Results tagged ‘ Willy Aybar ’

Phillies Bombard Rays 10-2

Phillies 10, Rays 2

 

 

I thought I might not hear that familiar wail or whine in this series. I was hoping it would be the wind and not some fan shoving doubt into people’s minds, but sure enough I heard the words I have been expecting from bandwagoners’ for about 3 months now. “we are done, stick a fork in us.”

I would love to stick a fork in the bandwagon fans and people about to jimup off the boat becuase things are not going your way. I would really like to be alone in a room with some of them and s cold them like a little chid for being so fake, and so unreal for younger fans to see. This is the time in a series, and in your lives that you stand tall for what you believe and hope, prays, meditate, whatever gives you good karma to send the boys’ some luck.

Some of the guys have been suffering during the season, others have been playing and hustling like it was still Spring Training. But tonight is the night. As the expression goes, “It’s all or nothing.” The White Sox have ebbn in this spot this year, the Red Sox still believe the series is playing in their heads and they are winning, but Tampa Bay fans now have to believe.

Even if the worst happens tonight, we have to be focused and know that the boys’ did their best and that there will be more chances in the future to secure the prize. This season opend alot of doors for the Rays and we will see them in the poststseason again in less than 330 days. The winning spirit is new in this part of the baseball world, but the true fans will be the one still wearing Rays gear tomorrow. And the true fans will be the ones counting down the days until pitchers’ and catchers’ reposrt in the Spring.

But best of all, true fans will be wondering how the boys are doing.

 

               

 

Four Blind Plays

You have to admit, the umpires have been pretty colorful in this years Wotld Series. They have been animated behind the plate and have made some unusual, and down right incredible calls. But, the ones that stick out on our minds are not the calls over the corners of the plate, or even seeing through a play and calling out a baserunner, they are the wild and zany plays that were missed by replays and by fans all over baseball.

 

 

Every game has had its own one play that has defined the game. Take Game 1, when Cole Hamels apparently went towards home, but threw to first base. His foot was not facing the plate, but his momentum was shifted forward, not to the side……….Balk or great play? Or how about the play in Game 2, where the phantom bat did not break the plane for Rocco Baldelli and we strooled to first…………checked swing, or did he break his wrist on the play?

And then you get to the really fun ones up here in Philly. You know, rain on Sat. night blurred the vision a bit just 6 feet from the bag. In Game 3, it must have been the mist that made the umpires miss the pplay where Jamie Moyer was sprawled on the wet turf and uses his glove like another appendage to twirl the ball to a bare-handed Ryan Howard to ctach speedy Carl Crawford a nano second before he hit the bag. I will admit that one got me. I was expecting the hammer to come down for an out, then the umpire just threw the safe signal and the Phillies bench went bananas.

 

 

Then there was the play in the 1st inning of last night’s game. Jimmy Rollins camped at thrid base and a ball gets hit into the infield and taken by the pitcher, Andy Sonnanstine. Everyone in the ballpark thinks the ball is going to 2nd, but he twirls around and catches Rollins mid stride between 3rd and home. The chase is on and Sonnanstine gets him to within about 6 feet of the bag and throws the ball to Evan Longoria.

 

 

Longoria pops Rollins on the booty and leaves a red clay mark on the poor guys butt. We then hear the words that will reverb in our heads for a week……..”safe”.  Are you kidding me, did you not watch the ball, or were you watching the hand go towards the bag and not the ball and the possession and progression of it to the posterior of Mr. Rollins. It has been a small upgrade nightly into the insane and the blind that has led people to wondering about the state of the umpire world.  Last night’s blight was an oversight and an embarassment to umpires everywhere..but maybe there was a raindrop still in his eye from Sat night.

 

             

 

Top of the Lineup

There has been talk this entire series of guys trying to force things to happen for the Rays. That the firsy 4 guys feel it is their duty to carry this team. Some of the top 4 have done a great job getting into position to score or even pop the occasional needed blooper or double to get some action going in the game. Others have just had a slump from which there will be no exit this poststeason.

Carlos Pena was getting into a great groove when the ALCS ended. He seemed to be fianally seeing the ball and finding his storke at the right time for the Rays. It looked as if the series would be his playgorund. But instead it has become his own personal hell into the slight adjustments and overswining of the post injury Pena who’s timing and stride were lacking. He might find his way, but will it be in time to save his young team’s dream of hoisting the Commissioner’s trophy this year.

Evan Longoria is another story. I do not think there has been another rookie who has had so much pressure on him in the poststeason to lead his team into the promised land. I know he has won 2 championships at Double-A, but this is far more pressure and far more talented pitchers’ than he ever saw at Montgomery.

 

                    

 

For the World Series, Longoria has a dunkin Doughnut, a gooseegg, and “o” for offensive. Evan Longoria is the second rookie to go hitless in his first 16 at-bats of a World Series. The only other rookie to begin a World Series with an 0-for-16 streak was Flea Clifton of the Tigers in 1935. (Clifton was 0-for-16 for the entire series.)

I have been watching his at bats the past few games and the kid is pushing his strikezone outward. Players et their own personal strikezones as to what pitches they feel they can smash or take to the oppositie field. Right now, Longoria is searching for that one flare, blooper or even a ground ball with eyes to make his mind free up and play more relaxed. He had better find his spot soon, or not only is he going to have all Winter to profect it, he might be on the bench for Game 5 to relfect and waork in the under the stands cages for a few inning tomorrow.

 

 

C C Has Found the Power Button

When you are known for your speed sometimes you get a gift out over the plate and you just have to jump on it. That has got to be the mindset of Carl Crawford right now. The baseball are becoming bigger and bigger every game, and yet he is hitting the cover off the ball and stealing bases. Last night he might have only gone 1-3, but that one hit sparked a few smiles in the dugout.

In the 4th inning, with 2-outs in the inning, Crawford took an 1-2 count hanging high fastabll into the rightfield stands to put the Rays on the board. The run pulled the Rays to within 1 eun, 2-1 at the time. It was Crawford’s second homer of this series since he hit that game 1 blast off Cole Hamels in Tropicana Field/

 

 

Akinora Iwamura’s Wild Ride

When you only committed a handful of erros all eyar at your new position, and have solidified the position for your team, you never expect a night like this can happen on such a huge scale. Aki has been one of the most consistant infields’ this season for the Rays. You could count on him day and night to make the plays and get the outs without hesitation.

But what happened to him on Sunday night is not suppose to happen to Iwamura. Chase Utley was at the plate to lead off the 3rd inning for the Phillies. Aki was back in his role in the shift used all series long against Utley for the at bat. Utley hit a nasty ball that took  a bad hop on the clay and came up and hit Iwamura’s glove on the heel and rolled into rightfield. Aki was charged with an error, only his 1st of the World Series.

Then in the top of the 4th inning, Jimmy Rollins hit a hard ball up the middle and shaded a bit to right that caught Iwamura flat-footed and popped in and out of his glove wihtout a throw to first. Another error for Iwamura.

 

 

And it did not matter that he made an impressive and outstanding play on a hard liner hit right to him by Carlos Ruiz in the 7th inning. That Iwamura turned and fired to Carlos Pena at first and Pena had to go crosshand style and get the ball to double =up Pedro Feliz at first and end the inning for the Phillies. It was na amazing play, but it was also an inch away from another disaster of heading to the Phillies dugout and another error get charged to Iwamura.

 

 

The Mind of Joe Maddon

You have to admire a guy who can quote and attribute so many lines and sayings in his daily life. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is an intelligent manager to say the least. But what he did Sunday night can not go unnoticed either. He sent up three pinch-hitters on the night, and 2 came away with hits, one of them an exciting moment for Maddon and Hinske.

Eric Hinske was told as few days ago by Cliff Floyd to be ready to play. He was not sure why he was told this, but being the pro he is……he worked hard to get his timing down in the batting cage. On Sunday, the Rays made a move on their 25-man World Series roster taking off Floyd, who had a bad shoulder, and putting on the hard-hitting Hinske.

Hinske saw no action while on the ALCS roster, and he did nor expect anything different for the World Series roster. But in the 5th inning he came on to hit for Sonnanstine and hit a monster deep into centerfield. The ball was hit so far it hit the ivy-covered centerfield wall beyond the playing field. This wall was about 20 feet further than the wall where Shane Victorino stood looking up at the blast. Iy started a upward slow rally for the Rays.

 

                         

 

Then in the 7th inning, Willy Aybar came up to pinch-hit for Edwin Jackson and hit a nice single into rightfield. He was stranded on base for the inning, but it made Maddon 2 for 2 tonight with his pinch-hitters. Maddon pressed his luck in the 9th inning when he sent up Rocco Baldelli to pinch-hit for  Trever Miller, and Rocco struck out to end the game for the Rays.

 

             

 

Andy Was Not Dandy Tonight

Coming on and pitching with alot of pressure can work both ways in a baseball game. Sometimes it worls to your advantage and it pumps you up to the point of giving you some extra speed on your pitches and makes you believe more can happen on the mound.

Then sometimes you have what happened to Andy Sonnanstine on the mound tonight. You can have your stuff tonight and just get rocked by a team that is well scouted and prepared for you that night. you are not pitching any better, or any worse than normal, they just have your number that night.

 

 

Both of the above could be found in Sunday nights game, but the end result is that the Phillies exploited Sonnanstines weaknesses to their advantages. They set him up on a few pitches and the result was the umpire giving Andy a new ball while they made their ways around the bases for homers. Pair that with a reduced strike zone and you have the firm recipe for disaster on your hands.

Sonnanstine started out by giving up the first bases loaded walk of his career in the 1st inning to score Rollins, who should have been sitting on the bench becuase of an earlier blown call by the umpire at thris base, Tim Welke. So he gave the Phillies an early 1-0 lead, and the Rays never got close again. He went pretty smoothly from there until he watched as Utley was on base because of an unsual error by Iwamura behind the first base bag.

Then Ryan Howard got a single to right to put 2 Phillies on with no outs in the inning. Feliz the hit a RBI single to left that scored Utley cleanly and the Phillies had a 2-0 early lead on the Rays. The 4th inning started with Rollins again getting a single to rightfield to lead off the inning. Sonnanstine then walked Jayson Werth, but got a quick out on Utley.

 

                

 

 Howard then stood in the box and smashed a 3-run shot to right to put the game out of the Rays hands at that point.Sonnanstine got through the inning with no more damamge, but his night was ended with the Rays down 5-1 at that point. Sonnanstine went 4 innings and gave up 5-runs on 6 hits and only 1 home run to Howard.

