Results tagged ‘ Fernando Perez ’

Rays lose Shootout at Trop

 

Twins 11, Rays 8

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays Magical Number  3   

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

 

                           

 

Evan Longoria 

     

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

 

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

 

                                      

 

Dan Wheeler

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                          

 

James Shields

 

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

 

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

 

Carlos Pena

 

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

 

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

 

RBI guys

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Rays Take the Fight to Red Sox

 

Rays 10, Red Sox 3

 

Tell me that the last few games have not set you back a few dollars in aspirin or antacid. I do not have those problems yet, but the playoffs might bring about some bodily changes. Seriously folks, tell me that the last three nights have not been great baseball.  I am not praising or cutting down either team, but it was just great pitching one night, extra base hits galore another night, and a combination of an entire team picking themselves off the mat to answer that last bell to take the prize.

If it wasn’t for the security and police officers having to restore  some peace and general order every 10 minutes, we might have seen every play of this great series. But where do we go from here. Do the Rays rise above their fate and win their division?  Do the Red Sox accept that for them to get farther in the playoffs, they might be a better Wild Card draw for the L A Angels?  Or does Alyssa Milano like the Rays or Red Sox?

I think the next 11 days are going to be some of the best baseball this season. Every team that the Rays play from today on will be gunning to make a mark against them. Considering after this weekend, we play 8 games in 7 days and all of them are against teams that would love to kick the feet out from under us this time of the year. It might just be a great gut-check for the Rays to see if they will be able to withstand all the fuss and gruff of being a winner.  Stay tuned .

 

Rays Magic Number:  12

Combination of Rays wins or Boston losses to equal the magical number will award the Rays their First A L East pennant.

 

 

Matt Garza

I got to give it up first tonight for Matt Garza for coming out to start this game on 3 days rest for the first time in his career. And in doing so, the Rays had a set number of pitches for Garza before he would get the hookin the contest. Garza has gone 12-6 this season against the AL East, and had the 2nd lowest ERA against this division at 2.56 coming into the game. Boston’s Jon Lester had the lowest at 2.13 ERA this season. So you could say that the Rays were pulling an King  from the deck tonight against the Red Sox.

Garza lasted 4.2 inning tonight and gave up 3-runs on 5-hits before  Grant Balfour relieved him with two outs in the 5th inning. Garzas strikeout-towalk ratio was not impressive tonight (3/2), but he did have great control of his breaking stuff after the 2nd inning. In the first 2 innings, David Ortiz was dictating the game to Garza. Big Papi came up with Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and drilled a 1-1- pitch into rightfield to put the Red Sox up early 2-0. In the 4th, Ortiz hit a 0-2 count fastball into right for a solo shot, and the last run scored that night by the Red Sox.

 

Red Sox Pitching Errors

With the score 5-2 in the 3rd inning. The Boston Red Sox pitching staff began to make a few costly errors in the game. After Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield gave up a double to Evan Longoria, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona replaced him with Devern Hansack.  On a 1-1- count, Willy Aybar hit a shot to Dustin Pedroia that hit the heel of his glove and he could not make the play to get Aybar at first base.

With Longoria sprinting for home, Pedroia tried to get the Rays third baseman at the plate. On the throw home Aybar moved into second base.Hansack then tried to pick off Aybar at second, but the throw was high and sailed into shallow centerfield. Aybar went to third on Hansack’s error and stood there with 1-out in the inning. 

Hansack walked Dioner Navarro on 6 pitches and got the next batter, Justin Ruggiano to strikeout. With 2 outs, Francona pulled Hansack and inserted Jose Lopez to pitch to Gabe Gross.  Lopez threw a pitch outside to Gross that he just got the end of the bat on and Lopez threw wildly to first. Gross was safe at first base and Aybar scored for the Rays. The next batter was Fernando Perez, who hit a 0-2 pitch into shallow right and scored Navarro to put the Rays up 8-2 in the game.

 

                               

 

Fernando Perez

With the emergance of Perez this September with the Rays, there is talk among the coaching staff od him maybe taking over centerfield for the rest of the year and letting  B J Upton play right the rest of the year to let his shoulder heal and to give the Rays another cannon in the outfield.

Perez, who Baseball America called the fastest baserunner in the International League has been impressing the Rays’ Coaching staff since coming up from Durham last week. He has played in 12 games and started in 8 since his recall to the Rays.

During last night’s game, Perez went 2-3 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. He also hit his 2nd homer of the season as the back piece of a Gross and Perez back-to-back home run streak.  Perez also made a nice diving play on a dropping ball in shallow centerfield on the Red Sox’s Sean Casey. The ball was dipping fast and Perez got under it and did a small 360 degree spin on the Fieldturf before coming up with the ball.

 

                             

 

Willy Aybar

Rays Manager Joe Maddon made an effort to put some offense up at the plate against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Rays usual DH Cliff Floyd did not have an attractive average against Wakefield, so Maddon gave him the night off and let Willy Aybar DH for the night.  Aybar had never hit against Wakefield, and Maddon was gambling that he would get good results against him.

