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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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SP Jeff Niemann tossed a gem against the hard hitting bats of the Toronto Blue Jays in the opening game of the 3 game set.  Niemann looked confident on the mound and had the presence I’ve been waiting to see all season long.  Niemann went 7 1/3 innings scattering only 4 hits, 1 ER and 2 walks while striking out 1.  He had the powerful Blue Jay hitters off balance all night long.  Niemann earned his 7th victory, to lead the Ray staff, by out pitching Blue Jay staff ace Roy Halladay.  This was absolutely a pitchers duel as Doc gave up only 2 ER in his return for the DL.

The 2 ER’s Halladay gave up were courtesy of a tremendous blast by Carl Crawford in the 3rd inning into the upper deck of the Rogers Center.  The score remained 2-0 through the 6th inning.  The Rays offense added 2 more runs in the top of the 7th to complete their scoring.  One of the runs was courtesy of Pat Burrell’s 3rd HR of the season. 

This victory places the Rays up 2 games on the 4th place Blue Jays and 1 ½ games behind the idle Yankees in the wild card race.  This race is going to be hot and heavy after the All Star break! It’s so awesome to watch the Ray’s turn around from the beginning of the season.  The starting pitching has become more reliable, the bull pen has become the shut down group they were last year and the Ray offense is explosive, fast and great to watch.

 

Game 2 will see SP Matt Garza on the bump for the Rays.  Matt must keep the ball in the park!  This Blue Jay offense is a very powerful bunch and could open this game up in a hurry if he starts giving up the long ball.  If he keeps it in the Rays win! 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 30th, 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 Rays rebounded from a loss in game won to a nice victory in game 2 to even the 3 game set with the Angels.  SP Jeff Niemann did not have his best stuff on the mound and did not make it out of the 3rd inning and did not factor in the decision.  Niemann threw 3 2/3 innings giving up 5 runs (4 ER) on 7 hits and 3 free passes while striking out 3.  His location was far off the mark tonight especially in comparison to his last few outstanding outings.  The bullpen did an outstanding job of shutting down the Halos.  Four relief pitchers combined for 5 1/3 innings and allowed only 3 hits and 1 free pass while striking out 5.  RP Lance Cormier walked away the victor. 

Big days at the dish for Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar carried the Rays to victory. Pena was 2 for 4 with a HR, 2 runs scored and an RBI.  Zobrist went 3 for 3 with 3 runs scored and a free pass.  Aybar was 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored, 3 RBI, a HR and a free pass.  This is the kind of production we need out of the middle of this order!

This was a well put together game for the Rays.  They did make 2 more errors in this game – this is killing me!  However, once again I will say that through all these injuries and inconsistent pitching we are still only 6 games out of first place with a lot of game to go!

Post info: By Rays6 on June 11th, 2009
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The Rays continued their losing ways in Cleveland and on the road by losing their 5th straight game on this road trip and 17th straight in Cleveland.  The pitching wasn’t bad the hitting stunk this time.

SP Jeff Niemann went 3+ innings giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB while collecting 5 K’s.  Niemann looked good on the mound today – he’s beginning to show a bit more confidence pitching on the inside.  After a 2:40 rain delay RP Lance Cormier took to the bump and had another really good outing.  He gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and 1 BB while striking out 4.  JP Howell competed the last 2 innings of the game in stellar fashion by giving up 0 hits and 0 BB while striking out 3.

The Ray shave been begging for a great pitching performance and they got it.  The Ray offense was not able to capitalize on the opportunities given to them.  Willy Aybar was responsible for the lone Ray run by belting a HR off the RF wall that was upheld upon review.  Aybar, Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist were responsible for the majority of the Rays offense each having 2 hits in 4 attempts.  The 7-8-9 hitters were not able to take advantage of the runners on before them.  The Rays were 0 for 7 with RISP.

Look I cannot be too upset over the lack of run production as the Rays currently lead MLB in that category.  However, I will say that I think our offense needs to be a bit more creative and needs to play a little small ball.  I hate to say this but I’m going to.  CC tried to lay down a bunt and hit a lazy pop to 1B.  At this level and with the speed CC has it is an embarrassment that he cannot drag bunt.  I know bunting is a lost art and everyone is swinging for the fences but let’s get real.  CC does not possess enough power to be a big hitter he has the speed to be a great bunter but, I guess, he flat out refuse to learn it and apply it.  That’s embarrassing in my opinion.

