Results tagged ‘ Reid Brignac ’
When I was young, my Father used to tell me there would be these moments in my life where everything seems clear and clarity will be at its zenith for a time. Last night, in the mass chaos of extra innings, mutual outstanding pitching performances and the hustle and bustle of players clamering on their teammates like 10-year olds celebrating a Little League title, the moon, stars and heaven seemed to align perfectly to enlighten myself and the 26,906 other witnesses to one of the most fabulous baseball games in 2010.
What all of us saw before us last night was a barn-burner pitcher’s guessing game to their last pitches between two of the most dominating southpaws in the American League. Both trying to get destiny to give them a wink in deciding who would get a “bump up” in the American League Cy Young race. We saw the wily veteran presence of New York Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia going not only for a knockout blow in the Cy Young race, but trying to hit the 20 win plateau for the first time in his career.
On the other side of the coin was this year’s wunderkid, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price who not only got the nod of rival Yankees Manager Joe Girardi over one of his own pitchers for the start of the 81st All-Star Game, but has seen his own stock rising as quickly as the donuts as Price tries to keep the wins comings to (maybe) become the first Rays pitcher EVER to record 20 wins.
This incredible pitching match-up was only the 11th time in the last 10 years that two 17+ win starters squared off in a contest. It was the first time since 1985 that both pitchers had 17+ wins and went 8 scoreless innings each in the same contest. The last time was Sept 11,1985 when ex-Rays, the NY Mets pitcher Doc Gooden went up against St. Louis Cardinals hurler John Tudor, who ended up throwing a 10 inning shutout that night. Gooden threw 9 innings and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning. Met reliever Jesse Orosco gave up a solo shot to Cesar Cedeno for the lone Cardinal run.
As if you need to boosting the hype of this match-up any higher, was the fact that both Sabathia (19 wins) and Price (17 wins) were ranked 1 and 2 in the American League in victories at the time. This was also only the second time either had faced the other in a regular season MLB game. The first time was Sunday, Oct. 2, 2009 also at Tropicana Field, when Sabathia was trying to post his 20th win for 2009. Price and the Rays derailed that days chance at Sabathia 20th win mark with a 13-3 final that was highlighted by B J Upton’s cycle of his career.
Tonight’s match-up quickly materialized into a showdown between the uncharacteristic impatient Rays, who were trying to jump on Sabathia pitches early hoping for mistakes across the plate, and Price’s inability to get the Yankee hitters to take tasty swings just outside the zone. The tables oddly turned 180 degrees tonight as the Yankees seemed to be playing the Rays usual game plan of staying patient at the plate and looking for misguided morsels to hit, while the Rays, who struck out 14 times (Sabathia had 9 K’s) just seemed to be hoping for mistakes, but getting odd calls and mismatched pitches to start any type of rallying point.
This contest definitely fits into the category of an instant baseball classic moment as two young hurlers went about their craft chiseling and honing the strike zone all night long with Sabathia turning out a nice piece of furniture for his efforts, while Price fashioned his own great masterpiece himself in the process. But each pitchers path in this pitcher’s duel took different path, but each did not benefit with a chance for a win in the end.
Back and forth the game went as both teams made strides that bordered on the verge of breaking the game wide open, but their counterpart team’s defense simply made the obvious holes smaller and performed their own feats of magic to take this game long into the night. And that was surprising because the game seemed to be going at a record pace, but suddenly hit a bit of molasses patch and instantly went to a baby’s crawl.
More amazingly is the fact that if Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford had not gotten thrown out of the game by Home Plate Umpire Tom Hallion for arguing balls and strikes, this game could have conceivably gone on for even longer. When Crawford was ejected in the bottom of the ninth inning, Rays rookie infielder Reid Brignac went into the game and assumed Crawford’s third slot in the line-up.
Brignac worked the count to 3-2 before sending a screamer 383 feet into the Rightfield stands for the Walk-off winner. As the Rays assembled for the “team meeting” at Home Plate for Brignac, certain key facts instantly came out about the blast. Brignac became the first AL player to hit a walk-off homers in extra innings for a 1-0 score since former Rays hitter Aubrey Huff did it against the Rays on May 9, 2007. Brigs was also the first rookie to blast a solo shot to win a 1-0 game since the L A Dodger’s Russell Martin did it on August 13, 2006 against the San Diego Padres.
Most people would think the fact it marked the first time since June 13th that the Rays held onto sole possession of first place in the AL East would be the defining moment in this game. But there were many flashes of brilliance and moments of clarity in this contest. It showed the best two lefties in the AL right now matching pitch-for-pitch in a game with neither getting a chance to capitalize. It saw another Rays bench player come out of the dugout and perform an inspirational moment for all of us to remember deep into the Winter.
J Meric/Getty Images
Most of all this contest showed the true essence of the heart, soul and determination that neither of these teams are expecting the other to back down or go quietly into the night for the duration of the 2010 schedule. In the end, the team that their former owner, the late George Steinbrenner once told me that “the pesky Ray keeps his Yankees honest on the field” found a way to cement another solid performance in all of our hearts. If this keeps up, Tampa Bay will go through a boatload of Pepto by Wednesday night by followers of both teams.
I headed to the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday afternoon game wearing my jeans, an old Disney character polo and of course, my old Air Force Ones. It wasn’t Nostalgia Day or even 80′s Day, it was my own way of celebrating Hip Hop Night at Tropicana Field. Think about that wording for a minute…Hip Hop at the Trop…..Word to your Mother!
People seem to forget if it wasn’t for Nelly’s emerging talent at the mic he, Nelly might have made his way someday onto the Field Turf of the Trop on his own as a baseball player. He had some mad skills in the middle infield growing up and could turn the corner on a double play like his idol, former St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
And as soon as the ball settled into the Tropicana Field stands, and the team concluded their on-field Team Meeting with Aybar as the guest speaker, then it was Aybars turn to get a ceremonial shaving cream pie to his face and head and begin getting in Nelly mode. I was already feeling the rhythm and the pulse of the bass to get out on the field and take a spot where the photos would fall like rain, and the crowd would swing in unison to the verses and song of the minstrel named Nelly. But I made a cardinal sin ( at least in my book).
I had a photographer’s pass from the Rays and I wanted to get deep into the action, so I posted up on a L-shaped corner in the right end of the “Mosh Pit”. At that moment it just seemed like a natural move and perfect move going from shooting the Rays first concert from the middle sections for John Fogerty, to right behind the VIP section during ZZ Top, to down in the pulsating action and sea of motion of the proverbial front row. It seemed like a natural progression….But a hasty mistake on my part.
For I had put myself in the eye of the swallowing storm on the wrong side of the steel barriers. I have been in the front rows tons of times before, but not with a camera, and surely not with a group of most teens to 20-ish fans who wanted to move and groove to every single sound wave of beat or vocals coming out of the supercharged bass system right in front of the assembled mass. From the first deep drumbeat from the DJ, there was pushing and shoving from the side and back as people began to crush forward wanting a taste of Nelly and the music.
