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The Tampa Bay Rays offense placed an explanation point on the series routing the Phillies 10-4 in the series finale Thursday evening at The Trop.  The Rays fell behind 4-0 after the top of the first but big bats wielded by Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar leveled the score and the Rays never looked back.  Zobrist hit a 2 run rocket into the LF seats to pull the Rays to within 1 at the close of the first inning.  Aybar hit a ball on the rope right into the left field fair pole to tie the game in the bottom of the 2nd.  The Rays bashed Phillie pitching for 15 total hits and collected 8 free passes!  Out of the 15 hits 8 were for extra bases including double by Carlos Pena, Gabe Kapler, 2 by Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell.  Gabe Gross chipped into the shenanigans with a nice gap triple.  This was a great game for these guys, a nice statement! 

SP Andy Sonnanstine knew he was pitching to most likely stay in the bigs.  SP Scott Kazmir is due off the DL this weekend and a move (actually 2 with the return set for Chad Bradford as well) will have to be made.  He came out in the first inning and it was tragic.  The score was 3-0 before the first out was recorded.  Sitting in the stands I had to listen to the obnoxious Phillie fans screaming behind me….Ugggg.  I was less than happy as were the Ray fans around me.  After Sonny cleared the first inning he was absolutely shut down the rest of the game!  What an amazing turn around!  He lasted 5 1/3 innings scattering 6 hits (most all in the 1st inning), 4 ER and 1 free pass while striking out 7 Phils!   This really showed me something about this guy.  He is very professional and composed no matter what’s happening on that mound.  He can let go of his mistakes and move forward for a better result.  That being said it will probably still be Sonny sent to AAA as he is the guy with options left…..

Great game!  Great Series!  Look Ray fans get to The Trop!!!!!!!!!!!!!   You are missing the most dynamic, exciting show on turf! 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 26th, 2009
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SP Matt Garza rebounded from his last terrible outing by pitching 8 innings of 1 ER baseball to allow the Rays to even the 3 game set at 1 game each.  Garza was awesome tonight!  He did run into trouble in the 4th by walking the bases loaded but regained his form and got out of the inning with 0 runs scored.  Garza allowed only 3 hits in 8 innings while striking out 7.  This was absolutely his best performance in a few games.  If it had not been for the quantity of pitches he threw in the 4th inning he could have easily closed out the game with under 100 pitches.  The home run bug was the only negative on his stellar performance.  He allowed a HR to Werth that accounted for the only Phillies scoring of the night.  The pitch Werth hit was not a bad pitch.  It was clearly on the edge of the outside corner but it was right at belt level.  Garza, along with the rest of the Rays pitching staff, really need to focus on keeping the pitch down as well as away.

Pat Burrell really provided the only scoring the Rays would need considering the outstanding job done by Garza.  Burrell connected off his former teammate to blast his 2nd HR of the season and driving in 2 runs.  Burrell ended the night with 3 RBIs total which is what we signed him to do.  Hopefully this starts the turn around at the dish for Pat. 

Base running was a bit of an issue for me in this game.  Both Carl Crawford and BJ Upton made a decision after they hit balls to the outfield that they were out.  They started jogging up the line and watched as both baseballs fell to the turf.  Then they turned on the afterburners.  CC was thrown out at 3B when he would have gone in standing easily had he been running out of the box.  BJ was safe at 2B on a close play that should have never been close.  Come one now guys, let’s not start this laziness!  BJ made another costly base running mistake tagging from 3B on a short fly to LF and was gunned at the dish.  Bad move BJ!  You have the middle of the order coming up with only 1 out – you cost the team a run!  Be smart guys, be smart!

The opposite side of this was the hustle by Ben Zobrist in the 8th inning on a ground ball to SS J-Roll.  Zobrist was burning from the time the ball hit the bat and was safe at 2B.  This was awesome to watch!  The Rays ended up scoring 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th.

All in all, good game.  A few mistakes to learn from here and there – I never want to see this base running BS again!  The rubber game of the set sends SP Andy Sonnanstine to the mound for the Rays.  This should be an interesting start for Sonny as he knows he is on the bubble of wearing a Durham Bull’s uni again with the impending return of Scott Kazmir.  Sonny should come out as determined as ever to have a great outing.  I’ll be there to cheer him and the Rays on to the series victory!

