Results tagged ‘ Troy Percival ’

Is the Book Closed on Percival?

 

 

The common chatter around the Tampa Bay Rays during the playoffs was if Troy Precival would be activated or just fade to black. At this moment, it is more a question of if he is going to have the knee and back surgery and even compete next season for the team.

Since the ALDS win the Chicago, the team has seen very little of their highly motivated closer. Percival, who was a teacher and a mentor to many of the young guys in the Bullpen has been absent from the sidelines and might not ever put on a Rays uniform again. There is speculation that when he did not show up for the Sat contest during the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, that he basically is done with baseball in 2008.

On that Sat. night, he had communicated to Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he would be in the clunhouse by 5:30 pm, and might even dress to go sit down with his Bullpen mates. He did not come into the clubhouse, and did not leave any messages for fellow team mates on his missing the game.

To further complicate matters, the Rays have not heard anything concrete from Percival on his knee or back situations since he last hit the DL in late August. The Rays had to put Percival on the DL 3 times in 2008, and the rumor is that if he is not in tip top shape, the Rays will seek a closer for 2009.

 

 

 

It is not to be a slap at Percival, but as a business decision, you have to prepare for the season as early as November sometimes. And with the best closers going for top dollars now, you have to adjust your payroll and thinking to amend to the situation.

Percival has not been in uniform since the game in Boston where he blew the save and left the game in a huff after surrendering the tying homer to Jason Bay.

One of the big things I have seen from him since the beginning of the season is his stretching has changed. Early in the season, he would come out to the Bullpen and do about 5-10 pushups, then do a Yoga-inspired stretching of his back before long tossing beyond the mound.

Since his second stint on the DL, he did not do these exercises in the Bullpen area. He could have done them in the back region of the Bullpen’s bathroom area where a Yoga ball and mat are located. But as a fan, I took great pride in seeing him get into his zone with these exercises. It seemed to focus him and pull him into the moment before going into the game.

 

                  

 

But then again, from my Season Ticket seats’ vantage point, I could almost see the sweat on Bobby Ramo’s eyebrows at times. The Rays need to kno within the next few days, before the Winter Meetings, if they are seeking a closer for 2009. I really do not see Maddon going with a closer-by-committee outlook any longer for the Rays.

It might match up well with the stats, but it bring an inconsisitant manner to the team and it’s Bullpen. Relievers are a different breed of pitchers’. They have to be ready at a moments notice, and to tempt fate with changes in their routines can some times damage all the good a pitcher has done in prior appearances.

If I were Andrew Friedman, i would be putting out feelerrs to guys like ex-Diamondback reliever, Juan Cruz or maybe even chatting with Kerry Wood’s agent. Woods was rumored to be high on the Rays lost a few years ago as a closer replacement, maybe now is the time for him here.

But the options will disappear fast as the off-season progresses, and the Rays have to be mindful that if they sleep too long………..they will be waiting for clubs to release guys in late March for a closer.

 

Rays Win Last Gameof the Season in 11th Inning

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

I was glad to see that Rays Manager Joe Maddon let Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi take out the lineup card today before the game. I have known Scott now for about 8 years and I know of no one else in the organization who has done more and wished more for every pitcher who has graced the mound at the Trop. From the late Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle, to David Price and Mitch Talbot, Cursi has warmed them all up and made sure they were up to the task of pitching for the Rays. 

 He is one of the unsung heros of that Bullpen that most fans would never know die to his low key demeanor and style. But he ia also a viable reason alot of these guys feel so calm and secure going out to the mound. He is the silent Bullpen Coach. And the honor today was fitting for one of the Rays hardest workers over the last 10 years.

 

                      

I am saddened to know that after today’s game, Detroit Tigers’ Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez was let go by the team. Hernandez was with the Rays in the minor league system before finally coming up tho the major league level and leading the team in t lean years. He was here in the infant days of Scott Kazmir, and as a leftie, he could illustrate and teach Kazmir about the tough job of a lefty in today’s game. I know who ever get this great coach next season will see how fast this guy can fine tune and turn a Bullpen into a winner.

I also want to alert fans of an upcoming video to be shown in the Rays Playoff games. The video will be members of Maddon’s Maniacs, that group that first brought the cowbell into a cult status at the Trop. You might know them more by their bright yellow shirts with the screaming baseball that looks like Rays Manager, Jow Maddon. This group was formed several years ago to act as a cheering conglomerate in their sections of the stadium.  So look for the video on the Jumbotron during the Playoff games, and Go Rays!!!!!!!

 

Rays 8, Tigers 7

 

                               

James Shields

It was just a formality that Rays starter James Shields even hit the mound today. The Rays were using the start as a stretching out period to get Shields some work before he starts the Rays first Playoff game in the Trop. next Thursday. Shields came out and threw 10 pitches in his 1 inning of work and got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3. All 3 outs were on ground balls and were alternated between the 3 infield positions.

 

Mitch Talbot

Talbot is in the mix as one of the guys the Rays were going to discuss before deciding if he was to be on the team’s first ALDS  25-man roster. After today’s performance, I have a feeling that the young rightie will have thrown his last pitch this season for the Rays. It has been a wild season for Talbot, first brought up for 48 hours before heading again for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. In today’s relief appearance, he never looked calm or in control on the mound.

Talbot had an eventless 2nd inning as the Tigers went again down 1-2-3. But in the 3rd inning, the tide began to turn for the young pitcher. Brandon Inge hit a smoker down the leftfield line into the corner and ended up with a double, with no outs in the inning. Inge moved to 3rd on a Wild Pitch by Talbot. Ramon Santiago then walked to put men on the corners for the Tigers. Curtis Granderson then took a 2-1 count the deposited the ball into the leftfield stands for a 3-run homer, and put the Tigers up 3-0.

In the 4th inning, Talbot had a few control issues and gave up 5 walks in the inning. Edgar Renteria singled to right to lead off . After Dusty Ryan flied out to center, Inge, Santiago,Granderson ans Gary Sheffield all walked to scored 2 runs in the inning. With those runs crossing the board, Talbot was done for the day. In his 2.1 innings of work, Talbot gave up 5-runs on 5-hits, and gave up 5 walks on 71 pitches for the Rays.

 

Rays Bullpen

The Rays Bullpen then combined to post 4.2 innings of scoreless work lead by  Rookie David Price going the first 1.2 innings and striking out 2 batters.  After Price, Dan Wheeler came on for 1 inning and posted 2 strikeouts and 2 walks in his time on the mound. With today’s appearance, Wheeler now has 4 straight years of at least 70 appearances in a game.  His 26 holds is tops on the Rays, and 4 short of the AL lead held by the Angels’ Scott Shields.

