Results tagged ‘ Fernando Perez ’

Game 5.5 Signals the End of the Rays Run

 

 

Phillies 4, Rays 3

 

I was told that J P Howell was taking the loss pretty hard last night after the Philadelphia Phillies ended the 46 hour lay-over of Game 5 of the World Series. I do not know why he is thinking it is the end of all things right now. You have to remember that this years’ team went above every expectation set by the coaches’ and management. they flew beyond any goal or lofty intention of every and any fan, and last, but not least, they made us proud to be Ray Fans.

I did not go out to the Trop last night at 3 a.m., I wanted to cheer and  applaud for the Rays for a job well done. But this is private time. I know as an ex-athlete that you need a little space right after a collossial event to get your feet back on the ground. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for the team the last 3 days. And no matter what the outcome, there was going to be some backlash mentally and emotionally.

Just remember guys, on Saturday at the City of St. Pete celebration, it will all seem to fade away. We have 107 days until we start it all over again, and I can not wait personally. Not for the goals and aspirations of 2009, but because the Rays deserve another shot at the title. If Rocco can come back off the canvas, why can’t we get another shot at the ring and the dream.

 

 

Congrats to the World Champions

Seriously, it was a great World Series from Game 1-5. The Phillies have been hungry for a title for 28 years in baseball. Heck, Pete Rose was playing third base back then for the Fightin’ Phillies. What was so special was to see 40-something Jamie Moyer go out to the pitching mound and take a pole and wedge that pitching rubber out of the clay and take it home.

It was an exciting series. And do I enjoy the end result………well, no, but I do enjoy the fact that it was settled on the field and not in a boardroom or in a conference call. We got to finish the game, and for that we have to thank Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. He wanted to play these games to their conclusions. He did not want a shortened World Series, or a series that would be questioned. He might still be questioned, but I think it was done with the most respect for both teams and was done as fast and as safe as possible.

Game 5 had to be stopped, and the Rays scoring in the top of the 6th inning on Monday gave him ample cause to suspend it and play it under better circumstances. There were an announced crowd of 44,000 on hand Wed. night. That is about 1,000 less than Monday, but those people might have already been on Broad Street preping for a good time by 8:30 that night. We played out the final 2 1/2 innings and the city got to have a dry and cool celebration after all.

 

 

Bullpen Moments

The Rays Bullpen has been a mainstay of this team for so long this season it amazes me that they are taking this loss so personally. If not for the efforts of everyone down there, especially Grant Balfour and J P Howell, we might not have even hit the playoffs at all this season. If you are looking for true MVP’s of this playoff run, you have to consider the entire Bullpen as a whole. They have gone above and beyond themselves all year long, and do not have anything to be ashamed of at all.

Grant Balfour went to the mound in the bottom of the 6th and Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel sent up Geoff Jenkins to pinch-hit for Cole Hamels, who was still the pitcher of record for the Phillies. Jenkins had played with Balfour with the Milwaukee Brewers’ and probably knows his pitching style better than anyone else on the bench.

 

 

On a 2-2 count, Jenkins hit a long fly ball into the right-center gap that hit off the scoreboard just out of the reach of a sprawling Rocco Baldelli. The ball fell to the turf and B J Upton went and retrived the ball to keep Jenkins to a double.  With Jenkins in scoring position, Jimmy Rollins came up and put doen a sacrifice bunt to move Jenkins less than 90 feet from giving the Phillies the lead in the game.

 

           

 

Jayson Werth then came up and hit a shallow looper to the spot between second base and the outfield. Akinora Iwamura went out to try and pull in the ball, but after trying to catch it via a basket-catch, the ball trickled down from his glove to the turf and Jenkins scored to give the Phillies the lead 3-2. That was the end of the night for Balfour, who went 1.1 innings total in the game, but went 1/3 of an inning tonight, giving up 2-hits and a lone run.

 

 

J P Howell then came on to face Chase Utley and got him to strikeout on 3 pitches. Ryan Howard then came to bat and hit a fly ball to Evan Longoria at third for the final out of the 6th inning. In the 7th inning, Pat Burrell came up to start the 7th inning and was hit-less in this years’ World Series. He was currently 0-13, when he hit hanging curveball into the left-center section of the outfield and clipped the high wall to settle for a double.

Burrell was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett at second base. That ended the night for Howell as he went 2/3rds of an inning throwing 7 pitches and giving up 1-hit and 1-run for the Rays. Chad Bradford came on and quickly got Shane Victorino to ground out to Iwamura at second base.  This moved Bruntlett to third with 1-out in the inning. Pedro Feliz then hit a ball up the middle for a RBI single and the Phillies were up 4-3 at that time.

Bradford got Carlos Ruiz to hit into a 4-6 force out at second, with Ruiz on first on a fielder’s choice. Iwamura made an amazing play behind second base to get the force out on Feliz. Phillies reliever J C Romero the came up and hit a ball to Iwamura that he flipped to Bartlett at second base for another force out to end the inning.

David Price then came on in the 8th inning and got a quick fly out from Rollins and a strikeout of Werth. He then gave up a walk to Utley before getting Howard to strikeout to end the inning for the Phillies.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli’s Blast

In the 7th inning, with Ryan Madson on the mound for the Phillies, Dioner Navarro struck out to lead off the inning. Then rocco Baldelli came up and on the first pitch took Madson deep to leftfield on a line drive homer to tie the game at 4-all. The Blast was just the first homer of the World Series for Baldelli, but it put life back into the Rays’ hopes for a Game 6 at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.