 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 25th, 2009
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Interleague play opened with the Rays traveling south to Miami to face the Florida Marlins in the so called “Citrus Series”.  The Rays scored early and often bating around the order in both the 2nd and 3rd innings.   The Rays in total banged out 17 hits 6 of which went for extra bases.  The home run barrage began with Dioner Navarro knocking his 2nd HR of the season just over the RF wall in the 2nd inning. Carlos Pena then launched a no doubter into the RF seats a few batters later in the 2nd.  Gabe Gross connected for his 2nd HR of the season in the 7th inning.  Navi had his best game of the season so far going 4 for 6 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI’s.  His performance finally catapulted his BA over the Mendoza line. Gross also had a nice game at the dish going 3 for 5 with a walk, 2B, 1 run scored and 4 RBI’s all added to his big blast.  The Rays offense showed a lot of aggression and did not let the Marlins pitchers off the hook for any mistake they made.

SP Andy Sonnanstine had his 2nd nice outing in a row – this is a good sign that Sonny as worked out the “kinks”.  Sonny went 6 strong innings allowing only 5 hits, 1ER wile striking out 2.  In my eyes the most important stat was 0 walks allowed.  Sonny had his pinpoint control and was hitting his locations precisely.  This was a very nice starting pitching performance – welcome back Sonny!  The Rays rested their bullpen using only 1 RP to finish the game.  Newly promoted RP Dale Thayer follow Sonny and had an equally impressive outing.  Thayer pitched 3 innings allowing 3 hits and 1 ER – and again 0 walks!  Thayer has not velocity on his pitches going all the way to 95 mph.  From there he can dial it down to 82 mph.  In his first outing it is clear he definitely has the talent to succeed at the MLB level.  We’ll keep an eye on his next few outing and see.

This was a tremendous overall performance by the Rays.  The Rays seemed to have been carrying over some of the energy from the previous night’s walk off win.  With this victory and losses by the rest of the AL East the Rays move to within 4.5 games of first place.  This is going to be a tight race all the way to the end with 4 teams fighting it out all the way to the end.  The Rays send SP Jeff Niemann to the mound in game 2 to continue the winning ways!     

Post info: By Rays6 on May 23rd, 2009
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Yes folks that’s right!  Rays SP Andy Sonnanstine not only pitched well but aided his own cause by belting a run scoring double in the 4th inning in the series finale against the Tribe!  Why was our SP batting you may ask yourself.  Well here’s the story – Evan Longoria was slated to DH while Ben Zobrist was to play the field at 3B.  An error on the scorecard showed both players playing the #5 position.  After the completion of the top of the 1st inning Indians manager Eric Wedge brought this to the attention of the umpires.  After a 13 minute delay the umpires correctly ruled that the Rays had lost the DH for the game and the pitcher would have to bat.  Obviously Joe Maddon shouldered the blame for the scorecard snafu but let me tell you this was awesome to watch!  The crowd went nuts when Sonny stepped to the dish batting in the #3 hole in the bottom of the 1st.  He had a nice shot to short but ended to be a fielder’s choice – he beat the throw to first to avoid the DP.  His 2nd AB he K’d but his 3rd attempt was golden.  The outfield was playing him short and he knocked an opposite field shot over the LF head to the fence.  This scored Michel Hernandez, who himself had just knocked a 3 run 2B, from second base.  The crowd went wild ringing cowbells and cheering.  I’m sure this totally pissed off the opposition!

By the way, Sonny pitched well going 5 2/3 scattering 7 hits and 5 ER while walking 1 and striking out 3.  I know it doesn’t look like he pitched all that well by just looking at his line.  But 4 of those runs came off 2 Ben Francisco HRs.  Other than that damage Andy looked as good as he’s looked in a while.  I think he should hit every game – LOL!  The bullpen came in and kept the Tribe quiet for 3.1 innings giving up only 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 5.  The 3rd outstanding BP showing in a row and look 3 wins in a row – think there’s a correlation?!