Aybar ended up going 3-5 against Wakefield and  scored 2 runs and got 3 RBI’s on the night. Aybar started the scoring early on a homer in the 1st inning with Jason Bartlett aboard to put the Rays up 1 run on the Red Sox  3-2.  Aybar again got into the offensive attack when he on an infield single in the 3rd inning, scoring Longoria. He again got into the act in the 4th inning when he was safe on a error by Red Sox reliever David Aardesma. Since August 27th, Aybar is .348, and has 15 multi-hit games in his last 32 games.

 

Rays Bullpen

Grant Balfour came in to relieve Garza and got his 5th win of the year last night. Balfour leads all MLB relievers with a 12.93 strikeout/9 innings ratio, and has struck out 35.9 percent of the batters he has faced, which is tops in the majors too.  Coming into tonight, he has also been scoreless in 12 of his last 13 appearances.

J P Howell leads all MLB reliever with 88 strikeouts this year. He also leads the MLB in innings pitched with 85.1 innings this year. Howell also owns the lead for allowing only 11.8 percent of his inherited runners to score in a relief appearance this year. He currently owns a 0.00 ERA in September, with 11.0 innings pitched so far this month.

Chad Bradford leads all MLB relievers in a 4.70 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio. He has pitched to a 1.20 ERA in 17 appearances for the Rays since being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles.  He worked a 1-2-3- inning in the 9th tonight to shut down the Red Sox.

 

                                 

 

90 Victories

With their 90th win last night, the Rays joined a group of 6 other clubs that went from gathering 90 plus wins after 10 plus years of losing baseball seasons. The other teams sharing the title with the Rays are: the 1912 Washington Senators, 1914 Boston Braves, 1956 Cincinnati Reds, 1979 Montreal Expos, and the 2006 Detroit Tigers.

 

The next team on the Rays plateau to wins is the 1991 Atlanta Braves who posted 94 wins in going from worst to first that season. The Rays are within range of that total and will shoot for that goal this weekend.

Also of importance is the the Rays current record of 90-60 is 3rd best in the majors and is 27 wins better than last season. If the Rays play .500 ball the rest of the season, they will post a 30 win improvement over last season. Only 9 teams have posted 30 plus games from one season to the next.

 

Yankees Use Long Ball to Beat Rays

 

 

Yankees 8, Rays 4

 

I was chatting with a friend today online and he stated that the Rays might be folding like a cheap deck of cards right now becuase of the young pitching staff and a failure to drive in our guys in scoring position. Both points have a huge amount of merit there. The Rays hit a combined .124  with runners in scoring position in this recent roadtrip. And the young starters did falter in a few areas during their games. But with the also apparent upside of this team still having the best home record in baseball, and the fact that the players trive in fron tof over 25,000 fans, you know the next 7 games will be the total accumylation of this season for the team.

 

I hate to bunch the next seven as the “biggest, most important home stand in the team history.”  We already know that is the fatcs, and the reality is that if the fan base doesn’t come out and stack themselves to the rafters, it sets a huge set of cards into motion. If the owners finally put up a competitive team and people did not come out, who is to blame?  Larry Rothchild?  If the Rays make the playoffs, major league baseball takes over the daily stadium operations. And you know the Trop will be sold out even if they have to find a busload of people to sit in those high seats in the 300 areas.

This last week is the week that the bay area needs to show its support or its want for baseball in this area. It is about civic pride right now more than anything.  For about a month or so, the talking heads of the broadcast monopoly have stressed that the Rays are still not drawing fans to the stadium. But I also see a bulk of that footage showing people wearing green and white Rays gear. So maybe they are showing vintage 2007 footage, but then again, some night it is still a graveyard at the Trop.

But, in the last two home series we have also had a few teams in that do not bode well for traveling fan bases. Toronto is not a hot bed of traveling fans to their away games. And the New York fans have stayed home to relax in their lazyboys and watch the game on TV rather than fight the increasing Rays fanbase hassle. No longer is this the Fenway-South, or Little Bronx. It is Tropicana Field, where the Rays play and other come to lose.

 

                       

 

Edwin Jackson

Everyone knows that I am a huge Jackson fan. And that I am a true believer in his increasing education as a pitcher for the Rays. So it is a big thing when I come out and stress the importance of a win in his next start or give the start to another pitcher. The time is too severe for us to use this opportunity to hope for victory, but know it is within our grasp.

With that in mind, it is disheartening to see that he only lasted  53 pitches and 2 innings today against the Yankees. I could see in the beginning that home plate umpire  Gerry Davis was squeezing his strikezone to tight it was screaming out in horror.  But Jackson did to respond in the right manner. He did not adjust quick enough to set the ball in the right direction, instead he left a few pitches over the plate and his day was drastically changed from that point on.

Edwin did give up two monster homers that not only cost the Rays a chance at the win, but might have put doubt into his next start for the Rays. With David Price and Mitch Talbot, and Jeff Niemann sitting on the bench, do you use your Triple-A studs to get you that win, or rely on Edwin to rebound and put together a few innings before leaving. Jackson has gone 0-3 in his last 3 starts. He has also even his record at 11-11 for the season.