But then again, I would have done the same thing myself 20-odd years ago. Well, I know I did. And the audience was definitely transfixed as the beats got deeper, and the crowd behind me got more animated and pulled into the rhythm and music. Out of the 480 photos I took that night, I had to trash about 200 photos due to the hands in front of the camera lens or small waves of motion around me that caused the photo to appear out of focus produced by my arm and shoulder constantly getting hit during filming. But I took the commotion and the frustration in stride as I got popped like a pinball for a few songs but within me I now wished I had taken a position on the stage side of the barrier.
But the music was the center of everyone’s attention tonight as even some of the Rays players like Carl Crawford,Dioner Navarro, Reid Brignac, Joaquin Benoit, Matt Garza and B J Upton swayed and rocked to the beats while doing their own version of Nelly Karaoke on the West side of the stage region. Upton seemed to be totally into the concert as you could see him singing the words and doing his own set of dances to the beats. It was great to see the players having as much fun as the Rays fans that night.
And it is sometimes weird that Hip Hop has now been around long enough to have Nelly “classics” like “Ride Wit Me“ , “Air Force Ones” and “Batter Up“. I still remember watching the first broadcast of MTV at a college viewing party complete with free MTV swag and music until we left transfixed by this new style of selling the music to the public. How much we have all grown accustomed to this video and music combination that now most of us never hear the song without also seeing a video interpretation of the song at the same time.
And from the moment Nelly first emerged wearing a stylish white Rays T-shirt, the crowd on the field and in the stands were immediately consumed by the tunes and the chatter from Nelly. From his classic Nike Air Force Ones on his feet, to the diamond-encrusted dog tags, and glittering diamond watch bevel, Nelly was quickly transporting us to a part of St. Louis with his music we would never venture into alone. We were taken instantly into Nelly-ville, and he was the Mayor and the man that was definitely large and in charge.
And the Trop almost seemed to take flight the moment Nelly as his crew began to sing ” E.I.” as well as “C
ountry Grammar“. The moment the first beats hit the speakers, the entire crowd began systematically swaying and singing to the tunes. It was definitely a well needed audience participation segment, and the assembled crowd did not disappoint as it rang out loud to an almost deafening level all around me. But people forget, it was not all about the music tonight.
But people forget it was not entirely about the music tonight as there was a large amount of young and older women inching towards the front of the stage area hoping to catch an eye glance with Nelly or getting some sort of savoring trinket to take home and cherish forever. At that moment you knew the focus and the attention was firmly bulls-eyed on Nelly as the player of the moment. When one of his crew announced he had a gig later that night at a local St. Petersburg nightclub, it was the assembled women who screamed and quickly asked the surrounding people the 5 W’s of finding this club. Nelly was in full effect, and the ladies were going to be in massive tow tonight at the Push Lounge.
And with that announcement, Nelly had just found the perfect segway to pop into his classic “Hot in Here” as he quickly removed his Rays white t-shirt and threw it straight into the teeth of the crowd as people frantically pulled and yanked and finally separated the t-shirt into two sections before it fell into someone’s hands firmly encasing the prized possession for the night like a prized jewel. It was a white Rays gift from one of the Hip Hop chosen ones, and it now had to be guarded and cherished from that moment.
And as Nelly let the crowd know about his forthcoming album to be released some time this Summer you could feel the crowd letting go a bit knowing their dream might end soon. Usually when a singer or group mentions this tidbit, it is nearing the end of the concert. And when he asked for three volunteers from the audience the sound was deafening as every woman within reach of the stage began cheering and more than eager a chance to be on stage with the Hip Hop icon. Three women were finally selected and it was the beginning of some interesting final moments to the concert.
Nelly even gave one of the chosen ones a photo opportunity of a lifetime as she snapped a photo with her phone of Nelly facing her with the screaming crowd behind him. Then he quickly quizzed them as to their singing abilities and then broke into his tune “Dilemma” which he did originally as a duet with former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland.
The girls instantly fell into the rhythm and the rhymes of the song and began to sing and dance along with Nelly and his crew. It was one of the slowest moments of the concert, but helped the crowd recharge a bit before the night ended too soon for so many in the crowd. People wanted to hear every song from all his album in his unique styling that some have called a “Missouri Twang”.
The night quickly condensed into a meandering of unforgettable song hooks based on schoolyard songs with double-dutch chants. But what is amazing is the simple fact most people do double dutch lyrics as a rap, while Nelly has primarily done them in song, which is a major reason so many see him as a Hip Hop icon. The night was truly an adventure into Nellyville (also the title of his 2nd album) that I will not soon get out of my head.
But that is the thing about great music no matter what the format or lyric style. If it is good, it stays with you for a while and maybe drills into your subconscious for a future moment or even visual stimulation brings it out again for a great memory. People say that Rap or Hip Hop artists are this generation’s storytellers. They give their versions of the action and stories of life through their musical lyrics and prose. Nelly is a great example of this sage of wisdom and urban existence being told through music. And through it all, we also get a chance to see life through Nelly’s eyes.
Got to admit it now, but I was extremely jealous of the rest of the country, and mostly of my own American League divisional foes who got their first glance at their teams the past two days. It was a very uneasy feeling to see the Red Sox and Yankees square up on Sunday night, then take in the magic of seeing so many other teams celebrate the beginning of the 2010 season while my Tampa Bay Rays had their formal run-through for tonight’s Home opener against the Baltimore Orioles.
But quickly as the hours tick away I am getting more and more giddy with anticipation and the excitement threshold is about to borderline again on insanity as we edge closer and closer to seeing the Rays faith unfold for the first time tonight at 7:10 pm EST. But it is Opening Day, and with that comes all sorts of great magical moments that will quickly flash towards the past, present, and hopefully playoff-bound future still to come in 2010 for the Rays. And some of my fond memories of past Home Openers keep flooding my brain and bringing the excitement to untold levels as the adrenaline rushes through my body in anticipation.
And with the pomp and circumstance that surrounds tonight, you can be sure a tear or two might slip towards my eyelid, but never make the light of day as I again see my Rays in their home whites and blues take their place along the First Base foul chalk line as each and everyone of them is introduced to the crowd and get the ovation they al deserve from this community. But it is also another rebirth of friendships that spawn a baseball season, and the updating of information both digitally and emotionally to what has happened in the past off season. It will showcase some of the growth spurts by younger Rays fans, and maybe be an arena for introductions of new spouses, new hairstyle, or even just a renewal of our first love….baseball.
The real beginning of this Rays 2010 journey will commence the moment we hear those two special words we have waited for since early October….Those words most definitely shouted loud and clear by a young Rays fan who will be the next generation of Rays fans, tonight truly is just a ballgame until we hear…..”Play Ball!”
