Results tagged ‘ Eric Hinske ’
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!!!!!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If Rays fans remember, right before the end of the first half/All-Star break we also had a bit of a losing season and naysayer were predicting that the Rays were about to feel the heat of the closing in Boston Red Sox. We got through that debacle and came out like a rose winning the A L East last night.
I think we are having the same kind of mental laspe and fatigue we suffered in that series versus the Cleveland Indians. If you remember, we came out of the All-Star break on fire and ready to be the dragonslayers of the world. I am of the mind that it is good to sometimes lose right before you need your big wins. It gets you into another mental state, and actually transfixes you on the goal at hand……..to win the ALDS in 4 games.
Not know who we will play is not a big thing. We have played the teams in the A L central enough to know that they will both be good opponents for us. If I had to pick a opponent, I would pick the Chicago White Sox. I know we have had trouble with their lefty pitchers this year, but I also know that we can beat them at U.S. Celluar Field. We did win that series 2-1 earlier in the year, and I honestly think that we match up better with them for a series win.
To play against the Minnesota Twins so soon after out homestand debacle might work more into the Twin’s favor than into the Rays. We might have an excuse for the Sunday game (hangover city), but the 3 games played before that day were so closely contested that it was a crapshoot every night as to who might take control of the game. And their lefties also played a few numbers on our guys. So, here to hoping that Chicago wins on Sunday and takes the Tigers to task on Monday at home to win the division and get to come to the friendly confines of the Trop. for the first 2 games.
Coming into this series against the Tigers, Rays starter Matt Garza has gone 0-3 in th 4 career starts against the Tigers and has posted a 4.84 ERA against them. The Tigers Magglio Ordonez has feasted on Garza in the past going 5-11 against him prior to this start. Garza was making his 30th start of the season. Garza comes into the game with an Opponent’s Batting average of .246 this year, the best on the Rays staff this year.
In the game, Garza got off to a great start getting the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 1st inning. But in the 2nd inning, on a 3-2 count, Garza hung a breaking ball that Miguel Cabrera deposited in the leftfield stands for his major league leading 37th homer of the season. Garza got out of the rest of the inning without incident. In the 3rd inning, after issuing a walk to Brandon Inge, Garza got a 3-6 double play to end the inning.
In the 4th inning, Ramon Santiago came up and slap a ball to the right of Garza that the pitcher picked up and 1-hopped to Dan Johnson at first base. The play pulled Johnson off the bag and Santiago was safe at first on Garza’s errant throw. The error was only Garza’s 2nd of the year. Ordonez then got on base on a single to centerfield to put 2 runner on base for the Tigers. Rays catcher Miguel Hernandez then committed a pass ball and the runners advanced to put men on third and second with no outs in the inning.
Garza had a bit of bad luck on the first ball hit to leftfield in the 5th inning today. Mike Joyce hit a ball high in the air to Justin Ruggiano in left, and Ruggiano looked prepared to catch the ball for the 1st out, but it missed his glove and bounced over the outfield wall for a ground rule double. This would have been the first out of the inning. Edgar Renteria then hit a high chopper to Ben Zobrist at short and Zobrist took the play to thrid, but the tag on Joyce was not in time. This put men on the corner with no outs in the inning. Inge ten came up and hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Joyce from third and score Detroit’s 2nd run of the game.
Granderson then came up and hit a ball down the first baseline that Johnson fielded and threw to 2nd, ten Zobrist tried to complete the double play, but a high throw pulled Johnson off the bag. That put Granderson at first with 2 outs. Santiago then walked, and Ordonez hit a single into rightfield to score Granderson and notch the score at 3-3. For the start, Garza went 5.1 innings, and gave up 4-hits and 3-runs in the game on 74 pitches.
The Rays went to the Bullpen after the top of the 6th inning, and Jeff Nieman came out to pitch for the Rays. Neimann started the inning by walking Gary Sheffield on 6 pitches. Sheffield then tried to steal 2nd base, but Hernandez overthrew the base by 10 feet and the ball sailed into centerfield. Hernandez was given an error on the play, and Sheffield was standing on third with no outs in the inning. Neimann got two quick outs before Renteria hit a double down the leftfield line and put the Tigers up for good today 4-3. Neimann got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 7th inning.
In the 8th inning, Cabrera lead off the inning with a double to right on an 0-2 count. Sheffeild walked for the second time in the game to put 2 men on for the Tigers. Tiger’s catcher Dane Sardinha then came up and put down a bunt to the right of the 6’9″ Neimann, and he slipped and fell to the turf not able to complete the out. Neimann did get 2 quick outs to keep the Tigers from adding any runs in the inning. Niemann ended up throwing the Rays last 3 innings,and gave up 3-hits and a lone run to take the loss for the Rays. The loss evened his 2008 total to 2-2 for the year.
With the Rays resting a majority of their starters’, the Rays put Ben Zobrist at short for the game. Zobrist made several key plays for outs in the contest, but it was his bat that did the most damage in the game. Zobrist went 3-4 on the day, with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored in the contest. In his first at bat, he hit a ball to shallow left-center for a single.
The play moved Fernando Perez, who had walked to start the game to third with no outs. Zobrist lead off the 3rd inning with a single to deep center. And in the 5th inning, Zobrist hit his 11th homer of the year on a 1-2 count to put the Rays up 3-1 at that moment. For this series, Zobrist has now hit 3 homers in the 3 games in Detroit. In his last 4 games, Zobrist has now gone 7-14, with 3 homers and 5 RBI’s for the Rays.
