Results tagged ‘ Perfect Game ’

Jaso Earned His Perfect Moment

I know I was one of many of the Rays Republic sitting with a dazed and confused look on my mug when Seattle Mariners hurler Felix Hernandez thrust his arms up into the air following his Perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays recently. Not only did I feel a know in the pit of my stomach because of the process put a stumbling block into the road for the Rays with losing this series, but for the third time in as many years, the Rays anointed a new monarch into the ranks of pitching brilliance.

Then I saw a figure run out from behind the plate and join the mound festivities and a bit of the gut retching subsided as I saw someone jump into the celebratory impromptu team meeting who desired this kind of moment and who is quietly establishing himself as a great game caller behind the dish. And it seems in perfect ironic harmony that ex-Rays catcher John Jaso finally gets to celebrate a historic pitching moment by being the battery mate of a new pitching immortal.

Everyone always throws the accolades and praise towards the pitcher in these displays of perfection and finesse, and for a flamethrower like Hernandez it not only took a delicate amount of luck and precision, it possibly took a little fine tuning and graceful glove work by Jaso to bring perfection into a reality.

Jaso over the last few years has gotten really good at framing pitches, bringing wandering breaking pitches and border line called strike into the red so the Home Plate Umpire can make an easier job of having to bellow out a called strike to the astonishment of many a batter.

I am not pushing back the emerald green curtain and trying to tarnish an ounce of Hernandez’s brilliance on this afternoon, but Jaso definitely played a key role and deserves a little sunlight himself. This was a catcher shocked and a bit dumbfounded and possibly still has some abandonment sentiments after the Rays sent him to the Pacific Northwest late last November sending him from a contender to a team trying to find the right pieces to their own contending puzzle.

The mild-mannered Jaso took his change of scenery as a chance to again establish himself, put himself on the map in another locale possibly again having throngs of female admirers loving his facial hair and protruding dimples as much for his hard work and determination on the field. All # 27 has done for the Mariners in his 73 game is post a .292 average with 14 doubles, 8 HR and 3 stolen bases. And watching Jaso behind the plate taking each and every one of King Felix’s 113 offering and being a part of only the 24th backstop to help help monitor and achieve perfection for his pitcher.

I felt the trading of Jaso this past Winter was a bit premature, one of the handful of total glitches that have transpired since the dropping of the “Devil” from the Rays in November 2007. Possibly his ailing batting average and the hint of more production and long-term solutions from the bevy of Rays farmhand catching prospects made this deal not only warranted, but needed at the time. I am one of those who scratched my head and wondered what the Rays had in kind trading a proven component for a relief pitcher who was still trying to pitch his way out from under his own trouble cloud.

Most of you already know I glance towards the scoreboard a lot trying to view the Seattle scores, it is my adopted second home and holds my favorite stadium. In the end, even as I pondered and thrust my own arms into the air in frustration, it was with hidden admiration and joy to see our old former # 28 bounce and jump for excitement as he approached the King and his field court, finally getting that well deserved sunlight alongside a hurler who had just put himself into an esteemed and lofty pitching Fraternity.

This is the kind of player moment a hard-nosed guy like Jaso sweats and bleeds for. It has to be a bittersweet moment as he stood on the hill celebrating with his fellow M’s, then turn and see his former squad with their heads down possibly wondering if this was the first nail in their post-season coffin.

Jaso was catching at Triple-A Durham when Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle handcuffed the Rays for their first perfecto in 2009 as well as May 9, 2010 when Oakland Athletic SP Dallas Braden duplicated the feat.

A minute after the wave of negativity washed off me concerning the event I found myself laughing a bit. The guy we thought was expendable, was a patchwork piece of our former Rays battery possibly got his career defining moment and even if they could not cheer for him, you know a few Rays inside were happy Jaso got to finally feel this kind of adulation. Jaso had a perfect angle to see and watch this historic event play out, and it couldn’t of happen to a better player or person. 