 

Tampa Bay Rays’ Bullpen Blues

For the most part of 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen has been the linch-pin to a majority of their wins. they have ebnt and not broken and have been a consisitant cog in the Rays victory machine. In the Wrold Series, this part of the Rays magic has been tarnished a bit by hitters getting the bestter of the unit.

In tonight’s game, Edwin Jackson came on the in t 5th inning to releieve starter Sonnanstine and threw 2 inning of ball for the Rays. During his time on the mound, Jackson gave up a homer to newly found blaster Phillie starter Joe Blanton to leftfield.  For Blanton, it was his first major league homer and came on his last at bat of the season. Blanton actually bookmarked his season getting a single in his first at bat, and now a homer in his last 2008 at bat for the Phillies.

 

 

Dan Wheeler came on to pitch in the 7th inning and did not fare any better for the Rays. Wheeler was the recipient of the amazing play by Aki at first in doubling up Feliz to get Wheler out of a jam in the inning. In the 8th inning, Rollins hit a double off the rightfield wall to put a man early in the inning in scoring position for the Phillies.

Werth then hit a 3-2 count hanging breaking ball out if the ballpark for a 2-run homer to futher put the Phillies ahaed, 8-2. Trever Miller came in to relieve Wheeler and walked Utley before giving up a colossial shot to left by Howard for a 2-run shot of his own to put the score at 10-2 Phillies

 

 

 

 

 

Red Sox Force a Game 7 Showdown

 

 

I got a text about 2 minutes before the first pitch that TBS had some sort of malfunction in Atlanta and most of the country got to watch an old Dick Clark America’s Funniest Videos for a while. I guess some one either for got to plug in one plug, or Atlanta decided that the “Heidi Game” needed a 2008 twist.

I was told that the channel got it corrected about the middle of the 1st inning and all was well in TV-land. I even heard that they were kind enough to recap the inning and show B J Upton’s catwalk homer to the home audience. Well, TBS (Totaled Botched Signal) I guess we can forgive you if you can lay off the pro-Boston comments for at least one more day. I am sorry we are ruining the networks plans of a Boston vs. LA series, but another team also is at fault………..blame Philly, they throw snowballs at Santa Claus.

 

Red Sox 4, Rays 2

 

 

 

Umpire Goes Down

It was a night for the weird and unusal at the Trop. I was told by a friend in the St. Petersburg Police Department that only about 7 people had to be escorted out of the building tonight. That is a major improvement over the 32 or more that had a bad night about a week ago for Games 1 and 2. But that was not even the wildest thing to happen in the game.

In the top of the 4th inning, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek finally hit something tonight. He actually got his first hit off the home plate umpire, Derryl Cousins. It saeems that when Varitek fouled off  his 0-2 pitch, it hit the mask of Cousins and traveled down towards the shoulder and chest area.

At the top of the 5th inning, Cousins conferred with Umpire Crew Chief  Tim McCelland ans they decided that he had to be removed from the game and transported to a local hospital. McCelland came out in his gear and officiated the rest of the game as the home plate umpire.

The rest of the umpires then did the Harlem Shuffle and they left the leftfield outfield area vacant becuase they did not have an additional umpire on hand to take Cousins’ position. Word finally came back that Cousins had suffered a bruised Clavicle and would possibily return for Sunday’s contest.

 

 

B J Upton’s En Fuego

To say that B J Upton is hot is an understatement in the ALCS. His 1st inning shot off the “C” ring at the Trop. would have cleared the Green Monster tonight again. It was a grand high shot that would have maybe reached the Beach if the ring was not there. That give Upton now 7 homers in this playoff season, which tied him with Former Angel Troy Glaus, who hit 7 in 2003. It might only be 4 homers in the ALCS, but Upton is putting on a show at the plate during this series.

 

 

James Big Game Shields

The Rays were questioned when they decided to swap their starters for Games 5 and 6. I really do not see the hassle since tonight’s starter was a combined 9-2 at home this year and it would also have put him back in line to pitch the first game if we clinched tonight. Shields has been one of those guys this year who wants the pressure cooker situations and has come out smelling like a rose on most nights.

Tonight, tho, he did get into trouble early, when Red Sox lead-off man Coco Crisp laid down a bunt towards Evan Longoria, but it was moving so slow there was no play. Shields did make amends as he picked Crisp off  of first after the thrid pitch to Dustin Pedroia.

 

 

Shields then got into trouble early in the 2nd when lead-off batter, Kevin Youkilis hit a 1-2 count hanging fastball overe the left-centerfield wall to tie the score at 1-all. He then gave up 2 hits to the nest three batters before getting control of the inning and getting the last 2 bstters to fly out to strand 2 Boston baserunners.

In the 3rd inning, he walked Pedoia, who advance to third on David Ortiz’s double down the rightfield line. Youkilis then hit a ball to Jason Bartlett and Pedroia waltzed in to put Boston up 2-1.  In the 3rd inning, Shields threw 31 pitches and issued 3 walks to the Red Sox.

Shields was cruising along until in the 5th inning, J D Drew hit a liner just over the glove of Gabe Gross in rightfield for a double. Drew ended up getting stranded on base.  In the 6th, Shield gave Jason Varitek his first hit in the ALCS, and his first homer that went into the first row of Section 146 in the Trop. That did not end the scoring in the inning.

Crisp then came up and hit a single off Shields that deflected to Akinora Iwamura, but he could not get a throw off in time.  Shields exited the game after Crisp’s hit and went 5.2 innings and gave up 9-hits and 4 runs on the night.

 

                   

 

Rays Bullpen Troubles

Rays reliever J P Howell then came on to try and get the last out of the 6th inning for the Rays. This brought up Pedroia again, who hit a ball to Bartlett, but the throw went high and wide of Pena and the Red Sox had runners at the corners with 2-outs.

David Ortiz then hit an RBI-single to center to score Crisp and put the Red sox up for good 4-2.  Howell threw 1 inning tonight and got 1 strikeout and gave up a single hit for the night. His ERA is sitting at 3.60 for the Rays. He also hit Jason Bay in the 7th inning to put a Red Sox runner on with 1-out.

Grant Balfour then came on in the 7th inning and walked the first batter, Jed Lowries before settling down and getting Varitek to fly out to Gross for the last out of the inning.

 

 

Chad Bradford then came on in the 8th inning and Pedroia hit a ball back up the middle that hit Bradfors in his leg and he completed a high but good throw for the first out of the inning. The Rays then Intentionally walked Ortiz. The plan worked out great for the Rays as Youkilis hit into a perfect 5-4-3 around-the-horn double play to end the inning.

Bradford then came out for a quick fly out by Drew to left, and a grounder to Bartlett for an easy 2nd out before leaving the game. Trever Miller then came in and got Mark Kotsday to hit a pop up to Longoria to end the top of the 9th inning.

 

                

 

Jason Bartlett

The mighty shortstop is not known for his power, but tonight hit a slowly curving ball that evaded the leftfield foulpole for his first postseason homer of his career. It was also the 2nd homer this year for Bartlett. They Rays did not have alot of offensive power tonight as both their runs came off homers by Bartlett and Upton.

 

 

Unusual Offensive Night

The Rays had a few plays that made you just sit and wonder tonight.  With the Red Sox up 2-1 Bartlett got hit on the elbow by a pitch and the Rays could not capitalize on the play. The Rays usually could and would have gotten somehting out of that play in recent games.

In the 4th inning, Carl Crawford reached out for an outsdie pitch and sent a dying quail into left for a single. He then stole second base and with Cliff Floyd at the plate, the Rays looked like they were about to do something in this game. But Floyd hit a hard ball down the rightfield line that was stopped by Kotsay, who barely got the throw to Beckett in time to get Floyd.

 

 

Then in the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro hit a nice single to center to start off the inning. Then he tried to steal second base, and was gunned down by Varitek.  After Zobrist hit a long fly to center for the 2nd out, Bartlett hit his homer to left. If Navarro had not tried to steal the base, it would have been a 2-run shot for Bartlett. Longoria walked in the 6th inning, but a Crawford double play ball ended the inning for the Rays.

 

In the 7th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3 on 12 pitches. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Bartlett was again hit by a pitch and was stranded on base by a quick strikeout and 2 pop ups to second base. In the 9th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3-, with Willy Aybar hitting a strong liner down the third baseline that Youkilis grabbed to end the game.

 

                  

 

Gabe Gross in Rightfield

I mentioned the play in the 5th inning before, but above is the picture of that liner hit by Drew. Gross started to go back on the ball, and either it changed flight, or he lost it for a second in the lights as the ball went about  6 inches to his right before falling to the turf.

In the bottom of the inning, Gross was pinch-hit by Ben Zobrist, who remained in the game in rightfield for the Rays. For the ALCS, Gross has gone 0-10 and had a few mis-guided play in right. Some poele say he had a chance for the ball on Thursday night, but we will never know as the ball skirted over the wall for the game winning single.

Weird thing there, since Drew did not go past first base, he was credited with a single only and not a ground rule double on the game ending play. Some say that Gross had a straight shot at the ball if he left his feet and dove at the ball. But that is hind-sight at this point.

 

 

 

In the 9th inning of tonight’s game, the Rays bench did not have that electric look it has had all season long. It seemed a bit subdued and emotion-less for the first time in a long time. If the Rays are to win tomorrow’s Game 7 showdown with the Red Sox, they need to regain that fire tonight.

There is no time to sulk or pity anything tonight. They have to get that motivation back and recharge themselves to take the Red Sox on by the throat and throttle them tomorrow night. It is a due or die situation, with the winner getting to play again on Weds. against the Phiadelphia Phillies. With a Rays loss, not only is their season over, but they will give the Home Field Advantage gaunlet to the Red Sox.

They have to come out like gangbuster and take this series back, or head to the golf course. I personally want to see a little more baseball this year guys, so let’s go out and kick some bean-town booty tomorrow night. This town has been crazy the last month or so, more than it has in a long, long time. And you guys are the reason for it. Treat yourself, treat the fans, and treat the nation to a little more Rays-ball this Fall.

 

See you at the Champagne bin.

Rays Stumble Against Red Sox 8-7

 

 

             

 

Have the media not guessed by now that Rays Manager, Joe Maddon is the Nutty Professor. Yes, he does do something that are not by the book for major league baseball managers’. He jokes with his players’, does not chew them out in public, and has some very unusual tactics for playing this great game.  He has given an Intentional Base on Balls to one of the game new power hitter( Josh Hamilton). He has a persoanl winecellar in his office for post game tasting. And he is the guy who convinced his “lefites” to go “righties” against Tim Wakefield in three games this year, and they won all three of them.