Coming into the game, Baldelli is hitting .260, and has played in 25 of the last 44 games for the Rays. He was the D.H. today for the Rays against the Tigers. Baldelli went 1-3 today, with 2 RBI’s. It was his lone hit in the 1st inning that set the pace for the Rays. After Perez and Zobrist were on 2nd and 3rd respectfully, Baldelli hit a smash that 1-hopped to the right-centerfield wall and scored both men to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Baldelli also got on base in the 3rd inning when Detroit starter, Dontrell Willis hit him with a pitch.
With the Rays 2 errors today, they have now committed 90 errors for the season. That currently puts them as the 4th best defesne in the American League. Even with this decrease in their defensive mistakes, the Rays are making their mistakes come back to haunt them this season. And in the playoffs, a single error can change the scopre of the game in an instant.
Twins and White Sox
With neither of these teams seeming to want to win the American League Central Division, it looks like the Chicago White Sox will have to conclude their season with a Monday make-up game against the Tigers. The Twins currently lead the division by 1/2 of a game after both teams lost again today. Both teams will be playing at the same time tomorrow, and if the Twins lose and the White Sox win, it will come down to the make-up game for the White Sox to take the title and move on to face the Rays on Thursday night at the Trop.
I was on my Myspace page today and got a bulletin from the Cowbell Kid. He was urging fans who might have an extra ticket to share to contact him and he will buy it from you. He was unable to get a ticket through the regular channels and was hoping a generous Rays fan would help him out. He is willing to pay for the ticket and maybe give you a Cowbell lesson.
Seriously, I might not agree with the guy on a few issues, but he is a fixture at the stadium and should enjoy it with the rest of us regulars. And, I feel he has toned himself down a bit in the last few months to the point of everyone loving him again, even the old ladies in the front row.
So if you have an extra ticket and think you can spare it for the guy, go to his Myspace page and let him know as soon as possible. He would really appreciate it…………….
What is it about old hairband songs and the American League. I am starting to believe that in this Karaoke inspired world that we are playing too many golden oldies and adapting them to our team as models of our character. Remember a few years ago when the Chicago White Sox were tearing up the playoffs, the chose a Journey song as their muse. “Don’t Stop Believing” is a great song, but not one I would every tag to a baseball team. But then I never thought the Rays would have Survivor of “Eye of the Tiger” cult status do a free concert to celebrate our Playoff success.
The Rays have been comtemplating who should throw out the first pitch at the Rays ALDS games. My choice is first Dick Vitale for obvoius reasons. Vitale was inducted with me in the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame in the same year. I still have his chair sign in my collectible folder. He is also a clssic example of the kind of fan we love. Loud, proud and totally bonkers at times.
But the guy to throw out the second pitch will get alot of debate. I think it should be Kevin Costner. He has done so many concerts both for the Rays and the Durham Bulls this year that he has been a symbol of the new logo, jerseis and attitude since his Straub Park concert. He is also a consumate baseball guy who is a true fan of the game. And his character Billy Chappell, is still one of my favorite baseball heros.
I hope that Placido Planco only has a sprained ankel or a turned ankle after that collision at home plate with Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 1st inning. He came into home pretty hard towards the right foot and shinguards of Navarro and he might have caught his foot under Navarro and twisted before crossing the plate. He was replaced in the top of the 2nd inning and you did not see him on the bench area, so maybe he was sent to get some X-rays to rule out a break or any ligament damage.
B J Upton
What can you say about B J Upton since he came back off the bench a few games ago and has been hitting the cover off the ball. Tonight Upton went 3-4, with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored in the game. And to top it all off, even with his bum shoulder he was able to muscle a homer out to leftfield in the 5th inning. It was only Upton’s 9th homer of the season, but it came at a time when the Rays needed a shot in the arm to get back into this game. His blast put the Rays within 2 of the Tigers, 5-3.
Upton was a combines 1-19 on this roadtrip before tonight’s game, and has played in 8 of the last 9 games for the Rays. Before his injury, Upton was hitting .396 in his last 48 at bats. Upton also stole second base after walking tonight to give him 44 for the season. That is currently good enough for 2nd in the AL, 5 behind Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox.
He has been trying for the last 7th starts to reach his 14th win for the Rays. Tonight was his last chance to grab at that golden ring this season for the Rays. Coming into tonight Sonnanstine has gone 0-2 since his last win against the Los Angels Angels back on August 18th. Alot of the problems have been after his exit in the game, but Sonnanstine also has done some damage himself this season. For example, in his last 3 starts, he has gone 19.1 innings and given up only 2 Earned Runs on 16 hits, while posting a 0.92 ERA.
Usually when you have a almost 3 games worth of totals like that you tend to have at least 2 wins in the books. But Andy has been snakebit and has been awarded nothing in those 3 starts. He is a guy who keeps you in the game and gives you a chance to win every time out. But tonight, he got his 9th loss of the season by just not hitting the right spots to one certain Tiger batter.
Sonnanstine got into trouble in the first inning tonight and it put himself and the Rays in a big hole early in the ballgame. Curtis Granderson fought off Sonnanstine’s pitches and finally walked after 7 pitches to open the game. Sonnanstine then walked Placido Polanco to put the first two Tigers on base. Magglio Ordonez then took a 0-1 pitch the drilled it into the leftfield corner to score both baserunners.
