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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 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 offense placed an explanation point on the series routing the Phillies 10-4 in the series finale Thursday evening at The Trop.  The Rays fell behind 4-0 after the top of the first but big bats wielded by Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar leveled the score and the Rays never looked back.  Zobrist hit a 2 run rocket into the LF seats to pull the Rays to within 1 at the close of the first inning.  Aybar hit a ball on the rope right into the left field fair pole to tie the game in the bottom of the 2nd.  The Rays bashed Phillie pitching for 15 total hits and collected 8 free passes!  Out of the 15 hits 8 were for extra bases including double by Carlos Pena, Gabe Kapler, 2 by Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell.  Gabe Gross chipped into the shenanigans with a nice gap triple.  This was a great game for these guys, a nice statement! 

    SP Andy Sonnanstine knew he was pitching to most likely stay in the bigs.  SP Scott Kazmir is due off the DL this weekend and a move (actually 2 with the return set for Chad Bradford as well) will have to be made.  He came out in the first inning and it was tragic.  The score was 3-0 before the first out was recorded.  Sitting in the stands I had to listen to the obnoxious Phillie fans screaming behind me….Ugggg.  I was less than happy as were the Ray fans around me.  After Sonny cleared the first inning he was absolutely shut down the rest of the game!  What an amazing turn around!  He lasted 5 1/3 innings scattering 6 hits (most all in the 1st inning), 4 ER and 1 free pass while striking out 7 Phils!   This really showed me something about this guy.  He is very professional and composed no matter what’s happening on that mound.  He can let go of his mistakes and move forward for a better result.  That being said it will probably still be Sonny sent to AAA as he is the guy with options left…..

    Great game!  Great Series!  Look Ray fans get to The Trop!!!!!!!!!!!!!   You are missing the most dynamic, exciting show on turf! 

    Post info: By Rays6 on June 26th, 2009
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    The key for any successful team is beat who you should beat.  If you can do that the stars will align.  The Rays did just that this series by sweeping the Washington Nationals and going 5-1 on this homestand.  SP James Shields was again a bit less than perfect on the rubber.  Although he stopped the bleeding and kept the game close enough for the Rays to rally.  Shieldsy lasted 6 1/3 innings giving up 9 hits, 4 ER, 1 free pass while striking out 4.  Lucky for him he was bailed out by the bull pen and the offense or he would have suffered the loss. As it ended RP Dan Wheeler earned the ‘W’ and RP JP Howell earned the save.  RP Randy Choate chipped in with a scoreless 2/3 of an inning.  One thing I have noticed about the SP core this season is none of them seem to have an ‘out’ pitch that they can throw.  Shields was living that nightmare Sunday as he went 0-2 to a lot of the Nat’s hitters then left a pitch over the plate to give up a hit.  They really need to sort that out so the offense is not always playing catch up.

    The big bat of the game was swung by Gabe Kapler.  Yes, folks, that’s right…Gabe Kapler.  Kapler was 2 for 2 with a game tying HR, 3 RBIs, 1 run scored and 2 free passes.  Carlos Pena and BJ Upton also chipped in with a multiple hit day.  The quirkiest play of the game came off PH Willy Aybar’s bat.  Pena was standing on 2nd after leading off with a 2B.  Willy came in to PH for Gross due to the LHP.  Willy hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to 3rd base that deflected off the bag and sent the ball into no man’s land in LF allowing Pena to score the winning run.  It was awesome!

    With the victory the Rays have tied Toronto for 3rd place and are only 3 games behind the second place Yankees with 97 games to go.  Not too shabby considering the major injuries this team has had to suffer through.  Now with Pat Burrell and Jason Bartlett the Rays can solidify their lineup.  Burrell needs to get going quick as there is no time to waste.  If he can start swinging the bat like he was signed to do this lineup will become very dangerous very quickly.

    See you in Denver!

    Post info: By Rays6 on June 15th, 2009
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    The Rays rebounded from a loss in game won to a nice victory in game 2 to even the 3 game set with the Angels.  SP Jeff Niemann did not have his best stuff on the mound and did not make it out of the 3rd inning and did not factor in the decision.  Niemann threw 3 2/3 innings giving up 5 runs (4 ER) on 7 hits and 3 free passes while striking out 3.  His location was far off the mark tonight especially in comparison to his last few outstanding outings.  The bullpen did an outstanding job of shutting down the Halos.  Four relief pitchers combined for 5 1/3 innings and allowed only 3 hits and 1 free pass while striking out 5.  RP Lance Cormier walked away the victor. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 29th, 2009
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    Well Ray fans this was about a duplicate performance as SP Scott Kazmir’s last outing.  Kazmir’s line in this game was 4 1/3 innings allowing 8 hits, 7 ER and 4 free passes while striking out only 3 batters.  His last outing against the Tribe last week also netted 7 ER and less than 5 innings pitched.  He is not giving the team a chance to win constantly having to fight back from early inning deficits.  Clearly Kazmir is a shadow of his former self.  The Rays need to figure out the best way to fix this if it is fixable.  For the team as a whole it is not to have him stay in the rotation.  It may be a trip to the bullpen although personally I think AAA would be a better fit.  I cannot imagine the pressure of being called from the bullpen to get an out or 2 in a tight game will help him in any way.  A trip to a sports psychologist may also be in order. 