Then Troy Percival came on and got a hitless inning to boost his chances of being added to the post season roster.  Percival has been on notice that Maddon wanted to see a effort and control during his last  appearance this season. In his last 8 appearances, Percival has not been too impressive, he has given up 7-hits and 9-runs in 5.1 innings of work.  Opponent’s are hitting only .188 against him this year, good enough for 7th in the AL. Trever Miller then came on in the 8th inning and pitched another scoreless frame for the Rays.

 

                          

Edwin Jackson

Then in the 9th inning, Maddon inserted usual Rays starter Edwin Jackson to close out the game for the team. Jackson started the 9th by throwing some hard stuff around 96 M.P.H. plus against the Tigers.  But Sheffield ended up hitting a single into rightfield to lead off the inning for the Tigers. Magglio Ordonez then hit a 2-run homer on a 2-2 pitch to left to tie the game at 7-7 and send the game into extra innings. Jackson ended up pitching 2 innigs and gave up 4-hits and 2-runs, while throwing 43 pitches.  The homer gave Jackson his first blown save of the year.

 

            

 

Powerful 5th inning

 In the end, Jackson ended up winning the game when the Rays won the game in the 11th inning. With the win, Jackson joined fellow starters former Rays Rolando Arroyo and James Shields as the only Rays starters to win 14 games in a season. The win was Jackson’s second in the week and puts him at 14-12 for the season. This is a massive improvement over the 5-15 he posted last season.

 

In the first 4 innings of today’s game, the Rays went down in order and did not seem to have the offensive firepower today. But in the 5th inning, the Rays began to attack Tigers starter Zack Miner. Rocco Baldelli hit  a leadoff homer 423 feet to centerfield to put the Rays finally on the board. Willy Aybar the hit a double into the leftfield corner to put another Rays into scoring position. After 1 quick outs, Eric Hinske hit a 2-run shot to rightfield  402 feet over the scoreboard to bring the Rays to within 2 runs, 6-4.

 

         

 

Big 8th Inning Rally

In the 8th inning, the Rays sent 9 men to the plate and scored 4 runs to Rays up 7-5 in the game. The inning began with John Jason hitting a ball throught the hole between short and thrid for a single. Then Dan Johnson hit a liner about 15 feet off the ground to put 2 rays on base with no outs. Fernando Perez then walked on 8 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Jonny Gomes then hit a ball that went over centerfielder Curtis Granderson’s head and over the wall for a Ground Rule Double.

Gomes got 2 RBI’s on the play. Aybar then walked after Baldelli struck out to give the Rays a man on with 1 out. Ben Zobrist then hit a grounder to right to score Perez and move Gomes to third base and Aybar to second base and Zobrist to first to load the bases again for the Rays. Ruggiano then struck out, and Hinske walked to score Gome and leave the bases loaded for Jaso.  Jaso  was till at the plate when Aybar was called out on a runner’s choice for the 3rd out of the inning. But the score was now 7-5 Rays.

In the 10th inning, with the scored tied, Gomes tried to turn his single into a double and was tagged out at second for the 1st out in the inning. The play was a bit too aggressive, but Gomes could have gotten the base if he slide to the infield side of the bag.  Aybar hit a screwamer into foul territory down the rightfield line that Mike Joyce caught for the third out.

 

             

 

Ben Zobrist

For the game, Zobrist went 2-5 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the team. But it was his solo homer in the 11th inning that sealed the win for the Rays. Zobrist has now hit 4 homers in 4 games against the Tigers this weekend.  In hitting his 12th homer of the season, Zobrist is showing a new power aspect to his game that was not there last season for the Rays.  His 12 homers this season have come in only 198 at bats for the Rays.

 

         

 

ALDS Opponent

The Rays might not know their opponent in the ALDS until maybe Tuesday because of the make-up game tomorrow between the DEtroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have to win that contest to advance into a one-game playoff for the AL Central division title against the Minnesota Twins.

If the White Sox do lose tomorrow, the Minnesota Twins will be the Rays opponent when they start the divisional series on Thursday at Tropicana Field. If the White Sox win both contests, they will represent the AL Central in St. Petersburg, Florida.

 

Apology

 

For some reason I have a mental block some night and get Ben Zobrist’s name wrong.  I want to send a apology through my  blog that it is not intentional, and I love your mohawk a bit more than Trever Millers’. Zobrist has been on fire lately, and I have smoldered a bit by messing up his name.  I am sorry Ben, and I will try and not let it happen again. 

Rays Get Blasted by Tigers

 

 

Tigers 7, Rays 5

 

I wanted to first start off my blog tonight by telling everyone that former Rays closer, and current Tigers reliever Todd Jones has announced his retirement from baseball on 9/25/2008.  Jones was a closer for most of his career for 8 teams in the majors. He leaves with 319 saves in 1,072 major league innings.  Tood spent his 2004 Spring Training with the Rays before being released on March 25, 2004. Jone might have not ever thrown a pitch during the regular season for the Rays, but he was good to the fans and made an impression on me as a treu professional on the field. I wish the best for him in his life away from baseball.

 

           

 

Okay, now back to over  regularly scheduled blog moment. I am really psyched that the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays have decided to have a celebration in Straub Park this Monday at 5 P.M. It is an exciting time to be a Rays’ fan, and to actually just be a baseball fan. The current playoff season should be one of the most closely contested playoffs in a long time. Our opponent has not been decided, since the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins have been fighting it out the last 3 nights. Just remember, the White Sox have 4 games left to play, not 3 like I thought earlier in a blog.

I forgot about their make-up game against the Detroit Tigers, that will certainly be played this Monday unless the Twins or White Sox hit rock bottom this weekend and the divsion is handed to either team. I am expecting that the game will be played because of the 3-games series these team play this weekend. If for some reason they both win all 3, or have an similar record in the series’, the Monday contest would decide the division. If that happens, I expect the White Sox to pull out all the stops and put their best on the mound, because a loss will mean they are in front of the TV watching the other play the Rays.

 

Rays Magic Number:       1 

Any  Rays win or Boston loss gives the title to the Rays. Also do not forget if by some ungodly reason we are tied on Sunday, the Rays win on the tiebreaker of winning the overall series against the Red Sox 10-8  this year

 

          

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Already the local media have brought out the Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde aspect of Scott Kazmir’s last few starts. I am thinking more in the line of, is he trying to spot his pitches, or is there a true mechanical issue with him right now?  Seriously folks, sometimes it looks like the guy is trying to put it to a spot instead of being the power pitcher that he has always been for the Rays.