Logic is not just math to Maddon. He truly believes that the game should be played at an advantage, not to an unwritten rule book. If he wants his team to wear garter belts on their uniforms, don’t you think he has earned the respect that the team would do it without question? Then why are people questioning his move of putting his 4 plus years of major league service ace on the mound in place of James Shields.

There is method to the maddness people. One has a horrid record in the confines of Fenway Park, the other has handcuffed the Red Sox on numerous occasions over his career. I think it was a great move, and one that worked out to show he has a bit of mad genius to him. you either see genius or insanity in his moves. But if his moves are insane, you can committ me right now becuase he has us one game away from  a date with the Holy Grail.    Amen Joe, Amen.

 

Red Sox 8, Rays 7

 

 

 

 

Scott Kazmir

People seem to forget that Scott Kazmir has been in the majors now over 4 seasons. They  seem to forget that for years he has been the driving force behind the pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the guy who has been responsible for making it attractive to pitch in Tampa Bay again.

People talk about the big three pitchers and he is not listed first, but should be. He was the young prince who has started that revolution, yet the public gives him the backseat.  Kazmir has done anything and everything for this franchise, why not give him a chance to drive us to the big party against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

Kazmir only came out last night and pitched a superb game in which he threw 6 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball. Let me repeat that again, 2-hit, shutout baseball. And people have questioned his big game mentality. I think he answered them with a huge response in this game. He held this Red Sox team to almost noghting in 6 innings, and they were in a severe chokehold when he left the game.

He also got 7 strikeouts on the night, but then you expect him throwing thunder from the guy who won the 2007 strikeout crown. He was the old Kazmir, darting the fastball and sneaking in the slider to make you look foolish at the plate. I was marveling at the way he was again playing the game with Boston, making them think and try and outwit him at the plate.

 

 

 

 

He is one of this teams young studs, all under 26 years of age. And guess what, you will see him for another 5 years pushing the ball past batters every year and getting better.  And people were questioning why he was getting the start. Look at the boxscore, the answer is clear in black and white.

 

 

 

 

Bullpen Meltdown

When was the last time the Ray’s could say they had a Bullpen sitiation on their hands, last season?  This is not to say that the Rays have to refurbish or remodel the way the Bullpen is used in the series, this was an isolated implosion of unsual proportions. The Rays have been proud and secure in their relievers’ all season long, and tonight they had not reason to doubt them.

Coming into the 7th inning, the Rays had no idea of the meltdown that was to occur in this contest. Grant Balfour entered the game with a modest ERA, he left the game after 2/3rds of an innig last night with a postseason mark of 22.50 ERA. In the 7th inning, Balfour came on and gave up a huge double to Jed Lowrie on the 2nd pitch of the inning. This was one of the first time tonight Boston had a man in scoring position.

Balfour then got two quick fly balls outs to B J Upton before giving up a single to Coco Crisp and putting men on the corners for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia then cam up with men in scoring position for only the 2nd time this series. He made the Rays pay by slapping the ball to right and scoring Lowrie to give Boston it’s first run of the game. David Ortiz then  came up and hit the 2nd pitch he saw deep into the rightfield stands for a 3-run homer, and pull Boston to within 3 runs, 7-4.

Balfour was replaced by Dan Wheeler, and he got Youkilis to fly out to Gabe Gross in right to end the inning. In the 8th, with Wheeler still on the mound, Jasob Bay walked to lead off the inning.  J D Drew the came up and drilled a 0-1 pitch to right for a 2-run homer to pull Boston within 1 of the Rays. 

 

 

             

 

 

Wheeler then got Lowrie and pinch-hitter Sean Casey for wuick outs before Mark Kotsay hit a ball that changed direction in the air and was within an few inches of Upton pulling it in for the 3rd out. The ball hit the outside of his glove and just popped to the left of his outstretched mitt. This put Kotsay on second with 2-outs, and Coco Crisp at the plate. He hit a liner to right that skipped around on Gross and his throw into the infield looked like a 6 year olds.

 The ball was taken by Carlos Pena who saw that Crisp was trying to advance on the play and got him at second when Akinora Iwamura tagged him out for the 3rd out.  But Kotsay had scored before the 3rd out, and the score was now tied 7-7.

 

        

 

In the 9th inning, J P Howell came on to pitch for the Rays with the score still tied at 7. The Red Sox quickly gave up two outs and the game seemed to be in control, then Kenvin Youkilis came to the plate. Youkilis hit a screamer to Evan Longoria at third that Longoria knocked down, but his throw was a weird one-hopper to Pena that he could not scoop before the ball careened into the stands for an error and Youkilis standing on second with 2-outs.

Jason Bay then came up and was Intentionally walked by the Rays and set up a Howell versus J D Drew matchup.  Howell quickly got behind, and with a 3-1 count, Drew hit a one-hopper over the rightfield wall for a ground rule double and the winning run scored for the Red Sox. Howell took the loss for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Game 5 Tidbits

The Rays have now hit a homer in 4 straight games, which set a new ALCS record.

The Rays 1-4 hitters accounted for 7 out of the Rays’ 8 hits, and  scored  6 of the 7 runs scored tonight.

Evan Longoria is the fourth player in major-league history to hit home runs in each of four or more consecutive games in one postseason. Carlos Beltran holds the record with a five-game streak for the Astros in 2004. Jeffrey Leonard had a four-game streak for the Giants in 1987  and Juan Gonzalez had a four-game streak for the Rangers in 1996 vs. the Yankees.

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria hit consecutive home runs in the first inning in Game 4 of the ALCS and they did it again in the third inning of Game 5. Pena and Longoria are the first pair of teammates in major-league history to hit back-to-back home runs twice in one postseason series.

The Red Sox’ starting pitchers allowed 11 home runs in 16 2/3 innings in Games 2 through 5 of the ALCS. During the regular season, Boston’s starters had the fifth-lowest home run rate in the American League, averaging one home run allowed every 9.4 innings.
Boston Red Sox.

It’s small consolation for the Rays, but with their three homers in Game 5 they set a major-league postseason record for the most home runs by a team over a four-game span (13, Games 2-5), breaking the old mark of 12 set by the Astros in 2004.

 

 

 

 

Rays 1-4 Batters’

The Rays first 4 batters’ went a combined 7 out of the Ray’s 8 hits in the game, and also scored 6 of the 7 runs in the contest. It was the best offensive outbreak by the front of the lineup in the last two games. Akinora Iwamura lead off the lineup going 1-3, with 2 runs scored and 2 walks in the game.

 

 

 

 

He lead off the game with  single to right to end the speculation of another no-hit bid by Red Sox starter, Daisuke Matzusaka. Iwamura came around to score on Upton’s homer three pitches later.  He later walked in the 5th inning and moved to seond on Carlos Pena’s bunt down the third baseline.

He then stole third on Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. He then walked again in the 7th inning and committed a double steal with Jason Bartlett to get into scoring position before Upton’s 2-RBI double off the Green Monster. Iwamura stole 2 of the Rays total 4 stolen bases’ in the game. 

 

 

       

 

B J Upton had another career night as he went 3 for 4 with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. He began his night by hitting a slow breaking ball from Matzusaka into the first row of the stands above the Green Monster in the first inning to put the Rays up 2-0 early in the game. He then singled in the 3rd inning to center before Pena’s 2-run blast put the Rays up 4-0.

 

 

 

 

Upton then came up in the 7th inning and put a blast high off the upper facing of the Green monster for a 2-RBI double to put the last runs on the board for the Rays. Upton did get on base with a walk in the top of the 9th inning, but was erased on Carlos Pena’s double play ball to Pedroia.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena had another great night as he homer for the thrid time in three games to give the Rays a chance to win tonight. Carlos started the night off by hitting a 2-run shot in the 3rd inning. He then put a great bunt down the third baseline in the 5th inning. The Red Sox were in a shift and Pena put the ball down to the left of the pitcher and beyond the reach of Youkilis, who was manning the shortstop position in the shift.

He was Intentinally walked in the 7th inning, but was erased from the basepaths on Longoria’s double play ball. Carlos ended the game by hitting into only hid 3rd double play of the night to end the 9th inning for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

And batting clean-up for the Rays was Evan Longoria. He went 1-4 on the night, but it was his back-to-back homer after Pena that sparked the Red Sox faithful into their seats early in this game.  Matzusaka left up a slider to Longoria, and he put it into the seat in the Green Monster to stake the Rays to a 5-0 lead.

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

With the Rays in the driver’s seat for the rest of the series, all the pressure is on the Red Sox to snap the Rays winning ways at the Trop. The Red Sox have only won twice at the stadium this season, and the Rays are a combined 24-3 with crowds over 30,000 at the games.

With Game 6 and 7 already sold out, it will be at maximum capacity as the Rays unfolded the tarps and opened an additional 5,700 seats for Rays fans. The Rays will  have the advantge only having to win one game to advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Shock Red Sox Nation to go 3-1 in ALCS

 

 

                                         

 

I was reading a blog the other day by a Red Sox supporter that was commenting on the huge amount of noise in the Trop. during the game that they could not enjoy watching the game. Well, after watching the crowd in Fenway basically sitting on their hands the last 2 nights, I will take the noise any day.

I always find it odd when people are commenting and grumbling about crowd noise in a baseball game these days. The game has become very interactive with the fans in the videos, the player at bat intor songs, and the small segments, like the Pepsi Race at Tropicana Field. It is not like the usual baseball fan has any bouts with ADD at all.

If they did, that fan would be the one hit by every foul ball in the place. The reason I really love my seats in Rightfield is that I can actually be part of the game sometimes. If a foul ball comes into my section, I usually try and see if I can get it without killing a massive amount of women and children. Seriously, I catch about 7 a season, and maybe 3 end up in my bag for another time.

The people who usually get my booty is the kids or a person at ther first baseball game. I remember last month, during the Orioles series there was a dad and his two sons from Denmark sitting in the Bullpen Cafe. I made sure that Bobby Ramos got them a ball before they left, not to get another Rays fan, but to get another kid to love the game of baseball.

With the appeal of the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, and another in the near future, the popularity of our great sport will rush like the wind into the nooks and crannies of Europe and we might actually have a real World’s Championship before I leave this earth. I can dream can’t I. Think about it, South Africa playing Iraq in a quarterfinal match, or maybe even Israel playing Syria in another match. It could change the way we see crisis in the future……..but I can dream can’t I?

 

 

Rays 13, Red Sox 4

 

 

 

 

Game 4 Facts and Figures

Coming into tonight game, Akinora Iwamura was chasing Darin Erstad’s record of consecutive games with a hit. Iwamura had hit at least once in all 7 of the Rays games until tonight. Iwamura unfortunately went 0-5 on the night and dropped his postseason average to .222 for the playoffs.

