Thursday, July 30, 2009
Hmmm. Well, Garza threw an alright game, giving up only three runs in seven innings, and both C.C. and Longo had a couple of good moments at the plate. That's about it.
The Rays offense did not show up, which allowed Joba "Six Innings" Chamberlain to make it through the eighth inning throwing only 101 pitches and allowing only four Rays' baserunners. Ugh. Pat the
Dan Wheeler put an exclamation point on a weak showing by the Rays' bullpen by giving up two homers in the top of the ninth.
The upshot of the past several days is this: the Rays are going to need a lot of help from the Yankees, Red Sox, and, if things keep going the way they look to be going, Rangers if they're going to make the playoffs. As of today, their chances don't look good.
Well, the Rays ought to be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and pummel the Royals for the next four games. Not that doing so bears upon their apparent inability to win big games, or big series', against good teams.
Let's hope for the best anyway.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Scott Kazmir was great, and he managed to work into the 8th inning. I really can't remember the last time I saw Kaz on the mound that late in a game (pretty sure it was July, 21st of last year in a 4-0 win over the Athletics) but it was sure nice to see it again. This is the kind of performance--in a big game, against a hot team--that makes people excited about Kazmir, and also what makes us so frustrated when he underperforms. Kid-K struck out four while only walking one and giving up one run on five hits. Not a bad night's work.
The Rays Defense didn't necessarily "wow" on every play, but it was solid. This was in direct contrast to the Yankees defense, which looked sluggish and inept through most of the game. These two factors, in combination with Kazmir's excellent pitching and good relief work (how cool was that double play Balfour got Jeter to hit into?), go an awful long way towards explaining the line score.
Speed kills. The Rays hit three triples and two doubles to go along with Longoria's solo homerun, thereby illustrating the fact that stolen bases ain't the only way fast runnin' helps a team.
The Boston Red Sox lost to Oakland.
Since I live in NYC and do not own a TV, I watched this game at a bar full of Yankee fans (since I live in Brooklyn, there're usually more Mets fans than Yankee fans around, but for some reason even the Mets fans were pulling for the Bombers last night, almost as though they were bitter about something...). When you watch the Rays beat the Yankees from such a vantage point, it's hard to find things to whine about. Oh, sure, Pat the Rally Killer and Carlos "El Gatinho" Peña went a collective 0-fer with a 5:1 K-BB ratio, but I don't feel like I need to bring that up.
Coolstandings now has the Rays' chances of making the playoffs at 30.6%. That number will take another leap forward if the Rays pull off the series win tonight. If the Good Matt Garza shows up, the Rays have an excelleng shot at winning. If the Bad Matt Garza shows up, the Rays still have a shot at pounding Joba Chamberlain and the Yanks into submission.
With the Red Sox helping out by forgetting how to win, the Rays have a real opportunity here to make up some ground. On the other hand, the Rays are still five games behind Boston in the loss column, and they really can't afford to let that number get any bigger. Point being: the Rays have got to take this series tonight and build up some momentum so they can buzzsaw the Royals when they roll into town tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Not much to say about last night's misery, other than...
It ain't much, but BJ Upton put up two hits, scored two runs, and did not get thrown out on the basepads. Meanwhile, Pat Burrell hit a dinger, which would've been great if he could've done it a couple days ago. Last night, it was meaningless.
Oh, there's so much to say here. For example, we might wonder: at what point do we start to worry about James Shields? I understand that he's been bad against the Yankees since forever, but he's been mediocre for a longer stretch than I remember having seen. A shaky start plus a leaky bullpen is a recipe for, well, pretty much exactly what we saw last night.
The Rays obviously gotta do better than that. Unfortunately, they've got Scott "The Five-Inning Kid" Kazmir on the mound tonight against C.C. Sabathia. Cross your fingers and hope tonight's the night Kaz figures it out and looks like the dominant starter we all though (and some of us still think) he could (or can) be.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Greetings all! I, Dustin, will be taking over daily duties here at Rays the Stakes while our regular host, everybody's favorite DirtbagFan, tries his luck on the links and soaks up the relatively pleasant summer weather in northern PA.
I apologize for any disappointment this causes any of our readers. I assure you that this arrangement is temporary. With any luck, we'll all get through this. Enough throat clearing; onto the weekend's games.
SATURDAY: RAYS 10, Toronoto 9
This game looked over until the 6th, when the Rays began to launch the biggest comeback in franchise history. David Price gave up six runs and three dingers in only three innings of work (hey, at least he didn't walk anybody, right?), and Lance Cormier gave up two more in the fourth to make it 8-0 in favor of the hosts. Meanwhile, the Rays offense managed only two baserunner through the first five innings (Kapler singled to lead off the third and went nowhere; Crawford singled to start the fourth and was promptly cut down in a 6-4-3 double play).
Navarro's put himself in position to score with a one-out double in the sixth, and Upton managed to bring him home with a single. Not satisfied with this, however, the junior Bossman ran himself into an out at second. Of course, since Upton makes so few mistakes on the basepads, we won't criticize him for it; neither will we bother mentioning that he was caught stealing second in the 8th after it was clear the rally was on (seriously, I know it's been said many times in many places, but while I'm all for being aggressive on the bases, the Rays in general--and Upton in particular--seem to be running into a lot of outs. Not good. There's gotta be some middle ground between aggression and stupidity).