Kazmir is a power pitcher period. He is too young and too talented for a pitching coach to try and change his delivery right now in his career. He was the 2007 strikeout king, but this year an elbow injury has even kept him off the leaderboard because of innings to qualify for the honors.  He is  8.2 innings short right now from being able to post his number with the big boys this year.  His 9.65 strikeouts/ 9 innings would be leading the AL, and his .217 opponents batting average is 2nd in the AL. And his  3.49 ERA would put him 11th in the AL this year. It is a shame this  guy is not able to show his true numbers to the rest of the league.

 

This game was not vintage Kazmir by any measure of the imagination. His command was not awful, but he did let more thna few batter off the hook yesterday after getting them to a 0-2 count. Kazmir gave up a total of 4 homers in this contest to match the amount given up a few weeks ago in a start. In his last start, Kazmir rebounded from the worst start of his career to win and clinch a playoff berth for the Rays. A victory today would have sparked off another mad run for the champagne bottles, but it was not in the cards for the Rays.

Kazmir worked  5 innings today and gave up only 6 hits and 4 runs in 102 pitches in the contest.  But it was his leadoff homers in the 1st and 3rd innings to  Ramon Santiago that took the game out of Kazmir’s hands. Santiago entered the game with a  grand total of  1 homer this year before facing Kazmir today.

Not to be lost in the translation is the fact that he also gave up a leadoff homer to Mike Hessman on a 0-2 pitch in the 4th inning, and a another leadoff homer to Dusty Ryan on a 3-1 gount in the 5th inning. At this point, Kazmir had given up 4 homers to lead off his first 5 innings of the game.

 

 

Ben Zobrist

Before this season, who would have thought you would be using the words power and hitter together to describe Ben Zobrist. He has honed a great power stroke this season at the plate, and his switch-hitting has been a blessing to the Rays. Ben again displayed his power by hitting his 9th homer of the year to tight in the 1st inning. The play put the Rays up early 1-0, and it would be the last time they led in this game.

 

 

Zobrist for the day went 2-4, with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. His 3-run homer, his 2nd of the game, was a thing of beauty traveling maybe 421 feet to just pop over the deep centerfield wall in Comerica Park. That brought the Rats close 5-7 in the game, but after his homer, the Rays offense could not click to produce any more runs in the game. That was Zobrist’s first multi-homer game of his career.

 

Jason Hammel

I sometime do not know what to think of Jason Hammel. He has had moments as a long reliever this year with the Rays, and as a closer in the Boston series. His mixed review appearance leave you with a feeling that he might not be here on 2009 based solely on the talent this team has behind him. Because he is out of minor league options, and would have to clear the Waiver wire to even get to the minors, the Rays have not been able to move him up or down this year. Tonight was anotherexample of how much he stills needs to learn to be a top reliever. But I do feel he has the talent and the motivation to be a reliever, but the Rays might not have the time and position in 2009 to teach him the position. Nothing personal Jason, I get a kick out of you personally in the way you carry yourself on the squad.

Hammel came in and pitched 1 inning today abd gave up 2 critical runs in the 7th inning He gave up 2 runs on 2 hits, which began with a Santiago single to right. He then gave up a screamer down the leftfield line to Marcus Thames that Eric Hinske lost in the corner and Santiago scored from 1st to give the Tigers their 5th run of the game.  Hammel pitched great for the Rays until  Miquel Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Thames with the game winner. Curtis Granderson then  came up and put a 1-2 pitch into the rightfield  stands to give the Tigers their last run of the game, and a 7-2 lead.

 

          

 

Evan Longoria

Longoria hit his 27th homer of the season in the 7th inning. The line drive shot barely cleared the leftfield wall, but gave the Rays their 2nd run of the game. For the day, Longoria went 1-3 and als got a walk in the contest.  Evan has benn batting .240 since returning to the lineup on Sept. 13th.  His 27 homers leads all MLB rookies, and he is the 11th AL rookie in the last 25 years to reach 26 homers.  He also leads all rookies in RBI’s ( 85 ), total bases ( 236 ), and Extra Base Hits ( 60 ) this season.

 

 

 

Troy Percival

I am a huge fan of the work that Percival has done in the Bullpen this season both on the mound and in teaching the younger guys the hidden secrets in relieving in the majors. You know this guy has a great mind for baseball, and he is always egar to share the information with his teammatea and make this Bullpen better daily. I know the Rays and Manager Joe Maddon have to make a decision soon on Percival to either include or delete him from the Playoff roster.

The roster is not dues until early nest week, but the nest few games might be an audition for Percival to show he can pitch on notice and can be depended on in multiple day outings. Today’s appearance was for 1 inning and he threw 17 pitches and gave up only a single walk to Matt Joyce. His velocity looked good and his command was a bit off, but around the plate. He looked more like he was trying to use the corners too much tonight instead of going after the guys like he usually does on the mound. But all in all, it was a productive and great outing for Percival. Tomorrow might be the true test and might be the deciding outing on his post season bid.

 

 

Total Disrespect

I have always been cautous to use the phrases collusion and pre-meditated when talking about the relationship bewteen the Rays and the MLB brass. But this schedule situation just reeks of improper usage of power and uncommon misinformation by the league office. Isn’t there a MLB travel rule that states if you travel by air more than 1 and 1/2 hours, your next game can not be played brfore 5 P.M. the following day? 

Funny, the Rays got into the Detroit area after 2 A.M. and might have been in their hotel at 3:30 or 4 A.M. before having to get up and get on the team bus to the stadium at 10 A.M.  Funny, the Yankees and the Red Sox do not these kind of farse games on their schedules this late in the year. Nice messup MLB, maybe we might try and win it all now and you can stuff this game somewhere very dark.

Here is a nice stat for Rays fans. Since our first game in 1998, no one other than the New York Yankees, or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title. So by winning the title, the Rays will break the streak by the fab two that has been deadlocked for otyher teams for 11 years. 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Kool and the Gang When You Need Them?

 

 

Rays 7, Twins 2

 

Back in the first weeks of Spring Training, the local fishwraps here in Tampa Bay asked the Rays starting pitchers’ about a prediction for the season. Most gave a pat, simple answer that it is too early to  predict much, but good things will happen to the Rays this year. Only one guy seemed to want to go above the norm and blow the lid off the prediction kettle.

