Results tagged ‘ Dan Wheeler ’

Rays Come Alive for Road Finale

 

 
                      Rays 11,           Orioles 3
 
 

 

Rays Even Road Trip Out 3-3

 

If you asked Rays Manager Joe Maddon if a .500 split on their first road trip would be acceptable, you might be surprised at the answer. Considering the Rays actually played 8 games on this road trip including 2 games in Philadelphia to close out the Spring Training schedule, they got a usual 10 day  regular season road trip. you could hear it in the voice’s of the Rays Radio Network commentators the other night. Everyone wanted to go home. It is rough to start on the road, and the Rays have done that consistently since 2006.
 

Early in the month, it was reported that in 2007, the Rays requested to start at home this year. Since that time it has been learned that they in fact only petitioned this year to start 2010. The information I got off the Internet was incorrect. I am only bringing this up because I try and get the right stuff and the right information for you all the time.  It is not unusual for bad information to get out here, but sometimes it gets nipped in the bud before the blogosphere picks it up. For that, I am sorry. But I know I am not the only one who got this. A few respected newspapers also got this bad information, but I doubt you will see any retractions.


Sleepy Offense Wakes Up Big Time

 

To say the Rays offense took a deep nap during Saturday night’s game would be an extreme understatement. But for what they lacked in that game, they more than made up for in this Sunday’s series ending contest.  The Rays even started off first thing today as Akinora Iwamura lead-off the game with a single through the hole to right field. An interesting fact is that is the first hit ever given up by Orioles starter Adam Eaton to the Rays.  After a strike out by Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria kept up his hot hitting by lacing a shallow single to center field to give the Rays two base runners early.  Longoria then got his running shoes on and stole second base to put both himself and Iwamura in scoring position.

 
But the Rays floundered in their attempts to get both runners across the plate in the inning. The last out was made by Pat Burrell, who was 0-7 lifetime against Eaton. But the Rays did get Eaton to throw 27 pitches in the inning, which could lead to an early day for the Orioles starter.  But in the top of the second inning, the Rays again began to pressure early on Eaton when Ben Zobrist hit a “Texas Leaguer” into left field that dropped in left field before the foul line. Gabe Gross then got walked on 9 pitches. Gross fought off Eaton from a 3-1 count in his favor with 3 straight fouls before Eaton threw a ball high for ball four.

 
              
 

Jason Bartlett then hit a single to left field to load the bases for the Rays. But Iwamura, who was 4 for 13 with the bases loaded in 2008, could not convert and was struck out. Crawford then came up and laced a ball into the right field that Nick Markakis had to hustle to get to, but not before Crawford unloaded the bases with his 3-run triple. Longoria then hit a long ball to right that went over Markakis’s head and landed just shy of the right field wall for an RBI double. At that point, the Rays were up 4-0 on the Orioles.

But in the 4th inning, it got really interesting for the Rays. Gross lead off the inning with his second walk of the game, this time on 6 pitches. Bartlett could not move him over after popping a ball in foul territory taken by Aubrey Huff. But Iwamura then laced a ball between Huff and Brain Roberts to move Gross into scoring position at third base. With Crawford at the plate, Iwamura stole second and put both men into scoring position. Crawford then hit a one-hopper into center field that Adam Jones came up throwing towards home plate.

 

 

Gross was heading for home and Orioles catcher Chad Moeller got situated in front of the plate. Gross did not plow into Moeller, but instead decided to try and side-step him. But there was a problem in that plan. Moeller had the plate blocked and Gross ended up falling over Moeller’s ankle and missed the plate. Bot men went sprawling backwards with Gross flipping behind the left side of the plate. He then realized he had not cross the plate and scrambled to try and get back to the plate before Moeller could tag him out. He was not successful and he was tagged out at home on one of the oddest play I have seen in a long time.  The Rays did not score in that inning and stranded both Iwamura and Crawford on base.
 
 

In the fifth inning, the Rays again went for the jugular after Carlos Pena struck out to lead-off the inning. Burrell was walked by Orioles reliever Brain Bass, who came on for Eaton in the top of the inning. But the next batter, Dioner Navarro, laced a liner to the right field wall for a double. Zobrist then came up and crushed a shot over the out-of-town
score board in right field for a 3-run homer, his first of the year.  But that was not all for the Rays in that inning. Bartlett got on infield hit when he hit a slow roller to Robert Andino, who was playing short for the Orioles today.  Aki then hit a gapper into left-center field that scored Bartlett to give the Rays a 8-0 lead.

 
 

In the sixth inning, Burrell got his first extra base hit off Bass when he got a double into the right-center field gap. He was stranded on base, but it showed that maybe Burrell was beginning to climb out of his season opening slump. When he was Philadelphia, Burrell was infamous for streaks, both good and bad.  The Rays got a bit of a surprise in the seventh inning when Bartlett hit his first homer of the season to dead center field. Bartlett hit only one homer in the regular season in 2008, and 1 in the playoffs for the Rays. It was a welcome sight to see him rounding the bases.
 

But in the eight inning, the Rays finished their scoring in great fashion. After Crawford was called out on strikes to start the inning, Longoria hit his 5th homer of the season off Bass’s misplaced cutter to left field. Carlos Pena then hit his second homer of the year to right field to complete the scoring for the Rays and post an 11-0 lead on the Orioles in the top of the eighth inning.  Seeing both Pena and Burrell go a combined 3 for 9 might be a great indicator of both men beginning to come out of the darkness and begin to produce some more scoring chances for the Rays. Before today’s game, they were a combined 6 for 36 with a homer and 2 RBI’s, both by Pena.
 
 

Balfour’s Game Went Down Under
 

 

Grant Balfour’s 2009 time with the Rays has not been his favorite times. This spring he fought some control issues, and thought they might be gone now that the regular season has arrived. Little did he know before yesterday’s game that the problem was about to crest and produce one of his worst performances in some time. This spring Balfour  appeared in 9 games for a total of 8 innings and 12 hits and 6 runs. But, something else happened that was not your usual Balfour signature, he also had 7 walks to go along with his 9 strikeouts. His release point and mechanics seems to be off a hair or two.
 

And so when he made his second appearance of 2009, he expected to be in a better frame of mind, and also a renewed vigor on the mound. But what ended up happening is that he had a minor meltdown on his release points and ended up throwing 24 pitches, 10 for strikes in the outing.  He came on in the ninth inning to preserve a beautiful pitching performance by James Shields, but ended up worrying both Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey as to his value with the club right now with the Yankees and White Sox coming into Tropicana Field for the next 7 games.
 
 

Balfour was officially credited with 0.0 innings pitched yesterday, but he allowed 2 hits and 3 earned runs, plus gave up three walks to balloon his ERA to 20.25 in the young season.  He started off the bottom of the ninth with a 11 run lead, but he did not even last until the first recorded out of the inning. Markakis lead-off with a walk on  6 pitches. Then Huff managed to again beat the Rays shift for a single into left field. That was the second time this series Huff had popped a ball down the left side of the infield for a hit. He then gave up another walk to Ryan Freel on 6 pitches to load the bases for Baltimore.
 
 

Luke Scott then hit a ball to right field  for a RBI single that broke the shutout for the Rays. Balfour then walked Felix Pie on 4 straight pitches to force in a second run. At that point, the Orioles had Scott sitting on third base with no outs. Maddon decided to come on out and take Balfour out of the contest before it totally bombed his confidence. Rays Reliever J P Howell came on to get Moeller to hit into a 6-4-3 double play that scored Scott to make it 11-3 Rays. He then got Andino to take a called third strike to end the Orioles rally and send the Rays home with the victory. 
 
 

I am not sure what was wrong with Balfour last night, but it looked a bit similar to the pitching reversal of Rob Bell a few years ago for the Rays. Hopefully it is something mechanical that can be fixed in side work and he will again be back to old self. Sometimes just an inch can change a pitcher’s velocity and accuracy to the plate. Hopefully he was just losing his release point for some reason and it will just be a matter of throwing a bit to get back into a groove. If not, it opens a huge hole in the Rays Bullpen because of Balfour’s aggressive nature on the mound.

 
           
 

Shields wears Rare Road Win
 

James Shields made a  few changes to his routine on Sunday to try and figure out the reasoning for his odd road woes. If you noticed on the mound, Shields wore short sleeves under his uniform for the first time on the road this year. Sometimes superstitions and rituals can be the life breath of a ball player. Some like to eat the same thing on game days, or drive the same way to the ballpark. Other have uniform rituals like wearing an old t-shirt under their uniform, or wearing three pairs of socks.
 
 

Whatever it was that Shields did yesterday, I hope he wrote it all down so he can do it again after the Rays next road trip in about a week to the west coast. He started the game by retiring the first 8 men he faced in the game yesterday.  Shields did not even have a ball leave the infield until Andino single through the first and second base hole for the first hit of the game. He got out of that inning without a problem, until Jones doubled into the left-center field gap to lead-off the fourth inning. Then Shields shut down the next three batters in a row to strand Jones at third base.
 
 

A simple 1-2-3 inning in the fifth gave him more comfort as the Rays were then up 8-0.  And it wasn’t until Jones again came up in the sixth inning that he gave up his fina
l hit of the outing. After Huff struck out to start the bottom of the seventh inning, Shields gave up his only walk of the day to Freel on 5 pitches. But after two quick unassisted plays by Pena, the Rays got out of the inning.  Dan Wheeler than came on in the bottom of the eighth inning and Shields was done for the day. You could see him over there trying to convince Maddon to let him finish out the game.

 

 
But the Rays Bullpen needed to get some innings, and Wheeler, Balfour and Howell ended up completing the outing for Shields.  For the day, Shields went 7 innings of 3-hit shutout pitching, and ran his record to 1-1 on the year. He threw 88 pitches, 53 of them for strikes on the day. He did give up 1 walk to go with his three strikeouts.  Hopefully Shields did remember every move he made in his pre-game rituals and warm-ups to again try and duplicate it when the Rays again take to the road from April 21-29, 2009.  At that time the Rays will be making a west coast trip that will end with 3 games in Minnesota.

 

 

Sunday’s Scattered Thoughts 
 

Carl Crawford coming into Sunday’s game has hit .352 in his last 30 games with 13 extra base hits and 26 runs. He also has added on 18 RBI’s during that time. But right now the hottest duo on the Rays might be the two guys who will flip flop in the eighth and ninth slot in the lineup for a while for the Rays. Iwamura and Bartlett each went 3 for 5 yesterday, but Bartlett is  hitting .391 currently and is winning the batting average stats of the duo. Only person hitting better than these two is of course, Longoria who is at a lofty .481 right now and is leading the majors in homers, and is tied with Miguel Caberra for the hits lead with 13 for the year.

 
With B J Upton primed to rejoin the Rays on Monday at Tropicana Field for the home Opener, the Rays sent Matt Joyce down to the minors after the game. He will join the Triple-A Durham Bulls and be their primary right fielder for the season. Hopefully while he is down in the minors, Joyce can get some quality at bats against left-handed pitchers and give the Rays more confidence to give him the right field job for good upon his return up to the Rays.
 

The Orioles and James Shields have some interesting history together. It was the Orioles who first got a glimpse of Shields on the mound on May 31 2006 and gave up 5 runs on 9 hits in his Rays debut. The Rays have now won 8 straight wins when Shields has faced the Orioles.
 

I am going to be on “Good Morning Tampa Bay” with the rest of the Maddon’s Maniacs on  Monday to promote the Opening Day chatter and cheers for the Rays. Be sure to check it out since I know I actually have a speaking part in the telecast about the purpose of the “Maniacs”.  As usual, we will be loud and proud and cheering for the Rays today.  Also anyone coming to the ballpark early can check out our video we did with the Raysvision people a few weeks ago on the “Ground Rules” for Tropicana Field.
 
 

All Photos are from Gail Burton / A P

 
 

Do You Still Cheer for your Ex-Players?

