Results tagged ‘ Jonny Gomes ’

Basking in the Moment………..1st Playoff Berth

 

 

 

 

It might have looked like a mob scene out oif your favorite sports movie, but believe me, the energy in that place yesterday was so severe that it sometimes seemed to choke you up. From out-to-out yesterday this game was won by the time they got on the field. Seriously folks, I have never felt to drained emotionally and mentally in my life. I was literally crawling out of the Trop at 9 P.M. after celebrating in the stands, near the clubhouse with a few friends, and in the Brewhouse having a few brews with the old crew from the last 10 years.

This is a day/night/weekend that will sit up there with the best memories I have involving sports.  I am so spent right now I have not come down fron this yeat, and I have Season Ticketholder Picture Day in 6 hours. All I can say is this is going down in my memory banks as one of the greatest day in my fan life. How can it get any better………….oh, wait WE could have THREE more before the playoffs are all over with this year!

THREE more chances where these guys pay as much attention to their team partying as they do out with us, the fans.  From interview to interview last night, the guys to a T talked about the fans. They included the fans in their celebrations. Getting up on the dugout and spraying the masses with champagne and beer. Throwing 9=8 playoff hats and T-shirts to them all, and relishing a moment that will live in this franchsies memory forever.

You always remember your first time. You remember where you were, Who you were standing with, and what you were doing at that exaxt moment. When the guys came down into the Bull Pen Cafe area and I was standing on the railing, I can not remember how many of those guys came up there and slapped my hand and gave me a fistbump. But the ones that were special were the Hugs from J P Howell, Jonny Gomes, Chad Orvella and Scott Kazmir.  I have chatted almost daily with these guys on the way to the Bullpen back area and they are some of the best guys you will ever want to meet.

 

 

Howell for instance used to be one of the quietest guys on this team when he was a starter. He was moody and never seemed to want to talk. Now since he has found his calling in the bullpen,  he is one of the friendliest people I have ever encountered on the Rays. Dan Wheeler is not known to smile alot, but he does when we chat back and forth during the games. There is a unique bond there between the Bullpen and the fan here that I have never seen before in my life. But then again, they are living the dream this year.

 

From the first champagne bottle out of the clubhouse, to the two bottles that Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos had ordered for himself and the close fans down there, it was a magical night. The parade around the Trop outter perimeter was a show of the love and respect these guys have for the fanbase. I have been lucky enough to know a few of these guys off the turf in private. And I have to tell you this in total confidience, not one time this year did any of these guys take this responsibility to the fans or to the community as a  job or work.

 

                        

This group actually enjoys interacting with the fans. From the time they walked out at the Spring Training complex in mid-Febuary to now has been a long and rewarding journey. There have been player injuries and players have come and gone from the roster, but the core of this team have been strong, mentally tough and been an inspiration to the fans. Not many groups have a tie to the fans that these guys have. The Rays community can honestly say the have the team’s back at any moment.

The funny thing about this celebration is that about 25 percent of it was outside the lockerroom in the field where these guys have toiled and struggled and left themselves bleeding and wounded some nights. To say this battle did not end with a fairy tale ending is totally accurate. This season has now almost come to a close at home, but in the next wek they might have a Divisional Crown celebration either in Detroit or Baltimore, then sprint home and get ready for the First of many October games in the Trop.

I really need to hit the sack for a few hours before I fall down, but the adreneline is still pumping hard in me right now and I have tossed and turned for about 5 hours since I got home. I am a emotional wrexk right now, but I would do it again in a New York moment. If you have never been to one of these defining moments, you know how the Rays Republic is now feeing. If you have not, I truly wish it upon yourself and your team sometime in the future. It is a rollercoaster ride fitted with some great ups and downs that is not even over yet.

 

                                

 

I just want to repurchase my “E” ticket so I can climb aboard the coaster again and roll through another three of these celebrations with the Rays and this truely spectacular group of guys.

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 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.

 

 

Rain Delay Comments and Tidbits

 

I was chuckling pretty hard last night at the Keystone Cop routine the New York Yankees were playing during the rain delay/decision-making process.  It was kinda funny that the Rays braodcaster kinda already knew the postponement was in hand, but the stadium tunred on the light and was selling concession out the ying yang.

Guess that is Hank Steinbrenner’s way of getting some extra cash for beer and hot dog sales before he breaks their hearts and sends them home in the rain.  But I think that with a $ 200 million dollar payroll you have yo do those sort of things to balance the budget.

So on we go with a day/night doubleheader today. It should be a fun time in the old Bronx . Considering the season has only 16 days left to it, these games had to be played some time this weekend. So with that in mind, I decided to do a tidbits column about all the odds and ends stuff we have on our plates today.

 

I am sorry to report that the Durham Bulls have lost their series against the Scraton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. The Bulls were blasted out of Durham Athletic Park 20-2 last night in a game that Bulls starter Wade Davis never had under his control last night.

The Yankees dominated right from the get-go, plating five runs in the second and third innings, a run in the fifth, eight in the sixth and one in the ninth. Juan Miranda did the most damage, going 3-for-5 with a three-run home run, two runs scored and six driven in. The Bulls, meanwhile, mustered only a run in the fourth and another in the eighth on a Gabby Martinez home run.