Scott Kazmir came out and predicted that the Rays would be in the playoffs. Plain and simple. He was not under doctors care, he was clean, clear-headed and about to pitch in a simulated game when he answered the question. For a few seconds you might imagine the newspaper guys and the video crews wanted to check Scott’s locker for unsual item, like a Quija board, a fortune telling 8-ball, or a deck of Tarot cards.

It is with great pleasure that I can now deem Scott Kazmir one of the prophets of the Rays Republic. Kazmir is now a member in lifetime standing in the Rays Republic for comments above and beyond the scope of normal citizens. I have to admit I had the Rays at 80-85 wins, which would have been a mass improvement in one year. But I also would not throw away any more than that total.

At the beginning of the season I was unsure of Matt Garza as a total pitcher. Now I think this guy can turn into an ace onb this staff with some time and patience. I also had a few doubts about Jason Bartlett, but those fell by the wayside soon after he made plays that past shortstops would just wave at as they slowly bounced by them. He molded into this team’s 2008 MVP. He was chosen for his defense, his leadership, and for his huge upgrade at the position in general.

 

Rays 7, Twins 2

 

 

                               

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Come out for warmups freshly shaved, Scott Kazmir took his cap off and showed the Rays faithful his new ‘hawk, the symbol of this young ballclub this season. I could think of no other pitcher who deserved to be on the mound today to secure the Rays their first Playoff Berth in the club’s short history. Since Kazmir will probably be the next retired Rays number in the Trop. some day, it was fitting and truly an honor to watch this guy hit the mound tonight.

And Kazmir came out with the heat tonight. He went 6 innings of 5-hit shutout ball and picked up 5 strikeouts on the night. Those 5 k’s put him in 10th place in th AL this year with 158 for the year. Kazmir had all thre of his pitches grooving on the plate last night. Gone was the odd feeling of the ball leaving his hand as he talked about in his last start earlier in the homestand. Now the ball felt right in his hand and his slider was especially on today.

 

 

 

 

Top 6  batters’ in the Order

The top 6 batters’ in the Rays order each got at least one hit today. Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria each had one hit on the day. Carlos Pena made his one hit count as he hit a 2-run double to deep right center that scored Iwamura and Eric Hinske to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Evan Longoria rounded out the top 4 batters with an RBI  to deep center that scored Jason Bartlett in the 5th inning.

Cliff Floyd went 2-3 on the night with a homer to right in the 7th inning, and a single to right center in the 4th inning. Floyd was also intentionally walked in the 5th inning when the Rays ended up scoring 5 runs. But the show tonight was centered on the guy who was calling game behind the plate.

Dioner Navarro had another banner night when his team needed it most. He went 3-4 in the game and 1 RBI. Navarro started the night hitting a single to deep right in the 2nd inning. Navarro then hit a double to right to get Cliff Floyd into scoring position at third base. Then Navarro hit another double to right that scored Pena and put Longoria and Floyd into scoring position. On his only out of the night, Navarro hit a squibbler down the first baseline that was easily turned into an out. But he had already done the damage that night on the bases.

 

 

Bottom of the Order

The bottom of the Rays order has kept them in a huge amount of games in the past few weeks. Tonight the bottom of the order only produced 2 hits, but they also had 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s on the day. Rocco Baldelli walked on 4 pitches in the 4th inning to score Longoria and put the Rays up 5-0 at the time.

Fernando Perez only went 1-4 today, but he also scored a run and got an RBI. Perez homered for his 3rd of the season in the 6th inning. Perez also made another great play in centerfield today on a dying ball hit into shallow centerfield. He quickly got a bead on the ball and caught it about a foot above the turf.  Perez also got a outfield assist today when Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly to center and Prez quickly got the ball back into the Rays infield where  Pena threw to third base to get the sliding Justin Morneau  for the second out of the 4th inning.

 

 

Troy Percival

I have been a huge of everything that Troy Percival has done this year for the Rays. I understand how he wants the ball in key situations, but I also wonder if he might still be nursing an injury a little more severe that he lets on to the public and to Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Percival had a few epidermal injections in the last few days to take a bit of the pain away from his back region.

I am now wondering after this outing if the injury might be a disc problem based on him changing his warm-up routine in the Bullpen area. Troy used to do about 5-10 push-ups dailt and do a bit of yoga back stretching before taking the mound. He no longer does either event and it might be leaving him a bit stiff, or the injury might be limiting his mobility. Either way, it should be a red flag to the Rays that he is not able to be 100 percent for the team right now.

In the 9th inning last night, Maddon wanted his big horse to take these guys to the promised land of securing the playoffs on his broad shoulders. What ended up happening is that Percival gave up 1-hit and 2-runs in his 1/3 of an inning today and might not be the closer we want him to be right now. Brendan Harris got on base on an error by Jason Bartlett on a bad throw to first base. He then stole second to get into scoring position with 1 out in the inning.

Carlos Gomez then walked on 6 pitches to put two Minnesota runners’ on base. Denard Span then hit a ball into the rightfield corner that was mishandled by Rocco Baldelli and Harris scored the first run of the day for the Twins.  Span moved to second on the throwing error by Baldelli who actually had a great idea of throwing to second to keep Span from moving up, but there was no one at second to recieve the throw and the ball skidded through the infield before Bartlett got it in the shortstop hole.  Alexi Casilla then grounded out to Bartlett, who zipped the throw to first as Gomez crossed the plate with the Teins second run of the inning.

 

 

Trever Miller

Miller was warming up as Percival was beginning to get into truoble in the top of the 9th inning. Trever came in immediately following Span’s double down the rightfield corner and got Casilla to ground out before  getting Joe Mauer to finally hit a foul ball up the third baseline that Longoria cradled for the third out and the beginning of the celebration.

Miller was one of the first people to be interviewed after the on-field celebration, and when he took his cap off, you saw the new mohawk haircut that threw the crowd into hysterics. Miller earlier in the week said he might be the last one in line for a ‘hawk hairdo, but here he was supporting his team by sporting the fashion statement in Tampa Bay. I hope his wife did not mind his hairy donation to the Rays cause.

 

 

Rays Bullpen

The rest of the Rays Bullpen quickly came down to Miller side and celebrated between home and the mound and began a 3 hour celebration seen on the Jumbotron for everyone in the stadium. Also having a great night on the mound for the Rays today was Grant Balfour and J P Howell, who each threw an inning of scoreless relief for the Rays.

 

 

Where Is Kool and the Gang?

