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    The Tampa Bay Ray offense put on a power display in the finale of the 3 game set against the LA Angels.  The offense put up 15 hits, 7 for extra bases including 4 home runs.  Carlos Pena, Dioner Navarro, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford all went deep while Navi, Ben Zobrist and Reid Brignac checked in with doubles.   Gabe Gross chipped in 4 RBI’s in his 3 for 4 performance while swiping a couple of bags as well.  Gabe has been swinging the bat well lately as he’s getting more regular playing time.  Now that Matt Joyce has been sent to Durham with the activation of Pat Burrell Gabe should be able to keep his groove on as he gets time in the OF. 

    SP David Price threw out a mixed bag of good and bad.  He did not figure into the decision as he had to be lifted after 4 1/3 innings due to a very high pitch count (105).  To be honest he got into a lot of trouble in the first inning with a base hit and 2 walks to load the bases but wriggled free without any damage.  Here’s how mixed his performance was – 6 K’s with 6 free passes.  He was brilliant one minute and couldn’t hit the zone the next.  I attribute this to youth and as the season develops so will David.  The bullpen backed Price by going 4 2/3 allowing only 2 hits, 2 free passes while striking out 6. 

    Grant Balfour was credited with the win, his 3rd of the season; half of what he won all of last season.  This is really indicative of the issues our starting pitching has had going deep into games.  There have been at least 3 guys that struggle to get through the 5th inning Niemann, Kazmir and Sonnanstine.  You can now switch Price with Kazmir and add him to that list. This presents the obvious issues for the bullpen being worn out early in a lot of games.  On the upside Niemann has shown much better location as of late allowing him to conserve pitches and go deeper in.  Sonny I think will always be hit or miss and I think he will find himself in the pen upon Kaz’s return.  Price should work it out like Niemann has and, when this happens, will solidify a brutal 5 man starting rotation.

    The Rays host the Washington Nationals this weekend at The Trop for 3.  This series should be a “gimme” for the Rays and allow them to, at least, keep pace if not make up some ground.  See you at The Trop!


    Post info: By Rays6 on June 12th, 2009
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    That headline states it all.  The Rays offense busted out to a 10 run lead only to see it slowly evaporate by poor pitching from start to finish.  Highly touted prospect, SP David Price, got the call when Scott Kazmir was placed on the 15 day DL to open the series on Cleveland.  Mr. Price wasn’t able to stick around long however due to an out of control pitch count.  Price lasted only 3 1/3 innings throwing 100 pitches even.  He scattered 4 hits, 2 ER, 5 BB and collected 6 strike outs.  So off to the bullpen we go.  Lance Cormier and Joe Nelson went 3.2 innings allowing only 1 hit – no ER, no walks, no K’s.  Nice outing for those 2 guys and they were the high point of the bull pen pitching effort.  Dale Thayer, Randy Choate, Grant Balfour and Jason Isringhausen all combined for 1 2/3 + innings pitched, 7 hits, 9 runs and 5 free passes.  Not to be lost in all this was the spectacular error committed by SS Reid Brignac causing only 6 runs to be earned.  This was an absolute ridiculous performance.  Izzy couldn’t hit that plate if his life had depended on it.  At this level you must come out and close the door on a 10 run lead.  Sorry guys – bad, bad performance.  

    The offense was busting on all cylinders the first 4 innings of the game when they scored all 10 of their runs.  From the 5th inning on the door was closed.  Gabe Gross was the big bat of the day contributing 1 hit on 3 attempts, 2 free passed, 2 runs scored and 3 RBI.  His lone hit was a 3rd inning bomb, his 3rd of the year. 

    BJ Upton remains leading off and hitting below the Mendoza line.  Yet another ridiculous day for BJ going 1 for 6 with 3 K’s.  Not sure what it’s going to take for Joe to realize he needs to be moved from that #1 hole. 

    The Rays have now lost Akinori Iwamura for the entire year with a torn ACL.  The starting pitching and bullpen are in shambles.  It will be interesting to see how the team recovers from such devastating losses.  If the Rays come out and win this series this game becomes a non factor in discussion.  If they don’t this game becomes the game that potentially ended the Rays season.

    Come on Rays – pull your heads out of your %#*&%$&*!