Anyhow, though the Rays gave the run right back in the bottom of the sixth (to make the game 9-1, for those who are counting), the offense came out swinging in the seventh. Carlos Peña made it 4-9 with a three-run triple, and the inning ended 5-9 after Aybar got El Gato home. I said I wasn't gonna mention BJ getting caught stealing in the eighth, but I think I must. He lead off the inning with a single, and then promptly erased himself with C.C. at the plate. Now, C.C. grounded out to second, which might have been placed such that it would have been possible to double up him and Upton. MIGHT. Anyhow, the result was the same: two outs, none on. A walk, a single, and a passed ball later, however, and Pat the Bat singles in Longo and Benzo to cut the lead to two (and then he gets gunned down trying to stretch the single; inning over). Peña and Aybar tied it up with a pair of solo shots in the nineth, getting to Downs once again (think the Rays will be beating closers like Papelbon and Rivera? I have doubts).
This game is an excellent example of how schitzophrenic the Rays can seem. Through the first five innings, the offense is positively anemic, and the hitters look lost. Then, all of a sudden, the flood gates open, and the next thing you know it seems like they might actually make the game competative, even if a win still seems more than a little bit far-fetched. A few innings later, Bartlett enters the game, doubles in a run, then Nelson's recording a save, and the Rays take it 10-9. It's hard to complain about a win, and there was a lot to like (Peña's power and Balfour striking out the side, for example) but a few more like this one will definitely turn my hair grey.
SUNDAY: RAYS 1, Toronoto 5
This game was no fun at all, as the Rays seemed to sleep-walk through it. Maybe they were just anxious to get out of town. Jeff Niemann gave up 5 runs in 6.2 innings, and didn't actually look all that bad. As has been pointed out elsewhere, it was really one bad pitch--a slider that hung up right over the plate and which Scott Rolen promptly sent over the fence--that sank him. The other thing worth noting about the game is this: Rays with RISP? 0-5. Crawford personally accounted for 100% of the Rays' scoring, and kudos for that. Too bad he did it in the sixth and not the eighth, with Upton on base. That might've got things going again. Anyhow, a fine effort by Niemann, solid work by the Rays bullpen, and utterly dreadful offense, especially from Pat the Designated Rally Killer. Not the way I hoped the weekend would end.
The Week that Was
According to Bill Chastain, "any winning road trip can be counted as a positive." I suppose that's true, so I shouldn't be upset about the Rays' 6-4 performance since the All Star Break. Along similar lines, Mark Lancaster wonders whether the Rays should “lament missed opportunities or be thankful that the majority of the 50-50 toss-ups seemed to fall in their favor?” He comes down, unsurprisingly, in favor of the latter rather than the former, which is fine. But I think it's important to do both. The Rays won some close games this trip. That's something they haven't done much of this year. However, most of those close games were against teams that are going to be in competition for last in their divisions. Against the one team that's in contention, the White Sox, the Rays dropped three of four, including the utterly humiliating complete game hurled by Buhrle. As I suggested last week, there's no way the Rays can give and miss opportunities at the present pace if they want to beat good, or even middling teams. The swing through Chicago bore this out. It was important that they managed 2-3 in Toronto, but that doesn't make up for failing to split with the Sox.
The Week that Will Be
Coolstandings has the Rays' chances of winning the division at 13.3%, and it gives them only a 33.6% chance of making the playoffs.
Starting this evening, the Rays begin a series against the Yankees that really couldn't be bigger. The season series is tied 4-4 thus far, and the Rays are 6.5 back in the standings coming into the homestand (they're 2.5 behind the Red Sox, and they're currently third in the Wild Card standings). If they're going to stay in contention in the East, if they're going to stay in the Wild Card hunt, the Rays must--MUST--take at least two from the Yanks.
Doing so will not be easy. The Bombers are hot right now, and they will send Burnett, Sabathia, and Chamberlain up against Shields, Kazmir, and Garza. Burnett tends to pitch very well against the Rays, and Shields hasn't won since June 20th (he's 0-1 with five no-decisions). Sabathia is Sabathia, and the Rays will have to hope to get at least five good innings from Kazmir and another strong performance from their bullpen. Since the 'pen is likely to see a lot of action on Tuesday, we have to hope for good outings from Shields and Garza. Both are certainly capable, but it's a really big IF. At the very least, let's all cross our fingers for an orange-lit dome tonight.
After the Yankees, the Rays face the Royals in a four-game series. The first game, on Thursday, features Sidney Ponson against David Price. That should be the first of four totally winnable games. There's every reason to figure that at this point next week, the Rays faithful will be looking forward to a Monday night sweep. Let's cross our fingers and hope that, when we get to that point, we can plausibly hope that by sweeping KC, the Rays can solidify their position as contenders in the division.
The trade deadline expires on Friday. The Rays have been linked to a number of rumors, but nothing particularly substantive. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, plays out. I for one think the Rays are and ought to be able to win with what they've got as long as they can stay out of their own way. If they can't do that now, I'm not convinced that any move they might make will help.
It's not totally crazy to call this series against the Yankees make-or-break. The Rays need to win it, and they're perfectly capable of doing so. The Rayshead faithful will, as ever, make their presence felt.