 
 



I decided to venture over to Myspace the other day to check my
mail and maybe tweak my profile a bit when I noticed that I had a message. I
clicked on it and lo and behold had an email from the Cowbell Kid. Now anyone
who knows me will tell you I had a few small run ins with him, but nothing
serious about respect for the game and some behavior I heard about in the past. 
But I do have to throw this compliment out there to him, he has made efforts to
clean and polish his act up a bit since late last year, and for that I sit back
and say thank you.

 



Everyone
who has ever taken in a game at the Trop will know that he was famous, or
infamous for yelling at players during Batting Practice about certain
inconsistent behaviors in their past or in their playing styles. It is no secret
that he got more than one player a bit upset. I personally know of one incident
last year that got one player almost to the point of jumping into the stands and
taking him on during a weekend series against the Astros. I am not going to name
the player, but if you were at the Trop that Saturday night, you know who he is
by the yelling and screaming go to and from the
field.

 



But that
was part of his game psyche, to try and get into the head of mostly the
relievers or right fielder in the league. Now there have been a few moments
where personal stuff might have popped down between himself and another player
that were not above board, but that is in the past, and that play is no longer
on the New York Yankees, so it is in the vault with the rest of the deeds. But
since that has been one of his focal points over the year, he emailed me with a
problem he is just now starting to develop because of some recent trades or
actions by the Rays to change their
roster.

 



I am
going to take the quote directly from his email so you can see that I am not
making this up, or trying to embarrass him. He said, “Here’s where it gets
tricky I have grown fond of some of the players that will no longer be a part of
our team, usually I will abuse any opposing players just because they are not on
the Rays team! But because of the respect some of these guys have gained in my
eyes I am going to have to be selective about my targets. ( never thought that
would ever be a problem for me ) oh well .”

 



And I
know that will be a problem for him in 2009 and the season that will go on for
the Rays. I know he has a fond friendship and a game day type of bond with
former Rays players like Jonny Gomes, who is now with the Cincinnati Reds, and
Rocco Baldelli, who is now a dreaded Boston Red Sox. Because he is one of the
most vocal fans about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it is going to be
interesting what will happen during B P in 2009. But then again, he will also
see Gomes during Spring Training games, and it might be a tense moment for him
to see Jonny in red and white for the first
time.



 


 


I know I
have had the same situation since the Rays began play. I would begin to talk
with a player and develop a bit of dialogue and when they were in the Bullpen or
out in right field I used to chat it up with them a bit, but when they left, I
did not stop trying to chat with them. My reasoning for this is that we are both
in love with the same thing………Baseball, and that common ground has a huge
amount of conversational pieces. A great example is former Rays right fielder
Jose Guillen. I used to yell out to him every game and even try and tell him if
a player was taking a wild turn at this if the ball came into the corner near
my seat.

 



It was
not to confuse or to even play coach, but to be his eyes when he had his back to
the field. I got to know him better and every time he comes back into the Trop.,
he comes over and say hello. Other players like Shawn Camp, who is now with the
Toronto Blue Jays have come over and shook hands and then got to their business.
But the best at keeping his old Tampa Bay baseball friendships up was former
Rays catcher Toby Hall. Every time the Chicago White Sox came into town, he would
stroll down to the corner and we would talk about his time in Chi-town and how
his kids were growing. Hall and I never went out fishing or even for more than
beers at Ferg’s, but we always seemed to have time to talk even during games
when he was in the Bullpen.

 

It is a
fine line and a personal choice if you want to remain friends or just change it
to a buddy who plays for the enemy. I was talking with former Rays player Joey
Gathright about that last year after a game and he said that it was tough
sometimes to come back here and see the people who cheered for him now booing
some of his actions. But he also knows that he can not pull punches or even
slack off a moment in front of his former home crowd or it would give them
another reason to boo louder to him. And there lies the problem. Can we as fans
of our team separate the player from the team, or are they a whole not matter
what?

 



Everyone
takes that problem and decides for themselves.  I stood up and cheered for Texas
Ranger outfielder and former Rays Josh Hamilton the first time he came up to bat
at the Trop., and I am not ashamed of it at all. Some things happen in life that
you need to celebrate or show your appreciation to a player. The first time
Rocco Baldelli comes to bat I will also stand and clap. It is my way to salute a
great player that we will miss not only in the lineup, but talking with
field-side before the games. But then  again, I have also mourned the loss of
two great former Rays players who I think were stand up guys and died way before
their times.



 

 

 



I am
speaking of former Rays pitchers Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle. I am not going to
go into the moments or the reason for their deaths, but they were moments that
made me question baseball and life in general for a moment in time. I was not a
close friend of either guy, but we did have conversations and used to talk down
in the Checkers Bullpen area any time they came into the Trop. It was a baseball
buddy kind of bonding that you just wanted them to be successful and have a
great life. I have written blogs about each of them, and my blog to Lidle was my
first sports entry in years on my old Myspace page. I have since removed the
posting and it is sitting in my blog scrapbook where only I can read it
now.

 



So it is
now my place to celebrate baseball, and when it comes to our former players, I
try and keep in touch with them when they come into the Trop. Be is chatting
with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch, who last year told me about his new
home purchase in a great area west of Pinellas Park, Florida, or Brandon Backe
standing there talking with a group of Rays fans talking about nothing in
general, but loving every minute of it. So do we as fans, try and keep these
small friendships or baseball buddy situation alive and well, or do we let them
die because they are playing for another
team?

 
I choose
to decide on a individual basis. There are players who I do not chat with that I
used to laugh at jokes with and see outside the stadium all the time. Even if
the player did not leave here without throwing insults or comments at the team’s
management, I do not hold them accountable because they spoke their minds and
the issue is closed. But it is hard to gain some face time with a player and get
to know them and then they get traded or sign as a free agent somewhere else.




 
But my
best example might be Rays relievers Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. I was not
close to either of these guys the last time they were here. We would exchange
comments and glances as they passed my seat, but it was not until they came back
to Tampa Bay after stints with the Houston Astros that the respect and the bond
grew. Every day they would pass my seat area and we would chat with them for a
few moments, and during the year, if I missed a game , they noticed and asked me
where I was, like friends sometimes do. And that meant a lot to me. But it was
the day after the Rays clinched their first playoff berth that really set the
tone for me with my Bullpen guys.

 
 


 



I was
given one of the champagne bottles used in the celebration by a member of the team, and I asked Wheeler
if he would mind signing it for me. He took the bottle back in its bag and it
stayed back there for about 4 innings. He ended up having everyone in the Rays
Bullpen sign that bottle and then brought it back to me. I stood there and just
stared at the bottle for a bit then remembered why I like to talk to these guys.
They are good people, and even the short times we chat with them are remembered.
Guess sometimes there can be bonds outside the foul lines in baseball. So with
that, here is a question for you. Do you maintain your friendships and
conversation with your ex-players, even if they are playing for a division
rival?



All pictures used in this blog were obtained from the RRCollections.





 
 

David Price………………From Draft Pick to Playoff Sensation

 

 

 Www.TheScoutingBook.com  said even before the Rays made him the first pick of the 2007 Amateur Draft, David Price had already run up a polished resume, beginning with the 0.43 ERA he posted as a high school senior. The Dodgers drafted him in the 19th round in 2004, but Price chose to attend Vanderbilt on scholarship instead, where he became a powerful (if overworked) anchor to the school’s very strong rotation. When the Rays Price with the first pick in the 2007 Draft, the website. www.TheHardballTimes.com  was gushing about the uber prospect from Vanderbilt University because of his aggressive finish to the plate. they also remarked that Price’s  slow tempo to the plate and they began to think that what I said above about his tempo may be a tad nitpicky. This dude is good, really good. Leave him alone and let him pitch. Now that is a great scouting report…………leave him alone and let him pitch!
 

Price went 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and Division I-leading 194 strikeouts for the SEC Eastern Division Commodores. He is the fourth left hander taken with the top pick and first since Brien Taylor went to the New York Yankees in 1991. Price’s dominant season came to a surprising end in the  NCAA regionals when his top-ranked Commodores lost to Michigan. In that game, he came on in relief and took his first loss of the year after striking out 17 against Austin Peay three days earlier. Projected as a future staff ace in the majors, Price has a fastball measured in the mid-90s. He mixes it well with an outstanding slider and change up.

 Price did not agree to an $ 11.25 million, 6-year contract with the Rays until August 15, just beating the newly imposed signing deadline. Price, a hard-throwing left hander from Vanderbilt, is guaranteed $8.5 million under the deal, which includes a $5.6 million signing bonus. after singing, the Rays quickly decided the send their new prospect straight to Class A Columbus Catfish in the South Atlantic League.  It is unlikely that he will pitch in any games until the Instructional League this fall under the direction of pitching coach Bill Moloney. But getting the extra time to work on mechanics and get used to the grind of the minor leagues will be a good education for the young southpaw.

 After throwing in the Rays Instructional League during the off season, the young prospect performed great and was rewarded with a trip to the big clubs camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. Price came on and pitched his heart out before finally getting have his professional debut against one of the best hitting teams in the American League East, the New York Yankees. With a group of excited teammates watching on TV from the visiting clubhouse and a Legends Field-record crowd of 10,869 watching in person, Price stepped onto the major-league stage Saturday for the first time. And wowed them all. Using a live fastball that was clocked unofficially as fast as 99 mph, Price hit the first batter he faced, Yankees C Francisco Cervelli, then struck out, in succession, Shelly Duncan, Jason Lane and Wilson Betemit.

 

 

 Even Price, who last pitched competitively on June 1 for Vanderbilt, was a bit awed by the radar reading in his first spring game for the Rays, a 4-1 victory against the Yankees. “There’s a lot of adrenaline, of course, being utilized,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said to the Tampa Tribune. “I liked it. The delivery was good, the ball was down, it was alive at the end. And again, it’s all about his composure. He walks in, this is his first professional moment, and he walks out there like he’s pitching against Clemson on a Saturday.”
 

 

Price, 22, said he felt a bit of nerves in the beginning during his morning warm up at Progress Energy Park but the butterflies were gone by the time the team arrived in Tampa. Once there, the baseball fan in Price came out. “Before the game starts, Johnny Damon comes over and shakes my hand and tells me good luck,” Price said. “You don’t think about that stuff and it happens. I’m standing out there down the left-field line kind of star-struck. I’m 300 feet away from Derek Jeter, A-Rod’s hitting. It’s definitely a lot of fun.”
 

 

Price threw two sliders, the rest fastballs, as he recorded 11 strikes in 17 pitches. He caught Duncan looking and got Lane and Betemit swinging on fastballs. None of the four batters he faced so much as fouled off a pitch. “When I got that last strike three, I’m running off the field and I’m tearing up,” Price said. “Because I hadn’t done that in so long. That’s easily, hands down, the greatest feeling ever.” 


 

 

 

 

But his dream of maybe making the major league roster out of Spring Training were quickly dashed on March 11th when he was assigned to the minor league camp for assignment for the 2008 season. Price had an impressive spring. After being hampered by tightness in his left shoulder, the hurler appeared in two spring games, garnering a 0.00 ERA and retiring six of the seven hitters he faced. Following Spring Training, Price experienced a minor strain in his left elbow, and the Rays cautiously placed him on rehab assignment in St. Petersburg. 
 

 

But first they wanted Price to pitch in one more extended Spring Training game on May 18th against the Yankees extended spring squad. But there was a method to all this madness as the Yankees had a prolific hitter in Alex Rodriguez on that squad who was down in the minors trying to rehab a right quad muscle strain and would be playing that game.  Price twice got the three-time American League MVP to strike out, allowing Rodriguez one hit — a solo homer over the right-center fence at the Al Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg, the Rays’ Minor League facility.
 

