh, and he has a home run  against Beckett

Carl Crawford and B J Upton are a combined 1-16 against Beckett in 2008, with 8 strikeouts. Crawford has the lone hit, a single against Beckett.

 

 

Kazmir Pitched Gem to End Curse at Fenway

 

Rays 5, Red Sox 4

 

Dan Johnson was probably at home in Durham when he got the call sometime during the A.M. hoiurs to pack a bag and get on a flight to Boston to join the Rays during their current roadtrip. Johnson along with newly acquired catcher, Miguel Hernandez boarded a flight for the big leagues and arrive at Fenway Park at 6:45 P.M., just before the first pitch of the game.

 

Johnson had been acquired when he was put on waivers by the Oakland A’s earlier in the season as an insurance policy against Carlos Pena having to go on a extended DL stay after he had his injury the last time we were in Boston. Johnson was sent to Triple-A 48 hours after arriving in St. Petersburg, and has been instrumential in the Bull’s run for the Governor’s Cup. 

 

Johnson’s addition to the roster is to brovide more power in the Rays bench in the coming weeks against some high power pitchers in the AL. Jonny Gomes was also listed as a candidate for the move, but it was decided he would provide the Bulls with the needed power as they try and win the Governor’s Cup from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

 

Hernandez was brought up as a insurance policy for anbother back-up catcher with the recent injury to Shawn Riggans. Riggans has a bursa Sac situation on his knee that might be infected and prolong his stint from behind the plate. With neither John Jaso, or Hernandez having any working time with the Rays pitching staff, it would put the Rays in a huge disadvantage if Dioner Navarro would go down any time soon with his hamstring problems. Let’s hope that Navarro and Riggans can endure and keep the good catching duo healthy for the rest of the season, and beyond.

 

Rays Magic Number Is:    18

 

Combined with a Rays win, or Red Sox loss, this is the number needed to secure the AL East Crown for 2008.

                       

 

To say Dan Johnson has been waiting for this moment for the Tampa Bay Rays might be an understatement of huge proportions. Johnson, who was with the big club  for only 48 hours earlier in the season came back up tonight and provided the single most important drive of the franchises’ short history. To say his pinch-hit homer was less than a miracle at the time would be underestimating the pressure and the effect it had on this young squad.

 

Johnson, facing one of the major leagues best closer took a 3-2 count and crushed the next pitch by Jonathan Papelbon into the Red Sox Bullpen area for a 4-all tie in the top of the 9th inning. The look on Papelbons face said it all last night after the homer.

 

He was dejected and unsure of his pitches the rest of the inning. It was only the 4th loss of the season for Papelbon, but it secured the Rays being in first place when they exit  Fenway Park tomorrow night after the rubber game of the series.

 

  

During the game, the Rays went 0-14 with runner is scoring position before Dioner Navarro’s liner into the leftfield corner in the 9th inning. The drive scroed Fernando Perez, who had hit a high and deep ball off the Green Monster for a double earlier in the inning. The score put the Rays up 5-4, and the Rays finally had a scoring opportunity to finish 1-15 with RISP for the game. It was one of the most important RISP attempts this road trip for the Rays as it sealed the first win in Fenway Park this season for the Rays.

 

 

The Rays put constant pressure on Red Sox starter Diasuke Matsuzaka. The Rays had baserunners in every inning of the game, but the 8th inning, and  the Red Sox kept the game close until the 9th inning.   Carlos Pena got the first hit on the night on a single to rightfield in the 1st inning.  Dioner Navarro and Gabe Gross then got back-to-back single to right to put a Rays runner in scoring position for the first time last night.

 

 

 

In the third inning, Akinora Iwamura lead off the inning with a bunt single that had Matsuzaka falling off the pitching mound in pursuit of the play. Ben Zobrist and Pena then got back-to-bakc walks to load the bases for Cliff Floyd. Floyd was the hit by the second pitch by Mastsuzaka in the knee and scored Aki from third on the play. The Rays then sqaundered 3 chances to score more runs and ended the inning up only 2-1 on the Red Sox.