P.S. The Hardball Times ranks the Rays 5th on their Dartboard. On the face of it, that's pretty good. Unfortunately, however, that puts them behind the (#2) Yankees and (#4) Red Sox.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I'll be gone from today (7/25 - Wednesday 8/5).
I am leaving the blog in the capable hands of our friend Dustin... please direct all complaints directly to him.
- Rolling with the Punches. Games like the perfect game in Chicago can break a team's spirit. Being in the AL East, where one bad week can end your season can break your spirit. Combining the two is a deadly combination, but the Rays came right back and found a way to beat the AL's best pitcher, thanks in large part to...
- Matt Garza. That's the Garza we've come to love. The sooner this kid realizes that pitching to contact is the easiest way to win with a defense like the Rays' behind him the better the entire team will be. Garza out-dueled Roy Halladay, pitching 9 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits while striking-out 9 and walking... none. Beauty, eh?
- JP Howell. Please bring all of your items to the front of the stadium, JP Howell will now be closing. It's uncanny to see JP pitching so well, I'm a huge fan, and have been since he made the move to the 'pen before last season, but the images of Howell's feeble attempts as a starting pitcher in '07 still make it hard for me to grasp how great of a reliever he's become.
- Nah. The Rays rebounded and beat one of the league's best pitchers, and everyone always says I'm too pessimistic, so I'll just savor the win- I won't mention that Carlos Pena was 0-5 against a right-handed pitcher again or anything, I swear.
- The Rays are now 3-0 against the Jays when Halladay gets the start. I'm fairly certain I still don't want to see him in a Boston or New York jersey though.
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Matt Garza. Who else?
Friday, July 24, 2009
First it was scouting Pedro Martinez as a potential closer.Then it was rumored that they were looking-into what Toronto wanted for Halladay. Then it was checking under the hood of Cliff Lee in Cleveland.
Oh, and don't forget about the new Victor Martinez rumor too; and suddenly the Angels may have some interest in Kazmir (have they been watching this kid?).
Its otherworldly to me to see a team that was considered to be completely maxed out on payroll two weeks ago, all of a sudden become the sexy pick to make a big trade deadline splash.
Some of these deals have legs, some do not, but I can speculate with some degree of certainty that none of them will come to fruition.
I'd set the odds for the Rays making a splash before next week at about 75:1.
White Sox: 5
- It ended quickly, and it's always fun to witness a no-hitter or a perfect game- even against our beloved Rays.
- Being on the losing end of a perfect game.
- Watching a shell of the formerly formidable Scott Kazmir.
- Buehrle's perfect game was the league's first since 2004.
CAVIAR (game ball):
- For the first time ever, a non-Ray: Mark Buehrle
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Here's the rest of the usual suspects as well:
First pitch is set for 2:05
TAMPA BAY (52-43)
Upton - CF
*How great is it that the Rays have the type of lineup where they can set-up the league's fourth best batting average to hit out of the 9-hole. I love it.
White Sox: 4
- Carl Crawford. Another day another amazing catch in the outfield. CC stretched at a full sprint to grab a ball that was headed over the fence and managed to hold-on to it even after he slammed into the wall (almost identical to his all-star, game-saving catch; only more violent). Maybe he heard that I wanted to trade him and decided to prove to me that he's more than a "slightly above average" left-fielder.
- James Shields. Shields lasted 6 and 2/3 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. Shields struggled with his control a bit more than usual, walking 3 while only striking-out 4, but did what needed to be done to keep the Rays in the game.
- Pat the Patient. PB was 2 for 4 from the plate- hitting his 6th homer of the season in the 4th to kick-off the scoring. Toasty.
- Gabe Gross. 1 for 2 from the plate with a 2-run homer to increase the Rays' lead to 3. Gross also took a BB, is quietly hitting .277, and is probably the most underrated player on the roster (and has been since they signed him last season).
- One Pitch. I'm not one to typically be nit-picky about balls and strikes calls, but last night with 2 outs and 2 on in the 7th, and the Rays leading by a count of 3-1, Dan Wheeler threw a beautiful knee-high fastball to strike-out Alexei Ramirez looking, but homeplate ump, Laz Diaz, somehow called it a ball and the inning continued. Approximately 15 seconds later, on the very next pitch, Ramirez hit a 2-RBI triple to tie the game at three. The next batter, Jermaine Dye, hit an RBI single to put the Sox up 4-3, and the rest, as they say, is history. One pitch- one game, and one day in September we could all be looking back and saying with agony, "If Laz Diaz had just called that pitch correctly the Rays would be in the playoffs".
- Last night was the third game in four days with a final score of 4-3. It was also the Rays' fourth consecutive 1-run game.
- Don't forget today's game is at 2 pm (est), and features Kazmir (4-5) v. Buehrle (10-3).
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Gabe Gross. That homer was a beauty, and should've put the Rays up for good.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
White Sox: 2
- Jeff Niemann. Niemann continues to show improvement- in fact he's been the Rays' best pitcher over the last six weeks. Last night his control and pitch selection were top notch, and his defense was stellar just as an added bonus. Niemann finished the night having allowed 2 runs on 8 hits in 8 innings of work, striking out 7, walking none, and earning a well-deserved W.