 

The young hurler said the fastball Rodriguez hit over the fence was something he would “make a mental note” of and learn from. “He’s arguably one of the best players in baseball,” Price told MILB.com. Rodriguez had similar praise for the Price, who tossed a blistering fastball with speeds around 95-97 mph for the majority of his five innings. The young hurler previously topped out at 100 mph, in a Spring Training game against the Yankees. “I wish he was on our team,” Rodriguez said. “He has a very bright future. The Rays are doing a fantastic job of drafting these young guys.”  After the game Price was notified that he would be joining the Florida State League Vero Beach Devilrays in Clearwater, Florida to begin his professional career on May 22, 2008. 
 

 

Price did not stay long in Vero Beach as he spent only a month in Vero Beach before being promoted to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League.  Price started 6 games with the Devilrays going 4-0, with a 1.82 ERA and 37 strikeout in 34.2 innings. He also was paired up with a pitching legend on May 27th when Pedro Martinez, who was down on a rehab assignment for the St Lucie Mets. Price dominated that game going 6 innings and giving up only 2 hits in the game with 9 strikeouts. Price gave up both hits to St. Lucie catcher Robinson Cancel in the contest.
 

 

 

 

Price quickly made his mark in Montgomery as he started 9 games for the Biscuits and went 7-0, with a 1.89 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 57 innings. He made a quick impact on the Biscuits pitching staff and made his Double-A debut against the Mobile Bay Bears on June 26th. In the contest he went 6 innings and gave up 4 hits and got 7 strikeouts in the game, winning his first start for the Biscuits.  Price went to 5-0 on July 26th with his win over the Huntsville Stars. Price kept up his aggressive pitching until the Rays decided to promote him to the Triple-A Durham Bulls on August 11th.
 

 

Price got to work fast in Durham too starting his first game for the Bulls on August 13th, but came out on the losing end for the first time in his professional career in a 7-6 loss to the Norfolk Tides. In the contest, Price only lasted 4 inning and gave up 7 hits and 3 runs. But Price again took the mound on August 18th against the Indianapolis Indians and again had a rough outing as he went 5 innings and gave up  5 hits and 3 runs on the night. The International League was not giving the prized prospect of the Rays any respect for past efforts and Price quickly learned the distinctive differences of the minor league hierarchy.
 

 

 

Price took the mound for the August 23rd and again got rocked as he went 4 innings and gave up 6 hits and 3 runs and only got 3 strikeouts on the night against the same Indianapolis squad that beat him earlier in the week.  % days later on August 28th, Price got his first Triple-A victory after going 5 innings and giving up 5 hits and only 2 runs to even his record at 1-1  in a 11-9 Bulls win over the Richmond Tides.  Price then started the game against the Louisville Bats and posted his first post season win after going  5 innings and giving up 3 hits and shutout the Bats in the series opener. 
 

 

 

In the International League finals against the Scranton-Wilkesboro Yankees on September 9th, Price was again roughed up a bit and lasted 6 innings, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs in the game, but he did post 9 strikeouts  during his no-decision start that night. Price was on the bench on September 12th when Scranton finally got the better of the Bulls and took the International League crown with former Yankee starter Phil Hughes on the mound. But the sorry and disappointment was short lived as the pitcher was told after the game that he was being called up to the Rays while they were on their current road trip.
 

 

When the Rays finally brought up David Price on September 13th , he quickly got on a plane with Designated Hitter/Outfielder Jonny Gomes who also got called up to the big squad. You know that the conversation turned to what to expect for the young rookie, and Gomes might have been the right guy to sit near him and talk about this team. Gomes had been here from the beginning of the rebuilding process under Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but the Rays didn’t go the usual route to rebuild, they only had to tweak the system because of the depth in their farm system. 
 

 

 

But Price did not get to wallow in the defeat at Durham for long as he quickly found himself in his major league debut on September 14th in Yankee Stadium coming in to relieve Edwin Jackson who had gotten rocked for 6 runs in 2 innings of work. Price quickly got to work and got his first six batters 1-2-3 to end the 3rd and 4th innings. But in the bottom of 5th inning, Derek Jeter took an 2-2 pitch and deposited it in the right field bleachers for a solo lead-off home run.  Price then regrouped and quickly got the next three batters in order to end the 5th inning.  Price ended up throwing 5.1 innings and gave up 3 hits and 2 runs to the Yankees, but overall threw effectively and with power.
 

 

Over the course of the rest of the Rays regular season, Price was used exclusively out of the Bullpen as a hard throwing lefty alternative to the slow throwing  J P Howell and the medium speed Trever Miller. Price could come in with his overpowering fastball and slider and take over a ball game for the Rays. In his time with the Rays in September, he made 5 appearances and went a total of 14 innings and produced 12 strikeouts for the Rays. He did not get a chance for a win in his short time up in September, but that was just a prelude to post season and his ability to showcase his talents.
 



 

Price would soon show that he had ice water in his veins on the mound as the Rays began their first playoff games in their history. With their rookie pitcher ready and willing to do anything for the team, Price was added to the post season roster for both the American League Divisional Series and the American League Championship Series. Price did not have to produce for the team in the short lived series against the Chicago White Sox, but he did have plenty in the tank when the Rays took on their American League East foes, the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS series.


 

Price was ready at a moments notice and got his first chance during game2 of the ALCS when Rays reliever Dan Wheeler walked Jed Lowrie in the top of the 11th inning. Price came on with 1 out in the inning and walked J D Drew before inducing Coco Crisp to hit into a double play to end the inning for the Rays. B J Upton hit a fluke sacrifice fly down the right field line, and the Rays took the contest 9-8 and evened the series at 1-game a piece. Price for his 2/3rds of an inning got his first Major League win.  But the Rays did not need Price’s services again until the top of the 8th inning when Chad Bradford ran into a little trouble and he came on to get  J D Drew swinging to stop the Red Sox threat.

 
 


 

But it was in the top of the 9th inning that Price made his presence known inside Tropicana Field, when he came out to the mound full of fire and needing 3 outs to send the Rays to the World series for the first time. Jason Bay came up first for the Red Sox and worked the count to 2-2 before being issued a walk to start off the inning.  Matk Kotsay and Jason Varitek both struck out on a total of  10 pitches to give the Red Sox one last out. Jed Lowrie then came up to pinch-hit for Alex Cora and hit into a fielder choice to second that Akinora Iwamura stepped on the bag and began the celebration for the Rays. Price was given his first career save for his actions and became the only rookie to post a win and a save in his first two post season appearances.


 

Price got his first taste of World series action in Game 2 at Tropicana Field in a mop-up duty for the Rays 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. That evened the series at 1-all and sent the series to Philadelphia for the next 3 games. Price went 2.1 innings giving up 2 hits, 2 runs and got 2 strikeouts on the night. Price did not get another chance in the series until the restart of Game 5 when he came on in the 8th inning for the Rays. Price went 1 inning and got 2 strikeouts on 20 pitches to get the Rays into position to maybe win the game. They could not convert in the top of the 9th and Price and the Rays ended their season while the Phillies celebrated out on the field.



 

 

 

The past years has shown the Rays faithful that this young left-hander will be here a long time. He has the composure and the talent to become a top fight starter in the major leagues for a long time. There is chatter that he will spend at least the first month back at Triple-A Durham to try and adjust to the Triple-A game before coming back up to stay in the majors. You can bet he will be here again by the All-Star break and this kid will not look back. He has the ability and the talent to alreay cement the number 4 slot in the rotation, and might be a number 1 or 2 within 3 years time.


 

Along with his maturity and confidence, the Rays got a true gem in this first round pick who boldly stated he would be back with the Rays hopefully by September. Little did they know that he has the stuff and the stamina to post one of the best post seasons by a rookie reliever. But when he finally gets to starting in this league, he will show his true colors and shine for a long time.


Photos included on this blog provided by Associated Press and RR private collections.

 

Rays Unveil Third Jersey Option

 


 

 

In the past, major league teams have always had a third alternate jersey for special occasions or maybe a day game right after a late night contest. It makes the efforts of the clubhouse staff more efficient with the flow of a early game after a extended late night contest, and also provides a nice alternative for hot afternoon games. The Tampa Bay Rays  are the third team in the American League East to announce this off season that they will go to the third optional uniform. 
 

 

Like the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, who announced earlier in the off season they they too will have a third option available for 2009. Some of the cynical folks around baseball think it is just a ruse to get the fan base to buy another jersey for around $ 229 dollars and further the team’s financial coffers. But as one woman told me when she saw the new dark blue Rays jersey, “It will just help bring out the accents in my eyes better than the white jersey.”

 


 

 
 
 

For whatever reason the team and the fans buy the new jersey, the fact still remains that the team did not go the option of including the name “Tampa Bay ” spread across the front of the jersey. Why is it that the team will not have an away or road jersey with the team’s location on it. Is their bond with getting back to baseball traditions extending all the way to not even showing their geographical pride in the area, or just another ploy to not have to change the jersey if a drastic measure comes about a few years down the road.
 

 

You hope it is not a ruse by the teams management to hide the fact that the attendance in the Trop. has not been up to snuff for them in their 3-year plan. I am not upset that the St. Petersburg area is not listed anywhere on the jersey, so do not start up that line of misguided comments. The new jersey will be highlighted by the usual Rays logo with its swashbuckling “R” flowing from the chest area of the uniform. A major change will be an enhanced sunburst on the jersey that will be more pronounced and brighter in color to go with the added baby blue piping on the jersey.
 

 

Now I like the jersey, and the one I saw also contained the “devilray” patch still on the left sleeve.  Thoughts have been circulating over the past year that this old icon of the old teams name and uniforms might be returned to the sea in 2009. The option might still be there for that to happen by the first time the uniforms are used during a May 1st game against division rivals, the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. 

 
 
 

 
 

You would think that they team might of had an commemorative patch to be worn in 2009 to celebrate their first American League pennant, but none was on display that day. There is still time for the team to announce such a patch, probably near the end of spring training and closer to the team’s home opener on April 13th when the New York Yankees come to town for 3 games. It is also the night that the team will unveil their first banners in the rafters of Tropicana Field for their 2008 championships. Banners will be displayed for the team’s success in their American League East divisional crown, and in their 2008 American League Championship on that night.
 

 

I actually like the jersey because it reminds me of the old green third uniform the Rays had in 2008 before the Rays logo and basic uniform colors changed to a blue and white based home uniform. It is made of the same fabric as that years jerseys and will reflect heat and absorb moisture to help with dehydration and extreme hot weather outdoors during the season.  It is also a great item for kids based on the dark color. We all know that kids have a tendency to eat half their food at games and wear the other half on their shirts and pants. But in the long run, it is an attempt by the team to keep up the extended excitement of the Rays success in 2009.  The uniforms might not a victory magnet for the Rays, but with the community becoming more aware and more excited daily about the team, more options for team based wear is a fantastic way to show your spirit and pride in your hometown Rays.

 

 

 

 

ALCS Celebration…………My Third Choice of Rays Memories in 2008

   



I was sitting here today trying to figure out which one of the over 320 blogs that I have done in 2008 might even be in the top 3 when it finally occurred to me that it is rather simple. I guess i am going to use the next three days to select  a few of the blogs that meant the world to me in 2008.  From the moment I saw the guys come out of the Spring Training complex field house for the last time, to the meeting of the buses’ at Tropicana Field after the last game in Philadelphia, it has been a wild and truly unforgettable ride for the Rays in 2008.



For me to even try and fathom 3 moments that could be included in a listing is beyond my comprehension for a bit here. But I have decided that the third one has to be the wild and crazy celebration right after the Tampa Bay Rays clinched their first ever American League East title. It was one of two picture blog entries I popped online that night, but it was the one I also felt a part of while the rest of the team celebrate a few feet away from me. It was a night of believing in yourself and your team. Of realizing that miracles and faith can have a huge push towards achieving and obtaining your goals.