The Rays have now scored 9 plus runs in 3 consecutive games. That is the first time in history that a Playoff virgin team has won so many games in a row to start their playoff career. The Rays have also scored 31 runs on 39 hits since the Game 1 loss at home last Friday night.

B.J. Upton is the first player to hit five or more home runs in a single postseason after hitting fewer than 10 home runs during the preceding regular season.  I loved looking at the attendance at Fenway Park tonight. They had a total of 38, 144 people in the building, which rounds out to 104 percent capacity for the Park. Guess it is true you cram everyone and their brother into a building at playoff time.

 

 

 

Andy Sonnanstine

How can you find fault with a guy who has been a thron in the Red Sox side the entire year. Sonnanstine came into this start not giving up a earned run to the Rex Sox in his last 2 starts. He might not be in the Rays top 3 pitchers’ this postseason, but he is almost as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning for the Rays.

Sonnanstine always gives you a chance to win with his off-speed pitching stytle and great control. And tonight was another great example of why he has won Pitcher of the Year awards all throughout the Rays farm system. Consistant strikes and blazing the corners with his slider and curveball.

 

 

 

 

Sonnanstine went 7.1 innings tonight throwing 97 pitches before heading to the showers. He got only 2 strikeouts on the night, and gave up only 4-run on 6-hits to the Red Sox. It is kind of funny that his old Triple-A catcher, Kevin Cash is the guy who took him long tonight. Sonnanstine did his usual job of not beating himself and put together a great game to help the Rays go up 3-1 in this best-of-7 series.

 

 

Unusual Errors on the Night

Coming into this series the Rays have not gotten alot of defensive mistakes and  baserunning errors. But in tonight contest, the Rays committed  3 errors, most after the game was already in the Rays hands.  Evan Longoria committed 2 errors tonight, one on a ground ball, and the other on a throw to first in the 2nd inning on a ball hit down the line by Jason Bay.

Longoria lost concentration on the ball and it stumbled a bit near his feet before he got the ball and threw a bullet to first. Un fortunately Carlos Pena could not get the ball and it rolled into the Red Sox dugout, and put Bay in scoring position for the Red Sox. The Rays ended up getting a 4-6-3 double play and erased Bay from the basepaths to ease Longoria’s mind.

In the 8th inning, with Jed Lowrie on second base, Dusitn Pedroia hit a ball into shallow center that B J upton over ran and had to go retrieve the ball. Lowrie scored and  Pedroia ended up on second on the error. Pedroia did come back to haunt Upton as he scored when Kevin Youkilis hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI- double and Pedroia scored with ease to put the score at 13-4.

Willy Aybar did not get charged with an error, but more of an error in judgement when he was caught leaning towards second on a single in the 5th inning after singling to left. As the ball was coming back towards the plate for a play on Carl Crawford, Aybar leaned a bit too far towards second, and Youkilis intercepted the throw and tossed a bullet to Mark Katsay who tagged out Aybar for the 2nd out of the inning.

 

 

 

Carl Crawford is Back

Coming into this series, everyone was questioning if Carl Crawford was at full strength and could be a factor in this years’ playoff race. After tonight’s performance, I think those skeptics will put that notion away until next season. Crawford went 5-for-5 tonight, with 2 stolen bases and 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s. It tied the ALCS record with Paul Blair of the 1980′s Orioles, and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui for a perfect 5 at bat night. Carl is currently hitting 9 for 18 in the series, or a .500 average for the ALCS.

Crawford got the party started early when he smacked a double to right in the 1st inning.  Crawford kept his most controversial hit for the next at bat when he hit a soft grounder towards the area to the right of the pitching mound that Red Sox starter, Tim Wakefield had to come off the mound to handle. Wakefield had to sprawl out on the turf to glove the ball and could not get the ball to first in time to save the infield single to Crawford. He ended stealing second base, then scored on Willy Aybar’s homer in the inning.

 

 

 

 

Crawford then got another double off the Green Monster in left and again scored on Aybar’s single to shallow left. He came up again in the long 6th inning and hit a blooper single into left to score Upton from third base. Carl ended up being stranded on base at the end of the inning.

In the 8th inning, Crawford hit a ball into the gap in rightfield that was barely missed by J D Drew as he claosed in on the ball. The ball went off the outside of his glove and went to the wall. At the end of the play, Crawford was standing on third with an RBI-triple. On the play, Pena had ran from first to home and scored easily on the play.

 

 

        

 

Willy Aybar’s Wild Ride

Another guy that was having a banner night was Willy Aybar for the Rays. He was inserted in the lineup to bat right-handed against Wakefield, and the rolling of the dice again by Rays Manager Joe Maddon came up “7′s” across the board.  Willy came on and got 5 RBI’s on the night, while going 4-5 at the plate. He shares a current .500 ALCS  batting average with Crawford.

 

 

 

 

Aybar got the scoring going with a 2-run homer out of the building and over the Green Monster in the 3rd inning.  He then got an RBI-single in the 5th, but was picked off by being too aggressive on the bases tonight. In the 6th inning he hit an RBI single to left that scored Crawford. And in the 8th inning he hit a single to right to score Crawford again to finish his 5-RBI night.

 

 

 

Evan Longoria

When he came up after the Ray’s first 12 games this season, you knew he was going to have a fantastic season for the team. But you can bet Maddon and Andrew Friedman could not imagine the total domination this rookie has had at the plate during the playoffs this season. Longoria went 1-4 tonight with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI’s.

 

 

 

 

His first RBI came off his blast into the Green Monster in the 1st inning. the shot went long and deep into the high section and it put the Rays up 3-0 at the time.  With the homer, Longoria became the new holder of the rookie home run record in the playoffs with 5 for the postseason and counting. But that was not the only time Longoria got on base tonight as he walked in the 6th inning and got another RBI off the walk-in of Iwamura on the play.  It was is 6th RBI of the playoff series.

 

 

 

 

Carlos Pena

Because he is hitting between the twenty-something tandem of Upton and Longoria, Carlos Pena has been seeing alot more breaking balls and  off-speed pitches this postseason. But becuase of the recent onslaught of both  players’ hitting more homers for the team, opposing pitchers’ have been picking their poison by pitching to Pena this series.

And with his solo blast in the 9th inning last night, Pena has now homered twice on the last 3 pitches he has seen this series.  His 2-run homer in the 1st inning gave the Rays an early lead 2-0 tonight. For the night, he went 1-3, with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored. He also got 2 walks tonight to get on base 60 percent of his chances tonight.

 

 

 

 

Carlos’s shot over the Green Monster tonight gives him 3 unbelievable shots  in the section this season at Fenway Park. Before this year, he had never homered into the Green Monster against the Red Sox. In the 6th inning, his walk loaded the bases for the Rays as they scored  5 runs in the inning.  In the 8th, he walked on 6 pitches and scored on Crawford’s triple to right.

 

 

 

 

Edwin Jackson

Most people already know how I feel about Edwin Jackson as a pitcher for the Rays. It take a certain kind of pitcher to adjust from being a starter to going to the Bullpen, to going back to a starter, to switching into long relief or clean-up roles in the Bullpen. 

I think Jackson has done a great job adjusting to the new role in the ALCS, and I hope if the Rays hit the World Series he is still on the 25-man roster to fulfill the same role in the Rays next step. For the night, Jackson came on and went 1.1 innings and gave up a single walk and got 4 strikeouts on 25 pitches. But his biggest job was to shut down the Red Sox from trying to gain momentum and try and get back into this contest.

Jackson came on toirelieve Trever Miller, who threw 1/3 of an inning and got 1 strikeout on 5 pitches. Jackson quickly got Jason Bay to strikeout to end the 8th inning. He came out in the 9th and got pinch-hitter Sean Casey to strikeout and then walked both Coco Crisp and pinch-hitter Jocoby Ellsbury on 4 pitches each to put a man in scoring position for the Red sox.  Jackson then buckled down and got Jed Lowrie and Kotsay to strikeout to end the rally and the game for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

How much do you think the last few games have taken out of the confidience of the Boston Red Sox.  The fact that in the last 2 games their pitching staff has given up a total of  7 home runs to the Rays.  Tonight’s starter, Tim Wakefield was pitching for the first time in the last 16 days.

The Red Sox pitching staff  has given up a total of  10 home runs in the 4 games so far in this series. The staff has a ERA of 7.17 in the ALCS, and we might have more games to play. They have allowed 43 runs and 17 walks in 37.2 innigs in this series.

Combine that with the Red Sox currently hitting .232 as a team, with Jacoby Ellsbury hitting .000, and David Ortiz is batting .071, with only one extra base hit (triple tonight).  Cather Jason Varitek is also hitting .000, having gone 0-10 so far in the series. Combine that with 1 stolen base by Dustin Pedroia and 5 total homers in the series and you have a team searching for an offensive identity right now.

I am not trying to wake up the Boston bat’s, or throw the pitching staff under the bus here. But without Daisuke Matsuzaka’s great game 1 performance, this series might be over tonight.  The rematch on Thursday night will be a true test to the moxy that is the Boston Red Sox.

Maybe this day off is coming at the right time for this team and they can pull it together enough to give a aggressive and expected effort in the last game at Fenway Park this season against the Rays. But you got to remember, as of tonight, the Rays’ have now won 4 straight games at Fenway, something they could not do earlier in the 2008 season.

 

 

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rays Put Extra Effort into Win

 

 

 

The worst part of that victory tonight is that a host of the well-wishers who wanted to toast to the Rays victory had to drive over to Hillsborough county to do it. Becuase the game ended after 1:30 a.m. local taverns and lounges had already put the tills to bed and were doing the final prep work to leave and re-open in the morning for the football crowds. I heard people upset that they should suspend the county ordinance stopping the flow of beer and alcohol as a show of support for the Rays.

Really, the show of support for the team is based on a bubbly beverage with a frothy head? I thought the team was about confidience and energy and emotional willpower, not of it was cold-aged, or comes in a green bottle. I know the game went too long for most people to enjoy a post game beverage, but sometimes that happens in the world of sports. But the straw that stirs the drink is the amount of people who stayed in their seats until that last out.

But for you people who stayed until B J Upton hit that 160 foot fly ball to right…Thank You. To the people who worried more about the team going 0-2 than when “last call” was that night………..Thank You too. But the people I really want to thank are the multitudes of Red Sox fans who came down here and had class during the game and actually cheered both teams after the effort.