The offense had outstanding at bats today!  Not only did they hit well (8 hits, 4 for XBH) they showed their great eyes for the zone collecting 8 free passes!  They did strike out 8 times as well but no one had a multiple strike out day.  Jason Bartlett carried the big stick of the day going 3 for 4 with a 3B, 2B, 2 runs scored and an RBI.  Yes, a HR away from the cycle!   Hernandez came through big for the Rays belting a line drive 2B to LF to score 2 runs and put the Rays up for good in this game. 

And I have yet to even mention the bench clearing incident in the 8th – LOL.  The Tribe brought in Kerry Woods to take revenge on BJ Upton in the bottom of the 8th inning.  Why you ask?  Apparently it hurt the Indians feelings the BJ would try to spark his team Thursday evening when they were down 9-0 and steal a bag.  Are you kidding me?!  So, Woods through the first pitch behind BJ and the second in tight.  This upset Maddon and he let everyone know.   Tempers flared, words were exchanged then benches emptied.  Luckily no one through any haymakers and order was restored.  The best sight was seeing Pat Burrell, just placed on the 15 day DL, charge out of the dugout putting on his shirt the whole way.  It was comical.   Look, most of the time I can get a clear understanding of retaliation but in this case, are you kidding me?!  The Rays are down and are supposed to just quit?  I don’t think so.  That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve every heard.  Get a grip Cleveland – just because you are not living up to expectations this year do not think anyone else is quitting!

What a game!  This was a great game to be at.  Oh and did I mention the game’s final out was a beautiful diving catch in LF by Carl Crawford.  The Trop went crazy once again.  We have now won 3 games in a row against a team we should have beaten.  The Rays are 1 game under .500 and have a 4 game set at home against the bottom dwelling Athletics who we owe a whoppin’ to.  Remember we played very poor against them out in Oakland – payback time!

      

Post info: By Rays6 on May 18th, 2009
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Well Ray fans the line says it all.  Horrible SP from Andy Sonnanstine cost the Rays a victory in a short 2 game set against division rival Baltimore Tuesday night.  The Rays went into the top of the 2nd inning down 1-0 after Sonny gave up a solo shot to Jones.  The Ray offense rescued Sonny by putting up a 5 spot on the board.  Carl Crawford accounted for 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored in the 2nd inning.  CC ended the day 2 for 5 with 2 doubles.  Evan Longoria contributed an RBI also adding to his ML high total of 45. 

Look in MLB if y our offered a 4 run lead you MUST hold it plain and simple.  Sonny was pulled in the third inning after not being able to record an out.  His line is horrible at 2 innings, 9 hits (2 HR to Jones), 7 ER, 1 K and 1 BB.  This performance rockets his ERA to 7.27.

Both bull pens performed well and stymied the opposition.  The only problem with this was we were already down.  We had opportunities and couldn’t cash in.  That being said, I still believe if your offense can generate 5 runs that is a game you should win period.  

The Rays complete this road trip Wednesday in Baltimore.  Let’s hope Jeff Niemann has worked out some of the kinks that have prevented him from keeping the ball down!

Go Rays!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 13th, 2009
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pena

Man, what a game between our Rays and the NY Yankees!  This game was a pitching dual du jour.  I have to admit going in I was a bit nervous about Rays SP Andy Sonnanstine.  We know he gives up hits but usually manages to limit the damage giving the team a chance to win.  My concern was with the type of hits he may give up – if he kept the ball up there may have been multiple launches out of the new yard.  BUT – Sonny pitched like no one thought he could, no one but himself that is.  He was masterful for 7.1 innings.  He kept the ball low and hit the outside edge like I can never remember him doing before.  He out pitched the Yankee ace Burnett who was also very tough.  The problem came in the 7th inning when the Yankees managed a couple bloop hits and ended with runners on 2nd & 3rd and 1 out.  Sonny was removed and Dan Wheeler came in to strike out Jeter with very impressive stuff.  JP Howell then entered and the flood doors opened.  JP gave up a walk to the first man he faced loading the bases with 1 out for Teixeira.  Tex lined an opposite bases clearing double down the left field line to tie the score.  This was hard to watch as Sonny pitched possibly his best game of the year.  But this has been part of the issue all season long – an unreliable bullpen, at least not nearly as reliable as last year.  Grant Balfour ended up gaining his first ‘W’ of the season and Troy Percival earned his 5th save – albeit not without his usual drama.  After allowing a 1 out double to Damon, throwing a WP to allow him to advance to 3rd with 1 out he managed to get Tex to fly out to short RF and induced Matsui to fly out to LF to end the game. 

