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Now that’s what I’m talking about!  I told you that these 2 games would show us what the Rays are made of.  We’d see how much desire they had to win and we did!  They showed anyone questioning their heart that the Rays are going to make a run for October the last part of the season. 

To me the big story was the pitching.  The Rays flat out pitched much better than the Red Sox.  Tuesday’s SP Matt Garza gave up 2 solo bombs but limited the damage to that alone.  Matt’s fiery personality lent itself to focus and a great approach on the mound.  Had it not been for 2 poorly located pitches he would have held the Sox scoreless.   Wednesday’s SP David Price pitched his best game of the season.  Price pitched 6 strong innings giving up 2 solo bombs as well.  The important thing about Price’s performance – zero walks!  Price had the best command of his fastball I have seen all season long.  

The starting pitching was awesome for this 2 game set but more amazing was the performance of the bullpen.  In 2 games the bullpen threw 9 innings allowing only 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 4.  This bullpen was outstanding!  Enough cannot be said about their progress as the season wears on.  These guys had a bad start and are now one of the best in the business.

The offense did enough to win.  Although they didn’t beat the cover off the ball they got the big hit when needed blasting out 6 HRs in 2 games.  It was nice to see some of the guys who have come under fire for a lack of production respond to their critics with one swing of the bat.  Evan Longoria was the big hero in game 1 hitting 2 HRs –one to tie the game and the other to win it in the 13th inning.  Both Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell hit monster blasts into the outfield seats.  Jason Bartlett has taken a definite liking to batting in the number 1 hole and blasted out his 9th HR of the season far surpassing last year’s total of 1.  Carl Crawford also chipped in with a 2 run blast on his birthday – Happy Birthday CC!

These two victories in conjunction with Texas’ 3 game skid have placed the Rays 3 games out of the Wild Card race!  The Rays travel to the left coast to take on the Mariners and the Angels over the next week.  They’ll need to keep the momentum and focus on winning each series.  The Yankees and Red Sox will spend the next 4 days beating up on each other so we can gain more ground on someone if we win.  This is going to be an exciting year end!   I still believe the race will be determined in head to head meetings with the Yankees and Red Sox in September. 

Keep it going Rays, we’re behind you!

Post info: By Rays6 on August 6th, 2009
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SP 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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SP Matt Garza rebounded from his last terrible outing by pitching 8 innings of 1 ER baseball to allow the Rays to even the 3 game set at 1 game each.  Garza was awesome tonight!  He did run into trouble in the 4th by walking the bases loaded but regained his form and got out of the inning with 0 runs scored.  Garza allowed only 3 hits in 8 innings while striking out 7.  This was absolutely his best performance in a few games.  If it had not been for the quantity of pitches he threw in the 4th inning he could have easily closed out the game with under 100 pitches.  The home run bug was the only negative on his stellar performance.  He allowed a HR to Werth that accounted for the only Phillies scoring of the night.  The pitch Werth hit was not a bad pitch.  It was clearly on the edge of the outside corner but it was right at belt level.  Garza, along with the rest of the Rays pitching staff, really need to focus on keeping the pitch down as well as away.

Pat Burrell really provided the only scoring the Rays would need considering the outstanding job done by Garza.  Burrell connected off his former teammate to blast his 2nd HR of the season and driving in 2 runs.  Burrell ended the night with 3 RBIs total which is what we signed him to do.  Hopefully this starts the turn around at the dish for Pat. 

Base running was a bit of an issue for me in this game.  Both Carl Crawford and BJ Upton made a decision after they hit balls to the outfield that they were out.  They started jogging up the line and watched as both baseballs fell to the turf.  Then they turned on the afterburners.  CC was thrown out at 3B when he would have gone in standing easily had he been running out of the box.  BJ was safe at 2B on a close play that should have never been close.  Come one now guys, let’s not start this laziness!  BJ made another costly base running mistake tagging from 3B on a short fly to LF and was gunned at the dish.  Bad move BJ!  You have the middle of the order coming up with only 1 out – you cost the team a run!  Be smart guys, be smart!