 

          

 

The celebration quickly rang out in the stadium as the P A  announced that the Rays were in the Playoffs. The player were still in their white uniforms and celebrated for about 5 minutes on the field before going into the lockerroom for a bit. They quickly came out wearing playoff t-shirts ans hats and began spraying the Rays faithful with champagne. Carl Crawford, Akinora Iwamura, and Edwin Jackson began the fluid barrage on the top of the dugout before moving to the turf and spraying everyone within range with the bubbly.

 

                                    

 

As this was going on, the Rays announcers were interviewing and looking out for flying suds as the beer as well as more champagne was flowing all over the clubhouse.  Rich Hererra and Todd Kalas should get combat pay for the amount of suds and bubbly residue that was soaking on their skin and well manicured hairs. It was a scene of mass hysteria for the right reasons as players came in and psrayed the inteviewees’ more than once. The best of the night was the side explosion approach by Chad Orvella on Jason Hamell.

 

                                   

 

Shortly after this, the players came out and did a victory lap around the stadium as players and fans hugged and congradulated each other around the stadium. I was propped up at the Bullpen Cafe and got alot of great sloppy hugs from very drenched individuals. It was a time for celebration, and the actions of Gabe Gross getting on the rightfield fencing and cheering to the crowd sent the rightfield into a frenzy.

 

                    The beaming Rays celebrate their playoff berth with their jubilant fans after the game.   (AP)

 

As they made it around the Trop. player were jumping up and slapping the hands of the masses who still remained in the stadium and did not want the moment to end. Finally about 8 P.M. the players were agin in the locker room and the post game videos and commentary was shut down for the night. But as you left the stadium in the halls, you could still hear the yells and screams from down by the locker room area from players, family and Rays officials.  This was a day that no one with a ticket will every forget…………………I know I will never ever forget this day.

 

Rain Delay Comments and Tidbits

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Pena and Rays Pull off Upset Win and Series

 

Rays 4, Red Sox 2

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays  Magical Number:    16

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

 

          

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

 

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

                          

                                      

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

         

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                                  

 

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

 

                    

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Kazmir Pitched Gem to End Curse at Fenway

 

Rays 5, Red Sox 4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rays Magic Number Is:    18

 

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

                       

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

           

 

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

 

           

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

 

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

 

                         

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zaun Zaps Rays for Series Win

 

 

Blue Jays 7, Rays 4

 

It is simply amazing that the Rays still have the best record in baseball considering we have lost 3 out of our last 4 games this week. I know the Chicago Cubs, and the L A Angels have had their handsful this week also, but who would have thought you could hold onto the best record this late in the season after losing three games in 4 tries.

 

That is just a sure sign that there are alot of teams out there gunning right now for the guys at the top. This is the month of the year that teams can play the spoiler role and make a good team squirm under pressure or fold like a deck of cards. The Rays are squirming a bit, but they have not shown any intention or reaction to acting like a house of cards.

 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon is as optimistic today as he was after sweeping the Cubs at the Trop. He knows you have to play them one at a time, and the baseball gods will sort it all out for you. But seriously, this is the time of the year that the Rays need to make an offensive statement and not just try to win the game. They need to gather steam this month and use it to propell them to success in the post season.

 

The worst thing you can do as a playoff team is coast into the post season with no forward momentium or enegry. That would produce a flat result, which could mean an early exit from the playoffs. I consider this season a success just becuase we finally got a winning season.

 

 I truly believed we had the motors to roll over Boston and New York, but that they needed another year to mature and rise to the occasion. But I will take all the positives and hope that the Rays are just taking a light breather and will come out and be fir on ice against the Red Sox and Yankees in their home turf this  next week. We can not have a sweep at either stadium, or it might just push us below Bosotn for the first time in a long while. And if we pop below the Red Sox, it might take a small miracle to get basck to the top before the end of September.

 

 

Rays Magical Number :     21

This is a combined number of Rays wins, or Bostons losses to finish as AL Est Champions.

 

 

James Shields has gotten the nickname, “Big Game James” this year from his teammates. Little did he know that the game would go so far into the afternoon, and little did he know how huge his pitching performance would hinge on the Rays either winning or losing this series to the Blue Jays.

 

Shields threw 8 innings today and gave up only 3-runs on 6 hits to the Jays. He only had trouble in a few inning today, but they were costly problems for the Rays. In the 1st inning, Shields looked a bit frazzled as the Jays put the first two men on base as Joe Inglett singled to left, and Marc Scutaro hit into a fielder choice to remain at first for Alex Rio. he then took a 1-1- pitch to deep center field and scored Scutaro to put the Jays up early 1-0. The ball was hit so hard the B J Upton could only watch it bounce to the wall before getting it and preventing a triple by Rios.

 

Shields only had one situation in the 2nd inning, when he gave up a solo homer to Lyle Overbay on the thrid pitch of the inning. That put the Jays up 2-0 at the time. In the 4th inning, Overbay again became a nemesis of Shields as he hit another homer after going 2-0 against Shields to stake the Jays to a 3-0 lead.

 

 

 

Shields did get the Toronto batters to go down 1-2-3- in the 5th, 7th and 8th innings to shut down the Toronto offense and give the Rays a chance to tie the game. Shields left after throwing 96 pitches in the 8 innings of work, but the Rays were down 3-0 at the time.

 

 

 

 

The Rays offense was stymied until the 9th inning by the pitching of  Jays starter Shawn Marcum. In the first 8 innings of the game, several Rays tried to put the team up early against the Jays. Akinora Iwamura went 3-4 in the game and hit the first pitch he saw today for a single to centerfield. Aki did it again in the 3rd inning, hitting the first pitch for a single up the middle. So on the day so far, Aki had  2 singles on 2 pitches from Marcum.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro did get a single in the 5th inning to right, but was stranded there by the Rays. In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena got a single to right but was left on base after a pop out to leftfield by Cliff Floyd.   In the 8th inning, the rays had a sliver of light when both Ben Zobrist  and Aki walked to put a man in scoring position for only the second time today. Up to that point, only Aki had been beyond first base for the Rays today. So in all, the Rays collected only  4 hits on the day, and  4 walks by Pena, Upton ,Zobrist and  Willy Aybar.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Willy Aybar, he was caught leaning in the 2nd inning after walking on 7 pitches from Marcum. Aybar had a late break to second and never had a chance to really steal the base. Jays catcher Greg Zaun threw a lox strike to Scutaro to nail Aybar with a foot to spare to erase the Rays only base runner in the 2nd inning.