The Rays are clearly not the same team they were last year.  Did you really expect them to go wire to wire in 1st place again?  If you did you are/were being unrealistic.  Now the question is what are they going to change to gain some momentum?  Play small ball – it is what you have to offer!  You have speed – use it! As far as the pitching goes – not much to change here, pitchers just have to do a better job hitting their locations.  Too many balls left hanging over the middle of the plate. 

The Rays head back to The Trop to take on the Twinkies.  See you there!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 29th, 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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Jason Bartlett is a stud!  This guy is absolutely nails at the dish this year.  JB had a career high 5 RBI’s going 3 for 3 with a 3B, 1 BB and 3 runs scored.  JB is currently the leading AL SS in BA by exactly .100 points over the next best AL SS!  He is by far the best base runner on this team with great reads and quick decision making.  The guy scored from 2nd base on a wild pitch that didn;t travel too far!  This guy is as professional as it comes and his success at the plate is not going to his head.  He works hard everyday to be where he is.  This should earn him a trip to St Louis for the mid summer classic.  BUT WE MUST VOTE FOR HIM!  You know Jeter will be the starting SS probably just out of pure popularity and exposure.  You need to go to MLB.com and have a voice – VOTE!  That being said outstanding day for JB and the offense all around!  In total the Rays banged out 9 hits and racked up 9 free passes as well.  

SP Jeff Niemann had a nice outing for himself as well.  Jeff went 8 strong giving up 8 hits, 4 runs (3 ER) and 3 strike outs with 0 walks. This is his best outing of the season to date.  I’d still like to see him be a bit more aggressive, not sure what it but he still seems a bit passive to me on the mound. RP Jason Isringhausen made his 2009 debut to get some work in the 9th.  Izzy allowed 1 hit in the inning and that was that.

This was a nice outing to continue a 4 game win streak.  This is what I spoke about last week – the need to beat these teams we should beat.  We have done that and are now at the .500 mark.  The Rays should creep closer to the top of the division by the end of the month – Go Rays!   

Post info: By Rays6 on May 19th, 2009
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SP Jeff Niemann earned his 3rd victory of the season.  Niemann lasted 5 innings giving up 8 hits, 2 ER, 3 BB while striking out 2.  In my humble opinion Niemann was less than stellar in this outing and has been all season long.  He was in trouble in most of the 5 innings and a few outstanding defensive plays helped him survive.  I don’t know about you guys but I’m wondering what the hype about Niemann was.  I haven’t seen anything impressive from the guy.  He doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t have great command, he gives up a multitude of this in every start and he always looks like he’s scared to death standing on the mound.  The guy is 6’9” and should be intimidating his opposition by pitching inside occasionally brushing people off the plate.  He does not show any look of confidence what so ever on the mound.     

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

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

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

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

See you at The Pit!!!!!!!!! 

Post info: By Rays6 on May 14th, 2009
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Well Ray fans the line says it all.  Horrible SP from Andy Sonnanstine cost the Rays a victory in a short 2 game set against division rival Baltimore Tuesday night.  The Rays went into the top of the 2nd inning down 1-0 after Sonny gave up a solo shot to Jones.  The Ray offense rescued Sonny by putting up a 5 spot on the board.  Carl Crawford accounted for 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored in the 2nd inning.  CC ended the day 2 for 5 with 2 doubles.  Evan Longoria contributed an RBI also adding to his ML high total of 45. 

Look in MLB if y our offered a 4 run lead you MUST hold it plain and simple.  Sonny was pulled in the third inning after not being able to record an out.  His line is horrible at 2 innings, 9 hits (2 HR to Jones), 7 ER, 1 K and 1 BB.  This performance rockets his ERA to 7.27.

Both bull pens performed well and stymied the opposition.  The only problem with this was we were already down.  We had opportunities and couldn’t cash in.  That being said, I still believe if your offense can generate 5 runs that is a game you should win period.  

The Rays complete this road trip Wednesday in Baltimore.  Let’s hope Jeff Niemann has worked out some of the kinks that have prevented him from keeping the ball down!

Go Rays!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 13th, 2009
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CC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXCITEMENT = RAYS WIN! RAYS WIN! RAYS WIN!

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

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

See you in Boston!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 8th, 2009
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