Results tagged ‘ Dan Wheeler ’

Rays Put Extra Effort into Win

 

 

 

The worst part of that victory tonight is that a host of the well-wishers who wanted to toast to the Rays victory had to drive over to Hillsborough county to do it. Becuase the game ended after 1:30 a.m. local taverns and lounges had already put the tills to bed and were doing the final prep work to leave and re-open in the morning for the football crowds. I heard people upset that they should suspend the county ordinance stopping the flow of beer and alcohol as a show of support for the Rays.

Really, the show of support for the team is based on a bubbly beverage with a frothy head? I thought the team was about confidience and energy and emotional willpower, not of it was cold-aged, or comes in a green bottle. I know the game went too long for most people to enjoy a post game beverage, but sometimes that happens in the world of sports. But the straw that stirs the drink is the amount of people who stayed in their seats until that last out.

But for you people who stayed until B J Upton hit that 160 foot fly ball to right…Thank You. To the people who worried more about the team going 0-2 than when “last call” was that night………..Thank You too. But the people I really want to thank are the multitudes of Red Sox fans who came down here and had class during the game and actually cheered both teams after the effort.

They did not only cheer as the Red Sox left the field, but gave the Rays their due in the marathon match.I am not afraid to clap or cheer for maximum effort by a team. Sweat, blood and the energy expelled last night hit an all time high in both dugouts.  Rays’ fans showed their exuberance and passion by clapping and banging their cowbells all night long. But it was the Boston fans applauding the Rays effort that showed the true class of the night.  Baseball has been blessed with great fans for a long time, but when another team shows their repsect for the efforts of their opponents…………………..priceless, truly priceless.

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 8

 

Records Everywhere

Everywhere you looked last night a record was about to fall, be tied, or broken like a pane of glass. 435 pitches is amazing enough, but the 19 strikeouts and 13 walks played a major role the win and loss last night. For 5 hours and 27 minutes both team fought, clawed and scraped to put together enough to win this match.

Both teams hit enough long balls to tie a longstanding home runs per game record that should stand for a long time. 17 runs is amazing in the game between these 2 teams, considering this waqs suppose to be a pitchers’ duel. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett lost the lead 3 times in the contest  for the first time in his great career.

4 Boston players had 3 hits in the game, but no other Boston hitter had a single hit. It is the first time in postseason history that a team had more than 1 player with at least 3 hits in a game, and those 4 players accounted for ALL of the Red Sox’s hits.

Dustin Peroia tied  ex-Red Sox Todd Walker’s 2 homer night in last night game. Walker hit his dual homers in the 2003 ALCS serie against the Oakland A’s. It was only the 3rd time in the ALCS history that at leats two homers were hit in a game. Adam Kennedy of the Angels hold the all-time mark with 3 homers during the 2002 series against the Minnesota Twins.

 

 

Scott Kazmir

One of the big questions on Rays fans this season is, “Which Scott Kazmir will show up tp pitch tonight?” On a night when both starters’ were suppose to be the duel of the night, it’s became the bats from both teams that took the spotlight and shine bright into the night for both teams. Kazmir went to the mound with his 21st career start against the Red Sox.  He is 6-7 lifetime against them with a 3.62 ERA.

In 2 starts against Boston this year, Kazmir is 0-2, with a 9.00 ERA. In his last home start against the Red Sox, he endured his worst home start by giving up 9 earned runs and 4 home runs , and allowed only his 2nd homer of the year to a leftie when David Ortiz homered to right in the game.

 

              

Kazmir got into early trouble in the game walking David Ortiz, then giving up a single to Kevin Youkilis to put 2 on base with 2-outs. Jason Bay hit a ball off the leftfield wall to score both runners and put the Red Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  In this 1st inning, Kazmir threw 38 pitches.

In the 3rd inning, Kazmir gave up a lead-off homer to Dustin Pedroia to put Boston up 3-2. Coming into the at bat, Pedroia was 15-27 against Kazmir this year.   Kazmir got through the inning and did not have another bad inning until the 5th inning.

 

 

This inning would be the longest of the night, and featured Kazmir giving up 2 homers in 3 at bats. Both Pedroia and Youkilis hit the 2nd pitches they saw from Kazmir for solo homers and  Youkilis’s shot tied the game at 5-all in the inning. After that, Kazmir left the game after throwing 98 pitches over 4.1 innings.  On the night, Kazmir also got  only 2 strikeouts and issued 3 walks in the contest.

 

              

 

B J Upton

For a guy who has been playing hurt since a shoulder injury in May of this year against Baltimore, you could not tell that B J Upton’s power has been diminshed at all at the plate. With the game on the line, and the Rays almost exhausting all their relievers out of the Bullpen , Upton hit a 160 foot fly down the rightfield line that was the mightiesy hit of the night. His sacrifice fly to J D Drew was far enough away from home plate to score speedster  Fernando Perez from third base and end the marathon game for the Rays.

But that was not the only contribution from Upton tonight. He went 1-4 in the game, but his one hit was a solo homer in the 3rd inning off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett to tie the game at 3-all. He also got on base in the  twice on a walk in the 5th inning and stole second base. He then came home on a single to right by Carlos Pena to bring the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Tampa Bay’s rookie third baseman went a combined 3-5 last night with 3-runs and 3 RBI’s on the night. But it was his 2-run homer on a change-up up in the strikezone that tied the game for the Rays in the 1st inning. Longoria hit a drive deep into rightfield and scored Pena on the play to tie the game 2-all. Longoria was not done as he came up in the 3rd inning and hit a ball to the base of the leftfield wall for a double.

