Tagged: angels

Familiar Face

        VS       

 

The Rays took off on this 9-game road trip with high hopes in mind. 

They had not fared well in the past on the West Coast, but this was not the typical Rays team.  They were leaner, meaner, and playing the best baseball in the franchise’s history.

The trip began with a roar, as the Rays won the series with the Seattle Mariners and took the first game in dramatic fashion from the Oakland A’s.

Then the bottom fell out.

A poor showing on Saturday was followed by, well, the game that must not be named.  A loss to the Angels in Anaheim and you suddenly have something the Rays have not experience this season.

A 3-game losing streak.

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Kaz Attack

The Rays will be taking on the guy who set pretty much every single franchise pitching record before he was traded to these Angels late in August last season.

Scotty Kazmir.

Lots of talk has been thrown around about how the Rays hitters will find it difficult to refrain from laughing when they step into the batters box against their longtime former teammate.  Kazmir has said that he will simply look at the catcher’s glove so that he does not break down laughing.

Kazmir fared very well during his regular season time with the Angels last year, going 2-2 with an ERA in the high 1’s.  He fell apart during the post season to the tune of an ERA above 7 in two starts. 

He hasn’t done much better this season, entering the game with 2-2 record and yet another 7.11 ERA.  It’s ugly, but it is typical Kaz.  He doesn’t start well and ends up getting beaten when he starts to nibble at the corners and throws foul ball after foul ball.

Apparently, a reunion with former pitching coach Mike Butcher has not cured Kaz’s ills as most thought it would.

The Rays have done poorly against lefties this season (yes, that perfecto thrown at them by the A’s was thrown by a, gulp, lefty). 

Kaz is a lefty.

Manager Joe Maddon is 1-14 in Anaheim against his former team.

They are in Anaheim.

Surely, those do not bode well for the Rays’ chances tonight.

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No Sentimentality

I cannot say that I feel very sentimental about tonight’s game against Kazmir. 

I was one of the people who did not want Kazmir to go when he was traded last last season.  I thought that the Rays were still in the race and that this trade pretty much was them throwing in the towel. 

However, after finding out that the Rays were going to receive youngster Sean Rodriguez as the player ot be named later, I rejoiced.  The Rays were going to lose Akinori Iwamura (sniff) and Rodriguez’s possible 20 hr power was very attractive.

Kazmir was nothing but frustrating near the end of his career with the Rays, failing to throw strike and letting the other team’s bats hit the ball (fair or foul) way too often.  It was a common occurrance to see Kaz with 100 pitches in the 4th inning. 

Those made for some very long, and very boring, games to watch.

I hope that he gets it together out west before he is shipped to the bullpen for the remainder of his career.

But, of course, he DOES play for the other team. 

So tonight I hope we destroy him.

Sorry, Kaz.

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Take a Look at Our Future Second Baseman

First, I’d like to encourage you all to read my preview of tonight’s big/huge/incredibly exciting matchup against those Sox from Bawston I am REALLY stoked about tonight’s game.  I’m counting the minutes!!!

But I wanted to jump in quickly with a look at the latest addition to the Rays roster.

Meet Sean Rodriguez, the Rays’

“Second Baseman of the Future”

Ok, maybe I’m overstating.  But I’m pretty enthused.

This is the guy the Rays and Angels were fighting over when the Scott Kazmir deal was on-again and off-again.

I can see why the Halos wouldn’t want to give him up.

This guy’s a stud!

IF you look at his Triple-A number, that is.

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Quick Bio Junk

He is a 24-year old guy who, actually, I’ve followed for the last few years.  I’ve read some stuff on him off an on in other blogs (Halos Heaven is great), in our paper when we played the Angels, and on the Angels’ website. 

I’m not totally done being upset that we moved our 25-year-old pitcher, but we might have found a guy who can really fill the hole that will open up at 2B this winter.

And at 24, he could be there for the Rays for years and years to come.

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Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Ignore the MLB numbers.  He’s 24, and in two stints with the Angels he is hitting just .203.  Not good, buddy.

But his year this year at Triple-A has been stud-like.

He is batting a robust .299. 

And his power numbers are incredible!

He’s knocked 23 dingers and driven 93 RBIs in ONLY 103 games.

Wow.