Wade Davis (1-1, 6.75) never found his groove giving up eight runs – five earned – on four hits and six walks. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Phil Hughes (1-0, 0.69) was dominant, striking out 12 Bulls in only five innings and allowing a run on four hits and four walks.

The Yankees advanced to the Express Employment Professionals Bricktown Showdown Triple-A Championship Tuesday at Oklahoma City’s AT&T Bricktown Park. They will face the winner of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, which is currently being contested by Oklahoma City and Sacramento.

 

But good news does come out of Durham for the Rays as theyr recalled Outfielder/DH Jonny Gomes, and pitchers Jeff Neimann, David Price and Mitch Talbot.  Gomes is happy to be back with the big club and is anxius to get to New York to play in one of the two game against the Yankees.  Pity the Yankees have not called up Shelly Duncan so Jonny and him can settle things over a pilsner and a steak.

Great to see Talbot up again. You might remember he had a 24 hour stint up in the majors this season before the Rays sent him back down to Durham. Jeff Niemann will get another look-see, and might even get a start in one of the two games today. It is just speculation, but the rumor is one of the guys being called up will get a shot at pitching soon with the Rays.

Of course all signals would normally point to David Price being that guy, but I believe that Rays Manager Joe Maddon will let the kid take a few days, or innings to absorb the enviorment.  But then again, if they have decided to use him as a reliever for the rest of the year, he could see action fast up here in New York. Maybe as early as tomorrow or the night game.

I was watching the “Inside the Rays” segment on former pitcher Doug Creek last night and have to tell you the guy looks healthier than he ever did on the mound in those shots. You might remember Creek for his hard stare and massive curveball on the mound for the Rays. But the Trop. still has a few stained turf spots in front of the Bullpen where Creek used to sit and chew tobacco and spit it in a determined segment of the carpet.

 

Also there is the time when Creek was out on his boat a little later than he wanted to be, and he had to get to the ballpark. Well, Doug put the boat on it’s trailer and towed it to the 3rd Avenue South, just behind the players parking lot area. He parked it on the street in the section right before the turn in for the parking lot in a 2-hour parking spot. He let the stadium security guy know it was his truck, and he could not get it and the boat into the lot without some hassle.

The players’ lot is a simple rectangular lot, and manuvering a boat in that small section would be next to impossible. Well, Doug went into the lockerrom and dressed for the game not knowing that the St. Petersburg Police Department was in the process of towing his boat and truck away as a violation of the post-911 city ordinances about vehicles without operators on-site.

The did not take the 5 minutes to talk to the stadium security, or to even get with the Rays or Creek before having a tow truck impound Creeks boat and truck. No one knew the truck was gone until after the game, and then everything hit the fan.

The situation was a bit tense for about an hour before the towing company guy showed up and took Doug to his truck and boat. There was no damage to either and Doug got into the truck and drove home. Creek never again brought his boat to the Trop after that night.

 

Also of note is the wild situation that Hurricane Ike has put on the the MLB schedule. As of last night, there are 4 doubleheaders today and one scheduled for Sunday. Not since the mid-1080’s has the league had to have as many postponments on games due to weather.

 

Evan Longoria is also penciled into the afternoon contest for the first action since damaging his wrist during the Seattle away series on August 7th.  Longoria was hoping to face some live pitching before coming back, but will instead face Yankee stater Mike Mussina in the game. Longoria must feel great to finally get back on the field, but must do it against the slurveball throwing Mussina who is by far the class of the Yankees pitching staff this season.

 

 The Rays lost a Friday coin flip and will have to travel to Fenway Park if a one-game playoff is needed to break a tie for the AL East championship, though the game would only be played if the losing team was not going to be the wild card. ( HINT, HINT)

Executive VP Andrew Friedman called tails, joking that he did “a thorough analysis” and that after senior VP Gerry Hunsicker, who’d lost several when with Houston, recommended heads, he went with tails. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said he actually made the call.

 

There was a lot of Internet buzz after Rays reliever Troy Percival looked on TV to be pointing at and calling teammate Carlos Pena a four-letter word before leaving Wednesday’s game hurt.

Percival said Friday he didn’t recall doing so, but Pena, after some thought, recalled the situation. He said Percival did use the bad word, but in the context of Boston’s David Ortiz on first, who represented the tying run, something like “That (bad word) doesn’t score.”

September Call Ups Part 1

 

I know a few names might be missing off the suspected roster call ups on September 1st, but you got to remember that two of our farm teams have playoff aspirations and might not have their players brought up until mid September of this year.

With the success of the Triple-A Durham Bulls, and the playoff push by the Montgomery Biscuits, the two teams will have to haorde a few players until their playoff aspirations are completed, or they win the whole thing.  With that in mind, the Rays did a great bit of foresight by protecting at least two spots on the post season roster for players still involved in the farm system playoff races.

With the Rays bringing up injured reliever Jae Kuk Ryu to the major league disabled list, it makes him and injured reliever Chad Orvella the two guys who could be dropped off the roster due to injury, and two other guys inserted into their spots. Most people have opinions on whose those two players should be, and who should  see the playoffs from the stands.

I can tell you this, the addition of Fernando Perez to the roster is a great additon based on speed and ability to play any outfield position. If he can get us a few extra runs down the stretch as a pinch-runner, all the better. But if he can give us more depth and give the guys in the outfield a few days off, it will help refresh a few of these guys and get their minds sharp for the post season.

