Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Weekend Wrap-Up: Glimmers of Hope Edition

Saturday: RAYS 8, Toronto 3

Rays fans have to be happy about getting another quality performance from Scott Kazmir who, though he still threw too many pitches over too short a period (103 over 6.1 innings, or almost six-and-a-half per out), struck out seven Jays and gave up only three runs and qualified for the win. His record now stands at 7-7 on the year, and though his ERA is still well over six, he's been better since the break. How great would it be for the Rays if Kaz found a way to get back to form? Even if he never becomes a legit front-end starter, even if he continues to walk people and struggles to get past six innings, he could definitely either (1) hold down the middle of the Rays' rotation or (2) convince some well-heeled team out there that he's worth trading for. Anyhow, it's veeeery nice to see something good from Kid K.

The Rays got good offensive production up and down the order on Saturday. Even Navi showed up, and BJ Upton, though he went hitless, was on base twice and scored a run. If there was anything to complain about on Saturday, it was Carlos Peña's 0-2 with RISP on the day. But, since he did manage to get on base and score a run, and since the Rays collectively went 7-13 with RISP, I'll let it slide.

Sunday: RAYS 5, Toronto 2

Today was yet another shaky performance from Matt Garza, who spent most of the day working, Houdini-like, out of trouble. It started in the first with men on first and third and one out, after which Garza promptly struck out two of the Jays' best hitters to get out of the inning, and it pretty much stayed that way through five innings. The Blue Jays had men in scoring position with fewer than two outs in every inning but the second against Garza, who got them to go 2-13 with RISP on the day. He did that by enacting the Tale of Two Garzas that we've seen all season over and over again, starting out poorly and then becoming untouchable. Man, if he could only figure out how to be always Good Garza and never Bad Garza...

Of course, Greg Zaun's game-winning grand slam in the eight merits a mention too, as does Gabe Gross's ultimately failed but long (ten pitches) at-bat that must've helped to soften up League. Sitting alone in an empty house, I actually jumped up off the couch and looked around for somebody to high five when that tater jumped off Zaun's bat.

The star for the weekend has to be Carl Crawford, who went 3-8 at the plate over the weekend with three runs scored, three batted in, a stolen base, and a sacrifice bunt. Crawford's OPS against the Jays is now 1.103 in 51 at-bats on the year, which rules. Greg Zaun deserves an honorable mention as well for having brought the salami to the Rays picnic this weekend. Plus, alongside Gabe Gross's RBI single on Saturday, it represents something--namely excellent performances in big spots by Rays role-players--that, it seems to me, has been in relatively short supply this year.

Speaking of big performances, we must point out that the Rays' bullpen was sparkling this weekend, giving up only one run in 6.2 innings of work (and that only a solo shot against the long-dormant JP Howell on Sunday). One worries about overworking them, but hopefully the day off will help with that.


I have decided to forget that the Rays ever went to the west coast, so I'm not gonna talk about it. The Rays managed to take two of three from the Jays, and there's really no shame in dropping one to a guy who's among the league's best pitchers. It's too bad that Shields couldn't have locked down earlier in the game than he did, but there's no use crying about it (though if you'd told me after the second that he was going to make it through eight, I'd have called you crazy). Upon returning to St. Pete, the Rays did what they had to do, but...


Having dropped a game to the Blue Jays, the Rays' margin for error is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. This week, they welcome first the Orioles and then the Rangers to the Trop. They can probably afford to drop one of those six games, and no more.

One has to wonder whether Zaun's (and Springer's) veteran presence might give the Rays the kind of lift they seemed to get from having Percy and Floyd around last year. Speaking of guys I miss, Jonny Gomes is hitting a home run every 11.5 at-bats for the Reds. To put that in perspective, Albert Pujols hits one every 10.7 at-bats. Given the extent to which the Rays have struggled at the DH position, it's easy to wish they still had that kind of pop on the bench.

Jason Bartlett is now batting .377 from the lead-off spot with a .449 OBP and an absolutely torrid 1.101 OPS. We like.

The Rays have are eating healthy these days. It'd be nice if digestive regularity made their on-field performances more consistent. I wonder which of the players "still smuggle in greasy bags."

Midnight tonight is the deadline for the Rays to sign their top two draft picks, LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger.

The coming week is huge for the Rays. Starting tomorrow, they have three games against the highly beatable Orioles, followed by three against the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the Red Sox go to Toronto, where they'll face Halladay on Wednesday, before hosting the Yankees over the weekend. This means the Rays have a legitimate shot at closing the gap in the Wild Card race, in which they trail the Sox by three games and the Rangers by 3.5. Helping the cause, the Orioles and Rangers will only send one left-handed starter against the Rays. There's a real chance that the Rays will finish the week at or close to the lead for the Wild Card, thus improving their chances at playing baseball in October (which, according to Coolstandings, is currently at 17.2%). There's no reason to think they won't do it, but I'll be crossing my fingers and holding my breath anyway.


- Dustin

P.S. In the comments over at Rays Index, somebody linked to this article, which offers some evidence in favor of the "Zaun brings much-needed veteran presence to the Rays" thesis.

P.P.S. The Rays' website is reporting that Washington and Diekroeger will not sign by the deadline. Diekroeger will play college ball at Stanford (understandably, I suppose, tho as a ten-year college student holding an advanced degree and a whole lotta debt, I'm not sure the money makes sense), and Washington--a Boras client, so who knows what'll actually happen--will likely find a college program (hopefully one close to home) as well.

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