 

        

 

Jason Bartlett’s Gamble

You have to be pleased with the effort of Jason Bartlett at shortstop for the Rays this season. He has brought a solid defense and a secure bat to the lineup that the Rays have never had at the position. In the top of the 7th inning tonight, Bartlett hit a single to leftfield to try to keep the rally going after Baldelli’s homer.

J P Howell came up and batted in the inning for the Rays. This was an unsusual play as Rays Manager Joe Maddon could have used a pich hitter to hit for Howell since he had David Price and Chad Bradford warmed up in the Bullpen. But Maddon let Howell take his whacks at the plate for the Rays. Howell put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Bartlett to second and into scoring position for the Rays.

Iwamura then came up and hit a  infield single to  shallow centerfield and Bartlett was rounding third when Utley faked the throw to first and threw to home to get the streaking Bartlett by less than a foot at the plate. Bartlett was tagged out as he was stretching his hand for the plate and it ended the 7th inning for the Rays. It was a gutsy play by the Rays shortstop, and one that almost made a huge difference in the contest.

You have to credit Utley for seeing Bartlett taking a wide turn at third and streaking for home. If Utley has held onto the ball a split second longer, Bartlett would have scored and tied tha game at 4-all for the Rays. So if you have to find a defining moment in this game……..this was the series clincher fo the Phillies…. at the plate.

The Rays did try amd mount another rally in the 8th inning after Carl crawford lead-off with a single to centerfield. B J Upton hit a ball to short that Rollins turned into a 6-4-3 double play to remove the Rays threat in the inning. Pena then hit a weak fly ball to left to end the inning for the Rays.

In the 9th, Evan Longoria lead off the inning by hitting a fly out to second base. Navarro then hit a shattered bat single to right that fell in front of a hard charging Werth. Maddon then sent in Fernando Perez as a pinch-runner for Navarro. With pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist at the plate for the Rays, Perez stole second base on the third pitch to Zobrist and put a runner in scoring position for the Rays.

 

 

Zobrist then hit a shot to right that was caught by Werth for the 2nd out of the inning. With 1-out left in the Rays season, Maddon sent up Eric Hinske to pinch-hit for Bartlett. Hinske went down on three pitches to give the Phillies their first championship since 1980 in the majors.

 

 

Welcome Home  Rays

The Rays were scheduled to be flying into St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport at 3 am on Thursday. The team did not have a planned greeting at the airport and the team was to quickly get on their coaches’ for the trip to the Trop. Several people were at the airport waiting for the team, but they did not come through the baggage area and loaded straight from the plane on the tarmac.

 

 

The Rays then trekked from the airport to the back enterance at the Trop. There they were greeted by a few dozen fans who stood out in the cold to cheer for the hometown Rays. Several members of the team did come out and salute the crowd before heading into the Trop to pack and have some private time with team mates and family.

 

 

I will be getting the information on the City of St. Petersburg celebration sometime today or tomorrow. Stay tuned to your favorite Rays blog and I will be sure to pass on all the info I get as soon as I recieve it. Again, remember that this team exceeded all expectations of it during the season and should be roundly applauded for their hustle and determination to even get into the playoffs this season.

The Saturday event will be to celebrate not only the team;s efforts, but the increased support and bonding of the Tampa Bay area this season behind the Rays “Magical Summer Tour 2008″. The region has grown from just a spotty support group for the team, to an increasing fan base throughout the country and the world. The Rays are no longer the loveable losers of yesteryear. We now have tasted the fruits of winning, and it is sweet to our mouths, and we yearn for more……….

 

             Pitchers’ and Catchers’ Report in 107 DAYS.

 

 

Rays Shock Red Sox Nation to go 3-1 in ALCS

 

 

                                         

 

I was reading a blog the other day by a Red Sox supporter that was commenting on the huge amount of noise in the Trop. during the game that they could not enjoy watching the game. Well, after watching the crowd in Fenway basically sitting on their hands the last 2 nights, I will take the noise any day.

I always find it odd when people are commenting and grumbling about crowd noise in a baseball game these days. The game has become very interactive with the fans in the videos, the player at bat intor songs, and the small segments, like the Pepsi Race at Tropicana Field. It is not like the usual baseball fan has any bouts with ADD at all.

If they did, that fan would be the one hit by every foul ball in the place. The reason I really love my seats in Rightfield is that I can actually be part of the game sometimes. If a foul ball comes into my section, I usually try and see if I can get it without killing a massive amount of women and children. Seriously, I catch about 7 a season, and maybe 3 end up in my bag for another time.

The people who usually get my booty is the kids or a person at ther first baseball game. I remember last month, during the Orioles series there was a dad and his two sons from Denmark sitting in the Bullpen Cafe. I made sure that Bobby Ramos got them a ball before they left, not to get another Rays fan, but to get another kid to love the game of baseball.

With the appeal of the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, and another in the near future, the popularity of our great sport will rush like the wind into the nooks and crannies of Europe and we might actually have a real World’s Championship before I leave this earth. I can dream can’t I. Think about it, South Africa playing Iraq in a quarterfinal match, or maybe even Israel playing Syria in another match. It could change the way we see crisis in the future……..but I can dream can’t I?

 

 

Rays 13, Red Sox 4

 

 

 

 

Game 4 Facts and Figures

Coming into tonight game, Akinora Iwamura was chasing Darin Erstad’s record of consecutive games with a hit. Iwamura had hit at least once in all 7 of the Rays games until tonight. Iwamura unfortunately went 0-5 on the night and dropped his postseason average to .222 for the playoffs.

The Rays have now scored 9 plus runs in 3 consecutive games. That is the first time in history that a Playoff virgin team has won so many games in a row to start their playoff career. The Rays have also scored 31 runs on 39 hits since the Game 1 loss at home last Friday night.