Now I have already heard a few grumbles about David Price or Wade Davis not being here right now, but think about it, they are getting valuable experience playing in the Triple-A playoffs right now. That is the kind of education you can not buy or substitute. It will give them a taste of what will be October right now. So iof either of them are put on the Post Season Roster, they will be mentally prepared for the excitement and the adrenaline rush that comes with the call up.

I am a bit upset not to see two of the Rays’ veterans not get a shot up here this September. I am a huge fan of thinking that Mike DiFelice has done everything asked of him this year, and did not get rewarded with even a call up. I know he is entering the twi-light of his career, but name another player who has sweated and been there for the Rays since 1998.

Even though he was not with the franchsie for a few years, you know he watched and wanted those guys to have the excitement and the dream of a playoff berth. And now he is not even invited to be up here just for the September run.  Pity, he deserves better from the Rays.

And, this might not a popular pick, but I feel Jonny Gomes needs to be here as soon as the Durham playoffs are over. People have been knocking him all year, but as soon as he got some extra at bats in Durham, he exploded and is hitting with more power and even placing the ball into the oppositie fields.

I am not asking that Gomes be put on the post season roster unless he shows his bat is alive and deserving of a shot, but that he is the heart and soul of more than the players here in Tampa Bay. I think the crowd will aslo feed off Jonny’s vibe and get into this playoff push with more vigor and enegry. He has been the poster boy for a few years of the confidience and the energy of this team. It would be a shame if he can not even come up and help them get to October 1st without even picking up a bat.

 

I understand the bringing up of John Jaso is a call up to get him some familiarity with the major leagues. Jaso is our future catcher, and might even be a back-up in 2009 for the Rays. He has improved alot at Triple-A, and with a teacher like DeFelice, you can go wrong. His increased awareness behind and at the plate will work in his favor when he is up here with the Rays. He can also get a few spot starts and get the feel for the type of abilities he will have to display and improve on to be here next year.

 

We have a young team in many areas, and it will just get better with a maturation process in the next few years. Players will be added and subtracted to make this team stronger and more flexible in the near future. I know a few familiar faces might not even be here next season for the Rays, and that might just be a true sign of the level of competition we have finally reached on this team.

 

This team is about to hit a stretch run from hell, but with the pitching starting to click on all 8 cylinders, and the hitting supporting itself, we might just see a push for 100 wins this year. I am not counting on that total, but it might be a fun sight to see the drive for it this year. I am still stuck on my number of 95 wins will be needed to secure a playoff spot.

The great bit about the playoffs is that we can beat every team that is fighting for the positons. The Angels, White Sox and Red Sox all know we can beat them.

The Twins have not been around us enough yet, but you know they do believe they will have to make a statement in the next homestand against us here at the Trop.  That series might be one of the best played series in the Trop. this year, with a playoff spot as the reward for both teams.

Hopefully we can pop the champagne before they leave for Baltimore or Detroit, but that will take alot of help from other team for that to happen at the Trop before that 8-game roadtrip to end the season.

And do not forget, besides the Detroit 4 games, we have a makeup contest from the first week of the season against the Orioles. That game will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on  September 23rd, with game 1 presently being telecasted on FSN at 5:05 P.M.

Homers help Rays take Series from A’s

 

Rays 4, Athletics 3

 

 

Starting today, my review or views of the Rays’ contests will be more like a critique or summary of the contest.

 

I will throw out opinions, facts and maybe a few answers to some questions that surface during the game.  I know that most siteslike ESPN, or even Raysbaseball.com  do a  great recap of the game.

 

So I am going to try and dig a bit deeper and try to give you some  missing information,or  a different insight into the contest. I am trying to develop a consistant style that will show both a new side to some things, but also some useful information for Rays fans’.

 

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James Shields recorded his 9th win of the season last night after fighting some control issues in the 2nd inning. Shields surrendered a solo homer to Emil Brown on the first pitch he saw in the 2nd inning. Carlos Gonzalez then turned on a hanging braking ball on a 1-1 count to deposit it in the rightfield bleachers.

 

Shields got 7 strikeouts on 104 pitches today and is currently 9th on the AL strikeout list with 111 strikeouts this season. Shields also went 8.1 innings and was on pace to secure another complete game before Jack Cust doubled in the 9th inning.

 

  

Jonny Gomes has try to make the most of his recent outfield times. Gomes has gotten the start since Oakland started 3 straight left-handed pitchers in th this series. Gomes is trying to show the coaching staff that he derserves more playing time and can hit both righties and lefties.

 

Gomes last 6 hits have consisted of four extra base hits, 4 of them homers. Gomes came into the game hitting safely in 6 of 11 trips to the plate this homestand (3-8, with 3 walks).  Gomes came up in the 5th inning, with Carlos Pena on first after being hit by a pitch. With a 2-2 count against him, Gomes drilled a 442 foot  2-run homer off the C-ring to tie the game at 2-all for the Rays

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In the upcoming roadtrip to Kansas City, Gomes has gone 10-16 (.625) with 4 homers, 7 RBI’s and a 1.536 Slugging Percentage in his last 4 games at Kauffman Stadium.  With these kind of numbers, you might see more of Gomes either as a DH, or Rightfielder in this series.

 

 One pitch after Gome’s homer, Ben Zobrist sent another into the righfield stands to put the Rays in front 3-2. Zobrist, who is going back to Durham after today’s game is giving the Rays something to think about by hitting consistantly on his time up with the club this season.

 

Jason Bartlett was posted to the Rays 25-man roster immediately following the Rays  59th victory. Bartlett had missed the last 16 games with a right knee sprained while stealing third base on July 2nd  for the Rays.  Bartlett is batting .281 in his last 53 games since April 27th, raising his average from .200 at the time.

 

Bartlett has 10 errors on the season, the last one was a throwing error on July 1st against the Boston Red Sox.  The previous 4 were throwing, while his first 5 of the year were for fielding errors.

 

 

Akinora Iwamura was caught leaning on first base in the 4th inning on a great pick-off move by A’s starter Greg Smith. Aki was stretching out his lead when Smith wheeled around and caught Aki on his right foot. Aki could not get back in time to beat the tag off former Rays prospect Wes Bankston.

 

 

Willy Aybar hit the most interesting hit of the night in the 7th inning. Aybar split the outfield tandem of Carlos Gonzalez and Emil Brown and the ball spun both fielders around before settling near the outfield wall. It was well hit ball that found the gap and got Aybar his 9th double of the year. 

 

 Aybar homered for the first time at Tropicana Field on Monday. Aybar now has 4 homers in 144 at bats this year. He previously had 5 homers on 29 lifetime at-bats in the majors.

 

Carl Crawford is hitting .137 ( 7-51) over his last 12 games since July 7th, dropping his average 20 points from .288.  This stretch followed a 4-game multi-hit streak where he went 10-16 ( .625).

 

Crawford ranks 7th among active current players in steals ( 300), but is 4 years younger than any player ahaead of him. Crawfords’  lifetime stolen base percentage of 84.2 % ranks 10th best All Time in the majors, but 2nd in the AL.

 

                     

 

Troy Percival picked up his 20th save of the season today. Percival threw 2/3rds of an inning to record his save. Percival today became the 10th pitcher to record 10 season of at least 20 saves.

 

With 344 saves, he is currently 3 saves away from tying Randy Meyers for 8th place.  All of Percival’s save have been in the American League. Only Mariano Riveria has more AL saves than Percival.  Opponents are batting .162 against him this season, 4th lowest in the American League. 

 

Troy is currently working on becoming only the second pitcher to have over 8 30-save season in the majors. The top spot is held by the Padres ‘ Trevor Hoffman with 9 seasons.

 

The Rays will begin a 7-game road trip tomorrow , and will play 37 of their final 62 games on the road.  Their last road win was June 29th in Pittsburgh.  While the Rays are 40-16 at home (.714), they are  19-25 on the road (.432).

 

The Rays have the major’s best ERA at home (2.39), but have the leagues 23rd best ERA on the road (4.93).  

 

 

 

Kazmir Blanks A’s

 

 

Rays 4, Athletics 0

 

 

During the M C Hammer show on Sat. night at the Trop., Hammer talked about how after the team got rid of the “Devil” moniker, we began winning. That as the devil went out, the winning began. 

 

That after the team threw away the old uniform style and became a fresh, radiant sunburst, we had new energy and a new purpose and began to win. You know, it might just be something beside the team play that is winning all theses games. I am not calling it devine intervention, just a energized fan base and crowds that actually get into the games can pump a team up emotionally to want to win.

 

But isn’t it amazing that Hammer picked up on that aspect of the team’s success and not the fact that this squad has flirted for about a year just on the razor’s edge of knowing how to win the close games. That the Rays pitching has been 1-2 errors away from wins rather than losses last year.

 

Maybe more amazing is that the new Rays uniforms have been one of MLB’s biggest seller this year, and are more inviting than any other uniform in our team’s history.  Or maybe the stars and planets are aligined to give maximum Ray-dom energy to both the team and the players. Quasi-physics might also have a hand in all of this.

Maybe we are finding out what the coaches’ and scouts’ have known for years. These guys can play. I think it is more simple than that. I think we finally have a reason to believe, and they are rewarding us for our faith. But that is too simple of an answer for the masses and multitudes who want a deeper reason for winning.

 

                                         

 

Rays starter Scott Kazmir was extremely relaxed and poised after throwing his warm-up pitches last night. It was a calm you have not seen alot of in Kazmir this season. He was so relaxed and focused, he signed an autograph or two on the side of the Bullpen without missing a beat talking with Dioner Navarro and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey.

                               

But what Kazmir did on the mound was dominate a team that is also over .500 and in their own divisional fight with the L A Angels for a playoff berth. But the A’s are also considered by many to be the real “giant-killers” for  teams hunting playoff berths this season. Kazmir pitched  7 stellar innings last night and gave up only 2-hits and no runs to shutout the A’s 4-0.

 

With the victory, Kazmir picked up his 8th victory of the year, and with his 9 strikeouts, is currently 11th in the AL with 100 for the year. Considering Scott lost 3-4 starts due to his elbow injury, he is in good shape to try and defend his Strikeout King crown.

 

Kazmir also picked off Mark Ellis on second in the 1st inning. Ellis had walked to lead off the game for the A’s last night.  Kazmir is also ranked 1st in the AL in Strikeouts/9 innings. Tonight’s start was his 11th start against the A’s, and he is now 6-1 lifetime against them.

Kamir gave up only 2 hits last night, all singles.  Kazmir gave up his first hit to Ryan Sweeney in the 1st inning on a blooper single to center that fell between B J Upton and Ben Zobrist. The second was a Jack Cust single to center.

 

 

 B J Upton was again active on the basepaths for the Rays. For the game, B J was 2-3 at the plate, but also had 2 walks. Upton stole second twice in the ballgame to raise his total to 30 bases this year. Upton is currently 3rd in the Al, but is within 5 bases of the league lead. 

 

Since moving up and down in the lineup from his old 3rd spot, Upton has gone 3-9 in this homestand, and has looked more relaxed at the plate. 

 

Jonny Gomes also stole a base last night hustling in after singling to center. Gomes scored on a Akinora Iwamura single to center. Gomes went  1-2 last night and raised his average closer to .200.  Gomes also walked in the 2nd inning. Gomes will get another start in Rightfield tomorrow night against the A’s.

 

 

Where do you start when you talk about Evan Longoria the last few nights. The rookie has now hit 3 homers in 3 nights and has one dynamic defensive play after another this year. Before the beginning of the second half of the season, Longoria was in a 0-15 slump and was 3-23 in his last 7 games.

 

Evan hit his 19th homer of the season, and is 2 away from the Rays rookie record of 21 set by Jonny Gomes in 20005.

 

But his defensive play moving through the hole at short in the 9th innig was the defensive play of the night for the Rays. Longoria scooped the ball up and moving away from first through the shortstop hole, threw a high throw to Carlos Pena at first. Pena stretch high and mightyl and brought down the throw to record the second out in the 9th inning. 

 

 He is currently leading all rookies with 43 extra base hits and is leading in Slugging Percentage with .522.  His 2 RBI’s last night also puts him at 60 for the season, which is 2nd among rookies in the majors. And the Rays are 53-35 since he came up from Durham in April.

          

 

Akinora Iwamura also had a great day at the plate going 2-4, with a single and his 18th double of the season.  Aki has now hit safely in 18 of his last 21 games for the Rays.

 

Willy Aybar also hit his 4th homer of the season. Aybar hit his solo shot in the 3rd inning.  Before his homer Aybar had gone 2-21 in his last 9 games.

 

Grant Balfour came on in the 8th and retired the side on 15 pitches.

 

J P Howell  then came on in the 9th inning to close out the game for the Rays. Howell threw 10 pitches, 8 for strikes to seal the shutout and  help the Rays record their 58th victory.

 

Howell’s last batter was the most important of the night to the crowd in the Trop. Howell probably endeared himself more to the crowd with the night’s 10th strikeout on the last pitch of the game.  That left the crowd with a win, and a free Papa John’s pizza.

 

Howell has now thrown 59 innings this year for the Rays. That is only 3.2 innings shy of Doug Creek’s franchsie record for a lefty set in 2001.

 

He currently leads all AL lefties in innigs pitched, and is on pace to throw 98 innings. That would be the highest relief innings since the Twins Greg Swindell had 112.0 in 1997.

 

Howell currently leads the majors in relief innings with 59.0, Twins reliever Brain Bass ( 58.2) and Senators’ Joel Hanrahan (58.1) are close on his heels.

 

 

Rays have Sweep Brooms broken by Jays

 

 

Blue Jays 9, Rays 4

 

 

Sundays are usually full of kids running the bases, and adults trying to gain a few minutes of calm after the kaos of chasing said kids for 9 innings of a game.  You always see the Rays’ pitchers come out and toss a few minutes getting loosened up for the game.

 

Most of the staff comes out and either do a side session with Pitching Coach Jim Hickey, or just gets stretchedfor the game by doing some casual long toss, then some guys wander over and give some of the fans autographs.  I usually pop open my laptop and check out the daily Rays Pregame notes to see if anything interesting pops out at me.

 

Well, today’s edition had an interesting note.

 

Troy Percival had just been brought back to the active roster, and Gary Glover has been put on the 25 day DL for a  mild calf strain. What is so interesting is the fact Glover is tossing the ball not even 10 yeards from me at this very moment. And he is not showing any signs of pain or pulling back at all. He is squatting down and taking pitches, and seems to be in normal sprits. I have a feeling, the press release got to the Internet faster than the coaching staff got the word to Glover.

 

At gametime, there was no Gary Glover on the bench, or walking with the guys to the back  Bullpen clubhouse behind Section 140 in the Trop. Glover usually follows the group of Trever Miller, Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival into the back area to stretch, relax and just focus for the task later in the game.  I know teams use this kind of mirror tricks all the time to keep a guy who is out of options, or think are still very much in their future plans.  But couldn’t they at least pulled Glover before going out and stretching, and showing their cards to the fans and the media?

 

 

A year ago today, Edwin Jackson was going for only his 2nd win of the season by pitching 6 innings against the Yankees. That game saw the Rays post 14 runs for Jackson in his winning effort.  Only his second win.

 

And some fans’ are tense and eager to throw him away this year and he was going for his 6th today to even his record at 6-6. And do not forget, Jackson lost 2 decisions to blown saves earlier in the season. With those 2 wins, he is  almost on level with James Shields and Matt Garza for total wins.

 

Jackson pitched  4.1 innings today, and is only the second Rays’ starter to not got 5 innings in the last 34 starts. Jackson seemed to stay out of trouble early today with doubles plays in both the 1st and 2nd innings. But the damage had already started in the 2nd, when the Bluejays scored their first run of the game on Jackson.

 

Jackson went to the mound today seeking his career high 6th win.  Edwin was also pitching on 10 days rest, the largest  pitching gap in his career. The Rays are 8-3 when he lasts 6 innings, but 0-7 when he leaves the game early.  People seem to forget, this is the same Jackson who ealier in the season had 20 scoreless innings, and had a 2-0 record for the team. 

 

Unlike Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine, Jackson is a converted outfielder who took up pitching in the minor leagues. He is going about the same path as an ex-Ray who did pretty well on the World Series stage. Astros’ Brandon Backe was also a converted pitcher who helped the Astros get to the World Series and pitched a classic 1-hitter in his only start.

 

I think with the improvements over last year, and the constant adjustments he is making on the mound, Jackson is becoming a better pitcher every time he goes out to the mound for the Rays.

 

 

Evan Longoria has done more for this squad this season then the statistics show. He has garnished extreme attention from the MLB community for his defense, and for his power at the plate. Longoria hit a grand slam in Sat. night contest that is going to be a huge highlight on the Rays 2008 season review clips.

 

Longoria, hits his 18th homer of the season in the 3rd inning, was only a small part of the action for the Rays in the 3rd.  Toronto starter John Parrish got in trouble early in the inning by Akinora Iwamura reached on a infield single to start the inning, and removed on a force out at second on a B J Upton single.

 

Upton then stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Parrish on a pick-off play at second. Carl Crawford grounded out to first, but Upton scamped home to bring the score to 3-2.

 

Parrish, then in the span of 6 pitches gave up the homer to Longoria and Carlos Pena, his 15th of the season. Pena;s homer traveled 425 feet and hit the second pane of windows in dead centerfields’ restaurant before coming to rest on the turf. All Rios did was look up at Pena’s blast, knowing he did not have a play on it. These two blasts put the Rays up front for the last time in the contest 4-3.

 

After a Marc Scutaro 3-run homer in the 5th, Jackson exited the game losing 6-3, Jason Hammel and Trever Miller pitched the next two innings giving up 3-runs on 3-hits to sink the Rays into a deeper hole.

 

Hammel pitched 1.2 innings and  gave the Jays’ run on a Rios liner to right. Miller then came in and relieved Hammel and walked 3 straight Jays’ hitter before Adam Lind hit a Sacrifice Fly to score the final Jay run and push the lead to 9-4.

 

A bright spot for the Rays saw Jonny Gomes playing in rightfield and he made several great plays out there and contributed at the plate. Gomes hit a ground-rule double down the leftfield wall that had Lind, playing leftfield stunned that it did not go out on the fly. Gome also walked in the game and  this game began a series of starts where Gomes will see more action due to mostly left-handed pitchers starting for the in-coming Oakland A’s. 

 

Upton and Gomes also stole bases on Sunday, with Upton collecting his 28th of the year, and Gomes getting his 7th of the season. Upton is currently 3rd in the AL.  Gomes is also 7-8 in steal situations this year.

 

Al Reyes and Troy Percival pitched the last two innings for the Rays, each having good outings.  Reyes, who had been rocked a bit the previous night, went 1.2 innings and thre 10 strikes on 15 pitches. This stat tends to show maybe Reye was shaking off the rust last night and might still have a good 40 games left in his arm this season.

 

Percival saw his first action since coming off the DL and pitched the 9th inning for the Rays throwing 17 pitches, with 12 being strikes. Percival did give up 1 hit to Scott Rolen and hit Kevin Mench. But Percival got Greg Zaun to ground out to Ben Zobrist, who threw to Pena for the 3rd out of the inning.

 

From the end of the 3rd inning, the Rays did not score any runs in this ballgame. In the 4th inning, Gomes walked and stole second and went on to third on a throwing error by Zaun. Gomes  then tried to score on a Zobrist fly to shallow centerfield and was thrown out at the plate by Rios to end the Rays threat.

 

In the 5th, Crawford doubled to deep center and Longoria walked before Pena popped out to second to end the inning. In the 6th, Willy Aybar singled to lead off the inning, and stole second on a wild pitch by Jays reliever  Jason Frasor. The Jays then retired 9 straight Rays to garnish the victory.

 

As you can see above, the Rays had scoring opportunities the rest of the game but did not capitalize on them.  The Rays stranded 5 baserunner in the game, all 5 in scoring position at second or beyond.  

 

  

 

Rays First Half Report Card 6-10

 

 

 

On March 31,2008, I wrote a blog with goals and needs for the Rays this season. Reasons 6-10 of the “Top 10 Must Happens” for 2008, are listed below. Tomorrow I will post reasons 1-5 before the Rays take on the Toronto Bluejays at the Trop.

On to the list:

 

                               

6). Our Prospects need to improve……..just incase:

Our franchsie has been blessed with a great amount of minoir league pitching and position players. It is considered by many to be one of the best stocked systems in baseball. Pitchers like David Price, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson might not get to the majors this season, but make a great backload of talent and trade bait for the team.