The decision is in hand by the Rays manger, Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach, Jim Hickey. I know they still have a load of respect and admiration for the work he has done to improve this year. But do you pull the plug when you have so much riding on the next 14 days?

 

Jerry Crasnick

I want to take a moment to thank Jerry Crasnick for his awesome article on the Rays. It was a great read, and if you are a true Rays fan, you need to red this article. I am glad people at ESPN like yourself and Peter Gammons are coming out to the Rays defense. I remember a few years ago when Peter was here for the FanFest and he was glowing about the future of this franchsie. He has since been a closet supporter of the good going on here, but has  never doubted the Rays this year. Hopefully you can talk some sense into those mutton-heads on Baseball Tonight to see this for what it is………..great baseball played by a team of confident young players wanting to wi every night.

 

Fernando Perez

How can you measure how much this Ivy league educated guy has been on the bases and at the plate for the Rays this September. Perez came to the plate in the 2nd inning and slammed his first major league homer run to  the rightfield stands and put the Rays back into this game 4-3 at the moment. Considering this guy has been tooling around learning to hit more as a leftie this year at Triple-A is amazing. Considering that he is doing everything possible for this team to take a deeper and more intense look at him next spring is the basis of what the future Rays will be…………hustle, speed andetermination.

 

                                

 

Cliff Floyd

There was an episode in the 2nd inning, right before Perez’s shot that might have made that game more intense and stressful for everyone had Cliff Floyd not gone over and quelled the anger right away. He did what Shelly Duncan did not do, he went over and got with Robinson Cano after accidently smacking him in the side of the head on his slide attempt on Sunday. He made sure that Cano knew it was an accidental move and not a premeditated thing that could have festered into an on-field altercation. But then again, that is the class that Floyd shows every night on the diamond.

 

                                 

 

David Price

Has there been another pitcher in the last few years for the Rays that has gotten the kind of press and accolades that David Price has gotten for the Rays. Price was selected at the Minor League Player of the Year last week and is celebrating it a the major league level with the Rays.  Price got to the stadium on Saturday and did not know in what measures the Rays would use him this month.

But since Jackson could not  complete his game on Sunday, Price was put into the game as a long reliever to try and hold the Yankees offense to a minimum so the Rays could mount a comeback. Price came in an immediately got the Yankees attention by sending down the batter in order in the 3rd and 4th innings. For his 5.3 inning, Price recorded 4 strikeouts.

But Price is also going to be a footnote in the career bio for Derek Jeter. Price put a slow slider off the plate that Jeter hit into the rightfield bleachers for his 12,69th hit in Yankee Stadium. That hit put him into a tie with the Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig for the Yankee All-Time hit Lead at the stadium. After that little hiccup, he put the Yankees down in order in the inning.

 

RISP

Again the issue of getting hits with runners in scoring position came out to bite the Rays today. In the 6th inning, Perez came up for the thrid time in the game with at least 2 men on base. He did walk in that inning,but Jasob Bartlett following him hit a strong dipping liner that was caught for the 3rd out of the inning. The Rays left 10 men on base in the game, and 5 times left men in scoring position with 2 outs.

 

Late Inning

After the 6th inning in todays’ game, the Rays only mounted one serious attack on the Yankees to try and win this contest. In the 7th inning, Willy aybar hit a single with 2 outs to try and put pressure on the Yankees’ bullpen. But he was left stranded on first after a long ball hit by Dioner Navarro to centerfield for the last out.  In the 8th inning, the Rays went down in order, with the last two outs being long fly balls into centerfield.

In the 9th inning, Akinora Iwamura started the inning by walking on 7 pitches, before Jason Bartlett hit a fly out to right and Carlos Pena struck out for the third time today. With 2 outs, Evan Longoria hit a single up the middle and gave the Rays a chance in the inning. But Aybar struck out to end the game and the Rays chances to come back home more than a single game up over the Boston Red Sox.

 

Cliff Floyd,Part Deux

 

Cliff Floyd had a great day at the plate for the Rays. Floyd went 2-3, with 2 doubles to set the pace for the Rays. Floyd has been leading by example on this roadtrip and has begun to set the bar high for his fellow Rays batters. Considering Floyd has been in these September pennant fever runs before can only be benefical to the Rayd down the stretch.  All the young Rays have to do is listen and learn from Big Cliff and the team will come out fine in the long run.

 

                             

 

Non-Web Gems

 

I have to make a comment here. What was Carlos Pena thinking when he went over for a pop-up in front of the mound and smack the ball out of Longoria’s glove for a sure out. I have to give kudos to David Price for getting away from the situation and letting his infielders’ have a crack at it, but  Longoria clearly had the rights and the ball before it was dislodged out of his mitt by his collision with Pena.

The third baseman should have the right to catch a ball hit to his side of the mound. But some peole say that Price needs to play traffic cop and tell someone to take the ball. either way, it was an embarrassing play ans one that went for a double for Cody Ransom. Pena was given an eror on the play, only his 2nd error of the year

Yankees Take the Night Cap Against The Rays

 

 

Yankees 6, Rays 5

 

By winning the first game today, the Rays have vanquished the New York Yankees plans to embarrass us again with a sweep in the 3 game series. As you might remember, before the All-Star break, we came inot the Bronx and were tossed around a bit before leaving town for Boston and getting kicked a few more times up there.

