Results tagged ‘ Shawn Riggans ’

Rays Lose Pitching Duel and Series to Jays

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

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

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

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

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

 

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0

 

 

           

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

             

 

 

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

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

 

 

        

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Yankees Win Round 1

 

 

Yankees 7, Rays 2

 

Best thing about the New York Yankees right now, they are fighting to stay afloat in any playoff situation. But the reality is that if the Toronto Bluejays can win their next 2, and the Yankees lose 2, it is pretty much all over for the Yankees. I know it has been over 11 seasons since the boys from the Bronx have had to make dinner reservations in New York come October 1st.

But the reality is that this team has been pitching weak all year and has gotten some great spot action, but without Mike Mussina, this team would be fighting the Orioles for the cellar. But we all know that this is just a bump in the NY road, and it will be patched by and ready to go in 2009. But then again, the Rays will also be re-loading and will not take on a huge amount of salary that the Yankees will need to offer to get the big guns to finish this transition. While other teams rebuild, the Yankees reload.

Speaking of reloading, it was a great sight to finally come to the Trop and get mobbed by Blue and White, without pinstripes on them. For one of the first times in recent memory, the Rays fanbase came out and supported the cause last night. Every time a Yankee chant started, the cowbells or boo’s were loud and proud. The team did not back down to the Yankees intimidation tactics, or the usual trash talk in the stands. And I only saw a small handful of security-aided situations compared to the usual Yankee series. Maybe the Yankee fans are finally deciding they will have more fun, and be heard more at home than at the Trop. I can not say I will miss them, but it does give more room to the Rays fans to cheer on their team.

 

Yankees 7, Rays 2

 

                  

 

I love to reward hustle and aggressive measures by a player. I think that for us to go far in the playoffs we will have to think outside the box and come up with a few surprises for the rest of the year. But, some of the surprises I saw last night will not fly come playoff time.

In the 2nd inning, Willy Aybar lead off the inning with a single to left and was standing on first when Eric Hinske hit a monster liner to deep centerfield. Aybar raced past second and looked towards Third Base Coach Tom Foley who put up the “stop” sign for Aybar.

Eric Hinske being the aggressive bull that he is, was rolling past second with his head down and did not see that Foley had held Aybar before both players were a few feet apart from each other near 3rd base. Aybar had to committ to home becasue Hinske would never have been able to retrack to second base in time. Aybar sprinted to home, and could have made it had he put a shoulder into Yankee’s catcher Jose Molina.

What is so upsettting is that this set the tone for the Rays night. A few miscues and a few odd errors and the game was not in the Rays’ hands anymore. With Johnny Damon playing centerfield, you know you can run on the guy. He is Johnny Damon, but he is also not the same player who has a rifle attached to his arm anymore. I think if Foley had sent Aybar, it would have given the Rays an early pump of energy that they needed in this contest. 

 

Hinske did go 2-3 on the night, with an additional single to center in the 4th inning. Carlos Pena also got into the action early going 2-4 on the night and getting his average almost back to the .250 mark for the season. Pena walked in the first inning, and had an single in the 3rd inning to put B J Upton in scoring position. Carlos also had a double into the right-center gap, but was stranded on base for the Rays.

Cliff Floyd got the scoring started for the Rays on a single to right that scored Upton in the 3rd inning to bring the score to 3-1.  In the 7th inning, Gabe Gross hit a nice ball down the line into the rightfield corner for a double.

 Shawn Riggans then doubled into left to score Gross and make the score 6-2.  Rocco Baldelli came up to bat for Cliff Floyd in the 7th inning and New York countered by bringing in Joba Chamberlain to face Baldelli. Baldelli  was at the plate with Riggans and Akinora Iwamura on base for the Rays. Baldelli swung at the first pitch and hit a grounder to short that Jeter flipped to Cano for the force out at second base.

 

                                           

 

Matt Garza did not seem totally comfortable on the mound last night. The early runs by the Yankees probably did not help in that matter, but the Home Plate umpire’s strike zone also may have contributed to the situation. All night long, Home Plate umpire Brian Runge’s strike zone seemd to be moving and expanding or shortening depending on the pitch.

Several pitched balls were called strike that were clearly beyond the black of the plate and Garza’s frustration mounted. To add further fuel to the fire was the play in the 5th inning on a lightly hit ball in front of the mound hit by Robinson Cano. Garza picked up the ball and tossed it a good 5 feet above Pena’s head for his 1st error of the year.

Garza ended up going 5 innings and gave up 6 runs on 5  hits and striking out only 2 Yankees all night. Garza ended the night by taking his 8th loss of the season.  Last night’s game was Garza’s 50th career start. He also came into the game 12-4 against the AL East this season, and was 7-2 at home this year.  His last start against the Yankees was the May 12th game to win the opening game of the series , which the Rays ended up winning 3 out of 4 games at home against the Yankees.

 

Several plays during the game helped set the tome for the Rays loss. Willy Aybar’s play at third base when he sat back waiting on the ball to come to him gave Derek Jeter a single. Jeter then stole second on a close play by Riggans to Iwamura at second.

Aki could not hold onto the ball, and had Jeter by two steps for the out. Jeter then scored on Jason Giambi’s sacrifice fly to center in the 4th inning. B J Upton made a play to get Jeter at home, but the ball was high and the tag could not be made in time.

 

Sometimes I get sick of bringing this point up in my blogs. The Rays have a great offense and can stand toe-to-toe with any team in the league. But we have a major concern and issue with our hitting with men in scoring position. Last night the Rays out hit the Yankees 12-9. But the kick was that we stranded 10 men on base that could have helped lower the score.

This is not the first time, or maybe the last time this will come up, but it does need to be addressed. The Rays play a more National League style of play on the bases at times, and it has been to their advantage most nights. Last night was just a night where the ball was hit to people and the hits did not come at the best of times for the Rays.