They did not only cheer as the Red Sox left the field, but gave the Rays their due in the marathon match.I am not afraid to clap or cheer for maximum effort by a team. Sweat, blood and the energy expelled last night hit an all time high in both dugouts.  Rays’ fans showed their exuberance and passion by clapping and banging their cowbells all night long. But it was the Boston fans applauding the Rays effort that showed the true class of the night.  Baseball has been blessed with great fans for a long time, but when another team shows their repsect for the efforts of their opponents…………………..priceless, truly priceless.

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 8

 

Records Everywhere

Everywhere you looked last night a record was about to fall, be tied, or broken like a pane of glass. 435 pitches is amazing enough, but the 19 strikeouts and 13 walks played a major role the win and loss last night. For 5 hours and 27 minutes both team fought, clawed and scraped to put together enough to win this match.

Both teams hit enough long balls to tie a longstanding home runs per game record that should stand for a long time. 17 runs is amazing in the game between these 2 teams, considering this waqs suppose to be a pitchers’ duel. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett lost the lead 3 times in the contest  for the first time in his great career.

4 Boston players had 3 hits in the game, but no other Boston hitter had a single hit. It is the first time in postseason history that a team had more than 1 player with at least 3 hits in a game, and those 4 players accounted for ALL of the Red Sox’s hits.

Dustin Peroia tied  ex-Red Sox Todd Walker’s 2 homer night in last night game. Walker hit his dual homers in the 2003 ALCS serie against the Oakland A’s. It was only the 3rd time in the ALCS history that at leats two homers were hit in a game. Adam Kennedy of the Angels hold the all-time mark with 3 homers during the 2002 series against the Minnesota Twins.

 

 

Scott Kazmir

One of the big questions on Rays fans this season is, “Which Scott Kazmir will show up tp pitch tonight?” On a night when both starters’ were suppose to be the duel of the night, it’s became the bats from both teams that took the spotlight and shine bright into the night for both teams. Kazmir went to the mound with his 21st career start against the Red Sox.  He is 6-7 lifetime against them with a 3.62 ERA.

In 2 starts against Boston this year, Kazmir is 0-2, with a 9.00 ERA. In his last home start against the Red Sox, he endured his worst home start by giving up 9 earned runs and 4 home runs , and allowed only his 2nd homer of the year to a leftie when David Ortiz homered to right in the game.

 

              

Kazmir got into early trouble in the game walking David Ortiz, then giving up a single to Kevin Youkilis to put 2 on base with 2-outs. Jason Bay hit a ball off the leftfield wall to score both runners and put the Red Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  In this 1st inning, Kazmir threw 38 pitches.

In the 3rd inning, Kazmir gave up a lead-off homer to Dustin Pedroia to put Boston up 3-2. Coming into the at bat, Pedroia was 15-27 against Kazmir this year.   Kazmir got through the inning and did not have another bad inning until the 5th inning.

 

 

This inning would be the longest of the night, and featured Kazmir giving up 2 homers in 3 at bats. Both Pedroia and Youkilis hit the 2nd pitches they saw from Kazmir for solo homers and  Youkilis’s shot tied the game at 5-all in the inning. After that, Kazmir left the game after throwing 98 pitches over 4.1 innings.  On the night, Kazmir also got  only 2 strikeouts and issued 3 walks in the contest.

 

              

 

B J Upton

For a guy who has been playing hurt since a shoulder injury in May of this year against Baltimore, you could not tell that B J Upton’s power has been diminshed at all at the plate. With the game on the line, and the Rays almost exhausting all their relievers out of the Bullpen , Upton hit a 160 foot fly down the rightfield line that was the mightiesy hit of the night. His sacrifice fly to J D Drew was far enough away from home plate to score speedster  Fernando Perez from third base and end the marathon game for the Rays.

But that was not the only contribution from Upton tonight. He went 1-4 in the game, but his one hit was a solo homer in the 3rd inning off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett to tie the game at 3-all. He also got on base in the  twice on a walk in the 5th inning and stole second base. He then came home on a single to right by Carlos Pena to bring the Rays within 1 run, 6-5.

 

 

Evan Longoria

Tampa Bay’s rookie third baseman went a combined 3-5 last night with 3-runs and 3 RBI’s on the night. But it was his 2-run homer on a change-up up in the strikezone that tied the game for the Rays in the 1st inning. Longoria hit a drive deep into rightfield and scored Pena on the play to tie the game 2-all. Longoria was not done as he came up in the 3rd inning and hit a ball to the base of the leftfield wall for a double.

 

 

              

 

He ended up scoring on Carl Crawford’s  rightfield gap shot from second base to put the Rays up 4-3. Then in the 5th inning Longoria again hit a liner down the leftfield line and scored Pena. Longoria was again driven in by a Crawford single to put the Rays up 8-6 in the game.  With his homer and 2 doubles, Longoria became only the 3rd rookie to ever have 3 extra base hits in a playoff game

 

           

 

The 3 C’s Have a Big Night

The three members of the Tampa Bay Rays with “C”s in their names went a combined 5-12 on the night , with 4 RBI’s and scored 3 runs for the Rays.  Cliff Floyd made a statement early in the  4th inning by hitting a blast 400 feet over the  dead centerfield fence to put the Rays up 5-3. Floyd’s blast had Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crsips climbing the wall trying to get the ball before it went over the green wall.

 

 

Carlos Pena went 2-5 on the night, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored in the game. Pena hit a double into deep left center to start the Rays’ rally in the 1st inning. He then scored on Longoria’s homer to left. Pena then moved Upton over with a single to right in the 5th inning, and both players scored on Longoria’s double to left.  Pena then hit a hard liner to Mark Kotsay at first that was destined for the rightfield corner in the7th inning.

 

 

Carl Crawford got into the game in the 3rd inning with an RBI single to the gap in rightfield to score Longoria and put the Rays up 4-3 at the time. Crawford then was picked off even before the next pitch when he was glancing away from  the pitcher Beckett, and was tagged easily for the 3rd out in the inning. It was an unusual play for Crawford to not even be looking at the pitcher when he stepped off the base.

Crawford then faced Javier Lopez in the 5th inning in the middle of the Rays huge rally. Lopez was brought in just to face Crawford, and Crawford got a RBI single to score Longoria and send Lopez to the dugout.  In the 10th inning, Crawford hit a drive back into the middle that struck Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon right below his right arm, near his side that deflected straight to Pedroia who completed the play for an out at first base.

 

 

 

Dan Wheeler

The Rays had great success from their Bullpen in the regular season and during the ALDS. But during this ALCS with Boston, the Rays Bullpen has run into some trouble and was again put to the test tonight. Grant Balfour came in and replaced Kazmir in the 5th inning and promptly gave up a solo shot to Jason Bay. Balfour then gave up 2 quick walks before being replaced by J P Howell with 2 men on base.

Howell got the last 2 batters’ of the inning to close out the Red Sox threat.  In the 6th inning, Howell got Jacoby Elssbury to fly out to Pena before issuing a walk to Pedroia. He the struck out Ortiz before leaving the game. For their time tonight Balfour went 0.0 innings and gave up a run on 1-hit and also gave up a walk. Howell was credited with 1-run on 1-hit and got 2 strikeouts.

Chad Bradford then came on to relieve Howell and gave up two straight hits to Youkilis and Bay before getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to center to end the inning. Bradford threw for 1.1 innings and gave up 1-run on 4-hits before Trever Miller came on to face Pedroia in the 8th inning. Miller gave up a single to Perdroia and was replaced by Dan Wheeler.

Wheeler ended up throwing 38 pitches last night in his 3.1 innings of work. It was one of the longest relief appearances of his career. Wheeler quickly got Youkilis to ground into a double play, but Pedroia moved over to third on the play. With 2-outs in the inning, the Rays looked like they might get out of the inning without a hitch.

 

 

Bay came up to bat and Wheeler threw 3 straight pitches outside for balls, before sailing a pitch over Dioner Navarro’s head to the backstop. Navarro sprinted to the backstop and tossed a errant ball towards Wheeler covering home. The ball did not get within Wheeler’s glove in time and skipped away from him, letting Pedroia score and tie the game at 8-all in the 8th inning.

It was only the 2nd Wild Pitch given up by Wheeler all year long. Wheeler then got the next 3 Red Sox batters in order before Coco Crisp put a ball in the air in centerfield that shifted on Upton in the air and he watched as it skipped over the centerfield wall for a Ground Rule Double.

Wheeler then got Ellsbury to strikeout to end the 9th inning. He then came out again in the 10th inning and got 3 quick outs on 10 pitches to set the Red Sox down in order. Wheeler then came out in the 11th inning and got a quick strikeout of Bay before issuing a walk to Lowrie and giving the Red Sox a baserunner.

Rays rookie David Price then came on to pitch and quickly issued a walk to Drew before getting Kotsay on a strikeout and making Crisp hit into a 5-4 ground out to finish the inning. By being the pitcher of  record in the 11th inning, Price earned his first postseason victory in the game.  It was his first major league victory, and marked only the 3rd time a play earned either a win or loss for his first in the postseason.

 

11th inning

The 11th inning started with Navarro walking on 3 straight balls after getting a 1-2 count in the at bat. Boston’s Pitching Coach John Farrell was ejected right after the at bat when he was arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Speedster Fernando Prez then came on to run for Navarro and gave the Rays a dose of speed on the basepaths. 

Ben Zobrist then walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays another baserunner with no outs in the inning.  Perez was stealing 3rd when Jason Bartlett hit a hard grounder to Youkilis who could not get Perez in time and had to go to first base for the 1st out in the inning.  Akinora Iwamura was then Intentionally Walked to load the bases for the Rays. 

Then Upton came up and quickly got an 0-2 count on him before hitting his 160 foot fly into  shallow right to Drew.  He quickly threw the ball into the infield, but the throw was off line and was about 5 feet up the line towards third as Perez slapped his hand on the plate for the winning run.  

 

 

Please Come to Boston

The Rays will board a charter to bean-town on Sunday morning  because of a late work-out schedule in Boston on Sunday. They will have a 6:30 p.m. work out before retiring for the good nights sleep in Boston before Monday’s 4 p.m. start.   

Here are a few facts heading into the 3-games in Boston:

This is only the 19th time in 39 American League Championships that the series was tied 1-1 at this point.

37 players who were used in last night’s game, tied the American League record for the most ever used in a playoff game of any length.

 

Rays Can’t Close Out Series

 

White Sox 5, Rays 3

 

Like most people in the Rays Republic, I thought we might have a late night at the airport waiting for the guys to come in from Chi-town. But then again, I have been hoping that we also do not breeze through the playoffs and not take advantage of situations. Today we had a few things to haywire on the way to our first playoff loss.