Miguel Cabrera then hit a sharply dipping ball that B J Upton grabbed off the turf and completed a double play by throwing to 2nd base and tagging Ordonez out at 2nd base. The Gary Sheffield came up and hit the first of his 2 homers to righfield to put the Tigers up first 3-0 on the Rays. Ramon Santiago again camne back to bite the Rays tonight in the 2nd inning when he hit a 2-run homer to left to up the score to 5-0 Tigers. Santiago has now hit 3 homers in 2 days against the Rays. He had 1 homer the entire season before this series.
After the 2nd inning, with the Tigers up 5-0, the Rays began to shut down the high powered Tiger offense. The only hits between the end of the second inning and the 8th inning , was a single to left by Sheffield in the 3rd inning and a single by Dane Sardinha in the 6th inning.
David Price came on in the 6th inning with 2-outs and hit the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Brandon Inge. He then walked Sardinha on 4 pitches to load the bases. Price got Santiago to line out to Gabe Gross in right for the final out of the inning. Price then came out in the 7th inning and got 2 quick outs before being replaced by Grant Balfour with Ordonez comint to bat for the Tigers.
Balfour got Ordonez to end the 7th inning. Balfour then got Cabrera to strike out before leaving a breaking ball up and Sheffield hit his 499th career homer to right to put the Tigers up 6-3. Balfour then got Mike Joyce to strike out and Inge to ground out to Akinora Iwamura to end the inning.
Frustration Level: HIGH
In tonight’s contest the Rays left 14 men on base. This is a stat that I have been harping on for almost the entire season. It is one that can make or break a team during a short series like the playoffs. The Rays have had breat opportunities to capitalize and score runs, but something always happens in thses situations.
Plenty of Scoring Chances
That tonight’s game, in the 3rd inning Upton got a fielder’s choice to the pitcher and scored Bartlett from third base, but Iwamura was forced out at second for the 2nd out of the inning. With Upton on first, Carlos Pena popped up to third to end the rally. Then in the 4th inning after Navarro hit his 27th double down the leftfield line, and Gabe Gross walked to put 2 men on base, Eric Hinske struck out to end the inning.
In the 5th inning, the Rays did start their most impressive rally of the night with Upton hitting his 75th career double to left to start the rally with 2-outs. Pena then hit aball up the middle to score Upton and Evan Longoria hit a ball through the hole at second base to put himself at first and Pena at third with Cliff Floyd coming to bat. Floyd ended up striking out to kill the rally
In the 7th inning after Upton hit his 9th homer of the season, Pena hit a beauty up the first baseline for a single. Longoria followed with a shot through the hole at shortstop and the Rays had 2 men on with 1-out. Rocco Baldelli pinch-hit for Floyd and struck out on 5 pitches. Navarro then hit a long fly ball to center for the 3rd out. In the 8th, the Rays again mounted a rally with 2-outs in the inning.
Jason Bartlett hit a ball deep into the shortstop hole for a single. Iwamura then hit a single just three feet left of Bartlett’s hit to put 2 men on with 2 outs. Uprton then hit a single to short and loaded the bases for Pena. Pena hit a long fly ball to Granderson in center for the 3rd out. In the 9th inning, Baldelli walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays a runner. Navarro then hit a blooper to center for a single. He was then replaced by pinch-runner Jonny Gomes. Willy Aybar then hit a nice ball down the first baseline and scored Baldelli from second base. With Gomes now on third and Aybar at first, he was replaced by pinch-runner Carl Crawford. But two quick fly balls by Zorbrist and Bartlett ended the game and the rally for the Rays.
Rays Win by Default Tonight
With the New York Yankees winning 19-8 against the Boston Red Sox, the Rays’ players and coaches’ and fans will be celebrating into the wee morning hours with their first AL East title in the books. I know this is not the way the guys wanted to win this title, they wanted to win it on the field. It is important for these guys to actually have the chanceto win it on the field for their confidience level going into the playoffs. You never want to back into the playoffs in any manner, much less win your first division title by default.
Still, the excitement of finally fulfilling the goals set in Spring Training should be the thing right now. The fact that the Rays can still win their last 2 games and make tonight a moot point in this default setting. Thi is the first time since the Rays first season that someone other than the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title.
After tonight’s win lower the number to a level that is obtainable either tomorrow or by Friday at the worst, I got that urge again to see what it might cost to take a flight up to Motown for a celebration with the Rays. I did my usual websites looking for early morning Thursday, or Red Eye flights tonight and found that only 1 flight that might get me to Detroit before the first pitch at 1:05 P.M.
That flight had me sitting at the airport before 6 A.M. to fly to Atlanta and then sit almost 2 hours before we got back into the seat and arrive at the Detroit/Wayne County Airport at 11:30 A.M. That would give me enough time to drop my bags off at the hotel and then hit Comerica Park in time for the first pitch. I love the idea of online check-in at airports and hotels nowadays, it makes the baseball day-trip go so much easier. But then again, I can’t go tomorrow, but you can if you have $ 453.00 dollars and a cool boss.
Do not forget that the City of St. Petersburg is setting up a Welcome Home arrival celebration for the Rays at the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport on Sunday at 8 P.M. to welcome our guys back to town after their roadtrip and to celebrate the A L East Championship with the homefolks. That should be a wild night as the Rays will have Monday off before getting back into the swing of things starting Tuesday morning.
Rays Magic Number: 1
All the Rays need to do is win 1 of their 4 games against the Detroit Tigers and the celebration will begin. This will give the A L East crown to the Rays and send the Red Sox out to L A for the first round of the playoffs ( Boston went 1-8 against the Angels this season).
