Tagged: Carl Crawford

Hey…It’s the REAL Rays

 

Finally the Tampa Bay Rays showed up in the 2010 ALDS.

Through Games 1 and 2 there was some team on the field playing against the big league Texas Rangers, but it surely wasn’t the Rays.

This imposter team had put up one measley run and only 8 hits in two games while giving up 11 runs AT HOME, no less.

Apparently, the REAL Rays were waiting in Arlington, Texas.

Want proof?

6 runs.

11 hits.

0 errors.

2 home runs.

1 W.

Now THAT’s Rays baseball.

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Emotions Were High

Around my home, the stress and worry levels were really high.  We were wondering if we were about to see the final game of the Rays season.  The final game of Carl Crawford’s career in a Rays uni. 

There’s going to be at least one more.

What was great to see was while MY emotions were out of whack, the Rays’ were not.

There was Matt Garza calmly rebounding from an early run given up to retire Ranger after Ranger. 

There was Joe Maddon keeping his temper in check, even after a few blown calls by the umpires tonight (seriously, blue, you didn’t see Elvis Andrus come off the bag on his stolen base attempt while Jason Bartlett had the tag on him?  Seriously?). 

This game was tight until the 9th, so the cooler head was going to prevail.

The cooler head and the guy with the bigger bat.

Luckily, that was the Rays on both account.

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Cameraman Longo

What was awesome to see was the Rays in the dugout messin’ around as they did all season long. 

Watching Evan Longoria with a waterbottle holder on his shoulder, mimicking a cameraman’s pose, “film” the goings-on of the 9th inning.  The guys around him were cracking up and suddenly everything was loose. 

The Rays were back.

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The Rays Were Clutch

There were many events in this game that epitomized the Rays season, without which the Rays would be headed back to St. Pete with their heads held low.

–Carl Crawford had two big catches in the game, keeping the Rangers in check and preventing run-starting rallies.

–John Jaso had the biggest hit of the game in the 8th against the Rangers’ closer.  Why isn’t this guy starting every game?

–The slumping and sub-Mendoza-line Carlos Pena took one down the right field line to drive in pinch runner Desmond Jennings with the game-tying run.  Then Pena knocked one over the fence in the 9th to ice the game away.

–In addition to CC’s defense, Crawford hit a big home run in the 9th to put the Rays up 4-2 and take the pressure off of Pena.  The loss of pressure made it just that much easier for the big first baseman to take one over the fence.

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3 Keys to a W

#1 Emotion–The Rays kept theirs in check AND loosened up the dugout in the process.  Look out Rangers.

#2 Hit–11 hits and 6 runs make it clear that the bats were warmed up tonight.

#3 Patience–Colby Lewis did not walk a whole lot of guys this season.  He walked 5 Rays tonight.  That helped to put more pressure on the young righty, and it helped the Rays to a W.

          3 out of 3 Keys Turned = W

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Game 4 is tomorrow.

How will it go?

If the Rays performance today is any indication, the Rangers have alot to worry about.  They needed to put these guys away today. 

They didn’t.

The Rays can be really streaky, and the losing streak appears to be over.

Rays Awaiting All-Star Selections…Me Too!

All those weeks of voting. 

All that repetitive SUBMITTING and REFRESHING of your screen (25 times per visit).

All that hoping.

And Sunday at noon we will all find out if it was worth it.

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Last Year’s Game Was Truly Classic

As you know, TBS will announce the All-Star rosters Sunday at high noon, and I, for one, am a little nervous.

I am sure you can guess why.  The Rays never get alot of love from the Midsummer Classic.  It has been rare to find more than the one obligatory Ray on the All-Star roster each summer.

Last year was different, though, as the Rays had a ******** 7 players put on the roster. 

Of course, Rays manager Joe Maddon was in charge of rounding out the rosters after the fan vote.  But you would have gotten alot of beef if you tried to mount an argument that any of the Rays in last year’s group was undeserving.

(click the links below to see my thoughts on these stories last July–then again, I am sure you have better things to do, so…)

And who can forget the fun that came with the Final Man Vote?  Sure, Carlos Pena did not win the vote (Brandon Inge did), but he eventually got in due to an injury. 

And what do ya know, a Ray won the game’s MVP award.

American League All-Star Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays robs a home run from National League All-Star Brad Hawpe of the Colorado Rockies during the 2009 MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri.

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Encore, Encore!!

So what are the Rays going to do for an encore?

Well, first of all, Joe Maddon more than likely will not be managing the AL side.  So that might mean that 7 Rays will not make the game.

That’s fair.  7 is alot.

However, I think that the Rays should certainly get at least 4 All Stars for this year’s game.  There are 4 guys who are very deserving and have earned their spot.

They are:

Evan Longoria

(voted in as a starter)

.292, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 12 SB

 

Carl Crawford

(at last check, was being voted in as a starter–cross those fingers!)

