The Tampa Bay Rays flew to the West Coast having just picked up about 4 games in the Wild Card lead to fall within 1.5 games.  They are now flying home from the left coast 4.5 games back with Seattle sitting only 1 game behind them.  What?!  It all started in Seattle where we managed to secure only 1 game out of the 3 game set.  The tragic end came yesterday as the LA Angels secured a SWEEP of the Rays by blowing them out 10-5.  I know it doesn’t look like a blow out but trust me, it was.

 

Their fielding was poor, their hitting was less than timely and their pitching was very inconsistent.  They looked nothing like the defending AL Champions. 

Now the question becomes can they overcome a 1-5 road trip at this point in the season?  The Rays have 47 games to play with 27 of them at home.  They have no more left coast roads trips! IN the last 47 games the Rays play the AL East, Texas, Detroit and Seattle.  The Rays are 23-16 vs. the AL East this year.  They are also 36 – 18 at home.  Detroit, Texas and Seattle all have sub .500 records on the road.   So Ray fan…looking at these numbers YES, there is hope!

That being said some guys will need to step up.  We cannot win the Wild Card berth the way we are playing now.  The starting pitching must be aggressive and go deep into games.  They need to stop picking at the corners and dust some of these guys off the plate.  The offense MUST be selective and swing at pitches they can actually do damage with.  Stop flailing like little leaguers and go with the pitch!  Guys like Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Pat Burrell need to start using the entire field, they need to put this team on their shoulders.  The defense must tighten up, these stupid little league plays that happen and aren’t considered errors in the books MUST STOP!

The Rays still have hope Ray fans BUT watching them play all season long I have to say I’m not very optimistic.  They really haven’t been very consistent all season long, not sure how it would happen now.  The Rays have let the opportunity to repeat as Al East champions slip through their fingers.  They are now battling for playing time in the exclusive club of October for only the 2nd time in their history.  This battle will be uphill the entire 47 remaining games.  

If you are a true Ray fan I implore you to get off the couch and get to The Trop for the remaining 27 home games and support this team!  See you there!         

Post info: By Rays6 on August 13th, 2009
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The Rays flew into Seattle looking to be very close to the top of the wild card race.  Well, they are technically only 1.5 games out BUT we could have jumped right to the top as the Red Sox were swept in 4.  Now the Red Sox and Rangers are tied atop the wild card, we’re 1.5 games out and we gave away 2 games to a team that is also chasing a wild card berth allowing Seattle to creep to within 3 games from us. 

Game 1 story – pitching was bad.  We gave up 2 leads and allowed a 2 out, 2 strike, 2 run walk off home run.  Yes, that’s bad!

Game 2 story – we rock!  Rays cruise to victory behind the right arm of SP James Shields and the big bats of Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Jason Bartlett with 2 RBIs each.  This is Shields first victory since June 20th!  Are you kidding me?!

Game 3 story – pitching was bad AGAIN!  SP Scott Kazmir didn’t last 5 complete once again giving up runs early and often.  The bull pen wasn’t much help as RP Jeff Bennett gave up a grand slam to former Ray, Russell Branyan.  If you look there is a deeper story here.  The Rays have lost 13 out of the last 17 series finale games.  Look guys, if you cannot win the last game you better start winning the first 2!

Now, on top of all this, BJ Upton is now whining publically about being moved to the bottom of the line up.  Hey BJ – have you looked at your numbers the past 2 years?!  Oh yeah, last year was because of a bad shoulder.  What’s your excuse this year?!  You should be absolutely thrilled your ass isn’t sitting in Durham!  Stop crying about it and fix it!  You have no one but yourself and your lack of performance to blame!  Earn it back and stop crying!  No one feels bad for you!

Geez…..what kind of a distraction may this lead to in the locker room?  One of the vets needs to pull this kid aside and tell him to stop acting like a punk.  The Rays are entrenched in an incredible playoff race and he stands around feeling sorry for himself.  Ugggg………

Hey Rays turn this around in SoCal.  This is your last 3 games on the left coast this year (excluding the possibility of playoffs) so win them all!  Be greedy and go get’em!

Post info: By Rays6 on August 10th, 2009
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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 Tampa Bay Rays opened a 3 game set against division leading New York Yankees Monday night in an effort to gain some ground.  Toward that goal they sent their “Ace” SP “Big Game” James Shields to the mound.  Too bad “Big Game” never showed up!  The Yankees took it to James early and often.  He lasted only 5.1 innings giving up 9 hits (2 HR), 5 ER, 3 free passes while striking out 2.  The Yankees never looked back as they easily took game 1.  Shields has not looked good on the mound since his last victory on June 20th.  In his last 7 starts he has allowed 25 ER – an average of almost 4 ER a game!  Doesn’t seem like a staff #1 to me….  Regardless of what the offense has or has not done during his starts this number is too high to be expected to win many.  Remember he is usually pitching against the opposition’s staff “ace” as well.  Therefore it may only take a run or 2 to win.

The offense was non existent as well.  They barely hit Yankee SP Burnett managing only 2 hits in 7 innings off him and 1 ER.  They made a little noise on the BP scoring 3 times off them but were quickly dismissed.

Here’s the deal – NO MORE PASSES!  I am tired of praising the outstanding pitching the Rays have seen – BS!  No More!  I am tired of giving free passes to poor pitching performances – no more!  Theses guys need to own up to their poor performances and find some intensity and sense of urgency.  These guys see the same pitchers series after series, they know what is coming and yet no one can seem to make any sort of adjustment.  Last night I watched Carlos Pena try to pull and out and down pitch for strike 3 – are you kidding me?!  All he needed to do was put the bat on the ball and possibly get it over the 3rd baseman’s head.  But no, we want to hit a HR every time…  I have sat and watched Evan Longoria watch strike 3 on the outside edge numerous times through out this season.  That outside pitch, although looks a bit outside, has consistently been called all year.  And Pat Burrell….don’t even get me started on this guy!

Here are the numbers for your “big boppers’ Ray fans over the last 10 games:

 Pena – 5 hits, 6 RBI, 16 K’s

Longoria – 6 hits, 5 RBI, 8 K’s

Burrell – 6 hits, 6 RBI, 13 K’s

They are not hitting in key situations!  These guys should have ton more RBI’s with the way the top of the lineup is getting on base.  Look at the strike outs!  OMGoodness….  I think it’s time for these guys to find themselves on the bench to allow others a chance to step up because these guys are NOT getting the job done!

Tampa Bay it’s time to hold your Rays accountable for their lack of execution.  They want to hear the cheers and applause when they do well so they should expect to be held accountable when they consistently do poorly!

Now we are sitting 5 games back of the wildcard with 61 games to go.  We better start making ground up ASAP and the best way to do this is to win the next 2 games!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 28th, 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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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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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 David Price stepped onto the mound and into trouble from the start in game 1 of this 2008 World Series rematch against the Phillies.  Price was rocked in the first inning allowing 6 runs on 40 pitches including a 3 run blast by John Mayberry.  Price ran into another crooked number in the 4th inning by giving up another 4 runs.  Price again showed he had no “put away” pitch which is a very big disappointment.  He got out ahead and ran counts to 2 strikes then hung a pitch that clearly was not working, slider, over the heart of the plate for batting practice.  I am a bit perplexed as to WHY Price and C Dioner Navarro continued to throw the slider whilst it was getting hammered!  If Navi was calling for it Price should have shook him off!  If Price was shaking off Navi to get to it Navi should have ran out to the mound and told him to forget that pitch for tonight!  Where the hell is the leadership?!  Mr. Price may have just worked himself back to AAA with the impending return of SP Scott Kazmir.  If there was any question before who the odd man out may be this may have answered it.  Price clearly is not ready for the big stage yet.  Not only in this start but all of his starts have been hindered by high pitch counts and the inability to pitch deep into a game.  In AAA he really needs to find an “out” pitch!

The bullpen stopped the bleeding and finished the game strong once again.  RP Winston Abreu and Lance Cormier completed 4 2/3 innings allowing only 3 hits and 1 free pass while striking out 5.  This bullpen has turned its’ season around.  They were getting pounded at the beginning of the season now they are 3rd in ERA in the AL.  Nice job guys!  Now go and straighten out those starters please!

The defense had a large part of the blame for the crooked numbers put on the board.  Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena each committed their 7th errors of the season while BJ Upton committed his first.  This lead to 5 of the 10 runs scored being unearned!

The offense was pitiful against Phils SP Moyer.  They only managed 5 hits off a guy who tops the radar at about 80 mph.  As a whole the team was 2 for 10 with RISP.  Not much good went on here and Pat Burrell continues to struggle at the plate.  The guy who was signed to be the big RH power bat and protect Pena has now been bumped down to 6th in the line up due to his struggles.  Sorry but this was a bad signing!

The Rays attempt to put this horrendous performance in the past as they send SP Matt Garza to the bump in game 2.  Now, same prediction as the last game he pitched – if he keeps it in the park, Rays win.  If not rays will struggle.  This is a very simple formula, keep the ball down and away and mix in the occasional buzz on the hands to keep them honest.  Go Rays! 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 24th, 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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