    Post info: By Rays6 on May 26th, 2009
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    Nice starting pitching performances from both sides kept this game close into the 9th inning.  Going into the top of the 9th inning the Rays came to the dish in a 3-3 tie with the Marlins.  The Rays decided they had had enough and opened the can of whoop ass.  The Rays batted around in the 9th inning scoring 6 runs and taking the lead for good.  The 9th was a nice inning to watch because the Rays were really making the Marlin pitchers work hard.  They were patient at the plate and busy on the base path.  So busy in fact they induced a run scoring balk out of RP Matt Lindstrom. Michel Hernandez and Ben Zobrist each had RBI singles, BJ Upton hit an RBI double, and Jason Bartlett knocked in two with a bases-loaded double.

    SP Jeff Niemann had a nice outing on the bump.  He went 6 strong innings scattering 4 hits, 1 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 5.  He left with the Rays ahead by 2 but the bull pen was not able to hold the Marlins silent.  JP Howell blew the save in the 7th by allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks in 2/3 of an inning.  Grant Balfour put an end to the Marlins hopes by blowing a 95 mph fastball right by Ramirez for the third out in the inning. 

    Evan Longoria was nailed in the left tricep with a fastball in the 9th inning.  Man, he was drilled.  His arm was black and blue by the time he hit first base.  He was clearly in a lot of pain.  Longo left the game to get treatment but do not be surprised if he is not in the lineup today.

    Niemann definitely deserved the win but that’s not always going to happen.  I mean the other guys are MLB players also.  They are not just going to lie down and give it up.  The key is that, even though the Marlins staged a bit of a rally, the Rays quickly put an end to it.  The Marlins looked totally deflated out there mid way through the 9th as it was becoming obviously clear that the Rays would not be denied.  These are the games was have been missing the first quarter of the season.  This was fantastic to watch because it was like 2 different games in one.  Innings 1 though 6 were a pitching dual as the Marlins SP matched Niemann pitch for pitch, out for out.  Innings 7 through 9 were an offense battle with the better team showing the other how it’s done. 

    I loved this game and this series.  Not only because, with this victory we have secured the series, but the Rays look so much better at the plate, they look very controlled and very well organized with a game plan.  The SP has been very good through 2 and to be honest about 2 weeks ago I didn’t know how much of a shot either Sonny or Niemann had at sticking around.  It no looks like the Rays have worked the bugs out.  Not that I don’t expect them to have a bad game here and there.  But I think the effort is going to be more “Ray like” from this point forward.  With this victory and the loss by Toronto we are only 3.5 games out.  We are now moving in the right direction!  The Rays go for the sweep today – see you in Miami!

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 24th, 2009
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    The Rays pulled into Fenway for the opening game of a 3 game set.  SP James Shields cruised through the first 5 innings with little more than the occasional hit.  Then the wheels came off when we hit the 6th inning.  A hit, the first walk he gave up in the game and a blast later and the score was tied at 3.  Then another hit and another blast later and the Rays are down 5-3.  Shieldsy lost the ability to hit his spots low and left a few up I the sweet zone.  Shields was clearly rattled as he was yelling into his glove at himself and the Red Sox took advantage of the opportunities he gave them.  The bull pen, specifically Grant Balfour, gave up 2 runs in his 2 innings of work assuring the Red Sox the easy victory. 

    The Rays offense struck early to take a 3-0 lead.  Carl Crawford had another outstanding offensive game going 3 for 5 scoring 3 and swiping another bag.  He was a HR away from the cycle!  CC has looked much better at the plate recently taking a lot of pitches and selecting a pitch he can do something with.  Jason Bartlett had a nice day at the dish as well collecting 2 2Bs in 3 trips and driving in a run.

    The Rays have looked much better as a whole of late.  In the last week they have given us a glimmer of the 2008 team.  The one thing that I see separating the World Series team from the 2009 team is pitching.  The pitching this year is absolutely unreliable.  From the starters to the bullpen no one has stood out in more than an outing or 2.  Matt Garza has been the best starter and the bull pen would have a difficult time claiming anyone as a stand out to this point.  The Rays offense cannot possibly come from behind time after time, eventually these pitchers are going to have to step up and shut down the opposition.  

    I will add and I will keep saying it – BJ Upton needs to switch positions with JB in the lineup — period!  The numbers make this statement so painfully obvious this isn’t even a question.  Look at this:  BJ = .152 BA, .272 OBP, .205 SLG, 31 K; JB = .355 BA, .382 OBP, .495 SLG, 15K.  Now, tell me where the argument lies in this!  I’m getting tired of everyone making excuses for his poor performance.  The shoulder surgery excuse has now sailed.  If he is still rehabbing it he should be in the minors doing it not here!  I get the distinct impression that Upton will be a “could have been” – a lot of unfulfilled promise.   