.318, 60 Runs Scored, 29 SB

 

Rafael Soriano

(not many relievers have been as dominant as he has)

2-0, 19 Saves, 1.57 ERA, 1 Blown Save

 

David Price

(he SHOULD be the starter of the game–who else has been as good?)

11-4, 2.92 ERA, 90 K, 1.20 WHIP

I think that John Jaso (has come on like gangbusters after being called up) and Reid Brignac (the AL’s leading pinch hitter) might get some consideration, but it is a snowball’s chance that they would make it.

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Let’s CC What Happens

As I said, 4 Rays in the game should be a given.  But Rays fans know how it works. 

No respect=Few players in the game

But the team has had a solid first half of the season, even if they have faltered as of late.  That should translate to increased respect and, hopefully, increased numbers in the game.

No matter what, I am really hoping that Carl Crawford will get into the game as a starter.  I am confident that if he relinquished his lead as a starter that the AL manager will still choose him as a reserve. 

But the longtime Rays left fielder has never made the game as a starter, and this would be a perfect way to cap his career as a Ray, should things not work out the way most Rays fans want them to and Carl leaves the team at the end of the season.

High noon.  See ya there.

 

Speedy Post: Nice Win Gets Rays Closer to First

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:

 Stolen Bases!!!

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.

Prepping for the Draft, Rays Style

Major League Baseball will put on its draft tonight as every team around the league looks to improve its club

And if all goes well, these teams will see the fruits of their collective labor in, oh, say, about 3 or 4 years. 

What!?

Yeah, come on, you know how it goes.  This ain’t the NFL or NBA.  These guys who hear their seemingly anonymous names called tonight won’t really find themselves on major league rosters for some time now.

Despite this, teams will be taking very seriously the goings-on that will occur at 7 pm Eastern Time.

A good draft tonight can turn a team like the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays into, say, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.

That 2008 squad became potent with the development of one great draft pick, Evan Longoria, and the shining of another, BJ Upton. In fact, the Rays’ success can be attributed quite squarely on the fact that they have drafted well during the Stuart Sternberg era as 10 of the 25 guys on the roster are homegrown.

Manager Joe Maddon and General Manager Andrew Friedman have said this week that they will be looking at the middle of the field as the focus of their draft. We can take that to mean, I assume, catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field.

I am not an expert on amateur baseball players, so I won’t pretend to give a list of great college and high school players who can have an impact on the Rays in the near future.  However, I will say that a guy like Zach Cox, a guy who can play 3B and 2B, would fit well with what Maddon and Friedman would like to see on the roster in the future. 

The Rays have the 17th overall pick in the draft, and the rumor is that they have targeted a catcher who, at one time, was Stephen Strasburg‘s battery mate–just like every other team in the draft.  So, we can’t expect Bryce Harper to don a Rays uni any time soon. 

However, a move for a catcher such as this would make sense considering the fall of Dioner Navarro, the question marks surrounding Kelly Shoppach, and the high hopes–yet unrealized potential–that plague John Jaso

You would think that the Rays would be pretty satiated at the middle infield positions.  They have Jason Bartlett firmly ensconced at short.  At second base they have multiple options: Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, and Reid Brignac.  In the minors, the Rays have Eliot Johnson and Tim Beckham, though the latter 20-year-old seems to be a few years away as he is toiling at Single-A Charlotte.

Center field is a place that seems to be in question.  BJ Upton mans the spot right now, but soon his arbitration clock will run out and he will become an unrestricted free agent.  Then the Rays will have to decide whether or not to pay him what he thinks he is worth.  Desmond Jennings has center field skills, but he might already be in left field after the Rays (potentially) lose Carl Crawford.  Cuban defector Leslie Anderson was just promoted to AA Montgomery and could be with the big club in the next year or so if his fast rise continues. 

Whichever way the Rays decide to go, I think we can rest assured that it will be the right way.  They have not accrued what Baseball America has deemed the #1 ranked minor league system by accident.  And with 6 picks in the first 98 of this year’s draft, the probability is high that the Rays will put together yet another successful group of recruits.

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Update: 8:24

The Rays are coming up at pick 17. 

The rumor is that they might choose a P/OF Bryce Brentz.  Who knows what position he might play as a pro.  Bryce Harper was supposed to be a catcher, yet the Nats have already made it clear he will be an outfielder. 

However, should the Rays find INF Zach Cox still available at 17 (he is a top 10 projection), I think they will go with him.  This guy is a left-handed hitting power hitter who has the defensive ability and range to play at the hot corner or at 2B. 

Cubs are up.  Rays coming up…

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Update: 8:32

Cubbies took a pitcher.  Rays have their pick (Brentz) and a top-tier infielder (Cox) available.

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Update: 8:37

Rays took neither Cox nor Brentz.  Instead they took Josh Sale, a guy that the MLB Net guys seem excited about.  He is a college guy (Gonzaga) who plays the outfield.  Apparently he will play a corner outfield spot who will hit for some decent power and has little speed.  He sounds like a nice future RF, but it would be pointless to pontificate on where he will play as his major league debut is still several years away.  However, as a college player (as David Price was) his future might arrive a little sooner than many might think. 