It was also a night for the long time fans of the Rays to point to as the reason we sat in those stands for the past 11 seasons and took the abuse and the catcalls from Boston and Yankees fans. It showed why we cheered and clanged those pesky cowbells to show the team we were behind them late in the game, or even when those other team’s chants began to ring through the stands. It was a night where the past and the future meshed so well. Gone was the loser moniker that the Rays had fought so hard to overcome. In front of them was a frontier of new beginnings and unlimited potential to strive for the best and the highest goals obtainable in the sport.


It was a night of redemption. A moment of clarity in a sea of doubt for a lot of people in the Tampa Bay area. It showed that even a small market team like the Rays could upend the status quo of the league and strive to be great for that one moment. So I hope you enjoy this first look back into what I think was a huge point in the Tampa Bay Rays 2008 historical run and clinch of  current dreams and future aspirations.

A fan-tastic day

                                      

I swear this is the last Photo
blog of the American League Championship Series I am doing this year. I
had too much fun last night and still can not find my car keys. But
anyhow, here are the last few photos that I have gotten since I got
home from a vastly unprepared road trip to Tampa with some people who
felt like it was 1999.

 


I am glad there is not a Game 8,
because I know a few people who will not be awake until almost 6 p.m.
tonight. This is something that will change this town forever. Some
people have called my hometown a “Sleepy little hamlet”, “God’s waiting
room”, and my new personal favorite, “Where Bums and Benches meet in
perfect harmony”.

 


But to be a part of a World Series
against a fellow Spring Training site-mate is spectacular and  will
make the area more energized than usual. So enjoy my little photo fest
and I will see you all on Wed. night when the champagne stains should
be out of my new ALCS Champs cap, and my brain is ready for another
exciting series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 


Akinora Iwamura and “Big” Cliff
Floyd. Cliff has been here before, but you can tell it never gets old
for the veterans either. I saw people like Dan Wheeler and Floyd, and
even Trever Miller acting like kids in the candy store
tonight……………and I like it. It was the leadership of such players like Floyd and Carlos Pena that the Rays clubhouse began to gel early in the season and reached its boiling point tonight on the turf at Tropicana Field.

 

 


I am starting to believe that Rays
Rookie David Price is starting to like all the celebrating in the
clubhouse this postseason. He deserves the save tonight, and he will
surely be on the World Series roster when it comes out in a few days.
Price became the first rookie pitcher in MLB history to get a win and a save in his first post season action. Amazing how far this guy has risen in one season. He began the season down in low Class-A ball, and rose through the system to get to the major league level at the September mark in the season.

 

 


I can tell by the broad shoulders
that this is Rays Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi getting the crowd into
the celebration tonight at the Trop. Scott is a huge reason these guys
are psyched and ready to go every night coming out of the Bullpen.  He
is the Enforcer. Cursi surely got either a share or a monetary bonus from the Rays for his work this season, and he rightly deserves it and more from the team.

 

 


James “Big Game” Shields is also
known as the true master of champagne bursts and celebrations. Shields
is one of the big 4 starters that will try and bring home the Rays
first World Series title. Sheilds will end the season ranked as one of the top 20 pitchers in baseball. He made great strides in 2008, and further cemented his cahnge up as one of the best in the league
.

 

 


Scott Kazmir is becoming an old
professional at this celebration stuff. He is now known as one of
the true cork popping experts in the Rays clubhouse. Kazmir is also one the
premier lefties in the game today. Kazmir might have had a down season of you lokk at his statistics, but he was there when the team needed him and was always up for the challenge for the team. Even at his young age, Kazmir showed why he is the most experienced on this staff, and the “go-to” guy in the future for the team.

 

 


Edwin Jackson is cooling down the
“Old Man” on the Rays, Carl Crawford. He was here during the lean years
in Tampa Bay, and to see a winning team and a playoff berth was a dream
to Carl before this season. Now the Rays can go beyond any of their
wildest dreams and contend for a World Series title starting on Wed.
night.
Edwin Jackson has been maligned and beaten up in the press this year as not being the great pitcher for the Rays. But in the end result, he tied for the team lead in victories, and inproved throughout the entire season. He still hit rough patches, but he fought through them and became a extremely aggressive pitcher in 2008.

 

 


One last photo of Rookie David
Price getting a cold shower to go with his first professional save
tonight in the game against the Boston Red Sox. Price has a huge future in front of him in baseball. The guy was one of the final picks in the “Next competition for ESPN in 2008. No matter what the magazine decides, you can truly see that he is one of the bright spots for baseball, and not just the Rays in 2009. We saw just a small bit of the talent and the ability of this young pitcher late in the season ans during the playoffs.  In 2009, he will get a change to claim a spot on the Rays rotation as a starter, and from there…..the sky is truly the limit for him.

 


Okay, that is the end of all three
blogs, I swear.  But I truly hoped you enjoyed going into the picture
world of the Rays celebrating their first American League Championship
tonight.  Be sure to tune into FOX starting this Wed night at 8 p.m.
when the Rays take on the National League Champs, the Philadelphia
Phillies in the best-of-seven series for the World Championship.

 


Also, if either team steals a base
during a World Series game, Taco Bell will be rewarding every American
a spicy beef crunchy taco for FREE the next day. Considering that the
Rays stole 10 bases in the ALCS, we all might be eating tacos for a few
days.  Go to www.stealabasestealataco.com for more information.

 

 

How cool is that, a rookie like
David Price comes in and set down one of the best lineups in the
American League and now he gets to hold the AL Championship Trophy.

 

Sp_296220_shad_rays_7c

 


Aki again among the Rays faithful
who stayed beyond 1 a.m. to help celebrate another Tampa Bay Rays
victory and their first run at the World Series. Something I found truly remarkable about this guy in 2008, is his interaction with the fans and his love for both this area and our style of baseball. I do not even remember what time I got home that night because I did not sleep a wink as I got into traveling mode after Game 2 of the World Series.


 

                  Sp_296217_cass_rays_17c

 


I had to add one more photo of
that world class dog pile that David Price and Dioner Navarro are on
the bottom of here. I know it hurts, but it also feels so good guys. 
Congrats again to a great team, and a great set of human beings. You
are our heroes and our inspirations guys. By the time that the Rays had won the ALCS, they had celebrating on the field down to an artform. So many times this year the team had late innings rallies and walk-off victories that just added up to the final prize of winning the American League Pennant tonight.



 

Shop Now!



I have not even left the ballpark
yet and they are almost out of the Rays American League merchandise
sent in the first wave by MLB. How crazy is that.  I am so glad the
fans are excited about the World Series. I hope at least 25 percent of
them come back to the ballpark in 2009 and fill the stadium.  Oh, news
flash here people………..We play the Phillies in Philly next season
as part of the Inter-League schedule.  How cool is that!!!!!  


Road
Trip.


 

 


The entire team getting some personal personal time with
the AL Championship trophy. Do they pass it around and can keep it for
one day like the Stanley Cup? I hope at some point either in the off season or during 2009, the Rays Season Ticket holders and Maddon’s Maniacs can pose for photos with our first real trophy in franchise history.  It was all a total effort of the Rays Republic and the team and staff to secure our place in history tonight.


 

                   

 



This Photo is going to be firmly
planted in my mind for a long, long time. This is the final out of the
game…………a force out of Jason Bay by Akinora Iwamura to seal the
deal for the Rays. If there was one photo to show the joy and the celebration of winning the pennant, it has got to be this picture right here.


 

 


Carlos Pena getting ready to do
that dance he loves to do at celebration.  Maybe Carlos can teach the
entire Tampa Bay area that dance some time.

 

 


Tell me that is not one proud
owner. He promised us a winner and he delivered ahead of
schedule…………he could run for President right now and get
elected on the Rays ticket.

 

            

 


Carlos and Ben Zobrist a few
minutes after the final out of the game. This team is more like a
family than the Pittsburgh Pirates teams in the
1970′s……………..We Are One Team!!!!!   Tell me the marketing
department is not proud of that slogan now!

 

 


This is what the Trop. looked like
2 minutes after the last out. Rays players running everywhere looking
for a teammates to hug and slap some fist bumps on them.

Rays Goals 6-10 for 2008 Exceed Expectations

 

          

 

In the beginning of the season I set 10 goals or written items that I hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would complete to become a more productive and successful team. At the time we all did not know the type of franchise success we would see in 2008.

Also stuffed into that list was a few personal obsevations ands wants for the team in 2008. I did a middle of the year evaluation of the list on July 18, 2008 and saw that the team was focused and moving forward in achieving outstanding success on the field.

I am again going to go over the high and lowpoints now after the season is over. I am no longer going to assign a letter grade to the options because this has been a totally “A” year in all aspects. There is no way I could see this coming, and the team took the region by storm in 2008. 

 

The blog today will focus on the items 6-10, and the logo unveiling last November in St. Petersburg, Florida at Straub Park.

 

 

 

As everyone might remember, 12 months ago we set out changing the basic style of the team with a logo change and a uniform retro-fitting. Gone was the old “TB” on the hat that had a ray centered beneath the “TB” symbol. In came a clean looking “TB” in a great marine blue color. Then you get to the uniforms that were streamlined into a more uniform design without the old “Rays” on the chest area of the uniform.

The uniforms went from a white and green basic jersey with blue pinstriping on the sleeves to a retro looking White and Blue model with a logo that popped with the odd shaped “R”, and the sunburst in the center of the logo blasting out for all to see. The team held a fantastic outdoor event to unveil the new look with most of the players coming in for the event.

The new design was met with some crtics wanting the old Rays look becuase it had a modern flair without being boring. Others were upset that the away jerseys would not have the “Tampa Bay” moniker blazen across the chest of the players anymore. It was replaced with the new logo “Rays” across the chest.

          

 

Other were debating why to let go of the entire past for the new look. One thing the Rays did leave “old” on their jerseys was the flying ray patch on the sleeve. The team decided to continue that tradition and  replaced the dark black and colorful ray with one that matched the teams new blue and white jerseys. All in all, the new look showed the team was trying to move beyond the loveable losers’ of the past and were hoping for a new attitude in Tampa Bay.

 

 

                

 

Starting with the bottom of the list at number 10, was the Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base.  To sya he did not do a superb job this year would be an insult. the guy went from a position where he has won Gold Gloves in Japan to a new position for the betterment of the team. Not only did he do it with grace and style, but he made himself a front runner for years at the position.

Iwamura was one of the people nominated for a Gold Glove this year at second in the AL. He only committed a handful errors all year long and ended up ranked 4th among AL second baseman in his first year ever at the position. He became a vital cog in the Rays double play combination working with Jason Bartlett like he has been playing to position all his life.

The hardwork and the determination of Iwamura to make his transition flawless was carried out to a “T”. Aki stood tall and in the pivot long to make sure the team got a chance to complete every double play in 2008. He was also instrumental in the field making countless great plays behind second and relaying the ball into home. Iwamura has found a new home at second base, and will be even better in 2009.

 

 

 

 Number 9 stated that catching had to hit a new high this year. Well, that will be an easy one. Dioner Navarro started the year off on fire and got hurt. When he returned, he stayed above the .300 mark well into the second half of the season before falling below that mark for the only time in 2008. Behind the plate he took more control and exercised his own playcalling alot this season.

But the action with Matt Garza in Texas in the ruffle on the mound and in the dugout finally put him on top. It showed that he had the heart and the determination to lead this team behind the dish and put his stamp on the team. With his new confidence at the plate translated perfectly to his time behind the mask.

For the season, His batting average for the year was only behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at the position in the AL. That is a huge change from the guy battling to stay above .191 during the first half of 2007. Navarro continued during the first half of 2008 getting better and better every game. He was rewarded with his first All-Star invite and was key to the tying and winning run for the AL in the game. He caught 8 innigs in that game and solidified his place among AL catchers with is performance.

 

         

 

Number 8  was about the 1-2-3 setup guys securing the game. Well, this one is a bit tricky. the Rays Bullpen showed a huge upswing in 2008, but the closer role was up in the air alot more than expected in the year. Troy Percival was signed to make a solid end to the Bullpen but went down numerous times during the season.

