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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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    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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    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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    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
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    Hey that says it all plain and simple.  SP James Shields was outgunned by Blue Jay SP Romero.  Romero had it and Shieldsy did not.  Shields gave up 3 long bombs for a total of 5 runs (4 ER) in 7 1/3 innings.  Shields scattered 7 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8.  The problem was the hits Shields did give up were of the long variety. 

    The offense wasn’t much of a help either as they gave up 10 easy outs by way of the K and were 0 for 5 with RISP.  Pat Burrell proved ineffective once again by grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the 7th.  This guy is proving to be a very poor DH – I’d rather see Willy get his at bats.  At least Willy usually puts the ball in play!    

    The Rays offense managed just 4 hits off Romero and easily let him off the hook after each of them.  Ben Zobrist accounted for half the Ray offense collecting 2 hits in 2 attempts with 2 free passes.

    Well this was a very unenthusiastic performance by the Rays to say the least.  I would have thought they’d come out gunning for this sweep but they looked like they lacked the desire to win this game.  Hopefully they improve on their desire to win by the time we hit the ground in Texas!

    All in all – the Rays are 8-2 in their last 10 games.  Excellent streak they have going but they cannot let up now.  They need to go into the All Star break with momentum and come out strong on the other side. 

    Post info: By Rays6 on July 1st, 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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    SP James Shields gave the best Ray pitching performance of the year so far and the Ray offense could not support it.  Shieldsy went 8 1/3 innings allowing only 4 hits and 2 free passes while striking out 5.  Shields was outstanding and the offense left him hanging with a “no decision”. 

    Now, a lot of people on the Rays’ message board are blaming one or two people for this loss.  As usual it’s the typical few that don’t look at the whole game but rather a brief moment within the game.  So, let me clear this up for them.

    The offense as a whole failed.  The Rays were 0 for 11 with RISP.  The 3-4-5 hitters were 1 for 13 with 6 K’s and 0 runs scored and 0 RBI’s.  As a whole the team collected 8 hits but gave away 13 easy outs via the K and only accepted 3 free passes from Oakland pitchers. 

    RP Joe Nelson came in to pitch behind JP Howell and guess what – he did his job.  Yes, that’s right.  He induced an easy ground ball right into the shift that would have been the 3rd out but was missed for an error by one of our most reliable players, Jason Bartlett.  All of the runs Rays pitching gave up in this game were unearned because of this. 

    So, gang the moral to this story is this – player accountability.  This game was not about Nelson giving up a home run in the 11th, not about JB booting a ball, not about the Rays offense being 0 for 11 RISP – it was about ALL of these things.  If one thing changes in any of that this game could have ended differently.  Don’t blame 1 person in a team sport – there is always something someone could have done differently to change the outcome. 

    Willy Aybar was the guy who came through to prevent the Rays from leaving a doughnut on the board blasting a HR in the bottom of the 11th.  That’s unfortunately the only good offense I can mention….

    So, look – these games are going to happen.  I’d like to see the Rays tonight pick up the situational hitting rather than swinging for the fences.  We have a few guys in a funk right now, Longo, Pena and Upton still, so love to see some of that small ball re emerge like those safety squeeze bunts and the such.  Let’s work the magic!

     

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 20th, 2009
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    I know the score might not look like the Rays got hammered but trust me they did.  This was a very difficult game to watch, a very painful loss.  Nothing much went right for the Ray’s pitching staff.  SP James Shields, the guy who has been our work horse eating 7-8 innings every start, barely survived 5 innings.  In those 5 innings he gave up 10 hits and 5 runs (2 ER thanks to Aki’s 5th Error of the season).  Shields did not show the ability to put people away going deep into many counts.  Although he did earn 5 K’s his frustration on the mound was evident.  The bullpen followed Shields and did not fair any better giving up 6 hits and 6 ER through 4 innings. 

    The offense was shut down by Carmona in the early going.  They finally managed to mount some sort of attack in the 6th inning scoring 6 runs and closing the gap to 3 runs at that point.  The big blow was dealt by Ben Zobrist who sent a screaming line drive into the RF seats accounting for 3 runs. 

    So, now the Rays record stands at 4 games under .500.  The pitching is bad and the defense is questionable at times.  These were the two things the rays relied upon last season.  You know offense for any team is here to day gone tomorrow but without pitching and defense you stand no chance in MLB.  So, the issue is not the loss itself, every team is going to lose at some point and lose ugly, but HOW we are losing.  I am concerned now doubt but not throwing in the towel by any means.

    Go Rays!!!!!

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 15th, 2009
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