Price is the one member of the pitching prospects who might crack the major league roster before Septembers’ call-ups. He has been brilliant in the minors, going 4-0, with a 1.83 ERA at Double-A. For his short career, Price is currently 7-0 for the organization.

Another guy who might be up here in September is catcher John Jaso. Jaso can hit for power and is a great communicator behind the plate. He is sure to battle for a back-up role next season for the Rays.

 

Grade……………………………………………..A-

 

 

Go to fullsize image         Go to fullsize image    Go to fullsize image

 

7). Rightfield guys have to be consistant and kick butt:

 

The pre-season arrangement of Jonny Gomes, Eric Hinske, and Cliff Floyd did not materialize completely as planned for Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Floyd’s knees are not good enough to get him out there, and Gome’s bat is great, but not consistant enough to place him out there on a regular basis yet.

The complete surprise of it all is the outstanding play of Eric Hinske. Hinske was fighting for just a roster spot in the spring, and now could be another huge piece of the puzzle for the Rays down the stretch run. His bat has been massive, and his outfield play is adequate for the Rays. He does have great clsoing speed in the outfield, but not playing there regularly for a few years, he has shown some rusty moments in right.

Another pleasant surprise has been the trade for former Brewer Gabe Gross to the Rays. It gives some stability in the late innings, and Gross’s bat has been productive for the team in numerous occasions. Both these guys have been a plus, plus for the squad this year.

 

Grade……………………………………………B+

The only reason this is not an “A” right now is the simple problem of  no right-hande bat to help the lineup. Gomes had done a great job when he has been incerted into the lineup, but he is not an everyday solution for the team. The Rays are currently looking into trading for such a bat, but at this time, the players named might be too costly to obtain for a short period of time. Rocco Baldelli has a darkhorse chance of maybe playing this year for the Rays, and could be the guy for the position.

 

Go to fullsize image                       

 

8.) The 1-2-3 Setup guys have to secure the game:

 

With the time Al Reyes and Troy Percival have spent on the DL this season, the Rays have stayed on contention this year. It was thought at the beginnig of the year, that these 3 guys had to gel into a unit to be a force in the backend of the Bullpen. With Percival and Reyes out of the lineup, Wheeler and Grant Balfour have stepped up and transformed the Bullpen into a consistant unit.

With the emergence of J P Howell as a lefty setup guy, the Rays have a two-pronged attack to get to the 8th or 9th innig and let Wheeler or Balfour get the save opportunity. Both Percival and Reyes are to be back in the fold in the coming weeks. This will further cement this unit with experience and strength down the stretch this year.

 

Grade……………………………………..A for effort, A for being one of the best Bullpen  ERA turnarounds inthe last 50 years.

 

 

Photo: Cleveland Indians' David Dellucci, right, sides home past Tampa Bay Rays catcher Dioner Navarro to score on Ryan Garko's bases-loaded double in the third inning of a baseball game on Saturday, July 12, 2008, in Cleveland.                 Photo: Tampa Bay Rays' Dioner Navarro breaks from the box on a two-run double off Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Masa Kobayashi in the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 12, 2008, in Cleveland.        Photo: Houston Astros Miguel Tejada scores for the National League past Tampa Bay Rays catcher Dioner Navarro on a sacrifice fly in the eight inning by San Diego Padres Adrian Gonzalez during Major League Baseball&39;s All-Star game at Yankee Stadium in New York, July 15, 2008.     REUTERS/Mike Segar  (UNITED STATES)

 

9). Catching has to hit a new high this season:

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon wanted it, the fans wanted it, and Dioner Navarro gave it to us. Navarro is having a breakout year where he has not batted below .300 at any point this season. To further illustrate his upward moves, Navarro was also recently selected to his first All Star game.

Match that with the renewed leadership with this youg staff. His take-charge attitude, and his great game-calling skills, and we have finally seen the catcher we had hoped Navvaro would be last year.

To compliment him, back-up Shawn Riggans has not bee silient either. With limited time, he has also showed great improvement at the palte and behind the dish. Riggans hightlight has to be catching the 1-hitter by Matt Garza in Miami against the Marlins.

 

Grade……………………………………………….. A+     Extra Credit points

 

 

 

10). Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base:

 

I saved the best for last and did not even know it here. Aki has been nothing short of brilliant at second for the Rays this year. He is only the second person in MLB history to play his first season at 3rd for over 100 games, and then play 2nd for another 100 game to begin his career. The last guy…………….Ryne Sandberg.

Aki has seemed poised and relaxed out there with Jason Bartlett, and has been a great pivot man for the double play for the Rays. He only recently committed his 2 errors at the position, tops in the AL.

 

Grade………………………………………………… A

 

So that is the bottom half of my pre-season wants and needs by the Rays in 2008. I am glad to see we are only 1/2 game behind Boston, and I look forward to the team beginnig their first stretch run on Friday night.

Do not forget, all fans attending the game on Friday night get a $5 GAS card from Hess Express. So if you have a group of friends wanting to see the Rays, bring them out and get  a card for everyone in your party.

Also Friday night is $1 Hot Dog night at the Trop.  You can feed yourself a tubesteak for a buck and still have enough for a free frosty beers.

See you at the Trop…………………………

 

Rays Continue Losing in Cleveland

 

 

Indians 5, Rays 2

 

 

Should I be proud that the Rays “fought the good fight” Sunday, or be more concerned with the silent bats in the lineup. Should I be looking at the starters who imploded at the worst time for the Rays and showed a huge weakspot on our team.

Should I be concerned that we seem to be a bad hitting team against right-handers’ right now. I am going to pick…………. none of the above.

Every team goes though a slump or struggles during the season. We just did it as a team this year compared to other years where we could just do it anytime, and anywhere. It does bother me that Carl Crawford is 0-24 during the last few games. But it is a great sight to also see Eric Hinske go 3-4 with some power. It was even great to see Jonny Gomes hustle around the bases and show that he wants it again.  He must have read this blog Sat. night.

This team has risen so far from the ashes, and been so dominating this year that a dip in the road was foreseen and actually predicted by everyone. Most thought it might be a season-ending slump like the New York Mets, or a resurgance like the Houston Astros a few years ago by someone below us right now.  Both could still happen, but my money is still on this team fighting to the last day to show they belong at the top.

 

 

 

I was sitting on the couch wathcing Friday night’s game and my girlffriend told me to be nice to Jonny when I wrote about the game. She knew I held a spot for Jonny in my top players mindset and would blast him about his play.

 Well, I did blast him, but he also did come out on Sunday and show me he still has that fire and ability to produce and succeed on this squad. For that I am glad he got the message, that he is again fighting for his right to be here. We all know that the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is closing in on this team. Decisions will be made about players and only the strong will survive the purge.

If Jonny keeps showing that “Pete Rose” hustle, he deserves to still wear the starburst and blue.

 

                             

               

 

Scott Kazmir blasted his teammates the other day about their drive and focus on the team duing this horrible roadtrip. For the record, the Rays went 0-6 on this trip and went from being 5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, to looking up at them in the standing.

The losing streak took them out of first place in the AL East. It is a spot they have held for 14 straight days after sweeping the Red Sox at home. During that time, the Rays bats went silient to the tone of hitting .187 during the Cleveland series.

The Rays starting pitching showed holes and breaks in their delivery that had not been seen this season. The Rays starter have been the backbone of this resurgance in the standings. The maturity of the young staff showed the rest of the league that you did not have to have a wily veteran to have a staff fulfill promise and succeed. This  starting staff is all under 26 years of age  and was playing like a veteran staff before this last road trip.

 

                              

 

Getting back to Scott Kazmir. Scott started this game like a man possessed. He seemed to have the weight of the team on his back to end this 6-game losing streak. For such a young age, Kazmir has been the rock on this staff for years.

This season he seemed to have the chance to relax and just pitch instead of have to end losing streaks or put a “W’ on the board for the Rays.  Kazmir looked out of place early on in the fatc he might have changed his pitching make-up to finally be a pitcher instead of a hurler. It showed in several instances in the game where the old Kazmir might have just blew it by a guy instead of trying to put a pitch in a certain spot.

This got Kazmir in trouble early in the game on a ball hit to B J Upton. Upton misread the break on the ball in the air and tried to catch it over the wrong shoulder. Casey Blake hit a over the plate change-up out to Upton on the play. In the past, Kazmir would not have tried to force that pitch into his routine. Instead he would have fired a knee high fastball just over the edge of the plate for a strikeout.

Kazmir went 6 innings and collected 7 strikeouts on the night. He seemed to go back to the “old” Kaz and fire them in there after his slider was not breaking well for him. Kazmir threw 104 pitches, and probably took himself out of any pitching in the All Star game on Tuesday.

The AL skipper. Terry Francona will probably only use Kazmir now if he needs a late inning guy after all his other troops have hit the mound. 

 

                              

 

 

The Rays only managed  3 hits on Sunday against the Indians.  The Rays were rewarded in the 2nd inning by Cleveland for their patient manner at the plate. In the 2nd inning, Indian starter Jeremy Sowers had some critical control problems. 

The problems included a balk to move Gomes into scoring position. Gomes stealing 3rd a few plays later, and then 4 straight walks to put the Rays up 1-0 in the game. Sowers continued to struggle in the 3rd with Carlos Pena lining a single to rightfield, then  Gomes again walking for the Rays.

Shawn Riggans came on and popped a single to put the Rays up 2-0 and collect his 16th RBI of the year. That would be the last of the scoing for the Rays on Sunday as the Indians normally inept reliever shut the Rays down from the 3rd inning on in the contest.

 

The Rays had 14 strikeouts on Sunday giving them 694 strikeouts for the year. That ranks them first in the AL, but 8th in the majors this year.

 

On Wed and Thursday of this week, I will be reviewing the preseason blogs listing the “Top 10 ” things I thought the Rays needed to do to be successful in 2008.  Since they are travel days and no games are scheduled, it just felt like thr gith time to see how the Rays have faired on my preseason list.

I look forward to giving the positive stats and results of the first half, and also reporting the pitfalls that might still be in front of this squad.

Have a great time watching the Home Run Derby tonight. I am personally picking the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton to win it all tonight. I think he is just having that kind of year you just want to sit back and watch, knowing he deserves it all.  

If I had to take a dark-horse, or someone who might surprise us all, I am going to go with the Philles’ Chase Utley to take afew into the dark night and maybe be the upset in this contest. 

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