The Rays did however put themselves in holes today on the bases by committing  5 double plays on the day. The ended the 1st, 5th ,8th innings on double plays.  The Rays also struck out 7 times in the first 8 innings, with Aybar and Eric Hinske each getting 2 strikeouts for the Rays.

 

 

The Rays did finally get on the offensive board in the 9th inning. With Jays closer B J Ryan on the mound, the Rays quickly evened the score at 3-3. Ryan started the rally by hitting Pena with a pitch in the back arm.  Then Rocco Baldelli came out ans pinch hit for Cliff Floyd.  Rocco took a 2-2- count breaking ball to leftfield for his 3rd homer of the season and quickly got the Rays back into this game.

 

 

 

 

Aybar then walked on 5 pitches and was replaced by pinch runner Fernando Perez. Perez quickly got the Jays attention by stealing second base ans scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single. Navarro was gunned down trying to stretch the play into a double at second by  Jays centerfielderVernon Wells.  But the score by Perez evened the score at 3 and the team went into extra innings.

 

 

The Jays had a chance to win in in regulation as Scott Rolen doubled with 2 out to left center and stood in scoring position for Toronto.  Zaun then came up and hit an infield single to  Jason Bartlett. Bartlett could not get a throw off to first in time, but caught Rolen sneaking off third, and the Rays got him in a run down to secure the third out of the inning and get the game into extra innings.

 

 

Aki again hit a single in the 10 th inning, but was  the victim of a Upton double play to end the inning for the Rays. In the 11th inning, Pena hit a single down the first baseline and moved to second on a wild pitch to Justin Ruggiano to get into scoring position. But Ruggiano struck out to end the inning for the Rays. 

 

In the 12th inning, the Rays had their best scoring chances of the game as Zobrist  got a double with 2 outs in the inning. Aki and Upton then walked to load the bases for Pena. Pena then hit a high towering shot to right that was grabbed by Alex Rios for the 3rd out of the inning. Coming into that at bat, Pena was hitting .328 with the bases loaded for the Rays.

 

The top of the 13th inning had Rocco single to left to start the inning and Perez hit into a fielder’s choice with Baldelli out at second. Perez then went to second on the pinch hit grounder to first by John Jaso. Perez then got his 2nd stolen base of the night by taking 3rd, aone pitch before Navarro singled to right to score Perez and pout the Rays up 4-3. Bartlett then walked on 7 pitches and set up another scoring opportunity with Zobrist at the plate. Zobrist ended up striking out on 5 pitches to end the inning.

 

 

 

 

From the bottom of the 9th inning until the 13th, the Rays  sent 5 reliever to the mound. Dan Wheeler lead off the 9th inning, with J P Howell, Chad Bradford,and Grant Balfour pitching up to the 13th inning. During that span, the Rays only let 1 batter get into scoring position, and that was Rolen in the 9th inning.

 

 

 

 

The Rays sent their closer, Troy Percival out for the 13th inning against the Jays.  Percival got the hot hitting Rio to pop out to Pena before giving infield single to Wells, on a bobble by Aki at second base. Then Brad Wilkerson hit a 0-2 pitch to left field for a single and put Wells in scoring position.

 

Overbay then came on and hit into a fielder’s choice, with Wilkerson out at second to put men on the corners with 2 outs in the inning.  Rolen then waked on 4 pitches to load the bases for Zaun. Percival then tried to get Zaun to chase a curveball, but Zaun hit the first pitch over an out-stretched Baldelli hanging on the rightfield wall for a walk off grand slam and the victory for the Jays.

 

 

                              

 

 

That shot by Zaun sealed the series for the Jays and put the Rays in a spot to go within 2 games of the Bosotn catching the Rays for the AL East lead. This was Percivals’ 4th blown save of the year. Since coming back off the DL on September 1st, Percival now has a blown save, and a loss in his last 2 appearances for the team.

 

In that time Percival has thrown for 1.1 innings, and given up 4-hits and 6-runs, and 2 homers. This was the first game this year that the Rays lost when he blew a save opportunity. Coming into this game, the Rays were 33-0 with Percival on the mound, and won in extra innings the 3 other blown saves he encountered this season.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pena blasts Rays to Series Win versus A’s

 

Rays 7, Athletics 6

 

Rays Assistant Pitching Coach, Brian Anderson has been in the booth the past few games for the Rays Television Network.

 

 Brian originally came to Spring Training to get in pitching shape and help this squad in either the Bullpen,or as a spot starter for the Rays. But Anderson toiled on until his shoulder again began to bother him near the end of Spring Training and his pitching career was in jeopardy.Knowing that his career might have neded in the Florida sunshine, the Rays originated a position on their staff for Anderson, as a Assistant Pitching Coach.

 

Being a left-handed pitcher, it made it easier for Brian to show players like Scott Kazmir and J P Howell the grip and delivery Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was trying to teach to them.  Hickey, a right-handed thrower, used to have to use a bit of mirror image to show the lefties what he was trying to illustrate to them. With Anderson, they have a former pitcher who can show them and work on mechanics with them.

 

Anderson also used to do some television work while with the Cleveland Indians recovering from a pitching injury. During that time he developed a passion for the game from the high perch in the booth. He became a great analyst of the game and strived in his new role.

 

When he came to the Rays as a player, he never invisioned that he would again be behind the mike with Dewayne Staats for any period of time. Anderson is beginning a tempoary assignment up in the booth with Staats in turn because regular analyst, Joe Magrane is in New York doing the USA baseball telecasts. Ander son and fellow boradcaster Todd Kallas will be tag-teaming the analyst spot until Joe returns after the Olympics.

 

Anderson has been doing the last two nights in the booth, and you can already see a diffrence is style from the two guys. Brian is more technical, without being stiff and doesn’t use the sarcasm and quick-wit jokes that Magrane has become famous for on his telecasts. It is refreshing to learn that a gut turned on a back-door slider that stayed over the plate for a homer, than to just hear some faint story or phrase to accompany the play.  It has been a great time listening to him, and hopefully he can turn this into a full-time gig somewhere next year in the MLB.

 

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Those Rays fans yesterday at Smokey Bone’s in Clearwater got their money worth watching this game. It was an interesting turnout of fans that ate some BBQ and spread some Rays cowbells throughout the dining rooms. Rays Radio guru, Rich Hererra was all over the restuarant during the breaks meeting and greeting with the Rays’ faithful in attendance.