The offense faced an outstanding pitching performance from AJ Burnett as well.  But the offense came through in a few crucial situations to eek out 3 runs off him.  Dioner Navarro had much better at bats going 2 for 3 with an RBI.  The big blow came off the bat of the MLB HR leader Carlos Pena when he belted a line drive into the RF seats in the top of the 10th inning.  Offensively this was not a huge game but I thought the Rays clearly had some better at bats and had some key hits in good situation s to plate some runs.  The Rays are going to run into good pitching through out the season they key is to continue to do what they did last night – make it happen when they can. 

This night was a good overall performance from the Rays.  If it were not for a “hiccup” from Howell this would have been a shutout. But look, not much went wrong on any side of the ball last year for the Rays but this year they are having “hiccups” on all sides of the ball.  The difference will be how they respond and adjust.  If they cannot we will not see October.  If they respond and pick up the pace we should cruise into the post season.  This is a young team now faced with adversity.  They must adjust!  That being said I expect JP to come out guns a blazin’ the next time he is called upon.

Keep it moving Rays!

 

Post info: By Rays6 on May 7th, 2009
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WOW – the Rays looked awesome on all sides of the ball in taking game 2 from the Red Sox Friday night!  Rays SP Andy Sonnanstine worked his magic once again.  Let me tell you something about this guy – he scares me when he pitches BUT I love to watch this guys work!  He allows hits (8 in 5.2 innings) but his specialty is minimizing the damage which he did by allowing only 2 runs (Sox stranded 10 on base).  He almost seems to work better with runners on base.  Sonny gives you the same every game — expect hits but minimal damage.  He followed through with this theory and earned his first ‘W’ of the season!  The BP of JP Howell, Dan Wheeler and Joe Nelson combined for 3.1 innings giving up only 1 hit and striking out 5.  The BP has improved dramatically over the past 2 weeks from a terrible start and as of last night are 5th in ERA in the AL – nice job guys!    

The offense was GRAND!  Yes, folks I said GRAND – GRAND SLAM that is!  The bat of Evan Longoria produced all the runs the Rays would need on one mighty swing.  The 6th inning proved to be the knock out punch.  With bases juiced and the Rays down 2-1 Evan Almighty strode to the plate and deposited a 2 strike pitch deep into the LF seats!  That guy has got amazing calm and focus about him.  He never seems to get rattled no matter the situation.  Evan will someday be the MVP of the American League – no doubt.   Carlos Pena capped the scoring in the 6th with a solo blast of his own going back to back with Longo.  The Rays showed some much better at bats as a whole during this game.  They did walk 4 times and strike out 8 times but the strike outs at least worked the count.

This was the second nice effort in a row and now the Rays have the beginnings of a streak going.  This team has resembled the 2008 team in the intensity and fire for the first time this season.  The view into the dugout told the picture.  Guys were laughing, high fiving and having fun even before they scored runs.  That is what was missing.

Welcome back Rays!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 2nd, 2009
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The Rays essentially replayed yesterday’s defeat at the hands of the Oakland A’s by losing with both bad pitching and poor offense today 7-1.  SP Andy Sonnanstine struggled through 4 innings allowing 10 hits and 7 ER to skyrocket his ERA to 7.78.  Lance Cormier came in to mop up the long relief and did a nice job for 3 solid innings giving up 0 hits and 0 runs.  Dan Wheeler echoed Cormier’s effort in the 8th by allowing 0 hits and 0 runs.    