His back and knee did show the wear and tear of all his MLB years, and by the end of the season he was on the DL and did not even get posted to any of the Rays post season rosters. His health situation put the pressure on the young Rays and they responded brilliantly in most cases.

From J P Howell and Grant Balfour securing the 7th inning for the Rays nightly, to Dan Wheeler or even Jason Hammel being called on to put out the fires in late innings, the young squad held together and mixed and matched nightly to get the Rays the victory.

It was not your picture perfect way to run a Bullpen, but the Rays did make it happen and post one of the best turnaround years ever for a Bullpen. The young guys matured and got valuable experience, and the veterans stood tall and made the plays when they were needed in 2008.

 

                           

 

Number 7  was that the right-field guy has to be consisitant and kick butt.  You would have to define that a bit more to really decide if it was a successful year or a failure. I have it more at a banner year for finding the right guys finally, but it could have been a lot better organized.

Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske got most of the early reps in right during the beginning of the year. With the trade for Gabe Gross, the Rays brought in a guy who had never been counted on like this to raise the bar for the team. Gross came in and put his defensive and offensive stamp on the position early.

Gross made countless great play in the field and became a electric guy at the plate. He hit a 436 foot homer on August 6th that just showed the improvements he had made with the Rays. Gross made a massive improvement to the position to the Rays before the trade dedeadline.

After the return of Rocco Baldelli, the right-field platooning took on a more effective mode. You had the defensive skills of both guys as  a plus in the field and had bats fron both sides of the plate to balle pitchers’. The Rays had a solid core in the last half of the season, and the addition of Baldelli proved amazing at the plate during the rest of the year and in the playoffs.

 

     

Number 6  was our prospects need to improve. This became a double-edged sword to the Rays in 2008. We saw guys like Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist come up and solidify the infield when needed, but the additon of these prospects did not make the difference for the Rays. Zobrist was the most consistant of the guys from the minors in coming in and making the job his in 2008.

Zobrist was being counted on to be the “go-to” guy in the Ray’s lineup in 2008. An early injury set him down and it took some time before he came back up and made his mark offensively this year for the team. He developed a offensive style that was not seen in his game before 2008.

Pitching saw Grant Balfour come back up and not back down an inch the rest of the season. Balfour came on and argued and grunted on the mound and held batter at bay most of the year. His willingness to not back away from heavy hitters made him a valued player in the Bullpen this year.  But the guy who made the entire minor league system tremble this season came up in September, and will not have to even think about the minors in 2009.

 

 

David Price was the Rays first selection in 2006. He had been annointed by many even before stepping on a MLB mound to be a phenom. Price did nothing to set that rumor to expectation down after his stint against the New York Yankees in New York. Price got better and better every time he hit the mound and became a inspiration to the team.

To out this into prospective, the Rays had enough confidence in this rookie in the ALCS to put him on the mound to finish off  Game 7 against the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Price performed brilliantly and helped paced the Rays during the playoffs.

The rest of the prospect system got a bit muddled in 2008. Desmond Jennings went down with an injury and saw limited time this season in the minors. Jake McGee went down with an arm injury and had to have Tommy John surgery. But even with these high ceiling guys going down, players like Fernando Perez came out of no where and made you know that the Rays prospect system is alive and well.

 

 

So here is the first of 2 end of the year goal realization blogs.  Goals 6-10 were finalized today and I will write about 1-5 tomorrow. All in all you have to admit that the Rays saw a increase in every aspect of the game in 2008. Every player on the team stepped up in the season and made it magical in their own ways. 

 2009 will be a year of expectations and the either success or failure to improve over 2008. It will be a harder road for the Rays in 2009. People will be gunning for the team and will not be broadsided anymore. That in itself might be the biggest challenge for the team next year. Living up to the expectations of the local fans and media after a darling season.

 

Phillies Bombard Rays 10-2

Phillies 10, Rays 2

 

 

I thought I might not hear that familiar wail or whine in this series. I was hoping it would be the wind and not some fan shoving doubt into people’s minds, but sure enough I heard the words I have been expecting from bandwagoners’ for about 3 months now. “we are done, stick a fork in us.”

I would love to stick a fork in the bandwagon fans and people about to jimup off the boat becuase things are not going your way. I would really like to be alone in a room with some of them and s cold them like a little chid for being so fake, and so unreal for younger fans to see. This is the time in a series, and in your lives that you stand tall for what you believe and hope, prays, meditate, whatever gives you good karma to send the boys’ some luck.

Some of the guys have been suffering during the season, others have been playing and hustling like it was still Spring Training. But tonight is the night. As the expression goes, “It’s all or nothing.” The White Sox have ebbn in this spot this year, the Red Sox still believe the series is playing in their heads and they are winning, but Tampa Bay fans now have to believe.

Even if the worst happens tonight, we have to be focused and know that the boys’ did their best and that there will be more chances in the future to secure the prize. This season opend alot of doors for the Rays and we will see them in the poststseason again in less than 330 days. The winning spirit is new in this part of the baseball world, but the true fans will be the one still wearing Rays gear tomorrow. And the true fans will be the ones counting down the days until pitchers’ and catchers’ reposrt in the Spring.

But best of all, true fans will be wondering how the boys are doing.

 

               

 

Four Blind Plays

You have to admit, the umpires have been pretty colorful in this years Wotld Series. They have been animated behind the plate and have made some unusual, and down right incredible calls. But, the ones that stick out on our minds are not the calls over the corners of the plate, or even seeing through a play and calling out a baserunner, they are the wild and zany plays that were missed by replays and by fans all over baseball.

 

 

Every game has had its own one play that has defined the game. Take Game 1, when Cole Hamels apparently went towards home, but threw to first base. His foot was not facing the plate, but his momentum was shifted forward, not to the side……….Balk or great play? Or how about the play in Game 2, where the phantom bat did not break the plane for Rocco Baldelli and we strooled to first…………checked swing, or did he break his wrist on the play?

And then you get to the really fun ones up here in Philly. You know, rain on Sat. night blurred the vision a bit just 6 feet from the bag. In Game 3, it must have been the mist that made the umpires miss the pplay where Jamie Moyer was sprawled on the wet turf and uses his glove like another appendage to twirl the ball to a bare-handed Ryan Howard to ctach speedy Carl Crawford a nano second before he hit the bag. I will admit that one got me. I was expecting the hammer to come down for an out, then the umpire just threw the safe signal and the Phillies bench went bananas.

 

 

Then there was the play in the 1st inning of last night’s game. Jimmy Rollins camped at thrid base and a ball gets hit into the infield and taken by the pitcher, Andy Sonnanstine. Everyone in the ballpark thinks the ball is going to 2nd, but he twirls around and catches Rollins mid stride between 3rd and home. The chase is on and Sonnanstine gets him to within about 6 feet of the bag and throws the ball to Evan Longoria.

 

 

Longoria pops Rollins on the booty and leaves a red clay mark on the poor guys butt. We then hear the words that will reverb in our heads for a week……..”safe”.  Are you kidding me, did you not watch the ball, or were you watching the hand go towards the bag and not the ball and the possession and progression of it to the posterior of Mr. Rollins. It has been a small upgrade nightly into the insane and the blind that has led people to wondering about the state of the umpire world.  Last night’s blight was an oversight and an embarassment to umpires everywhere..but maybe there was a raindrop still in his eye from Sat night.

 

             

 

Top of the Lineup

There has been talk this entire series of guys trying to force things to happen for the Rays. That the firsy 4 guys feel it is their duty to carry this team. Some of the top 4 have done a great job getting into position to score or even pop the occasional needed blooper or double to get some action going in the game. Others have just had a slump from which there will be no exit this poststeason.

Carlos Pena was getting into a great groove when the ALCS ended. He seemed to be fianally seeing the ball and finding his storke at the right time for the Rays. It looked as if the series would be his playgorund. But instead it has become his own personal hell into the slight adjustments and overswining of the post injury Pena who’s timing and stride were lacking. He might find his way, but will it be in time to save his young team’s dream of hoisting the Commissioner’s trophy this year.

Evan Longoria is another story. I do not think there has been another rookie who has had so much pressure on him in the poststeason to lead his team into the promised land. I know he has won 2 championships at Double-A, but this is far more pressure and far more talented pitchers’ than he ever saw at Montgomery.

 

                    

 

For the World Series, Longoria has a dunkin Doughnut, a gooseegg, and “o” for offensive. Evan Longoria is the second rookie to go hitless in his first 16 at-bats of a World Series. The only other rookie to begin a World Series with an 0-for-16 streak was Flea Clifton of the Tigers in 1935. (Clifton was 0-for-16 for the entire series.)

I have been watching his at bats the past few games and the kid is pushing his strikezone outward. Players et their own personal strikezones as to what pitches they feel they can smash or take to the oppositie field. Right now, Longoria is searching for that one flare, blooper or even a ground ball with eyes to make his mind free up and play more relaxed. He had better find his spot soon, or not only is he going to have all Winter to profect it, he might be on the bench for Game 5 to relfect and waork in the under the stands cages for a few inning tomorrow.

 

 

C C Has Found the Power Button

When you are known for your speed sometimes you get a gift out over the plate and you just have to jump on it. That has got to be the mindset of Carl Crawford right now. The baseball are becoming bigger and bigger every game, and yet he is hitting the cover off the ball and stealing bases. Last night he might have only gone 1-3, but that one hit sparked a few smiles in the dugout.

In the 4th inning, with 2-outs in the inning, Crawford took an 1-2 count hanging high fastabll into the rightfield stands to put the Rays on the board. The run pulled the Rays to within 1 eun, 2-1 at the time. It was Crawford’s second homer of this series since he hit that game 1 blast off Cole Hamels in Tropicana Field/

 

 

Akinora Iwamura’s Wild Ride

When you only committed a handful of erros all eyar at your new position, and have solidified the position for your team, you never expect a night like this can happen on such a huge scale. Aki has been one of the most consistant infields’ this season for the Rays. You could count on him day and night to make the plays and get the outs without hesitation.

But what happened to him on Sunday night is not suppose to happen to Iwamura. Chase Utley was at the plate to lead off the 3rd inning for the Phillies. Aki was back in his role in the shift used all series long against Utley for the at bat. Utley hit a nasty ball that took  a bad hop on the clay and came up and hit Iwamura’s glove on the heel and rolled into rightfield. Aki was charged with an error, only his 1st of the World Series.

Then in the top of the 4th inning, Jimmy Rollins hit a hard ball up the middle and shaded a bit to right that caught Iwamura flat-footed and popped in and out of his glove wihtout a throw to first. Another error for Iwamura.

 

 

And it did not matter that he made an impressive and outstanding play on a hard liner hit right to him by Carlos Ruiz in the 7th inning. That Iwamura turned and fired to Carlos Pena at first and Pena had to go crosshand style and get the ball to double =up Pedro Feliz at first and end the inning for the Phillies. It was na amazing play, but it was also an inch away from another disaster of heading to the Phillies dugout and another error get charged to Iwamura.

 

 

The Mind of Joe Maddon

You have to admire a guy who can quote and attribute so many lines and sayings in his daily life. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is an intelligent manager to say the least. But what he did Sunday night can not go unnoticed either. He sent up three pinch-hitters on the night, and 2 came away with hits, one of them an exciting moment for Maddon and Hinske.

Eric Hinske was told as few days ago by Cliff Floyd to be ready to play. He was not sure why he was told this, but being the pro he is……he worked hard to get his timing down in the batting cage. On Sunday, the Rays made a move on their 25-man World Series roster taking off Floyd, who had a bad shoulder, and putting on the hard-hitting Hinske.