Braden’s Gift on Mother’s Day is just….Perfect

 
 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty
Yogi Berra would have been very proud to watch this Mother’s Day baseball game today. In fact his classic line of “Déjà vu happening all over again” would have been the “perfect” ending to the conclusion of the game. All week long there have been numerous National media members and broadcasters  who have been saying that your team had to be almost perfect to beat the surging Tampa Bay Rays right now.
 
And for one Sunday afternoon, the level of perfection by Oakland A’s starting pitcher Dallas Braden proved to be the right and exclamation point answer to finally trumping the Rays, and securing the first road series victory by an opposing home team from the Rays this season. Coming into today’s game, the Rays boasted an unheard of 13-2 road record, and were 4-1 on their present road trip. 

With an overflowing sea of pink Mother’s Day MLB merchandise scattered across the assorted tables in the Oakland A’s clubhouse, you have to think that primary on Braden’s mind coming into this start was his departed mother, and the maternal grandmother who stood by him in rough times and turned the rebel youth into a prototype model for left-handed perfection. His Grandmother did not teach him to pitch, but she did teach him how to be his own man. And after today, no one will ever remember the “mound” spat with Yankees Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez earlier the 2010 season when absent-minded A-Rod stepped on Braden’s mound during one of his starts.

Now the world will remember Barden for his articulate off-speed pitching that seemed to dazed and confused the Rays. All day long the Rays were caught looking or guessing at the combination of change-ups, sub-90′s mph fastball and a stifling curves thrown at them over the nine innings. Barden never seemed to sweat, or seem remotely nervous in this Mother’s Day start and was still throwing in the ninth inning for the first time of his short MLB career. Along with the “Perfecto”, Braden threw his first complete game of his career on a day that MLB used to celebrate all of our mothers.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

And firmly planted within Braden’s mind during his pitching performance on Sunday afternoon was the many sacrifices and the pain and suffering shared by his two “Mother-figures” in his life. For Barden’s life might have taken a different path if not for the hardnosed approach by his mother, Jody Atwood during his high school years.  And the light bulb finally came on for Braden during a high school trip to Mexico, he began to see the constant path through his mother’s guidance and talks and made an immediate 180 degree turn in his life choices.


But Atwood was not in the stands today to see the mature and well poised Braden throw his first professional pitching gem as she had succumbed to melanoma cancer while Braden was still in his late teens and turned the ball to her mother Peggy Lindsay. So it was only fitting that Braden was so emotionally charged and focused on the mound today as he wore the pink ribbon over his heart on his A’s jersey. But even more important today was that at no moment in the game did we ever see a crack in his armor, either in his facial expressions or his pinpoint pitching accuracy.

Some will say that he might have been channeling former Athletics southpaw Jim “Catfish” Hunter who only 15,331 days earlier had thrown a similar Perfect game for the Athletics back on May 8, 1968. And this is not to suggest that Braden will transform into the second coming of Hunter, but to even be within  a small piece of that shadow of a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee will do wonders to Braden’s inner confidence as a pitcher, and as a man. And amazingly enough, the final score of that 1968 game was 4-0, the same as today’s final score.

But then some others will say that the always rightious Baseball Gods might have rewarded Braden for his stern discipline of safeguarding the “Unwritten Rules” of the game by his argument with A-Rod today. But the conclusion I  have come up with is divine guidance through physical integrity. This is a guy who was so cool, calm and relatively collected after throwing his last pitch of the game in which Rays Rightfielder Gabe Kapler hit a ball towards A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington who threw to Daric Barton at First Base to secure the perfect game for the left-hander.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

How ironic is it that within the last year, the Rays have been victims of two different Perfect Games by two outstanding left-handed pitchers. In their July 23,2009 game against Chicago White Sox starter Buehrle, the Rays struck out 6 times in their 27 times to the plate. Interestingly enough, they also struck out 6 times today against Braden. Buehrle threw 116 pitches while Braden only needed 106 to complete the Perfecto. Both pitchers earlky on seemed to be “in the moment” but today, Braden did not need a “big play” to secure his Perfect Game. The closest he got to that was a hard hit line drive by Evan Longoria down the Third Base line that A’s Third Baseman Kevin Kousmanoff took in easily early in the game.


