Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Morning Thoughts

SATURDAY: RAYS 3, Marlins 2

**In Which the Rays Walk Off**

Scott Kazmir: I know it's sort of a backhanded compiment to Kaz to be excited that it only took him 92 pitches to get through five innings, but it is an improvement. And, as the Professor pointed out, his velocity is back up in the low-mid-nineties, which is close to where Kid K ought to be sitting. Let's hope that if he's not back, he's at least close and here to stay.

Jason Bartlett: He continues to rake at the plate and terrorize on the basepads, all while providing pretty good glovework. This guy's leading the All Star voting for shortstops, right? RIGHT?!?!

Dionner Navarro: Did not play, so did not disappoint.

B.J. Upton: He's playing so much better these days, I'm not even going to mention the fact that he got gunned down AGAIN trying to steal second. Nope, not gonna mention it.

SUNDAY: RAYS 5, Marlins 2

**In Which the Rays Complete the Sweep**

David Price: King David offered justification for Sonny's demotion by going 6.1 innings on 96 pitches and giving up only one run. Price looked pretty good, and the fact that he picked Hanley Ramirez off first almost makes me want to overlook the 4:5 K:BB ratio. Things seem to be going in the right direction for Price. Let's hope he keeps it up!

J.P. Howell: Racked up a save today to go with his win last night while striking out three and walking two on the weekend. The de facto closer, Howell is anchoring a bullpen that seems to have worked out its kinks.

Clutchiness: These past two games felt close, but the Rays pulled through. Close games, as we know, presented problems for the Rays earlier this year. We've been hoping that the Rays would figure out whatever it was that made them lose to bad teams, like freaking Cleveland, while beating good ones, like the Red Sox, who might be the class of the league. With Upton hitting, the rest of the offense continuing to click, and the bullpen coalescing, it seems like they've got it together, but I will continue to hold my breath.

The Week that Was:

After the Rays were shellacked in their first game against the Phillies, yours truely hoped, in the comments to this post by our good friend the DirbagFan, that getting blown out would actually be a blessing in disguise, less crushing than a close loss and more likely to be useful as a motivating tool. I've got no idea whether or not I was right, but the Rays haven't lost a game since. Go figure.

Also, it seems Phillies reliever J.C. Romero slapped a Rays fan after a game last week and may now be facing prosecution. We don't have actual photographic evidence, but if we did, I'm betting it would look something like this. Anyhow, we probably won't ever know what exactly the guy said to provoke Romero, but I'd be shocked to learn that fans in Tampa Bay dish anything worse than do the good citizens of the City of Brotherly Love.

The Rays are, apparently, the fastest team to reach 100 steals and 100 homeruns in a single season. We the faithful have known that the Rays offense was potent, or at least capable of being potent (after all, they lead the league in RBIs and OBP, and are close in almost every other offensive category), but I had no idea that their combination of long- and small-ball was historic.

Coolstandings has the Rays' odds of making the playoffs as right around 50-50. That sounds about right to me, too.

My second team, the Mets, refused to help the Rays this week, and instead allowed themselves to get swept at home by the Yankees. Sigh.
The Week that Will Be:

The Rays head up to Canada to start the week with a series against the Blue Jays that should, if things go well, solidify the Rays status as the non-Yankee-or-Red-Sox contenders in the East. With Niemann, Garza, and Shields going, there's certainly reason to be hopeful. Then again, Niemann's coming off six days rest (tho this isn't the first time he's had his starts moved around), and might be rusty. Plus, they're trotting out Halladay for his first post-DL start. The Rays need to win the series, and, obviously, a victory tonight would go a long way towards that end. I am going to continue to believe in the power of positive thinking (recent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) and predict that the Rays will indeed take two of three in Toronto.

After closing out the month of June in Toronto, the Rays move on to the second series of the week against the Rangers. Arlington might be a tough place for Kaz and Price, both of whom will hopefully build on the success they had this week. Then again, the Rangers just dropped a series against the Padres, so maybe they're ready to fall off the planet.

Let's keep in mind that the Red Sox will also be on a road trip through Baltimore and Seattle (the Yanks also face Seattle, starting Tuesday), so we'll probably need to win, say four of six just to keep pace in the division, let alone gain. That means it's time for another two-series-winning week.

Let's Go Rays!!

- Dustin

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