Hinske saw no action while on the ALCS roster, and he did nor expect anything different for the World Series roster. But in the 5th inning he came on to hit for Sonnanstine and hit a monster deep into centerfield. The ball was hit so far it hit the ivy-covered centerfield wall beyond the playing field. This wall was about 20 feet further than the wall where Shane Victorino stood looking up at the blast. Iy started a upward slow rally for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Then in the 7th inning, Willy Aybar came up to pinch-hit for Edwin Jackson and hit a nice single into rightfield. He was stranded on base for the inning, but it made Maddon 2 for 2 tonight with his pinch-hitters. Maddon pressed his luck in the 9th inning when he sent up Rocco Baldelli to pinch-hit for  Trever Miller, and Rocco struck out to end the game for the Rays.

 

             

 

Andy Was Not Dandy Tonight

Coming on and pitching with alot of pressure can work both ways in a baseball game. Sometimes it worls to your advantage and it pumps you up to the point of giving you some extra speed on your pitches and makes you believe more can happen on the mound.

Then sometimes you have what happened to Andy Sonnanstine on the mound tonight. You can have your stuff tonight and just get rocked by a team that is well scouted and prepared for you that night. you are not pitching any better, or any worse than normal, they just have your number that night.

 

 

Both of the above could be found in Sunday nights game, but the end result is that the Phillies exploited Sonnanstines weaknesses to their advantages. They set him up on a few pitches and the result was the umpire giving Andy a new ball while they made their ways around the bases for homers. Pair that with a reduced strike zone and you have the firm recipe for disaster on your hands.

Sonnanstine started out by giving up the first bases loaded walk of his career in the 1st inning to score Rollins, who should have been sitting on the bench becuase of an earlier blown call by the umpire at thris base, Tim Welke. So he gave the Phillies an early 1-0 lead, and the Rays never got close again. He went pretty smoothly from there until he watched as Utley was on base because of an unsual error by Iwamura behind the first base bag.

Then Ryan Howard got a single to right to put 2 Phillies on with no outs in the inning. Feliz the hit a RBI single to left that scored Utley cleanly and the Phillies had a 2-0 early lead on the Rays. The 4th inning started with Rollins again getting a single to rightfield to lead off the inning. Sonnanstine then walked Jayson Werth, but got a quick out on Utley.

 

                

 

 Howard then stood in the box and smashed a 3-run shot to right to put the game out of the Rays hands at that point.Sonnanstine got through the inning with no more damamge, but his night was ended with the Rays down 5-1 at that point. Sonnanstine went 4 innings and gave up 5-runs on 6 hits and only 1 home run to Howard.

 

Tampa Bay Rays’ Bullpen Blues

For the most part of 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen has been the linch-pin to a majority of their wins. they have ebnt and not broken and have been a consisitant cog in the Rays victory machine. In the Wrold Series, this part of the Rays magic has been tarnished a bit by hitters getting the bestter of the unit.

In tonight’s game, Edwin Jackson came on the in t 5th inning to releieve starter Sonnanstine and threw 2 inning of ball for the Rays. During his time on the mound, Jackson gave up a homer to newly found blaster Phillie starter Joe Blanton to leftfield.  For Blanton, it was his first major league homer and came on his last at bat of the season. Blanton actually bookmarked his season getting a single in his first at bat, and now a homer in his last 2008 at bat for the Phillies.

 

 

Dan Wheeler came on to pitch in the 7th inning and did not fare any better for the Rays. Wheeler was the recipient of the amazing play by Aki at first in doubling up Feliz to get Wheler out of a jam in the inning. In the 8th inning, Rollins hit a double off the rightfield wall to put a man early in the inning in scoring position for the Phillies.

Werth then hit a 3-2 count hanging breaking ball out if the ballpark for a 2-run homer to futher put the Phillies ahaed, 8-2. Trever Miller came in to relieve Wheeler and walked Utley before giving up a colossial shot to left by Howard for a 2-run shot of his own to put the score at 10-2 Phillies

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Even the Series Against Phillies

 

 

 

From Batting Practice on last night the Tampa Bay Rays looked loose and in control compared to the stiff and “deer in the headlights” stares from Weds. night. As the Rays get some playoff vibes they will no longer have those gitters and butterflies. It was just a case of International stage fright last night. They came out on fire and ready to rock the house on Thursday night.

From the offset, the Rays were joking around and just more “rays-like” last night. Gone was the pressure to put a 2-spot up on the Phillies and make them play like a champion up in their park this weekend. Also gone was the aspect that the Rays did not belong here, that luck and a great pitching staff got them here, not offensive talent.

Funny that Fox put a mic on Jonny Gomes last night. Of all the people to mic up on the bench, Jonny can give you the best sound bytes, but you have to keep a censor near you too. The conversation between him and Andy Sonnanstine was fantastic. I do not know what  it is about the bandwagon comments by the Philly fans, but alot of us have been here for a long time, and we are not going anywhere.

I get so upset when the Philly media calls the are a “bandwagon community.” There is that cottage element in every town. Some poeple just do not want to believe until it is thrust into their faces 24/7, then they jump on a bandwagon with gusto. But to say that ALL Rays fans are bandwagoneers is just plain stupid and lacks a certain amount of braincells.

 Prove I have not been a long time fan if you are so inclined, and I will pull out the tickets tubs and stadium giveaways to prove you are full of it all. Prove I am only going to the game becuase we are in the Playoffs and I will show you pictures from Rays finctions and events you do not even know about. Prove I was not here in 1998, and I will hit you in the head with my purple seat cushion given out at the first game ever for the Rays.

 

 

Los Lonely Boys

Now that was a National Anthem. It was clean, concise and had a great amount of harmony without needing a timeout to just catch up with the octave changes. I really enjoyed their performance alot. Just goes to show you that a band that has a more country-based roots can wing it with the best of them.

But, I do have to take exception to an article I saw in a local fishwrap. MLB must be crazy to not give the Rays the top choices in the anthem singers. I saw that the Phillies will have Taylor Swift singing on Sat. night. Guess we are not worthy yet of a breakthrough country artist in the dirty south. Guess we would not understand her country twang and  great vocals.

Guess it is back to the pumpkin patch for all of us. And the Sunday anthem singer might just be the best of all of them. I loove hearing Patti LaBelle sing period. That is my music era, and I relish it. I am really anxoius to hear that woman belt out a tune on her pipes. It might be the best one I have heard since that Whitney Houston performance at the Tampa Super Bowl a million years ago.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Fist off Evan, congrats on the nod by The Sporting News  for top  AL rookie this year in the MLB. There is no one else in the American League right now that can touch you defensively or offensively. It is a great honor and one you truly deserve this year.

With that out of the way, let’s get doen to business here. What is going on with you at the plate dude. In the ALDS and ALCS you started out slow and by now got your groove on, but so far you are in a tire rut of  a major hole. In the World Series, you are currently hitting goose eggs for 8, with 4 strikeouts.

Granted if anyone on this team deserves some slack, it is you. But I do not consider you  a rookie. You do not act or play like one, and to not throw that label on you is a treu hnor in itself. But, dude this team needs that clean-up guy to poke a few balls into the holes and provide some protection for Pena and Crawford in the batting order.

 

 

So far the only people scared of you is the couple in the front row of Section 110, who have seen a ball flash before their eyes in the past couple of series from either your glove or Jason Bartletts’. The ball down the line last night was not within your reach, and that error charged to you was for force of the ball, not your effort. We all know you are the second coming of Brook Robinson at third, but why do you have to be hitting like Vinny Castilla right now on the biggest stage of your life.

 

    

 

Upton and Pena Wake up from Slumber

Last night the 2-3-4 hitters for the Rays went 2-11, but the two were hits by B J Upton. That does not tell all of the story here. The trio also scored 3 RBI’s in the game, even though there was no hits by Pena and Longoria.  The Rays scored 2 runs on ground outs in the 1st inning. During the regular season, the Rays only drove in about 53.2 percent of the men from third base with less than 2-outs, which was the 6th worst percentage in the majors.

But last night, the Rays put the Phillies down early as Akinora Iwamura walked to lead off the game, and Upton hit a beauty into rightfirld that was mishandled by Jason Werth. With the ball bouncing on the ground towards Werth, he took his eye off the ball long enough to make a bad adjustment and the ball hit the outside of the glove and bounced away from him. That left men on the corner with no outs for the Rays.

Pena then hit a strong grounder to Jimmy Rollins at short and he had to make the play at first base. With that smash, Iwamura easily scored from third and Upton moved over to thrid base on the play. Evan Longoria then hit another screamer to Rollins, who had to duplicate his throw again to first and Upton came in to score to put the Rays up 2-0.

 

 

Rays Keep Pressure on Phillies

The Rays came out again in the 2nd inning and kept pressure on the Phillies on the bases. Dioner Navarro hit the first of his two hits to right in the inning and Rocco Baldelli walked on a controversial call.

With the count, 3-2, Rocco  was apparently rung up by Home Plate Umpire Kerwin Danley, but in an appeal to first, First Base Umpire Feildin Culbreth signaled that Baldelli checked his swing and a ball was called on the play. Replays showed that the Rays might have gotten a gift from that call as Baldelli’s wrist did break, and the play should have been a strikeout.

 

 

Bartlett then came up and hit a smash down to Pedro Feliz at thris that he could not get a handle on, and Bartlett reached on an infield single. This loaded the bases for the Rays with the top of the order coming up for the Rays. Aki quickly popped up to Rollins before Upton hit a ball to right. With Werth having trouble before on a grounder to right, Third Base Coach Tom Foley sent Navarro to the plate.

 

 

After he scored Foley also sent Baldelli to the plate and Rocco came in comepletely sideways into Phillies’ catcher, Carlos Ruiz, but could not dislodge the ball. It was a funny play to actually watch, becuase Baldelli did evrything he could to make Ruis drop the ball, but a overhead camera shot showed if he stuck his hand out beofre hitting Ruiz, he was safe at the corner of the plate.  But that is hindsight.

 

 

In the 4th inning, Cliff Floyd led off with a single to center for the Rays. Navarro then came up and hit a ball up the middle to put 2 men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then came up and hit a ball off the end of the bat to Feliz, who threw to seocnd base to get Navarro. Utley tried to get Baldelli at first, but could not get his throw off in time to snag the speedy outfielder.

 

 

So with guys at the corners and 1-out, Bartlett came up and attempted  a suicide squezze on the first pitch, but bunted it foul. Floyd was breaking for home on the play and might have taken the ball into his body if not for the foul. Bartlett then attempted to bunt on the next pitch and put down a perfect safety squeeze bunt in front of  Phillie starter, Brett Myers. Myers only play was to first and Floyd easily scored to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

Phillie Errors

Phillie made two key errors in the game, but only one cost them any runs. The error in the first inning by Werth in right is the only play in the game to cost the Phillies. On that play, his slow movement to the ball coupled with  not watching the ball into his glove cost the team a early run.

 

 

In the 5th inning, Pena walked and was leading off first while Longoria was at the plate. On the 2nd pitch to Longoria, Ruiz fired a throw down to first hoping to catch Pena leaning, but instead the ball hit Howards in the glove and bounced over Pena into rightfield. Pena advanced to second on the play, but was stranded on base by 2 quick outs by the Rays.

 

            

 

James “Big Game” Shields

Considering this was a huge game for the Rays, what other pitcher did you want to hit the rubber than James Shields. He went out there and had problems in every innig, but remained cool and trusted his defense and came out with a win on the night. Shields went 5.2 innings and gave up 7-hits, but shut out the Phillies during his start.

But his night was not without drama. In the 2nd inning he gave up a double to Ryan Howard that 1-hopped to the wall in centerfield to lead off the inning. He then walked Pat Burrell  and threw a Wild Pitch to put both men in scoring position before settling down and getting 3 quick outs to strand the 2 Phillie runners on base.