 

 

                      

 

 Jason Hammel ended up celebrating his birthday by giving up Alex Rodriguez’s 30th homer of the night, and moved A-Rod into 12th on the All Time Home Run list with the blast to left-centerfield. Not the kind of present he was expecting last night. 

It is not that Hammel only pitched 21 pitches in the inning, 18 for strikes, it is that the blast put the dagger into the Rays last night. Hammel has had the odd job of finishing or mopping up games for the Rays lately. That can be a blessing or a curse to some pitchers. It seems this is not the calling for this Young pitcher, and it might end up costing him a roster spot in the spring of 2009. 

 

I do not want to end this blog on a negative or somber note today. I want to commend B J Upton for his play last night in the game against the Yankees. In the 2nd inning, Upton prevented an extra base hit, and maybe homer by Rodriguez by sprinting and catching a ball a few feet from the deep centerfield wall. the play was n amazing display of Upton’s speed and gifts in the outfield.

Also, Upoton had two plays at the plate last night in the game. The first never had a chance to get to the plate in time, but it was a rocket online and to the plate to show he does have the ability to get you if he has the right circumstances. The second was a play on Jeter in the 4th inning that was a bit high and outside, but did get to the plate.

This will set in the minds of the team’s we will be playing the rest of the year that Upton does have the ability to get outs from his centerfield position. This could be a great intimidating weapon down the line for the Rays the rest of the season

 

 

 

Rays End August on a Winning Note

 

Rays 10, Orioles 4

 

 

With September 1st call-ups not even 7 hours away now, it will be interesting who will come up early before the Triple-A Durham Bulls playoff games. Becuase of those games, a few well-known names like, David Price, Wade Davis, Jonny Gomes and Dan Johnson will have yo wait until after the playoff run before they find out if they will be in another post season atmosphere with the Rays.

But hopefully, current catcher Mike DiFelice will have a role in the playoff push. The main reason I want to make Mike here is becuase he was here with the team’s first pitch in 1998, and should be relishing the improvements and the excitement of this young franchise finally becoming a force in the AL East.

DiFelice toiled and sweated the young years when victories were rare, and the post season was just a time for the team to gather their thoughts and have a few beverages. But in 2008, the Rays are on the magical carpet ride to shock and awe the competition from now until the final out in Detroit in the regular season. The only thing guaranteed in the playoff picture is that the Rays would not see Boston in the first round, if they rally and capture the wild card spot. It would make bad baseball for those two to battle another 5 out of 7 games after 17 games played during the season. But who knows, life had thrown more curves at the Rays lately than James Shields, so anything is possible.

 

Rays  Magical Number :   22

Rays will need this number of Boston losses or Tampa Bay wins to secure a playoff spot.

 

 

      

 

 

Jason Bartlett again had a amazing day for the Rays. Bartlett went 4-4 with 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI’s for the Rays. But, to top it off, the Rays fans finally got to cheer for a Bartlett homer in the 7th inning. Bartlett was the month of August is hitting .388 with 7 doubles and his first homer of the year. For his career in August, Bartlett is batting .346, which ranks as 4th among active players.

 

 

                           

 

James Shields got his 12th victory of the year while pitching 7 innings of  6-hit, 1-run ball. The lone score against him came in the in the 6th inning when Brian Roberts lead off with a single and finally scored on Kevin Millar’s  fielders choice grounder to third. That was the only run to be scored against Shields all day. In the effort, Shields  picked up only 1 strikeout on the day.

 

 

                                     

 

Shields matched his career high in wins on Sunday during his 79th career start. His 2.41 ERA is second to Cliff Lee in homer ERA in 2008, and is ranked 4th in the majors this year.  Shields has now won 7 out of his 9th starts at home, and for his short career, Shields is 20-8, with a 3.19 ERA in 49 home starts. Shields is also throwing 14 pitches per inning, ranked 5th fewest in the AL.

Let’s put Shields year so far in prospective with his current AL rankings: He is ranked 5th  in innings pitched this season with 184.2 innings. Shields is also 6th in strikeout/walks ratio, and 8th in walks/9 innings in the AL.

 

 

 

 

Also having a terrific game today was Rocco Baldelli from the DH spot for the Rays. Baldelli went 3-3 on the day and slugged 2 doubles past Aubrey Huff at third, down the leftfield line in the game.

 In the 1st inning, Carlos Pena and Rocco scored on Willy Aybar’s single down the leftfield line. In the 3rd inning, Rocco again hit a screamer down the line at Huff to secure his second double.  Baldelli ended up scoring on Jason Bartlett’s single to center.

 

 

                                   

 

Willy Aybar was intentionally walked in the 3rd inning, and got picked off trying to advance to third on Bartlett’s single to center field. Aybar did not aticipate the throw from Jay Payton in center and was picked off in mid-slide into thirds base. Aybar was picked off by Kevin Millar’s intercetion of the throw to home and he had a clear lane to throw out Aybar.

Also getting picked off in this contest was Shawn Riggans in the 2nd inning when he tried to advance to third on his double and was between second and third when Kevin Millar again intercepted the ball and caught Riggans mid-base for the first out of the inning.

 

 

The Rays did get some pay back in the error depeartment when Akinora Iwamura was safe at first on an error by first baseman Kevin Millar. Aki’s play scored Riggans fronm third and put the Rays up 10-1 at the time.

 

 

                     

 

Willy Aybar did commit 2 errors yesterday at third in the game. Aybar committed his first error in the 3rd inning against Juan Castro. The ball hit the heel of his glove and popped a good 20 feet in the air and he could not control it in time to get the speedy Castro. He again had one pop out of his glove in the 8th inning on a liner to third by Lou Mantanez. Aybar did not get a great throw off on the play and Montanez beat it by 3 steps. The 2 errors put Aybar at 5 for the year.