- JP Howell. JP once again showcased his skills as a closer; coming-in in the 9th in a true closer's roll and shutting 'em down. Howell allowed 1 hit before striking out 2 and handling a "back-at-ya" which he tossed to Pena to make it official and earn the save.
- The Red Sox lost.
- Pat Burrell. Hitless again. I'm growing impatient.
- Obnoxious Fan. Some obnoxious fan was coming over the mic during the game, and just thought that calling Evan Longoria "Eva" in between every stinkin' pitch was the funniest thing he'd ever come up with... it wasn't funny to begin with and it certainly isn't funny now that you're the 9 millionth knucklehead to say it.
- Scott Kazmir will make his scheduled start this evening, despite the cramping in his forearm which he experienced at the end of his last start.
- CWS pitcher John Danks has a blister and has been scratched in favor of rookie Carlos Torres.
- Jeff Niemann. That spike curveball is filthy. I love it.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Here's an odd, but conceivable theory that I've formulated over the last few days:
We've been told that Aki will be returning to the lineup sooner than expected, which is good news for everyone, except for Ben Zobrist who had assumed he'd be parked at 2B for the remainder of the season (don't get me wrong, I'm sure BenZo is happy for Aki as a person and friend, but I'm certain he can't help but feel disappointed that he'll lose the 2B position- its human nature), but this opens up some alternative possibilities:
Aki's coming back in as soon as a few weeks, and suddenly this week Aybar gets a few starts at 2B, allowing Zobrist to re-familiarize himself with the outfield, so what's the big deal, right?
What if there's more to that than meets the eye?
What if Zobrist is getting primed to take over LF in the next few weeks?
Is it too far-fetched to think that with the return of Aki at second coupled with the idea that it'd be a crime to not start Zobrist somewhere, that the Rays are getting prepared to move CC before the deadline?
Its entirely feasible considering that the Gabe Brigade has done a fine job of holding down the fort in RF, and that the Rays, having been assured that Aki can return soon, and knowing they can't afford CC's $10M salary next season anyways, could plug Zobrist into LF for the remainder of this season.
Then headed into next season the Rays trade Aki, thereby freeing up all the salary that Friedman has said they'll need to clear (between CC and Aki's contracts)- and you've got Jennings or Perez in LF with Zobrist as your new 2B for 2010.
So just to recap, here's the theory:
CC to be traded, Aki back to 2B, Zobrist to take over in LF
Aki traded, Zobrist to 2B, Jennings/Perez in LF
Possible? What do you think?
White Sox: 4
- Carl Crawford. CC recorded his third career in-the-park homerun, and he did so standing-up. The first thing Mrs. DirtbagFan said was, "he wasn't even hustling until he was half way to second." Yep- those poor guys never had a chance. CC finished the night 2 for 3 with a run, an RBI, and a BB.
- Evan Longoria. Dirtbag had a great game defensively in addition to hitting his 19th homerun. E-Lo finished the night just 1 for 4 from the plate.
- The Ol' College Try. The Rays really looked like they wanted this one, and they gave it their everything- putting 2 men on in both the 8th and 9th innings, but were unable to plate the tieing run after a few base running miscues.
- David Price. King David kept it close enough to give them a chance to win, but he was anything but sharp; finishing the night with 108 pitches, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, walking 2 and striking-out 6. Although his stat line doesn't look too bad, if you watched the game you know what I mean- a few well-timed double play balls as well as a few nice defensive plays kept this one close.
- Willy Aybar. One day after impressing us all with his offense he let us down with his defense. Willy finished the night with 2 fielding errors. I've got a theory as to why he's been playing 2nd as of late... stay tuned (later today).
- Crawford has hit in-the-park homers in 2005, 2007, and now 2009. Guess when his next one will be.
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Carl Crawford. Any time you can post a true ITP homer you win the game ball.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
SATURDAY: RAYS 4, Kansas City 2
A mixed bag: In only his second start of the month, Willy Aybar went 4-4, including an RBI double in the 8th to give the Rays the lead, which is good. Of course, he also let a ball roll through his legs, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead earlier in the bottom of the 7th, which was bad. B.J. Upton went 3-5, which is good, but he was also gunned down twice on the basepads, once trying to steal second and once off first base, which is frustratingly bad. The Rays had twelve hits in the game, which is good, but only four of them with runners in scoring position (out of eleven chances), which was bad. Scott Kazmir held his own against Zach Grienke, which is good, but he left in the sixth, after having thrown 101 pitches (63 for strikes), with arm cramps, which is bad. Says Kid K, towards the end of this ESPN game wrap, “Everything is fine now. Everything is good.” Is it me, or does this sound an awful lot like what Han Solo says over the intercom after he, Luke, and Chewy blast their way into the Death Star’s detention level? “Everything’s fine here; how are you?”