The opposite side of this was the hustle by Ben Zobrist in the 8th inning on a ground ball to SS J-Roll.  Zobrist was burning from the time the ball hit the bat and was safe at 2B.  This was awesome to watch!  The Rays ended up scoring 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th.

All in all, good game.  A few mistakes to learn from here and there – I never want to see this base running BS again!  The rubber game of the set sends SP Andy Sonnanstine to the mound for the Rays.  This should be an interesting start for Sonny as he knows he is on the bubble of wearing a Durham Bull’s uni again with the impending return of Scott Kazmir.  Sonny should come out as determined as ever to have a great outing.  I’ll be there to cheer him and the Rays on to the series victory!

 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 25th, 2009
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SP David Price stepped onto the mound and into trouble from the start in game 1 of this 2008 World Series rematch against the Phillies.  Price was rocked in the first inning allowing 6 runs on 40 pitches including a 3 run blast by John Mayberry.  Price ran into another crooked number in the 4th inning by giving up another 4 runs.  Price again showed he had no “put away” pitch which is a very big disappointment.  He got out ahead and ran counts to 2 strikes then hung a pitch that clearly was not working, slider, over the heart of the plate for batting practice.  I am a bit perplexed as to WHY Price and C Dioner Navarro continued to throw the slider whilst it was getting hammered!  If Navi was calling for it Price should have shook him off!  If Price was shaking off Navi to get to it Navi should have ran out to the mound and told him to forget that pitch for tonight!  Where the hell is the leadership?!  Mr. Price may have just worked himself back to AAA with the impending return of SP Scott Kazmir.  If there was any question before who the odd man out may be this may have answered it.  Price clearly is not ready for the big stage yet.  Not only in this start but all of his starts have been hindered by high pitch counts and the inability to pitch deep into a game.  In AAA he really needs to find an “out” pitch!

The bullpen stopped the bleeding and finished the game strong once again.  RP Winston Abreu and Lance Cormier completed 4 2/3 innings allowing only 3 hits and 1 free pass while striking out 5.  This bullpen has turned its’ season around.  They were getting pounded at the beginning of the season now they are 3rd in ERA in the AL.  Nice job guys!  Now go and straighten out those starters please!

The defense had a large part of the blame for the crooked numbers put on the board.  Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena each committed their 7th errors of the season while BJ Upton committed his first.  This lead to 5 of the 10 runs scored being unearned!

The offense was pitiful against Phils SP Moyer.  They only managed 5 hits off a guy who tops the radar at about 80 mph.  As a whole the team was 2 for 10 with RISP.  Not much good went on here and Pat Burrell continues to struggle at the plate.  The guy who was signed to be the big RH power bat and protect Pena has now been bumped down to 6th in the line up due to his struggles.  Sorry but this was a bad signing!

The Rays attempt to put this horrendous performance in the past as they send SP Matt Garza to the bump in game 2.  Now, same prediction as the last game he pitched – if he keeps it in the park, Rays win.  If not rays will struggle.  This is a very simple formula, keep the ball down and away and mix in the occasional buzz on the hands to keep them honest.  Go Rays! 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 24th, 2009
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“The key will be Garza keeping the ball in the park.  Garza has given up 10 HR to date while giving up only 19 all of last year.  If he keeps in it we win – simple.  If not, we’re in for a battle.”

That my friends was my statement in yesterday’s blog.  What did SP Matt Garza do in the rubber game of the 3 game set?  Garza allowed 3 long blasts that cost the Rays 4 ER and the game/series.  That gives Garza 13 long balls given up to this point in the season.  He gave up only 19 all of 2008. 

The offense wasn’t much help either.  Our #3 and #4 hitters continue to try to pull pitches that are outside and low.  Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria combined for a whopping 1 for 8 with 5 K’s with 0 runs scored and 0 RBI’s.  As professional hitters these guys must see what the opposition is doing to them and adjust to it.  Until they can prove they can spread the ball around the field do not expect to see an inside pitch to either of them.  If I was the opposing pitcher they see nothing but off speed down and away.  

