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    A combination of umpire error and Ray mistakes lead to a Ray defeat at the hands of the White Sox in game 3 of the 3 game set, 4-3.  SP James Shields was cruising along through 6 2/3 innings but was lifted for the BP after walking the #9 hitter.  I rarely question what Ray Manager Joe Maddon does however in this case I will.  I know Maddon loves the computerized match ups BUT sometimes you have to stick with what works.  Even though Shields was up to 111 pitches and the hitter hit a HR earlier in the game I still think the best option was to leave Shields in that game.  I have a ton of confidence Shieldsy would have gotten that out.   

    LHP Randy Choate was brought in to face LH Podsednik (mistake #1).  Choate got a ground ball but the ball was a high hop to SS Jason Bartlett who had to hurry the throw and threw it into the dugout (mistake #2) leaving runners on 2nd and 3rd.  RP Dan Wheeler was then called upon to get the 3rd out in the person of Ramirez.  Home plate umpire Laz Diaz gave Ramirez an extra chance by calling a perfect knee high pitch a ball (mistake #3) that should have been strike 3 to end the inning.  Wheeler made the perfect pitch in this situation and the Rays could not have asked for more and it was just taken away.  With his extra life Ramirez rifled a ball to CF that BJ Upton misread…he came in when he should have gone out for an easy catch for the 3rd out (mistake #4). The Pale Hose scored the tying runs and left Ramirez standing at 3rd and later scoring on a single. 

    The 7th inning was not pretty at all!  Mistake upon mistake leaving Shields with another well pitched no-decision.  Maddon just needs to leave Shields finish his games and forget this match up stuff – give the guy a chance to record a ‘W’.  

    Not much to report on the offensive side.  Pat Burrell managed to connect with a ball and drive it into the LF seats for his 6th, yes, that’s right 6th, HR this season.  Burrell needs to offer the Rays a refund on what they have paid him considering he hasn’t performed worth a damn this season!  Gabe Gross also connected for a 2 run bomb to RF. 

    Frustrating loss for the Rays and their fans!  I have to say the only thing the Rays have been really consistent about all season long in being inconsistent.  Again the lack of consistency haunts the ‘D’ and the BP.  Another one of our inconsistent performers, SP Scott Kazmir, takes to the mound as the Rays try to earn the split in this 4 game set.  

     

    Post info: By Rays6 on July 23rd, 2009
    Comments: 2 Comments »
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    The key for any successful team is beat who you should beat.  If you can do that the stars will align.  The Rays did just that this series by sweeping the Washington Nationals and going 5-1 on this homestand.  SP James Shields was again a bit less than perfect on the rubber.  Although he stopped the bleeding and kept the game close enough for the Rays to rally.  Shieldsy lasted 6 1/3 innings giving up 9 hits, 4 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 4.  Lucky for him he was bailed out by the bull pen and the offense or he would have suffered the loss. As it ended RP Dan Wheeler earned the ‘W’ and RP JP Howell earned the save.  RP Randy Choate chipped in with a scoreless 2/3 of an inning.  One thing I have noticed about the SP core this season is none of them seem to have an ‘out’ pitch that they can throw.  Shields was living that nightmare Sunday as he went 0-2 to a lot of the Nat’s hitters then left a pitch over the plate to give up a hit.  They really need to sort that out so the offense is not always playing catch up.

    The big bat of the game was swung by Gabe Kapler.  Yes, folks, that’s right…Gabe Kapler.  Kapler was 2 for 2 with a game tying HR, 3 RBIs, 1 run scored and 2 free passes.  Carlos Pena and BJ Upton also chipped in with a multiple hit day.  The quirkiest play of the game came off PH Willy Aybar’s bat.  Pena was standing on 2nd after leading off with a 2B.  Willy came in to PH for Gross due to the LHP.  Willy hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to 3rd base that deflected off the bag and sent the ball into no man’s land in LF allowing Pena to score the winning run.  It was awesome!

    With the victory the Rays have tied Toronto for 3rd place and are only 3 games behind the second place Yankees with 97 games to go.  Not too shabby considering the major injuries this team has had to suffer through.  Now with Pat Burrell and Jason Bartlett the Rays can solidify their lineup.  Burrell needs to get going quick as there is no time to waste.  If he can start swinging the bat like he was signed to do this lineup will become very dangerous very quickly.

    See you in Denver!

    Post info: By Rays6 on June 15th, 2009
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    SP Jeff Niemann earned his 3rd victory of the season.  Niemann lasted 5 innings giving up 8 hits, 2 ER, 3 BB while striking out 2.  In my humble opinion Niemann was less than stellar in this outing and has been all season long.  He was in trouble in most of the 5 innings and a few outstanding defensive plays helped him survive.  I don’t know about you guys but I’m wondering what the hype about Niemann was.  I haven’t seen anything impressive from the guy.  He doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t have great command, he gives up a multitude of this in every start and he always looks like he’s scared to death standing on the mound.  The guy is 6’9” and should be intimidating his opposition by pitching inside occasionally brushing people off the plate.  He does not show any look of confidence what so ever on the mound.     

    The bull pen did an outstanding job EXCEPT for Troy Percival.  This guy cannot just come in and have a 1-2-3 inning EVER!  Look I know this guy, in his prime, was an excellent closer – his time has passed!  Percival entered the game in the ninth after shutdown innings from Lance Cormier, Dan Wheeler and Brian Shouse and an 8-2 Ray’s lead.  Percival lasted 1/3 of an inning, gave up 4 ER, 2 HR on 4 hits.  Really?!  JP Howell followed the tragedy that was Percy and put a stop to the madness ending the game with a save and a Ray’s victory.  

    The offense tallied up 15 hits including Jason Bartlett’s 5th HR of the season.  Man this guy is on fire!  He is the top hitting shortstop in the league and is beating his next closest competitor, Jeter, by about .90 in BA!  JB finished the day 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored, 1 RBI and a beautiful bunt for a single in the 8th.  This guy is the complete package as a player.  He plays an outstanding ‘D’, has all the tools at the plate and makes great decisions on when to swipe a bag or 2.   Nice trade RFO!!!!  Replacements Willy Aybar, 1 for 3, 2 BB, 1 run and 1 RBI, and Ben Zobrist, 2 for 2, 2B, 1 BB, 1 RBI, did outstanding jobs off the bench!

    Aybar was replacing Pat Burrell who earlier in the day flew to Tampa to see the team doctor’s regarding his neck issues.  There is concern this may land him on the DL for an extended period of time.  Zobrist was called upon in the 6th inning to take the place of Carl Crawford.  CC made an outstanding diving catch in LF and left with a sore shoulder.  This did not look serious and he will probably be listed as day to day.  It’s nice to know that we have such outstanding professionals on our bench.  These guys are always ready to go, they keep themselves mentally in to the game just in case.

    The Rays completed this road trip with a winning record of 4-3.  Nice job guys!  They now head back to The Trop for a 4 game series against Cleveland then with Oakland.  This is the light part of the schedule and time to make up ground!

    See you at The Pit!!!!!!!!! 

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 14th, 2009
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    garza

    Well, what can you say?   The opportunities presented themselves but we did not capitalize.  I mean with the tying run 90 ft away, 0 out and Carlos Pena, BJ Upton and Carl Crawford batting you have to like your chances to tie the game.  I mean that could not have been setup more perfect.  But, in the end, the Ray bats were held silent as all 3 of them struck out. 

    Make no bones this was a pitching duel between Beckett and Matt Garza.   They matched each other number for number – each giving up 3 ER.  Their lines are actually amazingly similar:  Garza went 7 innings, 116 pitches (72 for strikes), 3 ER, 7 hits, 3 BB and 6 K’s; Beckett went 6 innings, 118 pitches (68 for strikes), 3 ER, 6 hits, 3 BB and 5 K’s.  So you can see this was an awesome game to watch! 

    The problem for the Rays came once again in the bull pen.  Brian Shouse gave up a leadoff double to Ortiz and Dan Wheeler followed by giving up a double to Bay to put the Red Sox up for good. 

    The Ray offense obviously struggled against awesome pitching from Beckett.  But come on guys, tying run on 3rd with 0 outs and we cannot make contact?  I know it was Papelbon, but…… really?  Remember he’s the one that put the runner on 3rd and 1st to begin with! 

    Well all in all this road trip has proven to be very successful and not just in the sense of the record but more for what guys have been doing.  Upton has shown signs of life, Burrell is starting to look a bit more comfortable, Longoria and Crawford continue their hot hitting.  The question is that bullpen.  The RFO really need to address it as it is not very good.

    I really think the next 20 games are going to show a lot about this team.  We are transitioning from a very difficult schedule to a very light schedule.  The next 20 games are with teams that are struggling.  We MUST beat them to have a shot at October I believe.   Good teams beat teams they should beat so we’ll see if we are a good team or not.

    Enjoy your day off Ray fans!  See you at Camden yards!

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 11th, 2009
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    CC

    The Rays took the second game of the short 2 game series on the back of 6 HRs!  This game was filled with heartbreak and excitement. 

    Excitement = Jason Bartlett lead off HR! 1-0 Rays

    Excitement = Carlos Pena 1st inning HR (MLB leading #13) 2-0 Rays

    Excitement = Evan Longoria 3rd inning 2 run HR (MLB leading 38 RBIs), 4-0 Rays

    Heartbreak = Yanks creep close by scoring 3 in the 4th   4-3 Rays

    Heartbreak = Yanks tie score in the 5th  4-4 Rays

    Excitement = Ben Zobrist gives the Rays the lead with Big Fly #5 in the 6th, 5-4 Rays

    Excitement = Rays manufacture a run in the 7th,  6-4 Rays

    Heartbreak = Dan Wheeler gives up game tying HR in the 8th, 6-6

    EXCITEMENT = Back to Back jacks from Carl Crawford (MLB stolen base leader with 20)and Evan Longoria in the 9th off Mariano Rivera (something that has never been done before in his MLB career) to put the Rays out in front for good!

    EXCITEMENT = RAYS WIN! RAYS WIN! RAYS WIN!

    Wow, what a game!  Jeff Niemann looked uncomfortable from the get go lasting only 3.1 innings.  He was wild throwing 1 wild pitch and hitting a batter as well.  This was not an impressive showing and to be honest he really hasn’t looked that good thus far into the season.  Cormier and Wheeler had bad outing out of the pen but Howell, Shouse and Nelson all looked really good.  This year’s pen is going to be one of a lot of ups and downs.  No one seems to have the same “stuff” or location they possessed last year.  These guys are going to do great 1 day and bad the next with no rhyme or reason to it so buy yourself some anti acid and hold on tight for the ride Ray fans!

    It was great to see the Ray offense not intimidated at all by their surroundings.  I think that shows the level of maturity from last year to this year.  They now know and believe they can win anywhere and are doing just that. 

    See you in Boston!

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 8th, 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
    Comments: 1 Comment »
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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
    Comments: 2 Comments »
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    Now that’s more like it!  The Rays offense exploded behind an outstanding SP performance from Jeff Niemann and an equally impressive showing from the BP!

    Jeff Niemann earned his first ‘W’ of the young season with an outstanding performance.  Niemann went 5.1 innings allowing 3 hits 2 ER, 2 BB and 3 K’s.  Jeff had a no-no through 4 innings.  I think Jeff really showed his promise today on that mound.  The bullpen followed with 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball allowing only 1 hit, 1 BB and 4 K’s.  JP Howell, Dan Wheeler and Lance Cormier capped an outstanding overall showing on the bump! 

    The offense busted out of its’ 3 game slump by knocking out 15 hits, 4 for extra bases.  Pena, Longoria, Upton and Iwamura all banged out doubles.  The big bat of the day came from Carl Crawford who went 4-5 scoring 3 runs and knocking in 1.  Evan Longoria continued to knock in the runs accumulating 3 RBIs and scoring once.  When the Rays were on they applied the pressure of the running game by swiping 3 free bags and only being caught once!  The Rays also showed their improved decision making at the dish by graciously accepting 8 free passes and only giving away 5 outs via the K. 

    The defensive alignment was, in my humble opinion, the best we can put out there.  Ben Zobrist is our best RF option, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  He needs to stay there and as a switch hitter there is no reason he cannot.  With the recent offensive burst shown by Kapler I think Gross is the odd man out in this scenario.  Leave Ben out there, bring up a AAA utility player to backup Bartlett and release Gross to make the room. 

    Nice recovery Rays!  James Shields returns to the mound to attempt to improve on his first 3 performances…..Here’s a shout out to Shieldsy!

    Post info: By Rays6 on April 23rd, 2009
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    CC

    In a 3 game set no 2 games could be more different.  From the Rays crushing performance the night before to the Yankees rebound and pitcher’s duel tonight.  The score does not really indicate how close this game actually was. 

    AJ Burnett and Matt Garza battled through 2 tough lineups all game long.  Burnett pitched a no hitter through 6 innings while Garza allowed only 2 ER in his 7 inning pitched.  The Yankee staff accumulated 12 K’s while the Rays staff came close to a match at 10 K’s.  An impressive point about Garza’s performance I’d like to mention happened in the very first inning.  In the first inning the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs and Matt came back to allow only 1 run. 

    Carl Crawford broke up the no hitter with a single in the 7th with 1 out.  A single by Evan Longoria sent CC to 3rd.   Another single by Carlos Pena sent CC to the plate and Longo to 3rd.   The Rays then tied the game with a sacrifice fly by Pat Burrell to score Longo. 

    The bullpen took over for the Rays in the 8th and Yankees blew the doors off this game.  JP Howell took the loss in this game by allowing 1 ER.  Dan Wheeler was not able to hold the game to a 1 run difference by allowing 4 hits and 4 ER in the 9th.  So, to this point in the season, it would appear the Achilles heal of the Rays is the bullpen.  Howell has an ERA close to 5, Wheeler is 12.00 and Balfour is over 20.00!  Obviously for the Rays to be successful something will have to give in the BP. 

    This was a well fought pitcher’s duel that was a joy to watch!  The Trop was rocking and everyone was having a great time.  Kudos to the Rays Front Office on the replica ring giveaway – these rings are HOT! 

    Another stellar pitching match up this afternoon with Andy Sonnanstine going against Andy Pettitte.  Remember – game time is 4:05 today! 

    See you at The Trop!

    Post info: By Rays6 on April 15th, 2009
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    wheels

    WOW!!! The Tampa Bay Rays series has been filled with lots of WOW but this……WOW…. The Rays had 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th inning and a lead of 7-0 when the bullpen, our salvation all year long, imploded. Scott Kazmir put on a pitching display we haven’t seen form him all season long. He was awesome. He pitched 6 innings only allowing 2 hits and 0 runs. The game appeared over. Our bullpen was coming in and they have been virtually untouchable in the postseason, heck they have been untouchable just about all season long. Why/how could anyone see what was about to happen?

    Joe Maddon marched Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and JP Howell out to close this game. That did not happen. They didn’t even come close. The three aces of our bullpen, if you can have 3 aces, allowed 9 hits and 8 runs in 3 innings! They gave up home runs to Big Papi and JD Drew. Evan Longoria chipped in with a throwing error that allowed Kevin Youkilis to 2nd base and eventually score the walk off run. It was clear to me from the get go that there may be problems. Balfour threw nothing but fastballs pitch after pitch. Sorry Grant, but in the majors they will catch up with a fastball eventually. You need to find another pitch or two to compliment your fastball. I know you have a slider – ¬use it! Wheels had control issues pitch after pitch. He could not find any consistency. Howell actually pitched well. Had it not been for the Longo error the inning would have been over and we would have gone to extras once again.

    This was definitely a tale of 2 games within the 9 innings. The first 61/2 innings were all Rays! BJ Upton, Longo and Carlos Pena added 3 more home runs to the Rays amazing postseason total. Upton also added a 2 run double of Papelbon late in the game giving him a total of 4 RBIs for the game. The Rays were thieves on the base path – Gabe Gross and Jason Bartlett each had one and Akinori Iwamura swiped two.

    The Ray offense beat up Red Sox starter Dice-K while Ray starter Kaz pitched his best game all season long. Shame he didn’t get that win – he deserved it! Now the series travels back to St Pete and The Trop where the Rays have been more successful than any other team in MLB this season. The Rays are still in the driver’s set leading the series 3-2. I don’t anticipate the rays dwelling too much on this loss on their day off Friday. They have been resilient all season long and I expect to see even more focus and determination coming out of the box Saturday as Big Game James Shields takes on Josh Beckett.

    I anticipate the Rays closing this out Sat and the dome glowing orange as we drive down 275! See you at The Trop!

    Go Rays!

    Post info: By Rays6 on October 17th, 2008
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