We could certainly use that production from the 2B spot.  Sure, Ben Zobrist helped alot at that position when Akinori Iwamura went down, and his power numbers are just as solid, if not moreso because they occurred at the MLB level.

But I’ve been saying forever that Zorilla needed to be our future RF. 

Now Ben Z can go to right while S-Rod, as he is called in the Angels minors (not too creative), takes over at second.

I’ll take that.

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What About Aki?

I love Aki.  Next to Longo, he is my favorite player. 

The Rays have already declined his option for next year, though.  They could not take on the millions he was slated to make in an option year, not to mention their slight gamble on his knee being healthy for an entire 162-game season next year.

I don’t want him to go.  Not at all.

I think that this acquisition, though, might spell the end for Aki.

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Joe Maddon said that he was “excited” about the infamous Player To Be Named Later in the Kaz deal. 

Angels websites (fan and professional) indicated that they were wary that player would be Rodriguez.

I don’t know if they are both right, or if their perception of a 24-yo kid who has barely played in the MLB level is way off.

We’ll have to see, of course.

But I think that this added player takes a little bit of the sting out of losing Kazmir during a playoff run. 

This kid does strikeout alot, not too good for a team that has more Ks than K-mart (I mean the “K” in the sign–no good?).  That could make him bat low in the order and miss some RBI opportunities.

But the Rays have been all about adding talent when they lost talent.  And this kid is talent.

It’s amazing how much a team can change in so little time.

But change is good.

Right?

Detroit Disaster

Things seem to be blowing up a big in MoTown. 

It isn’t end-of-the world type stuff, but it sure feels bad.

Today’s game seems indicative of a team that is losing that killer instinct that playoff teams must have.

The Rays had this one wrapped up. 

Then the Tigers unwrapped it.

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Bal-FORE!!!

Jeff Nieman had just completed 7 solid innings.  His performance paired with Saturday’s game from David Price gave the Rays back-to-back 7+ inning, quality start outings in Detroit–not the easiest place to win.

While there were runners on, the Rays still had a 3-1 lead and were ready to hand the game over to our awesome Aussie, Grant Balfour.

He got two guys out.

It was the third one that was a little tricky.

Placido Polanco teed off and launched one over the wall to give the Tigers the 4-3 advantage.  Fernando Rodney made it hold up in the 9th.

No, it wasn’t a 9th-inning wild pitch, but it was just as jolting.

Aren’t these games the ones we used to win?

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Good Starts, Bad Finishes

Today’s game seems to fit in well with the way the Rays have played recently. 

Sure, the starting has been somewhat spotty, but it is the relieving that is killing us.  And I thought that the bullpen was one of our strong suits in recent weeks.

Uh-oh.

Today it was Balfour.

Wednesday it was old reliable, JP Howell.

I know we’re talking about two games here, but these are two games that the Rays HAD to have. 

Instead, these two wins were transformed into losses, making the Rays playoff squad slowly looking like they are transforming into also-rans.

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Unlucky 7

The Rays came into the last 7 games having gone 6-1 in their previous 7 games.

Things were good.  Really good.

Our guys were starting to get hot just when they needed to and no team in the league wanted to play them.  They were a playoff team.  Taking the wild card was just a formality.

Then something happened when Texas shut us out on a Sunday.

Since then we are 3-4.

What is worse is that up to last Sunday we were in the wild card hunt.  We had narrowed the gap to 3-3.5 games.

Now?

The Rays stand 5 full games behind the Red Sox in the wild card race, and 2.5 behind the Rangers.

October might be a mere 4 weeks or so away, but it has never felt so far out of reach.

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Kazmir Update

I read the recent MLB.com article about Scott Kazmir and how he felt about being with the Angels.  It was a nice fluff piece profiling the newest left coast acquisition.

He sounded happy.  He sounded excited.  He sounded like he had already forgotten about his time in St. Pete.

When he reference the Rays, he did so to springboard into what he thought his current team could do.

“I got a taste of it last year. You want to go all the way. The Angels are a team that can do it year in and year out. It says a lot about the organization.”

Maybe it says alot about our organization too.

The Bell Has Rung…Kaz Got His Wings

The Rays lost tonight.

And I’m not talking about the game with Detroit.