 

 

              

 

He ended up scoring on Carl Crawford’s  rightfield gap shot from second base to put the Rays up 4-3. Then in the 5th inning Longoria again hit a liner down the leftfield line and scored Pena. Longoria was again driven in by a Crawford single to put the Rays up 8-6 in the game.  With his homer and 2 doubles, Longoria became only the 3rd rookie to ever have 3 extra base hits in a playoff game

 

           

 

The 3 C’s Have a Big Night

The three members of the Tampa Bay Rays with “C”s in their names went a combined 5-12 on the night , with 4 RBI’s and scored 3 runs for the Rays.  Cliff Floyd made a statement early in the  4th inning by hitting a blast 400 feet over the  dead centerfield fence to put the Rays up 5-3. Floyd’s blast had Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crsips climbing the wall trying to get the ball before it went over the green wall.

 

 

Carlos Pena went 2-5 on the night, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the game. Pena hit a double into deep left center to start the Rays’ rally in the 1st inning. He then scored on Longoria’s homer to left. Pena then moved Upton over with a single to right in the 5th inning, and both players scored on Longoria’s double to left.  Pena then hit a hard liner to Mark Kotsay at first that was destined for the rightfield corner in the7th inning.

 

 

Carl Crawford got into the game in the 3rd inning with an RBI single to the gap in rightfield to score Longoria and put the Rays up 4-3 at the time. Crawford then was picked off even before the next pitch when he was glancing away from  the pitcher Beckett, and was tagged easily for the 3rd out in the inning. It was an unusual play for Crawford to not even be looking at the pitcher when he stepped off the base.

Crawford then faced Javier Lopez in the 5th inning in the middle of the Rays huge rally. Lopez was brought in just to face Crawford, and Crawford got a RBI single to score Longoria and send Lopez to the dugout.  In the 10th inning, Crawford hit a drive back into the middle that struck Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon right below his right arm, near his side that deflected straight to Pedroia who completed the play for an out at first base.

 

 

 

Dan Wheeler

The Rays had great success from their Bullpen in the regular season and during the ALDS. But during this ALCS with Boston, the Rays Bullpen has run into some trouble and was again put to the test tonight. Grant Balfour came in and replaced Kazmir in the 5th inning and promptly gave up a solo shot to Jason Bay. Balfour then gave up 2 quick walks before being replaced by J P Howell with 2 men on base.

Howell got the last 2 batters’ of the inning to close out the Red Sox threat.  In the 6th inning, Howell got Jacoby Elssbury to fly out to Pena before issuing a walk to Pedroia. He the struck out Ortiz before leaving the game. For their time tonight Balfour went 0.0 innings and gave up a run on 1-hit and also gave up a walk. Howell was credited with 1-run on 1-hit and got 2 strikeouts.

Chad Bradford then came on to relieve Howell and gave up two straight hits to Youkilis and Bay before getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to center to end the inning. Bradford threw for 1.1 innings and gave up 1-run on 4-hits before Trever Miller came on to face Pedroia in the 8th inning. Miller gave up a single to Perdroia and was replaced by Dan Wheeler.

Wheeler ended up throwing 38 pitches last night in his 3.1 innings of work. It was one of the longest relief appearances of his career. Wheeler quickly got Youkilis to ground into a double play, but Pedroia moved over to third on the play. With 2-outs in the inning, the Rays looked like they might get out of the inning without a hitch.

 

 

Bay came up to bat and Wheeler threw 3 straight pitches outside for balls, before sailing a pitch over Dioner Navarro’s head to the backstop. Navarro sprinted to the backstop and tossed a errant ball towards Wheeler covering home. The ball did not get within Wheeler’s glove in time and skipped away from him, letting Pedroia score and tie the game at 8-all in the 8th inning.

It was only the 2nd Wild Pitch given up by Wheeler all year long. Wheeler then got the next 3 Red Sox batters in order before Coco Crisp put a ball in the air in centerfield that shifted on Upton in the air and he watched as it skipped over the centerfield wall for a Ground Rule Double.

Wheeler then got Ellsbury to strikeout to end the 9th inning. He then came out again in the 10th inning and got 3 quick outs on 10 pitches to set the Red Sox down in order. Wheeler then came out in the 11th inning and got a quick strikeout of Bay before issuing a walk to Lowrie and giving the Red Sox a baserunner.

Rays rookie David Price then came on to pitch and quickly issued a walk to Drew before getting Kotsay on a strikeout and making Crisp hit into a 5-4 ground out to finish the inning. By being the pitcher of  record in the 11th inning, Price earned his first postseason victory in the game.  It was his first major league victory, and marked only the 3rd time a play earned either a win or loss for his first in the postseason.

 

11th inning

The 11th inning started with Navarro walking on 3 straight balls after getting a 1-2 count in the at bat. Boston’s Pitching Coach John Farrell was ejected right after the at bat when he was arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Speedster Fernando Prez then came on to run for Navarro and gave the Rays a dose of speed on the basepaths. 

Ben Zobrist then walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays another baserunner with no outs in the inning.  Perez was stealing 3rd when Jason Bartlett hit a hard grounder to Youkilis who could not get Perez in time and had to go to first base for the 1st out in the inning.  Akinora Iwamura was then Intentionally Walked to load the bases for the Rays. 

Then Upton came up and quickly got an 0-2 count on him before hitting his 160 foot fly into  shallow right to Drew.  He quickly threw the ball into the infield, but the throw was off line and was about 5 feet up the line towards third as Perez slapped his hand on the plate for the winning run.  