I am starting to think we need to send a reliever out to start the game and then bring in Edwin Jackson ( 13-11) in the 2nd inning of the ballgame. In his past starts, Jackson has been brilliant after the first couple of innings, but seems to run into trouble early then get things settled down and kicks some butt. That happened to him again last night as he gave up 5-runs on 6 -hits in the 1st inning, then gave up a solo run and 2-hits in the 2nd inning to spot the Orioles a 6-0 score. Even though he spotted the Orioles with a large margin, the Rays rallied several times to put Jackson in line for his 13th win of the season.
Jackson might be pitching his last start of the years as Rays Manager Joe Maddon needs to start setting up his 3 or 4 man rotation for the playoffs now. This might have been a “give me” start by Maddon to reward Jackson who helped reduce the magic number to 1 last week to even be considered for the playoffs. Tonight, it was deja vu all over again as Jackson helped the Rays move the magic number again down to 1, with Scott Kazmir throwing the game tomorrow. Hoefully it is Deja Vu for the Rays, and Rays Clubhouse Manager Chris Westmoreland can get the bubbly cold by the end of the early game.
Alot of Hit By Pitches
Coming into this contest, the Rays have seen a abundance of hit batsmen in the last few series. During tonight’s game, the Rays had Evan Longoria plucked in the 4th inning in the stomach, and Longo ended up scoing in the inning to bite the Orioles for the play.
In the 6th inning, Jason Bartlett got hit for the first of two times today in the knee area. Lucky for the Rays Bartlett had a platic protector on that area becuase of a foul ball hitting the patella earlier in the season. Bartlett also made the Orioles pay for the play by scoing in the inning Then in the 8th inning, the Orioles again hit Bartlett, this time in the hip area and he again scored on the play to frustrate the Orioles.
2 Superb Innings
The Rays scored 11 unanswered runs in the game starting with 5 runs on 3 hits in the 5th inning. Carlos Pena started by walking on 6 pitches to lead off the inning. Longoria then got hit by a pitch, and Dioner Navarro hit a single into leftfield to load the bases for the Rays with 1 out. Gabe Gross came up with the bases jacked and walked on 6 pitches, scoring Pena on the play. With the bases still loaded, Eric Hinske then hit the first pitch he saw from Orioles starter Radhames Liz to rightfield to score Longoria and leave the bases still loaded for Jason Bartlett.
Bartlett then hit a ball off the hip area of Liz that he could not control and throw in time to get Bartlett. Navarro scored to pull the Rays within 2 runs, 6-4. Akinora Iwamura then came up and hit a RBI ground out to short that scored Hinske to pull the Rays within a run, 6-5.
In the 6th inning, Fernando Perez hit a liner to leftfield and stole second base before Bartlett got hit by a pitch for the first time tonight. With men on first and second, Iwamura hit a ball deep into the gap in left center and scored both Perez and Bartlett on a triple. The play put the Rays on top to stay tonight 7-6.
In the 8th inning, Perez got on base again by walking on 5 pitches and stole second again while Bartlett was batting. Bartlett again was hit by a pitch and the Rays had two men on and no out in the inning. Aki put down a really nice Sacrifice bunt to move Perez and Bartlett into scoring position. B J Upton then walked, and Carlos Pena struck out to give the Rays bases loaded with 2-outs.
Longoria walked on 5 pitches to score Perez. Cliff Floyd then came up and walked on 6 pitches as the Orioles relievers could not find the plate. Navarro then came up and hit a liner down the leftfield corner to score 2 runs, but was tagged out at second trying to advance on the play for the 3rd out in the inning. But the Rays were now up 11-6 in the contest. In this inning, the Rays scored 2 runs on a sequence where there were no hits involved. A hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt, and 4 walks contributed to the big inning.
Rays on the Basepaths
In this contest, Fernando Perez stole 2 bases and is currently 5-5 on the basepaths this season for the Rays. Iwamura also got a stole second in the first inning after leading off the game with a single to leftfield. It was his 8th stolen base of the season. And B J Upton stole second in the 6th inning for his 43rd stolen base of the year. That currently ranks him 3rd in the AL, one base behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.
Iwamura hit his 8th triple of the year to move him into 3rd place, 2 behind the Ray’s Carl Crawford in 2nd place in the AL. B J Upton also got his 13th outfield assist in the bottom of the first inning when he pegged Luke Scott trying to advance to third base on his double for the 1st out in the inning.
And Nick Markakis was thrown out at the plate trying to steal home on a double steal in the 5th inning of the game. The play started with Aubrey Huff trying to steal 2nd base and Iwamura came up into the grass area behind the mound and cut off the ball to throw it back to Navarro so he could get the sliding Markakis before he touched the plate. It went into the books as a caught stealing attempt, but it was a brilliant play by both players to prevent a run in the inning.
Twins versus White Sox
Sometimes it seems that neither team wants to win the AL Central pennant and maybe face the Rays in the first round of the Playoffs. The Minnesota Twins again beat the Chicago White Sox to pull within 1/2 of a game of the lead in the division. With 1 more game to be played, the next win might decide the division crown.
The Twins still have 4 games left, with 1 to still play against the White Sox, and a 3-game series at home against the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox have 4 games left to play, including 1 against the Twins, and a 3-game series at home against the Cleveland Indians. in the most probable settings, the winner of this division will start their series away from home at Tropicana Field next week.
Odds and Ends
Tonight’s win puts the Rays road record this year at 39-28 going into the 4 games against the Detroit Tigers. With their 96th win tonightto have a record of 96-62, the Rays have mirror-imaged their record of 62-96 from 2007. The win also puts the Rays at 4 games over .500 this year. Tonights victory against the Baltimore Orioles was Tampa Bay’s 12th in a row against them, and raises their seasob series record against the Orioles to 15-3 for the year, their best record against any opponent this year.
