Now that’s what I’m talking about!  I told you that these 2 games would show us what the Rays are made of.  We’d see how much desire they had to win and we did!  They showed anyone questioning their heart that the Rays are going to make a run for October the last part of the season. 

To me the big story was the pitching.  The Rays flat out pitched much better than the Red Sox.  Tuesday’s SP Matt Garza gave up 2 solo bombs but limited the damage to that alone.  Matt’s fiery personality lent itself to focus and a great approach on the mound.  Had it not been for 2 poorly located pitches he would have held the Sox scoreless.   Wednesday’s SP David Price pitched his best game of the season.  Price pitched 6 strong innings giving up 2 solo bombs as well.  The important thing about Price’s performance – zero walks!  Price had the best command of his fastball I have seen all season long.  

The starting pitching was awesome for this 2 game set but more amazing was the performance of the bullpen.  In 2 games the bullpen threw 9 innings allowing only 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 4.  This bullpen was outstanding!  Enough cannot be said about their progress as the season wears on.  These guys had a bad start and are now one of the best in the business.

The offense did enough to win.  Although they didn’t beat the cover off the ball they got the big hit when needed blasting out 6 HRs in 2 games.  It was nice to see some of the guys who have come under fire for a lack of production respond to their critics with one swing of the bat.  Evan Longoria was the big hero in game 1 hitting 2 HRs –one to tie the game and the other to win it in the 13th inning.  Both Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell hit monster blasts into the outfield seats.  Jason Bartlett has taken a definite liking to batting in the number 1 hole and blasted out his 9th HR of the season far surpassing last year’s total of 1.  Carl Crawford also chipped in with a 2 run blast on his birthday – Happy Birthday CC!

These two victories in conjunction with Texas’ 3 game skid have placed the Rays 3 games out of the Wild Card race!  The Rays travel to the left coast to take on the Mariners and the Angels over the next week.  They’ll need to keep the momentum and focus on winning each series.  The Yankees and Red Sox will spend the next 4 days beating up on each other so we can gain more ground on someone if we win.  This is going to be an exciting year end!   I still believe the race will be determined in head to head meetings with the Yankees and Red Sox in September. 

Keep it going Rays, we’re behind you!

Post info: By Rays6 on August 6th, 2009
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The Rays spend the last 4 days beating up on the lowly Kansas City Royals.  Well, except for that 1 game….you know that game, don’t you?  That stellar pitching performance by SP James Shields was wasted by defensive mistakes and offensive break down.  Aside from that it was a good series victory for the Rays and they gained some ground in the race for the AL East crown as the Bronx Bombers fell 3 out of 4 games to the Pale Hose of Chi-town.  But, didn’t you expect us to beat up on the last place Royals?  I certainly did.

The Rays will show us over the next 2 days what they’re made of, what intensity remains, what focus they have.  They now have a chance to gain more ground as the Boston Red Sox show up for a short 2 game set.  Look, at this point in the season if the Rays cannot come out like gang busters in their own hours for 2 games then I think it is safe to say the season will be in the bag.  If they cannot step it up a notch now for 2 games and an off day on Thursday why would we think they could in September?

Manager Joe Maddon finally sat a few guys that have been underperforming all season long.  BJ Upton, Pat Burrell and Dioner Navarro all had the day off while Gabe Kapler, Willy Aybar and Michel Hernandez got some game in.  With BJ out of the lineup Jason Bartlett got the #1 hole FINALLY and went 3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs scored, 1 free pass and was a HR short of the cycle.  JB likes the lead off and has earned the opportunity through a season of being one of 2 of the most consistent hitters the Rays have had all season long (Carl Crawford being the other). 

Slick Willy got the call at DH and blasted 2 HR’s – one from each side of the plate.  Going 2 for 5 but having only 1 strike out proves once again that Willy is a contact guy.  He will put the bat on the ball for productive outs when needed.  The Rays need to find a way to unload Burrell’s big ass contract! 

Hernandez had a nice day at the plate going 2 for 3 with a free pass, 2 runs scored and an RBI.  But most importantly no passed balls and no wild pitches.  This guy is the defensive answer at backstop for the Rays the remainder of the season.  The pitchers seem to like throwing to him and he is always in the game. 

I wouldn’t mind so much bringing BJ back to the lineup as I know how important defensively he is BUT he needs to trade places with JB period.  There is no question this is the right move.  Compare these numbers and make the right choice Joe!

 

  BJ                                                     JB

.244                   BA                          .337

.318                  OBP                         .387

.373                   SLG%                     .521

114                      K                            54

Tonight starts the test phase of the season for the Rays.  Their will to win will be tested and on display over the next few games.  I’ll be cheering for the Rays and hoping Joe makes the line up decisions that seem so abundantly clear to most Ray fans.  

Go Rays!

Post info: By Rays6 on August 4th, 2009
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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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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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SP David Price out dueled SP Roy Halladay to earn his 3rd victory of the season and secure the series sweep for the Rays early Thursday afternoon.  Price looked much better than his previous start going 6 innings scattering 6 hits, 1 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 7.  This was a VAST improvement from his last outing in Arlington!  The thing that I found most impressive was his battery mate, Michel Hernandez.  This guy works so well with young pitchers it’s awesome to watch.  He called a great game for Price and Price hit his spots thus we win.  Hernandez is by far, in my opinion, the best catcher on our roster.  He calls great games, has confidence in what he does and the pitchers seem to respond well to him.  I’d like to see him suit up more often especially in tandem with Price and Niemann.

The offense did just enough to get by this game.  They were 3 for 11 with RISP but that’s all we needed with the pitching we got today.  Carlos Pena came through with a big 2 run double in the 5th to put the Rays ahead for good.  Carl Crawford continues to tear up the base path swiping #44 that lead to the Rays first run of the game. 

This was a great series sweep heading into the weekend!  It is nice to put a little cushion between us and the Jays and keep up with the Red Sox and Yankees.  Looking forward to more of the same when the Rays take on the A’s this weekend! 

See you at The Trop

Post info: By Rays6 on July 9th, 2009
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SP Jeff Niemann tossed a gem against the hard hitting bats of the Toronto Blue Jays in the opening game of the 3 game set.  Niemann looked confident on the mound and had the presence I’ve been waiting to see all season long.  Niemann went 7 1/3 innings scattering only 4 hits, 1 ER and 2 walks while striking out 1.  He had the powerful Blue Jay hitters off balance all night long.  Niemann earned his 7th victory, to lead the Ray staff, by out pitching Blue Jay staff ace Roy Halladay.  This was absolutely a pitchers duel as Doc gave up only 2 ER in his return for the DL.

The 2 ER’s Halladay gave up were courtesy of a tremendous blast by Carl Crawford in the 3rd inning into the upper deck of the Rogers Center.  The score remained 2-0 through the 6th inning.  The Rays offense added 2 more runs in the top of the 7th to complete their scoring.  One of the runs was courtesy of Pat Burrell’s 3rd HR of the season. 

This victory places the Rays up 2 games on the 4th place Blue Jays and 1 ½ games behind the idle Yankees in the wild card race.  This race is going to be hot and heavy after the All Star break! It’s so awesome to watch the Ray’s turn around from the beginning of the season.  The starting pitching has become more reliable, the bull pen has become the shut down group they were last year and the Ray offense is explosive, fast and great to watch.

 

Game 2 will see SP Matt Garza on the bump for the Rays.  Matt must keep the ball in the park!  This Blue Jay offense is a very powerful bunch and could open this game up in a hurry if he starts giving up the long ball.  If he keeps it in the Rays win! 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 30th, 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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SP David Price had set his goal this start to decrease his walks allowed.  He was VERY successful as he did not allow a free pass.  The problem was he turned that into a career high 10 hits allowed including 2 home runs.  To be honest Price is still finding himself as a big league pitcher.  Clearly he has some work to do.  BUT, this was a successful outing for Price, maybe not for the team as a whole.  Price went 7 innings on 99 pitches.  This is a vast improvement over his last few games.  He gave up zero walks which is also a vast improvement on his past performances.  He allowed 10 hits yes but if guys are making contact the defense has a chance to make a play.  You cannot defend walks.  What I saw is Price continuing to want to use a pitch that just was not working for him, his slider.  C Michel Hernandez failed to talk to him about this thus he left it hanging in the thin Colorado air.  Overall I was happy with his performance, he’s working it out.  He had 1 bad inning but kept his pitch count low, struck out 5 and gave his team a chance to win.

The offense was a mixed bag after an outstanding performance in game 1.  Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford connected for bombs unfortunately for us these were solos shots.  Longo was the only Ray hitter to collect multiple hits.  We had opportunity to win this game but the bats fell silent. 

The Rays are looking to win the series on getaway day Wednesday afternoon.  SP Matt Garza looks for his first victory in a while.  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.

Go Rays!!

Post info: By Rays6 on June 18th, 2009
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