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    The Rays spend the last 4 days beating up on the lowly Kansas City Royals.  Well, except for that 1 game….you know that game, don’t you?  That stellar pitching performance by SP James Shields was wasted by defensive mistakes and offensive break down.  Aside from that it was a good series victory for the Rays and they gained some ground in the race for the AL East crown as the Bronx Bombers fell 3 out of 4 games to the Pale Hose of Chi-town.  But, didn’t you expect us to beat up on the last place Royals?  I certainly did.

    The Rays will show us over the next 2 days what they’re made of, what intensity remains, what focus they have.  They now have a chance to gain more ground as the Boston Red Sox show up for a short 2 game set.  Look, at this point in the season if the Rays cannot come out like gang busters in their own hours for 2 games then I think it is safe to say the season will be in the bag.  If they cannot step it up a notch now for 2 games and an off day on Thursday why would we think they could in September?

    Manager Joe Maddon finally sat a few guys that have been underperforming all season long.  BJ Upton, Pat Burrell and Dioner Navarro all had the day off while Gabe Kapler, Willy Aybar and Michel Hernandez got some game in.  With BJ out of the lineup Jason Bartlett got the #1 hole FINALLY and went 3 for 4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs scored, 1 free pass and was a HR short of the cycle.  JB likes the lead off and has earned the opportunity through a season of being one of 2 of the most consistent hitters the Rays have had all season long (Carl Crawford being the other). 

    Slick Willy got the call at DH and blasted 2 HR’s – one from each side of the plate.  Going 2 for 5 but having only 1 strike out proves once again that Willy is a contact guy.  He will put the bat on the ball for productive outs when needed.  The Rays need to find a way to unload Burrell’s big ass contract! 

    Hernandez had a nice day at the plate going 2 for 3 with a free pass, 2 runs scored and an RBI.  But most importantly no passed balls and no wild pitches.  This guy is the defensive answer at backstop for the Rays the remainder of the season.  The pitchers seem to like throwing to him and he is always in the game. 

    I wouldn’t mind so much bringing BJ back to the lineup as I know how important defensively he is BUT he needs to trade places with JB period.  There is no question this is the right move.  Compare these numbers and make the right choice Joe!

     

      BJ                                                     JB

    .244                   BA                          .337

    .318                  OBP                         .387

    .373                   SLG%                     .521

    114                      K                            54

    Tonight starts the test phase of the season for the Rays.  Their will to win will be tested and on display over the next few games.  I’ll be cheering for the Rays and hoping Joe makes the line up decisions that seem so abundantly clear to most Ray fans.  

    Go Rays!

    Post info: By Rays6 on August 4th, 2009
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    SP David Price out dueled SP Roy Halladay to earn his 3rd victory of the season and secure the series sweep for the Rays early Thursday afternoon.  Price looked much better than his previous start going 6 innings scattering 6 hits, 1 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 7.  This was a VAST improvement from his last outing in Arlington!  The thing that I found most impressive was his battery mate, Michel Hernandez.  This guy works so well with young pitchers it’s awesome to watch.  He called a great game for Price and Price hit his spots thus we win.  Hernandez is by far, in my opinion, the best catcher on our roster.  He calls great games, has confidence in what he does and the pitchers seem to respond well to him.  I’d like to see him suit up more often especially in tandem with Price and Niemann.

    The offense did just enough to get by this game.  They were 3 for 11 with RISP but that’s all we needed with the pitching we got today.  Carlos Pena came through with a big 2 run double in the 5th to put the Rays ahead for good.  Carl Crawford continues to tear up the base path swiping #44 that lead to the Rays first run of the game. 

    This was a great series sweep heading into the weekend!  It is nice to put a little cushion between us and the Jays and keep up with the Red Sox and Yankees.  Looking forward to more of the same when the Rays take on the A’s this weekend! 

    See you at The Trop

    Post info: By Rays6 on July 9th, 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 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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    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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    Yes folks that’s right!  Rays SP Andy Sonnanstine not only pitched well but aided his own cause by belting a run scoring double in the 4th inning in the series finale against the Tribe!  Why was our SP batting you may ask yourself.  Well here’s the story – Evan Longoria was slated to DH while Ben Zobrist was to play the field at 3B.  An error on the scorecard showed both players playing the #5 position.  After the completion of the top of the 1st inning Indians manager Eric Wedge brought this to the attention of the umpires.  After a 13 minute delay the umpires correctly ruled that the Rays had lost the DH for the game and the pitcher would have to bat.  Obviously Joe Maddon shouldered the blame for the scorecard snafu but let me tell you this was awesome to watch!  The crowd went nuts when Sonny stepped to the dish batting in the #3 hole in the bottom of the 1st.  He had a nice shot to short but ended to be a fielder’s choice – he beat the throw to first to avoid the DP.  His 2nd AB he K’d but his 3rd attempt was golden.  The outfield was playing him short and he knocked an opposite field shot over the LF head to the fence.  This scored Michel Hernandez, who himself had just knocked a 3 run 2B, from second base.  The crowd went wild ringing cowbells and cheering.  I’m sure this totally pissed off the opposition!