 

Today starts a streak where the Rays will be playing 16 games in 15 days, with another doubleheader planned for the last series in Baltimore on Tuesday, September 23rd.  With boston losing the first game to Toronto today, it puts the Rays back up 2 games  above the Boston Red Sox.  It also reduces the Rays number to make it into the playoff to 9 games.

 

 Rays Magic Number:        14

This is the combined number of Rays wins and Boston losses to secure their first A L East Crown.

 

            

 

During the early parts of this second game in the doubleheader against the New York Yankees, Rays starter, Matt Garza did not look comfortable on the mound . Garza’s focus was not great tonight and it got him in early trouble against the Yankees.  Garza led off the game by walking Brett Gardner on 4 pitches. Derek Jeter then came up and set down a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate that was handled by Garza. Garza threw a low throw to first that was scooped by Carlos Pena for the force out, but the play moved Gardner into scoring position at second  base.

 

He then walked Bobby Abreu on  6 pitches to put men on the corners for the Yankees.  After a  Garza balk moved both men into scoring position, Alex Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield that Fernando Perez had to make a leaping catch for the out. Gardner tagged up at third base and scored to put the Yankees up 1-0. For the night, Garza went  5 innings and gave up 6-hits for 3-runs. He threw 83 pitches on the night. Garza’s lack of control got him an equal 3 walks and 3 strikeouts in the game.

 

                              

 

The night did not turn out any better for the Rays in the 2nd innig as Ben Zobrist lost a Robinson Cano looper down the leftfield line to lead off the inning. Cano did not harm the Rays in that inning, getting stranded on second to end the inning.

 

              

 

During the 4th inning, Wilson Betemit hit a Garza 2-seamer to rightfield for a solo shot to pull the Yankees within 2 runs of the Rays, 4-2. Garza seemed still upset about the homer as he pitched to Ivan Rodriguez.  Rodriguez then singled to left on the first pitch from Garza. 

During Cody Ransom’s at bat, Rays catcher Dioner Navarro tried to throw out Rodriguez stealing second, but threw the ball to the right of Akinora Iwamura and into centerfield. Rodriguez advanced to third on the throwing error by Navarro.  Rodrigues scored on a  Brett Gardner grounder to second to put the Yankees within one run 4-3.

 

In the top of the 4th inning, the Rays scored  4 runs and went ahead of the Yankees 4-1.  Navarro lead off the inning by walking on 6 pitches.  Gabe Gross the hit a liner to rightfield for a single and put Navarro in scoring position at second base. Perez then hit into a 1-4  play to force Gross out at second base. 

 

 Akinora Iwamura then walked on 4 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Ben Zobrist then came up with the bases loaded.  Zobrist then hit a 1-2 pitch for his 8th homer of the year, and his seond Grand Slam of the season. Zobrist hit a Grand Slam on August 29th against the Baltimore Orioles in the 4th inning of that contest.

 

J P Howell came on to pitch in the bottom of the 6th inning and put the Yankees down 1-2-3 in the inning. In the 7th inning, the Rays began to unravel a bit behind Howell when Jeter reached on a infield single to third that Aybar could not handle. The next batter, Bobby Abreu, hit a ball to Zobrist at short that Zobrist threw towards the second base side of the bag and beyond the reach of Iwamura. The ball went sailing into rightfield and Gabe Gross was given an error on his over running of the ball in rightfield.

 

Jeter ended up scoring on the overthrow and Abreu advanced to second on Gross’s outfield mistake. This put Abreu in scoring position, and the Yankees and the Rays were tied 4-all at this point.  Carlos Pena then went for a foul ball on the firstbaseline near the infield tarp and appeared to have the catch before falling in between the tarp and the stadium wall and losing the ball out of his glove.

 

Abreu moved to third on a wild pitch by Grant Balfour during Xavier Nady’s at bat. Nady then hit a ball up the middle and scored Abreu from third to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead in the game. Robinson Cano then  came up and hit the bag at third and it settles near the foul line for another double in the inning. Betemit then struck out swinging to end the inning for the Yankees.

 

 

The Yankees then got an insurance run in the 8th inning off  Rays reliever Chad Bradford.  Cody Ransom reached base on a infield single to shortstop that Zobrist could not get to first in time for the out.  Gardner then hit into a fielder’s choice, taking out Ransom at second base. Gardner then stole second on the 2nd pitch to Jeter. Jeter ended up walking on 6 pitches and set up men at second and first for Abreu.  Abreu then hit a blooper single to rightfield thast scored Gardner and put the Yankees up for good, 6-4.

 

The Rays came out in the top of the 9th against Mariano Riveria and gave a valiant effort to tie this contest. Gabe Gross lead off the inning with a single to leftfield. Gross ended up going 3-3 on the night for the Rays.  Fernando Perez then popped out on a bunt single to the pitcher for the first out. 

 

In 3 innings tonight, the Rays Bullpen gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, and only one of those runs was a earned run tonight.  In his 1.2 innings, Howell did the most damage tonight by getting 4 strikeouts in the game. It is one of the first times in a while that the Rays Bullpen did not hold the lead for the Rays.

 

                                

 

 Aki then struck out on three pitches before Evan Longoria came up as a pinch-hitter for Zobrist. Longoria hit a RBI single to rightfield, scoring Gross and pulling the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.  Justin Ruggiano then hit into a 6-3 force out to ends the game for the Rays.

 

                          

 

Rays Take Game Uno of Double Set

 

 

Rays 7, Yankees 1

 

Hey all, we have another Rays player who has been nominated for the Marvin Miller  Man of the Year Award.   MLB players are some of the best contributors of time and money to local charties and events. And it is in this spirit that the MLB Players Association has annually, since 1977, awarded the Marvin Miller Award to a deserving MLB player. The Ray nominated by his teammate for this award  is Rays reliever Trever Miller.

 

Trever Miller is a low key guy by nature and can always be counted on for a smile and a kind word for fans or  his teammates. Miller is an active member in the community and gives his time and resources to various charitable organizations. He is an annual contributor to Barry Zito’s Strikeouts for the Troops and Miracle League’s B.O.D.’s for Florida. Miller hosts the annual Miracle League golf tournament and also dedicates time and money to the Ronald McDonald House and All Children’s Hospitals in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

The award, named after the first executive director of the PA, is presented each year to a player elected by his peers as the one who best combines on-field performance with community service.  Voting began this week on MLB.com and MLBPLAYERS.com, the PA’s official Website, and fans are asked to select one player from each of Major League Baseball’s six divisions.

 

The six finalists will be voted on by Major League players as part of their annual Players Choice Awards balloting Sept. 17 (Sept. 18 for Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres players) at ballparks throughout North America to select the winner. So let’s get out there and vote for one of our own, reliever Trever Miller for the Man of the Year Award in 2008.

 

 

Rays Magic Number:             14 

This is the number of combined Boston losses and Rays wins to secure their first A L East crown.

 

 

 

Evan Longoria fans can rejoice because the Rookie is back into the lineup, and by the way he was batting in that first game, is hitting like he has not missed a game this year. Longoria went 2-5, with 2 RBI’s in his frist game back since the August 6th injury in Seattle.  In all, Longoria missed 28 games during his wrist injury and Evan showed early on that his defensive skills have also not been rusty since his DL visit.

 

Longoria first came up in the 2nd inning and got a single through the hole between short and third, and scored on Justin Ruggiano’s double to the rightfield wall.  Longoria did have a hand on one of Derek Jeter’s singles today, but could not convert the play in time to get the quick shortstop.  Longoria then came up in the 5th inning and got 2 RBI’s on a  liner down the leftfield line. that scored Ruggiano and Jason Bartlett to put the Rays up 3-0. At that point in the game, Longoria had gone 2-3, with 2 RBI’s.

 

In the 6th inning, Longoria dove and stabbed a drive by Xavier Nady to the ground before throwing him out at first to end inning. Longoria was behind thrid base when he relased the ball and it was a strike to Carlos Pena.

 

                                    

 

Rays starter James Shields won his 13th game today with a great effort against the New York Yankees. Shields went  8 innings and gave up only 5 hits on the day to leave in the 8th inning with a shutout of the Yankees. In the contest, Jeter got 3 of the Yankees  8 total hits on the day. Shields used his change up to strikeout 6 Yankees batter in the contest.

 

 

                                 

 

The only run given up by the Rays today was by Rays reliever Trever Miller who came on in the 9th inning for Shields.  Bobby Abreu hit a 0-2 count for a  solo homer into the rightfield stands for the only Yankees score in the first game of the doubleheader. 

 

Miller then  gave up singles to Nady and Giambi before getting Hideki Matsui to line out to rightfield. Cody Ransom then got on base on a fielders choice that forced out Giambi at second base, and moved Nady into scoring position at third with 2 outs. Miller then got Robinson Cano to pop out to third on the 3rd pitch to end the first game of the double header with the Rays up 7-1.

 

 

An interesting note on new Rays catcher Michel Hernandez. He originally got up to the majors with the New York Yankees in 2003. In his 5 game September call-up. Hernandez went 1-4 for the Yankees. Also amazing is that this is the first time Hernandez has caught James Shields and the battery mates did not produce a passed ball or wild pitch all game. Hernandez went 1-5 in today’s contest ans scored on Ruggiano’s double in the 6th inning.

 

 

 

Ruggiano had a banner day for the Rays going 3-4, with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s on the day. He first got the Rays off to a 2-0 score when he doubled to the rightfield wall for his 3 rd double of the year. Fernando Perez scored along with Longoria to give the Rays the early lead.  Ruggiano also singled to centerfield in the 5th inning.

 

                     

 

During that 5th inning, Yankees catcher Jose Molina tried to pickoff Ruggiano at first base, but Ruggiano was able to slide into second safely after a bad throw by Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi.  Ruggiano scored after Jason Bartlett singled to rightfield.  Ruggiano was not done for the day, he also got another double in the 6th inning and was almost picked off after he fell rounding first base, but got into second in time to beat the throw.  Ruggiano moved to thrid on Bartlett’s RBI Scarifice Fly and went home on Carlos Penas’  error to first in the inning.

 

There was a tense moment in the ball game after Shields hit Molina in the hip with a pitch and the catcher took exception to the pitch.  TV camera caught Molina talking in terse terms to Pena at first base about the event. Two pitches later, when Johnny Damon hit  a ball towards second base, Molina went out of the basepaths towards Ben Zobrist on a deliberate attempt to break up the double play. Second base umpire, Gerry Davis immediately signaled for the double play outs because of Runners Interference on Molina.

 

If Molina had stayed in the basepaths’ this would not have been called by the umpire. By the next time Molina was up to bat, all the tension from the hit by pitch was over and the game was without incident from that moment.

 

Jonny Gomes and 2007 First Round Draft pick, David Price arrived in New York for today’s doubleheader. Gomes played in the first game going 0-3 in the contest and playing rightfield for the Rays.  Rays pitchers Jeff Neimann and Mitch Talbot will meet the team in St. Petersburg on Monday as the Rays begin their last 7 game homestand of the season.

 

 

Pena and Rays Pull off Upset Win and Series

 

Rays 4, Red Sox 2

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays  Magical Number:    16

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

 

          

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

 

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

                          

                                      

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

         

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                                  

 

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

 

                    

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Rays versus Red Sox…………Rubber Match Preview

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

2007  Boston batters’ statitics against Sonnanstine:

 

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

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

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

Dustin Pedroia          1-10                  1 walk, 1 strikeout

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays batters’ against Josh Beckett:

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

Carlos Pena                       2-7               1 double, 2 strikeouts

Cliff Floyd                         1-3               1 strikeout

Dioner Navarro                 1-9               1 run, 3 strikeouts 

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

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

Jason Bartlett                  1-7                1 run

 

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

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

 

 

Kazmir Pitched Gem to End Curse at Fenway

 

Rays 5, Red Sox 4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays Magic Number Is:    18

 

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

                       

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

           

 

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

 

           

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

 

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

 

                         

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Squander Chances versus Red Sox

 

 

Red Sox 3, Rays 0

 

Scott Kazmir will take the mound tonight in one of the most important games for the Tampa Bay Rays franchise tonight. If the Rays lose, they will be out of first place for the first time in almost 2 months. to add a bit more pressure to ther young lefty, the Rays have not won in Fenway now for 8 games, and the last time they won was on a night that Kazmir beat Curt Shilling 1-0.

 

Not lost on Kamir is also the bravado and vigor he has thrown out in the last week about accountability and playing for the moment.  The lefty is the youngest member of the starting rotation, but he has the demeanor at times of a 10 year veteran in the  MLB trenches. But that is also one of the things you love about they guy. He is not afraid to put it on his back and try to carry the team.

 

Considering if the Rays walk out of Fenway on Wed. night not getting a single win in Fenway this season, they will leave in second place, down by 1 1/2 games to the Red Sox. Not lost on the Rays or Bosotn is the fact that in 9 days they will do it all over again at the Trop., where the Rays have dominated the Red Sox this season.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon is quick to point out after a series whne reporters ask him what series is important. He has said almost reliously, “the next one” all year long. This series might be important more for the team’s morale and their confidience coming back home after 3 more in the Bronx.  This is the time of year where the winners step up, and the also rans get left by the roadside. And I can not see Maddon hitchhiking back to St. Petersburg.

 

 

Red Sox 3, Rays 0

 

 

It was one of those rare nights that you thought the league should not give a loss for such a pitching effort. Edwin Jackson might have lost the game to the red Sox 3-0, but it was his composure and his confidience after the 1st inning that registers high on my admiration meter. Jackson came into this first “must win” game probably a little more psyched and enegetic than he wanted to be when he tossed that first pitch to Mark Kotsay.

 

Jackson had a rough 1st inning against the Red Sox last night. Of course Kotsay started it all by walking on 5 pitches, but Jackson got the AL average leader, Dustin Pedroia to line out to Akinora Iwamura to set the defensive tons for the night.  David Ortiz then came up and hit a ball high off the Green Monster that if B J Upton would have hustled a throw to second, Ortiz would have been tagged out and sitting on the Boston bench. Ortiz’s blast scored Kotsay from first and gave the Sox an early 1-0 lead.

 

Kevin Youkilis ( You-kill-us) then came up and hit a ball up the middle that Upton got early and tried to get Ortiz at the plate, the throw was cut off and the Rays go Youkilis in a run down trying to advance to second on the throw for the second out. Jason Bay, who the Rays desperately tried to trade for at the trade deadline then came on and hit a solo homer over the Green Monster to put the Red Sox up 3-0.  In that first inning, Jackson ended up throwing 28 pitches and it looked like an early night for him.

