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The Tampa Bay Rays flew to the West Coast having just picked up about 4 games in the Wild Card lead to fall within 1.5 games.  They are now flying home from the left coast 4.5 games back with Seattle sitting only 1 game behind them.  What?!  It all started in Seattle where we managed to secure only 1 game out of the 3 game set.  The tragic end came yesterday as the LA Angels secured a SWEEP of the Rays by blowing them out 10-5.  I know it doesn’t look like a blow out but trust me, it was.

 

Their fielding was poor, their hitting was less than timely and their pitching was very inconsistent.  They looked nothing like the defending AL Champions. 

Now the question becomes can they overcome a 1-5 road trip at this point in the season?  The Rays have 47 games to play with 27 of them at home.  They have no more left coast roads trips! IN the last 47 games the Rays play the AL East, Texas, Detroit and Seattle.  The Rays are 23-16 vs. the AL East this year.  They are also 36 – 18 at home.  Detroit, Texas and Seattle all have sub .500 records on the road.   So Ray fan…looking at these numbers YES, there is hope!

That being said some guys will need to step up.  We cannot win the Wild Card berth the way we are playing now.  The starting pitching must be aggressive and go deep into games.  They need to stop picking at the corners and dust some of these guys off the plate.  The offense MUST be selective and swing at pitches they can actually do damage with.  Stop flailing like little leaguers and go with the pitch!  Guys like Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Pat Burrell need to start using the entire field, they need to put this team on their shoulders.  The defense must tighten up, these stupid little league plays that happen and aren’t considered errors in the books MUST STOP!

The Rays still have hope Ray fans BUT watching them play all season long I have to say I’m not very optimistic.  They really haven’t been very consistent all season long, not sure how it would happen now.  The Rays have let the opportunity to repeat as Al East champions slip through their fingers.  They are now battling for playing time in the exclusive club of October for only the 2nd time in their history.  This battle will be uphill the entire 47 remaining games.  

If you are a true Ray fan I implore you to get off the couch and get to The Trop for the remaining 27 home games and support this team!  See you there!         

Post info: By Rays6 on August 13th, 2009
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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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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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As I sat and endured the agony of this game at The Trop I could not believe how absolutely lifeless the Rays were.  How can they play so fired up Tuesday and come out with such little effort on Wednesday?!  I was amazed as I sat and watched Ray after Ray stride to the plate and swing at the very first pitch they saw from Yankee starter Joba Freaking Chamberlain and  hit a little blooper for an out.  Joba Freaking Chamberlain people!  Are you kidding me?!  An opportunity to gain ground on the Yankees, and Boston as they also lost, and the Rays seemed totally uninterested.  Was playing in October last year too much for these guys?!  They are certainly acting like it was.

I understand that the Rays may have had a game plan to come out and jump on him early.  BUT when they saw that wasn’t working there was no adjustment made.  They should have changed the strategy and made him throw more pitches.  In the 8 complete innings thrown by Chamberlain the Rays only saw 101 pitches – an average of a little more than 12 an inning.  That’s ridiculous! 

Another nice performance from our RH power bat Pat Burrell was also a highlight – 0 for 4 with 3 K’s.  Nice job Pat!  Not to mention we have a .215 hitter (Pena) and a .219 hitter (Burrell) batting back to back in the lineup.  Joe – do you really think these guys are scaring anyone?  Protecting anyone?  Break this up!  You can start by benching Burrell!  Asked at the post game press conference about Burrell, Joe Maddon made it quite clear that he doesn’t care about fan or media reaction to this guy; they are going to keep working with him.  He still believes he’s going to put up huge numbers the last 2 months of the season and carry this team.  Really?!  This guy isn’t even going to hit 15 HR or collect 60 RBIs by the end of the season!  This experiment needs to end!

As the RFO clearly isn’t going to make any moves by the trade deadline we are stuck with some of the dead wood we have.  To make the best of it this lineup needs to be juggled a bit and these guys need to start to be held accountable for their lack of performance.   I am so tired of the excuses! 

Look Rays – the season is getting short and you have a mountain to climb.  I know the manager doesn’t see the urgency and it is being reflected in your play.  If the coaching staff doesn’t have the urgency a leader needs to step up and have a closed door, player only meeting and find the urgency, the fire.  Without that you guys are done.  It is too late in the season to play like you’re just going through he motions.

This next 4 game series against Kansas City is a 3 out of 4 MUST.  The Rays should sweep this team.  The Red Sox are mired in a bit of a slump since the All Star break and they are facing the Orioles, a team they could find their stroke against.  The Rays cannot afford to drop games against the bottom dwelling Royals.

I guess we’ll just have to keep blowing off our steam on blogs and hope someone on the team takes a leadership role.  Let’s find the fire Rays!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 30th, 2009
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SP Scott Kazmir turned in his best performance of the season exactly when the Rays needed him to.  Kazmir showed a glimpse of the old “Scotty K”.  Kaz outpitched Yankee SP Sabathia through 7 strong innings.  He gave up 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 4.  Considering Kazmir’s struggles the last few years he was really the story of the game.  I don’t think many people, including myself, gave him much of a chance to hold the Bronx Bombers bats quiet considering his poor performances to this point in the season.  I am so HAPPY he proved me and a bunch of others WRONG!  Nice job Scotty K!

The Ray offense backed Kaz’s strong performance by belting out 10 hits, half of which were for extra bases.  Evan Longoria launched a towering HR to LF for his 20th of the season.  Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist each tripled and scored.  BJ Upton and Gabe Kapler each knocked out 2 base hits to add to the extra base hit total.  

The thing that was really impressive for me in this game was the clear sense of urgency and the high level of intensity the Rays put off.  These guys played a stellar defense and hustle every step of the way between the lines.  THAT is what this team needs the rest of the season! 

The final game of this 3 game set takes on a whole new meaning after this victory.  It is an opportunity for the Rays to pick up a game on the Yankees and win this series.  SP Matt Garza MUST keep the ball in the park period.  If he does I say we win this game.  If not it’ll be a struggle for the Rays.  See you at The Trop!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 29th, 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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Chicago White Sox SP Mark Buehrle pitched the 18th perfect game in MLB history today against the Tampa Bay Rays.  I have to be honest it was quite amazing to watch a piece of MLB history go down but not so much from the Rays side of it, 27 up and 27 down, 0 hits and 0 walks.  For the Rays SP Scott Kazmir ran into trouble early by loading the bases and serving up a 2 strike fastball over the middle of the plate that the Pale Hose #9 hitter blasted for a Grand Slam.  Of course that would prove to be all the White Sox would need.

Obviously the Rays offense was non existent.  There were a couple of close foul balls but truly the only sniff the Rays had of a hit was a late inning HR ball hit by Gabe Kapler that Dwayne Wise brought back into the park to preserve the perfect game.  Look I know that Buehrle was on but the Rays offense saw only 116 pitches – less than 13 pitches an inning! Could we have made this any easier for him?!

So the Rays are leaving Chicago taking with them a very average 4-3 record since the break.  They have managed to turn around a very promising start to the second half and leave with a depressing loss due to a ton of mistakes and then have a perfect game tossed at them.  By the way, they will have to find some motivation somewhere between here and Toronto as they will face Toronto ace Roy Halladay tomorrow night.

This weekend series means a lot right now.  I know it’s only July but they must recover and recover quickly from a very poor showing in the final 2 games of this series.  They will face Toronto and then come home to face the Yankees.  These bats must come to life!

And by the way, Congratulations to Mark Buehrle!  As a fan of baseball it was amazing to watch, just wish it was against someone else!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 24th, 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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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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The Tampa Bay Rays did something over the weekend they just could not afford; they lost the series to the lowly Oakland Athletics.  Look, with each passing game the margin for error gets smaller.  You must beat the teams you should beat period.  They Rays did an outstanding job of sweeping division rival Toronto the previous 2 games, win the first game of the series then proceed to give away the last 2 games.  Granted doesn’t sound too bad considering it gave them a 4-2 home stand.  You must look at the big picture in this case.  The Angels swept the Yankees this weekend!  Yes, we could have picked up 2 more games on the Bronx Bombers and we let the opportunity slip right though our fingers.  We could have powered into the break being only 1 game out of 2nd place and a potential wild card but we limp in and now sit at 3. The game on Sunday was so frustrating I had to leave after the 7th inning because I just could not stand it anymore. 

The break has come at a good time not only for players but for fans as well.  I need a break!  The funny thing is had last year not happened the way it did we’d be thrilled sitting in 3rd place only 3 games back of the #2 spot.  Ironic…. they say be careful what you ask for!

Post info: By Rays6 on July 13th, 2009
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