SUNDAY: RAYS 3, Kansas City 2
Good enough: Though it’s great the Rays managed a road sweep, there are a number of reasons to worry: another weak performance with RISP (2-13); another weak performance from a Rays starter (Garza took 101 pitches to get through the fifth, and walked in a run in the second); and, for the third time in three games, the Rays had to wait out a good start from the Royals pitching in order to win the game against the—apparently VERY—soft underbelly of the K.C. relief corps. That said, of course, it’s nice to see the Rays winning close games, and kudos to Gabe Gross for his two RBIs, the first scored Benzo (who was 1-3) from second with a double; the second scored Longoria (who was 0-2 with two walks and an RBI) with a bases-loaded walk. Nevertheless, I think there’s reason to be concerned that the Rays can’t give, or waste, as many opportunities as they have this weekend when they’re playing against better competition.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Behind Manager Joe Maddon and MVP Carl Crawford, the American League won its fourteenth consecutive All Star Game, which means (a) we will get to watch Game 1 of the World Series in St. Petersburg again this October, and (b) if you count the All Star Game, the Rays take a four-game winning streak into the president’s old stomping grounds on Monday.
Carl Crawford, David Price, and Evan Longoria apparently had a good time at the ESPYs, and C.C. got to donate a third item to the Hall of Fame: the hat he wore at the All Star Game.
An interesting article about BJ Upton from the St. Pete Times can be found here.
Speaking of Bossman Jr, another interesting New York Times article here on the extent to which efforts to avoid errors can actually increase their likelihood, which perhaps sheds some light on this and this from Saturday’s game.
The Boston Red Sox dropped two of three to the Blue Jays, which is great, and it means that the AL East continues to look like the most exciting divisional race. If things continue to go as planned, the next several months should be very interesting indeed. The Rays are within a game of the Yankees, which puts them 4.5 and 1 games behind the Red Sox, respectively. Considering how the Rays stumbled and scratched earlier in the season, it’s hard to complain about the standings here at the beginning of the second half.
THE WEEK THAT WILL BE
The Rays have four games against the White Sox coming up next, followed by three against the Blue Jays, which means that barring anything unforeseen, they’ll face Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay (who threw a one-run complete game today against the Red Sox) back-to-back, on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The Rays will throw Price, Niemann, Shields, and Kazmir against the Sox, and Garza again against Halladay. This year, Garza's started and won once against the Jays, with an ERA under two, while the Rays have beat Halladay twice. This, I hope, bodes well for the Rays' chances to continue to have a very good road trip before they host the Yankees next Monday.
The Rays end the week with the third-best run differential in the bigs (+80, behind the +82 Red Sox and the ridiculously +98 L.A. Dodgers).
According to Coolstandings, the Rays have a roughly 18 percent chance to win the AL East, 24 percent chance to make the Wild Card, and 42 percent chance to make the playoffs. Since these numbers are based on simulated match-ups between teams using run differential (then repeating the simulations a million times and averaging the results), it's possible that the Rays' chances are actually over-estimated, as the Rays' run differential is somewhat inflated, the result of several blow-out wins that show up here but not in the Rays' overall record. On the other hand, if the Rays actually start winning close games (as they have for the past three), then these numbers should be going up. I fully expect to report both results next week.
Tomorrow is my birthday. If anybody’s wondering what to get me, the first of at least three wins in Chicago, en route to at least a 5-2 week would be great.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
- Pat Burrell. Pat the Bat is heating up- it gives us a warm and happy feeling.
- Carl Crawford. CC was 3 for 5 (just another day at the office), with 3 runs and an RBI. It was also the threat of CC running that got Cruz out of his game plan in the 8th which then changed the way he pitched Longoria, and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Evan Longoria. Dirtbag came through in the clutch, took advantage of Cruz's split attention, and sent a changeup over the left field wall to put the Rays up 8-7 in the 8th.
- Back-end of the Bullpen. Wheeler and Howell pitched the final 2 innings, allowing zero runs, on zero hits and striking out 2.
- James Shields. The "ace" shouldn't give up 7 runs on 11 hits against a mediocre oppponent. And he should definately not say in a postgame interview that he pitched well (MLB).
- Carlos Pena. Let the post homerun derby slump commence.
- The Yankees and Red Sox won.
- At the ceremonial half-way point of the season the Rays still have 3 players with batting averages over .300, none of which has the last name of Pena or Longoria (Crawford, Bartlett, Zobrist).
- Tonight the Rays get their shot at young phenom Zack Greinke. Let's see if the Rays' own former young phenom (Kazmir) can keep up.
- If you get the chance to watch Yankees v. Tigers today at 1:00 you'll be treated to a great pitching match-up, Sabathia v. Verlander.
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Evan Longoria. Clutch is crucial.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
- Carl Crawford winning the MVP for an amazing catch to potentially save the game. Go figure, CC getting even more national recognition after lo so many years- right in time for him to be traded. CC, your agent/accountant/bank account thanks you.
- AL domination continues. I just checked and the last time the NL won the all-star game was right about the same time Dino threw Fred out the window.
- I was all ready to list how smart Longo and Maddon were for letting Longo's hammy get some rest, but it turns out it was an infected finger that kept him out of the mid-summer classic... well, they still get cheese from me, even if his hammy had to get rest under false pretenses.
- AL pitchers showing their dominance. At one point in the game, against the best hitters in the NL, the AL pitchers retired 716 consecutive batters! Okay, it was 18, but it seemed like a bunch.
- Barrack Obama at the game. Shouldn't you be off running the free world or reforming health care or blaming W. for that ingrown hair on your chest? I am fairly certain you'd be a better play by play guy than Joe Buck though, so there's that.
