Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Weekend Wrap-Up: Yo-Yo Edition

These two games really couldn't have made me feel more different. Saturday's elation was followed, sadly, by Sunday's deflation. On Saturday, the Rays reminded us of the scrappy team they were last year, the team you could never count out of a game. On Sunday, the Rays were out of it before the game started.

Saturday: RAYS 5, Texas 4

Let's start with the good news, shall we? Carlos Peña's performance on Saturday, including two homers, four RBIs, and a game-winning single in the tenth, was the brightest of bright spots for the Rays this weekend. It was truly 2008-esque. Also nice and worth noting: on Saturday, the big bats of Peña and Burrell accounted for all the Rays runs (Burrell doubled in Peña in the 8th).

JP Howell blew his sixth save of the season (his first since early June) when Marlon Byrd hit one out in the ninth. Howell held on and got Josh Hamilton to pop out, and the Rays won it in the bottom of the tenth after Grant Balfour worked a 1-2-3 top of the inning.

Overall, it was a good game from the Rays pitching staff. Garza was a little shaky but good enough to get through seven while surrendering only three, and, except for the hickup by Howell (he'd successfully converted 13 of his last 13 chances, so I'm inclined to cut him some slack), the bullpen held strong. This game felt like progress, like the kind of gutsy, never-say-die performances we grew accustomed to last year. Then, Sunday happened.

Sunday: RAYS 0, Texas 4

Ok, so first thing worth noting is that David Price pitched pretty well. The one complaint is that two of the three men he walked made it home, but, in fairness, three runs over seven innings is good enough to figure to be in line for the win.

Now, maybe the Rays walked into a guy, in Feldmen, who turned up his stuff and pitched a great game. That kind of thing happens. It happens against you particularly often when you strike out eleven times against the starter (and fifteen times in the game), leave seven men on base and go 0-8 with RISP as a team (BJ alone was 0-3 with RISP). The Rays offense was awful, with the exception of Pat Burrell, who had another multi-hit game and another double.

I wish I could've seen successful work by former Gator Darren O'Day, who I enjoyed watching when he was in Gainesville, in some other context.


I and others said last week that the Rays could afford two losses over their homestand against the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rangers. They had three, winning all three series but sweeping none. I hope that doesn't come back to hurt the Rays, but I think it probably will.

According to Coolstandings, the Rays have a 14% chance at winning the Wild Card, and, since they're not gonna win the division, that's the number that matters. Compared to Texas (20%) and Boston (51.7%), the Rays aren't looking too good. What they need is the kind of statistically unlikely (or at least unpredictable as far as timing is concerned) hot streak that they haven't been able to put together all season. I know we all keep saying that, which we do because it's true. The Rays need (as in NEED) to rattle off a long win streak--not series wins, but sweeps.

Boston welcomes the White Sox to Fenway tonight for a four-game series before facing the Blue Jays, also in Fenway, over the weekend. Hopefully, the Red Sox are heartbroken over the fact that in spite of scoring 29 runs over the weekend, they still lost the series to the Yankees (who also scored 29 runs). Meanwhile, the Rangers visit the Bronx starting Tuesday before they swing into Minneapolis for the weekend. The Bombers are very-freaking-red hot right now, which bodes well for the Rays' chances of overtaking the Rangers.

In Toronto, the Rays are up against Halladay, Cecil, and Rzepczynski. In Detroit, we'll likely see Galarraga, Porcello, Verlander, and Washburn. I don't like our chances to rattle off a major win streak against those guys.

Halladay is, well, Halladay. He's among the best pitchers in baseball, easily amongst the top five. Cecil has a 1.17 ERA against the Rays and one win. Rzepczynski has a 1.50 ERA, but no decisions, in two games against the Rays this year. Further (and probably not surprising) Peña (.179 OBP; .549 OPS) and Burrell (.231 OBP; 492 OPS) have struggled at the Rogers Centre this year.

As for the Tigers, unless I'm mistaken the Rays haven't seen them yet this year. Of the four Detroit pitchers, the only one the Rays have faced this year is Washburn, who beat them in Seattle back in April. He's 3-1 over the past three years against the Rays with a 1.85 ERA and a 14:6 K:BB ratio. Verlander, probably the scariest pitcher of the group, is 2-0 in four starts against the Rays since 2006 with a 4.50 ERA and a 20:8 K:BB ratio, which means you should start him against the Rays if you've got him on your fantasy team.

I don't mean to say that the Rays are cooked, far from it. In fact, if Burrell, Peña, and Upton can come through--if the three of them get hot--then the Rays will be very hard to close out of games, regardless of how shaky their starting pitching or how strong the opponents.

It's such a no-brainer to say that the Rays need more consistent offensive production and better starts that there's really no sense in repeating it. So I won't, and instead I'll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.


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