Chad Bradford came on in relief of Jackson in the 6th inning and earned his 21st hold of the season. Bradford pitched 1.1 innings tonight and gave up only 1 hit on 18 pitches in the game. With Ramon Hernandez on first with 1-out, Bradford got Lou Montanez to hit a ground ball to Iwamura, who tagged out Hernandez for the 2nd out of the inning. 2 pitches later Juan Castro grounded to Iwamura again and he threw to first to end the inning.
Trever Miller came on with 2 outs in the 7th inning and got Huff to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning. In the 8th inning, Miller got to quick outs including a strikeout by Luke Scott. He then hit Hernandez with a pitch in the side as an answer to 3 hit batsmen by Oriole’s pitchers tonight. He then got Montanez to strikeout on 5 pitches to end the inning.
In the 9th, Miller gave up a lead-off single to Juan Castro down the leftfield line, then got two quick strikeouts of pinch hitter Alex Cintron and Guillermo Quiroz. He then got Adam Jone to pop out to Iwamura for the last out of the game. For his effort, Miller collected his 2nd save of the year for the Rays. In his appearance, Miller threw 37 pitches and got 5 strikeouts in his 2.1 innings of work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With their backs against the wall now, you know the Minnesota Twins will come out and play the game of their lives today. And to suspect anything else would insane. Both these team are within a cat’s hair of getting into the postseason. The Twins hang by a thread, while the Rays control their own destiny enroute to their first A L East crown. Both these squada will be energized and ready for war when the first pitch is thrown about 3:55 P.M. today.
But you also know that when this game ends, either the Rays will be one of the 8 teams to get into this crazy playoff race, or they will just regroup and do battle tomorrow with it being another “it” day. But I seriously think that today’s game will be the deciding blow for either team. It is on a national stage, being seen in three markets in the country. One being the Tampa Bay region, second being the Minnesota area, and the third is the city of true revolution, Boston. You heard me right, one of the three cities to get today’s game will be beantown.
Funny how that worked out, but it will give the Boston fand another look at why this team is for real, and to watch their new rival play before the Red Sox take the field tonight in Toronto. It is also another time for the Rays to put doubt and serious karma to work on the Red Sox Nation. I am not asking that it be overthrown, or dismantled, just a little doubt, and a little concern is all I desire here. And maybe a bead of sweat on the long time Red Sox fan about maybe playing this Rays team again in the playoffs.
Rays Magical Number: 9
Combination of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure our first A L East crown.
Okay, you almost had me worried when you bounced a few during warm-ups Edwin, but thank you for one of the clutch pitching performances of this year. Seriously, you hit the right spots and put the pedal to the metal at the moment that not only the Rays, but the crowd needed last night. To say the outing was a success would be an understatement. You could have beaten any team last night with the way your stuff was breaking. And the fatc that your last pitch of the night was clocked at 98 m.p.h. tell me you still love throwing the heat.
Edwin Jackson has finally arrived as a major league pitcher. At a time when he needed a big game for himself and his team he responded with a 7-hit,1-run gem that will be talked about all the way until next Spring. Jackson went 7.2 iinings last night and threw 114 pitches enroute to getting his 12th victory of the year. Jackson also got 5 strikeout on the night for the Rays. Tonight was his 30th start of the season and was coming into the game 0-3 in September. With this win, Jackson is on solid ground to try and have his first winning season since he was 2-1 in 2004.
Instant Replay, Part Deux
Again we got to see the magic that is the MLB Control room in New York go to work on give the multi-viewed video of Carlos Pena’s “maybe” 31st homer. Carlos came up in the bottom of the 4th inning against Boof Bonser and hit a ball high and into the first row of Section 148 in the Trop. Because the fumble fingered fan who tried to catch the ball let it bounce off his digits and back onto the turf, the second base umpire, Gerry Davis, signaled for Fan Interference and put Pena at second base.
After some discussion by all four umpires and some prodding by Rays Manager Joe Maddon, the umpires went into their little cave under the stand beyond the visitor’s dugout to call MLB central command and get the video replays and do some idle chatting. About 5 minutes later, with Pena still standing on second, Gerry Davis came out and signaled homer run and Carlos was finally allowed to finish the home run trot for his 31st homer of the year.
So the Rays again make Instant Replay history with the first reversal of an on-field call last night. That makes twice this year that ESPN has been in the house and we have had replays. We are only 1-1 on replays this year, but the call was right and baseball can be proud that the system is working as it was envisioned. Now if we can just get the Qwest system to taser the unpires on bad strikezone calls…………or is that asking too much?
Pena not only hit a 3-run homer for his 31st of the season, but he also doubled to right in the 1st inning and scored the second run of the game for the Rays. But he also got a bases loaded walk in the 2nd inning that scored Eric Hinske and put the Rays ahead 5-0 at the time. But it was his blast in the 4th inning that shook and triggered the celebration for Tampa Bay. With Eric Hinske and Akinora Iwamura on base via walks in the inning, Pena hit his monster shot to right that had the celebration delayed a few minutes for further review. But after the unpire’s replay review Pena was able to celebrate his 4-RBI night in style with his team.
Gross has gone about his job this year in rightfield without a lot of fanfare. But several times during this game the rightfield faithful cheered and saluted Gross for his contributions in this contest. Gross tipped his cap to the crowd and you could see that smile was a mile long on his face. In this contest Gross went 2-4, with 1 run scored, but set up several Rays runs by advancing the runners in the game.