The offense was pitiful, hate to say that but you saw the same thing I did.  The Rays manufactured 1 run early and that was all the noise they made.  Any hint of a rally was quickly put to rest by a double play or some sort of easy out.  Carl Crawford was the only Ray to manage any sort of offense going 2 for 4.  CC accounted for half of the offensive effort in this game as the Rays managed only 4 total hits.  BJ Upton, Evan Longoria and Pat Burrell were all ‘0’fer at the plate with Longo and Burrell eeking out a free pass a piece.  

After watching today’s game I am a bit concerned.  We have won only 1 series to this point and are falling far behind the AL East leaders.  Granted yes, it’s early BUT to this point I have not seen anything to indicate the Rays are improving.  Shortly the first month of the season will be behind us and by all indicators we will be sitting in the cellar.  The way the Rays are playing right now realistically they don’t stand a chance once Boston rides into The Trop for next weekend’s match up. 

The Rays will head to Minnesota for their last regular season series in the dome.  I will be looking for changes in the way the offense is working the count and their situational hitting.  

Come on Rays …let’s right this sinking ship!

Post info: By Rays6 on April 26th, 2009
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The Rays were outmatched on all sides of the ball Saturday afternoon in Oakland.  They were out pitched and out hit.  The only thing that remains consistent in the Rays game to game approach is inconsistency. 

Matt Garza struggled through 5.2 innings giving up 4 hits and 4 BB which led to 4 ER.  Matt struck out 6 but showed little consistency with his pitches through out this losing effort.  The bullpen did well with 3 pitchers combining for 2.1 innings 2 hits and 1 ER. 

The offense, oh the offense…..  This was a bit painful to watch as the Rays had bases loaded several times during this game and were unable to score.  The Rays stranded 8 on base while giving away 6 K’s to A’s pitching.   

This is a very short blog for me BUT just review what’s been written to this point in the young season.  The Rays have shown that they are going to play really well and crush a team or really bad and lose.  There doesn’t seem to be any midpoint.  This is what we’ve been missing to this point, that midpoint where the game could swing either and the burning desire to win those games.  There doesn’t seem to be any fire in this team….maybe they are satisfied for having gone to the World Series last year, breaking the Ray version of their own “curse”.   

Be nice to see the Rays look like they have a purpose on the field today and take this series from Oakland.  It would be only the second series victory this season and far overdue.  Here’s my shout out to the Rays and today’s SP Andy Sonnanstine!

Post info: By Rays6 on April 26th, 2009
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Ok gang…here’s the skinny on this game.  If you cannot hit you cannot win — period.  Andy Sonnanstine pitched his best game of this young season and still had to suffer the loss on his record.  He went 6 strong scattering 6 hits, 3 ER, 7 K’s and only allowing 1 free pass.  Sonny had trouble in his first 2 starts hitting his location and walking far too many batters.  He cleaned this up in this game and looked like the Sonny of last year.

The offense started out with a bang by scoring 2 runs in the first inning.  It was downhill from there as they were then silenced.  Check out the offensive numbers 

1 for 9 RISP

10 K’s

Only 4 BB

6 Hits

8 LOB

There aren’t too many teams in MLB that will win with numbers that look like that! I cannot say this enough – the Rays MUST improve their decision making at the plate and stop expanding the zone!  Carl Crawford has looked sick hitting (or trying to hit) in the #2 hole.  He has displayed absolutely zero plate discipline to this point in the season.  I’m thinking maybe time to look at placing JB in the #1 hole and moving BJ to #2 while sliding CC to #5.  Here are the numbers to back this up 

Jason Bartlett -   OBP – .451; BB – 4; K – 6

BJ UptonOBP – .379; BB – 6; K – 9

Carl CrawfordOBP – .246; BB -1; K – 15

Seems like a fairly easy decision to me… 

Look I’m not here to slam our skipper Joe Maddon either.  However I will state my opinion in that this spray chart shift thingy does not seem to be working.  The outfield is playing far too shallow!  I’m fairly certain that at least one of those triples would have been outs had Kapler been playing his normal position thus saving a run.  I understand the theory Joe and his coaching staff have been working with but this experiment needs some rethinking ASAP!

Wednesday evening the Rays Send Jeff Niemann to the mound to start a Rays winning streak!  

Post info: By Rays6 on April 22nd, 2009
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