 

These events have been very successful for the Rays this year. I believe that the Rays have a winning record in these remote telecasts this season.  Nothing better than be surrounded by fine food and drinks and the fans that get really rowdy for our Rays.

 

  

For all you Rocco Baldelli haters out there, shame on you. 

 

Hr might not be where you want him offensively right now, but defensively, you have to be beating a drum and waiting for the homestand so you can offcially welcome him back to the fold. Again yesterday, Rocco made a very hard and impressive dive for a ball in rightrfield to save an extra base hit during the 6th inning. The A’s Bobby Crosby hit a screaming low liner doen the  first baseline that Baldelli sprinted from righfield and gloved without a problem.

 

What was truly unqiue is that the Rays had just inserted reliever Chad Bradford into the game. Bradford in known throughout the league as a groundball pitcher, and the Crosby hit was his only fly ball of the game. 

 

Also do not forget that Baldelli singled in the 11th inning. On the single by Ben Zobrist, Baldelli tried to force the A’s hand by trying to score from first and was just tagged out by Kurt Suziuki at the plate to keep the game tied 5-5. 

 

  

I think we can truly say right now that Carlos Pena is back. And it could not have come at a better time for the Rays. Shrouded in injuries and needing its veterans’ to pull this team up, Carlos hit his 23rd homer of the season out in the 12 inning to secure the victory and the series win for the Rays. Pena only went 1-5 on the day, but connected at the right time to help his team maintain their 3-game lead over the Boston Red Sox.

 

Pena has now hit 8 home runs in his last 19 games. And with the majority of his hits going to the centerfield and right center gaps, is showing that he has regained the form we saw alot of last season. The guy who is smiling most right now is Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

 

Maddon has had Pena’s back all year over skeptics opinions that Pena might need to be sat down, or another guy put in his spot. Pena is finally rewarding Maddon for his consistant comments that he (Pena) will find his way, and we will be a better team because of him.

 

  

 

In the 3nd inning of the game, Willy Aybar doubled to right centerfield and gave the Rays their first run  of the day. Aybar then got to third on a fly out to right by Eric hinske, and scored on a Scarifice Fly by Dioner Navarro to put the score at 2-2.

 

Aybar got into the scoring again after Floyd walked in the third inning. Aybar hit a screamer into rightcenterfield that Carlos Gonzalez could not grab and ended up with a triple. Floyd scored on the play and the Rays went up 3-2. Aybar ended up going 2-5 on the day with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the Rays.

 

Cliff Floyd has made no bones this season about his sore knees. He has played thru pain and aches and has shown the Rays the senior leadership they have been missing for years. Floyd walked 4 times in the game today and scored 4 times for the Rays.  This is the kind of leadership and sacrifices these young players need to see from their veterans.

 

Floyd has said the right things to the media, and can be seen talking and chatting up the Rays every day on the bench. He is also one of the first guys to jump up and congradulate a teammate coming into the dugout. He is a underlying reason why this team is showing more professionalism and a great energy around the clubhouse.

 

 

Dioner Navarro also had a great game for the Rays going 2-4 and getting 2 RBI’s on the day. But it was Navarros calm behind the plate and the game calling that got James Shields out of trouble a few times in this contest. Shields did not display his good stuff today and quickly got behind 2-0 to the Oakland A’s.

 

Shields went to the mound today knowing the Rays needed this win to secure the series and keep their roadtrip on the winning edge. Shields seemed to be forcing his change-up and curve early in the game and the A’s took advantage of his unusual lack of control. The A’s got 2 runs on 3 hits in the first two innigs to put pressure on Shields.

 

Shields then shut the A’s down ending the day with 4-hits and 4-runs on the day. The unusual statistic is that he walked 5 men today. Shields has been in the top of the league most of the year in walk to innings ratio. But then again, the A’s are one of the best team in the majors at drawing walks and making you throw consistant pitches to them inning after inning. 

 

  

The Troy Percival saga again reared its ugly head in this game. Troy came on and pitched the 9th inning. Troy walked the first batter, Jack Hannahan, and Marc Ellis stood at the plate. Ellis hit a weak bunt attempt to Percival, who ran down the line to tag out Ellis. Troy came off the mound a bit unbalanced and was sprinting to Ellis before pulling up after the tag.

 

Percival had twisted his knee during the play and had to be replaced by Grant Balfour. This will probably be Percival’s third trip to the DL for a short time this season. Now I know a 38 year old pitcher will have bumps and bruises throughout the season, but when do you make a decision to shut him down for a while.

  

 

Maybe the Rays should bring up Juan Salas, or another Durham reliever to re-fortify the Bullpen until Sept 1st. Let Troy relax and rehab a bit until the Sept 1st call-up, then reactiviate him and he should be fresh for the stretch run. Percival will be a valuable commodity come playoff time, but right now he just needs to get in the right shape and get game ready for the stretch run against the major players in the AL East.

 

Let’s not forget that Hannahan did come around to score the tying run for the A’s in the 9th and the blown save is credited to Percival.  Cliff Pennington came on to run for Hannhan and scord on Frank Thomas’s single to deep right centerfield.

  

 

Not lost in the game was in insertion of Jason Bartlett at shortstop for the Rays in the 12 inning. Bartlett is seeing his first action on the turf since his injury to his finger during the last homestand. Bartlewtt showed his rusty ways by committing a throwing error to first to put Emil Brown aboard for the A’s.

 

Brown moved to second on Bobby Crosby’ single and moved on to third on Jason Hammel’s wild pitch. Brown ended up scoring on Suzuki’s double play and got the A’s with one run 7-6.

 

Trever Miller came on in the 12th inning after Brown scored and got the a’s to commit a ground ball out to save the game for the Rays. It was Miller’s first save of the season. 

 

 

 

Rays Post 70th Win in Seattle

 

Rays 8, Mariners 7

 

 

Seattle fans have a special place in their hearts for the Tampa Bay Rays. If it was not for this upstart community. the Seattle area might not have professional baseball right now.  Back in the mid 1990′s the city was at odds as to what to do with their crumbling Kingdome, and the team did not have a great following at the box office.

The team needed a miracle. That miracle came in the form of a Baseball Ownership Group, based out of St. Petersburg, Florida that wanted to purchase the Mariners’ and move them to a new domed stadium in the hot Florida sun. The team got as far as make an offer and had the intial aggreement to purchase the team, until Major League Baseball stepped in and gave the Seattle area a chance to save their team.