Ben Zobrist came clutch in the top of the 9th by knocking in BJ Upton and Carl Crawford with a single to close the gap to 1 run.  Jason Bartlett provided the other run by banging out a triple and scoring on a Dioner Navarro single.  

This team is looking more like the .500 team they have been predicted at being this season.  They cannot get any clutch hitting from their big bats.   The pitching has been average to below average.  If these guys don’t turn that corner soon and start to make some ground they will see themselves sitting in 4th place at the end of this season. 

Post info: By Rays6 on June 19th, 2009
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SP David Price had set his goal this start to decrease his walks allowed.  He was VERY successful as he did not allow a free pass.  The problem was he turned that into a career high 10 hits allowed including 2 home runs.  To be honest Price is still finding himself as a big league pitcher.  Clearly he has some work to do.  BUT, this was a successful outing for Price, maybe not for the team as a whole.  Price went 7 innings on 99 pitches.  This is a vast improvement over his last few games.  He gave up zero walks which is also a vast improvement on his past performances.  He allowed 10 hits yes but if guys are making contact the defense has a chance to make a play.  You cannot defend walks.  What I saw is Price continuing to want to use a pitch that just was not working for him, his slider.  C Michel Hernandez failed to talk to him about this thus he left it hanging in the thin Colorado air.  Overall I was happy with his performance, he’s working it out.  He had 1 bad inning but kept his pitch count low, struck out 5 and gave his team a chance to win.

The offense was a mixed bag after an outstanding performance in game 1.  Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford connected for bombs unfortunately for us these were solos shots.  Longo was the only Ray hitter to collect multiple hits.  We had opportunity to win this game but the bats fell silent. 

The Rays are looking to win the series on getaway day Wednesday afternoon.  SP Matt Garza looks for his first victory in a while.  The key will be Garza keeping the ball in the park.  Garza has given up 10 HR to date while giving up only 19 all of last year.  If he keeps in it we win – simple.  If not, we’re in for a battle.

Go Rays!!

Post info: By Rays6 on June 18th, 2009
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The Rays dropped the finale Sunday afternoon to the Twins.  This was SP Matt Garza’s first taste of facing his former team and they got the best of him.  Garza went 7 innings allowing 3 ER on 7 hits and 1 BB while collecting 6 K’s.  Ironically he gave up a first pitch HR to the guy who was traded for him, Brendan Harris, to lead off the scoring for the Twinkies.  Look the only issue I have with Garza’s performance was this.  The Rays were up 2-1 in the 6th inning.  With first base open, a runner on 2nd base and a 3-2 count on Morneau my humble opinion is you throw something in the dirt.  Maybe he swings, maybe he doesn’t.  I say you go after the next batter, Kubel, who Garza had owned with 2 strikeouts already in the game.  Instead Garza served up a pitch that was good enough for Morneau to send back up the middle for the game tying RBI.  This was NOT a good decision.  I know Matt was pumped to pitch against the Twins but let’s be smart here.  Morneau is too good a hitter to take that chance.  This was definitely a turning point in this game!

Garza was certainly not the only reason the Rays lost that game.  The offense was anemic.  The 1-5 hitters for the Rays were 2 for 18 with 1 run scored, 1 RBI and 2 hits.  One of those hits, the run scored and the RBI all came off the bat of Carlos Pena who gave the fans in RF a souvenir.  The Rays were 0 for 3 with RISP. 

A big welcoming shout out to Matt Joyce who made his Ray debut and made a big splash.  Joyce went 2 for 3 with a HR.  Joyce was the high point of this game as the Rays never seemed very energized. 

This is the time when the “big guys” must step up.  Longo, Pena, CC must all kick it into high gear to account for the injured players.  We are once again weak against LHP as we miss Bartlett and Burrell (not that he has done much but I’d take him over Kapler any day).  We have a weak bench with not much to do against RHP.  The Rays cannot afford the number 1-5 guys going 2 for 18.

Hopefully todays off day will give thee guys some pep in their step!  