The on again/off again romance between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Scott Kazmir has reached its fitting end. 

Scott Kazmir is now an Angel.

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Took Long Enough

It’s been a long road, but somehow a deal got done.

The trade started back in July when the Rays were out scouting the Angels’ farm system for prospects.  At the time the rumor was that Kaz was on the block and a trade to the Angels was imminent.

Both teams denied the reports and the rumors quickly died–well before the July 31st trade deadline.

Nothing was said for weeks.  Then reports started to leak this afternoon from the LA Times that a deal was done and Kazmir was an Angel.  Coming over in the trade were lefty Alexander Torres and 3B Matt Sweeney.

Alas, the trade was NOT done.  It fell through because the Rays wanted one more player.

Cue ominous music:

Duh-duh-duhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I reported that, thankfully, the Rays were going to hang on to their 25-year-old lefty and that that was a good thing.  They were fighting for the playoffs, after all.

No news was good news.

Until there was news.

After the Rays loss to Detroit this evening, news came out that Kaz had, indeed, been traded.

We were shocked!

The Rays apparently got what they wanted in Torres, Sweeney, and a player to be named.

The fans lost a favorite player, and More Cowbell lost the ability to wear a certain pitcher’s t-shirt.

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Clubhouse Fallout

Kaz was not only a fan favorite, but also a teammate fave.  He seemed to click very well with youngster David Price.

That could have been a bad thing, considering that Price, upon being called up this year, immediately took on some of Kaz’s traits:

          Throw lots of fastballs, work slowly, and get pulled before the 6th inning.

Regardless, you have to imagine that such a positive guy as Kaz being gone will negatively affect the Rays clubhouse and make players search for what is the next step. 

It should also cause them to question the front office’s faith in their ability to win this wild card spot.

Keep in mind that Kazmir was starting to come around.  He had been solid in his last 8 starts, going 4-2 with a 4.41 ERA.  He had thrown 6+ innings in 7 of those 8 starts and dominated Wednesday night with 10 Ks.

He was starting to look like the guy who set franchise records for wins, innings, strikeouts, starts, and quality starts. 

And, despite his good-faith contract signing for much less money than he could have gotten on the free agent market recently, the Rays STILL shipped him off for prospects in what can only be seen as a cost-cutting move.

A cost-cutting move during a playoff run!?

Idiots.

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Potential Fan Reaction

I think that Rays fans are going to be mixed on this one.

On one side will be the fans who remember the last 2+ years during which our once golden child struggled to get out of the 5th inning.  The kid who set the bar for all future starters for this frahchise.

They’ll remember the guy who was the DEAL OF THE CENTURY when we stole him from the New York Mets for who WAS our franchise record holder in wins etc, Victor Zambrano.

That was a Chuck Lamar deal…one of the few things he did right while with the Tampa Bay franchise.

They’ll remember him as the Icarus of the team who fell much too quickly and disappointed us much too strongly.

Remember when he was the fixture of the rotation?

Remember when EVERYBODY saw him as the team’s ace, the only 2-time pitcher All Star in franchise history.

He was supposed to be one of the greats.

The fall was quick and hard.

Those fans are going to be excited about this 21 year old pitcher and his 21 year old counterpart 3B and what they will bring to the Rays 1-2 years down the road.

—-

The other side will remember a kid with blonde hair and a cherub face who was ready to help a terrible team get better.  A kid who went out every 5th day from, seemingly, the beginning and threw gems. 

A kid who just won–Period. 

He was a kid who made us forget we rooted for one of the worst teams of all time.  He gave us hope when we had none.

Those fans are going to miss him.  They’ll miss the “Kaz” and “Kid K” nicknames and wonder if this deal is going to be something we rue as much as the Mets did when they dealt him in the first place.

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Personal Memory

What I’ll remember most of the kid was one game during the “Devil Rays” days when his teammates decided to have fun with him one night.

It was miraculous that the cameras caught it, but one night Kaz’s teammates (I believe it was Jonny Gomes) decided to make Kid K look stupid.

They blew up a Dubble Bubble bubble and pinched it off.

Then they placed it on his head.

Scott went most of the game with that bubble on his head.  His teammates fell out every time he came up to shoot the sh– with them.

Of course, this kid had no idea why he was so funny all of a sudden.