 

 

Trever Miller and Jason Hammel both had a bad outing for the Rays in  mop-up roles for the Rays Miller came on in the 8th inning and  pitched only 12 pitches. Miller  was the pitcher on the mound when Aybar committed his second error of the game.  With Montanez on first, Miller walked Alex Cintron, who came on to hit for Aubrey Huff. For the day, Miller was credited with 1/3 of an inning, and 2 runs in the outing.

 

Hammel came on to close the game out for the Rays with the score at  10-1.  Hammel then walked Millar on 9 pitches to load the bases for Luke Scott.  Scott hit a 1-2 pitch to deep cnter to score both Montanez and Cintron. Oscar Salazar then  hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Millar. B J Upton throw from center was off line and he could not complete the out at home. That put the Orioles close to the Rays with the score 10-4 in the 8th inning. 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels 5, Rays 4

 

 

People were wondering where Rusty, our faithful Rays announcer was last homestand. Well, he was nestled in a homey enviorment up in Minnesota getting ready to get married. Rusty missed the LL Cool J concert series because of his impending nuptuals and recently return to his duties at the Trop.  So be sure to send Rusty your well wishes the next time you see him at the Trop.

The Rays’ finally sent their invoices out for the Post Season ticket prices to Season Ticketholders. And from the opinions I have heard, the Rays might not get the positive results they wish for…… I know that Section 138 and the Lower Baseline area is going to cost just under $1,000 for the 11 game package.

I actually think this is pretty reasonable, but the 3 week window to have the entire amount into the Rays coffers might be a sticking point for myself and some other people.  I know if the Rays have an unfortunate early withdrawl from playoff contention, the entire left over amonut will be credited to my 2009 account balance.

That is fine and dandy to me, but 3 weeks is an odd number of time to get that much scratch up to pay in time to prevent my ticket location from going public, or being offered to another person. I can see maybe having the money in by the last home game/ series against the Twins. That would give most people about a month to roll those quarters and pennies up and deposit them in the Rays accounts.

If the Rays tick to that solid Sept 12th date, you might just see my seat empty of my face, but you know someone will pay the upwards of 175 dollar for that seat during the World Series.

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There have been some pretty odd happenings around the diamond during this series, and they continued tonight in the Rays 5-4 loss to the Angels. On a hard hit ball up the middle that Aki Iwamura had to backhand and slap down to prevent more  Angel runs, it was scored an error on the second baseman. Anyone who saw the play could see that with his back to first base he would have never gotten a play off to the bag. For that reason alone, it should have been a hit registered and not an error.

Also during a play at first base, the television replay showed that Carlos Pena did not drop the ball, and got Chone Figgans out by a half a step. But unpire Crew Chief Gary Darling missed the play and called the runner safe on the play. Figgans again got another huge break from the unpiring crew when he was awarded third base on a double steal and the replay showed he was tagged even before his lead hand got near the bag by Willy Aybar. Two mistake that ended up being a Angels run in the inning. And might have been the difference in the ballgame.

 

 

 

 

Rays starter Matt Garza went into tonight’s game as 1 of 9 pitchers in the majors with  at least 2 shutouts. He also owns 3 of the Rays total 7 complete games this season. And he is one of the Rays’ current starters who has reached the 10 win plateau this season.  And tonight’s game was only the second start of Garza’s career against the Angels.

Garza had two uneventful innings before the Angels threatned in the 3rd inning.  During the 3rd inning the Angels erupted by three straight hits, two of them extra bases to post a 4-3 lead on the Rays. Garza gave up 7 hits on the night, 4 of those in the 3rd inning. Matt also fanned  7 batters on the night and had great command again on the mound after the 3rd inning.

 

 

 

 

What was visible to the fans was the frustration level Garza outwardly showed during the 3rd inning. He seemed to be particularly annoyed when he walked Erik Aybar, and took at least 1 inning to compose himself fully before regaining his control on the mound.

Another play where the ball was hit back towards Garza was spining away from hgim and he could not make a play on the ball.  Garza has come a long way this year to establish himself as one of the Rays’ pitchers with the most upside to his development this year. Tonight was just a short interlude of problems in a long career for the righty.

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game was telecasted on ESPN as their featured game of the night. It was a hard fought contest that should go down as to how far the Rays have matured and progressed in the last year. This is a showcase for the Rays to show the rest of the nation that the Red Sox and the Yankees no longer own the rights to playoff berths in the AL East. This year, the playoff go through Tampa Bay.

The Rays got to Angel’s starter Jered Weaver early last night, but could not rattle him enbough to send him to the bench early in the contest. In the 2nd inning, Eric Hinske singled to right and stole second to put himself in scoring position. Gabe Gross came up next and hit a screamer to right field that scored Hinske from second. Gross ended up on second after the Angels throw came back to the plate. With Gross in scoring position, Shawn Riggans hit a single to score Gross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then with Riggans in scoring position, Jason Bartlett hit a ball into the left center gap that fell between Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera for a triple. Bartlett might have had a chance for an inside the park homer, but stumbled coming out of the batters’ box on the play.

On the night. the  Rays’ 6-7-8-9- batters went 6-14 on the night, with Gross and Hinske both going 2-2 in the contest.  The bottom of the Rays lineup accounted for 3 of the 4 runs scored by the Rays. In the last few weeks, this section of the batting order has been tremedous for the Rays. They have been more productive and been in scoring position a majority of the time for the team.

 

In the 8th inning, the Rays produced two straight doubles to produce their last run of the ballgame. B J Upton took a 1-1 pitch and hit a liner to left for the first Rays double. Carlos Pena came up next and hit a ground ball double to left to score Upton from econd base and tie the score at 4-4.

 

 

Grant Balfour has always been known as a confidient and aggressive pitcher in the majors. It is widely known that he a hardnosed pitcher who will put the ball in on guys to get the outs needed to be a sucessful reliever. Balfour did run into a bit of trouble in the top of the 9th inning. He led off by waling Chone Figgans on 4 pitches, then got Erik Aybar to commit a fly ball bunt to third that his brother Willy had no problem handling for the first out of the inning.

