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SP Scott Kazmir turned in his best performance of the season exactly when the Rays needed him to.  Kazmir showed a glimpse of the old “Scotty K”.  Kaz outpitched Yankee SP Sabathia through 7 strong innings.  He gave up 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 4.  Considering Kazmir’s struggles the last few years he was really the story of the game.  I don’t think many people, including myself, gave him much of a chance to hold the Bronx Bombers bats quiet considering his poor performances to this point in the season.  I am so HAPPY he proved me and a bunch of others WRONG!  Nice job Scotty K!

The Ray offense backed Kaz’s strong performance by belting out 10 hits, half of which were for extra bases.  Evan Longoria launched a towering HR to LF for his 20th of the season.  Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist each tripled and scored.  BJ Upton and Gabe Kapler each knocked out 2 base hits to add to the extra base hit total.  

The thing that was really impressive for me in this game was the clear sense of urgency and the high level of intensity the Rays put off.  These guys played a stellar defense and hustle every step of the way between the lines.  THAT is what this team needs the rest of the season! 

The final game of this 3 game set takes on a whole new meaning after this victory.  It is an opportunity for the Rays to pick up a game on the Yankees and win this series.  SP Matt Garza MUST keep the ball in the park period.  If he does I say we win this game.  If not it’ll be a struggle for the Rays.  See you at The Trop!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 29th, 2009
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SP Jeff Niemann is finally showing what all the hype surrounding him since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays is about.  Niemann pitched a gem against eh Chicago White Sox in game 2 of the 4 game set to even the series.  Niemann went 8 VERY strong innings scattering 8 hits, allowing 2 ER while striking out 7 and allowing 0 free passes.  Niemann’s curve ball was brutal tonight.  That thing looked like a strike over the heart of the plate then just fell right off the plane.  It was awesome to watch! Great to see Jeff pitching this well, with 9 wins he leads the Ray staff. 

Another impressive pitching performance also turned in by RP JP Howell who has been used as a closer as of late.  He saved all 3 games in Kansas City and come in with a 1 run lead in the 9th to attempt the save for Niemann.  After giving up a lead off single JP struck out the next 2 and turned a 1-3 for the final out.  JP looks really comfortable in this “closer” role!

The offense was a bit anemic totaling only 6 hits.  BUT they hit when it counted.  It began in the top of the 9th with a 1 pitch single to LF by Jason Bartlett of CWS closer Jenks.  Evan Longoria was then drilled in the back by Jenks.  With no out Ben Zobrist singled to CF giving the Rays bases loaded with 0 outs.  Pat Burrell, struggling mightily this year, stepped to the plate and earned a bases loaded walk to tie the game.  Carlos Pena, who had just entered the game for Willy Aybar for defensive purposes, lifted a fly ball to RF to score the go ahead run.  Honestly this was all there was to the offense…..

The Rays have been doing what they need to do to win.  They are 4-1 since the break with all 4 wins being late inning, come from behind wins.  That’s the magic we’ve been missing to this point in the season.  This great start to the second half has placed the Rays within 3.5 games of the wildcard and 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East.  It’s going to be an exciting 2 months gang so hang on tight!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 22nd, 2009
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Wow what a great 2 days for the Tampa Bay Ray organization!  For the first time ever we had a Ray selected as a starter – Evan Longoria.  For the first time ever the Tampa Bay rays sent 5 guys to the mid season classic.  For the first time ever a Tampa Bay Ray player was named the All Star game MVP — Carl Crawford.  For the second year in a row a Tampa Bay Ray represented the organization in the Home Run Derby – Carlos Pena.  Oh and for the first time ever the Manager and coaching staff for the Tampa Bay Rays managed the AL team.

What a tremendous catch by Carl Crawford to bring the ball off Brad Hawpe’s bat back into the park and keep the game tied.  CC was so focused on that ball!  CC also contributed with a hit in 3 attempts.  Ben Zobrist came in late to go 0 for 1 attempt but made the final out of the game.  Jason Bartlett entered and made 3 successful, effortless plays on ‘D’ while going 0 for 1 at the dish.  Carlos Pena made it as close as the on deck circle but never made an appearance in the game.

Carlos participated in the HR Derby and held his own against the big boppers.  Although he didn’t make it out of the first round I was still proud to see him representing our Rays in the Derby.