Braden got his own personal revenge on these same Rays who took advantage of his early wildness the last time he faced the Rays on April 28,2010 in Tropicana Field.  On that day Braden also opposed Rays starter James Shields on the mound, but the Rays got to Braden early and chased him from the game after only 88 pitches. The loss he suffered that day ended Braden’s personal three game winning streak. You got to think he mentally put it in the back of his mind for some redemption today to end Shield’s own 4-game winning streak when he took the mound against the Rays today.

It was simply amazing to watch the top of the 9th inning as all 12,228 fans in attendance stood for the entire Rays at bat, then remained standing and becoming more emotionally attached with every single pitch thrown during that final half an inning. For they instantly knew of the impossibility of this moment when Braden came back out to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, and knew the immediate importance of this win that would snap the Rays early season dominance on the road.


Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

It truly did take a tremendous effort on the mound today against the Rays for Braden to eventually have his name mentioned along with Hunters in that elusive collection of Athletic’s outstanding pitching performances and capture this memorable Perfect Game. And if I was in attendance at Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum today, even if I was head-to-toe in Rays gear, I would have stood and cheered along side the huge amount of A’s fans after the conclusion of this sparkling pitching gem.

It is the thought of achieving such levels of perfection that drives some athletes to sweat more, and work increasingly harder within the sport of baseball. And  for an athlete to even have a chance to finally fulfill that destiny, the momentum of the moment and final gasp of breath after achieving that moment is unexplainable. On a Sunday when the entire MLB community is showering the stadiums with support for those special women in our lives, perfection was in Braden’s heart today.
 
And  Braden’s transformation on the mound today was remarkable and makes me want to stand up and cheer loud and proud for him today. Baseball immortality is now shining long and bright on Braden today, or maybe  a few of thowe past motherly influences finally coame to fruition to lighten up this memorable Mother’s Day. 

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

Cherish the moment.

History Will Not Repeat Itself Tonight

 

 
Jim Pershing/AP

It has not even been a year since the Chicago White Sox and pitcher Mark Buehrle stuck the first Perfect Game against them in Tampa Bay Rays history upon the team back on July 23,2009. And it was not the first venture into the No-No business for Buehrle, he also got a No-hit wonder back on April 18,2007 against the Texas Rangers. But if you listened real close to the hotel lobby chatter already starting to escalate about tonight’s first meeting since “The Perfecto”, and about “The Catch” by former White Sox Dewayne Wise, you have to instantly wonder why the Rays even show up with all this hype and pomp going on even before the beads of sweat have been wiped from White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen’s forehead last night.


I can only imagine what kind of quick and witty dialogue will unfold the second after the White Sox’s open the turnstiles to U S Cellular Field today for a classic rematch of finesse over accuracy pitching versus the Rays crafty base running abilities and omnipresent power hitting potential of this line-up. The real question might actually be that this game can not, in realistic terms, even come close to the last meeting by Buehrle and the Rays offense because of their changed outfield alignment, a weaker defensive core behind Buehrle, plus the additional personal knowledge of the Rays squad as to Buehrle’s pitch selection, and the possibility of their last meeting’s game video drilled into their cranium over the last several days.
 
 
Jim Pershing/AP

This game might be more about redemption, the Rays redemption over an extremely evil moment in their team’s history that only a great (lucky) catch by Wise secured for their immortality. Seriously, the White Sox have designated and painted a small “The Catch” lettering upon the CF outfield fence to symbolize this one moment into their team history. If you remember the after the game comments of Wise that day, this whole episode could have gone either way if he had moved his glove in another position as he was coming down off that wall with the ball perched towards the end of his glove like the top of an icy white snow cone.
 

 
Jerry Lai/ US Press wire

Wise exploded up and into the Centerfield wall and his momentum seemed to bounce his catching shoulder violently into the wall, but somehow he retains his grip on his glove and makes his way down towards the outfield warning track clay and the hands of the unseen Baseball Gods mysteriously kept that ball from leaving his glove looking more like a fresh chicken egg. And the chicken and the egg metaphor truly fits here because if Wise had missed that ball, it would have fallen between his legs like a white orb leaving his chicken mothers…Let’s just say he would have laid a big egg.