From there on, the inning got more interesting for Balfour.  He gave up a fastball single to Mark Teixeira that moved Figgans into scoring position. Balfour was replaced by Chad Bradford, but was responsible for both runners on base.

On the Bradford’s first pitch of the inning, the Angels committed a double steal. This was the controversial steal of thrid by Figgans’ that showed on the replays that he was out by at least a foot. This put the leading runner on third with 1 out. The Rays then decided to intentionally walk Vladimir Guererro to load the bases with Torii Hunter coming to the plate.

Hunter hit into a fielders’ choice to third and Figgans was thrown out on the force play at the plate by Aybar.  Garrett Anderson then came up and reached on the apparent error play by Aki at second base. Teixiera came in to score and put the Angels up 5-4. With Balfour still responsible for Teixeira, he was awarded the loss in the game.

 

 

The Rays will be off on Thursday and traveling to the south side of Chicago for a weekend series against the AL Central leading White Sox.  Edwin Jackson will be the starting pitcher for the Rays on the Friday night contest and is riding a recent winnning streak on the mound.

Jon Danks will be the srating pitcher for the White Sox. If you remember the home series against the White Sox this year, Danks handcuffed the Rays’ batter in his start, and should again pose a threat to the Rays trying to finally become a .500 team on the road on Friday night. The Rays are currently 2 games under .500 on the road this series.

With a series sweep against the White Sox this weekend, the Rays would come back to the Trop only 1 game over .500 next Tueday. This would be great for the morale and confidience of the Rays before they hit the road after the next 9-game homestand to have 9 game roadtrip against only AL East foes before the last homestand ( 7Games) of the year.

Ray’s Subs Help Secure Series over Mariners

 

 

Rays 11, Mariners 3

 

 

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Starting today, you will see a different type of blog written by me online. I am about to undertake a few changes to my blog that will throw more opinion and information on the events. I have come to the conclusion from a few people that the paragraphs in the newspapers online, and the ESPN summaries give then the simple stats needed to know what happened on the turf.

I am going to try and dig a bit and offer some opinions and hopefully valuable insight into the game with more personalized writing. I hope you enjoy it more, and let me know how you feel about the renwed look.

I have made a few huge changes this year with the blog with the deletion of my “Good,theBad, and the Ugly” sets, and the Trivia Fact of the Day. I hope it has become a more informative and interesting reasdfor you everyday.  Thanks to all my current readers’ and welcome to the ones who ramble by the page

Rays Renegade

 

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Today is the last game this season against the Mariners, but this series will have consequences all the way to October 1st for the Rays. Not that the lost first game on Thursday will matter hugely in the standings, but that their young Rookie went down with a pitch to the wrist.

Evan Longoria is thought to be out a minimum of 15 days with a wrist injury. Now is this 15 days retro to Thursday, or starting on Sunday?

This is huge question because of the series lurking in the future for the Rays. If it is retro to Thursday, then Longoria could be back during the L A Angels series at the Trop next week.  If not, he wil miss that important series, plus maybe a few in Chicago White Sox series. This is a bad time to have somethingf happen to our offense.

I am not looking past the A’s or the Rangers’, but we are suppose to be able to hold our own with those two teams. It is the two division leaders that we have to defeat and set a tone for a possible October rematch. We have to set a pressure-filled sneario that they do not want to come to the Trop., or even play this team when they are heating up for the playoff run.

 I know the media and the fans have already called for re-enforcements to be acquired or traded for to bolster the offense. But didn’t the guys who are our “super subs” do a great job in the 3 games in Seattle? Didn’t Willy Aybar hit the ball  out of the field a few times? Didn’t Ben Zobrist look comfortable at both the plate and in the field?  And didn’t seeing Rocco in right just make you think about 2006 and what he could do for this team?

The answer to all three questions is yes. The Rays will be fine. Several time this year we have struggled to get going after an injury. But Sunday, didn’t we just look like we just reloaded and went hunting for big black bear?

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Edwin Jackson, I know you read my blog, you have commented to me before about them and I just want to say to you right now. Just keep doing what you are doing dude.  You have come a milliom miles in just a short time and you just have to remember that you will always get better.

 

With that in mind, will the Jackson-haters please admit that he is beginning to look like the pitcher we have been wanting for our 5 spot all year long. He is getting mucho run support now, and with that support comes the confidience and the ease to pitch his own game without worrying about men on base or getting into a huge jam.

 

Ask Scott Kazmir or Matt Garza how pitching with a lead can make you put yourself into a different mindset on the mound. How when you have a lead even the walks and swibble hits do not seem to bother you. That when your defense makes incredible plays, you just relax more and trust your pitches.

 

Edwin went into the game  strating his 23rd game of the season for the Rays.  He has already now won 9 games, a career high compared to his 5-15 record in 2007. 

 

In his last 9 starts, he is 5-1, and has allowed 3 Earned Runs or less in 8 of those games. He is also 4-0 in last 4 starts. His 3.70 Road ERA is the best on the Rays staff this year. By the way, last year at this time he was 2-11, with a 6.35 ERA.

 

I would say he has shown the Rays’ and their fans’ that he is for real, and ready to go for more this year.  And you all are calling for him to go to the Bullpen. Come on now, you never take a guy out who is on a roll in baseball.  The Rays should stay with the hand they dealt after Spring Training. Jackson lately has been all aces.

  

 

In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena hit a shot that will be a postive viewpoint for instant replays concerning Home Run calls and disputed outfield calls. With the Rays up 8-1 at the time, the call would not effect the game, but would have made a point to the MLB brass that this upcoming replay idea might have some firm ground.

 

In the inning, Pena took a 2-2 count from knuckleballer R A Dickey and deposited it onto the top of the right centerfield wall for a triple. The problem is that the wall has a bold yellow line on it that designates that it is a home run if it hits bavoe that line in the outfield.