    Well we go at it again tomorrow and hope Kaz brings his ‘A’ game!

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 8th, 2009
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    Man, what a game between our Rays and the NY Yankees!  This game was a pitching dual du jour.  I have to admit going in I was a bit nervous about Rays SP Andy Sonnanstine.  We know he gives up hits but usually manages to limit the damage giving the team a chance to win.  My concern was with the type of hits he may give up – if he kept the ball up there may have been multiple launches out of the new yard.  BUT – Sonny pitched like no one thought he could, no one but himself that is.  He was masterful for 7.1 innings.  He kept the ball low and hit the outside edge like I can never remember him doing before.  He out pitched the Yankee ace Burnett who was also very tough.  The problem came in the 7th inning when the Yankees managed a couple bloop hits and ended with runners on 2nd & 3rd and 1 out.  Sonny was removed and Dan Wheeler came in to strike out Jeter with very impressive stuff.  JP Howell then entered and the flood doors opened.  JP gave up a walk to the first man he faced loading the bases with 1 out for Teixeira.  Tex lined an opposite bases clearing double down the left field line to tie the score.  This was hard to watch as Sonny pitched possibly his best game of the year.  But this has been part of the issue all season long – an unreliable bullpen, at least not nearly as reliable as last year.  Grant Balfour ended up gaining his first ‘W’ of the season and Troy Percival earned his 5th save – albeit not without his usual drama.  After allowing a 1 out double to Damon, throwing a WP to allow him to advance to 3rd with 1 out he managed to get Tex to fly out to short RF and induced Matsui to fly out to LF to end the game. 

    The offense faced an outstanding pitching performance from AJ Burnett as well.  But the offense came through in a few crucial situations to eek out 3 runs off him.  Dioner Navarro had much better at bats going 2 for 3 with an RBI.  The big blow came off the bat of the MLB HR leader Carlos Pena when he belted a line drive into the RF seats in the top of the 10th inning.  Offensively this was not a huge game but I thought the Rays clearly had some better at bats and had some key hits in good situation s to plate some runs.  The Rays are going to run into good pitching through out the season they key is to continue to do what they did last night – make it happen when they can. 

    This night was a good overall performance from the Rays.  If it were not for a “hiccup” from Howell this would have been a shutout. But look, not much went wrong on any side of the ball last year for the Rays but this year they are having “hiccups” on all sides of the ball.  The difference will be how they respond and adjust.  If they cannot we will not see October.  If they respond and pick up the pace we should cruise into the post season.  This is a young team now faced with adversity.  They must adjust!  That being said I expect JP to come out guns a blazin’ the next time he is called upon.

    Keep it moving Rays!


    Post info: By Rays6 on May 7th, 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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    pena blast

    The Tampa Bay Rays opened a 4 game set with the Chicago White Sox Thursday night losing 3-2.  The games SP Jeff Niemann pitched well and had it not been for1 pitch that he missed his location may have been a winner.  Niemann left a pitch over the heart of the plate to Dye who promptly deposited into the seats for a 2-0 lead.  The White Sox never looked back.  The Rays BP had a much better outing although they did give up an insurance run in the 9th.  Lance Cormier pitched 2.1 innings and Grant Balfour came in to strike out a few Sox to end a threat in the 9th.  Balfour looked a bit more like his old self pacing around the mound yelling at him self.  That’s been missing in his game to this point so it was great to see it! 

    The offense struggled against a decent outing for John Danks.  The Rays were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.  Here‘s the thing, Danks pitched well but the Rays gave up some easy outs.  They were swinging at pitches that were not close to the zone and first pitch swinging in some key situations.  They really need to find their plate discipline and work the pitch count to find a pitch they can do something with. The Rays went through similar times last year and they’ve managed to work them out.  I expect to see that happen again this year.  On a good note, Carlos Pena blasted his 5th long ball.  Pena is seeing the ball well and selecting good pitches to hit. 

    The Rays need to start putting all the facets of their game together now.  Time to start working out the bugs, so to speak.  Getting on into week 2 of this young season you don’t want to fall too far behind the leader, especially in the tough AL East.

    James Shields takes to the bump Friday and will be looking to right this ship!  I expect to see the stands packed with Rays fans cheering and yelling and silencing any White Sox supporters that may be in attendance!

    See you at The Trop!

    Post info: By Rays6 on April 17th, 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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    OK it may have only been game 6 of this young season but it as a big game.  No one wants to be swept at anytime during the course of a season.  The beginning of the season can set the tone for the duration.  That being said, “Big Game James” came through.  James Shields took to the mound for the Rays in an effort to stop an early season skid.  He did that and earned himself his first ‘W’ of 2009.  Shieldsy went 7 VERY strong complete innings scattering only 3 hits and 1 free pass while striking out 3.  He was the Shields we remember from 2008 plus some! 

    The offense erupted as well with 17 hits, 9 for extra bases!   There were doubles (4), triples (1) and home runs (4).  Home runs are always awesome but the home run of note is Evan Longoria as this is his 5th HR in 6 games!  Jason Bartlett, Carols Pena and Ben Zobrist are the other Rays who went yard.  The Rays were active on the base path as well swiping 3 bags.  Love to see these guys moving and taking what’s theirs! 

    No need to even state the obvious and say that this game’s performance was clearly 100 times better by all involved than the previous 2 nights but, now that I have, the Rays seem to still be having an issue with strike outs.  They gave up 11 easy outs via the K in today’s game and only accepted 3 free passes.  They really need to clean this part of the game up as this AL East is looking even tougher in 2009 with the ever present Yankees and Red Sox and the obvious improvements to both Toronto and Baltimore. 

    The bullpen pitched the last 2 innings of the game and all looked good except Grant Balfour.  Grant had all sorts of location issues and allowed the 3 runs in the 9th.  He was taken out in the 9th after loading the bases and not recording an out.  JP Howell came in and stopped the bleeding to end the game. 

    The Rays will now head back to The Trop for their home opener and the raising of the AL Pennant!  How exciting is that!  I may leave now to get there!!

    See you in The Pit!

    Post info: By Rays6 on April 12th, 2009
    Comments: 1 Comment »


    Wow – nice turn around from the previous evening!  Rays SP Scott Kazmir was awesome on the mound!  Kaz had a shaky first inning but came out firing in the 2nd inning and through the rest of his 6 complete innings of work.  In the first he got ahead of a few batters then looked like he was pecking away at the corners rather than going after them.  He lost them and issued free passes.  He recovered to end the first inning unscathed.  He come out in the 2nd inning and looking much more aggressive and confident.  In his 6 innings he only allowed 5 hits, 1 ER and 4 K’s while allowing 3 free passes (2 in the first inning).  Kaz had a lot of late movement on his pitches and was using his breaking ball to off set his fast ball!  His pitch speed was varying from 92 down to 78.  He locked the knees of many Red Sox hitters.  Kaz was the difference in this game – period!

    The offense had a nice day at the dish as well.  Nice to see the first home runs of the season by Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria!  Carlos went dead center with his monster blast and Evan went down to drive his shot over the Green Monster.  

    Here is the play of the game, a patent Maddon safety squeeze!  This took a few guys executing perfectly for this exciting play to work.  Gabe Kapler led off with a walk.  Next to the dish, Akinori Iwamura.  With Kapler running Aki slapped a single into the vacated #6 hole allowing Kapler to head to 3rd.  That was a nice piece of opposite field hitting!  Jason Bartlett, probably the best bat handler on the team, then laid down a beautiful bunt to the first base side allowing Kapler to score form 3rd.  These 3 guys executed everything perfectly in this entire sequence – it was beautiful!

    I love this “NL” style of play – love to see the Rays burning up the base paths and laying down the safety squeeze – outstanding!

    Aside from Kaz being the star of the game let me mention someone else who was quietly impressive in my mind, Gabe Kapler.  Gabe didn’t tear the cover off the ball, hit a HR, steal a base but he had a very nice game both offensively and defensively.  At the dish he was 1 for 3 with a run scored and a free pass.  He was the lead cog in the wheel that manufactured the run on the safety squeeze.  Defensively he played CF.  He made a few nice running catches on balls that were hit well over his head and to me that was most impressive.  I watched him just turn around and sprint for the fence then make a difficult play look easy.  He also had an assist by throwing out Youkilis at 2nd base.  Nice job Gabe!

    The Ray bullpen was outstanding expect for a little hiccup from JP Howell.  Grant Balfour earned the save by being an intense beast on the mound.  In the 9th inning he threw 10 pitches -9 were fast balls.  He was pacing all around talking to himself – it was awesome!

    Good to see the Rays play with some intensity and desire.  They wanted this game and it was obvious.  Today the Rays send the always hyper, intense Matt Garza to toe the rubber.  Matt will probably be hurdling the ball at about 200mph the first inning he’ll be so pumped!  Cannot wait until game time!

    Post info: By Rays6 on April 9th, 2009
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