Here is another guy who just goes about his job with a smile. Aki at one point last night caught a hard liner to second by Jason Kubel for an out and then doubled up Justin Moreneau on the play. All you saw on the video screen was a sheepish grin on Aki’s face as he threw the ball around the infield. In the game, Aki took the second pitch by Twin’s starter, Nick Blackburn and put it into the gap in left centerfield and sprinted around the bases to get his 8th triple of the year.
Aki ended up scoring on Jason Bartlett’s grounder to short to put the Rays up 1-0. For the day, Aki was offically 1-2, but his 2 walks in the contest helped him score 4 runs in the game. In the 2nd inning, the Twins intentionally walked him to get to former Twins’ teammate Bartlett. Aki ended up scoing in the inning on Evan Longoria’s sacrifice fly to left.
Aki again walked in the 4th and was on base for Pena’s “alleged” blast to right. While the umpires decided the fate of Pen’as ball, Aki was already sitting in the dugout after scoring on the play. In the 6th inning, Aki was safe at first on the first of 2 errors that inning by Twin’s second baseman Alexi Casilla.
On the night, the Rays scored 3 runs in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th inning. They also got 2 runs in the 6th inning to finish the scoring for the night. In the contest, every Rays starter but Dioner Navarro got a hit in the game. But we cane give a mulligan to Navarro since he caught and called that great game by Jackson.
People comment that this team is not a team of superstars. I think that is the reason this team is the way it is this season. There are no huge egos or prima donna complexes on the staff. If someone does develop a complex, the leadership of Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena, along with Troy Percival would squash that problem like a bug. This team is a team that depends on every player to work and sweat for 9 innings. And with that aggression comes a price of securing their first post season berth in th club history.
Coming into the Boston series, I would have loved to know the Rays were going to “meatloaf” the defending World Seires champs. But when you have lost 8-straight in a stadium you kinda take what that team gives you. What Boston might have gave Tampa Bay last night was an inside track to winning their first of many A L East titles. The Rays are not looking to just make the playoffs, but make a statement about the AL East for the next 4 years or so. And I think the Bosot nfaithful now believe that the Rays are going to be the pests from the south for a long time.
What the Rays showed in this series is that sometimes you just need timely hits and great walks to secure a one or teo run game for your squad. You do not have to always blast a 3-run homes to win, but it sure does help. The Rays have been great all years in not having one guy take the blunt of a loss, or that too many guys get caught up in the winning that they forget where they were last season. With veterans on this squad like Carlos Pena, Eric Hinske, Trever Miller, and Cliff Floyd, you know the team is loose and can bounce back after any small blip this year.
Becuase we have a few guys in that clubhouse who have World Series Rings, it brings a sense of confidience that the Rays have the guys to lead them out of the cellar and into the light. This season has been a true sunburned exsistance for the Rays, but the work is not done yet. Every series and game from this poinr on is not only a new mark for the franchise, but a new level of security and cofidience for the future. Starting next season, the Rays can talk about getting back to this level, and moving beyond last years expectation to a new heights in the light.
I want to commend Jason Hammel on showing the moxy he has on the mound the other night. He came in pretty cold compared to most nights on the mound and did an excellient job securing the win. I have been critical of him this season, and maybe I just expect more out of him since he has no options left and must almost daily show why he should be here in 2009. I have a weird feeling he might not be with this squad in 2009 only becuase of the depth pushing upward from the Triple-A level. But last night he showed that he is a better pitcher than I thought he was, and that he is a clutch performer.
Rays Magical Number: 16
Combined Rays wins and Boston losses needed to secure their first AL East crown
Last night was Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine’s 4th attempt at win number 14. It is a pity that he did not factor into the decision, as he pitched one of the best games of the year for the Rays. Considering that he held the Boston offense to 1 run for so long is amazing. Not to say that he is not a great pitcher, but Boston could smell the blood in the water and knew thay had to quell these Rays before they could figure out how to win this contest.
Sonnanstine went 7 innings and pitched a 4-hit, 1 run gem that will go down as one of the most important games of this year for the Rays. It was not just a one man effort, which is just what they Rays have been all year long. They are 1 team. Sonnanstine also got 7 strikeouts on the night and really only had one inning where the Red Sox thought they could open this game wide open for a win.
In the 3rd inning, Jed Lowrie led off with a single down the first baseline just out of the reach of the outstretched Carlos Pena. Jason Varitek then hit a fielder’s choice, and Lowrie was safe at second on a bobble by Akinora Iwamura on the exchange with Jason Bartlett at second base. Aki was caught for his 7th error of the season, and the Red Sox had the first two batters on base in the inning.
Dioner Navarro the tired to pick off Lowrie, who had strayed a bit at second, but he got under Barlett’s tag at second. Jacoby Ellsbury hit into a 6-4-3- double play to give the Rays some breathing room, with Lowrie now at third base. Dustin Pedroia, a thron in the Rays’ pitching staff this season, then hit a liner down into the leftfield corner to score Lowrie and put Pedroia on second with his 46th double of the year. David Ortiz the hit a high popped to centerfield to end the inning with the score tied 1-1.
In Sonnanstine’s last inning, he threw 13 pitches and got the Red Sox in order. But what is more amazing is that he threw 6 straight strikes before giving up a ball to Lowrie before striking him out. Sonnastine then gave up a single to Jason Varitek, but then got Ellsbury to strike out on 4 pitches to end the inning.
You have to admire the job that Cliff Floyd has done with the Rays this season. Bad kness and all, Cliff has been the hustle and the leadership needed by this young team. He had lead by example and told the team to follow him, and they will end up in the promised land. I like that kind of mentality.
Floyd took a 0-1 pitch and slammed a hard grounder to Pedroia at second that caught the end of the turf behind the pitching mound and inceased its velocity towards him. Pedroia could do nothing with the ball and Floyd ended up with an infield single to second on the play.
Willy Aybar then took the first pitch from Red Sox starter,Josh Beckett and put it into the rightfield corner for a triple. Floyd was hustling so hard running from first to home you thought the guy was going to fall on his face from exhaustion after the play. But Floyd was all smiles as he strolled back to the smiling bench area knowing the Rays drew first blood in the game.
In the 2nd inning, the Rays caught a break when a fan reached out into the field of play and interferred with a ball hit down the line by Mike Lowell. On the replay, it looked like the ball might have just fell into fair territory if the fan did not touch it, but the thrid base umpire, Mark Wegner, was quick to call the out on the fan.
Dan Johnson, who was playing in the outfield for the first time in his MLB career, was sliding under the play when the fan reached out and changed the path of the ball. I honestly feel that Johnson would have gotten the ball, but it is great to see that the umpire was not gun shy in making that call in the perils of Fenway Park. Johnson did not have the proper glove to play the outfield, and had to use Floyd’s glove in the game.
The Rays had plenty of chances to blow this game wide open during the first 9 innings. In the 5th inning, the Rays had the bases loaded after Bartlett hit a single into the leftfield corner and Johnson and Pena got walks in the inning. But Floyd hit a long high fly ball to right to end the inning.
In the 6th Aybar hit a dying liner into centerfield that Ellsbury got within a few feet of falling to the turf. On the next play, Hinske hit a hard liner down the line at first that Kevin Youkilis knocked down and threw to Beckett for the force at first. Both these plays were of web gem quality.
Both squad suffered at the plate in this game with runners in scoring position. At one point, the Rays were 0-7 on the night, and were a combined 1-29 in the series against the Red Sox. Both squad have been on their best defensive behavior this series.
In the 8th inning, Pena lead off with his 21st double to the bottom of the Green Monster and put a man in scoring position early for the Rays. Ben Zobrist then walked on 7 pitches and the Rays had an early rally. Aybar the n popped up to Youkilis, and Fernando Perez wa issued a intentional walk to load the bases for Dioner Navarro. Navvaro ended up striking out, and Gabe Gross hit a gronder to second to end the inning for the Rays with the score still tied 1-1.
The Rays the n had another chance in the 11th inning to end the game, after Gross hit a liner into the leftfield corner, but Bartlett hit into a grounder to Pedroia who made the throw to Youkilis to end the inning. At that point, the Rays were 0-11 with runners in scoring position in the game. In the 13th, the Rays started a rally when Zobrist hit a ball into the rightfield corner for a double. This put another Rays in scoring position with no out in the inning. Aybar the walked, before leaving after a 6-4-3 double play on the ball hit by Perez. This put Zobrist at third with 2 outs. Navarro then hit a ball to first that Youkilis tossed to Red Sox reliever Manny DelCarmen for the last out.
In the 14th inning, the Rays already had two outs in the inning when Aki singled to centerfield. Rocco baldelli then came on and singled to leftfield to put Aki in scoring position. Pena then came up and then hit the second pitch from Mike Timlin over the Green Monster for a 3-run homer. His 28th homer was his first over the Green Monster in Fenway Park. This put the Rays up 4-1.
The bottom of the 14th inning saw Rays closer Troy Percival take the mound. Percival gave up a quick double to right center to get the lead off batter on for the Red Sox. Perdroia and Ortiz then walked on a total of 9 pitches before the bases were loaded for the Red Sox. Rays Manager Joe Maddon then came out and confronted Percival on the mound with Rays trainer Paul Harker. You could visually see that Percival and Maddon were having a very elevated discussion before Maddon signaled for a reliever and Percival went into the dugout.
It was found out after the game that Percival had been experiencing back problems while warming up in the Bullpen. Percival thought it was just a tight muscle and would loosen during the inning. Maddon did not take this as great news and immediately replaced Percival. You could see Percival grimicing on the mound during his pitches and even a bit when talking to Maddon.
Now this puts the Rays in a weird situation. You know that the team will have to evaluate the situation and make either an effort to give Percival some time to relax, or maybe give another one of the Bullpen guys like Dan Wheeler or Grant Balfour the ball at the end of the game. I honestly love the fighter mentality of Percival to give his all before bowing out, but at what cost will this have for the Rays. You have to admire the spunk and determination, but in this playoff enviorment, do you play favorites, or go for the jugular.
I say that we monitor Percival and limit the save oppotunities the rst of the season. If it looks like Percival will not be a great back end guy for the playoffs, let another of the young studs do the job and shut down Percival for the rest of the year. By giving his roster spot to another guy, you will open the situation of a up and coming guy to get valuable expereince for the years to come. I do not want to see Percival shut down, but sometimes a executive decision will have to be made on his on going injuries this year.
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.
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.
Last night you saw what I love about baseball. You are never out of a game, no matter what the score is at the time. Even if it is 2-outs, bottom of the 9th inning, if you can put some good wood on the bat, you have a chance to win the game. And the Yankees almost pulled off that theory to sweep us last night.