           

 

Gabe Gross then hit a single off the first base bag that sent Kevin Youkilis running for the ball in the short rightfield. Jason Bartlett then put a screamer down the third baseline to score Gross from first and put the Rays up  3-1. The Rays had Willy Aybar in scoring position in the 5th inning, but could not convert to get him to the plate. In the 6th inning, Aki got a lead-off single to right, but was stranded on second after 2 Rays’ batters.

 

           

In the 7th inning, Aybar again led off and singled to left. Fernando Perez then walked on 12 pitches to put Aybar again in scoring position. The Rays did nor capitalize on the inning and were a combined 0-14 at that point in the ballgame with runners in scoring position. 

 

In the 9th inning, Dan Johnson led off the inning with his first hit and homer for the Rays when he pinch hit for Justin Ruggiano. Aybar then hit a long fly ball to Coco Crisp in center for the 1st out of the inning. Fernando Perez then hit the second pitch from Papelbon off the Green Monster and doubled to put himself in position to put the Rays in front in the 9th inning. Navarro then hit the second pitch he saw down the third baseline into the corner and Perez scored from second to put the Rays ahead 5-4.

 

                         

Scott Kazmir put up one of his best starts of the night in one of the biggest games in the Rays history. Kazmir was not invloved in the final decison of the ballgame, but was instrumental in getting the Rays into position to win tonight. Kazmir went 6 innings and posted 5 hits and gave up two runs on  108 pitches.

 

Kazmir had his fastball looking great all night and used his slider to compliment his pitches tonight. This is the first time this season that Kazmir has relied alot on his slider. His slider is a great out pitch for him, and he used it selectively all night long to get the Red Sox batters’ off balance at the plate. Kazmir even looked to be throwing better in the 6th and 7th inning, then in the beginning of the ballgame.

 

 

Kazmir did run into trouble early in the game when he gave up a single to Dustin Perdroia in the 1st inning. Perdroia has been very effective against Kazmir this season. Kevin Youkilis then hit a high drive off the Green Monster to score Pedoria from first and put the Red Sox up first, 1-0.

 

Kazmir then sent the Red Sox down in order until the 4th inning, until Mike Lowell hit a solo homer over the Green Monster get the Red Sox back to within 1 run, 3-2. Kazmir then got out of trouble in the 5th and 6th inning to leave the ballgame after 108 pitches. Considering Kazmir pitched 28 times in the 1st inning alone, his long night is a testament to his pitching style and power.

 

Grant Balfour came on in the 7th inning and sent the Red Sox down in order 1-2-3 in the inning.  Balfour has now pitched in 9 of the last 17 games for the Rays. He currently leads all MLB relievers with a 12.95 strikeout per 9 innings ration.  If this statistic holds up, it will be the  2nd highest total ever by a reliever and the best total ever  by a righthander in the AL.  His .136 opponents batting average against is also tops in the Al, and 2nd in the majors this season.

 

 But in the 8th inning, Dan Wheeler came on and gave up a walk to Youkilis with 2 outs in the inning. Jason Bay then came up and hit his second homer in two days to put the Red Sox up 4-3. Wheeler then got Lowell to ground out to Bartlett to end the inning.

 

                  

In the 9th inning, Troy Percival came on to pitch and gave up a walk to Mark Kotsay to start the inning. Jacob Ellsbury came on as a pinchrunner and stole second base on a throwing error by Navarro to put the tying run in scoring position for the Red Sox.  But then Jason Varitek struck out, and two straight fly ball out sealed the victory for the Rays, and earned Percival his 28th save of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Designate Guzman, Add 2 to 40-Man Roster

 

The Rays have just added the following players to their  40 man MLB roster, and have designated INF Joel Guzman for assignment.
 