 
Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune

But it was a 5-0 game at that point, and the Rays might not have secured the win no matter what had happened, but the “Perfecto” and the “No-No” would have been el gone-o at that point. It would have been a moral victory, but you got believe Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler who also made an amazing diving catch for an out in Rightfield in the same game felt a bit in the dark shadows today.


But it is great to get this kind of National attention focused towards an April night game that doesn’t involve inner divisional foes, but two teams that kind of do not like each others style of play, but respect the winning traditions. But this White Sox team in 2009 had a Rays huge chip upon their shoulders because this same Tampa Bay team thrust them out quickly of the 2008 Playoffs like a redheaded stepchild, then went all the way to the World Series. You know deep down within them each member of that 2008 White Sox Playoff team thought they had the mustard to confront the Phillies, rain or no rain and bring back another shiny heirloom for the trophy case.

And Buehrle is an amazing pitcher, I will truly give that to him. And he does possess that one demonic element that has haunted the Rays for most of 2009 and even early on in 2010. He is one of those crafty lefties like last night’s White Sox victor John Danks who can pick and choose his pitching moments to entice you with outside pitches or throw one high and tight and make you ultimately sweat like a pig at the plate. But like I said before in this post, the Rays have had a period of time to let that game fester within them, to go back over again and again changes and adjustments they would have personally done to make the outcome different.

So I am forecasting a huge barrage of action tonight. Not only will one of the aces of the White Sox be countering the Rays rookie Wade Davis on the hill tonight, but the team confidence and the team unity this season is miles ahead of the mid-July Rays team of 2009. This year’s team has an air about them that there is unfinished business in front of them, but another of their early tests will come tonight against Buehrle. Just like M C Hammer said so eloquently a few years ago, “When you take the “Devil” out, the wins come in.”

Well, the Rays have a demon on the mound tonight who has enticed and sliced and diced them into chopped Italian Beef sandwiches. And with the Rays currently showing a .151 Batting Average against Buehrle in 2009 it might seem like an uphill climb the size of Mount Everest. But the cosmic potential of this 2010 Rays squad is massively greater than the 2009 squad that did not find success against this crafty leftie. Maybe tonight the Rays write a new chapter into this classic match-up against finesse and power.

 
Mark O’Meara/AP

Maybe this time the outcome will be based on people crossing the plate and not about hard breaking backdoor cutters or an extremely well-placed change-up. Maybe the Baseball Gods this time will shiner upon the Rays and give them their first “W” against Buehrle since 2008 when they scatter 25 hits against him and posted a yearly .316 Batting Average. Maybe it is time for the Rays to play a perfect example of their style of offensive game tonight. New season means the slates are clean , and we are eager to get into the Batter’s Box.

Competitive energy goes Haywire

 


Jim Presching / AP

I am a very competitive person. I at times insanely dedicated to playing football and baseball as a kid growing up as I am now as an adult doing something at home like video games with friends. It is a mild personality defect that has been drilled into me since I was just about 4 feet tall. I was always told to hit harder, sweat more and push myself to the  outer limits of my body. That sort of routine after awhile gets ingrained into you and it becomes a part of your basic personality.

It doesn’t matter to me if you think it is a bad or good trait, it is there for everyone to see  and I do not think it can be reversed. And at my age now, my body and my mind are finally playing tricks on each other. For years I have still been able to match up against the neighborhood kids in some street football, but over the last year, my body has decided that is for the young, and not the guy who beginning to show gray on his temples and get winded after 15 minutes playing the game.

And I take that same sort of insane passion with me into my Fantasy sports and even with my  Rays Renegade team. None of this was more evident yesterday afternoon than when I saw my Fantasy guys go belly-up.  I saw my team, which has 6 Tampa Bay Rays players on it begin to take a free fall towards a final 1 for 37 mark last night, or a miserable .027 batting average for the day. You see, I can not longer play the game like I did in college, professionally, or even in the backyard, so these simple games of skill and have now become my battlefields.