    The bullpen did an outstanding job keeping the A’s bats quiet after they took over for Kazmir.  Four pitchers combined for 4 2/3 innings of work allowing only 1 hit and 2 free passes while striking out 3.  These guys kept the team within reaching distance of the victory and the offense almost pulled it off.

    The offense was a mixed bag tonight.  They did a great job scoring 6 runs after already being down 7.  They very easily could have given up.  Carlos Pena opened the Rays scoring by belting out his 14th HR of the year, a 2 run shot, deep into the RF seats.  This was his first HR and a week and a very welcomed sight!  Willy Aybar added to the HR count by belting his 2nd HR in as many games.  Both Carlos and Willy were 3 for 4 with 2 RBI’s a piece to lead the offensive charge.  Evan Longoria and Pena added 2B knocks with Akinori Iwamura teeing off for a 3B. 

    That as the good, here is the bad.  Again issues with consecutive batters not steeping it up.  In our lineup tonight the 1-2-3 hitters were 1 for 13 with 1 run scored, 0 RBI’s and 5 K’s.  Granted the Oakland pitcher Anderson was pitching well BUT some of these guys looked ridiculous swinging at some of the strike 3 pitches they were swinging at.  They were just flailing with the bat.  There was no intent on the swing it was more of a hopeful swat. 

    Look I hate to second guess a manager’s decision but at this point I think we have to call into question the lineup in general.  It doesn’t seem to be a wise idea to bat a .193 hitter #8, a .178 hitter #9 and a .177 hitter first.  I understand Joe Maddon is a patient man and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but what kind of message is he sending to the rest of the team?  As a fan I am starting to feel that not hurting someone’s feelings is a bit more important than winning.  No one is calling for anyone to be demoted to AAA or benched just shake it up a bit please!

    OK gang – Rays going for the split a 4:08 Thursday before heading south to Miami.  If they earn the split they will have had a successful home stand at 5-3 but considering the teams we’ve played during this home stand is 5-3 really a success?  I guess only time will tell.  Go Rays!

     

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 21st, 2009
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    SP James Shields gave the best Ray pitching performance of the year so far and the Ray offense could not support it.  Shieldsy went 8 1/3 innings allowing only 4 hits and 2 free passes while striking out 5.  Shields was outstanding and the offense left him hanging with a “no decision”. 

    Now, a lot of people on the Rays’ message board are blaming one or two people for this loss.  As usual it’s the typical few that don’t look at the whole game but rather a brief moment within the game.  So, let me clear this up for them.

    The offense as a whole failed.  The Rays were 0 for 11 with RISP.  The 3-4-5 hitters were 1 for 13 with 6 K’s and 0 runs scored and 0 RBI’s.  As a whole the team collected 8 hits but gave away 13 easy outs via the K and only accepted 3 free passes from Oakland pitchers. 

    RP Joe Nelson came in to pitch behind JP Howell and guess what – he did his job.  Yes, that’s right.  He induced an easy ground ball right into the shift that would have been the 3rd out but was missed for an error by one of our most reliable players, Jason Bartlett.  All of the runs Rays pitching gave up in this game were unearned because of this. 

    So, gang the moral to this story is this – player accountability.  This game was not about Nelson giving up a home run in the 11th, not about JB booting a ball, not about the Rays offense being 0 for 11 RISP – it was about ALL of these things.  If one thing changes in any of that this game could have ended differently.  Don’t blame 1 person in a team sport – there is always something someone could have done differently to change the outcome. 

    Willy Aybar was the guy who came through to prevent the Rays from leaving a doughnut on the board blasting a HR in the bottom of the 11th.  That’s unfortunately the only good offense I can mention….

    So, look – these games are going to happen.  I’d like to see the Rays tonight pick up the situational hitting rather than swinging for the fences.  We have a few guys in a funk right now, Longo, Pena and Upton still, so love to see some of that small ball re emerge like those safety squeeze bunts and the such.  Let’s work the magic!

     

    Post info: By Rays6 on May 20th, 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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    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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