Now is it better to get that loss now in the beginning and set the course right before we get into a hole, or do we want one in the next round maybe even at home that would put us totally behind the old 8-ball. In a small way, this loss came at the right time, and at the right place. We have two teams here that go about their pitching in the same manner, but who use the offense in a 180 degree tilt.

Whereas the White Sox like to slam and bam the ball all over the yeard, the Rays will use small calculated steps to sneak up on you and pounce for the win. Both have been successful, but we have shut down this kind of offense before. Our next opponent will either be the Boston Red Soxor the Los Angeles Angels who both play that style. So maybe a loss right now is actually a good thing.

Plus, with Sarah Palin’s plane coming into St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport today for a Clearwater Rally, they might be stuck in the air for a long time waiting for clearance to land. You know how the Secret Service is about planes in the air…………………..they do not like them, even if they are winners.

 

White Sox 5, Rays 3

 

 

Pigeon-gate

You knew there had to be some kind of unusual and wild happening in this series in Chicago. In this land of ex-mob bosses and bootleggers, you would never expect that a pigeon would be the cuase of so much controversy. Now do we know for a fact that those pigeons are trained by the South Side mafia in the rightfield stands to distract and enable the Rays pitching staff to lose concentration, or is this some lame conspiracy theory brought on by a simple fact of worms in the infield?

I want to establish a blur ribbon fact finding mission as to the ramifications of  this pigeon being the betting mastermind  behind the largest wagering system in the tri-city area.  Will he turn stool-pigeon if caught, or will he just be a simple bird on a wire?

Seriously here, was that not the funniest thing you ever saw. The pigeon actually had to be a city pigeon because what other bird would sit there while a ball was being thrown almsot 98 m.p.h. over its head. I am just glad we did not have another Randy Johnson situation on our hands. What if Garza had accidently hit the bird with a pitch, or a ball had been struck into its path.  The TBS switchboard would have melted all its circuits by the time this blew over.

 

                                      

 

Unusual Groundskeeping Tricks

Every baseball stadium has its wild little quirks or mannerisms that make it unique in the league. The groundskeeping crews at most stadiums tend to lend the basepaths and foullines to the advantage of the home team. But the quirk in question yesterday might have been hidden from sight if not for a simple oversight.

If you want to leave a wet spot on the pitching mound to expose the other team’s starting pitcher to soft footing and not have a solid landing spot for his follow-through leg, wouldn’t you hide it better?  Case in point, when Matt Garza called for the Groendskeeping crew to dig out some of the loose clay in front of the mound, you could see John Danks marks were a good foot to the north of the problem area.

With Garza being 6’4″ he had a bigger stride and would plant beyond Danks. For that reason, when the tarp was taken off, isn’t it funn y that the setion that had the most probelms was over the center of the field. Now the grounds crew threw lot of absorbing compound all over the field, but I did not see any mixed in on the mound area. I have a feeling this was wet down after Friday’s prectice sessions and just fermented over night to a nice quagmire.

 

 

 

 

But, to Garza’s dismay, the first attempt to fix the problem still showed a camera close-up of him still not getting ample grip on his follow-through leg footing. So he had the heads groundskeeper come out and shovel the top layer of wet clay off the mound and then proceeded to dominate again on the mound. You have to play your advantages. I am not calling anything wrong here, but it is funny that the spots that Danks hit were high and dry today.

 

                       

 

Matt Garza

The Rays staring pitcher today, Matt Garza never looked totally controlled in his game until after that mound repair in the 5th inning. His started out great by getting the first 5 White Sox batters in row before giving up his first hit to Ken Griffey Junior in the 2nd inning.

But it was the lead-off walk issued to Dewayne Wise that would come back to haunt Garza early in this ballgame.  Wise walked on 6 pitches and moved over to second on a stolen base, then on the next pitch A J pierzenski hit a ball up the mifddle to score Wise from second and tied the score at 1-1.

But in the 4th inning, Garza would face his biggest innnig when he gave up a lead-off double to Jim Thome and walked Paul Konerko to put 2 White Sox on base. Griffey Jr. then came up and rattled a single to right to load the bases.

Alexi Ramirez then hit a Sacrifice fly to center to score Thome and every runner moved up on the play.  B J Upton could have gotten Griffey on a tag-out if he had hurried the play into the infield. Griffey got in just under the tag by Jason Bartlett.

 

 

                 

 

Wise then came up and hit a double to left to score both Konerko and Griffey Jr and put the Sox up 4-1 at that point. From that point on, Garza shut down the White Sox until the 6th inning when after Griifey walked to start the inning, Brain Anderson came on to pinch-runner for him. Anderson them stole second on the third pitch to Ramirez and scored on Juan Uribe’s single to leftfield.

For the day, Garza threw 6 innings and gave up 7-hits and 5-runs on 95 pitches. After the mound was repaired, Garza ended up pitching more consistanly and made better first pitches to the White Sox. For the day, Garza also had 4 strikeouts and 4 walked issued on the day.

 

 

                  

 

Aybar vs Thorton

In the 8th inning, Willy Aybar struvk out swinning for the 2nd out of the inning. But during the play the ball got away from White Sox cathcer Pierzenski and bounced down the first baseline. Aytbar bolted out of the box and Thornton raced fron the mound towards the bouncing ball. Thornton got to the ball before Aybar raced by and both men collided into each other on the basepath.                         

In a qesture to show no ill will or harm, Thornton put his glove out to show that he was not trying to hurt Aybar. Aybar then fist bumped the glove to also convey that all is okay in Aybar-land. the reason this is a big thing is the fact that these guys showed class and also the aggressive nature that is the game of baseball. you run and play hard, but if something happens that might seem odd or confusing, sometimes a show of class or sportsmanship can ease all pains and return the game to normal.

 

                 

 

B J Upton

Alot has been said this season about the shoulder injury to Upton, but sometimes he just gets into a swing and you forget this guy has been in pain for almost the entire season. His 411 foot blast to leftfield in the 7th inning did help the Rays glance into the well for hope of einning this contest.

For the day, Upton went 2-5, but it was his 2-run blast that got the team within 2 runs at 5-3 that sparked the Rays.  In his next at bat in the 9th inning, Upton singles to left and was on base when Carlos Pena struck out to end the game for the Rays.

 

                            

 

 John Danks

White Sox starter John Danks has been called on alot by Manager Ozzie Guillen this year for keys wins in key games. He was the guy Guillen picked to start the 1-game playoff game to decide who would win the AL Central earlier in the week. Today against the Rays he took control quick by establishing himself  on the mound and striking out 7 batters in his 6.1 innings. He kept the Rays confused by mixing his pitches well and  when he left had thrown 105 and had given up only 7 hits all day to the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Dioner Navarro

For most of the season, Navarro has been right on target with his throws to second on base-stealing attempts. But in the today’s game the White Sox took a page from the Rays’ playbook and stole second 3 times in the game. Dewayne Wise stole second in the 3rd inning, and Navarro overthrew Akinora Iwamura and the ball sailed into centerfield.

In the 6th inning, the White Sox would steal seond twice on Navarro. the first was Brian Anderson, who came on to run for Ken Griffey Junior after a walk and stole on the third pitch to Ramirez. Juan Uribe then stole second on the second pitch to Orlando Cabrera to complete the trifecta on Navarro today. Coming into the game, Navarro had thrown out over 34 percent of the base stealers this season, second to only Jose Molina of the New York Yankees in the American League.

 

 

Rays Take Both at Home, Heading to Chi-town for Winner

 

Rays 6, White Sox 2

 

I can not tell you how much eletricity and energy is rolling through the catwalks and walls of the Trop. right now. I sometimes feel like I am living in a dream instead of sitting here in the Bullpen Cafe looking on as the Rays take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-5 series against the Chicago White Sox.  the crowd has been intense, and the cowbells have been in full force in this series.

I was checking on a few stats with the Elias Sporting Bureau and found out that the Rays are the first team in major league history to win its first 2 games of its playoff history, overcoming a deficit of at least 2 runs in their wins. I also found out a few other great facts about this high-charged series.  During the 2008 season, the Rays won 28 games after trailing by at least 2 runs, the most in the major leagues this year.

I can tell you that this team has always been a team that never counts itself out until the last out in the 9th inning. that should bode well for them in the coming weeks as the baseball gods will be testing this young team. Lets just hope that this young squad can keep up this scoring-by-committee approach all the way to the last game of the year.

I was listening to the deafening noise last night near the end of the game, and Rusty, the Rays MC, announced that the crowd noise was the 3rd loudest in MLB history last night. The Rays magical number to have their ticker tape parade is : 9 wins

 

 

 

                                    

 

 

Scott Kazmir

Coming into last night, Scott Kazmir has had a few mixed reviews in his last 5 starts for the Rays. If his 37 pitches in the first inning did not scare you, here is a fact that will about last night.  In his 124 career starts, Kazmir has thrown over 35 pitches in the first inning only once.  He did it as a rookie on September 19, 2004 at Toronto in his 5th start of his career ( 38 pitches).

I have been critical of Kazmir lately that maybe he has not been warming up like he did in the beginning of the year. But I was sitting right behind him and was watching him warm up and he was doing all the things that he did in prior years to get warm and loose on the sidelines. Maybe it is just a case of nerves for Kazmir, because after the first couple of innings he calms down and seems to hit his marks better.

Last night’s first inning was no different. Kazmir hit Orlando Cabrera with the first pitch of the game. It is also the 11th time in the playoffs that the lead-off batter has been hit in a game by a pitch.  Nick Swisher then was walked on 5 pitches to put the first teo men on base for the White Sox. Jermaine Dye then hit a soft looper to left to load the bases with no out in the 1st inning.

Kazmir then gave up an RBI single to Jim Thome, and a sacrifice fly to Alexi Ramirez to put the White Sox up 2-0 early in the game.  Kazmir then got out of the inning when Juan Uribe struck out, but had given up 2-runs on 3-hits in the inning.

 

 

                 

 

 

Scott Kazmir,Part Deux

After the 1st inning, Scott Kazmir gave up only 5 hits the rest of the night. He effectively shut down the White Sox powerful offense by finally getting his slider and change-up to pick apart the corners of the plate. In the first inning, Kazmir was all over the plate high and low and could not get a consistant grip on the strike zone.  In the 2nd inning, the only batter to reach base was Swisher on a walk, but he was stranded on base that inning.

 After that, Kazmir spread out the hits to retire the White Sox 1-2-3 in the 3rd inning, and giving up a lone hit in the 4th-6th innings. For the day, Kazmir gave up 2-runs on 8-hits and got 4 strikeouts in his 84 pitch outing. For his efforts, Kazmir earned his first post season victory and helped the Rays take a 2-0 lead in the series.