Steve Nesius / AP
Usually when I get a call at 5 am EST in involves the following items: money, a bail bondsman, or a ride somewhere. But this ring tone told me it was from a far away source, a pretty good drive and leap away. It came from the west coast, and in Seattle it was only 1 am PST in the morning. So with a million things racing through my mind that could be wrong for this person to be calling me at this time, baseball was not very high on the list at that hour.
So I answered the phone to a loud scream of : “Tell me it is true, Frickin (I cleaned the language up) tell me this is a true rumor. you see, while most of us were sleeping on the east coast, the websites and the bloggers on the other side of the country were just getting settled into their homes after a blowout by the Cleveland Indians over the Mariners. So as they were driving home or even listening online to the M’s flagship radio station KIRO 710 AM was spilling out some fodder that the Rays, Tribe and M’s had something cooking on the back burner.
So I decided to check my first reliable source by popping onto the website www.seattlepi.com/mariners and seeing if the bloggers had gotten a hold of such a rumor. Now I was not even aware of the players involved yet, but I did have reason to believe the two coming to the Rays would be the hot and much wanted starter Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez.
And so I hit the M’s blog section and was greeted by the following headline: “Potential huuuge deal w/M’s, Tribe and Rays”. What was so amazing is that at this time two of the team involved in this trade were currently in a 3-game series in Seattle. What was even more amazing was the 4 other players linked to this rumor. The Seattle side of the equation had former starter/reliever/closer and current Triple-A player Brandon Morrow and back-up catcher Jeff Clement going to the Indians.
On the Seattle side of the trade aspect they were getting rid of a pitcher who needed a change of scenery and who could re-invent himself correctly with his next team. The M’s had used Morrow in every pitching situation and never let him get totally settled into one segment of their pitching staff. Clements was another guy who was stuck behind two starters and was learning to play first base to get his bat into the line-up down in Triple-A. He had played for the M’s in both 2007 and 2008, but lost out this season to back-up Rob Johnson because of his MLB experience.
Both guys needed a break from the M’s way of doing business, and the trade route seemed like the perfect answer. But because the Rays needed a third party to get some of the needed pieces to Cleveland like a catcher and a quality pitcher who could assume any spot, both Clements and Morrow were perfect candidates for the possible trade. But what had the M’s bloggers all giddy and excited. What member of the Rays might have fallen into their laps and gotten such a great response.
Well, the Rays were willing to send left-handed starter Scott Kazmir and shortstop prospect Reid Brignac to the Emerald City. But early on in this trade situation, some wires did get crossed, and some mixed signals did get thrown out over the web. At one point this afternoon, Tampa Tribune sportswriter Marc Lancaster had to get some needed information to calm the Rays faithful. Here are a few of his Tweets from Sat to explain the Brignac episode:
@TBORays “Reid Brignac pulled from Durham game before top of third inning. Definitely a potential trade chip, so something might be up”
@TBORays From what I can gather, doesn’t sound like a trade is imminent with Brignac. Still not sure why he’s out, though.
@TBORays Word from Durham is Reid Brignac was pulled from the game for not hustling to first base.
@TBORays Per Durham manager, Reid Brignac will play 2nd game today. Right leg was bothering him.
So after that I decided to do some detective work and see if www.cleveland.com was sporting any interesting gossip. But all was silent on the Indians local papers website and in the blog regions. Hopefully by morning we will know more about what might be going on with this entire situation. But before I go, let me also let you in on some of the speculation coming from another source in the Seattle area.
It seems that Geoff Baker, who writes for the Seattle Times also had gotten wind of this potential trade. So I wandered over to wwwseattletimes.nwsource/marinersblog and took a look at what he was saying about the potential trade. Here is a small sampling of his take on the whole trade situation concerning all three teams:
That does make sense, but also what make more sense to me is that Scott Kazmir needs a fresh start somewhere. I can see him having a 2010 that would rival Edwin Jackson’s current season up in Detroit. Sometimes you just need to get away and let the stress flow to begin again. And that is what both Kazmir and Brignac need right now. Solid foundation and a chance to play again at their top levels. For Kazmir to be away from Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey might be the best medicine for him right now.
He has not gotten the program fully that Hickey is trying to teach in Tampa Bay. Kazmir was a success here ion Tampa Bay before Hickey was hired in November 2006. His style is more centered on “contact” or spot pitching sytle to minimize offensive damage. It is not a system Kazmir can not learn, it just takes away from his power pitching side and makes him rely on location and change of speed on his pitches.
Brignac is stuck behind a log-jam that is only going to get more crowded at Triple-A, and this opportunity would give him more of a chance to show his stuff at the major league level. With current shortstop Jason Bartlett hitting over .350, and back-up Ben Zobrist becoming the super uber sub of the American League, Brignac is stuck waiting for a chance because of injuries and not abilities. In Seattle he would have a chance to show his stuff and even get noticed by other teams the rest of the season.
And last, but not least is the upgrade the Rays would get with a quality catcher who can also hit for average and power that is currently lacking in Tampa Bay. Sure there might have to be some attitude adjustments before Martinez comes to show he is here for the team and that his “Old Man” comment to Rays Manager Joe Maddon was just in the heat of battle. But the pitching upgrade of Lee could easily be the difference in getting a chance at a playoff spot in 2009.
Duane Burleson / AP
And if all else fails and it is not a success, you know teams will be eager to entertain a trade with the Rays for Lee in the offseason if they feel he is not a solid fit to the rotation for the team. But I still do not see this happening without a single Rays farm system player going to Cleveland. The guy that has been mentioned most in trade chatter has been pitcher Wade Davis. But like Kazmir and Brignac, he has been a bit stymied the last season waiing for his shot at the MLB level.
No matter what happens between now and the end of the trade deadline, you can be sure you will hear more of these names flashed around on the bottom of your television screens. The tell-tale sign of something brewing behind the scenes in Seattle might be if Cliff Lee doesn’t start on Sunday against the Mariners. If this happens, it is a fair indicator that someone might be making a huge push at getting the former Cy Young leftie for their own……..hopefully in Tampa Bay.
Well, they attached a exterior mouse and got to the two Word files and downloaded them onto a disc for me that day, and I finally got Sunday’s game online tonight. I was only using the WIFI to connect to the Internet and check mail and do comments update left on my blog. I had not tried to use the Mail system either on my Windows or Yahoo account until Monday night. But for some reason, and it had a time stamp of Monday afternoon, the files were missing that could coordinate those requests. He told me that maybe there was a glitch in the system at the source and during a update it might have erased it by mistake. So now I had to fear that a exterior source could swallow up a chunk of my internal programs.