 

To make matters worse, the ball bounced a few times on the said line and then plopped onto the field. A fan looked like he was about to grab the ball, but he did not touch it, so they did not call a ground rule double, but let Pena sit at third base with a triple. The call was blown by the umpiring crew and was a great example of the kind of call that will be made by the review process.

 

Pena is fighting to regain his power numbers from last season, and that homer would have boosted him into a tie with Longoria for the team lead. Baseball is all about stats, and to have something like that homer taken away from you can be a trying experience. Good thing that homer did not become a game deciding play. It would have been a huge crome for that play to be magnified on ESPN as a game breaker for the Rays.

 

Instant replay might not be the savior of the sport, but at times it can redeem a team and it’s players by it’s simple result.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli, how we all missed you since we last saw you play on May 9,2007. That was the last time we saw Rocco hit a ball in a major league game before going on the DL with a plethra of injuires and watching your facial hair expand. Rocco, we never knew how much we missed you until you got up to the plate on Sunday, all clean shaven and stroked that single into left center in the 3rd inning.

 

How it must have felt like a ton of bricks off your chest to be back in the box again in a major league game and hit that ball for not only your first hit of 2008, but a first RBI in a long time by driving in B J Upton. You looked perfectly calm and at ease in the box Rocco, and we need that from you for the rest of this year. We need to see how much you missed this, and how much you are going to struggle, but succedd this year both at the plate and in the field.  

 

 I was there during your Press Conference at Progress Energy and saw the look on your face that you might never set foot on a major league diamond again. I saw the hidden pain and suffering that you want to believe, but that this ailment was winning over you at the moment. I also know and saw the tone of your voice that you wanted to come back, defeat this inner deamon and help this team reach a new high.

 

Well Rocco, you were on the field when they won their 71st contest, the best in team history. You were also on the field when they won their 70th a few years back and knew the road was only up for this team.

 

We need you Rocco. We need you to be the smiling guy who came in and stole that certain single from Bryan LaHair in the5th inning to show you still had the wheels and the heart to want to be out there.

 

But most of all, we want to thank you for becoming the centerpiece of a remarkable story that kids can look up to for years. That while the Rays were sorting out their problems in the infield, and you wanted to play, you were silient and going about your business, not causing stress or friction in the clubhouse or with the team.

 

We want to thank you for being the model guy who will alsways have a play on this team.

  

 

Andrew Friedman, let me tell you something fella, you have a wild knack for finding talent where most do not even think it exsists anymore. We got “super subs”, Willy Aybar and Eric Hinske for a pretty penny. We did not trade alot to get Aybar, but he has turned into a clutch performer for this ballclub.

Eric Hinske has always had a bat, but he also has a renewed vigor that on a daily basis he can help this squad reach new heights. With the addition of the inspirational play of Zobrist, and the inhuman work of Shawn Riggans, the bottom of the Rays lineup were superior in this contest.

Not only did the number 7-8-9 guys go 6-14 in this game, with 4 extra base hits,but tney also made key defensive play that help the Rays win this contest. Aybar and Riggans both hit monster shoits to leftfield for homers in this game, but the play of Riggans behind the plate, and Aybar filling in at third made Rays Manager Joe Maddon secure in knowing the Rays will be in great hands during the injury situations. 

Hinske will probably get more at bats in left and right during the Carl Crawford injury, and that might actually be a good thing for the Rays. they will be substituting power for speed in this move, but Hinske also has not been slow on the basepaths. We might be scarificing a bit on defense, but with a projected power increase, the Rays should not have any problems in the rst of this roadtrip.

 

 

 

 

Rays Win Wild Shootout Against the Tigers

 

 Rays 6, Tigers 5

 

This game had everything a fans would want. Extra innings, which is like “free” baseball. Drama and possible defining moments for this team. A closer episode that was close to implosion, and a setup guy who gave up only his first homer of the year in his appearance.

To say you went home from the game on Sunday thinking you got ripped off or missing any form of excitement would be criminal. The Rays battled back again and again in this hard fought contest and never seemed to raise the white flag to the Tigers. It was defining moment for this club that showed not only heart, but will in wanting the win.

It was a instant classic Rays moment that also had some sadness to it. We might have lost our starting shortstop for a few games, and saw a fan favorite get hit with a 96 MPH fastball square in the area of the heart. It was a pitch that made everyone in attendance gasp and also hold their breath for a few seconds. Oh, and we also had over 30,000 fans on a Sunday, which is a first in this team’s history.

 

                                       

 

It might not have been a picture perfect day outside for the fans to do other things, but hopefully the action and the determination on the field will want them to come back again, and again this year.  And we had the first official “Grizzly Rocco” sighting on the Rays bench during the game.

 

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Sometimes I have a great seat to hear if the outfeilders or infeilders call a ball in the air during the game. But in the 2nd inning, Akinora Iwamura and Eric Hinske were silent when Matt Joyces hit dropped to the turf in between them for a single in rightfield.

Neither player voiced any loud attempt to get the fly ball, and both seemed to pull up just inches from the scene of the crime.  I am not going to thrown either of them under the bus here, just from now on guys, sing it loud and proud you want that horsehide.

 

                                

 

Rays starter, James Shields had a pretty good outing today, but the Tiger’s offense picked their spots on him today and spotted up a 1-0 score after 3 innings. In the next 3 innings Sheilds only gave up 3 hits and another lone run to let the Tigers gain a 2-0 lead on the Rays.

Shields did enough to earn his win today by pitching 6.1 innings of 2-run ball, but the Tigers were stiff on the defensive side and Sheilds left with the Tigers still up 2-0 on the Rays.

 

                                   

 

The Rays were down 2-1, when the Tigers’ replaced starter Armando Galarraga in the 8th inning with newly acquired reliever Kyle Farnsworth.  Eric Hinske hit the a fastball on the third pitch he saw from Farnsworth  to right for his 18th homer of the season.

Hinske hit his 101st homer of his career, and the Rays are now 15-4 when he homers in a game. It started a Rays 8th innig that saw two great shots over the wall.