Now I know, Rays Manager Joe Maddon would not let this win get aways from the Rays, but it got close……..too close. I have seen many a Bullpen implsion in my 11 years following the Rays, and last night was just a blimp on the radar scope of implosions. Becuase of the recent scores in the Yankee games, Jason Hammel had has the duties as the garbage man, or guy who gets to mop up the innings because of the score.
And what has transpired is a bit disheartening. Hammel has pitched in 5 2/3 innings this homestand and has given up 9 hits and 8 runs in his releif appearances. Hammel is being groomed to be a reliever for the Rays and not a starter. With these numbers on a total of 114 pitches, it looks like the experiement will go sour for him. But I am not throwing Hammel out to the wolves here, just that he is a prime candidate for an off season change of scenery.
Since he is from Washington state, maybe the Mariner’s could use a young pitcher with a huge bit of potential. Unfortunately, he is out of minor league options and can not be sent down without going through waivers. If the Rays did subject him to the waiver wire, he would not last long and we would not get anything for him.
So the answer might be to try and salvage his career in the coming months and then find a good suitor who needs young pitching, major league quality pitching. With the backload we already have in the minors, it would not be in his best interest to stay here past 2008.
By the way, the Durham Bulls got beat last night 19-3 by the Louisville Bats and are heading home for the middle games of this best-of-5 series. The series is currently tied up at 1 win each.
Rays Magic number: 21
This is the Magical number of win or Boston losses combined to win the AL East Crown.
Scott Kazmir pitched like the team’s ace last night. He had great control of his fastball, used his change-up well, and threw in a few sliders for good measures. It is by far one of the best performances from Kazmir in 2008. And it came at a time that the Rays needed their ace to deliver. The unfortunate thing is that a high number of pitches got Kazmir an early night and not getting blasted by the Yankee’s bats.
Kazmir lasted 6 innings and left with a 1-hit shutout for his night. Kazmir got 7 strikeouts, but walked 5 tonight to show some slight concern on his high walk totals this year. But the night belonged to Kazmir finally pitching like he did in 2007. He showed confidience and strength on the mound and dominated the Yankee hitters all night long.
Did you know that the Rays’ starting pitchers all have at least 10 wins this season. That has only happened 6 times with a staff where all the starter were under 26 years old or younger. The Rays young guns joined the 1968 Oakland A’s as the only teams in history to have 5 pitchers aged 26 or younger with 20 starts and 10-game winners in the same season.
Willy Aybar put his defensive bad night behind him and came out wanting the win for the Rays. Aybar was spectacluar at third base last night completing several putouts in amazing form. And Willy again came alive at the plate for the Rays. Aybar went 2-4 on the night with 3 RBI’s and a run scored on the night.
But his big hit of the night was his solo shot to right to provide the needed run to secure the win for the Rays. With Evan Longoria still out with his wrist injury, Aybar will be called upon more by the Rays to fill in the gap until Longoria’s return. Aybar hit over .290 on the homestand and has recorded multiple hits in 10 of the last 22 games.
Dioner Navarro also had a career night going 4-5, with a run scored and is creeping up on .300 again this season. Navarro is currenting hitting .297 for the Rays and can raise his average up to over .300 again with a good roadtrip. Navarro collected 3 singles on the night and hit a liner that skidded over the Bullpen Cafe wall for a gorund rule double in the 7th inning (I could not reach that dang ball).
Navarro did have one bad thing happen to him last night. he was tagged out at home when he tried to score from second on Jason Bartlett’s single to centerfield. The Yankee’s Johnny Damon, not known for his arm anymore, put a ball right on target and got Navarro by 10 feet to end the 7th inning.
The 5th inning was key for the Rays last night as they tacked on 5 runs in that inning to set the tone for the night. Eric Hinske and Navarro got the inning off with a pair of singles, and Hinske advanced to third on a wild pitch by Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner. Gabe Gross then hit a double to center to score Hinske and put Navarro at third with no outs.
Jason Bartlett then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Navarro and put Gross at third with 1 out. Akinora Iwamura then hit a single to center to score Gross and put the Rays up 3-0 at the moment. A B J Upton single then put Aki at thrid with BJ at first base with only 1 out in the inning.
Carlos Pena then walked again on 6 pitches and the bases loaded for the Rays. Cliff Floyd then struck out and Aybar came up and hit a single to right that scored both Aki and Upton to raise the score to 5-0. In the inning, the Rays got 5 runs on 6 hits and chased Yankee’s starter Darrell Rasner from the game.
The Rays did have one more scoring opportunity in the game in the 8th inning when Iwamura hit a ball into the gap in left center and raced all the way around the bases for a triple. Upton then hit a sacrifice fly to score Iwamura from third base.
Speaking of Upton, I hope all the distractors are happy now to know that Upton has been playing with a slightly torn labium since he pulled his shoulder out in Baltimore earlier in the season. The injury is in his non-throwing shoulder and is not career threathening, so he has been playing in pain for some time. To imagine playing with such an injury, and still be hitting .272 on the year is just incredible to me.
So we know now why the power aspect of Upton’s game is not showing up as he is simply hitting with 1 arm up there at the plate. And to think it is his lead shoulder that is damaged shows the discipline and determination of B J this season. He has not whimpered or cried to the media about this sutation. And not until recently when he asked Maddon if he could limit his batting practice attempts to rest the shoulder did the situation even surface.
I think we all now need to just appreciate this guy more and more in the next few weeks ans know we have a guy who will do anything for his team, no matter what the cost. And you people have been badgering him for months now. Shame on all of us, even me.