I asked if I did anything wrong here, and they stressed that sometimes things go wrong before we get our computer and usually programs inside them correct the situation , or at least alert you to a damaging scenario. I did not get a warning, a “Danger Danger Will Robinson” or any type of Bells or Whistles. But with the Cowbells around me the last few days I am not hearing all that well right now. Anyways, they happily replaced the unit and also threw in a 1 year maintenance program free of charge. Who say customer service is dead? But considering I paid about over $ 700 dollars for a top of the line system that will be obsolete by December 2009, I liked the gesture. So here I am finally getting Monday night game on here at 2 am on Weds. No jokes, the things I do for my baseball love is sickening sometimes ( Not really, but it does tickle).
During the second game of this home-and home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates the last two days, the Tampa Bay Rays have seen their offense and their relievers show some polar opposites in plus and minus situations. Today would mark one of the first night games of the season for the Rays and they now know that the season is just around the corner. With less than 21 days until the ball goes to the plate for real, the team can now focus on their seasonal objectives and get ready for the second run at a divisional title or pennant. Starting for the Rays today will be their number four starter, Andy Sonnanstine. You know the thing I love about this guy is that he is the consistent member of the rotation in 2008. If it was not for a stroke of bad luck in late August and September, he would have lead this team with over 15 wins last year. No one has ever done that as a Ray, much less a guys less than the number 3 starter for the team.
Pittsburgh will take the field wearing their St Patrick’s Day green caps because this is their last home game before they hit the road tomorrow to play the New York Yankees in Tampa. On the mound for the Pirates will be Paul Maholm, who is predicted to be one of the front runners of their rotation this season. Leading off for the Rays tonight will be shortstop Jason Bartlett. Maholm gets an 0-2 count on Bartlett before he get s nice call over the outside corner for a called third strike and the first out of the game. Gabe Kapler then comes to the plate and hit a hard grounder to Adam LaRoche, who takes in the ball and throws to Andy LaRoche at first base tonight. Evan Longoria then swings at an outside breaking ball for a swing strikeout and the Rays are retired 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning.
Sonnanstine ends up with his warm-up tosses and faces Nyger Morgan as the first Pirate hitter tonight. Morgan hit a long fly ball to Justin Ruggiano in center field for the first out. Freddy Sanchez, who is playing second base tonight then comes up and hits a soft grounder to Ray Olmedo at second base. He takes the ball and quickly throws it to Willy Aybar, who is manning first base tonight for the Rays. Nate McLouth then hit a swirling ball of the end of his bat that drops in front of Bartlett, but he can not get control of the ball in time to get the swift outfielder. McLouth is on with an infield single. On the third pitch to Ryan Doumit at the plate, Dioner Navarro can not control a breaking ball in the dirt and McLouth scrambles down to second base, and into scoring position for the Pirates. Doumit then misses a great breaking pitch by Sonnanstine for a swing strikeout.
One of the wild thing about the stadium tonight is the green bases. That is right, the usual pearl white bases have a green paint job tonight in honor of the Irish holiday tomorrow, but there is no green beer in the stands. Maholm again take the mound for the Pirates and faces Pat Burrell for the first time tonight. Burrell quickly strikes out to put one out on the board for the Rays. Aybar then comes up and hit a grounder to Sanchez at second base, that he quickly gets over to LaRoche in time for the second out. Ben Zobrist then comes up and hits a single into center field for the Rays first hit of the night. Dioner Navarro then comes up and hits a ball straight to Jack Wilson at shortstop and he flips the ball to Sanchez to complete a 6-4 force out of Zobrist to end the Rays chances this inning.
Sonnanstine again came out for the Rays, who will have St Patrick’s Day off and will probably spend the day working out at the complex. Tomorrow also marks the first day of the minor league players beginning to play inter-squad games with other teams to get ready for their season. The first batter to the plate this inning is Adam LaRoche. He hit a sharp ball towards third base that Longoria takes in stride and quickly throws to Aybar to secure the first out. Jose Tabata then comes up and is a victim of Sonnanstine’s off-speed pitch for a called third strike, and the Pirates second out. Craig Monroe, who has been pretty successful on the base paths this spring then comes up and hits a long fly ball to Kapler in right field for the third out of the inning. It is an easy 1-2-3 inning for Sonnanstine and the Rays.
Maholm again comes out for the top of the fifth inning and faces Aybar first in the inning. Aybar hit a ball towards McLouth in center field for the first out. Zobrist then hit a high fly ball to Tabata in left field for a quick second out in the inning. Navarro then comes up and hit a ball towards Wilson at short stop that he can not get a good handle on and he is on the outskirts of the infield when he attempts to try and get Navarro at first base. He is awarded a infield hit and the Rays have a base runner with two outs. But Pirate Manager John Russell has seen enough and goes out to relieve Maholm with Dave Davidson. For the night, Paul Maholm went 4.2 innings and gave up only 2 hits and got 4 strikeouts for the Pirates. Ruggiano is the first Rays batter to face Davidson, and he quickly hit a ball to LaRoche, who fired to Sanchez at second for the force out of Navarro to end the inning.
The Rays send David Price to the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning. This is Price’s second appearance of the spring. the first batter to face him will be Morgan. He hit a solid liner towards third base that is snared by Longoria for the first out. Sanchez then hit another ball towards Longoria that he easily scoops and tosses to Aybar for the second out of the inning. McLouth then walks to give the Pirates a base runner with two out. With Doumit again at the plate, Price ends up throwing a wild pitch and McLouth advances to second base on the play. Doumit ends up hitting a ball to Ruggiano in center field to end the inning for the Pirates.
Davidson again takes the mound for the top of the sixth inning. Olmedo then walks on 6 pitches and steals second base during Bartlett’s at bat. On the next pitch, Bartlett hit a ball down the third baseline past LaRoche for an RBI single. Kapler the comes up and is walked on 5 pitches to put men on first and second with no outs in the inning. At that time, Russell again comes out and takes the ball from Davidson. In comes reliever Brian Slocum to pitch for the Pirates. To this point, the Rays have scored a run, and have gotten two walks and a hit in the inning. With Longoria at the plate, the Rays call for a double steal and both Bartlett and Kapler move to third and second base safely on the play.
Longoria is also walked and the bases are loaded with no outs in the inning. Burrell then comes to the plate and gets an RBI without hitting the ball as Slocum also walks him for the second straight walk of his outing and ties the game for the Rays.. Aybar then hit a hard shot to Adam LaRoche at third base for the first out of the inning, but he scores Kapler to give the Rays the lead in the game, 3-2. Zobrist then comes up and is walked to again to put another runner on base for the Rays. Navarro then hit a shot down to first base that Adam LaRoche take unassisted for the second out of the inning. But on the play, Longoria came in to score to put the Rays up 4-2. Ruggiano then came up and also walked to give Slocum 4 walks in the inning. But Olmedo hit a fly ball to Tabata in left field to get Slocum out of the inning. But the Rays had scored 4 runs on 1 hit and 7 walks in the inning.