 

 

In the 3rd, he again gave up a double to Ruiz down the leftfield line that bounced around in the corner on Crawford before setting down the next 3 Phillie batters in order. In the 4th, he gave up another lead-off single to Howard and gave Shane Victorino a infield single to second on a ball that hit the turf seam and bounced up on Iwamura. He again got it under control and set the next 2 Phillies down to strand both men on base.

 

 

In the 5th inning he got some help from Baldelli in getting out of the inning. With 1-out in the inning, Utley sent a shallow fly to right that Baldelli tracked down and caught in time. Werth had wandered too far off first base and was doubled up on a throw by Baldelli to Pena to end the inning.

In the 6th, Shields got two quick outs then issued a single to Victorino to right.  Greg Dobbs then came up and hit a 1-hopper to center that Upton could not catch in time and the Phillies had 2 men on with 2 outs. That was it for Shields and Rays Manager Joe Maddon went to the Bullpen.

 

 

The Price is Right in the Bullpen

Dan Wheeler then came in for the Rays and got Feliz to ground to Longoria, who threw to Iwamura for the force out and end the 6th inning.  Wheeler came back out in the 7th inning and gave up a walk to Ruiz to lad-off the inning.  He then got Rollins and Werth to strikeout to post two quick outs in the inning.

 

 

Maddon then came on and brought on David Price, the rookie to face Utley and Howard. Price gave up a walk to Utley befoe strking out Howard on 5 pitches to end the 7th inning. In the 8th, Price came back out and got 2 quick outs before Eric Bruntlett came on to pich hit for Burrell.

Bruntlett homered to left on the first pitch from Price to break the shutout for the Rays.  Price rebounded by getting Feliz to hit a grounder to short to end the inning with the Rays up 4-1. In the 9th inning, Ruiz lead off with a double down the left field line. Price then got Rollins to pop out to shallow center to Bartlett.

 

 

 

Longoria then had a ball ride up his glove and bounce away from him for his 1st error of the World Series. Ruiz scored on the play by Werth and pulled the Phillies to within 2 runs, 4-2. Utley then struck out and Howard hit a ball to Iwamura backing up behind first to end the game for the Rays. 

 

      

 

Remember Pitchers’, Chicks Dig the Long Ball

The Rays pitchers got their first real chance to step into the cages today during Batting Practice. With the games heading to the National League park, the Rays’ pitchers will have to bat in their games. Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine were seen taking their licks in the cages today.

 

 

Scott Kazmir also got into the action by hitting a few long and deep for the Rays during BP. All three batters/pitchers have a good stroke, and it will all get at least 2 at bats per outing up in Philly. The Rays pitchers’ have not had to bat since the Florida Marlins series in July of 2008. In the Interleague series this year, Andy Sonnanstine was the big pitcher’s stud hitting .400, or 2-5, with 2 walks in the series.  Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir went hitless going 0-4 and 0-2 respectfully.

 

 

 

Game 1 LIves Up to It’s Hype

 

Phillies 3, Rays 2

 

 

It was a night filled with energy, endless lines just to get food, and a huge bundle of memories and sights. Everywhere you looked you thought you saw a baseball player or a celebrity. 9 times out of 10 it was just a figment of your imagination. Then there I was getting a oversized Dr. Pepper and who do I see, an old frind who played with the Oakland A’s in the 80′s.

He had recently moved back to the Tampa Bay area after spending his post-MLB years working for a California baseball camp for years. He even had a slight move into the music video world back when it was a single camera and a dream of every singer to be om MTV. But, that was when they used to play only videos 24-7.

He was in a video by Richard Marx in his A’s uniform with Dennis Eckersley on the mound. To this day I still remember the song and the video like I just bought it on Itunes. Funny how a simple thing like a baseball game can transform you back into a simpler time when we used to dream about baseball here in Tampa Bay while sipping cool drinks under the sun at Al Lang watching the St. Petersburg Cardinals.

 

 

Bad 90′s Boy Band Flashback

In the 1990′s it seemd that the Backstreet Boys owned the Pop charts in the U.S.( I was not a fan.) They had a nation of women wanting to curl up to Howie or Nick, or AJ ( I was not a fan.) And then they split up to do the solo thing like every other band that sees the light at the end of the cash register line  ( I was not a fan). Then they got back together and made more mature music about things like, well music (I am becoming less tone deaf to them). Then they do the National Anthem at the First  World Series game for the Tampa Bay Rays ( I am listening).

What is upsetting about their performance is not the fact it was an ac capella redition of a timeless classic, but the way it was done. I like harmonies and great vocal ranges, but it was a bit too 90′s Boy Band for me ( But it did have a kind of rhythm). They would have not heard a single boo or chuckle if they came out there and did a harmonious redition with out the free range pitches and vocal runs that made it more of a joke than a serious moment ( I did dig it for a moment). Le’t hope that Los Lonely heard their redition last night and will do a classic sing your butt off National Anthem. It will bring down the house and sedn the Trop into the next level.

 

 

StealabaseStealataco.com

With a 5 second lunge from first to second, Jason Bartlett became the lastest Rays to become the center of a trivia question. By going the 60 feet to second and sliding in before the throw of Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz, he became the favorite Rays for millions of fans in the U.S.

All because of a simple crunchy spicy beef taco. That’s right, Jason Bartlett became the focal point of Taco Bell’s latest ad gimmick, Stealabasestealataco, where everyone in America can run to the border on Tuesday, October 28th, from 2-6 p.m. and eat a simple concoction from old Mexico for FREE.

 

 

Aki Gets the Party Started Right

Akinora Iwamura started off this year’s World Series for the Rays with announcing his order in the lineup on National TV. That is right, Aki spoke english to the masses on Fox last night. For a while now Aki has been speaking english to fans and team mates, but until last night, he did not come out to America that he could speak our native tongue. The vocal was crisp, clean and all-Aki, complete with that smile at the end.

The he goes out in the bottom of the first and makes history on the 6th pitch of the night. that is when Aki put a ball down the first baseline that got both Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard to do a dancing with the Phillies rendition on first base. It was the Rays’ first hit in the World Series, and it also showed there was some rust in the Philies defense.

Aki got taken out by a double play by B J Upton 3 pithces later, but the historical hit was in the book for Aki. Then in the 3rd inning, Aki again came up and ripped a single to right for his second hit of the night. Again Upton took all the thunder away by hitting a smash down to third that turned into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Then in the 5th Aki came up with a chance to also make some more Rays history. After a Bartlett walk with 2-outs in the inning, Aki was at the plate when Bartlett became America’s sweetheart by stealing second base on a 3-1 count. Aki had a front row seat to Taco Time in Tampa Bay.  3 pitches later Aki stroked a double into the gap in left-center and scored Bartlett for  second run of the night for the Rays.  But beyond that, it also put Aki at 3 for 3 on the night and flirting with history.

Aki came up to bat in the 8th inning wondering if the magic was still there for him to maybe do the unthinkable and go 4 for 4 tonight. He worked the count to 3-2 against Phillie reliever Ryan Madson then got a nice ball to drive to right, but he hit a little under the ball and Jason Werth made an easy play to end the streak for Aki.

 

 

Mental Errors

There were a few plays that turned the tide for the Rays last night. The pick-off at second base of Chase Utley might have gone the Rays way if the throw was a few inches lower to the bag. The Rays did have him dead-to-rights at second, but a Kazmir throw sailing a bit high made the tag more difficult and time consuming.

 

 

Another play by Kazmir that had a few heads shaking was the light toss to Pena on a play hit back to Kazmir in the 5th inning. The play unfolded as Burrell was pitched inside and only got a bit of the bat on the ball hit back done the line at first. Kazmir came off the mound and picked up the ball and tossed a light-hearted effort to Pena over Burrell’s left shoulder.

 

 

Because Burrell was racing right down the line it took out the angle for Kazmir to fire a bullet for an easy out. Pena could not handle the throw and bobbled the ball before finally letting it hit the dirt. It was scored as a error on Pena, his first in a long time.

 

That was not the only play that showed the Rays nervousness and lack of initial concentration. Upton had a ball he sprinted in for hop beyond his glove and Ben Zobrist backing Upton up on the play made a nice grab to keep the runner from scoring. It was a aggressive play by Upton, that I will not find fault in, but at the wrong time in the ballgame.

 

 

The infield also had a few balls come up hard on them and forced bad looking plays at second and shortstop. But both Aki and Bartlett swallowed the ball instead of making a late, and maybe costly mistake on the field for the Rays. All in all, it was a night that showed the anxious nature of the team.

 

           

 

B J Being B J

No, I am not comparing him to Manny here. Upton just had one of those nights you just have to sit back reflect on for 10 seconds then flush it down the drain and get off your butt and start all over again. Upton became the first player in major league baseball history to ground into double plays on his first two at bats in the World Series. Not a record for the scrapbook, but it did look bad at the moment.

In reflection, Upton just had a few bad pitches up tight inside that he fought off to get contact on and hit to people instead of the holes or over people. It is the place where he will see pitches for the rest of the series.

They will be crowding him up by his armpits or tossing it outside, low hoping for a low driving ball for more double plays. Upton just has to adjust a bit and he will be back into the hitting fold and wrecking havoc on everyone in the Phillies jersey. Upton also had a play down the first baseline right to Howard that ended the Rays rally in the 5th inning. The ball squirmed its way to Howard who made an easy run to first to end the inning for the Rays.

 

 

Then there was the play that everyone in the stadium buzzing Upton’s name for long after the play. Shane Victorino is a huge baserunning threat on the Phillies lineup. So when he singled in the 2nd inning off Kazmir, you knew the night was about to get very exciting. 2 walks in the inning put Victorino on third base with 1 out in the inning.

You knew that a fly ball anywhere in the stadium could score the speedster from third.  Jimmy Rollins then came up and took the 2nd pitch from Kazmir into mid centerfield. Upton took the ball in and locked and fired within a nano second to home. Victorino had tagged up and was chugging down the line at Navarro. The ball came in as a strike to Navvaro even before Victorino began to slide.

 

 

Because the ball got there early, Navarro was able to position himself up the line a bit and took Victorino totally out of the play and tagged him out for the 3rd out in the inning, and end the Phillies rally.  Lost in the moment weas the throw by Upton that pegged him at the plate. It was aperfect example of what Upton will be able to do for the Rays in this series. you could hear Matt Garza yellng “You do not want to test the cannon” on the bench after the play. But that was just B J being B J.

 

 

Fans Can Get into the Game

I am a firm believer in fans having a say in the game on the sidelines. Now I am not talking about yelling and clanging our cowbells, but if the ball comes beyond that green devider on the field, the players enter the “fan zone.”

In this area, it is our duty as the home fans to make it as difficult and as hard for a visiting team;s player to get that ball as possible. If you stand there and not let them get a good glove on the ball, or even grab it yourslef before the player gets it, the umpire will just chuckle. But if you interfere by touching him or slapping it out of his glove, then you will get poped by the Fan Interference rule.

I have done this a few times down the rightfield line in my 11 years following the Rays. Have been in the face of a few players as they have attempted to catch, and eventaken 1 away from another team’s right fielder. I took a sure thing foul ball away from the New York Yankees Raul Mondesi about 5 years back, and I used to talk to him every game at the Trop after that play. He respected that I knew the rules enough to make sure I was in my zone before darting my glove up and taking the ball before it hit his glove. It was nothing personal, and the batter struck out on the next pitch, but it gave my team a chance, and that is the Fan’s way to impact a game.

 

     

 

Kazmir Take the Loss

Scott Kazmir did not deserve to take this loss tonight. I was a hard fought game that turned into the pitchers’ duel we all knew it would be. It had great moments by both pitchers, and some Kazmir moments we have all come to expect during his starts. Kazmir went 6 innings of 3-hit 3-run ball. His command was all over the place at times, then his slider took control of the game a few times too.

Kazmir got the game started with a bang by issuing an early walk to Jayson Werth then Chase Utley hit a hanging pitch for a 2-run shot to right that gave the Phillies an early 2-0 lead. Kazmir again got into trouble early in the 2nd inning by giving up a leadoff single to Victorino and then  issuing 2 more walks, before Upton gunned down Victorino at the plate to end the inning.