Post info: By Rays6 on June 1st, 2009
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After the total pitching debacle Monday night in Cleveland I was looking forward to watching SP Matt Garza work his mojo on the bump in game 2 Tuesday evening.  Needless to say it didn’t happen.  As a matter of fact Matt went from one extreme result to the other with little in between.  What do I mean by that?  Here you go…Garza went 6 innings, scattered 5 hits (3 HR amongst these hits), walked 0 and struck out 7.  He was pitching well but when he made a mistake the Tribe made him pay.  RP Randy Choate followed Garza for 2 innings allowing another HR for the 5th run of the game for the Tribe.

The offense sputtered for the Rays.  The managed to eek out 6 hits total. The big hit came from the bat of Carlos Pena as he hit a bomb into the seats for #16 of the season.  The top of the order was minimally effective for the Rays.  Hitters 1-2-3-4 went 2 for 14 with Pena’s bomb accounting for the only run/RBI, 2 walks and accounting for all 7 strike outs by Ray hitters. Considering the current state of the Ray’s offense and pitching this will not win many games.  Someone must step up in the lineup and take charge, someone must lead.  Love to see Pena put that bunt down against that shift, love to see Upton bunt or take a walk just to get on base, etc….    

The good news out of this day is that all other AL East teams above the Rays also lost so the Rays have not given up any more ground.  The Rays need a leader right now to take charge.  They need someone to push them.  These are the times we are missing Hinske and Floyd.  Sometimes I think our team is a bit too nice.  I understand they want to win but they need someone to stir up some pride and desire in that club house especially now with the losses we have endured.  The Rays have an opportunity to split the series in Cleveland but must win the next 2 games.  Time to turn it up a notch guys!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 27th, 2009
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WOW – nice game!  The Rays managed a split with the Oakland A’s Thursday night riding the clutch bats of Ben Zobrist, Dioner Navarro and Carl Crawford.  With the Rays down 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th (thanks BP!) Zorilla got the call off the bench with a man on first.  Zorilla vaulted a 1-1 pitch into the RF seats to tie the game for the Rays and save the bull pen!  Dioner Navarro followed the Ben Zobrist show to the dish and spanked a ground rule double down the RF line.  After a BJ Upton walk Carl Crawford stepped up with the winning run 180 feet away.  CC drilled a liner right over the head of the pitcher to CF scoring Navi and sealing the walk off victory.  WOW – what a nice come back!  Zobi has really turned himself into a valuable member of this team.  When he first got here a few years back I honestly did not see him lasting long.  He couldn’t hit and his fielding was marginal.  Now he IS the definition of “super utility man”!  Congratulations Zorilla – your hard work is evident and has made a lot of us fans!

SP Matt Garza had another nice outing but unfortunately was left with a “no decision”.  Garza went 6 2/3 scattering 7 hits, 4 free passes and 2 ER while striking out 8.  Great K/BB ratio but would really like to see Matt cut down the walks.  Although I will say the umpiring overall has been poor behind the plate this series.  A few of these guys made pitches that were perfect, I mean absolutely perfect, and the ump failed to make the call. 

The bull pen failed once again after a great starting pitching performance.  In 2 1/3 innings pitched the Ray bullpen gave up 5 hits and 3 ER.  This bullpen seems to have 2 rotations going:  Shouse, Wheeler, Percival and Cormier, Balfour, Howell.  The other RP are thrown in when/where needed.  The combo of Cormier, Balfour and Howell has been overall much more effective as evidenced by an average ERA of 3.17 as compared to 5.17 for Shouse, Wheeler and Percival.  Not sure if the Rays planned the combinations like this intentionally but maybe they should consider re-evaluating.

Aside from the already mentioned offensive performances Jason Bartlett banged out his career high 6th HR!  Nice power display this year JB!  Keep it going!

The Rays ended this home stand with “WOW”!  That is the component that’s been missing this season.  There is no “WOW” or excitement.  Some days they just seem like they’re grinding out another 9 innings.  I know they want to win but it doesn’t show on their faces like it did last year.  The hunger, the desire, the big magic…. 

Hopefully last night’s big walk off victory will send the Rays on their 7 game road trip on a magical high and they’ll start to remember what it felt like last year. 

See you in Miami!

Post info: By Rays6 on May 22nd, 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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