Price again took the mound for the Rays in the bottom of the 6th inning with the first lead of the night. He gave up a lead-off ground rule double to Adam LaRoche that was touched by a fan down in the right field wall ( wearing a Yankee hat ) area right before the Pirates Bullpen cut-out. the ball would have been at least a double, but if the fan had not touched it, he could have stretched it into a triple. Tabata then struck out swinging for the first out of the inning. Monroe then hit a ball that one-hopped to the wall in the gap in left-center field for an RBI double. Andy LaRoche then walked to put two Pirates on with one out. Wilson then came up and struck out swinging to give the Pirates one more out in the inning. Morgan then was called out on a called third strike and Price got out of the inning only surrendering the lone run. But the Pirates pulled back within one run 4-3.
Darryle Veal came out to pitch the top of the seventh inning for the Pirates. Adam Kennedy got a single to left field to lead-off the inning for the Rays. Veal then walked Ray Sadler to put two men on with no outs. Gabe Gross then hit a long fly ball to McLouth in center field, but it was not deep enough for Kennedy to advance on the play. During Michel Hernandez’s at bat, Veal threw a wild pitch and both Sadler and Kennedy advanced a base on the play. Hernandez ended up being called out on strikes to give the Rays their second out of the inning. Morgan Ensberg then walked to load the bases for the Rays. But it was short-lived as Reid Brignac hit a foul pop-up to Adam LaRoche at third base for the final out of the inning.
Price again came out for the bottom of the seventh inning and Luis Cruz lead off for the Pirates. He ended up sending a Price change-up back up the middle for a lead-off single. Jeff Salazar then hit a ball to Ensberg, who took over for Longoria at third base and he threw to Kennedy at second to get the force out. Rays Manager Joe Maddon then came out and replaced Price with Randy Choate. for the night, Price went 2.1 innings and gave up 3 hits and a lone run, but also had 2 walks and three strikeouts. The first batter to face Choate was Robinzon Diaz. He hit a single up the middle to advance the runners, but they did not test Ruggiano’s arm in center field. Garrett Jones then came to the plate with two men on and one out. He hit a ball in front of the plate that new Rays catcher Nevin Ashley took and threw to Chris Richard for the second out. Both men advanced on the play. Tabata then hit a ball to shortstop that Brignac threw to Richard to end the inning for the Pirates.
The Pirate then sent Jesse Chavez to the mound for the top of the eighth inning. Ashley lead off for the Rays and walked on 6 pitches. Jon Weber then hit a towering shot to right field for a two run homer to put the Rays up 6-3. Richard then hit a liner to Tabata that he did not have to move to field for the first out of the inning. Kennedy then struck out, but the ball got away from Diaz behind the plate, but he regrouped and threw to first to record the put out. Sadler then hit a ball down towards third base that Neil Walker took in and threw to Garret Jones to end the inning.
Choate came out again for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth inning. Monroe was first to the plate and hit a single to left field to start off the inning. Walker then struck out on a nice breaking pitch from Choate for the first out of the inning. Brian Bixler then was called out on strikes to get two quick out on the Pirates. Morgan then hit a ball sharply towards Brignac that took a high bounce near the side of the mound and he could not control it in time to get Morgan at first base. So the Pirate now had men at first and second with two outs. Cruz then came up and hit a ball towards Ensberg at third base. He took the ball and stepped on the bag to complete the force out of Monroe to end the inning for the Pirates.
Jeremy Powell came out for the top of the ninth inning. the first Rays to face him was Gross, who hit a ball down to Jones that he easily took and stepped on the first base bag for an unassisted out. Hernandez then walked on 6 pitches to give the Rays a base runner. Ensberg then struck out swinging to give the Rays one last out in the inning. Brignac also hit a slow roller towards Jones that he easily took for his second unassisted play of the inning for the third out.
The Rays Rule 5 Draftee Derek Rodriguez took the mound for the Rays trying to preserve the win for the team. The Rays will have to make a decision in the next 20 days to either return Rodriguez to his former team, or try and find a spot for him on their 25-man roster. they could also offer him back to his old team and then work out a trade to keep him in the Rays farm system. First up in the bottom of the ninth is Salazar who hit a fly ball to Ruggiano for the first out. Diaz then comes up and rips a ball down the first base line past Richard and it hits the wall and bounces out to Sadler in right field for a double. Jones then also hit a RBI-single down the line past Richard for his 8th RBI this spring. Tabata then hit a ball towards Brignac that he flips to Kennedy to get Jones. With Tabata on with a fielder’s Choice, the Pirates have a man on base, with the tying run at the plate. Steve Pearce then hit a ball towards Kennedy, but the ball is rolling slow since Pearce shattered his bat on the play. Kennedy easily get to the ball in time to throw out Pearce and end the game with the Rays taking it 6-4.
Photo credits: 1) RRCollections
2) Associated Press ( Keith Srakoci)
3) Associated Press ( Tiffany Tompkins )
4) Associated Press ( Tiffany Tompkins )
here we are with the second half of the home and home series today in Fort
Myers. The Rays kind of put the Red Sox fans in the back of their seats
yesterday, but today’s contest is a whole different ball game. Not only will the
Red Sox be in their home stadium, but they will have the multitudes of Red Sox
fans who love to cheer on their team. I do have to make a note that yesterday’s
game had a total of 7,148 fans in and around the stadium, which is a new record
for this young stadium location. I do have to say that at some point in the
berms and the outfield it was total standing room
have a huge suggestion to the Rays and the Sandcrabs for future games in this
stadium. It seems that we need a secondary speaker system throughout the
outfield section of the stadium. Maybe a series of those upside down speakers
that look like free standing light poles could be put in areas around the kids
area and near the boardwalk and Tiki Hut. You can hear the game, but you get a
delayed sight to sound response because of no audio out in that area of the
ball park. I play my game day audio from my laptop to hear it no matter where I
am in the stadium, but some games are not on the radio. Just a thought. Now
let’s get back to our Sunday recap of the Rays versus the Red Sox
sent Wade Davis, one of their top prospects from Triple-A to the mound today.
Davis has been tweaking a few of his pitches and has had a few outstanding
performances this spring. But he is penciled into be sent to the minor league
camp sometime in the near future to begin his season in Triple-A again for the
Durham Bulls. Davis will make his major league debut sometime in 2009 with the
club, but I do not see him winning the fifth rotation spot this spring. With
that said, another guy who might have pitched his way out of contention for the
fifth spot is Mitch Talbot. But if you really consider the top three pitchers
for the Rays at their Triple-A level in 2009 of David Price, Davis and Talbot.
There are club throughout baseball who would love to have that kind of
consistent staff starters in their
game got off to start with the Boston Red Sox sending Justin Masterson to the
mound. The wild thing about Masterson is that he can be in the same boat as Jeff
Niemann and Jason Hammel this year. He can be both a starter or a reliever for
the team and might make some heads turn with a great outing today. With Brad
Penny not throwing yet in Spring Training, he could get a start or two early in
the year, then settle into the Bullpen for 2009. Fernando Perez lead off for
the Rays today and quickly hit a grounder to Julio Lugo, who was
playing shortstop today for Boston. Adam Kennedy then struck out. Evan Longoria
then hit another grounder to Nick Green who threw out Longoria to end the
inning 1-2-3 for Boston.