- Production guys. When Bartlett came into the game at SS, the production guys put up the the tag-line at the bottom of the screen saying that he was 2B Ben Zobrist... ummm, they're slightly different looking- you know with different skin pigments and everything. I'll give 'em a break considering how busy keeping-up with the subs must have kept them.
- At 2 hours and 31 minutes this was the shortest mid-summer classic since 1988.
- No homeruns were hit in this game. The first time since 1999. (MLB).
CAVIAR (game ball):
- The City of St Louis. They played a most gracious host, the stadium looked amazing, people watched, and the game was good.
Monday, July 13, 2009
First off, let me apologize to the cite and its readers for having been unreliable the past couple weeks. Things have been hectic here in the big city, but I expect them to settle down sometime in the fairly near future.
The Rays are coming into the All Star break 6.5 games off the lead in the division and 3.5 behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings. Halfway through the year, the Rays look like they're toward the top end of a crowded field of pretty good teams.
The Week that Was
After getting swept out of Arlington, the Rays took their frustration out on the Blue Jays, sweeping them out of Tampa before welcoming...
The Effing A's. I am upset pretty much every single time the Rays drop a game the ought to have won, so I had kind of a rough weekend. After taking Friday's opener, behind another excellent performance from Niemann, the Rays dropped the next two games and the series. To the A's. The 37-49 A's, who sit twelve games back in the AL West. Yep.
SATURDAY: RAYS 2; Oakland 7
SUNDAY: RAYS 3, Oakland 7
The first three batters in the Rays lineup (Upton, Crawford, Longoria on Saturday; Upton, Aybar, Longoria on Sunday) went a combined 2-24 on the weekend, which probably has a great deal to do with the Rays only mustering a total of five runs. Combine the meager offensive effort with late inning bullpen implosions, and you've got two consecutive games of positively devilish Rays baseball.
The Futures Game saw the World beat the U.S. 7-5. Desmond Jennings was 0-3 with two K's, but he did contribute three stolen bases and a run. Kyeong Kang, of Bowling Green, was 0-1 with a pinch-hit pop-up. Is this the first time the Rays have sent fewer prospects to the Futures Game than big leaguers to the All Star Game?
The Week that Will Be
Looking forward to seeing Peña compete in the Homerun Derby today. I'd say I'm worried about him blowing up his swing, but let's face it. The guy swings for the fences with every cut anyway, so he might as well get some national recognition for it.
I've got more to say here, but for now I'll have to leave it and go to work.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
- Jeff Niemann. What a well-called and well-pitched game between Navi and Niemann. Niemann got himself into a little trouble here and there, but more importantly got out of it each time. Being able to avoid the big inning has been Niemann's Achille's heel so far in his young career, and if he can stay away from it like he did last night then we Rays' fans are in for a treat in the years to come. Niemann pitched the complete game shut-out; allowing six hits and walking 3 while striking-out 6. He also gave the bullpen a much needed day off.
- BJ Upton. Bossman was 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, and was robbed of his second steal of home in just a week after home plate ump, Bob Davidson (who was also having a hard time deciding where the strike-zone was) called him out after he had clearly slid around the tag.
- Pat Burrell. Burrell is finally starting to get consistently good wood on the ball. Last night PB was 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and an RBI. Great, Pat finally gets hot and now he gets a 4 day all-star break so he can cool right back down again.
- The Yankees lost.
- Boston won... again.
- Last night's homerun by Longoria (17)was his first since June 17th; a drought spanning a total of 18 games.
- Carlos Pena's homerun last night was his first since June 27th, a drought spanning 11 games, yet he still leads the AL in homers by 3 (24).
- San Fran pitcher, Jonathan Sanchez, in his first start since returning from a bullpen demotion recorded 11 K's and the giants first no-hitter in 32 years. Read the Story here.
- The Rays' streak of 4 straight wins is the longest in the league right now.
- Tonight's game will feature the Rays in their "throwback", 1998, rainbow, Devil Rays gear. Yay!
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Jeff Niemann. Throwing complete-game shut-outs will earn you the game ball every time.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
- Ben Zobrist. Not only did Zorilla hit the walk-off single to win the game he also hit a 3-run homerun (his 17th), and took a walk. Add to that the fact that he looks like he's really found his comfort zone at second base, and you've got yourself a legitimate all-star. Zobrist finished the night 3 for 5 with 4 RBI.
- BJ Upton. Upton's steal of home was legen... wait for it... dary. Here it is: There's no place like home.
- Dioner Navarro. Navi had a nice game from the plate, finishing 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI. The Rays need more games like this from Navi down the stretch.
- The Middle/Bottom. The middle to bottom of the lineup (Zobrist, Burrell, Bartlett, Kapler, Navi) combined to be 10 of 20 with a total of 8 RBI. Way to pick up the slack left by the fella's up top.
- Dr Jekyl/Mr Kazmir. Kaz looked like he had his stuff working for him, but he just couldn't stay out of his own way last night. Kaz surrendered 2 homers early before imploding in the 4th (although, in his defense, the home plate ump, Bill Welke, was wildly inconsistent with his balls and strikes calls). Kaz' stat line looks like this; 6 and 1/3 innings, 7 runs on 9 hits, walking 2 and striking out 4.