And it is hard for me to sit there and hope for a rebound effect, or even simply just take deep breathing as a relief for the pain. My mindset for so long has been fine tuned to want more than the usual. It has been primed for confrontation and geared towards defeating any enemy, friend or foe.  Heck, I do not even go to a friend’s card games at his local tavern because I am afraid of my competitive streak.

So yesterday while I was watching a two-fold implosion, one on Sunsports/FSN-Florida, and the other on my small laptop screen I was venting some extreme clouds of fire from my belly. Smoke was clouding my judgment, and small embers of rage and disappointment ravaged my stomach. I had never seen such carnage before with my team in the crosshairs, and I frustrated me to the extremes.

Anyone who was on Twitter yesterday knows I was within a fine hair of melting down and imploding myself online. Oh, I do not get nasty and go all four-letter words or even attempt to curse, but the pent up frustration did make me re-write my Tweets about three times before I sent them. But this was a different competitive edge.


Jim Prisching / AP

It had a different feel to it for me, or so I thought at the time. I guess all those years of playing and scrambling had finally gotten me to this point. I was so upset by the end of that game that I knew I could not take phone calls, could not take emails, and especially could not encounter people who would rehash the game with me. I put a huge sign on the fridge door to leave me alone or there would be a firestorm of Nerf products coming at you that would rival a  Confederate cannon bombardment during the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

I was in no mood to celebrate one of the biggest pitching accomplishments because it had happened to my team. And with that I sat in the dark for about an hour and thought, and thought and thought, hey I forgot to bring food and drinks into the room. So I wandered out the back door and drove to the grocery store. There I got a few Pepsi products, a Cuban sandwich and a few things to nibble on later that night.

And wouldn’t you know it, the two guys in front of me were chatting about the Perfect game. It was at this moment that I finally came to the realization that I had a problem. I still had the fire in my belly and that pain in my head from losing. That the lessons learned a long time ago might be mis-guided now and out of date. And that is a hard thing to admit. I am older, but not wiser in this area. And I know I am not the only one. I think about friends of mine who still play competitive softball or coach Little League and wonder if they still have that acid belly pain and yearning to smell the win and avoid the bitter aftertaste of losing.

I began to wonder as the two guys were starting to put down the failing efforts of the Rays in that game, and were laughing at the Rays efforts. The little devil in me wanted to throw down and take them both out with vengeance..with authority… with angry power.

 
And then I wondered if they even knew about Dewayne Wise’s late inning substitution and if he was not there, these guys would not even be talking like this. I wonder if they knew that 5 times in that game Rays hitters got 3-2 counts on Mark Buehrle and he made his magic happen. That even into the Rays last at bats in the ninth inning, that they were still trying to find a way to win. That Rays catcher Michel Hernandez got Buehrle behind in the count 3-1 before taking a strike looking, then swinging at a pitch for the second out.

Three outs before Buerhle and the White Sox were to celebrate, an outfielder had to make the play of the game to save his masterpiece. Two outs from the end he had to show he was the skilled pitcher we always knew he was by prying a walk out of Hernandez’s hands, and in the end, he dominated one of the better hitters in the American League by getting Jason Bartlett to hit a ball to short for an easy third out and end the game.


Jim Prisching / AP

The entire last inning or so people on Twitter saw my responses, and I think they saw the aggression and the frustration come to a boil, or maybe they thought I was playing. Here is just a few of the rambling out of my collective soul during that final bunch of outs:

RaysRenegade Pat ‘the Faucet” Burrell almost ended the suspense. Game of inches with that drvie down the 3rd b line. Perfectly turning my stomach rotten.

RaysRenegadeWhere is my lighter fluid? Neidermeyer dead, Marmalard, dead, DTX Death Mobile gassed up. White tube sox…….flaming as we speak! Imperfect


RaysRenegadeMark Buehrle is no Billy Chapel. Sorry this is not a re-make of “For the Love of the Game.” Kapler, Hernandez, Bartlett..my $ is on Bartlett.