As we all know, the Team got a backing and financial offering from the video game giant Nintendo that gave them both security, and business foundations for the first time in franchse history. What Nintendo wanted now was a new stadium to showcase their new club, and a way to get renewed vigor and excitement over the squad. A improvable playoff run, and a really energetic squad led by a young A-Rod and amazing young talen Ken Griffey Junior, helped propell the city and it’s citziens to vote for a new facility.

In 1999, a new 656 million dollar stadium opened with improvements like a roof that would transform the playing field into a waterproof enviorment in Seattle’s unexpected climate. The roof was a 3-section humongous steel section that when opened and closed would play Richard Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries”. This song was made famous in the film, “Apocalyse Now”.

The stadium also features a baseball in motion sculputre as you enter the building in the foyer area. The amazing sculpture starts with a backswing and revolves like a chandelier until it reaches the top point of a batters’ swing. Also amazing is the leftfield viewing station that gives you a breathtaking panorama of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound.

Outside the stadium is a garage door feature that has  full body profile paintings of all the Mariner’s regulars either at the plate, or up to bat at the plate. The Press Box area uses garage doors to open to the elements and not the conventional glass windows or opening. Among the wild items throughout the stadium is the compass set in the floor of the front enterance that has the signatures of the original team to play their first game in this fantastic ballpark.

Hidden behind the stadium seats is the world class Diamond Club. The Diamond club looks like a 5-star restaurant with beautiful gold gilding and very impressive photos littering the walls. Photos like Babe Ruth as a pitcher for the Red Sox. A Honus Wagner photo, A photo of both Ruth and Lou Gherig on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. What is so unique about that photo, is it is the only photo of the two Yankee stars outside of the stadium in each other’s company.

As you can tell, it is my favorite stadium in the US. I enjoy the fact of hearing the train whistles as they sneak under the east end of the stadium, or the taste of the sushi or local veggie offerings from the snakc bars. The Seattle area is a complex mix of all that is good, and their stadium incorporates it in pure excellience.

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The Matt Garza that so many of us have seen this season did not show up early in the contest against the Seattle Mariners’. Seattle took advantage of Garza’s off night by scoring 5 runs on him in the first 2 innings.  Garza, who had been 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA did not look sharp and seemed out of sorts on the mound early.

 

 

In the 1st inning, Garza  gave up a lead-off homer to Ichiro Suzuki to put the Rays in an early hole 1-0. Against the Mariners lifetime, Garza was 1-1, with a 9.70 ERA in 4 starts. Tonight, Garza posted  5 runs on 7 hits in just the first two innings. For the night, Garza went 5.2 innings and gave up 10 hits, but he also posted 5 strikeouts on the night.

 

 

In the 1st inning, the Rays got a scare from a ball pitched by Seattle starter, Rowland-Smith, that bounced off Carlos Pena’s chin and lip. The ball seemd to glance off Pena’s chin before hitting him squarely in the lips. Pena was okay’ed by the Rays trainer, Ron Porterfield to continue play.

 

Pena was involved in critical situations in the game. In the 5th inning, Pena struck out with the bases loaded.  In the Ray’s big 6th inning, Pena came up and singled to rightfield to score Carl Crawford, but was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a double to end the inning.

In the 9th inning, Pena singled to right, but was stranded on third by the Rays.  In the 10th inning, Pena strcuk out looking. In this series, Pena has gone 5-12, with 1 RBI. 

 

 

 

Gabe Gross got an odd start tonight based on his heroic hitting in recent games. Gross responded by hitting a solo homer in the 2nd inning to put up the Rays’ first run of the ball game. Gross played excellient in right, on one play throwing the ball in quick enough to keep Ichiro to a single and preventing a Seattle run by freezing the guy at third base. Gross went 2-6 tonight with 2 runs scored and a RBI.

  

Carl Crawford had the best night of this series by going getting on base 4 times for the Rays. Crawford went 2-4 at the plate with 2 runs scored and  2 RBI’s on the night. Crawford also walked twice tonight to put pressure ..land-Smith.

 

In the 3rd inning, Crawford hit an infield single to third, but was stranded by a Pena strikeout. In the 6th inning, Crawford hit a single to right center that he stretched into a double and barely beat the incoming throw to the bag. Crawford scored on Pena’s double off the rightfield wall to put the Rays up 7-5 in the game.

  

 

Akinora Iwamura went 3-5 tonight leading off the game tonight with a single in the 1st inning. Aki scored 1 run and got 1 RBI during the contest. In the 3rd inning, Aki was involved in one of the missed plays by the umpires in this game.

 

Aki hit a screaming low liner to leftfield that appeared to be caught by Raul Ibanez. On review of the play, Ibanez had trapped the ball and Aki was actually safe on the play. Rays Manager Joe Maddon asked  the umpires about the botched play, but was overruled by the umpires crew chief. 

 

In the  Ray’s huge 6th inning, where they sdcored 6 times, Aki got on base with a single to second baseman Jose Lopez that he could not handle in time to get the speedy Aki. In the 8th inning, Aki singled to center, but was stranded on first by two quick Rays outs.  In the 10th inning, Aki was one of 3 walks issued by J J Putz in the inning and was stranded at thrid by a Pena strikeout and a Eric Hinske liner to shortstop.

 

 

 

In the 10th inning, Joe Maddon took a hunch and played a new defensive scheme with the bases loaded and 1 out in the inning. Maddon pulled B J Upton up to almost the second base bag, and positioned Crawford and Gross towards the centerfield area as the two lone outfielders.

 

The scheme was to induce a ground ball  double play by newly acquired pitcher, Chad Bradford. Coming into the game, Bradford was one of the leagues’ leaders in gorund ball outs.

 

Adrian Beltre was at the plate, and put the ball in play down the third baseline on the ground. Willy Aybar, filling in again for the ailing Evan Longoria, threw the ball to Dioner Navarro to secure the first out, then Navarro threw to Pena to finish the double play and get the Rays out of the inning with the game still tied at 7-7.

  

 

Dioner Navarro was instrumental in the winning run for the Rays in the 11th inning. Ben Zobrist lead off the inning with a walk and stole second base on the next pitch. After a 3-1 play by Aybar, Navarro hit a long ball into centerfield and Zobrist scored on the Sacrifice Fly to put the Rays up 8-7.

 

Troy Percival came on in the 9th inning to secure the win for the Rays. Percival got his 26th save of the season by throwing 14 pitches and getting Bryan LaHair to strike out to end the game. The save came on Percival’s 39th birthday, which should make for an interesting post-game celebration for both Troy and the Rays’.

 

 

 

 

 

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