- Grant Balfour. Too many times this year the Mad Aussie has looked absolutely horrid, this was one of those times. Grant pitched 2/3 and allowed 2 runs on 3 hits.
- Last night's game lasted 4 hours 5 minutes... I swore it seemed like 5 hours, at least.
- The Rays look for the sweep today at 12:08 EST
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Ben Zobrist. Another great performance from Zorilla.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
- Pat Burrell. Welcome to the party Pat. Burrell hit a 2-run, walk-off homer with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the bottom of the 1th. It was only Burrel's 4th HR of the season. PB finished the night 1 for 4 with the 2 (game-winning) RBI and a walk. Check out the video (ESPN's #1 play o' the day) here.
- James Shields. Shieldsy was sharp from the start and logged 7 innings while allowing just 1 run on 7 hits, walking 1 and striking-out 4. Shields didn't factor into the decision due to the fact that Toronto tied the game at 1 after Shields had already left the game.
- Ben Zobrist. Zorilla was 1 for 3 with 2 walks and a steal, but his real contribution came defensively where he had a great day , flashing the leather and his athleticism on various occasions. Check out one of those plays (ESPN's #3 on the top 10) here.
- Outfield Assist. BJ Upton had another tough day at the plate (0 for 5), but helped compensate for it by saving a potential game-winning run when he gunned down Hill in the 8th. You must check out the video (ESPN's #7 on the top 10) here... no really, you have to- it's good.
- The Bullpen. 4 innings, 3 hits, zero runs.
- Top of The Order. The 1 through 4 batters (Upton, Crawford, Longoria, and Pena) were a combined 0 for 19 against a rookie pitcher making his major league debut! Way to make a kid feel welcome. The fantastic 4 also combined for an awe-inspiring 7 strike-outs.
- Don't forget to vote for Pena as many times as you can, in an attempt to have a Rays' player be the fan vote for the second year in a row (Longoria). You can vote right... here.
- If Pena doesn't make the All-Star roster it'll be only the 8th time a player leading the league in HR's doesn't make the team.
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Pat Burrell. Do that more often.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
As it stands the Rays are holding-on to a 1.5 game lead over Toronto as they prepare for another 3 game set v. the Jays starting today in Tampa. The Rays have slipped back to 4.5 games behind New York and 5.5 behind Boston.
Here's the potential match-ups for the Toronto series (with some random thoughts added in for flavor):
Tuesday, July 7th @ 7:08
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP (0-0, -.--) vs. James Shields, RHP (6-6, 3.50)
Rzepczynski will make his major league debut tonight against the Rays' "ace" James Shields. Shields is coming off a loss against Toronto last week during which he allowed a career high 3 home runs. The Rays should be able to jump on this kid early, and put a few runs on the board to ensure that they end their current losing streak at 3. I'm thinking a final score of something like 8-2.
Wednesday, July 8th @ 7:08
Brian Tallet, LHP (5-6, 4.38) vs. Scott Kazmir, LHP (4-5, 6.79)
In this battle of the lefties we'll get to see Kazmir make his third start since being recalled, and with any luck we'll see him keep his pitch count in-check and make it out of the fifth inning (hey, a boy can dream). Tallet started the season in the bullpen, but has adjusted nicely to a starting role. He is 2-0 lifetime (as a reliever) against the Rays with an ERA of 1.72 . This should be a close game, but I can't help but believe that the Rays will find a way to win. Let's go with a 4-3 final, in favor of the Rays.
Thursday, July 9th @ 12:08pm
Roy Halladay, RHP (10-2, 2.79) vs. David Price, LHP (2-3, 5.21)
I can't seem to find a way to envision this one turning out well. My confidence in Price has been falling faster than GM stocks, and Halladay is about as good as it gets, so even if Price were at the top of his game I'd still be hard pressed to find it in me to go against Halladay. Halladay has struggled a bit since returning form the DL and Price struggled mightily in Texas having to be lifted after only 1 and 1/3 innings of work, so neither pitcher has been sharp as of late. Sadly, I think the Rays blow the opportunity for the sweep and lose big, lets say to the tune of 9-3.
Oh yeah, and if your listening Prof, this would be a great chance for the year's first Live Blog-a-Baloo over at Rays Index.
All in all a series win is a series win, and that's all we can ask for. Make no mistake though, winning this series is just as important as winning any other series they've played to this point of the season. If the Rays stay locked in a battle for third place with the Jays all season then the Sox and Yanks will just run away with the division. The Rays must dominate the Jays' season series in order to climb the ladder back to their rightful place atop the AL East.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
- Scott Kazmir. Kid K was fairly solid last night lasting 5 innings, allowing 3 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits, while walking 1 and striking-out 6. Of course we'd always like to see Kaz be able to stretch a start past 5 innings, but at this stage in his career 5 solid innings seems to be all we can expect.
- Grant Balfour. While it wasn't always pretty the Mad Aussie worked 2 innings allowing no runs, no hits, no walks, and striking-out 2.
- Fielding Errors. Both Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist committed fielding errors while trying to throw to 1st, neither should've hurried their throw as much as they did. These are the mistakes that the 2008 AL Champions didn't make.
- Ben Zobrist. Not only did he commit the throwing error, but he was also 0 for 4 at the plate, striking out once and leaving 3 men on base.