Davis came out for the Rays and gave up a sharply hit single down the third base
line that eluded Longoria. Rocco Baldelli then came up and hit a ball to
Longoria that he quickly threw to Kennedy at second base to force out Lugo.
Jason Varitek then came up and struck out. J D Drew then walked to put me at
first and second base. Lars Anderson then hit a RBI single through the hole at
short into left field and the throw to the plate was cut off and Baldelli scored
to put Boston in front 1-0. Zack Deages then struck out to end the Boston rally
stranding two runners on base.
Masterson again came out for the top of the second inning and got
Carlos Pena to strike out to lead off the inning. Dioner Navarro then hit a long
fly ball to left field that Zack Daeges caught for the second out. Gabe Gross
then hit a single to right center field for the first Rays hot of the day.Morgan
Ensberg then came up and struck out to end the Rays chances in the
also again took the mound for the Rays and got Jonathan Van Every to hit a ball
down the first base line and covered first for a flip from Pena for the first
out. Green then took the first pitch from Davis and drilled it past the left
field fence and onto the adjacent field’s dugout for a solo home run. Ivan Ochoa
then put a nice bunt down the third base line to get an infield single. Lugo
then came up and hit a screaming RBI double to left center field to easily score
Ochoa. Baldelli then struck out. Varitek came up and hit a single to left field
that split the outfielders, but Lugo tired to score from second base and was
thrown out at the plate by Ray Sadler in left field to end the inning. Boston
was ahead at that point 3-0 over the
Masterson came out for his third inning and quickly got Sadler to
hit a grounder to Lugo, who got him in time at first base. Elliot Johnson then
hit a fly ball to Drew in right field for the second out of the inning. Perez
then came up and hit a ball to the left of Masterson that he quickly picked up
and fired to first barely getting Perez in time. At that point, Masterson had
gone 3 innings and had given up only 1 hit, with 3 strike outs against the
came to the mound in the top of the third again for the Rays and got Drew to hit
a quick fly ball to Gross in right field for the first out. Anderson then
walked to give Boston their first runner of the inning. Daeges then hit a
2-run home run to right-center field. Van Every hit a foul pop-out to Longoria
and quickly the Red Sox had two outs in the inning. Green then came up and hit a
double to left field and after that Rays Manager Joe Maddon came out to make a
pitching change. The Rays brought in Calvin Medlock, who quickly gave up a RBI
single to Ochoa to right field. Lugo then came up and hit a double to left
field that scored Ochoa. For the day, Lugo went 3-3 against Rays pitching.
Baldelli then came up and hit a foul pop-up to first base to end the inning with
the Red Sox up 7-0.
In the fourth inning, the Red Sox sent closer Jonathan Papelbon to
the mound to face the Rays. He got Kennedy to strike out to lead off the inning.
Longoria then took his first pitch to right-center field for a single. Pena then
struck out to give the Rays one last out in the inning. Navarro hit a single to
left field, but Longoria stopped at second on the play. Gross then came up and
struck out to end the inning. Even though Papelbon gave up two hits in the
inning, all three outs were
Day came out for the Rays in the bottom of the fourth inning. He quickly got
Varitek to ground out. He then fooled Drew with a nice breaking ball for a
strikeout. Anderson then came on and hit a hard smash to Chris Richard, who was
now on first for the Rays. Day was backing up Richards on the play and Richards
tossed the ball to Day, who dropped the ball. Day was given an error on the play.
Daeges struck out to end the Red Sox
heralded prospect Daniel Bard then took the mound for the Red Sox. In a recent
game, Bard had thrown over 100 mph on the stadium’s jugs gun. He got Ensberg to
strikeout for the first out of the inning. Sadler then followed with a
strikeout. Bard completed the trio as he got Johnson to also strike out to send
the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning. At that point in the game, the Rays had
struck out swinging in six straight at bats, with only Gross being a called
out again for the Rays and walked Van Every to lead off the inning. Green then
hit a fly out to Sadler that he easily caught for the first out. Ochoa was
fooled on a breaking pitch outside for a strikeout. Lugo then walked to give
Boston two men on base in the inning. George Kottaras then pinch hit and was hit
by the pitch to load the bases with two outs. With Varitek at the plate, Day
threw a wild pitch and Van Every tried to score from third base on the play.
Navarro quickly got the ball to Day, who tagged out Van Every before he reached
the plate for the third out of the
pitcher Junichi Tazawa then came on to pitch for Boston. Tazawa was the young
pitcher that did not go into the Japanese Baseball League before signing with
Boston this off season. He might not make the 25-man roster of the big club
this year, but this was the first time the Rays would see him pitch outside of
Japan. Tazawa’s first pitch to Perez was rifled into center field for a lead
off single. Kennedy then hit a double into left center field that scored Perez
from first base. Longoria then struck out for the first out of the inning.
Richard also struck out, and Varitek threw a strike to third base to nail
Kennedy who was trying to advance on the play for the final out of the
Abreu then took the mound for the Rays. He got Varitek to quickly fly out to
right field for the first out. Josh Reddick, who came in to replace Drew in
right field then hit a fly ball to Johnson at shortstop. Anderson then hit a fly
to Longoria to complete the first 1-2-3 inning for the Rays today. But Boston
still lead 7-1 in the game. Tazawa came back out for the eighth inning and quickly got Reid
Brignac, who came in to play shortstop to strike out. He then got Ben Zorbrist,
who came in to play second base to fly out to center field, The Ensberg struck
out to give Boston a 1-2-3 inning against the
again took the mound for Tampa Bay and he went straight to work striking out
Daeges to lead off the inning. At that point, Abreu had gone 4-up, 4- down for
the Rays Maddon again came out and swapped Abreu for Chad Orvella with one out
in the inning. Orvella, who is fighting for a roster spot after coming back from
a shoulder injury gave up a towering solo shot to right field to the next
batter, Van Every. This is the second homer in two days against the Rays for Van
Every. Gil Velazquez then hit ball to Chris Nowak at third base. Nowak got off
a bad throw that seemed to two-hop before Richard dug it out at first for an out.
Ochoa ended the inning by striking
sent Rule-5 player Derek Rodriguez to the mound for the 8th inning. Rodriguez,
who the Rays picked up off the Rule 5 draft from the Red Sox, quickly got
Argenis Diaz to fly out to right to start off the inning. Kottaras also hit a
long fly ball to right that Justin Ruggiano caught for the second out. Pinch
hitter Carlos Maldonado then hit a slicer to Brignac at shortstop that he
quickly threw to first to get Boston 1-2-3 in the
inning . In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Red Sox sent Michael Bowden to the mound. Rugginao lead off the inning with a single to center field. He then stole second base to put himself in scoring position for the Rays. Johnson then walked. The Rays then attempted a double-steal with Johnson and Ruggiano taking second and third base respectively. John Jaso the struck out for the first out of the inning. Jon Weber then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Ruggiano. Weber has no produced 7 RBI’s in the last two games for the Rays. Chris Nowak then hit a pop-out to first base to end the rally for the Rays.