 

 

Please Come to Boston

The Rays will board a charter to bean-town on Sunday morning  because of a late work-out schedule in Boston on Sunday. They will have a 6:30 p.m. work out before retiring for the good nights sleep in Boston before Monday’s 4 p.m. start.   

Here are a few facts heading into the 3-games in Boston:

This is only the 19th time in 39 American League Championships that the series was tied 1-1 at this point.

37 players who were used in last night’s game, tied the American League record for the most ever used in a playoff game of any length.

 

Rays Clutch History in Their Hands

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Yesterday started a bit early for me, about 4 A.M. as I headed to FErg’s a great watering hole within a baseball throw of Tropicana Field. I was there, with a collection of Maddon’s Maniacs for the WTVT Fox13 Morning show to give an early morning pep rally for the fans coming to the Trop. for our first ever post season game.  Mark Ferguson, a fellow Rays Wall of Famer, was giving us breakfast quich and beverages to soup up our energy for the on-camera shots.

About 25 of the Maniac’s came to the event, and were vocal, visual, and some became less hairy during the boradcasts. 2 of the Maniacs actually got their hair ‘hawked while the cameras were rolling. Alos on hand as the TV station baseball analyst was  former Rays catcher, Mike DeFelice. Mike talked about how everyone 0-0 right now and that nothing that happened during the season matters right now.

That seems kind of phrophetic considering that the Chicago Cubs the night before got hammered by the LA Dodgers. In this case, one of the best records in baseball lost to a team that was sitting at .500 for most of the season befores triking out and winning their division.  Also cavorting around the outside of Ferg’s were a few other TV station circling like sharks looking for tasty morsels left over by the Fox13 crew.

All in all, It was a great day to be a Ray as I was the first person to enter the stadium, and the first in line at 9:57 A.M. I have police visual authentification on that since  a few officers who knew me were joking about me being their so early. I was a bit bummered by the fact that the Rays blocked the public web access for the playoffs and the wireless connection was not working at all at the stadium for the public. I was going to do a game live blog while I was there, but the Rays blew that idea for me.

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Evan Longoria

He became the first player in major league history – rookie or veteran – to go 3-for-3 or better with two home runs in his first career playoff game. At age 22 years old, he is the third-youngest player in major league history to hit more than one home run in a postseason game, behind Andruw Jones  in 1996 (19) and Tony Kubek in 1957 (20). He is only the second player in major league history to hit a home run in each of his first two career postseason plate appearances. Gary Gaetti did it in 1987. He had two home runs and an RBI single in his first three career postseason plate appearances. Only two other players drove in a run in each of his first three career postseason plate appearances: Dusty Rhodes in 1954 (first four) & Ted Kluszewski in 1959. He is the first player since 2004 to hit a home run on the first pitch in his first career postseason plate appearance. Houston’s Jason Lane (Oct. 6) and Raul Chavez (Oct. 7) did it on consecutive days in 2004.

Anyone who was at that game can tell you the sound of the ball off the bat on thst first homer was deafening. It sounded like a small explosion as the ball left Longoria’s bat. I found out after the game that the bat he used during his first two at bats were new Louisville slugger bat’s that had just been delivered to him in the last few days. The bat he used to hit this first homer with had no marks on it before the swing. 

 

 

But the second shot was never in doubt. The minute it left the bat, it was hit so high into the air that you wondered if it might hit a catwalk before getting to the outfield. It was probably hit as high as it was deep. The ball truly seemed to be floating out to the 143 section of the stdium before falling back to earth. After his 2nd blast, the crowd tried to get Longoria back out for a curtain call, but he just flipped the cap for a second and went back down into the dugout.

I understand this, is was minor to him at the time because they had a game to win and at that moment the homer was just a play in the game. But Longo, you have no idea what that simple swing of the bat did to this crowd today. S for the game, Longoria went 3-3, with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. The best part is he is perfect for the series with a 1.000 batting average. What a perfect way to start a Playoff run.

 

 

On TBS After a Foulball

I was told during the game that the foulball hit by B J Upton in the 5th inning to the Bullpen Cafe was on TV during the game. I gave the game used  ball to a friend’s daughter  who was sitting right behind me. I was sitting in the Bullpen Cafe for today’s game because of a friend at Ageon Insurance. I want to again thank him and them for letting me enjoy the game with you yesterday.  

 I am glad she got that ball because their family is a huge supporter of the Rays as Season Ticketholders, and that is a keepsake for the history of this great franchise. I could have been selfish and kept it for my collection, but I think I will get a better catch in the next few weeks during a game.

 

 

Rays Win First Postseason Contest in Franchise History

The Rays beat the White Sox in Game 1 Thursday afternoon. It was the first playoff game in the history of the Rays. Tampa Bay is the third American League expansion team to win its first ever postseason game. The Rangers (formerly the Senators) defeated the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS and the Blue Jays beat Kansas City in the 1968 ALCS opener. The Royals (1976 ALCS), Angels (1979 ALCS), Brewers (1981 AL East Playoffs) and Mariners (1995 ALDS) each lost their first postseason game.

It was a wild day in the Trop., and I only saw a small hanful of seats in certain areas with no one in them. Most likely they are the seat that the scalpers outside were selling for $100 dollars for a seat in the Upper Deck for today’s game.

In contrast, for the World Series, the Upper Deck seat are only going to go for $ 100 dollars  a seat. This is the part of baseball that gets to me sometimes. The greed and utter stupidity of people to feed into these people sense of marking up a ticket over 400 percent for a game. A Upper Deck ticket for face value for this game was only about $ 20.00 a ticket.