 
 

<!–

Path to images; /home/websites/durhambulls.com/live-docs/images/mugshots/HernandezMichel.jpg

–>

Michel Hernandez

Born:August 12, 1978
Height/Weight: 6-0/215
Hometown: Lutz, FL

Position: Catcher
Bats/Throws: R/R
Number: 36
2007 TEAM: Somerset/Durham

<!–

–><!–
–>

 
2007 Season
 
 
Began the year with the independent Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League.
Batted .342 with three home runs and 16 runs batted in over 25 games before signing with Tampa Bay as a minor league free agent on June 9.
Had a four-hit game on June 30 against Toledo.
Owned the longest hitting streak by a Bull at 16 games (June 28 to July 25), going 26-61 (.426) over the span.
Got three hits in a game against Richmond August 22. Career Highlights
Spent the 2006 campaign with Triple-A Memphis in the PCL, his second consecutive year in the league.
Played the entire 2005 season with Triple-A Portland of the PCL
Had his first season outside of the Yankees organization in 2004 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Made his only major league appearance in 2003 in five games with the New York Yankees, where he got a hit in four at-bats.
Made his professional debut with Oneonta in the Yankees organization in 1998.
 
PERSONAL / MISC 
 
 
Starred as the backstop for the Havana Industriales in the Cuban National League, the same club that produced Orlando Hernandez, Vladamir Nunez and Rey Ordonez.
Fled Cuba in October 1996 after his Havana team traveled to Mexico for a series of games. He was joined by four teammates.
Signed as a non-drafted free agent with the New York Yankees on May 11, 1998.

 

 

Team Roster

<!–

Path to images; /home/websites/durhambulls.com/live-docs/images/mugshots/JohnsonDan.jpg

–>

Dan Johnson

Born:August 10, 1979
Height/Weight: 6-2/220
Hometown: Chandler, AZ

Position: Infielder
Bats/Throws: L/R
Number: 46
2007 TEAM: Sacramento
/OAKLAND

<!–

–><!–
–>

 
2007 SEASON
 
Set career-highs in games, at-bats, home runs, runs batted in, walks and strikeouts and matched his best in triples.
Made his only career trip to the disabled list with a torn labrum in his left hip, missing only the first 20 games of the season.
His 15-game hitting streak from April 28-May 15 was Oakland’s longest on the season and his career-best.
Became the first player in Oakland history with at least four runs, four hits, four RBI, two home runs and two walks in one game on 5/10 at Kansas City.
Was named the American League Co-Player of the Week for May 7-13, sharing the honor with teammate Jack Cust.
Ranked second in the American League in pitches taken (64.5 percent).
Committed four errors in his first 59 games at first base and then went on to finish the season on a 38-game errorless streak. Ended with a .996 fielding percentage, a career-best.
Singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on 8/31 against Detroit, his second walk-off plate appearance of the season.
Had his second two-homer game of the season on 9/15 against Texas, the third of his career. He also matched an earlier 2007 performance with four RBI, a career-best.
 
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
 
Started 2006 as the A’s first baseman, tying a team record by starting the year 0-for-27.
Made his major league debut in 2005, ranking second among AL rookies in on-base percentage (.355), tied for second in walks, third in slugging percentage (.451), tied for third in home runs and fifth in batting and RBI.
Named the Most Valuable Player of the Pacific Coast League in 2004.
Named to the Texas League’s Postseason All-Star Team in 2003 after finishing third in all of Minor League Baseball with 114 RBI.
Finished third in the A’s farm system in home runs, fourth in RBI and eighth in batting with Single-A Modesto in 2002.
Earned consecutive player of the week honors for the weeks of July 23-29 and July 30-August 5 in his first professional season with Low-A Vancouver in 2001.
 
PERSONAL/MISC
 
Originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the seventh round of the 2001 Draft.
Was a Second-Team All-America selection by Baseball America as a senior at the University of Nebraska in 2001, batting .361 with 25 home runs and 86 RBI.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers