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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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    Chicago White Sox SP Mark Buehrle pitched the 18th perfect game in MLB history today against the Tampa Bay Rays.  I have to be honest it was quite amazing to watch a piece of MLB history go down but not so much from the Rays side of it, 27 up and 27 down, 0 hits and 0 walks.  For the Rays SP Scott Kazmir ran into trouble early by loading the bases and serving up a 2 strike fastball over the middle of the plate that the Pale Hose #9 hitter blasted for a Grand Slam.  Of course that would prove to be all the White Sox would need.

    Obviously the Rays offense was non existent.  There were a couple of close foul balls but truly the only sniff the Rays had of a hit was a late inning HR ball hit by Gabe Kapler that Dwayne Wise brought back into the park to preserve the perfect game.  Look I know that Buehrle was on but the Rays offense saw only 116 pitches – less than 13 pitches an inning! Could we have made this any easier for him?!

    So the Rays are leaving Chicago taking with them a very average 4-3 record since the break.  They have managed to turn around a very promising start to the second half and leave with a depressing loss due to a ton of mistakes and then have a perfect game tossed at them.  By the way, they will have to find some motivation somewhere between here and Toronto as they will face Toronto ace Roy Halladay tomorrow night.

    This weekend series means a lot right now.  I know it’s only July but they must recover and recover quickly from a very poor showing in the final 2 games of this series.  They will face Toronto and then come home to face the Yankees.  These bats must come to life!

    And by the way, Congratulations to Mark Buehrle!  As a fan of baseball it was amazing to watch, just wish it was against someone else!

    Post info: By Rays6 on July 24th, 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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    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 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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    The Rays opened the 3 game set with the LA Angels struggling to recover from an early error by Carlos Pena that led to 2 unearned runs.  SP James Shields pitched well enough to win this game and should have.  Shieldsy went 6 1/3 innings scattering 10 hits but only allowing 2 ER (4 total) while striking out 3.   Shields was victimized by several bloop hits and dribblers that really were not indicative of how well he pitched.  Out of those 10 hits there were several excellent pitches that halo hitters just managed to get the bat on.  The bullpen was lights out in completing the game.

    Pena committed his 6th error of the season (2 all of last year) by getting stuck in between hops on a grounder hit by the lead off halo, local product, Chone Figgins.  The defense of the Rays has been suspect this season unlike last.  A lot of errors on easy plays have been committed by guys with better than average gloves, including Pena.  To make any move the Rays MUST clean this up!

    The bats of the Rays faced a tough opponent in the Angels SP Weaver.  He was spot on in this game.  The big bat for the Rays was wielded by Ben Zobrist once again.  Zorilla was the only Rays to have multiple hits in this game going 2 for 4 with a HR, 2 RBI and 1 run scored.  Zobrist is definitely making a case for himself for a trip to St Louis.  He has stepped in, played multiple positions and continues to produce at the dish for the Rays when all else seems to be failing.  Nice job Zorilla!

    Our offense has been struggling from the get go of the season.  A few guys got off to fast starts but have since cooled significantly.  Pena and Evan Longoria come to mind.  Although Pena is doing exactly what he always does, a lot of K’s, unproductive outs, low BA and the occasional HR, I think everyone had high hopes after his fast start.  Longo also had a fast start but his BA is falling at the speed of light (0 for 2 with 2 BB last night).  BJ Upton and Dioner Navarro have shown little to no penchant for any type of offense.  Gabe Kapler and Pat Burrell are the worst signings by the new Rays front office to date. 

    The good news – with all this and the inconsistency of the Rays bullpen we are still only 6 games out!  The Rays need to plug in the best line ups they have and STOP worrying about all these computer stats and match ups.  Put Zobrist on 2nd, Joyce in RF and Aybar as DH vs RHP and Zobrist in RF, Aybar at 2nd base and Dillon as DH vs LHP and there you go!  As guys come off the DL guys like Kapler and Gross can be DFA’d, traded, something.  I’d also place Michel Hernandez behind the dish and leave him there.  He is a better defensive catcher and the pitchers seem to respond better to him than Navarro. 

    Well, I know, just a dream.  A dream by a frustrated fan and I am sure I’m not alone.  The Rays will try to rebound from the game 1 defeat and I from my ongoing frustration. 

    Post info: By Rays6 on June 10th, 2009
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    Hey Ray fans!  Thought I’d report my thoughts on what I’ve seen to the quarter point in the 2009 season. 

    Grade A = Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena off to fast starts.  Longo is currently on pace for 184 RBI’s.  JB improving all aspects of his offensive output currently leading all AL shortstops in BA.  He is on pace for 20 HR as compared to 1 all of last year.  CC is off and running on the base path leading all of MLB in stolen bases and on pace for 100 steals!  Carlos is knocking the cover off the ball hitting out 14 HR in the first quarter leaving him on pace for 56 dingers for the season.  

    Grade C = Pitching, pitching and more pitching.  This is the area I feel is most change form last season – the consistency from 2008 appears to be gone.  The only consistent pitching performances we have come from Matt Garza and Lance Cormier.  James Shields and JP Howell have recently stepped up their performances so hopefully they are turning the corner as well.  Our starting pitching has been the main issue.  The average ERA of our starting 5 is 5.39 with 2 over 7.  Numbers like this will wear out the bullpen and not give your team a chance often to win games. 

    Grade F =  BJ Upton, Dioner Navarro, Gabe Kapler and Pat Burrell have all failed to live up to their expected performance.  They really haven’t even come close.  BJ was supposed to come out of the shoot blazing’ but he is only batting .177 with an OBP of .282 – not blazing’!  Navi is a mere shadow of the all star performer he was last year with a BA of .178 and poor defense behind the plate.  Burrell was signed to give us the power from the right side of the plate that we lacked last year and protect Pena.  To this point he has 1 HR, is batting.250 and is on the 15 day DL.  I even saw Baltimore intentionally walk Pena to get to Burrell – not much protection there!  Kapler has just been a nonfactor to this point in the season with a BA of .193.  He really hasn’t brought anything to the table to speak of – he has been an average defender and below average at the dish.  

    So we have some guys having career years and others that cannot even hit the Mendoza line.  We have 3 out of 5 starting pitchers that cannot consistently go 5 innings a start.  What does this all equate to = Mediocrity. 

    The first quarter of 2009 has given us a team that is merely average as a whole. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.  Look, these guys learned how to win as a group last year.  Now they are learning how to live up to expectations and adjust to adversity.  This is a vital lesson in this young group’s growth toward the champions they will soon be.  I believe in this team and the “Ray Way” and we’ll check back in to see if any of these grades improve by the mid summer classic.

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 21st, 2009
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    I know it doesn’t seem like it was close due to the final score but the Rays had opportunities and had even brought the score as close as 6-5.  The BP couldn’t hold it there and the offense could not take advantage of the chances they had. So, let’s review…

    Jeff Niemann had a tough outing and only lasted 3 innings giving up 5 ER (6 total runs).  Jeff never looked comfortable and his ability to hit his location was absent.  Jeff looked a bit tentative on the mound.  Look this guy is 6’9” and can bring it – so bring it, be aggressive! Knock these guys on their tails pitching in then finesse something.  You have got to use that fastball to setup your out pitch. 

    Lance Cormier did a GREAT job following Niemann and shutting down the Red Sox.  Cormier went 2 innings giving up only 1 hit.  Grant Balfour followed running into some trouble in the 6th inning.  Balfour allowed 1 hit and 2 free passes to load the bases with only 1 out bringing Youkilis to the dish and Joe Maddon from the dugout.  Brian Shouse was called on to clean up this mess and failed by allowing a 2 run 2B to Youkilis putting the Red Sox up 8-5.  Shouse continued a poor outing by giving up a “no doubter” to Lowell in the top of the 7th.  Shouse has got to be one of the most unimpressive pitchers I have ever seen.  Not sure what the Rays saw in this guy or if they just grabbed him because he was a cheap lefty.  Sure has not shown that he deserves a spot in this BP!  Shouse walks in the 10th run forcing Maddon to go to the BP again because he couldn’t get the job done.  Terrible!  Joe Nelson struts in to save the day and record the last out of the 7th – thanks Joe!  Nelson pitched an amazing 8th inning throwing only 14 pitches, 10 of them for strikes to record the 3 outs!  To this point in the season Nelson has been the best signing of this year by far!

    The Rays offense had responded nicely to Cormier’s 2 innings of work by scoring 1 in the 4th, Carlos Pena’s MLB leading 11th bomb, and 3 big runs in the 5th.  The big blow once again came from Evan Longoria, otherwise known as Evan Almighty, a 2 run 2B with 2 outs. Pena followed with a free pass and Pat Burrell completed the scoring by lacing a 2B down the left field line scoring Longo.   

    The Rays blew a big opportunity to add a run or two in the 6th inning and creep closer.  With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out the top of the order, BJ Upton and Carl Crawford, gave away 2 easy outs to the Sox. 

    Dioner Navarro is struggling needless to say to this pointing the season.  Look as a catcher I can live with a lack of offense but I cannot live with the horrible defense.  Navi has absolutely been horrible blocking balls in the dirt and throwing out base stealers.  To this point in this game they have 4 swiped bags and a 5th that would have been had the runner not tripped over his own feet.  Look something has to give with Navi one way or another and the coaching staff needs to make that happen.  He is currently a liability both offensively and defensively and it needs to get sorted sooner rather than later.

    Speaking of defense, more errors tonight.  Getting tired of adding these things up!  Akinori Iwamura made his 4th error of the season on a ground ball that should have been automatic. Gabe Kapler also chipped in with his first error of the season.  But, I’m going to tell you what I saw, Kapler made a throw to the plate that would have hit Navi in the chest on one bounce but Navi was standing behind the line rather than in front therefore the ball hit the runner and bounced away.  This error might have been charged to Kapler but it was not his fault.  There was also a ball that Ben Zobrist should have corralled for out at short but he bobbled it allowing the runner to reach base.  Not sure why but the official scorer was in a forgiving mood and scored it an infield hit.  NOT!  These guys need to be out drilling daily until they can clean this up.  You must have good pitching and good defense to win ala 2008.  Good defense can snatch a few victories for “ok” pitching which is what we’ve had so far this season (aside from Garza’s last start) so let’s get this cleaned up!

    The Rays will go for only their 2nd series victory tomorrow when they send James Shields to the mound.  Let’s pack The Trop and give the Rays the “Dome Field” advantage they deserve!  See you there!

     

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 2nd, 2009
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    The Rays gave up the lead in the 8th when JP Howell blew the save by allowing the tying run to score.  The Troy Percival gave up the game in the 9th by allowing Cody Ransom a 2B and eventually scores the winning run.

    This was difficult to watch as the back end of our bullpen failed to save this for Andy Sonnanstine.  Sonny pitched well in his 5 innings of work allowing 4 hits, 2 ER, 1 free pass while getting 3 K’s.  This was a big improvement from his last start.  Joe Nelson followed Sonny for 1.2 innings and allowed 0 hits, 0 runs 1 BB and 2 K’s – nice job!   Then the wheels came off.  The guys we counted on all last year began the unraveling – Grant Balfour, JP Howell and Troy Percival.  Between the 3 they allowed 4 hits, 2 ER 1 BB with 2 K’s.  The remaining .2 innings was pitched by Brian Shouse who did a great job with 0 hits, 0 ER and 1 K.   

    So, not to place the blame on these few guys as this is a team sport, we also had base running mistakes and a few mistakes at the plate.  Gabe Kapler made a poor decision as to when to be aggressive on the base path and was thrown out at 3rd (although he was actually safe per the replay).  Fact is he should have been out and it was a poor decision to run.  Michel Hernandez was picked off first base by Pettitte.  Now, you guys know he has an awesome pick off move so – pay attention please.

    We didn’t do too badly at the dish in collecting 6 hits – 4 of them for extra bases.  Pena blasted his 4th HR of the season to give the Rays a 3-2 lead in the 4th. 

    Essentially we made some mistakes here and there but their BP beat our BP and that’s why we lost.  Now I am not phoning it in for our BP just yet as we’ve only played 9 games.  However I will say that I’d like to see us start making better decisions on when to be aggressive and love to see the BP start to turn it around.  I hope the early bullpen issues are not indicative of the RP having pitched over their heads last season. 

    The Rays open a 4 game set today vs. the CWS……  See you at The Trop!

    Post info: By Rays6 on April 16th, 2009
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