Jones took the mound to try and preserve the Red Sox victory. Jones is a
prospect in the Red Sox system who once broke his arm in three spots and had to
have multiple plates in his arm to heal the bones correctly. He gave up a
lead-off single to Richard to right center field. Brignac then struck out on a
nice called third strike. Zorbrist hit a ball to center that was easily caught
by Van Every. that left the Rays with one out to play with against the Red Sox.
Tim Beckham came up as a pinch hitter and hit a sharp ball to Diaz, but he
quickly threw the ball to end the game for the Rays. the final score was 8-2
Boston. It also marked the first win in three tries against the Rays this
Rays, the game seemed to bring out some impatience in the Rays batters. For the
day they struck out 15 times, including 4 times to Tazawa in the game. For the Rays to
be productive against any team, mush less the Red Sox, they must be patient at
the plate. Tomorrow the Rays will again travel to Fort Myers where they will
take on the Minnesota Twins in a 1:05 contest. Leftie Scott Kazmir will be
making his spring debut on the mound for the
In the beginning of the season I set 10 goals or written items that I hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would complete to become a more productive and successful team. At the time we all did not know the type of franchise success we would see in 2008.
Also stuffed into that list was a few personal obsevations ands wants for the team in 2008. I did a middle of the year evaluation of the list on July 18, 2008 and saw that the team was focused and moving forward in achieving outstanding success on the field.
I am again going to go over the high and lowpoints now after the season is over. I am no longer going to assign a letter grade to the options because this has been a totally “A” year in all aspects. There is no way I could see this coming, and the team took the region by storm in 2008.
The blog today will focus on the items 6-10, and the logo unveiling last November in St. Petersburg, Florida at Straub Park.
As everyone might remember, 12 months ago we set out changing the basic style of the team with a logo change and a uniform retro-fitting. Gone was the old “TB” on the hat that had a ray centered beneath the “TB” symbol. In came a clean looking “TB” in a great marine blue color. Then you get to the uniforms that were streamlined into a more uniform design without the old “Rays” on the chest area of the uniform.
The uniforms went from a white and green basic jersey with blue pinstriping on the sleeves to a retro looking White and Blue model with a logo that popped with the odd shaped “R”, and the sunburst in the center of the logo blasting out for all to see. The team held a fantastic outdoor event to unveil the new look with most of the players coming in for the event.
The new design was met with some crtics wanting the old Rays look becuase it had a modern flair without being boring. Others were upset that the away jerseys would not have the “Tampa Bay” moniker blazen across the chest of the players anymore. It was replaced with the new logo “Rays” across the chest.
Other were debating why to let go of the entire past for the new look. One thing the Rays did leave “old” on their jerseys was the flying ray patch on the sleeve. The team decided to continue that tradition and replaced the dark black and colorful ray with one that matched the teams new blue and white jerseys. All in all, the new look showed the team was trying to move beyond the loveable losers’ of the past and were hoping for a new attitude in Tampa Bay.
Starting with the bottom of the list at number 10, was the Akinora Iwamura must feel at home at second base. To sya he did not do a superb job this year would be an insult. the guy went from a position where he has won Gold Gloves in Japan to a new position for the betterment of the team. Not only did he do it with grace and style, but he made himself a front runner for years at the position.
Iwamura was one of the people nominated for a Gold Glove this year at second in the AL. He only committed a handful errors all year long and ended up ranked 4th among AL second baseman in his first year ever at the position. He became a vital cog in the Rays double play combination working with Jason Bartlett like he has been playing to position all his life.
The hardwork and the determination of Iwamura to make his transition flawless was carried out to a “T”. Aki stood tall and in the pivot long to make sure the team got a chance to complete every double play in 2008. He was also instrumental in the field making countless great plays behind second and relaying the ball into home. Iwamura has found a new home at second base, and will be even better in 2009.
Number 9 stated that catching had to hit a new high this year. Well, that will be an easy one. Dioner Navarro started the year off on fire and got hurt. When he returned, he stayed above the .300 mark well into the second half of the season before falling below that mark for the only time in 2008. Behind the plate he took more control and exercised his own playcalling alot this season.
But the action with Matt Garza in Texas in the ruffle on the mound and in the dugout finally put him on top. It showed that he had the heart and the determination to lead this team behind the dish and put his stamp on the team. With his new confidence at the plate translated perfectly to his time behind the mask.
For the season, His batting average for the year was only behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer at the position in the AL. That is a huge change from the guy battling to stay above .191 during the first half of 2007. Navarro continued during the first half of 2008 getting better and better every game. He was rewarded with his first All-Star invite and was key to the tying and winning run for the AL in the game. He caught 8 innigs in that game and solidified his place among AL catchers with is performance.
Number 8 was about the 1-2-3 setup guys securing the game. Well, this one is a bit tricky. the Rays Bullpen showed a huge upswing in 2008, but the closer role was up in the air alot more than expected in the year. Troy Percival was signed to make a solid end to the Bullpen but went down numerous times during the season.
His back and knee did show the wear and tear of all his MLB years, and by the end of the season he was on the DL and did not even get posted to any of the Rays post season rosters. His health situation put the pressure on the young Rays and they responded brilliantly in most cases.
From J P Howell and Grant Balfour securing the 7th inning for the Rays nightly, to Dan Wheeler or even Jason Hammel being called on to put out the fires in late innings, the young squad held together and mixed and matched nightly to get the Rays the victory.
It was not your picture perfect way to run a Bullpen, but the Rays did make it happen and post one of the best turnaround years ever for a Bullpen. The young guys matured and got valuable experience, and the veterans stood tall and made the plays when they were needed in 2008.
Number 7 was that the right-field guy has to be consisitant and kick butt. You would have to define that a bit more to really decide if it was a successful year or a failure. I have it more at a banner year for finding the right guys finally, but it could have been a lot better organized.
Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske got most of the early reps in right during the beginning of the year. With the trade for Gabe Gross, the Rays brought in a guy who had never been counted on like this to raise the bar for the team. Gross came in and put his defensive and offensive stamp on the position early.
Gross made countless great play in the field and became a electric guy at the plate. He hit a 436 foot homer on August 6th that just showed the improvements he had made with the Rays. Gross made a massive improvement to the position to the Rays before the trade dedeadline.
After the return of Rocco Baldelli, the right-field platooning took on a more effective mode. You had the defensive skills of both guys as a plus in the field and had bats fron both sides of the plate to balle pitchers’. The Rays had a solid core in the last half of the season, and the addition of Baldelli proved amazing at the plate during the rest of the year and in the playoffs.