 

 

           

 

 

B J Upton, who had not hit a homer in his last 25 games. B J  hit a high 2-run shot to center that cleared the wall by less than a foot. It helped put the Rays up 4-3 in the 8th inning. Going into today’s contest, the Rays have gone 58-0 when leading after 8 innings.  Upton also got his 25th double of the season to go along with his 8th homer of the year for the Rays.  On the day, Upton got 2 RBI’s to put him at 49 for the season.

 

 

                                  

 

In the top of the 8th, Grant Balfour came out and gave up on his only homer run of the season to Gary Sheffield to put the Tigers up 3-1.  Balfour had given up only 4 extra base hits prior to Sheffields homer, all doubles.

 Balfour had been the best reliever  coming into the game with a .103 opponents average against him. He also  has a 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings mark, tied for best in the majors this season. He has shutout the opponents in 21 of 25 appearances this season. and earned the win last night in the game for the Rays to improve to 3-1 on the year.

 

 

When Rays closer comes on in the 9th inning, you can usually close the book on the game. Today, Troy was not sharp in the 9th inning and gave up a solo shot to Curtis Granderson to tie the game on the first pitch. Percival  then took 10 pitches to get out of the inning.

Troy Percival has not pitched 2 straight innings for the Rays this season.  Percival went back out in the 10th inning and  gave up another homer to Miguel Caberra to put the Tigers’ up 5-4 on the Rays.

 Trever Miller then came in and finished the inning for the Rays.

 

                                     

 

If you left this game after the 9th inning, you missed one of the most exciting Rays’ rallys in our history. With the team down 5-4,  Tigers reliever Frenando Rodney came in to pitch the 10th inning.

Rodney walked the first batter Willy Aybar after a 9 pitch at bat. Jason Bartlett came up next and the real ecitement started for the Rays. Bartlett tried to put down a bunt on the first pitch from Rodney, but caught his index finger on the bat and split it open.

 Bartlett was taken from the game and back-up catcher Shawn riggans was inserted to finish the at-bat. Riggans  came up with one strike on him after Bartlett’s failed bunt attempt.

 

 

 

 

On the first pitch from Rodney, going about 96 mph, Riggans was hit squarely in the chest near the heart ans went down immediately to the ground.

The Rays medical staff rushed out to the field and in a few minutes Shawn was standing on first base, but had  a difficult time breathing normally.  the pitch had hit with enough force to knock the wind out of Riggans and left him gasping for breath on the ground.

Akinora Iwamura then hit a scarifice bunt to the catcher to advance Aybar and Riggans. Rays Manager Joe Maddon said after the game that Iwamura put the bunt down himself without the signal from third base coach Tom Foley. The play ended up being as brilliant move by Aki and helped put both men in scoring position with Upton coming to bat for the Rays.

Upton walked on 6 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Carl Crawford then sliced a single to left that scored Aybar and tied the game at 5-all. Riggans was now on third and looked labored running around the bases for the Rays. Becuase Maddon had used everyone on his bench, he could not substitue anyone for Riggans to run for him.

Evan Longoria struck out and put the Rays with one out left in the game to try and get Riggans home from third base.

Carlos Pena came up and was down  to a 1-ball, 2-strike count early in the at-bat. Carlos then saw 3 straight balls to earn a walk-off walk and secure the win for the Rays. It was Pena’s second RBI of the game, and one of the Rays most important of the season. 

 

                                     

 

Upon issuing the walk, you could see Curtis Granderson in centerfield slap hid glove down in frustration in giving up 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th inning.

 

The game also saw another record go by the way-side. Trever Miller entered the contest decision-less in his last 122 appearances. Miller finally got to celebrate as he earned the win for the game, and put this huge gorilla of a monkey off his back.

Ex-Rays Bobby Seay, who was also in the game for the Tigers’ is the player Miller passed to secure his record. Seay had gone 116 straight appearances from Sept. 5th, 2001-Aug 24, 2007 without a decision.

 

What was lost in the victory was the alignment on the field if the Rays did not score the final run. Maddon had used all avaiable field players in that inning, and did not have any fielding substitues for Riggans, who has never played any position beside catcher in his career.

Maddon remarked that Edwin Jackson, who was drafted vy the L A Dodgers as an outfielder, volunteered to play rightfield for the Rays. Maddon quickly turned down the sincere offer.

Maddon had planned on moving Longoria to short, put Aybar at third, and taken Gomes off the DH to secure the 9 players needed to field the inning. With that alignment, the Rays would have lost the DH position and the pitcher would have had to bat for the Rays.

Great thing we did not have to find out how this all turned out for the team. Riggans could not have played regardless becuase of the labored breathing he was showing on the bases. He would have had to be pulled as a possible precaution in case of a chest injury or possible rib situation.

 

Post Game note:

Both x-rays on Riggans and Bartlett came back negative and both will sit out at least the next game to recover from their injuries.  There is no timetables set yet as to the length of time either will spend recovering, with Bartlett seen bandaged and ready to go that afternoon.

Maddon will probably sit Bartlett for Monday’s game and re-evaluate the situation nightly after the games. Longoria will play short in his absence, if it is short-term. If the injury lingers, or Bartlett goes on the DL again, Ben Zorbrist will be brought up again from  the Durham Bulls.

Riggans should be fine after a few days off and might catch again during the weekday homestand finale on Wed afternoon.

 

 

 

 

  

Rays Pound Tigers 9-3

 

 

Rays 9, Tigers 3

 

 

When the gates opened on Saturday, the first 10,000 fans got to get a B J Upton figurine and a chance to get his and Carl crawford’s autographs before the game. Also in attendance was Hall of Famer Monte Irvin in the Ted William’s Museum area signing and taking pictures with the fans. Irvin is looking in pretty fragile state, and sat in his wheelchair most of the signing. I hope it is nothing serious, we have lost alot of great elder baseball statesmen lately, and the smiling Irvin would be a true loss to us all.

As I enterd the Trop., a member of the marketing team gave me my figurine and told me it was a special one. He told me to find him later and tell him what is so different about it.  I saw on the figurine outer box that it had a limited edition numbering and a base plate that said, “B J Upton 2.”

Mine did not have that numbering, or the lettering mentioned above. Instead, it said “Bossman Junior 2. I will put a picture of it up on my next blog near the bottom for the skeptics. As you might know, Boss man Junior, or B J, is in referrence to a family nickname for Upton that started with his father, Manny, who is Bossman Senior.  It will be a treasured collectible along side my Rays old on deck circle, and the original proof of the stadiums plans that I got from an old construction company a friend’s father owned that did original work on the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field.

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Evan Longoria and Jason Bartlett put on a hitting fireworks show last night before the L L Cool J concert. Longoria went 3-5 in the contest with 3 RBIs, and is now raised his average to .280 for the season.

 

 

                    

 

 

Longoria hit his 26th double of the season in the 2nd inning and scored Carl Crawford from second base on the play. Longoria ended up on third advancing on the throw home.  Longoria also singled to left in the 4th inning and scored Akinora Iwamura to put the Rays up 6-2.

Ex-Rays Casey Fossum was pitching for the Tigers’ when Longoria connected on his 21st homer of the season in the 6th inning.  Longoria currently leads all MLB rookies in homers with 21.

His 21st homer also tied him with Jonny Gomes for the Rays’ rookie record for homers in a season. Longoria also leads all MLB rookies with a .528 Slugging Percentage, 195 total bases, and 50 mextra base hits on the year.

 

 

                   

 

Jason Bartlett had his own hitting fireworks by going 3-4 with 2 runs scored in the game. Bartlett connected on his 11th double of the season and spread out two other singles throughout the game in the 2nd and 4th inning. Bartlett also reached base on a error in the 5th inning. for his only non-hit time on base last night.

Bartlett is hitting .325 since June 13th.  Bartlett is currently 8 for 9 in  steal attempts at  third base this season. He was thrown out tonigt for the first time by Tiger’s catcher Brandon Inge. 

 

 

               

 

 

Shawn Riggans, starting for Dioner Navarro tonight had an interesting start to the game. In the first inning, Tiger Curtis Granderson struck out swinging, but Riggans dropped the ball. His throw towrds first took the glove off of Carlos Pena and Granderson was safe at first base.  Granderson ended up benig the front part of a double play in the inning. Pena’s glove was shot a good 5 feet to the infield side of the turf by Riggan’s throw.

Riggans had another interesting play in the bottom of the 6th inning. Riggans hit a beautiful shot to left that scored Willy Aybar.  Tigers’ leftfielder, Matt Joyce made a perfect throw to the plate to try and get Aybar, but did not get it there in time.

Riggans was trying to stretch the play into a double and advancing to third on the throw, but was caught in “no-man’s land” and was tagged out by shortstop Edgar Renteria.  Great thought, bad execution.

 

 

                   

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine did not pitched a great game for the Rays, but the Rays again surrounded him with clutch runs and spotted him an early lead in the game. Sonnanstine lasted  6 innings and threw 2-hit, 2-run ball for the contest.

He had several innings where the Tigers were getting to him, but great defensive plays behind him kept him in the game and help secure his 11th victory of the season. Sonnanstine also had 6 strikeouts in the game while throwing  102 pitches.

 Sonnanstine has allowed 3 earned runs or less in 9 of his last 11 starts this year, and his .625 win percentage prior to tonight’s game is the best in Rays history for 15 decisions.

 

                                

 

 

Rays Reliever Al Reyes came on in the 7th inning and gave up 3-hits and a lone run for the Rays. Coming into tonight’s game Reyes has pitched in 5 contests since coming off the DL and has a 6.75 ERA. Reyes has pitched 4 innings and has given up 6 hits and 4 runs since his return.

 

 

In other great plays tonight, B J Upton hit a nasty looking ground rule double that snaked over the centerfield wall in the 2nd inning. Upton scored later in the inning to put the Rays up 3-0. It was Upton’s 24th double of the season.

Gabe Gross threw a rocket to third in the after Miguel Caberra doubled to right and gunned down Carlos Guillen in stride.  It was Gross’s 5th outfield assist this year. Gross also got an RBI in the 4th inning when he walked with the bases loaded to put the Rays up 7-2.

Carl Crawford went 1-3, but scored 2 runs and got 2 RBI’s on the night for the Rays. He has hit safely in last 7 games, and is 10-26, with 2 doubles, 5 triples, and 4 RBIs.

 

Of course, tonight’s contest was a sellout,and is the 8th sellout of the year for the team. Tonight’s game is also the second fastest game to sellout in Rays history, behind the first game in franchise history on March 31, 1998.  Both of these sellouts were against the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers also hold another bit of Rays history all to themselves. They are also the only team we have ever had a home double header against in our short history.

The Rays 42 home wins leads the majors and broke the previous record of 41 wins at home set in 2004, and 2006. The Rays are also 15-1 in front of 30,000 fans or more this year.  

 

 

 

 

Rays First Half Report Card 6-10

 

 

 

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

On to the list:

 

                               

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

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

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

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

 

Grade……………………………………………..A-

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Grade……………………………………………B+

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

Grade………………………………………………… A

 

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

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

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

See you at the Trop…………………………

 

Rays Continue Losing in Cleveland

 

 

Indians 5, Rays 2

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

                             

               

 

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

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

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

 

                              

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

                              

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Ray Finish InterLeague in Winning Fashion

 

 

Rays 4, Pirates 3

 

I was watching an old classic baseball movie last night on Starz and was wondering if the 1919 White/Black Soxs’ might have been the only club that was involved in any  odd hanky panky. 

Baseball’s Game fixing did not start with the 1919 White Sox. Although the Black Sox scandal has come to define the crime to the public . It actually began when the National League was barely one year old.  The first-place Louisville Grays made a number of uncommon errors and mis-guided plays during an East Coast roadtrip, causing them to lose seven games and only win one.

This prompted speculation that the players dumped game, and the pennant intentionally.  And it turns out, they did!

Western Union telegrams linked players with a known gambler and 4 players were banned for life from the game.

The first two decades of the century were filled with  small episodes of baseball coruption. First baseman Hal Chase served as their poster boy, having been linked to several “fixed” contests before finally earning his ban in the Black Sox scandal.

Could this have been a prelude that the Sox might have been charmed by Chase to committ the crime, or could a  greedy owner who did not pay his players a living wage,  been the prelude to the entire scandal.  You be the judge!

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

An embarrassing situation happened when Ebbett’s Field opened on April 15,1913, in Brooklyn. No one could locate the keys to the gates, leaving thousands of fans roaming outside the stadium waiting to be seated.

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The Rays are 6-0 now when Andy Sonnanstine pitches after a Tampa Bay loss.

With that fact in mind, you can summize that the Rays, who now own the BEST record in baseball won against the Pirates 4-3 on Sunday. This win comes on the eve of the Rays playing a 3-game series against their AL East foe, the Boston Red Sox. 

 Missing from this series will be the mani aggressor of the  on-field actions in Boston. Coco Crisp will be serving his suspension during this trip into the Trop, and this might take alot of tension from the series for both squads.

Sonnanstine pitched an effective game going 7 innings of 5-hit, 2-run ball for the Rays. Before this start, Sonnanstine had averaged 5.2 innings in his 17 starts.  Andy threw 98 pitches today and used his off speed pitches to confuse the Pirate batters. Sonnanstine is gaining more confidience in his slider and is usung it more as an out pitch against opponents this year.

 

B J Upton again started this game with a bang.

This is the second day in a row that Upton has lined the first pitch into centerfield to start on base for the Rays. B J  is hitting in the lead-off spot until Akinora Iwamura is back on Wed.

B J  also reached base on a single to left before getting caught leaning off of first base. Upton currently leads the majors in being caught stealing with 10 for the year.

In the bottom of the same inning, the Pirate’s Freddy Sanchez sent a  long fly ball into the gap in left center. Upton closing on the play could not get the ball before it hit the turf.

But instead of picking the ball up and throwing it in, Upton kicked the ball into left and Carl Crawford had to retrive the ball for the Rays.  Upton recived his 7th error on the play. The play also put Sanchez on third with no outs. Jason Bay hit a Sacrifice Fly to score Sanchez from third and tie the score at 1-1.

 

                                 

 

Willy Aybar, filling in for Aki at second, again proved to have the offensive stuff today.

Aybar hit his 3rd homer of the year to left in the 6th to put the Ray up 2-1. It is the 2nd homer of the year from the right side for the switch-hitting Aybar. Aybar went 2-4 today with 2 runs scored and is hitting 257 for the year in his limited role.

 

 

In the 8th inning, Aybar  also hit a single to right, but reached third on a throwing error by Xavier Nady.  Carlos Pena scored on the play to put the Rays up 3-2.

 

       

 

Speaking of limited role players coming up big for the Rays, you have to put back-up catcher Shawn Riggans on the top of that list. 

 Riggans has seen very limited duty with the emergance of Dioner Navarro, and his playing time has diminished considerably this season. Shawn has played in 18 of the Rays’ last 48 games this year.

But in the time he has played this roadtrip, Riggans has almost orchestrated a no-hit bid for the Rays, and come through with clutch hits and moves behind the plate.  Riggans hit a single to center in the 8th inning to score Aybar and put the Rays up  for good, 4-2.

In the 4th inning, Riggans, who also caught Jonny Gome’s pinch-hit homer to the Rays Bullpen on Sat. night, hit a  monster shot over the Rays’ Bullpen in center. It was Riggan’s 4th homer of the season. He also went 3-4 at the plate upping his average to .274 for the year

 

  

 

The Rays Bullpen again came in and got the victory for the Rays. Troy Percival got his 19th save of the year in 22 pitches for the Rays. Troy is curently 2nd in the the majors this season in opponent’s batting average at .140. The only reliever above him is  the Chicago  Cub’s set-up man Marmol, who has blanked the oppostion to a .138 average.

All of Percival’s 332 saves have come in the AL, second only to Mariano Riveria of the Yankees, who has 461 saves.

The Rays have now allowed 4.05 runs a game, this would match the 1931 Philadelphia Phillies for the 4th greatest decrease in opponents’ from one season to the next in the majors since 1900. The Rays are on pace to give up 288 less runs than they did in 2007.

Andy Sonnanstine is also chasing the Rays record for wins before the All-Star break. He currently has 9 wins and trails only Rolando Arrojo( 10 in 1998) and Scott Kazmir ( 10 in 2006).  Wit his win today, Sonnanstine has tied Victor Zambrano also with 9 wins ( 2004) before the break.

 

The Rays will be holding a braodcast auction on Monday with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) to benefit the Rays Foundation and the FRLA Foundation. The auction will be conducted via ION television network and will feature many awesome and one-of-a-kind dining and travel experiences. Here is a short list of some of the items:

The live auction items include four travel and game packages to California’s Wine Country, Boston, Chicago and Toronto.

The auction will also feature a  Celebrity Chef Private Dinner at Tropicana Field  with special guest Dan Wheelerand Dewayne Staats

 A Latin-flavored VIP Dinner with Ybor City’s favorite family, the Columbia Restaurant’s Gonzmart family.

Another great outdoor’s adventure is a golfing four-some, which will include  Rays broadcasters,Joe Magrane and Todd Kalas at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida 

Each of the travel packages includes airfare, accommodations, VIP tour of the city, meals at high end restaurants, and tickets to watch the Rays play other MLB teams in the respective cities.

Bid often, and bid high for these great adventures with the Rays

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