He smiled and waved at the cameras everytime he saw the red light come on.  He thought he was suddenly some kind of celebrity, though he had no idea why.

After a few innings he took his hat off.  And the camera caught him going nuts over the fact that he had been on tv all night long with a HUGE bubble gum bubble on his head.

I’ll always remember that one.  It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had watching a baseball game.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

The Rays acquired two very young, but very talented, players from the Angels farm system.  Both guys played primarily at Class-A the last year or so, but recently were promoted to Class-AA.

Alex Torres was named the organization’s pitcher of the month for July for putting up stellar numbers.  He was just moved to Class-AA Arkansas.

Matthew Sweeney missed the entire 2008 season with an ankle injury and two months of the 2009 campaign.  He still impressed enough for the Rays to get him, but his power numbers this season (9 hrs) are not impressive at all.

As fans, we’ll just have to wait and see just who got fleeced in this deal.  I don’t see this as a win/win situation.  I see this as a “somebody beat somebody else” situation. 

I don’t know if the Rays got the best of this deal, but I doubt it very much.

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Final Thoughts

I don’t want to be too negative here.  The deal is done.  Kaz is no longer a Ray.  We have to deal with losing our franchise’s best starting pitcher ever.

What makes me more upset than anything is simply the timing. 

According to reports, Kaz could have been moved around the trade deadline. 

Know who we could have gotten?

Mr. Cliff Lee

You know.  Mr. 5-0 sub-1.00 ERA for the Phillies, Cliff Lee.

Instead we’re getting two guys (and a player to be named) who have yet to reach AAA. 

These moves do not win you Executive of the Year, Andrew Friedman.  These moves make you a joke.

Not only does the timing of this move stink because of what we COULD have had, but it makes the Rays look like they are giving up on the post season.

It is as if the Rays are showing the team–and their fans–that they don’t think making it to October is plausible, so moving a surging pitcher now is not that big of a deal.  Might as well get what we can for him, right?

Moving Kaz is not the bad move. 

Moving Kaz NOW is what makes this stupid.

I’ll admit, my confidence in this team’s committment to winning this year is now shaken.  I bet I speak for lots of fans when I say that.

Regardless, I wish Kazmir luck in California.  He’ll certaily help out that Angels rotation.  Maybe he’ll even get his elusive World Series ring.

I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.

But, no doubt, he–and we–would have enjoyed it alot more if he could have earned that ring playing for the team that annointed him a Golden Child.

We called him “Kaz.” 

And he’ll be missed.

East Coast Kaz?

I think that the things worked out for the best–for now.

I’m afraid to post this since it could be rendered irrelevent in the next 20 minutes by this on again/off again romance between the Angels and Kaz.  Remember around the trade deadline the Rays were off scouting Angels minor leaguers while the Angels were making some noise about wanting Kazmir.  Both teams said it was nothing more than pure coincidence.

Ah, the politics of baseball.

However, after reading things around the net and listening to local sports radio, it seems as if the potential deal that would send Scott Kazmir to the Angels is officially

D-E-A-D

That could be a good thing.

Or not.

It seems stupid to analyze a deal that wasn’t, but I’m going to take a look at this thing anyway.

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Bad Idea to Trade Kaz

THE CLUBHOUSE: 

Moving Kaz now would have done much damage to the Rays.  Remember that this is a team trying to get into the playoffs.  Why would you ever want to mess with one of the team’s more dominant starters (right now, anyway) when they are sitting just 3 1/2 games out of the wild card spot?

Don’t forget also the potetial effects that trading a popular guy in the clubhouse could have on the team.  Right now the Rays are getting close to having the chemistry that they had in 2008, and a move of a guy of Kaz’s stature could undo all of that.

HIS YOUTH AND TALENT:

Let’s not forget that Kazmir is just 25 years old.  He ain’t some washed up has-been.  You don’t often see teams trade their all-time leader in wins BEFORE the guy’s 26th birthday!

HE TOOK LESS MONEY:

From a moral standpoint, I don’t think that moving Kazmir would have been the right thing to do.  I know we are talking about millionaires here, but when the Rays were hoping to keep their young talent (Upton, Crawford, Longoria, etc…), Kazmir agreed to a contract that paid him less than what (at the time) he could have made elsewhere. 