The best part of winning the first game of a series is the added pressure it puts on the opposing team for the second game. This is a huge plus for the Rays becuase sometime the other team will now try and do a bit extra or push a bit harder and might make a monumential mistake during the game. It is also a plus having the 30,000 plus fans going completely nuts like yesterday to pump up the volume a bit .

 

                    

 

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour entered the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and one out and promptly struck out Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to preserve the Rays’ three-run lead. Balfour struck out 82 batters in 58 1/3 innings this season, a rate of 12.65 strikeouts per nine innings. That was the highest rate for any of the 318 major league pitchers who logged at least 50 innings this season.

 

 

Home Plate umpire, Joe West had his hands full when Balfour and Orlanod Cabrera decided to have a one and one communication 60 feet 6 inches away from each other. During the at bat, when Cabrera showed a bit of disrepect and was shouting towards Balfour, he had no problem coming a few feet off the mound and curse back at Cabrera. I love this guy more for his spunk and energy in the last few months. But the clincher was him pointing to the dugout after the strikeout and basically telling him to go take a seat.  That was pure classic October baseball.

Here is a guy who was sent to the minor leagues after Spring Training to work on a few things, and when he came back, he made it difficult for him to not be in the Bullpen. He has pitched lights out all year long, and today was no exception. In today’s game Balfour only worked 1 inning, but he got whole days worth of talking and oozed confidience and attitude.

I really like the reference by Rays Manager, Joe Maddon to Balfour being like Al Hrbosky, the Mad Hungarian. I think we might have to have a contest to see what kind of nickname we should attach to Grant. Maybe the “Aussie Express”, no that sounds dumb. But we will think of something by the end of this all.

 

                             

 

All White Sox Runs by Homers

All four White Sox runs scored on home runs: a three-run blast by Dewayne Wise and a solo-shot by Paul Konerko. The White Sox scored 811 runs during the 2008 season, 385 of them scored via the home run (47.5%). That was the highest such percentage, by far, for any major league team this season.

I know the Rays pitchers do not like the fact that they did give up 2 homers to the White Sox. But their offense is geared for the big play and is really kind of expected to score on blasts and extra base hits more than bloopers and baserunning like the Rays. That is what will set this series apart, the Rays can run-and-gun all day long, while the White Sox have to be aggressive and play off big hits and Rays mistakes to score their runs.

 

                              

 

Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford, whose last regular season at-bat came on August 9, was in Tampa Bay’s starting lineup Thursday afternoon. Crawford is the first player in the live-ball era to start in his team’s postseason opener without a regular-season at-bat during the month of September.

Alot of fans around the Trop. were wondering which Carl Crawford was going to show up yesterday. The one who can hit the ball all over the park, or the guy who has had a difficult time hitting certain White Sox pitchers. Crawford has been pretty successful against Javier Vasquez in his career. Crawford is hitting .423 against him, and in today’s game went only 1-4, but thet 1 hit was an RBI single to center that scored Willy Aybar to put the Rays up 6-3.

Early in the game Crawford looked a bit rusty in leftfield letting aball drop that he might have sually made a play on, but he has to shake the rust off in the field because these games matter more than the previous 162 we have played this year. Crawfoird did look relaxed at the plate and his stroke looked clean, so it might just be a short amtter of time until he is totally comfortable at the plate again and hitting like a champ. 

 

 

 

James “Big Game” Shields

James Shields has always asked for the ball in games that mattered for the Rays. This 2nd year starter has made a name for himself in coming through in clutch situations for the Rays this season. Considering he tied with Edwin Jackson for team lead in victories ( 14 ), Shileds has always been a “go-to” guy for the Rays.

And today was no exception. In the franchisie’s first journey into the post season, Shields was the man to lead the team to a new high in the Rays history books. Shields pitched 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 3-run ball, but effectively shut down most of the White Sox big slugger all game long. 

Dewayne Wise took advantage of a hanging breaking ball in the 3rd inning on a 2-2 count and put it into Section 140 in rightfield for a 3-run homer. That gave the White Sox and early 3-1 lead. Shields sent down the White Sox 1-2-3 in 5 of his 6.1 innings of work. He also got 4 strikeout on the day against the White Sox.

 

                          

 

What was great about the start is that Shields was also the Opening Day starter for the Rays this season and it shows the confidience Maddon has in him to get the early win in this  best-of-5 series against the Sox.  Isn’t a bit weird to even fanthom that Shield is the oldest of all the Rays starter on this team. That a guy in his second year in the majors is the number1 guy, and is not even near the age of 30………..we might be seeing alot more of this team in the playoffs in the near future with depth like this.

Shields came into this game 0-1 in 3 starts against them in his career. He faced them once this year, at Tropicana Field and gave up only 1 run in 6 innings of work, but did not get the decision due to a Cliff Floyd 9th inning walk-off homer to seal the win. He faced them twice las season (2007), and got a no decison in a May 25th contest and took the loss at the Trop on June 26th, when he struck out 11, but lost 6-1 to the White Sox.

 

 

 





 

Rays Win Last Gameof the Season in 11th Inning

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

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

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

 

                      

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

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

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

                               

James Shields

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

 

Mitch Talbot

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

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

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

 

Rays Bullpen

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

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

 

                          

Edwin Jackson

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

 

            

 

Powerful 5th inning

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

 

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

 

         

 

Big 8th Inning Rally

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

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

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

 

             

 

Ben Zobrist

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

 

         

 

ALDS Opponent

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

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

 

Apology

 

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

Rays Win First Half of Twinbill 5-2

 

Rays 5, Orioles 2

 

With the Rays winning the first game of the doubleheader, I thought it might be interesting to hit up Mapquest and see how long it would take to maybe take a road trip to Detroit Michigan and check out Comerica Park for the last series of the year for the Rays. It was easy enough to find the exact address of the ballpark, and I just popped it into the computer and printed out the directions and the distance.

 

Well, the distance is 1,190 miles of mostly Interstate driving. That is right, I could put the car on cruise control and drive as long as I did not fall asleep at the wheel some time during the 19 hour trip. So I extimated that I would have to leave my house in Clearwater, Florida by maybe, noon on Wed. to give myself about 5 hours of leeway in case of muchies or a traffic accident in Atlanta at rush hour.

 

You see, the great thing about Detroit is it is almost a complete straight line up from where I live on Interstate 75. All I have to do is hit the old Courtney Campbell Bridge and go over to Tampa and get on I-275 and head north until I hit Motown. Now I can’t just pop off and leave like that tomorrow, but I would have been nice to be up there and surprise the guys in the Bullpen on Thursday’s afternoon game. But, I have a few errands to attend to, plus I have to go down to the Trop and pick up my Playoff tickets for the ALDS game 1 and 2 in the morning.

 

By the way, if you have not heard already, Game 1 is an official sell-out except for a few odd and end seats being reserved for 2009 Season Ticket depositors’. At the end of the first game of the doubleheader, I went online with my special password for the day to purchase tickets and found only about 500 seats were left for general purchase for Game 2. By the time I get this onto the website and into MLBogs.com, the game might be an officla sell-out also.

 

If by some chance there is a few hundred or so availiable, they will go on sale at 9 A.M. tomorrow on www.raysbaseball.com . I would not hold mt breath unless you have already put down as little as $ 50.00 for your 2009 Season Ticket deposit. That might be the only way to still secure some seats for the upcoming ALDS games held at Tropicana Field. I got mine today at 9 A.M., hopefully you did also, or you will have to watch on your HDTV at home or in your local watering hole.

 

 Rays Magical Number:         3

This number is a combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure the Rays first AL East title

 

 

James Shields

 

The Rays sent their big game pitcher out to begin this long day  of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. James Shields like to be known as “Big Game James” by his teammates, and  he came out and pitched a masterpiece as the Rays won the front half of the doubleheader, 5-2 against the Orioles. Shields came into the game for his 32ns start of the season, which is a new career high for Shields. He is currently the only Rays pitcher to ever throw two seasons of 200 plus innings of baseball. This season against the Orioles, Shields has gone 3-1 against the O’s, with a 3.27 ERA. The Rays are also perfect with Shields on the mound against the Orioles, going 4-0 this year.

 

In today’s game, Shields came out early and tried to dominate the game, but the Orioles had a different gameplan for Shields. In the 1st inning, Shileds gave up a walk and a single to Nick Markakis and Adam Jones before gaining his composure and sent Aubrey Huff and Oscar Salazar back to the bench with strikeouts. 

 

In the 2nd inning, the Orioles touched Shields for the only runs he would give up all day. Luke Scott struck out to start the inning, but got on base after a passed ball by Dioner Navarro.

 

The Orioles would quickly make Navarro pay for that mistake  when Lou Montanez  took the 2nd pitch he saw from Shields and deposited it in the leftfield stands for an early 2-0 Orioles lead. For the day, Shields went  7 innings and gave up 8 hits and 2 runs in his start. For his effort, Shields got his 14th win of the season tying former Rays Rolando Arroyo for the team wins record as a pitcher at 14.  With 5 games remaining in the year, Shields might not get another start this season before the playoffs begin in October.

 

 

6 through 9 Hitters

 

The Rays 6-9 hitters were on fire today for the team. For the game they went a combined 9-13, and scored all 5 Rays runs in the game. They also contributed to 4 of the 5 RBI’s in the game. The barrage was led by  Dioner Navarro, who was hitting in the 6th slot and went 2-5 on the day, with 2 runs scored. Navarro doubled to left to start the 5th inning and ended up scoring on a Wild Pitch by Orioles starter Garrett Olson to score the first Rays run of the day. 

 

In the 7th spot, Ben Zobrist went 1-3, with a single to right in the 8th inning.  Zobrist ended up scoring in the inning after a  attempted bunt single by Fernando Perez was misplayed by Orioles reliever Alberto Castillo.

 

In the 8th spot, Jason Bartlett went  3-4 in the game, with 2 RBI and 1 run scored for the Rays. Bartlett began his day by reaching on a throwing error by Oriole’s shortstop Alex Cintron in the 3rd inning. Bartlett then singled to center in the 5th inning and escaped from a sure out at second on a bad throw by Castillo to  second baseman Brian Roberts.

 

When Fernando Perez doubled to left, Bartlett scored to tie the game at 2-all. In the 6th inning, Bartlett hit a double to lect that scored Navarro and put the Rays up 3-2 in the game.  He then singled to right in the 8th inning, but did not score for the Rays.

 

In the 9-slot, Fernando Perez went 3-3 on the day and  had 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the contest. Perez started his day by putting down a sacrifice bunt to third base in the 3rd inning. He then got on base in the 5th inning by doubling to  left on a ball hit beyond the reach of Scott, and the ball bounced to the outfield wall. Bartlett scored on the play for the Rays to put the score at 2-2.

 

 Perez then singled to right to open the Rays 7th inning.  Perez ended up scoring on Carlos Pena drive to leftfield in the inning.  Hius last hit was a bad bunt single that Orioles pitcher  Alberto Castillo misplayed in the air and could not convert the out.

 

 

 

Rays Errors and Mistakes

 

For the most part, the first game did not have alot of drama or misplays. But it did have a few plays that could have changed the course of the game. In the 6th inning, Ben Zobrist tried to score on Bartlett’s double to left and was thrown out at the plate by Montanez.  At the time, the score was only 3-2 Rays, and the error in judgement could have come back to haunt the Rays.

 

In the bottom of the 5th inning, Jeff Fahey hit a 1-2 pitch to  the base of the scoreboard in rightfield. Perez could have made a play on the ball on the warning track, but let the ball hit and Fahey got a double on the play.  Fahey was standing on third base waiting for a hit through the hole when Huff hit into a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning. At the time, the score was 2-all in the game.

 

Odds and Ends

 

Today is the 14th time the Rays have played a doubleheader, and it is the second one in  7 days. In the most recent day/night doubleheader, the Rays split the games with the New York Yankees.  The Rays have never won both bills of a doubleheader in their short history.  They have been swept 6 times, and have split the games 7 times.  This will be the Rays 3rd doubleheader against the Orioles at Camden Yards. They split a pair on August  26, 2000, and lost both games on July 5, 2004.

 

94th Win

This win ties the Rays with the 1991 Atlanta Braves as the only 2 teams to ever go to the playoffs after going from worst to first in their divsion the following season.  The Rays also tied the 1991 Braves for the most wins by a team that had the worst record the prior year.

 

If the Rays win 3 out of their last 7 games to go 96-66, they will have reversed their record from last season ( 66-96) amd finish with a 30 game improvement over the last season. Only 9 teams since 1900 have improved 30 plus games from one season to the next.  The Rays are also 1 of 4 team to ever win 93 plus wins after 10 plus years of consecutive losing seasons. 

 

Rays Bullpen  

 

The Rays Bullpen again came through for the Rays by pitching 2 innings of no-hit ball to secure the 94th win of the season for the Rays. Grant Balfour came on in the 8th inning and got 2 strikeouts on 16 pitches in the inning.  Balfour has struck out  6 percent of the batters he has faced this season, which is tops in the major leagues.  His 1.42 ERA is currently tied with the Twins Joe Nathan for second in the majors.

 

Dan Wheeler then came on and threw a scoreless 9th inning to get his 1th save of the season.  his 285 appearances since 2005 is tied for 6th among active relievers in the majors.  His 26 holds is currently only 4 shy of the major league lead held by Scott Shields of the L A Angels.  Dan was the 34th pick of the Rays in the innaugural draft in 1996 and is in his 2nd tour with the team.

Rays Use Orioles Miscues to Get Win # 93

 

 

Rays 4, Orioles 2

 

Congrats to Carlos Pena for being selected as the American League Player of the Week for last week. Pena batted .368 for the week with 3 home runs and 11 RBI’s for the Rays. Pena was also involved in the history-making process of having the first overturned Instant Replay call on a homer run hit by Pena against Minnesota reliever Boof Bonser.  Pena also boasted a .947 Slugging Percentage and a .500 On-Base Percentage for the week. This is the 2nd Weekly honor that Pena has recieved while with the Rays. He got his first award in October 1, 2007.

 

 

The local media and fans base have gone “hawk wild lately with the new hairstyle of the Tampa Bay Rays. Sports Psychologists say that by uniting with a common denominator, like the hait sytle can foem a closer bond and collective unit going into the playoff games. Just as hockey has it’s playoff beards, the Rays have adopted the Mohawk as their focal point for team unity and committment. I am still waiting for Bullpen mates,  catcher Scott Cursi and Coach Bobby Ramos to board the “Hawk Express” and motor on to the American League Divisional Series.

Starting last night, the people who were selected by the Rays Lottery system got their passwords to select up to 4 seats for the upcoming ALDS game 1 and 2 seats. The password will work on the ticketmaster website until 11:59 P.M. tonight, then tickets will go on sale to the general public tomorrow at 9 A.M.  Stubhub.com also has the Rays post season tickets on sale, but the prices are hugely marked up pertaining to the actual price of the seat in the stadium. It listed a Upper Deck 300-level seat for almost $ 100 dollars today.

 

Rays Magical Number:      4

 

This is the combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure the American League East title for the Rays.

 

Just a short note about the “Magical Number” for tommorrow’s double-header. If the Rays win both games of the double-header, the number could effectively go down to 2. But coupled with the result of the Cleveland Indian verus Boston Red Sox game, it could move down to within 1 game with a Boston loss tonight. This is the time of year that the numer could jump as low as one with 2 Rays wins and a Boston Loss, but can also remain at 4 with both games of the double-hearder lost by the Rays and a Boston win. Tonight’s contest should be a great barometer to the extent of the rest of the week for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Jason Bartlett

So how do you follow up a day after you were selected by the local Sportswriters as the Rays 2008 MVP?  Well, you go 2-3 with an RBI and steal a base for the Rays in your close victory over the Orioles.  Bartlett hit two doubles in the game to give him 24 for the year. But it was his double down the leftfield line that made the night interesting for the Rays.

 

                                   

 

On the play, the ball was heading to the corner when an Orioles fan reached into the field of play and took the ball to give Bartlett a ground rule double because of Fan Interference. The guy in the stands definitely reached beyond the seats, actually almost falling on the field before retreiving the ball. The 3rd base umpire, Tim Timmons decided that Fernando Perez was not beyond the bag at third and had to return to third base to take a run off the board for the Rays. But Gabe Gross did score before the fan touched the ball and put the Rays up 3-2 at the time.

 

Bartlett also had his 20th stolen base of the year tonight for the Rays. He is also the team leader in steals of third base this year with 9 bases. He is within the leaders in the league in steals of thrid base this season.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Several times last night the Rays rookie got handcuffed on balls hitting the clay in the Oriole’s infield and had them come up on him fast and furious. On one play, the ball appeared to hit Longoria in the chest after hitting the clay.

Longoria had one play against Luke Scott in the 5th inning that had the ball coming up hard on him and hitting the heel of his glove to give him his 3rd error in two games. Scott ended up coming around to score for the Orioles on a bases loaded walk to Juan Castro in the inning.

 

                                      

 

Orioles Miscues and Rays Hits

The Rays did take advantage of a few Baltimore miscues in the game.  Gross reached on the 8th error of the season by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and ended up scoring on Akinora Iwamura’s single in the 5th inning.  The Rays also got 8 walks in the game against Baltimore pitching. They used it to their advantage in the 5th inning when 3 walks in a row were issued to Gross, Hinske and Bartlett. Gross and Hinske ended up scoring in the inningto tie the score at 2-2 at the time. 

 

B J Upton

In the 6th inning, with Aubrey Huff on second base, Luis Salazar hit a ball hard to centerfield that was dropping rapidly. Huff, thinking that B J Upton could not make the play on the ball was on the move and at third base when Upton took the ball in and threw to second to complete a double play on Huff. It was Upton’s 13th outfield assist this season. He is currently in 3rd in that category in the AL.

 

 

                    

 

Rays Hitting

For the night the Rays only managed 3 hits against the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. Orioles starter  Brian Bass only gave up 2-runs in his 4.2 innings of work last night. But it was the 8 walks issued by the pitchers, and the timely hitting of the Rays that secured this win. In the first 3 innings tonight, the Rays went down in order 1-2-3, before Carlos Pena got a single in the 4th inning.

It was not until the Rays had 2 outs in the 5th inning that the team got on the board first tonight and scored 2 runs in the inning. In the 6th inning the Rays went down on order again. In the 7th inning, the Rays came alive thanks to 2 Oriole walks and a error on Roberts.  But then again in the 8th inning, they Rays went down in order for the 5th time in the game.

 

        

 

David Price

But the rue star of the night has to go to Rays rookie pitcher David Price, who made his Major League first start tonight aginst Baltimore.  The lefty had all three pitches going tonight and was constantly getting the first pitch over for a strike all night long. At times it seemed like the home plate umpire might be crowding Price a bit, but he kept hitting the outer corners of the strike zone and began to get thos calls later in the contest.

Price went 5.1 inning and threw 88 pitches in his debut. Impressive enough with his control in the game, Price put 60 out of 88 balls over for strikes in the game. Price did get 3 strikeouts to go with his 3 walks, but it was a totally impressive performance by the young rookie, and might bode well for him in the coming weeks.

Prices ERA at the start of the game was 3.00 for his relief appearances this year, but after the start, he had lowered it to 2.38 for the Rays.  He got the Orioles in order in the first inning, and only had a bad moment in the 2nd inning during a 10-pitch at bat by Luke Scott before walking him. Price adjusted and got the Orioles again in order in the 4th inning. In the 5th, Price had the only trouble of the night when Scott again got on base after a Longoria error and then Price issued two straight single to Ramon Hernandez and Lou Montanez to load the bases.  Price ended up giving up 2 runs in the start, but was totally impressive from hjis first pitch to the last one.

 

Bullpen Trio

The Bullpen Trio of Grant Balfour, J P Howell and Dan Wheeler closed out the contest for the Rays. Balfour came on in the middle of the 5th inning and worled 1.2 innigs of scoreless relief for his 6th victory of the year. With the win, Balfour is now tied with Howell for the team lead in wins by a reliever. Balfour and Howell are also one win away from tying the Rays reliever victory recod held by Shawn Camp.

J P Howell  leads all MLB relievers with 87.2 innings this season.  He also leads all AL relievers with 92 strikeouts this season, and  got three strikeouts in a row last night against the Orioles. He is still boasting a 0.00 ERA in September for the Rays over 13.1 innings of work. He is currently on pace to throw the most innings by a leftie reliever since the Twin’s Greg Swindell threw 112.o in 1997. 24 of his 63 appearances this season have been over 2 innings.

 

                                   

 

Dan Wheeler came on with one out in the 9th inning and gave up a single to Ramon Hernandez . But he got Montanez to strike out, and had pinch-hitter Kevin Millar fly out to Bartlett to end the game and give the Rays their 93rd win of the season.  It also gave Wheeler his 12th save of the year for the Rays.  Wheeler has 60 plus appearances in a game for the 4th straight season. He currently has 68 appearances for the team, and is on pace to have his   4th straight 70 plus appearances year after his next 2 outings.  Batter’s are hitting .188 against him this season, lowest in the league among relievers.

 

 

 

Rays lose Shootout at Trop

 

Twins 11, Rays 8

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays Magical Number  3   

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

 

                           

 

Evan Longoria 

     

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

 

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

 

                                      

 

Dan Wheeler

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                          

 

James Shields

 

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

 

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

 

Carlos Pena

 

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

 

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

 

RBI guys

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Kazmir Pitched Gem to End Curse at Fenway

 

Rays 5, Red Sox 4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays Magic Number Is:    18

 

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

                       

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

           

 

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

 

           

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

 

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

 

                         

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zaun Zaps Rays for Series Win

 

 

Blue Jays 7, Rays 4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Rays Magical Number :     21

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

                              

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baldelli Shows Nation How the Rays Win

 

Rays 10, Orioles 9
 
 
I attended our last  Maddon’s Maniacs’ meeting today before the 3:30 PM contest. Rich Herrera, the Rays pre and post-game host was the master of cermonies today. He made a  a reference to us “old timers”, who have been here during the lean wins season as the wily veterans who can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. And how we can boast that we are the group of fans who can now say we supported the first winning team in Rays’ history.
 
He also remarked on how the Maddon’s Maniacs first meeting there wer only 30 of us, and of today, there are over 560 Maniacs strolling through the Trop during game days. It has been quite a ride this season, and to show their appreciation for everything, the Rays’ put a sticker of our club;s symbol on the back wall of section 132 for all to see. The cartoon redition of “screamer” with Joe Maddon glasses can be seen by everyone in the ballpark now, and we can share our stories with the masses.
 
Rays skipper, Joe Maddon came out and chatted with us for a while and answered questions from the crowd. In the background you could see Evan Longoria doing some soft toss near the durgout, and several of the Bullpen pitchers out warming up in the outfield. Eric Hinske then came up and talked a bit about how our noise and enthusiasm filters down to them and gets them motivated during the game.
After all that, we got to toy with a few new chants to be sung during the Rays’ games. I will put the two chants in the blog tomorrow night so we all can practice them on Monday’s day off and be ready for the Yankees when they invade the Trop.
 
Rays 10, Orioles 9
 
 
 
                          Rocco Baldelli gets the shaving cream pie treatment after driving in the winning run in the ninth.  (AP)
 
 
Oh Rocco Baldelli, you had your coming out party again tonight to show the national audienceon FOX that you are back and will be a force in the lineup again.  For the day, Rocco went 2-3, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored. But it was his hit in the bottom of the 9th on a 1-0 pitch that made us cheer for you again and again today.
 
Rocco hit a blistering ball past former Ray Aubrey Huff and into the leftfield corner to score Carlos Pena from first and secure the win for the Rays. Rocco also singled and scored in the 5th inning. Rocco has now made 6 starts since his August 10th reinstatement and has hit safely in 5 of those games. Baldelli increased his avewrage to .294 with today’s offensive outburst.
 
 
 
 
The Rays did  have some close plays at the plate today that could have made the score more in their favor. In the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro was trying to score from second on a Jason Bartlett single to center. Jay Payton took the ball and fired a strike to Ramon Hernandez at home. Navarro tried to sneak his hand in the backdoor, but Hernandez quicky tagged Navarro on the shoulder for the out. Payton recieved an outfield assist on the play.
 
Not to be outgunned, the Rays also had a chance to nail a runner at the plate today. Nick Markakis tried to score from second on a Hernandez single to center. B J Upton came up with the ball cleanly and fired a low strike to the plate to nail Markakis. Upton received his 11th outfield assist of the season on the play.
 
 
 
                                     
 
 
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine was going for his second attempt to get  a franchise tying 14th win on the season. Sonnanstine did not factor into the victory, but pitched 3.1 innings and gave up 7-hits and 6-runs early to the Orioles. Sonnanstine seemed to have trouble getting the good placement over the plate on his pitches. Andy got into early trouble giving up a 1st inning homer to Jay Payton to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Sonnastine gave up 2 homers on the day to the Orioles.
 
After Brian Roberts walked on  4 pitches, Sonnanstine got Payton to strike out before giving up a ground rule double to Markakis. Aunbrey Huff then hit his 30th homer to rightfield to put the Orioles up 5-3.
 
The play involving Markakis was almost the first reviewed call this year. Markakis hit a ball that was heading for the right field wall when a fan reached over and tried to catch the ball a few feet into and under the yellow home run line. Second base umpire Chad Fairchild took a few seconds before signalling a ground rule double. The fan did reach into the field of play and hinder the path of the ball. It was a good call, and one that could have fallen uner the guidelines to be reviewed by the umpire crew chief. 
 
 
                      
 
 
Not lost in thsuffle of today’s game was the contribution in the bottom of the 9th innig by Carlos Pena. Pena walked on 6 pitches and was on the move the second the ball went past Huff into the left field corner. Pena was at full speed when he got to third and third base coach Tom Foley did not hesistate to send Pena home. The throw to the plate by Orioles’ rookie Lou Montanez was not close and was falling away from Hernandez as Pena reached the plate.
 
 
 
                  
 
 
 The Rays slugged 13 hits on the day, and  walked 9 times in the game.  Ohter Rays to come up big today were: Akinora Iwamura who went 3-5, with 3 runs scored today. Willy Aybar who went 2-4, and Jason Bartlett who went 2-5, with a run scored. Ben Zorbrist went hitless today, but got on base twice via walks and had a run and an RBI on the day.
 
 
On the day, the Rays left 14 men on base and  7 men in scoring position. This is a statistic the Rays will need to work on before the playoffs start in October. When the playoff traditionally start, the runs  are harder to come by, and are earned at a slower pace. For that reason, the Rays will have to begin to use their speed and quick bats to get “National League” style runs by using the hit-and -run, and maybe a suicide squueze.  But then again, a well placed homer never hurts either.
 
 
 
Dan Wheeler blew his 3rd blown save of the year. On the positive side, Wheeler got the win to improve to 3-5. Wheeler was going for his 11th save of the year, which would have tied him for his career high set in Houston before his trade to the Rays.  Opponents are battling .173 against him this season.

Rays Home to Series Win over Jays

 

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

                        

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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