RaysRenegadeHoly Crappo! Dewayne Wise just came off the bench and goes up over the wall to steal Kapler’s HR.

RaysRenegadeI am not going to act like those NY fans in the movie..I am pissed! I saw Derrick Lowe throw the first no-hitter against the Rays. No No NO!

RaysRenegadeThank goodness I do not have a dog! It might be the 18th Perfect Game in MLB history, but the TV is off! Shut the door,I am not in the mood.

RaysRenegade@MLB I was tweeting like a canary. Kudos to Dewayne Wise for saving the special gift. But it will take me a day to congrats to Buehrle.

RaysRenegadeSeacrest out!

And here is the last Tweet I saw before I left Twitter last night:

RSBS@RaysRenegade i assume it’s just sleep for you now

You have no idea what was venting through my ears at that time. People who have never played at a high level of sports think that a coach comes into a locker room calm, cool and collected after a game like that. Well, most do not.  At least mine never did. From Coach Charlie Pell in college to Coach Kush while I was playing ball in Indy, losing was not an option, it was an excuse for not winning.

I really do not think that New England Patriot Head Coach Bill Beleichick strolled into the locker room after an 11-5 season, and missed the playoffs and sent his team off with a hardy ” we just missed boys” speech. If he did, that will be the end of that dynasty chatter. 

This evil energy gnawed at me for about 4 hours last night while I watched shows I had on the DVR saved from Monday and Tuesday night. Competitive spirit and  a yearning for the best and the top shelf do not just transcend sports, they support it.

I am wondering if there is a support group of former athletes or competition junkies that meets in my little town. I am not upset by the Rays losing this game, I am not so angry because it was the Chicago White Sox, or much less a great pitcher like Buehrle, the final essence of all of this is that it was a Perfect Game. 

I mean I was in Boston  on that cool April night when Red Sox starter Derrick Lowe no-hit the Rays and I was upset, but not to this level. It did bother me for the rest of the night, but not to the extreme this one is clawing at my heart. Maybe I have finally hit that wall, that invisible part of life where reality beats up the image of my team. 
Maybe it is finally time for me to seek professional help to combat the effects of this over-competitive libido before it kills my love of the game(s).

Nah, that is just crazy talk.  I will be fine until the next time we have this sort of performance from the Rays. But I am confident it will not happen to them again in my lifetime. There have been only 18 Perfect Games in the history of the game. To be a part of one of them was great, but thank god it did not happen at home. You do not know what kind of reaction you might get from the bandwagon faithful.

Do I still feel the same about the Rays….sure. And my Fantasy team will rebound. I might get popped out of first place this week, but I will fight back and regain my spot by the time the playoffs come around.

But this one did hurt. All the way down to the middle of the core of my competitive spirit. It fractured my perception and  ultimate foundation of my team, but they will be fine and will fight on. No one died. No one was injured, the games will start again tonight. I will again be on Twitter ready for tonight battle and post a few, or more snippets during the game.


Jim Prisching/ AP

I will again be full of the competitive fire in my belly to support my team. I guess what really got to me was the fact that this was it for our games against the White Sox this season unless we both meet in the playoffs. No chance at redemption, no chance to try and duplicate the feat again in 2009. But what might have been the epicenter of all the anger and rage might be as simple as this team did not deserve to go down like this, but you can not stop history, you can only contain it.  

But then again, I think I need to make a call right now to  a Rays support group. I need to go to a place where people like me can go to grow again and get rid of these ugly feelings bottled up in my belly. I hear they have just that sort of group down at the Red Room in Largo, and the leader of that support group wears a big blue wig and serves cold Coors Light.

I think I need an infusion of other Rays fans right now. I think I need a spirit transfusion stat before I melt into the carpet. Maybe they are meeting tonight at 7 pm. Maybe I can get help during the Rays versus Jays game tonight……..just maybe. Hopefully Roy Halladay did not watch this game and wonder…….


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