 

 

 

 

 Jackson rebounded from the 1st inning to throw until J P Howell relieved him in the bottom of the 8th inning. Jackson ended up throwing  98 total pitches on the night. He threw 70 pitches from the 2nd inning on last night.

 

Jackson also shut the Boston offense down by only giving up 5 more hits the entire night before leaving with 6 strikeouts. The rebound by Jackson was a great pick-me-up for the Rays in that they saw this young pitcher battle through his demon 1st inning and regain control of the game and pitch effectively from that point on.  With that in mind, it is a pity that such a pitching display as to result in his 10th loss of the year.

 

 

The last time the Rays suffered back-to-back shutouts was against the Boston Red Sox in April 2004 at Fenway Park.

 

Several plays stick in my mind as to the tunring points in this first game of the series. In the 1st inning, Upton bunted a ball into the air and Red Sox starter, Jon Lester picked it out of the air and threw to first to double up Aki to get two quick outs on the Rays.  The Rays went down in order, 1-2-3 4 times until they came alive in the 5th inning against Lester. Rocco Baldelli ended up striking out on all 4 of his plate appearances last night.

 

 

                                    

 

 

The Rays finally showed a glimmer of offense in the 5th inning when Dioner Navarro started a potential rally by walking on 7 pitches. Jason Bartlett then came up and hit a single into left to advance Navarro to second base.  But Gabe Gross hit a weak grounder down the first base line and Youkilis tosed the ball to Lester to get out of the inning without a run.

 

 

 

The Rays again started a potential rally when Aki singled to left, and Ben Zobrist walked. Both men advanced on Carlos Pena long drive to centerfield, but were stranded when  Rocco Baldelli struck out to end the 6th inning. The again tried to mount an attack in the 8th inning when Ben Zobrist hit a ball off the upper half of the Green Monster for a long single.

 

Carlos Pena then hit a sharply hit ball down the first baseline that was grabbed by a fan with his white cap for a ground rule double. This put 2 rays in scoring position with 2 outs. Baldelli again struck out to end the inning. In the 9th inning, Eric Hinske came on as a pi9nch hitter for Jason Bartlett and delivered a single to centerfield and moved over on defensive indifference to get into scoring position with 2 outs.. Gabe Gross however struck out to end the game for the Rays.

 

                                  

 

 

B J Upton came out of the game in the beginning of the 3rd inning. Upton was hurt on the drive by Ortiz off the Green Monster in the 1st inning. It is a  pulled hamstring muscle and Upton will be day-today at this time.

 

The Rays did keep themselves in the game with some fantastic defensive play during the game. In the 1st inning, that play on Youkilis saved at least 1 run in the game on the quick decision by Navarro to cut off the throw and get the sneaky Youkilis at second base.  In the 4th inning, Jason Bay was awarded a single on a very close play at first on a fantastic backhand grab deep in the hole by Bartlett.

 

 

The Rays ended up with a 5-4-3- double play on the next pitch to Mike Lowell to erase Bay from the basepaths. In the 5th inning Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek tried to be a bit fancy and bunted towards thrid, and Aybar took the ball barehanded and threw out Varitek at first base.  Kotsay tried to advance on a single in the inning and was gunned down by Gross to get the 2nd out of the 5th inning.

 

 

Fernando Perez, who moved from  left to center with Upton out, made a great running catch on Dustin Pedroi’s deep fly out near the Red Sox Bullpen wall. And Rays reliever, J P Howell picked off Coco Crisp on first after a single to leftfield. Important is the fact that Howell had just come on to relieve Jackson and picked off Crisp before even throwing a pitch in the game.

 

Great news that Rays reliever Juan Salas is fine after suffering  a epileptic seizure prior to Monday night’s game vs. the Red Sox and was taken to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure, but was released shortly after the contest began. 

 

“He’s had it before,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It just normally takes hours to get him back and he should be back by tomorrow. … We’ve gone through it before. He’s fine, he’s fine.”

 

I  hope that Rays television analyst, Joe Magrane asked Rays equipment manger, Chris Westmoreland for a fielders’ glove after last nights game in Boston. Twice during the telecast, Magrane had to shimmy out of the way of wayward foul balls hit into the broadcast booth by Rocco Baldelli and Dioner Navarro. Magrane was okay on each incident and plowed onward and upward in his on camera moments. 

 

 

Rays Lose Pitching Duel and Series to Jays

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

It was great news hearing the Rays thrid baseman Evan Longoria was taken off the Disabled List on Sat., and could see defensive replacement and pinch runner duty in the coming days. It is not known if Longoria will be up to speed in the batting cage by the time the Rays hit Boston on Monday.

Speculation is that Longoria will be back at third maybe during the New York Yankee series this weekend. It is great that he is finally off the DL, but what took so long. Was the injury actually worse than previously announced, or was the rehab just not doing the trick for Longoria. Evan has not been on the field or at bat since the Seattle series last month.

With his set back, Longoria is in the back seat for the Rookie of the Year honors in th American League now. More important is that we can have him back for the next few weeks of the playoff push and for post season. Longoria has been a unofficla barometer of the team this season.

As Evan played well, the Rays played well. But when he got injury there were whispers as to if Willy Aybar could fill Evan’s shoes at the plate, or in the field. Aybar had lived up to the expectations and has had only a fe blemishes on his fielding this year for the Rays. Considering the pressure and the stress of this years race, it is a wonder most night that the entire infield doesn’t crack a bit and have a few miscues. Let’s just hope that the Boston series is event-free and a great series for the Rays and their fans.

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

 

           

 

Worst thing about a pitching duel is………. someone has to lose.  The game on Sunday between the Rays and Jays was a perfect example of what a hot pitcher can do against a great ball club. Coming into the game, the Rays had met Jays’ starter David Purcey only once before in his career. In that game, a 1-0 loss at the Trop, Purcey pitched better against the competitive Rays then in any other start of his career.

 

Matt Garza threw an excellient game for the Rays on Sunday. He went long into the game, and pitched 7 innigs of 6-hit ball and only had a small handful of trouble all day on the mound for the Rays. He also got 7 strikeouts on the day and had the Jays guessing alot as to his pitch selection.

It is not Garza’s fault he got the loss yesterday in this game. He did everything he could to get a win for the Rays in this last game bewteen these clubs’ in 2008. Garza even endured a hard hit ball that struck him in the bottom end of his forearm by Marc Scutaro.

 

 

             

 

 

Garza had thrown the pitch and Scutaro hit it back up the middle and the ball hit Garza flush in the fleshy part of the forearm and Garza picked up the ball and calmly threw it to   Carlos Pena for the 2nd out in the 5th inning. Matt  was examined by the Ron Porterfield, and after a few practice pitches was able to continue for the Rays.

After the accident, Garza still has excellient control and only gave up 1 hit, to Vernon Well to lead off the 6th inning. To show how superior Garza has been against the Jays this season, he has thrown 38 innings against them and only given up 2 runs allowed. Garza was going for his 4th win of the season today against the Jays.

 

 

        

 

 

The only run of the game came in the  2nd inning as Adam LInd led off the inning with a double down the rifght field line and moved to third on Overbays grounder to shortstop.  On a 0-2 pitch, Barajas then hit a scarifice fly to left that scored Lind before Ben Zorbrists’ throw got to the plate. That produced the only run needed by the Jay  for the win.

 

 

The Rays did have offensive flashes in the game, but they could not convert any of them into scoring oppotunities against the Jays. In the 3rd innig, Akinora Iwamura hit a solid ball nito centerfield that was caught just in front of the 375 foot marker in left centerfield by Wells. B J Upton led off the 4th inning with a single to center, but was picked off first by Pursey to end the inning.

 

Aybar then led off the 5th inning with a double to deep center. Aybar at that point was 2 for 2 in the game for the Rays. Aybar would be stranded on second by the Rays after 2 quick outs in the inning.  Upton then again got a single in the 6th inning to center, but Pena hit a long ball to the warning track in center to record the 3rd out of the inning for the Rays.

 

In the 7th inning, the Rays got the first walk of the game when Aybar walked on 6 pitches. But the Rays’  Bartlett and Perez struck  out to strrand Aybar at first. Zorbrist then got another walk in the 8th inning and Pursey gave up a single to Upton for his third hit up the middle today, and Walked Pena to load the bases. Rocco then came up and hit a long fly ball to right for the 3rd out of the inning.moved  In the 9th, the rays went down in order, 1-2-3 to end the game.

 

 

On the day, the Rays did not hit into a single double play, but the Rays did strike out 9 times during the game. The Rays did squander  scoring chances in the 2nd inning as Willy Aybar was picked off at first by Jays catcher Rod Barajas after he singled to rightfield. Aybar did not even have a chance as  Barajas seemed to lose the ball, but quickly tossed it to Lyle Overbay who tagged out Aybar for the second out in the 2nd inning.  4 pitches after Aybar was picked off, Jason Bartlett hit a double over leftfielder Adam Lind’s head.  This was one of a few mental errors by the Rays in today’s game.

BJ Upyon also got caught by Pursey leaning off first base and was pegged with his 15th caught stealing attempt this season to still lead the majors in that category. Shawn Riggans threw his 5th throwing error of the year in the 3rd inning on a steal by Joe Inglett. Aki also had a fielding error in the  3rd inning to let Inglett get on base. It is only Aki’s  6th error of the season.

 

 

Lost in the translation is the fact that the Rays have now lost 7 of their last 13 games. On this roadtrip they have started 0-3, with pivitol game coming against the Yankees and Red sox in their home stadiums.  To put the roadtrip into prospective, the Rays got swept by both team in their home fields to begin the Rays roadtrip losing record going into the All Star break.

The Rays are facing their first set of “must win” games against the Red Sox starting on Monday night when Edwin Jackson takes the mound for the Rays. Jackson, Kazmir and Sonnastine will be the pitchers under the pressure cooker in the Boston series and must perform well enough to keep the Rays in every one of the three games against the Red Sox.

Losing more than 2 games in this series would have the Rays out of first place in the A L East for the last 88 days, and need to stay in first place to put a huge exclamation point on the season.

 

 

 

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