 

Carl Crawford

Alot of people had forgotten about the basestealing presence of Crawford in this series. Since this was only the 2nd game since his return after a finger surgery, most thought he would be silient on the bases and just try and regain his edge in later rounds of the playoffs. But in the 8th inning, with Evan Longoria at the plate, Crawford stole his first postseason base of  his career. Octavio Dotel had just come on to relieve Mark Buehrle in the inning. Crawford stole the base on a 1-2 count to Longoria and set up the Rays 4th run of the game.

 

 

 

 

B J Upton

Coming into this contest against Buehrle, B J Upton had gone 5-13 this year against the White Sox starter, and he again became a thorn in the White Sox’s side. In the 8th inning, Upton hit a sharp ball into centerfield for a tirple , and put the lead-off man on third with no outs in the inning. For the night B J might have only gone 1-4, but his triple produced the 4th run of the game to secure the win for the Rays.

 

 

White Sox Error

In the 2nd inning, Rocco Baldelli hit a screaming liner to second base that Alexi Ramirez gloved for the first out of the inning. Willy Aybar had hit a single to left to lead-off the inning and was scrambling back to first base to avoid a pick off play. Ramierez overthrew first baseman Paul Konerko and the ball rolled into the camera well in the Rays dugout. Aybar was awarded 3rd on the error and the Rays had a man on 3rd with 1-out in the inning. Aybar ended up scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single to right to score the Rays first run of the game. 

 

 

 

 

Akinora Iwamura

Just when you were wondering who might step up to the plate for the Rays in this game, Akinora Iwamura came up and hit a blast to leftfield to score Jason Bartlett and put the Rays up for good 3-2. Iwamura went 1-4 on the night, but like Upton, his timely hit produced the needed runs to put his club in contention for the win.  After Aki’s blast the crowd chanted his name until he came up on the dugout steps and tipped his batting helmet to the crowd.

 

 

 

 

Rocco Baldelli

Not to be lost in this series is the play of  Rocco Baldelli. He was not expected to start this game, but when given the opportunity he presented the Rays with more reasons to count on him this post season. In the 8th inning, after an RBI single to right to score Crawford, Baldelli was on first with 2-outs. When Navarro hit a bloop single into a  group of White Sox players, Baldelli headed around second with a full head of steam.

Baldelli blew past the stop sign by third base coach Tom Foley and scored just ahead of the throw from shallow centerfield. And that is the reason that Baldelli could be a huge difference in a game this post season. His aggressive style and calculated risks make for a winning combonation on the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Rays Bullpen

Grant Balfour again came on to relieve the Rays starter tonight and the first man he faced was Cabrera, who he had a shouting match with on Thursday night. Balfour got him to ground out to second on 3 pitches and the events of the prior night seemed to be in the past for both players. Balfour ended up throwing the last two outs of the inning, but gave up 2 hits in the outing.

J P Howell came out in the middle of the 7th and got 6 of the 7 men he faced to go down in the innings. In the 8th inning, Howell got all three White Sox outs on called third strikes. Over the last 7 seasons, the White Sox have only struck out three times looking one other time.

In the 9th inning, Chad Bradford came on and gave up a lead-off single to Dye before he was retired on a double play ball 5-4-3 to set up the last out of the game. Bradford then got White Sox slugger Thome to strike out on three straight pitches to earn his first post season save.

 

 

Fast Plane to Chi-town

With the Rays leaving within the hour for Chicago on their chartered flight, the team had to make haste as it got ready to fly tonight to the windy city. This made it easier to have a warm-up and pratcie on U.S. Cellular’s Field before playing their first road game this year.

 

 

 

Rays Clutch History in Their Hands

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Yesterday started a bit early for me, about 4 A.M. as I headed to FErg’s a great watering hole within a baseball throw of Tropicana Field. I was there, with a collection of Maddon’s Maniacs for the WTVT Fox13 Morning show to give an early morning pep rally for the fans coming to the Trop. for our first ever post season game.  Mark Ferguson, a fellow Rays Wall of Famer, was giving us breakfast quich and beverages to soup up our energy for the on-camera shots.

About 25 of the Maniac’s came to the event, and were vocal, visual, and some became less hairy during the boradcasts. 2 of the Maniacs actually got their hair ‘hawked while the cameras were rolling. Alos on hand as the TV station baseball analyst was  former Rays catcher, Mike DeFelice. Mike talked about how everyone 0-0 right now and that nothing that happened during the season matters right now.

That seems kind of phrophetic considering that the Chicago Cubs the night before got hammered by the LA Dodgers. In this case, one of the best records in baseball lost to a team that was sitting at .500 for most of the season befores triking out and winning their division.  Also cavorting around the outside of Ferg’s were a few other TV station circling like sharks looking for tasty morsels left over by the Fox13 crew.

All in all, It was a great day to be a Ray as I was the first person to enter the stadium, and the first in line at 9:57 A.M. I have police visual authentification on that since  a few officers who knew me were joking about me being their so early. I was a bit bummered by the fact that the Rays blocked the public web access for the playoffs and the wireless connection was not working at all at the stadium for the public. I was going to do a game live blog while I was there, but the Rays blew that idea for me.

 

Rays 6, White Sox 4

 

 

Evan Longoria

He became the first player in major league history – rookie or veteran – to go 3-for-3 or better with two home runs in his first career playoff game. At age 22 years old, he is the third-youngest player in major league history to hit more than one home run in a postseason game, behind Andruw Jones  in 1996 (19) and Tony Kubek in 1957 (20). He is only the second player in major league history to hit a home run in each of his first two career postseason plate appearances. Gary Gaetti did it in 1987. He had two home runs and an RBI single in his first three career postseason plate appearances. Only two other players drove in a run in each of his first three career postseason plate appearances: Dusty Rhodes in 1954 (first four) & Ted Kluszewski in 1959. He is the first player since 2004 to hit a home run on the first pitch in his first career postseason plate appearance. Houston’s Jason Lane (Oct. 6) and Raul Chavez (Oct. 7) did it on consecutive days in 2004.

Anyone who was at that game can tell you the sound of the ball off the bat on thst first homer was deafening. It sounded like a small explosion as the ball left Longoria’s bat. I found out after the game that the bat he used during his first two at bats were new Louisville slugger bat’s that had just been delivered to him in the last few days. The bat he used to hit this first homer with had no marks on it before the swing. 

 

 

But the second shot was never in doubt. The minute it left the bat, it was hit so high into the air that you wondered if it might hit a catwalk before getting to the outfield. It was probably hit as high as it was deep. The ball truly seemed to be floating out to the 143 section of the stdium before falling back to earth. After his 2nd blast, the crowd tried to get Longoria back out for a curtain call, but he just flipped the cap for a second and went back down into the dugout.

I understand this, is was minor to him at the time because they had a game to win and at that moment the homer was just a play in the game. But Longo, you have no idea what that simple swing of the bat did to this crowd today. S for the game, Longoria went 3-3, with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s. The best part is he is perfect for the series with a 1.000 batting average. What a perfect way to start a Playoff run.

 

 

On TBS After a Foulball

I was told during the game that the foulball hit by B J Upton in the 5th inning to the Bullpen Cafe was on TV during the game. I gave the game used  ball to a friend’s daughter  who was sitting right behind me. I was sitting in the Bullpen Cafe for today’s game because of a friend at Ageon Insurance. I want to again thank him and them for letting me enjoy the game with you yesterday.  

 I am glad she got that ball because their family is a huge supporter of the Rays as Season Ticketholders, and that is a keepsake for the history of this great franchise. I could have been selfish and kept it for my collection, but I think I will get a better catch in the next few weeks during a game.

 

 

Rays Win First Postseason Contest in Franchise History

The Rays beat the White Sox in Game 1 Thursday afternoon. It was the first playoff game in the history of the Rays. Tampa Bay is the third American League expansion team to win its first ever postseason game. The Rangers (formerly the Senators) defeated the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS and the Blue Jays beat Kansas City in the 1968 ALCS opener. The Royals (1976 ALCS), Angels (1979 ALCS), Brewers (1981 AL East Playoffs) and Mariners (1995 ALDS) each lost their first postseason game.

It was a wild day in the Trop., and I only saw a small hanful of seats in certain areas with no one in them. Most likely they are the seat that the scalpers outside were selling for $100 dollars for a seat in the Upper Deck for today’s game.

In contrast, for the World Series, the Upper Deck seat are only going to go for $ 100 dollars  a seat. This is the part of baseball that gets to me sometimes. The greed and utter stupidity of people to feed into these people sense of marking up a ticket over 400 percent for a game. A Upper Deck ticket for face value for this game was only about $ 20.00 a ticket.

The best part of winning the first game of a series is the added pressure it puts on the opposing team for the second game. This is a huge plus for the Rays becuase sometime the other team will now try and do a bit extra or push a bit harder and might make a monumential mistake during the game. It is also a plus having the 30,000 plus fans going completely nuts like yesterday to pump up the volume a bit .

 

                    

 

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour entered the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and one out and promptly struck out Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to preserve the Rays’ three-run lead. Balfour struck out 82 batters in 58 1/3 innings this season, a rate of 12.65 strikeouts per nine innings. That was the highest rate for any of the 318 major league pitchers who logged at least 50 innings this season.

 

 

Home Plate umpire, Joe West had his hands full when Balfour and Orlanod Cabrera decided to have a one and one communication 60 feet 6 inches away from each other. During the at bat, when Cabrera showed a bit of disrepect and was shouting towards Balfour, he had no problem coming a few feet off the mound and curse back at Cabrera. I love this guy more for his spunk and energy in the last few months. But the clincher was him pointing to the dugout after the strikeout and basically telling him to go take a seat.  That was pure classic October baseball.

Here is a guy who was sent to the minor leagues after Spring Training to work on a few things, and when he came back, he made it difficult for him to not be in the Bullpen. He has pitched lights out all year long, and today was no exception. In today’s game Balfour only worked 1 inning, but he got whole days worth of talking and oozed confidience and attitude.

I really like the reference by Rays Manager, Joe Maddon to Balfour being like Al Hrbosky, the Mad Hungarian. I think we might have to have a contest to see what kind of nickname we should attach to Grant. Maybe the “Aussie Express”, no that sounds dumb. But we will think of something by the end of this all.

 

                             

 

All White Sox Runs by Homers

All four White Sox runs scored on home runs: a three-run blast by Dewayne Wise and a solo-shot by Paul Konerko. The White Sox scored 811 runs during the 2008 season, 385 of them scored via the home run (47.5%). That was the highest such percentage, by far, for any major league team this season.

I know the Rays pitchers do not like the fact that they did give up 2 homers to the White Sox. But their offense is geared for the big play and is really kind of expected to score on blasts and extra base hits more than bloopers and baserunning like the Rays. That is what will set this series apart, the Rays can run-and-gun all day long, while the White Sox have to be aggressive and play off big hits and Rays mistakes to score their runs.

 

                              

 

Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford, whose last regular season at-bat came on August 9, was in Tampa Bay’s starting lineup Thursday afternoon. Crawford is the first player in the live-ball era to start in his team’s postseason opener without a regular-season at-bat during the month of September.

Alot of fans around the Trop. were wondering which Carl Crawford was going to show up yesterday. The one who can hit the ball all over the park, or the guy who has had a difficult time hitting certain White Sox pitchers. Crawford has been pretty successful against Javier Vasquez in his career. Crawford is hitting .423 against him, and in today’s game went only 1-4, but thet 1 hit was an RBI single to center that scored Willy Aybar to put the Rays up 6-3.

Early in the game Crawford looked a bit rusty in leftfield letting aball drop that he might have sually made a play on, but he has to shake the rust off in the field because these games matter more than the previous 162 we have played this year. Crawfoird did look relaxed at the plate and his stroke looked clean, so it might just be a short amtter of time until he is totally comfortable at the plate again and hitting like a champ. 

 

 

 

James “Big Game” Shields

James Shields has always asked for the ball in games that mattered for the Rays. This 2nd year starter has made a name for himself in coming through in clutch situations for the Rays this season. Considering he tied with Edwin Jackson for team lead in victories ( 14 ), Shileds has always been a “go-to” guy for the Rays.

And today was no exception. In the franchisie’s first journey into the post season, Shields was the man to lead the team to a new high in the Rays history books. Shields pitched 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 3-run ball, but effectively shut down most of the White Sox big slugger all game long. 

Dewayne Wise took advantage of a hanging breaking ball in the 3rd inning on a 2-2 count and put it into Section 140 in rightfield for a 3-run homer. That gave the White Sox and early 3-1 lead. Shields sent down the White Sox 1-2-3 in 5 of his 6.1 innings of work. He also got 4 strikeout on the day against the White Sox.

 

                          

 

What was great about the start is that Shields was also the Opening Day starter for the Rays this season and it shows the confidience Maddon has in him to get the early win in this  best-of-5 series against the Sox.  Isn’t a bit weird to even fanthom that Shield is the oldest of all the Rays starter on this team. That a guy in his second year in the majors is the number1 guy, and is not even near the age of 30………..we might be seeing alot more of this team in the playoffs in the near future with depth like this.

Shields came into this game 0-1 in 3 starts against them in his career. He faced them once this year, at Tropicana Field and gave up only 1 run in 6 innings of work, but did not get the decision due to a Cliff Floyd 9th inning walk-off homer to seal the win. He faced them twice las season (2007), and got a no decison in a May 25th contest and took the loss at the Trop on June 26th, when he struck out 11, but lost 6-1 to the White Sox.

 

 

 





 

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 Lose Third Straight to Tigers

 

Tigers 4, Rays 3

 

If Rays fans remember, right before the end of the first half/All-Star break we also had a bit of a losing season and naysayer were predicting that the Rays were about to feel the heat of the closing in Boston Red Sox. We got through that debacle and came out like a rose winning the A L East last night.

 

 I think we are having the same kind of mental laspe and fatigue we suffered in that series versus the Cleveland Indians. If you remember, we came out of the All-Star break on fire and ready to be the dragonslayers of the world. I am of the mind that it is good to sometimes lose right before you need your big wins. It gets you into another mental state, and actually transfixes you on the goal at hand……..to win the ALDS in 4 games.

 

Not know who we will play is not a big thing. We have played the teams in the A L central enough to know that they will both be good opponents for us.  If I had to pick a opponent, I would pick the Chicago White Sox. I know we have had trouble with their lefty pitchers this year, but I also know that we can beat them at U.S. Celluar Field. We did win that series 2-1 earlier in the year, and I honestly think that we match up better with them for a series win.

 

To play against the Minnesota Twins so soon after out homestand debacle might work more into the Twin’s favor than into the Rays. We might have an excuse for the Sunday game (hangover city), but the 3 games played before that day were so closely contested that it was a crapshoot every night as to who might take control of the game. And their lefties also played a few numbers on our guys. So, here to hoping that Chicago wins on Sunday and takes the Tigers to task on Monday at home to win the division and get to come to the friendly confines of the Trop. for the first 2 games.

 

Matt Garza

 

Coming into this series against the Tigers, Rays starter Matt Garza has gone 0-3 in th 4 career starts against the Tigers and has posted a 4.84 ERA against them.  The Tigers Magglio Ordonez has feasted on Garza in the past going 5-11 against him prior to this start.  Garza was making his 30th start of the season. Garza comes into the game with an Opponent’s Batting average of .246 this year, the best on the Rays staff this year.

 

In the game, Garza got off to a great start getting the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 1st inning. But in the 2nd inning, on a 3-2 count, Garza hung a breaking ball that Miguel Cabrera deposited in the leftfield stands for his major league leading 37th homer of the season. Garza got out of the rest of the inning without incident. In the 3rd inning, after issuing a walk to Brandon Inge, Garza got a 3-6 double play to end the inning.

 

In the 4th inning, Ramon Santiago came up and slap a ball to the right of Garza that the pitcher picked up and 1-hopped to Dan Johnson at first base. The play pulled Johnson off the bag and Santiago was safe at first on Garza’s errant throw.  The error was only Garza’s 2nd of the year. Ordonez then got on base on a single to centerfield to put 2 runner on base for the Tigers. Rays catcher Miguel Hernandez then committed a pass ball and the runners advanced to put men on third and second with no outs in the inning.

 

Garza had a bit of bad luck on the first ball hit to leftfield in the 5th inning today. Mike Joyce hit a ball high in the air to Justin Ruggiano in left, and Ruggiano looked prepared to catch the ball for the 1st out, but it missed his glove and bounced over the outfield wall for a ground rule double. This would have been the first out of the inning. Edgar Renteria then hit a high chopper to Ben Zobrist at short and Zobrist took the play to thrid, but the tag on Joyce was not in time. This put men on the corner with no outs in the inning. Inge ten came up and hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Joyce from third and score Detroit’s 2nd run of the game.

 

Granderson then came up and hit a ball down the first baseline that Johnson fielded and threw to 2nd, ten Zobrist tried to complete the double play, but a high throw pulled Johnson off the bag. That put Granderson at first with 2 outs. Santiago then walked, and Ordonez hit a single into rightfield to score Granderson and notch the score at 3-3. For the start, Garza went 5.1 innings, and gave up 4-hits and 3-runs in the game on 74 pitches.

 

 

Jeff Niemann

 

The Rays went to the Bullpen after the top of the 6th inning, and Jeff Nieman came out to pitch for the Rays. Neimann started the inning by walking Gary Sheffield on 6 pitches. Sheffield then tried to steal 2nd base, but Hernandez overthrew the base by 10 feet and the ball sailed into centerfield. Hernandez was given an error on the play, and Sheffield was standing on third with no outs in the inning. Neimann got two quick outs before Renteria hit a double down the leftfield line and put the Tigers up for good today 4-3. Neimann got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 7th inning.

 

In the 8th inning, Cabrera lead off the inning with a double to right on an 0-2 count. Sheffeild walked for the second time in the game to put 2 men on for the Tigers.  Tiger’s catcher Dane Sardinha then came up and  put down a bunt to the right of the 6’9″ Neimann, and he slipped and fell to the turf not able to complete the out.  Neimann did get 2 quick outs to keep the Tigers from adding any runs in the inning. Niemann ended up throwing the Rays last 3 innings,and gave up 3-hits and a lone run to take the loss for the Rays. The loss evened his 2008 total to 2-2 for the year.

 

 

Ben Zobrist

 

With the Rays resting a majority of their starters’, the Rays put Ben Zobrist at short for the game. Zobrist made several key plays for outs in the contest, but it was his bat that did the most damage in the game. Zobrist went 3-4 on the day, with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored in the contest. In his first at bat, he hit a ball to shallow left-center for a single.

 

The play moved Fernando Perez, who had walked to start the game to third with no outs.  Zobrist lead off the 3rd inning with a single to deep center. And in the 5th inning, Zobrist hit his 11th homer of the year on a 1-2 count to put the Rays up 3-1 at that moment.  For this series, Zobrist has now hit 3 homers in the 3 games in Detroit. In his last 4 games, Zobrist has now gone 7-14, with 3 homers and 5 RBI’s for the Rays.

 

 

Rocco Baldelli

 

Coming into the game, Baldelli is hitting .260, and has played in 25 of the last 44 games for the Rays. He was the D.H. today for the Rays against the Tigers. Baldelli went 1-3 today, with 2 RBI’s. It was his lone hit in the 1st inning that set the pace for the Rays. After Perez and Zobrist were on 2nd and 3rd respectfully, Baldelli hit a smash that 1-hopped to the right-centerfield wall and scored both men to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Baldelli also got on base in the 3rd inning when Detroit starter, Dontrell Willis hit him with a pitch.

 

 

Better Defense

 

With the Rays 2 errors today, they have now committed 90 errors for the season. That currently puts them as the 4th best defesne in the American League. Even with this decrease in their defensive mistakes, the Rays are making their mistakes come back to haunt them this season. And in the playoffs, a single error can change the scopre of the game in an instant.

 

 

Twins and White Sox

 

With neither of these teams seeming to want to win the American League Central Division, it looks like the Chicago White Sox will have to conclude their season with a Monday make-up game against the Tigers.  The Twins currently lead the division by 1/2 of a game after both teams lost again today. Both teams will be playing at the same time tomorrow, and if the Twins lose and the White Sox win, it will  come down to the make-up game for the White Sox to take the title and move on to face the Rays on Thursday night at the Trop.

 

 

Cowbell Kid

 

I was on my Myspace page today and got a bulletin from the Cowbell Kid. He was urging fans who might have an extra ticket to share to contact him and he will buy it from you. He was unable to get a ticket through the regular channels and was hoping a generous Rays fan would help him out. He is willing to pay for the ticket and maybe give you a Cowbell lesson.

 

Seriously, I might not agree with the guy on a few issues, but he is a fixture at the stadium and should enjoy it with the rest of us regulars.  And, I feel he has toned himself down a bit in the last few months to the point of everyone loving him again, even the old ladies in the front row.

 

So if you have an extra ticket and think you can spare it for the guy, go to his Myspace page and let him know as soon as possible. He would really appreciate it……………. 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 272 other followers