Since this is my first post on this site, and since today's game was just this side of miserable, I thought I'd begin with a few words of introduction. My name is Dustin, and I'm a long-time Rays fan (or, one might say, Rayshead). I grew up in Southwest Florida, went to college in Sarasota, grad school in Gainesville, and currently live in Brooklyn, NY.
I moved up here last summer, which was, as you might imagine, a little bit frustrating. Though it was amazing to watch the Rays tear up the league, it was a bummer to have to see it from a distance. As a consolation prize, however, I did get to spend many a summer evening as the only guy in a Rays hat, smirking at all the frustrated Yankee fans. Another consolation prize: becoming a bit of a Mets fan.
Now, before anybody gets mad at me for liking the Mets, here are some arguments in their favor: (1) They play in the same division as the Phillies; (2) It is good to be reminded that money can't buy you happiness or a real baseball team; (3) It's nice to see Casey Fossum again--he debuted out of the bullpen a few days ago and promptly displayed his prowess by walking in a run on four pitches; (4) I also get to watch Brian Stokes, who actually looks like a real pitcher up here; and, finally (5) let's not forget the new stadium (which shall continue to be known as Shea).
With that out of the way, let's turn to today's stinker of a game. I'll keep to the "Cheese, Wine, and Crackers" formatt, but, since I watched this game at a bar while listening to the radio broadcast, which was sponsored by a certain beer company, I'll call this segment "Tastes Great, Less (ful)Filling, and Pub Grub."
Well, it's difficult to find anything nice to say, but here goes:
Safety Squeeze. What do you do when a player's not hitting? See if you can get him to put down a bunt to at least make a productive out. Navi put down a very nice bunt to score Pat the Un-Nicknamed, thereby giving the Rays the lead in the top of the second.
Carl Crawford. C.C. went 2-4 today, which is not particularly spectacular, but he accounted for half the Rays' offense today. I thought his 2-strike bloop in the 6th was particularly good. It showed that he was waiting for the right pitch and not trying to do too much. It was also the third and final time a Rays leadoff hitter reached base all game.
Strike 'em out, throw 'em out. I was thinking about putting Navarro's passed ball in the negative category, but since I like the guy, and since he's gotten pleanty of well-deserved criticism of late, I'll try to stay positive. After the passed ball, where Navi lazily stabbed his glove at a ball he could easily have blocked, the defense improved. Not only did Navi do a better job of blocking balls in the dirt and whatnot, he made a good, quick throw to get Travis Buck trying to steal 2nd. At this point, it seemed as if the Rays might still make a game of it, so the play could have been important. As it turns out, though...
0-5 with RISP. What can I say. The Rays, when they're hitting at all, are simply not hitting when it matters. The 0-5 doesn't tell the whole story of how bad the Rays' offense was, as they were only on base seven times in the game (four singles and three walks). In the 5th, for example, Bartlett looked like he was swinging for the fences (and the fact that he nearly made it doesn't change my point) when he ought to have been focused simply on getting on base to bring up the top of the order. Sure, I know they're not hitting (especially B.J.), but it's the principle of the thing.
The Shift Giveth; the Shift Taketh Away. Much ado has been made of "aggressive" use of defensive shifts by the Rays. I could focus on the shift working against Holliday in the 7th, but I was already nice to Navi. In the 5th, when Sonny fell apart and the game slipped away, Cust bounced what ought to have been an easy double play, but because of the shift, nobody was around to cover 2nd base. Thus, Bartlett's only play was the force at first. An intentional walk to Nomah, an unintentional walk to Kurt Suzuki, and the game is 7-1 Oakland. I understand using the shifts for some hitters, but c'mon now. The Rays are, or ought to be, a very good defensive team. The A's, on the other hand, are not a very good offensive team (except when facing the Rays on weekends, apparently). I'm all for being innovative and aggressive, but I do wonder whether Madden ought to simply trust his players to do their jobs the old fashioned way more often.
Big Innings. Sonny was not sharp at any point today, with the possible exception of his strike out of Nomar Garciaparra in the 3rd, but he really fell apart in the 5th. His breaking pitches were utterly flat, and the only reason he didn't get thoroughly shelled is the fact that he was pitching against the A's, who, apparently, don't dig the longball. I'm not sure what, if anything, could have been done about this, as the bullpen's been busy lately anyway. Given the way things were going, however, it was somewhat surprising how long it took Madden to get the pen working. This was the point at which the game got totally out of hand.
Pat the What? Though he walked in the second and came around to score the Rays' only run, he also struck out twice and grounded into a double play. His second K came in the 9th, a mighty whiff on a ball way out of the zone, and his GIDP came in the 6th, killing off what looked to be a twitch of life from the Rays' offense. The guy's a streaky hitter (as I know only too well from having had him on fantasy teams), and he's still adjusting to DH, but c'mon. When your only job on the team is to swing the bat, you are expected to take advantage of the opportunity to do so.
1-2-3 Innings. The Rays had five today. This is not a good way to win baseball games.
The Rays are now 1-8 against LHP, are 0-11 when trailing after the 6th, and this is the fifth series the Rays have dropped this year. Though Upton was 0-4 today, he made solid contact in the process of recording at least one of those outs. He was robbed of a single by Orlando Cabrerra in the . Perhaps his bat is beginning to come around? Rays fans hope so. Wills and Freed made a good point about the Rays bullpen: they have not really been tested yet this year. The bullpen has not had to protect a small lead, as the Rays have either (a) been losing when starting pitching departed or (b) blown out the competition. Rays relievers, like the Rays in general, have been inconsistent, but they have not gotten much work in the kinds of situations in which we want them working.
I hate Dana Eveland's soul patch almost as much as I hate Josh Beckett's goatee. Also, in a uni-related observation (I feel a bit embarassed for caring, but I must admit to it), I noticed that Dan Wheeler had a black belt on today. Given the absence of any black at all in the Rays uniforms, this struck me as odd. I couldn't tell whether or not it's a team-wide phenomenon or just a Wheeler thing. Anybody know?
Finally, anybody know of a good sports bar in NYC, preferably in North Brooklyn or eastern Manhattan anywhere below Central Park? I've yet to find a consistently pleasant place to watch the Rays, and though I like the radio broadcasts, I'd rather see the games on TV. Doing so with other Rays fans, well, that'd really be something.
Thanks for reading this first post, and thanks to the DirtbagFan for letting me write it. It's a pleasure to be joining the RaystheStakes team! Also, welcome to the other new posters, particularly my fellow Gator, Alex.
- Dustin "Steam-Powered Penny-Farthing" Fridkin
P.S. I apologize in advance if the formatting's a bit screwy. I'm new to this whole blogging thing, and it might take me awhile to get used to it.