The accomplishments of these guys just prove how far the Rays have come in a relatively short period of time.  The new regime took over and made changes that began to make a difference.  The quality of the organization and the people within it is obvious.  Guys like CC, Carlos, Zobi, JB and on and on….  Good hard working, “blue collar”, humble guys that no matter their accomplishment constantly strive to improve.  They remain quiet in the press and let their play speak for them.  Well these last 2 years have spoken volumes to me.    

I am proud to be a Tampa Bay Ray fan!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 15th, 2009
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Hey that says it all plain and simple.  SP James Shields was outgunned by Blue Jay SP Romero.  Romero had it and Shieldsy did not.  Shields gave up 3 long bombs for a total of 5 runs (4 ER) in 7 1/3 innings.  Shields scattered 7 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8.  The problem was the hits Shields did give up were of the long variety. 

The offense wasn’t much of a help either as they gave up 10 easy outs by way of the K and were 0 for 5 with RISP.  Pat Burrell proved ineffective once again by grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the 7th.  This guy is proving to be a very poor DH – I’d rather see Willy get his at bats.  At least Willy usually puts the ball in play!    

The Rays offense managed just 4 hits off Romero and easily let him off the hook after each of them.  Ben Zobrist accounted for half the Ray offense collecting 2 hits in 2 attempts with 2 free passes.

Well this was a very unenthusiastic performance by the Rays to say the least.  I would have thought they’d come out gunning for this sweep but they looked like they lacked the desire to win this game.  Hopefully they improve on their desire to win by the time we hit the ground in Texas!

All in all – the Rays are 8-2 in their last 10 games.  Excellent streak they have going but they cannot let up now.  They need to go into the All Star break with momentum and come out strong on the other side. 

Post info: By Rays6 on July 1st, 2009
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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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“The key will be Garza keeping the ball in the park.  Garza has given up 10 HR to date while giving up only 19 all of last year.  If he keeps in it we win – simple.  If not, we’re in for a battle.”

That my friends was my statement in yesterday’s blog.  What did SP Matt Garza do in the rubber game of the 3 game set?  Garza allowed 3 long blasts that cost the Rays 4 ER and the game/series.  That gives Garza 13 long balls given up to this point in the season.  He gave up only 19 all of 2008. 

The offense wasn’t much help either.  Our #3 and #4 hitters continue to try to pull pitches that are outside and low.  Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria combined for a whopping 1 for 8 with 5 K’s with 0 runs scored and 0 RBI’s.  As professional hitters these guys must see what the opposition is doing to them and adjust to it.  Until they can prove they can spread the ball around the field do not expect to see an inside pitch to either of them.  If I was the opposing pitcher they see nothing but off speed down and away.  

Ben Zobrist came clutch in the top of the 9th by knocking in BJ Upton and Carl Crawford with a single to close the gap to 1 run.  Jason Bartlett provided the other run by banging out a triple and scoring on a Dioner Navarro single.  

This team is looking more like the .500 team they have been predicted at being this season.  They cannot get any clutch hitting from their big bats.   The pitching has been average to below average.  If these guys don’t turn that corner soon and start to make some ground they will see themselves sitting in 4th place at the end of this season. 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 19th, 2009
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The Tampa Bay Rays set a franchise record with 11 extra base hits in game one of the 3 game set with the Colorado Rockies.  The Rays took full advantage of the thin air and belted 5 HRs, 2 3Bs and 5 2Bs in a rout of the Rockies at Coors Field.  Gabe Kapler hit his 4th home run in as many games and was a single away from the cycle.  Kapler went 3 for 4 with a HR, a 2B, a 3B, 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  He has been on a tear lately and it’s great to see!  BJ Upton has been swinging a much better bat these days and had a nice day at the dish as well.  BJ was 3 for 5 with a HR, 2B, 3 RBI’s and 1 run scored.  BJ has shown a bit of the power we expected out of him lately; even a lot of his outs are hard hit line drives.  Welcome back BJ!   Ben Zobrist continues his hot hitting going 3 for 5 with a HR, a 3B, 3 runs scored and 1 RBI.  The home run barrage also included Carlos Pena’s AL leading 21st bomb and Evan Longoria’s LF blast. 

The Rays welcomed back Jason Barlett as well in this game.  JB did not seem to miss a beat either on the field or at the dish.  JB’s defense was flawless as expected.  At the dish JB belted out 2 hits in 4 attempts including a 2B opposite field shot, scored 2 runs and knocked in 1 run.  Nice to have JB back on that field!

SP Jeff Niemann earned his 6th victory of the season to lead all rays pitchers in that department.  Jeff had a solid outing but ran into a bit of a high pitch count (96) at the close of the 5th inning ending his night.  One thing I have noticed about all of the Ray pitchers lately is that they seem to get ahead in the count a lot of times but have no “put away” pitch.  They end up 0-2 then they take the count full or allow a hit.  This needs to be resolved as one area to improve the length of time these guys can stay in a game.  The bullpen did an adequate job but gave up 1 ER, 3 free passes, 3 hits while striking out 4 in 4 innings.  The large lead made this performance good enough but still like to see less walks. 

Great performance Rays!  Keep the train rolling!

Post info: By Rays6 on June 17th, 2009
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The Tampa Bay Ray offense put on a power display in the finale of the 3 game set against the LA Angels.  The offense put up 15 hits, 7 for extra bases including 4 home runs.  Carlos Pena, Dioner Navarro, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford all went deep while Navi, Ben Zobrist and Reid Brignac checked in with doubles.   Gabe Gross chipped in 4 RBI’s in his 3 for 4 performance while swiping a couple of bags as well.  Gabe has been swinging the bat well lately as he’s getting more regular playing time.  Now that Matt Joyce has been sent to Durham with the activation of Pat Burrell Gabe should be able to keep his groove on as he gets time in the OF. 

SP David Price threw out a mixed bag of good and bad.  He did not figure into the decision as he had to be lifted after 4 1/3 innings due to a very high pitch count (105).  To be honest he got into a lot of trouble in the first inning with a base hit and 2 walks to load the bases but wriggled free without any damage.  Here’s how mixed his performance was – 6 K’s with 6 free passes.  He was brilliant one minute and couldn’t hit the zone the next.  I attribute this to youth and as the season develops so will David.  The bullpen backed Price by going 4 2/3 allowing only 2 hits, 2 free passes while striking out 6. 

Grant Balfour was credited with the win, his 3rd of the season; half of what he won all of last season.  This is really indicative of the issues our starting pitching has had going deep into games.  There have been at least 3 guys that struggle to get through the 5th inning Niemann, Kazmir and Sonnanstine.  You can now switch Price with Kazmir and add him to that list. This presents the obvious issues for the bullpen being worn out early in a lot of games.  On the upside Niemann has shown much better location as of late allowing him to conserve pitches and go deeper in.  Sonny I think will always be hit or miss and I think he will find himself in the pen upon Kaz’s return.  Price should work it out like Niemann has and, when this happens, will solidify a brutal 5 man starting rotation.

The Rays host the Washington Nationals this weekend at The Trop for 3.  This series should be a “gimme” for the Rays and allow them to, at least, keep pace if not make up some ground.  See you at The Trop!

 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 12th, 2009
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The Rays rebounded from a loss in game won to a nice victory in game 2 to even the 3 game set with the Angels.  SP Jeff Niemann did not have his best stuff on the mound and did not make it out of the 3rd inning and did not factor in the decision.  Niemann threw 3 2/3 innings giving up 5 runs (4 ER) on 7 hits and 3 free passes while striking out 3.  His location was far off the mark tonight especially in comparison to his last few outstanding outings.  The bullpen did an outstanding job of shutting down the Halos.  Four relief pitchers combined for 5 1/3 innings and allowed only 3 hits and 1 free pass while striking out 5.  RP Lance Cormier walked away the victor. 

Big days at the dish for Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar carried the Rays to victory. Pena was 2 for 4 with a HR, 2 runs scored and an RBI.  Zobrist went 3 for 3 with 3 runs scored and a free pass.  Aybar was 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored, 3 RBI, a HR and a free pass.  This is the kind of production we need out of the middle of this order!

This was a well put together game for the Rays.  They did make 2 more errors in this game – this is killing me!  However, once again I will say that through all these injuries and inconsistent pitching we are still only 6 games out of first place with a lot of game to go!

Post info: By Rays6 on June 11th, 2009
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