He said he took the deal because he loved the Rays.  He said that taking less money meant he could stay here for his career.  He knew the Rays were a team that could not afford to pay guys $15 million. 

So he took a more reasonable contract to stick around St. Pete.  It would seem wrong to trade him now.

WHITE FLAG?:

Let’s not forget what trading a suddenly-dominant rotation member would mean to a team fighting for the wild card. 

It would mean surrender.

If all you were going to get in return (look below) was a couple of prospects, I don’t know what else it could mean to trade a guy like Kaz.  When your team thinks that the front office has given up, they often follow.

THIS DEAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE IN JULY!: 

If we were going to move him, why not do so in July?  We could have gotten much more.  Look at what the deal would have been if the Rays had worked things out in a 3-team deal back around the trade deadline:

According to the Seattle Times

The Mariners, you might remember, were linked to Kazmir at the trade deadline in a rumored three-way deal that would have sent Brandon Morrow and Jeff Clement to Cleveland, Cliff Lee from Cleveland to Tampa Bay, and Kazmir and shortstop Reid Brignac to Seattle. It never came to fruition, obviously.

 

WHAT WE WOULD GET IN RETURN:

Finally, I took a look at the prospects we would have gotten for Kaz.  Not impressed.  Not terribly impressed, anyway.  We would have gotten a left hander named Alexander Torres and a third baseman (like we need one) named Matthew Sweeney.  Those guys were good, but they were not going to get us to October.

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Good Idea to Trade Kaz

DOUBTFUL RESURGENCE:

I don’t think that Kaz’s sudden turnaround is for real.  I think that due to the teachings of one Jim Hickey, or maybe just due to Kaz’s loss of control, Kazmir will not be the pitcher he was.  In that way, we might have missed out on an opportunity.

TORRES WAS GOING TO BE GOOD:

Torres had already won several awards in the Angels’ minor league system.  He was only 21.  His next stop (probably next year) was the Angels rotation.  Plus, he is more than likely making NO MONEY and could free the Rays up to go after a solid starter for next season.

OPENS UP ROTATION:

Moving Kazmir would have opened up a spot in the rotation that does not exist right now.  Perhaps a spot that guys like Mitch Talbot could take over.  And let’s not forget the money thing again.  Promoting a minor leaguer for next year saves money and–maybe–gives us a guy who can actually go more than 5 innings.

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As I post this I see online the news starting to get out that the deal fell through.  It is funny because the LA Times reported that the deal was done. 

Bad reporting.

I wonder, though, if keeping Kaz is the best thing for the team.  I want to think it is. 

Since the All-Star Break Kaz has gone 4-2 with a 4.41 ERA in 8 starts.

That’s not great, but it is enough to get you to October. 

But I just don’t get that excitement about having Scotty in the rotation anymore.  I don’t think he is going to continue to get better.  I am dubious about how much he can help us in the rotation next year.

Maybe he can be a closer?  Hmmmmmm….

No matter what, I have to cheer a little bit about keeping one of the Rays’ best deals EVER (Kaz for Victor Zambrano!) in the fold.

I can still wear my Kazmir t-shirt!

That makes it all worth it…

West Coast Kaz?

This all seems to be coming together pretty quickly as the Rays and Angels are currently working out a deal to send Scott Kazmir to Los Angeles/Anaheim/California.

Right now the sports news outlets are saying that a deal is “close,” and little else. 

We don’t know what players might be involved or how the deal might be structured.

I’m surprised that the Rays were able to sneak Kaz through waivers.  No team wanted a 25-year-old lefty starter who can throw 94 mph?

Seriously?

I know he is making a little money these days, but not enough to dissuade teams such as the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, and White Sox from trying to get him.

So, do those clubs know something we don’t?

I can’t say I’m surprised that the Rays want to move Kazmir, who makes much too much money for a guy with a barely sub-6.00 ERA and who, for the last few years, has been unable to go past 5 innings.

However, I would be upset to see my guys send him west for anything less than a pitcher who could help us reach October.

I think Kaz is that pitcher right now, so moving him is slightly perplexing–if it does happen.

I know that there will be many sad Rays fans if this goes through (Ginny, get ready for heart ache!). 

My gut is hoping it falls apart, but my brain says it is the right move for the future of this team. 

I don’t think it is the right move right now, though. 

West Coast Swing…And A Miss

Linux-Babies-Angry.jpg angry baby image by rusydi27

Arrrghrrrawwwwwmmmmmrannnnghagugh!!!!!!!

Painful.  Just painful.

The Rays left the friendly confines of Tropicana Field last Thursday ready to find a way to climb back into the fight.  To take the wild card spot away from those blasted Red Sox.  To start their run to the postseason.

In the news that day everything from The Sporting News to The Tampa Tribune was calling the Rays a surging team that was about to make that run we have been waiting for.

Apparently the beautiful weather of the West somehow cooled the Rays white hot squad.

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Terrible West Coast

It was as ugly playing baseball in the West as the smog-plagued LA skyline: hard to tell what was going on, impossible to put fingers on landmark issues, and overall chokingly bad.

Almost as bad at that forced metaphor.

After losing today’s game to the Angels, the Rays will travel back to St. Pete for a 3-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Their return is both welcome and full of disappointment.

The Rays left the Bay Area a mere 1 1/2 games out of the wild card spot.  A spot that the Red Sox were doing everything to give away.  The Rays and Texas Rangers were only too happy to oblige taking it.

The Rangers continued to snap at the spot, while the Rays had other plans.

After enduring a 1-5 West Coast swing–YES I SAID 1-5 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 6 GAMES!!!–the Rays now find themselves 4 games out of the final playoff spot and searching for answers. 

Why can’t we hit?

Why can’t we pitch?

Why can’t we field?

Where’s our clutch hitting and our timely pitching?

There don’t seem to be any answers out there right now.  Only results.

Friday:             L  7-6

Saturday:         W 10-4

Sunday:             L  11-2

Monday:          L  8-7

Tuesday:         L  6-0

Wednesday:    L 10-4

It’s like reading an autopsy report replete with all the gory pictures.

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Today’s Problem Inning: The 7th

If you have read any of my past posts, you know that it seems the Rays get hit in the forehead with one 2-by-4 of an inning almost every game.  Sometimes they are able to weather the storm and hang on to a win, sometimes they fall down, knocked cold.

Today they fell.

Hard.

Jeff Nieman had already endured the disappointment of losing the lead of a game he could have won when Grant Balfour gave up a 3-run dinger to Gary Matthews, Jr. in the 6th. 

That gave the Angels a 5-4 lead.

In the top of the 7th, Jason Bartlett led off with a double.  He would end that part of the inning standing on second.

The bottom of the 7th was entertaining–in a comical kind of way.

Reliable Randy Choate entered the game and promptly gave up two consecutive singles.  After a groundout moved both runners to 2nd and 3rd, he intentionally walked Vlad Guerrero.

Then, as I have said so often about the 7th inning before, and also said to my friend at Julia’s Rants this morning, it all fell apart.

A groundout into the hole at SS led to Jason Bartlett making a little league throw (actually, that insults little leaguers) to Evan Longoria at 3B that ended up being more towards the Angels dugout than anything.

Two runs scored there. 

Angels up 7-4.

Choate departed in favor of Dan WheelerCheck out what Wheeler has done before in the 7th.

Wheels got a groundout before presenting Howie Kendrick with a gift of a fastball that the latter batter flung out to deep left field.

In a snap, the game was 10-4 Angels. 

Oh, and in a snap, the game was pretty much over.

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Final Thoughts

Lots of teams from the East go through rough trips to the West.  Don’t know why.  I listened to Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy debate why the Rays were so much off their game.

–Taking in the sights

–Too much time at the beach

–Strange time zone

–Sun baked brains (ok, they didn’t say this last one)

Whatever the reason, the Rays absolutely stunk on this trip.  Winning 1 out of 6 games will not get you to the playoffs.   

It’ll get you an early fishing trip in October.

 

(I’m going to watch Jaws tonight, my fave flik)

I know that the Mariners are a surging team and that the Angels are one of the best.

But the Rays were SUPPOSED to be a surging team too.  And, last I checked, the defending AL Champions should be one of the best too.

Maybe neither of those are true.

Maybe their brains really were sunbaked.

Time to get into the shade of the Trop and take out our frustrations on the Blue Jays. 

Forget the West.