Number 6 was our prospects need to improve. This became a double-edged sword to the Rays in 2008. We saw guys like Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac and Ben Zobrist come up and solidify the infield when needed, but the additon of these prospects did not make the difference for the Rays. Zobrist was the most consistant of the guys from the minors in coming in and making the job his in 2008.
Zobrist was being counted on to be the “go-to” guy in the Ray’s lineup in 2008. An early injury set him down and it took some time before he came back up and made his mark offensively this year for the team. He developed a offensive style that was not seen in his game before 2008.
Pitching saw Grant Balfour come back up and not back down an inch the rest of the season. Balfour came on and argued and grunted on the mound and held batter at bay most of the year. His willingness to not back away from heavy hitters made him a valued player in the Bullpen this year. But the guy who made the entire minor league system tremble this season came up in September, and will not have to even think about the minors in 2009.
David Price was the Rays first selection in 2006. He had been annointed by many even before stepping on a MLB mound to be a phenom. Price did nothing to set that rumor to expectation down after his stint against the New York Yankees in New York. Price got better and better every time he hit the mound and became a inspiration to the team.
To out this into prospective, the Rays had enough confidence in this rookie in the ALCS to put him on the mound to finish off Game 7 against the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Price performed brilliantly and helped paced the Rays during the playoffs.
The rest of the prospect system got a bit muddled in 2008. Desmond Jennings went down with an injury and saw limited time this season in the minors. Jake McGee went down with an arm injury and had to have Tommy John surgery. But even with these high ceiling guys going down, players like Fernando Perez came out of no where and made you know that the Rays prospect system is alive and well.
So here is the first of 2 end of the year goal realization blogs. Goals 6-10 were finalized today and I will write about 1-5 tomorrow. All in all you have to admit that the Rays saw a increase in every aspect of the game in 2008. Every player on the team stepped up in the season and made it magical in their own ways.
2009 will be a year of expectations and the either success or failure to improve over 2008. It will be a harder road for the Rays in 2009. People will be gunning for the team and will not be broadsided anymore. That in itself might be the biggest challenge for the team next year. Living up to the expectations of the local fans and media after a darling season.
We learned a few very valuable facts last night at the Trop.
It would take 264 million gallons of gasoline to fill the Trop, and people will go absolutely nuts for gas. The Rays and Hess Express gave out 23,706 $5 dollar gas cards last night. To top it all off, if you had known the above number, you could have won $1500. worth of liquid gold.
The second thing we found out, is that the Rays formula for winning still works. Simple plan of putting the bat on the ball, and transferring the ball from glove to glove can get you wins.
Simple actually, but recently simple seemed oh so hard and foreign to the team. But an injury replacement player gave the Rays their life support for another day.
Best thing about the bottom of the 7th inning, you can stretch out a bit and get ready for the Rays surge to a victory. Most nights we have not had to wait so late in a game for such drama, or have we?
There is something about the Rays and having 2 outs before we can get something going. And tonight was no different. After Cliff Floyd and Dioner Navarro posted out for the Rays, Eric Hinske drew one of three walks issued by Toronto starter A J Burnett last night.
This set the stage for Ben Zorbrist to come up and swing at the first pitch he saw last night, and deposit it in the rightfield stands for a 2-1 Rays lead. Before his homer, Zorbrist had gone 5-30 (.167) since coming back up for the Rays. Timely hits have been the life and death of the Rays this season. It was Zorbrist’s 4th homer of the year for the Rays.
Grant Balfour has been a huge clutch guy for the Rays since he came up from Durham on May 29th. He has appeared in 16 of 39 games since his call-up. Balfour last night earned his 4th save of the season and has now fanned 36 in 23.1 innings. Grant has fanned 36 of 87 ( 41.3 %) batters face this season.
Balfour had another perfect 9th inning to preserve the win for the Rays, who moved back into a tie with Boston for the lead in the AL East. With Boston playing the tough L A Angels, it is a chance for the Rays to pick up valuable games and wins.
Jame Shields won his first start of the second half to up his record to 8-6 for the Rays. Shields pitched 7 innings of 4-hit 1-run ball while throwing 105 pitches. Shields is now 5-0 lifetime against the Bluejays. Shields is also now 5-1 since he came off the suspension for the Boston brawl in June. He currently ranks 3rd in the AL with a 2.13 ERA at home.
Some people in the crowd were mumbling that Maddon should have let Shields finish the game, but Maddon has October in his foresight, and a rested Shields is a valuable commodity come playoff time. Also, Shields is the oldest starter on the Rays staff this season at a young 26 years of age.
By limiting his pitchers now, Maddon can orchestrate a manuver where his staff will not be going through a “Dead Arm” period come playoff time. This is a new concept in the Rays terminology sine we have never been in contention this late in a season.
With the pitchers only going a set number of pitches or innings, the staff will not be totally drained and fatiqued come the end of the regular season. Even with a expanded roster in September, experienced arms might be the key to the Rays getting the needed wins to push for a playoff berth and beyond.
So kudos to Joe and his staff for beginning to think like a team in contention and starting to conserve his young staff’s valuable assets.
The Rays have 2 of the top 5 guys to get caught stealing in the AL right now. B J Upton is number 1 with 11 CS, while Carl Crawford is sitting at 7 this year.
Last night, Carl Crawford did not even get time to settle in at first before he was caught in a rundown play between first and second base. A J Burnett caught Crawford shuffling his feet towrd second, and got him off balance enough to force him into a run down for an out. It almost looked like Crawford was looking at his shoetop right before Burnett threw the Ball to Lyle Overbay at first base.
Akinora Iwamura also was caught stealing ( 3 ) second in the 7th inning after a fantastic bunt single down the third baseline. Aki set a ball perfectly down the line at thrid that hugged and tugged the line, but stayed fair all the way to the bag. It was Aki’s 15th infield hit of the year.
Dioner Navarro went 1-2 last night with a double to deep left center in the 2nd inning. Navarro threw out Alex Rios trying to steal second in the 6th to end the inning for the Bluejays. Navarro is coming off a fantstic All Star game appearance where he had several key plays and threw out a base runner.
The Rays before the game reinstated pitcher Al Reyes to the roster. A roster move did not have to be made since the Rays sent Reid Brignac back to Durham after Sunday’s game in Cleveland.
With Evan Longoria (22), Dioner Navarro (24), and Scott Kazmir (24), the Rays became the first team since the 1986 NY Mets to have 3 players under the age of 24 on the All Star roster.
All 3 played significant roles in the AL’s 4-3, 15-inning win in Tuesday. Kazmir became the 7th youngest pitcher lifetime to win an All Star game. Longoria’s ground-rule double in the 8th inning was the first RBI by a rookie in an All Star game since Tom Tresh in 1962. Navarro contributed a outstanding throwe to second to throw out a NL runner, and also got a key single in the 15th inning for the AL.