In the 3rd, Kazmir gave up a double to Werth, who was leading off the inning down the rightfield line. He rebounded in the inning and got two quick strikeouts from Howard and Burrell to end the inning. In the 4th, Victorino again got a blooper single to center to lead-off the 4th inning.  Pedro Feliz then hit a ball right by Kazmir for a single to put two mwn on in the inning.

 

 

Carlos Ruiz then came up and got a grounder to short that scored Victorino and gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead in the game. He had an uneventful 5th inning, then gave up another lopping single to Pedro Feliz to open the 6th inning before 2 straight fly ball ended the inning for the Phillies. Kazmir ended up with 4 walks and 4 srtikeouts on the night for the Rays.

 

 

Carl Crawford Makes Ray’s History

In the bottom of the 1st inning the Rays players’ each introduced themselves on Fox before they began the game. When the camera got to the fifth ray, Carl Crawford, he announced he was”hitting leftfield”. It was a classic moment in the Rays’ first foreray into the International spotlight. Crawford immediately looked off camera and asked if there was going to be another take. When he was told it was all live, he got back into true CC character and smiled that dimpled smile and did his line correctly for the camera.

When Crawford came up in the 4th inning, the Rays already how 2-outs in the inning. He got Cole Hamels to serve him up a nice curveball and deposited that first pitch into the rightfield stands for the Rays first run in the World Series. With that swing, Crawford became to trivia answer for, scoring the first run, the first homer, and first RBI in a World Series game for the Rays.

 

 

Missed Opportunities

The Rays missed some golden moments in the game against the Phillies that might have tied or won the game for them tonight.  The Rays missed a huge opportunity in the 3rd inning when Zobrist hit a single to left. He moved to second on Bartlett’s walk and then advanced to third on a shallow single by Aki into rightfield.

The Rays could have tested Werth’s arm in right, but decided that 1  out in the inning, they would get another chance to score. 3 pitches later, Upton hit into his second double play of the night.

Upton, Pena and Longoria went 0-12 tonight , with 5 strikeouts. None of those three batters even hit a ball out of the infield all night long. If the Rays are to get even in this series tonight, the 2-3-4 hitters of the rays have to step up and prove that the Rays deserve to be in this World Series.

Before tonight’s game, this 3-man unit of the Rays have produced  37 hits, 16 homers and 34 RBI’s in the 2008 postseason for the Rays.  For the team to tie the series up against the Phillies, this group needs to reconnect with the ball and begin to produce for the Rays.

 

 

Rays Stumble Against Red Sox 8-7

 

 

             

 

Have the media not guessed by now that Rays Manager, Joe Maddon is the Nutty Professor. Yes, he does do something that are not by the book for major league baseball managers’. He jokes with his players’, does not chew them out in public, and has some very unusual tactics for playing this great game.  He has given an Intentional Base on Balls to one of the game new power hitter( Josh Hamilton). He has a persoanl winecellar in his office for post game tasting. And he is the guy who convinced his “lefites” to go “righties” against Tim Wakefield in three games this year, and they won all three of them.

Logic is not just math to Maddon. He truly believes that the game should be played at an advantage, not to an unwritten rule book. If he wants his team to wear garter belts on their uniforms, don’t you think he has earned the respect that the team would do it without question? Then why are people questioning his move of putting his 4 plus years of major league service ace on the mound in place of James Shields.

There is method to the maddness people. One has a horrid record in the confines of Fenway Park, the other has handcuffed the Red Sox on numerous occasions over his career. I think it was a great move, and one that worked out to show he has a bit of mad genius to him. you either see genius or insanity in his moves. But if his moves are insane, you can committ me right now becuase he has us one game away from  a date with the Holy Grail.    Amen Joe, Amen.

 

Red Sox 8, Rays 7

 

 

 

 

Scott Kazmir

People seem to forget that Scott Kazmir has been in the majors now over 4 seasons. They  seem to forget that for years he has been the driving force behind the pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the guy who has been responsible for making it attractive to pitch in Tampa Bay again.

People talk about the big three pitchers and he is not listed first, but should be. He was the young prince who has started that revolution, yet the public gives him the backseat.  Kazmir has done anything and everything for this franchise, why not give him a chance to drive us to the big party against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

Kazmir only came out last night and pitched a superb game in which he threw 6 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball. Let me repeat that again, 2-hit, shutout baseball. And people have questioned his big game mentality. I think he answered them with a huge response in this game. He held this Red Sox team to almost noghting in 6 innings, and they were in a severe chokehold when he left the game.

He also got 7 strikeouts on the night, but then you expect him throwing thunder from the guy who won the 2007 strikeout crown. He was the old Kazmir, darting the fastball and sneaking in the slider to make you look foolish at the plate. I was marveling at the way he was again playing the game with Boston, making them think and try and outwit him at the plate.

 

 

 

 

He is one of this teams young studs, all under 26 years of age. And guess what, you will see him for another 5 years pushing the ball past batters every year and getting better.  And people were questioning why he was getting the start. Look at the boxscore, the answer is clear in black and white.

 

 

 

 

Bullpen Meltdown

When was the last time the Ray’s could say they had a Bullpen sitiation on their hands, last season?  This is not to say that the Rays have to refurbish or remodel the way the Bullpen is used in the series, this was an isolated implosion of unsual proportions. The Rays have been proud and secure in their relievers’ all season long, and tonight they had not reason to doubt them.

Coming into the 7th inning, the Rays had no idea of the meltdown that was to occur in this contest. Grant Balfour entered the game with a modest ERA, he left the game after 2/3rds of an innig last night with a postseason mark of 22.50 ERA. In the 7th inning, Balfour came on and gave up a huge double to Jed Lowrie on the 2nd pitch of the inning. This was one of the first time tonight Boston had a man in scoring position.

Balfour then got two quick fly balls outs to B J Upton before giving up a single to Coco Crisp and putting men on the corners for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia then cam up with men in scoring position for only the 2nd time this series. He made the Rays pay by slapping the ball to right and scoring Lowrie to give Boston it’s first run of the game. David Ortiz then  came up and hit the 2nd pitch he saw deep into the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and pull Boston to within 3 runs, 7-4.

Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, and he got Youkilis to fly out to Gabe Gross in right to end the inning. In the 8th, with Wheeler still on the mound, Jasob Bay walked to lead off the inning.  J D Drew the came up and drilled a 0-1 pitch to right for a 2-run homer to pull Boston within 1 of the Rays. 

 

 

             

 

 

Wheeler then got Lowrie and pinch-hitter Sean Casey for wuick outs before Mark Kotsay hit a ball that changed direction in the air and was within an few inches of Upton pulling it in for the 3rd out. The ball hit the outside of his glove and just popped to the left of his outstretched mitt. This put Kotsay on second with 2-outs, and Coco Crisp at the plate. He hit a liner to right that skipped around on Gross and his throw into the infield looked like a 6 year olds.

 The ball was taken by Carlos Pena who saw that Crisp was trying to advance on the play and got him at second when Akinora Iwamura tagged him out for the 3rd out.  But Kotsay had scored before the 3rd out, and the score was now tied 7-7.

 

        

 

In the 9th inning, J P Howell came on to pitch for the Rays with the score still tied at 7. The Red Sox quickly gave up two outs and the game seemed to be in control, then Kenvin Youkilis came to the plate. Youkilis hit a screamer to Evan Longoria at third that Longoria knocked down, but his throw was a weird one-hopper to Pena that he could not scoop before the ball careened into the stands for an error and Youkilis standing on second with 2-outs.

Jason Bay then came up and was Intentionally walked by the Rays and set up a Howell versus J D Drew matchup.  Howell quickly got behind, and with a 3-1 count, Drew hit a one-hopper over the rightfield wall for a ground rule double and the winning run scored for the Red Sox. Howell took the loss for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Game 5 Tidbits

The Rays have now hit a homer in 4 straight games, which set a new ALCS record.

The Rays 1-4 hitters accounted for 7 out of the Rays’ 8 hits, and  scored  6 of the 7 runs scored tonight.

Evan Longoria is the fourth player in major-league history to hit home runs in each of four or more consecutive games in one postseason. Carlos Beltran holds the record with a five-game streak for the Astros in 2004. Jeffrey Leonard had a four-game streak for the Giants in 1987  and Juan Gonzalez had a four-game streak for the Rangers in 1996 vs. the Yankees.

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria hit consecutive home runs in the first inning in Game 4 of the ALCS and they did it again in the third inning of Game 5. Pena and Longoria are the first pair of teammates in major-league history to hit back-to-back home runs twice in one postseason series.

The Red Sox’ starting pitchers allowed 11 home runs in 16 2/3 innings in Games 2 through 5 of the ALCS. During the regular season, Boston’s starters had the fifth-lowest home run rate in the American League, averaging one home run allowed every 9.4 innings.
Boston Red Sox.

It’s small consolation for the Rays, but with their three homers in Game 5 they set a major-league postseason record for the most home runs by a team over a four-game span (13, Games 2-5), breaking the old mark of 12 set by the Astros in 2004.

 

 

 

 

Rays 1-4 Batters’

The Rays first 4 batters’ went a combined 7 out of the Ray’s 8 hits in the game, and also scored 6 of the 7 runs in the contest. It was the best offensive outbreak by the front of the lineup in the last two games. Akinora Iwamura lead off the lineup going 1-3, with 2 runs scored and 2 walks in the game.

 

 

 

 

He lead off the game with  single to right to end the speculation of another no-hit bid by Red Sox starter, Daisuke Matzusaka. Iwamura came around to score on Upton’s homer three pitches later.  He later walked in the 5th inning and moved to seond on Carlos Pena’s bunt down the third baseline.

He then stole third on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. He then walked again in the 7th inning and committed a double steal with Jason Bartlett to get into scoring position before Upton’s 2-RBI double off the Green Monster. Iwamura stole 2 of the Rays total 4 stolen bases’ in the game. 

 

 

       

 

B J Upton had another career night as he went 3 for 4 with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. He began his night by hitting a slow breaking ball from Matzusaka into the first row of the stands above the Green Monster in the first inning to put the Rays up 2-0 early in the game. He then singled in the 3rd inning to center before Pena’s 2-run blast put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

Upton then came up in the 7th inning and put a blast high off the upper facing of the Green monster for a 2-RBI double to put the last runs on the board for the Rays. Upton did get on base with a walk in the top of the 9th inning, but was erased on Carlos Pena’s double play ball to Pedroia.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena had another great night as he homer for the thrid time in three games to give the Rays a chance to win tonight. Carlos started the night off by hitting a 2-run shot in the 3rd inning. He then put a great bunt down the third baseline in the 5th inning. The Red Sox were in a shift and Pena put the ball down to the left of the pitcher and beyond the reach of Youkilis, who was manning the shortstop position in the shift.

He was Intentinally walked in the 7th inning, but was erased from the basepaths on Longoria’s double play ball. Carlos ended the game by hitting into only hid 3rd double play of the night to end the 9th inning for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

And batting clean-up for the Rays was Evan Longoria. He went 1-4 on the night, but it was his back-to-back homer after Pena that sparked the Red Sox faithful into their seats early in this game.  Matzusaka left up a slider to Longoria, and he put it into the seat in the Green Monster to stake the Rays to a 5-0 lead.

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

With the Rays in the driver’s seat for the rest of the series, all the pressure is on the Red Sox to snap the Rays winning ways at the Trop. The Red Sox have only won twice at the stadium this season, and the Rays are a combined 24-3 with crowds over 30,000 at the games.

With Game 6 and 7 already sold out, it will be at maximum capacity as the Rays unfolded the tarps and opened an additional 5,700 seats for Rays fans. The Rays will  have the advantge only having to win one game to advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

 

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