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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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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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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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 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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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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