- Texas starter, Tommy Hunter was originally drafted by the Rays, but opted to go to college instead of signing with the Rays, and was later drafted by the Rangers.
CAVIAR (game ball):
- Grant Balfour. Consistent performances by relievers are critical down the stretch.
Friday, July 3, 2009
We the people of the United Rays of Tampa (via Rays the Stakes), in order to form a more perfect fanbase, establish our legitimacy, insure the admittance of no Yankees or Red Sox fans, provide for alienated baseball groupies, promote the team at all cost (even if it means getting a mohawk), and secure yet another AL pennant do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United Rays of Tampa.
Article I- Executive Branch
The executive power shall be vested in great young men who have sworn publicly to always place the fate of the Rays above all other tenets. Concerning themselves with the well-being of the team before any personal regard.
To always ensure that the citizens of the Rays-iverse are treated justly, and with the respect that any citizen, who has willingly suffered for numerous years before this great fandom's success, truly deserves.
Article II- Managerial Branch
The Managerial power shall be vested in great strategists and sometimes unconventional thinkers. In all cases pushing the Athletic branch (named later) to strive for their best. Primarily putting said athletic branch members in what seems to be the most opportune positions to acquire victory at every attempt.
Should a member of the managerial staff continually favor an incorrect decision (ie BJ Upton at lead-off) he should be held in check by other members of both the Managerial and Executive branches, and ridiculed by members of the media (see amendment 1).
Article III- Athletic Branch
The power of the Athletic Branch shall be vested in great and talented young players. The members of the Athletic branch must be willing to conform to the wishes of both the Managerial and Executive branches in order to help sustain a winning environment at all costs. Members of the Athletic branch must always, and without falter, put forth their absolute best effort every time they take the field to represent the members of the Rays-iverse; understanding that they play for a cause which is truly larger than themselves. No member may throw bats at umpires or specifically request a trade to New York or Boston.
Section 2- Treason
Any member of the Athletic branch who willingly undertakes in part of a scheme to undermine the success of the Rays-ivers or who cohorts with other nations with which we do not openly associate (New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox) shall be tried for treason. Any member of the Athletic Branch deemed to be working together with or turning-over to said enemies instantly becomes an Enemy of the State.The United Rays of Tampa Bill of Rights
Amendment 1-Freedom of Speech, Press, and Ray-ligion
Any member of the Rays-iverse has the freedom to speak or write in regard to any aspect, positive or negative, of any branch of the hierarchy of United Rays of Tampa.
Furthermore, all citizens of the United Rays of Tampa have the exclusive right to praise and worship the Rays through their own freedom and expression of Ray-ligion, just so long as no portion of their Ray-ligion teaches peace with the enemy or forgiveness for their wreckless disregard for the sport which we love.
Amendment 2- Right to Bear Cowbells
All members of the United Rays of Tampa are permitted to carry and use, within reason, their own cowbell. Your right to bear Cowbell will not be infringed.
Amendment 3- Quartering of Devil Rays Gear
At no point since the ratification of the constitution, wherein the Devil was exorcised, are any citizens of the Rays-iverse required to quarter any Devil Rays merchandise against their will.
Amendment 4- Search & Seizure
The citizens of the United Rays of Tampa are hereby protected from unjustified searches or seizures of paraphernalia related to any former alliance, with the exception of New York and Boston whereas a warrant for the search, seizure, and detainment of the citizen will be fully allowed.
Amendment 5- Trial & Punishment for Desertion
At no point will a member of the Rays-iverse be tried unjustly for a crime without first being subjected to a jury of their peers. Furthermore no citizen will be tried for the same crime twice unless said crime is desertion to the enemy wherein said citizen will be subject to endless and fully justified ridicule as well as public shame and embarrassment.
Amendment 6- Right to a Speedy Entry to Rays Games
All citizens have a right to a speedy and expedited entry to any Rays game for which they hold a ticket. Under no circumstances should any citizen be made to wait in line with traffic which is inundated with members and citizens of the enemies' territories.
Amendment 7- Trial by Seating Section
If during a game a citizen is found to be outside of United Rays of Tampa law an impromptu trial by members of their seating section shall be held, with the decision of the people standing as temporary law, unless said offender buys a round of ballpark beers for all interested citizens in his seating section, whereas all sins are forgiven (with the obvious exception of Red Sox or Yankee related crimes).
Amendment 8- Cruel and Unusual Punishment of Sox and Yanks fans
Cruel and unusual punishment of Red Sox and Yankees fans and players shall always be allowed and encouraged by all branches of the United Rays of Tampa
Amendment 9- Construction of a New Stadium
If principles of the various branches deem it necessary to build a new stadium, members outside of the government shall not be allowed to hinder such efforts unless an attempt is made by the executive branch to move the United Rays of Tampa to another state.
Amendment 10- Powers of the Branches and the People
Any power not vested specifically to a branch of the rays-iverse shall be decided upon by the citizens.
Any crime against the United Rays of Tampa may be punishable by the most horrible of punishments; banishment from the Rays-iverse and the forcing of said citizen to thereby join either the United Republic of the Kansas City Royals or the Socialist State of the Cleveland Indians.
We have marked this lasting Constitution with our official seal below: