The Tampa Bay Rays climb back into the top spot in the AL East with a victory over the Royals Friday evening. That victory coupled with a rare home loss by the Red Legs propels the Rays to sole possession of first place in the AL East.
Edwin Jackson looked like an entirely different pitcher on the mound as compared to his last outing. He pitched 5 innings, with deuces wild on his line, giving up 2 ER, 2 HR, 2 hits, 2 walks and 2 K’s. The bullpen came in a shut the door other than a solo blast given up by none other than…..who?….. you know it…..Troy Percival. Why he is still closing games and Grant Balfour is not is a mystery to me! Balfour pitched a perfect 1.2 innings other than giving up 1 BB while striking out 3.
I remember at the beginning of the season when a lot of fans were hammering Jason Bartlett for his sloppy play and non existent offense. What do you think now? His defense is stellar. Having him back on the field makes such a huge difference defensively to this team. Both he and Evan Longoria were both flashing leather last night. Bartlett opened the game with a leaping catch of a line drive and was in the middle of 2 double plays and Longo stabbed a potential run scoring line drive on a GREAT diving effort to record and out.
Our offensive effort was average. The big shot was a 2 run blast in the 9th by Carlos Pena to just about put the game out of reach. Pena looked to be swinging a bat that was a little more level last night so hopefully taking the pressure of him by sliding him down will pay dividends. We did manage to bang out 9 hits and garner 3 walks. However, we left 10 runners on base and at one time were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The hits came they were just not necessarily timely hits. But, if the offense continues to put the wood on the bat the hits will come.
The one play I do want to mention, because it just really ticked me off, is BJ Upton’s lack of hustle running down the first base line. Let me set the stage – Aki on first and BJ hits a slow roller up the middle. The Grudzielanek gloves it and flips to Aviles who is too far from 2nd to get the out. Aviles then throws to first to get BJ. OK – replays clearly show BJ NOT hustling down the first base line until he realizes he may make it. He then tries to turn it up a notch but it is too late. This play cost the Rays a run! If I was managing that team Upton would have found his ass riding the pine! Bobby Cox did it to Andrew Jones and Charlie Manuel has done it twice this season to Jimmy Rollins. Look — you need to teach these kids a lesson and send a message to the rest of the team! That should NEVER be acceptable! I think it’s about time for some of the veteran’s on this team to have a closed door session with this kid. It seems painfully obvious to me that his personal performance is much more important to him rather than the team’s performance together. Someone needs to give the guy the definition of TEAM – no ‘I’ in TEAM!
Every good team goes through these periods. Hopefully Friday night was a step toward returning to our first half performance. The bats looked more alive, the pitching was excellent and the leather was flashing all over the place. We need to win the games we are supposed to during the “soft” sections of our schedule because September will be brutal.