It has been a while. I’ve been watching the boys, but I’ve been watching MY boy more. Thus no writing.
Just saw Jed Lowrie strike out to put the Sox and Rays in a tie for the wild card. Amazing!
Who–other than a Rays fan–would have thought the Rays could be relevant this final week?
Heck, who thought they would be relevant this season!? Aren’t they supposed to be behind the Blue Jays in the AL East?
I could not be prouder to e a Rays fan now. And I am ecstatic that my son’s first season of baseball has the possibility of being so historic!!
It is a 2-game season folks. I’m excited. I am sure the same cannot be said of Sox fans.
Go get em Rays!!
So you may know that I am in the midst–actually the very very early stages–of raising a son.
Who knew it would be so tough!?
Ok, most of you parents knew. I didn’t.
No, this isn’t a post about my kid. This is more of a reflection of how the first quarter of this season has gone for my Rays.
I haven’t been able to post as much as I have the last few years, which has been tough to stomach. Luckily, my excuse is pretty solid. But now that I come back to put up a post I see that we have switched over to WordPress and everything seems to have changed!
What I’m really happy about is the fact that I can sit here and type as a fan of the #1 team in the AL East!
(At least until the Boston/Chicago game is over)
Did anybody actuallly think that the Rays would be sitting atop the toughest division in baseball at this point in the season? I didn’t, and I LOVE these guys.
The question marks heading into the season have been less of an issue than I thought they would.
The Rays have one of the strongest bullpens in the entire league, yet you would be hardpressed to name more than 2 guys in it.
Yeomen such as Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, Cesar Ramos, and Juan Cruz have all conspired to make many fans and experts look like fools for thinking that the loss of EVERYBODY from last year’s ‘pen was going to be the beginning of the Rays’ demise before the season saw its first pitch.
Instead, this group of guys has rarely had a bad outing and is among the league leaders in Bullpen ERA.
I can’t say that the Rays lineup has been the murderer’s row it has been the last few season. But they ain’t that bad.
And, bear in mind, that they have played almost the entire season without the services of the best 3rd baseman in the league: Evan Longoria! Even when he has been in the lineup, he hasn’t been himself. At last check, he was hitting just .220 with only a couple of dingers. He is NOT himself right now.
But the Rays keep winning.
I won’t talk about the joke of a baseball player who quit on himself, his fans, his team, and his sport in the early stages of the year.
Instead, I’ll mention the work done by guys like Elliot Johnson, Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, Matt Joyce, and “Super” Sam Fuld. Each one has had a huge hit this season at one point or another, and the Rays would not have their 25 win total without any one of those guys.
I do not know what the rest of the season holds.
Who knows? We all might be blogging with some sort of holographic device before October hits.
What I do know is that these Tampa Bay Rays have laid it all on the line so far, and there is no indication their success will end any time soon.
Wow, what a season!
Rays and Red Sox.
There was a time when this phrase meant little more than a full Trop–full of Sox hats and jerseys and ugly, invasive fans.
However, the last three seasons have seen a big shift in the meaning of this incredibly intense rivalry.
They battled in 2008 all season long and into the 7th game of the ALCS. In 2009 the Rays, despite a rough season, gave the Sox all they could handle. And now in 2010 our Boys in Blue have dominated those Bostonians to an 8-4 season clip, including two series sweeps and a 2-game series split.
And it has been oh so much fun.
Beating the Red Sox is like celebrating your birthday, but so much more often.
This series is going to go a long way towards determining who makes the playoffs and who plays golf in October.
The Rays are tied with the Yanks for first place in the impossible AL East, 5 1/2 games ahead of the Sawx. A series sweep by the Rays this weekend, with only a month left in the season, would all but end Boston’s playoff hopes.
But you have to give those guys credit (though I hate to); they have to be one of the most banged up clubs in the league (9 guys on the DL right now) and yet they can still see a playoff spot in the distance.
But it is a long distance.
Several scenarios could emerge from this weekend’s series:
1–The Rays sweep, go up 8 1/2 games, and end Boston’s season.
2–Boston sweeps, closes to wthin 2 1/2 games, and gain momentum and hope.
3–One of these two teams pick up a game on the other.
Scenarios 1 and 2 sound pretty exciting. Number 3 is a yawner.
The pitching matchup tonight has to be one of the most exciting of the entire season. Cy Young candidate David Price takes on fading Cy Young candidate Jon Lester.
Two of the best lefties in MLB.
No wonder everybody’s clamoring for tickets. And those who won’t be at the Trop will certainly be crowded around the tv.
Football season might be closing in, but we have one incredible brawl about to take place in ol’ St. Pete.
Let’s get ready to rumble…
I don’t know how today’s game will go.
What I do know is that over the course of July, the Rays have been playing as well as they have all season long.
And that is saying something.
Heading into Interleague play, back in June, the Rays sat with a supberb record of 32-12. They were 20 games over .500 and playing the best baseball in the league. They were the talk of the league and considered a shoo-in for the playoffs.
Then disaster hit.
The Rays became human.
They started to lose at a Devil Rays-esque pace. Over the course of 30 games the Rays won only 12, falling out of first place in the AL East, out of the wildcard spot in the AL, and into the spot they finished in last season: 3rd.
It was heartbreaking.
Then something weird happened.
FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!!
In the final game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, BJ Upton pulled a, well, BJ Upton, and loafed after a ball in the gap.
After being called out by Evan Longoria on his lack of hustle, BJ threw a temper tantrum.
Upton was removed from the starting lineup for the next handful of games, something that BJ and manager Joe Maddon said was because of injury, but the rest of the fans with any baseball acumen knew was an unpublished suspension.
And the Rays took off.
BACK ON PACE
Since the fight, the Rays have gone 9-3 against some of the better competition in the league, the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, and a team they SHOULD beat, the Cleveland Cav-, um, Indians.
A win today will move the Rays to 54-34, right back to where they were about a little over a month ago.
20 games over .500 again.
They would have the second best record in the AL and (possibly) get to within 1 game of first place, behind the New York Yankees.
Jeff Nieman is on the mound today. He is 16-4 since last July. Pitchers cannot be much better than he has been the last year.
The Cleveland Indians are, well, a team that is on the downturn, let’s say.
20 games over .500 would look pretty good going into a mid-season rest.
How much longer could this streak of good play go?
The Rays ended the month of June with a really nice win against a team they HAVE to beat if they want to be in the running for a playoff spot, the Boston Red Sox.
Their 9-4 thumping of the Sawx Wednesday night was pretty darn impressive, as the run output from Boston was augmented with some meaningless runs late in the game.
Matt Garza did just what the Rays needed him to do: shut down the opposition. He gave up only 6 hits in his 7 innings and looked in command throughout. He ran out of gas in the 8th inning, but it didn’t really matter at that point because the Rays had a commanding lead.
I had thought that the Rays would be able to beat down Daisuke Matsusaka, but it didn’t really go that way. He was far from impressive, but he was also far from dominated by the Rays offense. It was the Sox ‘pen that fall apart, namely Manny Delcarmen.
And, let’s face it, you can’t win if your bullpen stinks on any given night. Luckily, the Rays’ hitters were able to take advantage of Delcarmen’s lack of control.
What really helped to force the Sox pitchers hands was what has helped the Rays to beat Boston 5 out of 9 games thus far this season:
The Rays were able to run on Sox catcher Jason Varitek fairly easily, stealing on 2 of 3 base attempts. That might not sound like alot, but when NONE of the stolen bases were taken by guys with last names of Upton, Crawford, or Bartlett, then you are talking about some really good base running. (Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist were the thieves in the game)
If you are a Rays fan, you are not only happy with the result of the game but also with the fact that Tampa Bay sits just 1 game behind the Sox for second place in the AL East and only 2 games behind the Yanks for the division lead.
Unfortunately, if they aren’t careful during this tough 4-game series in Minnesota, they might give up all the ground they gained last night.
It will be up to Jeff Nieman and the Rays hitters to start July off the same way they finished June: with a win.
So…last night stunk.
How else do you describe an 8-5 loss?
And it wasn’t that close.
The Rays find themselves 2 games behind the Red Sox for second place and 3 games out of first. Nobody said that the AL East was going to be easy, but the Rays as of late have made everything look more difficult than it needs to be.
The Rays send righty Matt Garza to the mound tonight with the hopes of earning a split in the truncated 2-game series. He has done well and done poorly in two starts against the Red Sox, but there is something tonight that Garza has going for him.
Nobody on the Red Sox team who might start tonight has faced the spitfire righty, emphasis on the SPIT.
In fact, only 6 guys on the Red Sox roster have any at bats against Garza and only Adrian Beltre is hitting over .261 against him.
In other words, Garza is due for a good start in a big game against a tough team tonight. As long as the youngster can keep his emotions in check, of course. That certainly seems to have been a challenge for the Rays as of late.
The Red Sox will send Daisuke Matsusaka to the mound. The Rays have had moderate success against the guy with the exaggerated windup, though Ben Zobrist (no hits), Jason Bartlett (.143), and BJ Upton (.077) have had significant struggles.
I would expect to see John Jaso behind the plate (he’s a lefty and has yet to see Matsusaka), Reid Brignac at SS (he has yet to face Matsusaka), and either Kelly Shoppach (.400) or Willy Aybar at DH (.333) tonight.
Will BJ start? Who knows? He didn’t start yesterday, but he did end up getting into the game late. Manager Joe Maddon said it was not a punishment, but, well, we can all read between the lines.
No matter who starts, the Rays will have to be patient. Matsusaka thrives when opposing batters jump on his early pitches. If the Rays hold back and wait for their pitch, work the count, draw some walks, I think we will see them even the series and get to within one game of second place yet again.
But if the Rays’ hitters are overly aggressive and Garza struggles with his emotions, we can expect another ugly game, for sure.
I’m watching the waning moments of the Rays game as they are threatening the Red Sox in the bottom of the 9th. Though this final frame has had lots of drama (2 runs in, 2 outs, 3-run game, Papelbon on to try to get Willy Aybar out), it has been frustrating for the most part.
In other words, I am just too damn tired to want to write about it at length.
So this will be the first of a series of “Speedy Post” that I’ll be putting up. I have lots of ideas, but it has been kind of tough to find the time to write a lengthy post.
You know, this little thing call LIFE gets in the way sometimes, as it does for all of us bloggers.
Big Series with the Sox
The Rays find themselves (for now) 1 game behind the Red Sox for second place in the AL East.
It is a pretty unfamiliar spot considering the Rays had been riding high in first place for the vast majority of the season. In fact, when the Boys in Blue lost their stranglehold on first place early last week to the Yankees, most fans in the area had a hollow feeling about them.
There are some baseball people (experts and fans alike) who would say that any baseball played before July has little meaning.
I would argue the opposite.
Should the Rays falter in Boston, they would find themselves 3 or 4 games out of SECOND PLACE. And I would rather not have to make up significant ground for the wild card spot this late in the season.
Pre-game for this contest on MLB Network had an expert I really respect, Peter Gammons, admitting that he overestimated how good the Rays were. In fact, he said that he thought the Rays would win 110 games this season not that long ago, but that his estimate has long since been adjusted.
It hurts, but you can’t blame the guy.
When the Rays played the Sox at the Trop last month (you know, the series where they got swept), they stood at 32-12. Since that sweep, though, they have gone an underwhelming 11-19.
Ouch, that hurts!
The bandwagon was pretty full not that long ago. There seems to be a little more space these days.
(The Rays just lost this game–Pap just closed it. Damn it!)
The Rays really need to figure some things out. But really only 3 things need to be fixed.
When they fix those 3 things, they’ll be right back in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Piece of cake…
Grow Up BJ
Barenaked Saturday Night
Rays/Red Sox Game #2