    By the way, Sonny pitched well going 5 2/3 scattering 7 hits and 5 ER while walking 1 and striking out 3.  I know it doesn’t look like he pitched all that well by just looking at his line.  But 4 of those runs came off 2 Ben Francisco HRs.  Other than that damage Andy looked as good as he’s looked in a while.  I think he should hit every game – LOL!  The bullpen came in and kept the Tribe quiet for 3.1 innings giving up only 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 5.  The 3rd outstanding BP showing in a row and look 3 wins in a row – think there’s a correlation?!

    The offense had outstanding at bats today!  Not only did they hit well (8 hits, 4 for XBH) they showed their great eyes for the zone collecting 8 free passes!  They did strike out 8 times as well but no one had a multiple strike out day.  Jason Bartlett carried the big stick of the day going 3 for 4 with a 3B, 2B, 2 runs scored and an RBI.  Yes, a HR away from the cycle!   Hernandez came through big for the Rays belting a line drive 2B to LF to score 2 runs and put the Rays up for good in this game. 

    And I have yet to even mention the bench clearing incident in the 8th – LOL.  The Tribe brought in Kerry Woods to take revenge on BJ Upton in the bottom of the 8th inning.  Why you ask?  Apparently it hurt the Indians feelings the BJ would try to spark his team Thursday evening when they were down 9-0 and steal a bag.  Are you kidding me?!  So, Woods through the first pitch behind BJ and the second in tight.  This upset Maddon and he let everyone know.   Tempers flared, words were exchanged then benches emptied.  Luckily no one through any haymakers and order was restored.  The best sight was seeing Pat Burrell, just placed on the 15 day DL, charge out of the dugout putting on his shirt the whole way.  It was comical.   Look, most of the time I can get a clear understanding of retaliation but in this case, are you kidding me?!  The Rays are down and are supposed to just quit?  I don’t think so.  That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve every heard.  Get a grip Cleveland – just because you are not living up to expectations this year do not think anyone else is quitting!

    What a game!  This was a great game to be at.  Oh and did I mention the game’s final out was a beautiful diving catch in LF by Carl Crawford.  The Trop went crazy once again.  We have now won 3 games in a row against a team we should have beaten.  The Rays are 1 game under .500 and have a 4 game set at home against the bottom dwelling Athletics who we owe a whoppin’ to.  Remember we played very poor against them out in Oakland – payback time!

          

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 18th, 2009
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    Matt Garza was outstanding in game 1 of a 4 game set pitching against the Rays AL East rival Boston Red Sox.  Matt pitched a perfect game through 6 innings!  A squib infield single in the 7th broke up the perfect game for Matt but he quickly erased the runner inducing a double play.  There were only 2 other Red Sox runners on base the entire game – a walk by Garza and a walk by Balfour.  No Red Sox made it to 2nd base.  The combination of Garza for 6.2 innings and Balfour for 1.1 innings faced the minimum 27 batters for the 9 innings.  For all the bad pitching performances the Rays have had as of late this performance was unbelievable!  Garza hit every spot, threw every pitch and used several different pitches as his “out” pitch keeping the Red Sox hitters off balance.

    Garza’s battery mate for this game was Michel Hernandez.  He did an outstanding job handling Garza’s zone and calling the game.  Hernandez looked confident behind the plate and worked the umpire on all sides of the plate to get those close calls going in Matt’s direction.  Oh yeah, he also managed to throw in his first career MLB home run!  He went 4 for 5 at the dish, scored 1 run and drove in 3.  Nice day Michel!  I expect we’ll be seeing him behind the plate more often.  

    The offense was electric!  These guys were pumped with an energy I have not seen to this point in the season.  Along with Hernandez, Evan Longoria knocked his 6th out of the park.  But, Evan’s big at bat really came in the 3rd inning with bases loaded against Red Sox ace Josh Beckett.  Longo worked the count and picked a pitch he could handle and drove a base clearing double to RCF gap.  In total the Rays banged out 18 hits and chased Beckett after 4.2 innings.  Rays hitters were patient at the plate and picking pitches they could handle.  Although they did strike out 11 times in total they still looked much more confident at the plate.

    Look gang, this was a GREAT outing all over the place tonight!  Remember last year, the game in Toronto that everyone said really lit the team up and helped them turn that corner?  This could be that game!  I saw a ton of excitement in that dugout tonight, more than I’ve seen this season at any point.  Let’s hope this signals the righting of our ship!

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 1st, 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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