Sunday, July 19, 2009
Rays @ Kansas City, Weekend Edition
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.
at 8:32 PM