B.J. Upton is the first player to hit five or more home runs in a single postseason after hitting fewer than 10 home runs during the preceding regular season.  I loved looking at the attendance at Fenway Park tonight. They had a total of 38, 144 people in the building, which rounds out to 104 percent capacity for the Park. Guess it is true you cram everyone and their brother into a building at playoff time.

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine

How can you find fault with a guy who has been a thron in the Red Sox side the entire year. Sonnanstine came into this start not giving up a earned run to the Rex Sox in his last 2 starts. He might not be in the Rays top 3 pitchers’ this postseason, but he is almost as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning for the Rays.

Sonnanstine always gives you a chance to win with his off-speed pitching stytle and great control. And tonight was another great example of why he has won Pitcher of the Year awards all throughout the Rays farm system. Consistant strikes and blazing the corners with his slider and curveball.

 

 

 

 

Sonnanstine went 7.1 innings tonight throwing 97 pitches before heading to the showers. He got only 2 strikeouts on the night, and gave up only 4-run on 6-hits to the Red Sox. It is kind of funny that his old Triple-A catcher, Kevin Cash is the guy who took him long tonight. Sonnanstine did his usual job of not beating himself and put together a great game to help the Rays go up 3-1 in this best-of-7 series.

 

 

Unusual Errors on the Night

Coming into this series the Rays have not gotten alot of defensive mistakes and  baserunning errors. But in tonight contest, the Rays committed  3 errors, most after the game was already in the Rays hands.  Evan Longoria committed 2 errors tonight, one on a ground ball, and the other on a throw to first in the 2nd inning on a ball hit down the line by Jason Bay.

Longoria lost concentration on the ball and it stumbled a bit near his feet before he got the ball and threw a bullet to first. Un fortunately Carlos Pena could not get the ball and it rolled into the Red Sox dugout, and put Bay in scoring position for the Red Sox. The Rays ended up getting a 4-6-3 double play and erased Bay from the basepaths to ease Longoria’s mind.

In the 8th inning, with Jed Lowrie on second base, Dusitn Pedroia hit a ball into shallow center that B J upton over ran and had to go retrieve the ball. Lowrie scored and  Pedroia ended up on second on the error. Pedroia did come back to haunt Upton as he scored when Kevin Youkilis hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI- double and Pedroia scored with ease to put the score at 13-4.

Willy Aybar did not get charged with an error, but more of an error in judgement when he was caught leaning towards second on a single in the 5th inning after singling to left. As the ball was coming back towards the plate for a play on Carl Crawford, Aybar leaned a bit too far towards second, and Youkilis intercepted the throw and tossed a bullet to Mark Katsay who tagged out Aybar for the 2nd out of the inning.

 

 

 

Carl Crawford is Back

Coming into this series, everyone was questioning if Carl Crawford was at full strength and could be a factor in this years’ playoff race. After tonight’s performance, I think those skeptics will put that notion away until next season. Crawford went 5-for-5 tonight, with 2 stolen bases and 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. It tied the ALCS record with Paul Blair of the 1980′s Orioles, and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui for a perfect 5 at bat night. Carl is currently hitting 9 for 18 in the series, or a .500 average for the ALCS.

Crawford got the party started early when he smacked a double to right in the 1st inning.  Crawford kept his most controversial hit for the next at bat when he hit a soft grounder towards the area to the right of the pitching mound that Red Sox starter, Tim Wakefield had to come off the mound to handle. Wakefield had to sprawl out on the turf to glove the ball and could not get the ball to first in time to save the infield single to Crawford. He ended stealing second base, then scored on Willy Aybar’s homer in the inning.

 

 

 

 

Crawford then got another double off the Green Monster in left and again scored on Aybar’s single to shallow left. He came up again in the long 6th inning and hit a blooper single into left to score Upton from third base. Carl ended up being stranded on base at the end of the inning.

In the 8th inning, Crawford hit a ball into the gap in rightfield that was barely missed by J D Drew as he claosed in on the ball. The ball went off the outside of his glove and went to the wall. At the end of the play, Crawford was standing on third with an RBI-triple. On the play, Pena had ran from first to home and scored easily on the play.

 

 

        

 

Willy Aybar’s Wild Ride

Another guy that was having a banner night was Willy Aybar for the Rays. He was inserted in the lineup to bat right-handed against Wakefield, and the rolling of the dice again by Rays Manager Joe Maddon came up “7′s” across the board.  Willy came on and got 5 RBI’s on the night, while going 4-5 at the plate. He shares a current .500 ALCS  batting average with Crawford.

 

 

 

 

Aybar got the scoring going with a 2-run homer out of the building and over the Green Monster in the 3rd inning.  He then got an RBI-single in the 5th, but was picked off by being too aggressive on the bases tonight. In the 6th inning he hit an RBI single to left that scored Crawford. And in the 8th inning he hit a single to right to score Crawford again to finish his 5-RBI night.

 

 

 

Evan Longoria

When he came up after the Ray’s first 12 games this season, you knew he was going to have a fantastic season for the team. But you can bet Maddon and Andrew Friedman could not imagine the total domination this rookie has had at the plate during the playoffs this season. Longoria went 1-4 tonight with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.

 

 

 

 

His first RBI came off his blast into the Green Monster in the 1st inning. the shot went long and deep into the high section and it put the Rays up 3-0 at the time.  With the homer, Longoria became the new holder of the rookie home run record in the playoffs with 5 for the postseason and counting. But that was not the only time Longoria got on base tonight as he walked in the 6th inning and got another RBI off the walk-in of Iwamura on the play.  It was is 6th RBI of the playoff series.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena

Because he is hitting between the twenty-something tandem of Upton and Longoria, Carlos Pena has been seeing alot more breaking balls and  off-speed pitches this postseason. But becuase of the recent onslaught of both  players’ hitting more homers for the team, opposing pitchers’ have been picking their poison by pitching to Pena this series.

And with his solo blast in the 9th inning last night, Pena has now homered twice on the last 3 pitches he has seen this series.  His 2-run homer in the 1st inning gave the Rays an early lead 2-0 tonight. For the night, he went 1-3, with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored. He also got 2 walks tonight to get on base 60 percent of his chances tonight.

 

 

 

 

Carlos’s shot over the Green Monster tonight gives him 3 unbelievable shots  in the section this season at Fenway Park. Before this year, he had never homered into the Green Monster against the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, his walk loaded the bases for the Rays as they scored  5 runs in the inning.  In the 8th, he walked on 6 pitches and scored on Crawford’s triple to right.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson

Most people already know how I feel about Edwin Jackson as a pitcher for the Rays. It take a certain kind of pitcher to adjust from being a starter to going to the Bullpen, to going back to a starter, to switching into long relief or clean-up roles in the Bullpen. 

I think Jackson has done a great job adjusting to the new role in the ALCS, and I hope if the Rays hit the World Series he is still on the 25-man roster to fulfill the same role in the Rays next step. For the night, Jackson came on and went 1.1 innings and gave up a single walk and got 4 strikeouts on 25 pitches. But his biggest job was to shut down the Red Sox from trying to gain momentum and try and get back into this contest.

Jackson came on toirelieve Trever Miller, who threw 1/3 of an inning and got 1 strikeout on 5 pitches. Jackson quickly got Jason Bay to strikeout to end the 8th inning. He came out in the 9th and got pinch-hitter Sean Casey to strikeout and then walked both Coco Crisp and pinch-hitter Jocoby Ellsbury on 4 pitches each to put a man in scoring position for the Red sox.  Jackson then buckled down and got Jed Lowrie and Kotsay to strikeout to end the rally and the game for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

How much do you think the last few games have taken out of the confidience of the Boston Red Sox.  The fact that in the last 2 games their pitching staff has given up a total of  7 home runs to the Rays.  Tonight’s starter, Tim Wakefield was pitching for the first time in the last 16 days.

The Red Sox pitching staff  has given up a total of  10 home runs in the 4 games so far in this series. The staff has a ERA of 7.17 in the ALCS, and we might have more games to play. They have allowed 43 runs and 17 walks in 37.2 innigs in this series.

Combine that with the Red Sox currently hitting .232 as a team, with Jacoby Ellsbury hitting .000, and David Ortiz is batting .071, with only one extra base hit (triple tonight).  Cather Jason Varitek is also hitting .000, having gone 0-10 so far in the series. Combine that with 1 stolen base by Dustin Pedroia and 5 total homers in the series and you have a team searching for an offensive identity right now.

I am not trying to wake up the Boston bat’s, or throw the pitching staff under the bus here. But without Daisuke Matsuzaka’s great game 1 performance, this series might be over tonight.  The rematch on Thursday night will be a true test to the moxy that is the Boston Red Sox.

Maybe this day off is coming at the right time for this team and they can pull it together enough to give a aggressive and expected effort in the last game at Fenway Park this season against the Rays. But you got to remember, as of tonight, the Rays’ have now won 4 straight games at Fenway, something they could not do earlier in the 2008 season.

 

 

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Take Homefield Advantage From Red Sox

 

 

What is that old saying, “It felt like deja vu all over again.” You have to feel that way if you are either a Red Sox or Rays fan right now. Homefield advantage is suppose to be worth at least an opening game victory in a short series. But what happened tonight might have set the whole ball rolling down the hill for the Red Sox in the ALCS against the upstart Rays.

These Rays had the gumption to take the American League East title from the Wrold Champions in 2008. And they also showed alot of energy and national spirit in holding off the Red Sox in the last month of the season to claim that prize. But the straw that might have broken the Red Sox Nation’s back might be hitching your wagon to the young sensations’ shooting star.

Who do these Rays think they are coming into the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park and winning the last 3 games in this landmark.  And how dare these upstarts come in and take that fantasy of a secure 2-1 Red Sox series win away by defeating the unstoppable Jon Lester in his domain. Do we think we might have forgotten that homefield advantage did not work for the Rays, then why could we be sure we might be immune to the same ailment in Boston?

Did the Red Sox forget to tell us we are suppose to be belly-up by now and just treading water before we go down for the last count. This series took a major turn tonight. Not just becuase of a loss by the home team, but that the statistics point to a break for the Rays. In 8 of the last 12 ALCS, if the road team won Game 3, they went on to the World Series that season.  Could the Red Sox have put all their eggs in one basket, and their newly annointed superstar just become human for one night……

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 1

 

 

 

 

Matt Garza

Coming into tonight’s game, Rays starter Matt Garza went back to his season superstition of not talking to the media the day before his start. He did that the entire season before balking from that tradition and talking to the media before his first playoff start against the Chicago White Sox . 

He then went out and had a whale of a time not only with the fowl in the stadium, but with the mound and with the White Sox hitters and had one of the most unusual starts of his career. So he went back with some familiarity and went into media black-out before this start.

 

 

 

 

Garza was coming into this start as the underdog, and was being considered inferior to the Red Sox starter, Jon Lester. The enitre week Garza heard all the hype and the drama surrounding Lester before seeing it all implode in front of him, and the stage was set for Garza to make his national debut as a true fireballer.

 

 

 

 

Garza threw his fastball and curve with such control that it made Dioner Navarro’s job east tonight. He had no pressure on himself since the local pundits decided even before the first pitch that the Rays would bow down to Lester by the 5th inning. Garza did nothing more than shut down the powerful offense and leave the game  after 6 innings of work with 116 pitches, and 5 strikeouts while earning his first Postseason win.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Facts

Coming into this contest, the Rays had won 3 straight in Fenway Park since their last series victory in September. The win tonight took the homefield advantage from the Red Sox and firmly put the emphsis on the Tampa Bay Rays right now.  Coming into this game, when the Rays had at leats 5 runs in a contest, they are a combined 36-0 on the year. In this game, every member of the starting 9 got at least 1 hit in this contest.

Consider that with the fact the Rays also tied the Boston Red Sox for the total homers in a single game in the ALCS series with 4 tonight. The Red Sox set their record last Saturday night at the Trop.

With their 9 homers, B J Uptron and Evan Longoria now have the most homers by teammmates under the age of 25 in ALCS history. They beat the previous record held by Darryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra of the 1986 New York Mets.  Longoria is also currently tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most homers by a rookie in the AL Playoffs with 4 homers. Cabrera set his record during the Florida Marlins run at the title in 2003.

Since the advent of the best-of-7 series, the Game 3 winner has gone onto the World Series in 8 of 12 past ALCS series.  In ALCS and NLCS, if the road team won Game 3, they have moved onto the Championship in 8 out of 10 series.

 

 

 

 

The BJ and Longo Show

One thing the Rays have been great at this season is timely hitting out of every member of this team. In tonight’s game, the duo of Upton and Longoria went a combined 3-9 at the plate, but accounted for 3 runs scored, and 4 RBI’s. They are both hitting .308 in the ALCS, and playing inspired defense for the Rays.

Longoria got the scoring going tonight by getting a lead-off walk off Red Sox starter Jon Lester. In this contest, Lester let the lead-off man on in 4 of his 6 inning tonight. Longoria moved to second on Willy Aybar’ single to right, then moved to third base on a passed ball by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.  Longoria then came into score on Navarro’s grounder to second to put the Rays up 1-0 in the 2nd inning.

In the 3rd inning, Jason Bartlett got his only hit of the night on a single to center to lead off the inning. Akinora Iwamura then hit a ball off the Green Monster for a double and the Rays had men on second and third with no-outs in the inning. Upton then came up and hit a ball out over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Avenue to put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

After Carlos Pena struck out, Longoria then came up and hit his solo shot out into the seat in the Green Monster that a Rays fan luckly caught to put the Rays up 5-0, still in the 3rd inning.

 

 

 

 

Upton then hit a ball off Lester’s glove for a single, and moved to second on Pena’s bunt down the third baseline. Upton then tried to gauge Kevin Youkilis’s  position on the field and over ran second and was tagged out on the quick toss by Youkilis to Alex Cora for the first out of the inning.

 

 

 

 

C.C. Express on Track 1

In the 8th inning, with the Rays up 6-1, the Rays might have made their biggest statement to date on their agrressive stayle on this series. Carl Crawford lead off the inning with a blooper single to center to start the inning.  Crawford moved to third on Aybar’s single to leftfield and set up a first and third situation with no one out in the game.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro hit a grounder to Dustin Pedroia that he quickly gloved and threw to home to get the speeding Crawford at the plate. Crawford braced for a collision with Varitek and brought his elbows up to block and hopefully force the ball from Varitek’s glove.

 

 

 

 

Crawford came in and with total force got Varitek just under the mask and his equipment flew a good 6 feet away from the catcher. Varitek took the force of the collision with his upper body and rolled over and then showed the ball to home plate umpire Brian Onora, who signaled Crawford out at the plate. It was a bold move by Crawford, but showed that the speedy leftfielder was back in shape and ready to take on all comers in the Playoffs.

 

 

        

 

 

J P Howell and Edwin Jackson

The Rays Bullpen then took over the game in the 7th inning for Garza. Becuase of the number of relievers used in Saturday’s game, Garza was under the gun to go at least 7 innings tonight to give the Bullpen some time to refresh and he performed perfectly to plan for the Rays.

J P Howell came on and threw 2 scoreless innings on 20 pitches and gor two more strikeouts to raise his total to 10 in the postseason.  Howell had the first earned run charged to him since August 30th against the Orioles, snapping a string of 20 inning (15 game ) regular and postseason without an earned run.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson, the only pitcher in the Bullpen not used on Saturday night, came on in the 9th inning and  closed out the game for the Rays. In his 1 inning of work, Jackson threw 8 strikes in his 14 pitches in the inning.  He got both Mark Kotsay and Varitek to ground out to Iwamura, who easily threw out both men at first base. He then got Cora to hit a fly to Crawford in left to end the chances for the Red Sox in the game.

 

 

 

 

Socco Rocco

Rocco Baldelli grew up about an hoyr from Fenway Park and dreamed of playing in the stadium in the playoffs. Little did he know back then it would be for the Tampa Bay Rays, and that his 3-run shot would hit the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster and drop back onto the field.  His 3-run blast came right after the play at the plate featuring Crawford and Varitek and Rocco took the 3rd pitch he saw from Red Sox reliever Paul Byrd and popped it into the twilight.

In April, at a news conference in the bowels of Progress Energy Field, Baldelli could not have imagined this day would happen for him this year. At that press conference he announced that he was going on the disabled list to combat his fatigue situation and he began his hard road back to the Rays 25-man roster. 

 Everyone had to admit that Baldelli’s rise from the depths of not even knowing if he might ever play a inning of baseball again, to hitting a 3-run shot over the Green Monster is the thing of movies and fantasies. I can personally say that it could not have happened to a better guy.

He has been a total team mate since his past injuries and excepting his limited role on this team as a specialist against left-handed pitchers in the seond half of the season. I will have to ask him who will play Rocco Baldelli in the movie about his life. They guy who scouts once touted as “Joe DiMaggio’s twin” got to have his childhood fantasy moment after fighting to just get back on the field at all…………..Classic, simply classic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Minor League Awards 2008

 

 

I know it has been a few weeks since the team announced their award winners for the Minor Leagues during the last homestand. I was actually saving this for one of the off days of the ALDS, but I never got around to posting the results before today. So I apologize for the late posting of all the winners, and hope to find a few picture of them online to supplement the winners names.

 

In the recent years, the Rays have established and upgraded their presence in the Dominican Republic and in Venezulan Winter Leagues. These outposts will be a far reaching arm of the Rays instructional and scouting mission into the baseball rich countries of Venezula and the Dominican Republic.

 

Dominican Player of the Year                                Cesar Guillen

Dominican Pitcher of the Year                               Juan Wilsino

 

Venezulian  Player of the Year                               Alejandro Torres

Venezulian Pitcher of the Year                              Devivis Manares

 

The Appalachcian League  Princeton Devil Rays ended their season  at 24-38 this year. The team is the first step for players to get a feel for the rigors and the responsibilities of playing professional baseball. The team is a great first stepping stone in the Rays organization at the Short Season level.

 

 

Princeton Player of the Year                                      Elias Ostero

Osteros lead  Princeton in hitting with a .332 average.

 

Princeton Pitcher of the Year                                    Matt Moore

Moore had 1.66 ERA and 77 strikeouts for Princeton this season.

 

 

The Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League is a short season Class-A stop for the Tampa Bay Rays. The team ended their season 9 games back of the Staten Island Yankees in their division. But the Renegade are expecting big things in 2009 with their strong finish to the 2008 season.

 

Hudson Valley Player of the Year                         Kyeong Kang

Kang split time between left and rightfield in 2008 for the Renegades, and hit .279, with 15 doubles and 7 triples on the year.

 

Hudson Valley Pitcher of the Year                       Nick Barnese

Barnese appeared in 13 games this season , going 5-3 for the team. He also had 2.45 ERA, and struck out 84 batters in 66 innings, and allowed only 1 home run this season.

 

This is the last season in Columbus for the Catfish. They will be relocating to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the 2009 season.  The Catfish finished their last season in the Southern Atlantic League with a record of 40-26, and finished 5.5 game out in the Southern Division. Columbus is a lo Class-A destination for the Rays minor league players.

 

Columbus Player of the Year                                      Reid Fronk

Fronk hit .287 , with 29 doubles and 17 homers for the Catfish. Fronk also had 83 RBI’s and 74 walks to lead the Southern Athletic League.

 

Columbus Pitcher of the Year                                   Jesse Darcy

Darcy threw 133 innings for the Catfish, and was 7th in the league in with a 3.05 ERA. He alsotied for 3rd in the league in WHIP at 1.05.

 

The Vero Beach Devil Rays will also be moving in 2009. Theyw ill move to the Tampa Bay Rays’ new Spring Training home in Port Charlotte and will be under run mutually between the Rays and the Cal Ripken baseball group. The name of the team has not been decided at this time. This team is a high Class-A farm team for the Rays. Vero Beach ended up at the bottom of the Florida State League’s Eastern Division with a 20-46 record for 2008.

 

Vero Beach Player of the Year                                  Ryan Royster

Royster ended up with a .265 average for the D-Rays, and 58 RBI for the season.

 

Vero Beach Pitcher of the Year                               Jeremy Hellickson

This is Hellickson’s 2nd award as the Minor League pitcher of the Year for a team in the Rays minor leagues. Hellickson  went 7-1, with a 2.00 ERA. He also had 83 strikeouts and a .90 WHIP for the Devil Rays.

 

The Montgomery Biscuits were the Southern Leagues Champs in 2006 and 2007. The Biscuite were eliminated from the post season  byt eh West Tenn, Diamond Jaxxs. The Biscuite are the Class-AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished their season 2nd in the South Division with a 35-33 record for the year. 

 

Montgomery Player of the Year                                 Chris Nowak

Nowak lead the Biscuite with a .295 average, with 80 runs and 35 doubles on the year. He also had 15 homers and 77 RBI’s for the Biscuits.

 

Montgomery Pitcher of the Year                               Wade Davis

Davis had a record of 9-6 , with 107.1 inning pitched for the Biscuits. He also had  81 strikeouts and  3.85 ERA for Montgomery before being promoted to Triple-AAA.

 

The Durham Bulls won the Southern Division title with a 74-70 record and made it to the International League’s Governor’s Cup final before losing to  the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. The Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

Durham Player of the Year                                          Dan Johnson

Johnson hit for a .307 average to rank 6th in the International League. He also had 25 home runs and 83 RBI’s on the year. Johnson also lead the International League in walks with 84 this season.

 

Durham Pitcher of the Year                                       Mitch Talbot

Talbot ended up with a 13-9, with a 3.86 ERA for the Bulls. Talbot was 4th in the league with 141 strikeouts and had a 1.24 WHIP.

 

The Rays Minor League  players of the year was really no suprise to the Rays faithful in the stands that day. Both of these players had remarkable years in which they made huge strides to make impressions on the Tampa Bay Rays Coaching staff.

 

Minor League Pitcher of the Year                            David Price

Price was selected by Baseball America as the Mnior League Pitcher of the Year before the event at Tropicana Field. Price went from Class-A Vero Beach through the Rays Minor League system to become a September call-up for the Rays after Durham was eliminated from the International League playoffs.

 

Minor League Player of the Year                            Fernando Perez

From the first day Perez took the field at Tropicana Field for the Rays he has done nothing but impress the Coaching staff and might have made a good reflection to get a long look in the outfield for the Rays in 2009. Perez hit .288, with 107 hits at Durham this year. He also was 3rd in the International League with 43 stolen bases this year. He has been considered the fastest man in the minors by Baseball America.

 

The final award of the night is the Erik Walker Community Champion Award. the award is given to the Rays’ minor leaguer who shows teamwork,sportsmanship and communit involvement. The award was created in honr of Erik Walker who perished in a canoe accident in October 2006. 

 

Erik Walker Community Champion Award                  Matt Springs

 

Springs was a catcher with the Montgomery Biscuits in 2008, and is heavily involved in the Montgomery community. He is volunteer in the Alabama Summer Reading Program at the Community Center in Prattville, Ala.  He was also involved in the Biscuits’ Junior Press conference twice this season letting school age kids 10-13 get a chance to ask questions and write a story about the Biscuits and Springs’ during the year.

 

 

 

Rays Win Last Gameof the Season in 11th Inning

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

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

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

 

                      

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

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

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

                               

James Shields

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

 

Mitch Talbot

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

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

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

 

Rays Bullpen

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

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

 

                          

Edwin Jackson

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

 

            

 

Powerful 5th inning

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

 

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

 

         

 

Big 8th Inning Rally

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

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

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

 

             

 

Ben Zobrist

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

 

         

 

ALDS Opponent

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

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

 

Apology

 

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

Rays Lose Third Straight to Tigers

 

Tigers 4, Rays 3

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Matt Garza

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Jeff Niemann

 

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

 

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

 

 

Ben Zobrist

 

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

 

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

 

 

Rocco Baldelli

 

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

 

 

Better Defense

 

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

 

 

Twins and White Sox

 

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

 

 

Cowbell Kid

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Rays Score 11 Unanswered Runs Against Orioles

 

 

Rays 11, Orioles 6

 

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:         

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).

 

       

 

Edwin Jackson

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.

 

                                 

 

Bullpen Moments

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. 

 

 

 

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.

Where is Kool and the Gang When You Need Them?

 

 

Rays 7, Twins 2

 

Back in the first weeks of Spring Training, the local fishwraps here in Tampa Bay asked the Rays starting pitchers’ about a prediction for the season. Most gave a pat, simple answer that it is too early to  predict much, but good things will happen to the Rays this year. Only one guy seemed to want to go above the norm and blow the lid off the prediction kettle.

Scott Kazmir came out and predicted that the Rays would be in the playoffs. Plain and simple. He was not under doctors care, he was clean, clear-headed and about to pitch in a simulated game when he answered the question. For a few seconds you might imagine the newspaper guys and the video crews wanted to check Scott’s locker for unsual item, like a Quija board, a fortune telling 8-ball, or a deck of Tarot cards.

It is with great pleasure that I can now deem Scott Kazmir one of the prophets of the Rays Republic. Kazmir is now a member in lifetime standing in the Rays Republic for comments above and beyond the scope of normal citizens. I have to admit I had the Rays at 80-85 wins, which would have been a mass improvement in one year. But I also would not throw away any more than that total.

At the beginning of the season I was unsure of Matt Garza as a total pitcher. Now I think this guy can turn into an ace onb this staff with some time and patience. I also had a few doubts about Jason Bartlett, but those fell by the wayside soon after he made plays that past shortstops would just wave at as they slowly bounced by them. He molded into this team’s 2008 MVP. He was chosen for his defense, his leadership, and for his huge upgrade at the position in general.

 

Rays 7, Twins 2

 

 

                               

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Come out for warmups freshly shaved, Scott Kazmir took his cap off and showed the Rays faithful his new ‘hawk, the symbol of this young ballclub this season. I could think of no other pitcher who deserved to be on the mound today to secure the Rays their first Playoff Berth in the club’s short history. Since Kazmir will probably be the next retired Rays number in the Trop. some day, it was fitting and truly an honor to watch this guy hit the mound tonight.

And Kazmir came out with the heat tonight. He went 6 innings of 5-hit shutout ball and picked up 5 strikeouts on the night. Those 5 k’s put him in 10th place in th AL this year with 158 for the year. Kazmir had all thre of his pitches grooving on the plate last night. Gone was the odd feeling of the ball leaving his hand as he talked about in his last start earlier in the homestand. Now the ball felt right in his hand and his slider was especially on today.

 

 

 

 

Top 6  batters’ in the Order

The top 6 batters’ in the Rays order each got at least one hit today. Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria each had one hit on the day. Carlos Pena made his one hit count as he hit a 2-run double to deep right center that scored Iwamura and Eric Hinske to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Evan Longoria rounded out the top 4 batters with an RBI  to deep center that scored Jason Bartlett in the 5th inning.

Cliff Floyd went 2-3 on the night with a homer to right in the 7th inning, and a single to right center in the 4th inning. Floyd was also intentionally walked in the 5th inning when the Rays ended up scoring 5 runs. But the show tonight was centered on the guy who was calling game behind the plate.

Dioner Navarro had another banner night when his team needed it most. He went 3-4 in the game and 1 RBI. Navarro started the night hitting a single to deep right in the 2nd inning. Navarro then hit a double to right to get Cliff Floyd into scoring position at third base. Then Navarro hit another double to right that scored Pena and put Longoria and Floyd into scoring position. On his only out of the night, Navarro hit a squibbler down the first baseline that was easily turned into an out. But he had already done the damage that night on the bases.

 

 

Bottom of the Order

The bottom of the Rays order has kept them in a huge amount of games in the past few weeks. Tonight the bottom of the order only produced 2 hits, but they also had 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s on the day. Rocco Baldelli walked on 4 pitches in the 4th inning to score Longoria and put the Rays up 5-0 at the time.

Fernando Perez only went 1-4 today, but he also scored a run and got an RBI. Perez homered for his 3rd of the season in the 6th inning. Perez also made another great play in centerfield today on a dying ball hit into shallow centerfield. He quickly got a bead on the ball and caught it about a foot above the turf.  Perez also got a outfield assist today when Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to center and Prez quickly got the ball back into the Rays infield where  Pena threw to third base to get the sliding Justin Morneau  for the second out of the 4th inning.

 

 

Troy Percival

I have been a huge of everything that Troy Percival has done this year for the Rays. I understand how he wants the ball in key situations, but I also wonder if he might still be nursing an injury a little more severe that he lets on to the public and to Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Percival had a few epidermal injections in the last few days to take a bit of the pain away from his back region.

I am now wondering after this outing if the injury might be a disc problem based on him changing his warm-up routine in the Bullpen area. Troy used to do about 5-10 push-ups dailt and do a bit of yoga back stretching before taking the mound. He no longer does either event and it might be leaving him a bit stiff, or the injury might be limiting his mobility. Either way, it should be a red flag to the Rays that he is not able to be 100 percent for the team right now.

In the 9th inning last night, Maddon wanted his big horse to take these guys to the promised land of securing the playoffs on his broad shoulders. What ended up happening is that Percival gave up 1-hit and 2-runs in his 1/3 of an inning today and might not be the closer we want him to be right now. Brendan Harris got on base on an error by Jason Bartlett on a bad throw to first base. He then stole second to get into scoring position with 1 out in the inning.

Carlos Gomez then walked on 6 pitches to put two Minnesota runners’ on base. Denard Span then hit a ball into the rightfield corner that was mishandled by Rocco Baldelli and Harris scored the first run of the day for the Twins.  Span moved to second on the throwing error by Baldelli who actually had a great idea of throwing to second to keep Span from moving up, but there was no one at second to recieve the throw and the ball skidded through the infield before Bartlett got it in the shortstop hole.  Alexi Casilla then grounded out to Bartlett, who zipped the throw to first as Gomez crossed the plate with the Teins second run of the inning.

 

 

Trever Miller

Miller was warming up as Percival was beginning to get into truoble in the top of the 9th inning. Trever came in immediately following Span’s double down the rightfield corner and got Casilla to ground out before  getting Joe Mauer to finally hit a foul ball up the third baseline that Longoria cradled for the third out and the beginning of the celebration.

Miller was one of the first people to be interviewed after the on-field celebration, and when he took his cap off, you saw the new mohawk haircut that threw the crowd into hysterics. Miller earlier in the week said he might be the last one in line for a ‘hawk hairdo, but here he was supporting his team by sporting the fashion statement in Tampa Bay. I hope his wife did not mind his hairy donation to the Rays cause.

 

 

Rays Bullpen

The rest of the Rays Bullpen quickly came down to Miller side and celebrated between home and the mound and began a 3 hour celebration seen on the Jumbotron for everyone in the stadium. Also having a great night on the mound for the Rays today was Grant Balfour and J P Howell, who each threw an inning of scoreless relief for the Rays.

 

 

Where Is Kool and the Gang?

 

          

 

The celebration quickly rang out in the stadium as the P A  announced that the Rays were in the Playoffs. The player were still in their white uniforms and celebrated for about 5 minutes on the field before going into the lockerroom for a bit. They quickly came out wearing playoff t-shirts ans hats and began spraying the Rays faithful with champagne. Carl Crawford, Akinora Iwamura, and Edwin Jackson began the fluid barrage on the top of the dugout before moving to the turf and spraying everyone within range with the bubbly.

 

                                    

 

As this was going on, the Rays announcers were interviewing and looking out for flying suds as the beer as well as more champagne was flowing all over the clubhouse.  Rich Hererra and Todd Kalas should get combat pay for the amount of suds and bubbly residue that was soaking on their skin and well manicured hairs. It was a scene of mass hysteria for the right reasons as players came in and psrayed the inteviewees’ more than once. The best of the night was the side explosion approach by Chad Orvella on Jason Hamell.

 

                                   

 

Shortly after this, the players came out and did a victory lap around the stadium as players and fans hugged and congradulated each other around the stadium. I was propped up at the Bullpen Cafe and got alot of great sloppy hugs from very drenched individuals. It was a time for celebration, and the actions of Gabe Gross getting on the rightfield fencing and cheering to the crowd sent the rightfield into a frenzy.

 

                    The beaming Rays celebrate their playoff berth with their jubilant fans after the game.   (AP)

 

As they made it around the Trop. player were jumping up and slapping the hands of the masses who still remained in the stadium and did not want the moment to end. Finally about 8 P.M. the players were agin in the locker room and the post game videos and commentary was shut down for the night. But as you left the stadium in the halls, you could still hear the yells and screams from down by the locker room area from players, family and Rays officials.  This was a day that no one with a ticket will every forget…………………I know I will never ever forget this day.

 

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