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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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Wow what a great 2 days for the Tampa Bay Ray organization!  For the first time ever we had a Ray selected as a starter – Evan Longoria.  For the first time ever the Tampa Bay rays sent 5 guys to the mid season classic.  For the first time ever a Tampa Bay Ray player was named the All Star game MVP — Carl Crawford.  For the second year in a row a Tampa Bay Ray represented the organization in the Home Run Derby – Carlos Pena.  Oh and for the first time ever the Manager and coaching staff for the Tampa Bay Rays managed the AL team.

What a tremendous catch by Carl Crawford to bring the ball off Brad Hawpe’s bat back into the park and keep the game tied.  CC was so focused on that ball!  CC also contributed with a hit in 3 attempts.  Ben Zobrist came in late to go 0 for 1 attempt but made the final out of the game.  Jason Bartlett entered and made 3 successful, effortless plays on ‘D’ while going 0 for 1 at the dish.  Carlos Pena made it as close as the on deck circle but never made an appearance in the game.

Carlos participated in the HR Derby and held his own against the big boppers.  Although he didn’t make it out of the first round I was still proud to see him representing our Rays in the Derby.

The accomplishments of these guys just prove how far the Rays have come in a relatively short period of time.  The new regime took over and made changes that began to make a difference.  The quality of the organization and the people within it is obvious.  Guys like CC, Carlos, Zobi, JB and on and on….  Good hard working, “blue collar”, humble guys that no matter their accomplishment constantly strive to improve.  They remain quiet in the press and let their play speak for them.  Well these last 2 years have spoken volumes to me.    

I am proud to be a Tampa Bay Ray fan!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 15th, 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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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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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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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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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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The Rays offense took revenge on a game 1 defeat by walloping the Red Sox 14-5 in game 2!  The great thing about this game was that everyone chipped in!  All 11 players that strode to the dish contributed with at least 1 hit.  In total the Rays banged out 17 hits including 7 for extra bases.  Hot hitting Evan Longoria added to his RBI total by collecting 5 while going 2 for 4 with a walk, 3 runs scored, a HR and a 2B!  This guy is locked in at the plate.  He is hitting balls that are in, out, up and down for complete plate coverage.  Can anyone say MVP?!  Another guy who continues to be very hot at the plate is Carl Crawford.  CC was 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 walk and 3 runs scored.   The guy I absolutely love is Willy Aybar.  Look this guy get an at bat/start maybe once a week and he steps up and delivers time after time.  He got the call late in the game and promptly laced a double.  Great guy to have on the bench, professional and always ready to perform!

SP Scott Kazmir had a bit of a mixed bag tonight.  He did earn the victory but his location was not always great.  In 5 innings pitched he scattered 8 hits, 3 ER, 3 free passes, 1 HR and a wild pitch.  Kaz was his own worst enemy today I think.  He would get up on a batter 0-2 then try to pick at the corners rather than attacking.  That strategy got him into trouble with a high pitch count – he threw 100 pitches in just 5 innings – and forced him to place a pitch over the heart of the plate to avoid a walk.  He managed to wriggle free of the majority of his troubles but really an unimpressive performance.  The bullpen struggled a bit as well, specifically Joe Nelson.  His location was far off and he ended up going only 1/3 of an inning while giving up 1 HR, 2 ER and 2 free passes.  Not much more to say about our pitching as a whole than I’ve said in other posts.  Just unreliable and until they all pull it together games may be an adventure from inning 1 through inning 9. 

The worst part of this entire game was the broadcast itself.  FOX broadcast this game with Tim McCarver and Dick Stockton calling and they were ridiculous!  McCarver had no idea the names of our players – Akimura??  Who the hell is that?!  Stockton had no idea who scored what runs in what inning.  I mean really…come on FOX get it right! 

Great offensive performance from the Rays!  Let’s keep that rolling tonight and take this series.  Sure hope Miller and Morgan are studying the actual names of the players!

 

Post info: By Rays6 on May 10th, 2009
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pena

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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