Should this guy progress faster than most, then we might see a near-future outfield that could have Desmond Jennings, Leslie Anderson, BJ Upton, Ben Zobrist, and this kid in the mix.  Not too shabby. 

However, it should be noted that the Rays went neither middle infield NOR best available with this pick.  Peter Gammons has guessed that this pick might be more motivated by $$ than anything else, which makes sense.  Remember, the Rays were unable to sign two of their first three picks in their draft last year. 

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Update: 9:55

The Rays closed out their participation in the first round of the draft by taking a catcher with the 31st pick: Jason O’Conner.  The experts said that this guy should be more versatile than a catcher has a right to be, which might mean that Maddon can see him playing middle infield or catcher.  He is from the great state of Indiana, so he’s got that going for him. 

So the Rays got (maybe) their catcher.  That certainly was something that most Rays fans were looking for considering the current state, and franchise depth, of the position.

Rays and Red Sox Get Ready to Throwdown

       VS       

You surely want to get excited about the series that starts tonight between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox. 

You want to get hyped and break out the good snacks before settling down on the couch for a series between rivals.

You want to go through the ritual of getting mentally prepared for yet another series of insanity between to top-notch teams in the AL East.

You want to, but…

Let’s face it, the Red Sox are a long long long way from contending for the division.  Heck, they have to crawl out of 4th place before they can contend for anything.

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Sweeps Is Sweeps

You cannot forget the hard-to-watch destruction that was the 4-game series sweep the Rays handed to the Red Sox last month.  On the one hand, you do not want to put too much emphasis on baseball in April, but you can’t discount it too much, either. 

I mean, the Rays outscored the Rouge Sox in that series by a 24-9 score and dominated pretty much every facet of the game.  They outhit the Sox, outpitched the Sox, and outstole the Sox.

Sadly, while that series was simply legendary, you can’t transfer those good times to this series. 

Damn.

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Pitching In

The Sox are going to throw 2 of their best in this series (all due respect to Josh Beckett, he simply has not been himself lately).

Clay Buchholz (who is pitching RIGHT NOW!) and Jon Lester are having solid seasons.  Their ERA’s are in the low-3’s and they are a combined 9-5 this year.  They typically have good success against the Rays, which could bode ill for the good guys.

They Rays will throw Wade Davis (who deserves SERIOUS Rookie of the Year consideration) in Game 1, which is not an issue because he has pitched in many pressure-filled games this season.  He will be followed by the stellar James Shields and Cy Young-esque Matt Garza.

The Sox pitching in this series might be good, but the Rays’ should be better.

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The Secret?  Stealing

In their series in April, the Rays stole the Red Sox blind.  They took base after base with little resistance. 

Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, and BJ Upton could not be stopped.  And that could be acceptable, if you are a Sox fan, if those were the only guys who were swiping bases.  However, the Rays rubbed it in by having Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Pena take bases as well. 

The way the Rays will win this series, and the Sox will lose it, is if the Rays’ stealing success continues.  But if the Sox keep the Rays off of the bases and prevent them from turning singles into doubles we could see another sweep, but this time from the bad guys.

Yikes!

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Closing Thoughts

Funny, when I started this post I thought of this series as yet another ho-hum series in 2010 a la the Royals or Mariners. 

But when you look at the pitching matchups, the battles between base runner, catcher, and pitcher, and the drama that is Rays/Red Sox, I find myself starting to get more and more amped up.

Game 1 might not be looking so good thus far, but jeez I am starting to feel those competitive juices flow.

The Sox may be 8 1/2 back right now, but I would love to see the Rays bury these guys by the end of the series.

Ok, I’m officially pumped.

Utterly Dominated

Yankees 10, Rays 0

And it wasn’t that close.

Not much to say, really.

CC Sabathia looked amazing on Saturday, keeping the Rays’ hitters off balance throughout his 7 2/3 innings.

I think that as the game wore on and those Yankees fans in attendance found their voices (been a while), the Rays started to press more and more.  I am sure that memories of last year’s No-No from the White Sox Mark Buerhle were flashing through their minds with each pitch.

It might sound stupid, but when Kelly Shoppach got the rifle single in the bottom of the 9th, it almost felt like the Rays won the game.

That is the interesting thing about a no-hit bid.  If you get it, you totally crush the opposition.  If you lose it early in the game, no big deal. 

But if you lose it late in the game, as Sabathia did, it almost works against you.  Shoppach’s hit was met with cheers we typically hear after a Carl Crawford walkoff single.

Interesting.

The Rays and Yanks are playing now, and save for a poor James Shields’ pitch to Curtis Granderson, the Rays would be up 2-0.  As it stands, the Rays lead 2-1.  It is a good one.

At least we got our hits early this time…

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Seriously Joe?

I am a big Joe Girardi fan.  I have loved him since his days with the Chicago Cubs.  Love the guy.

But even I don’t believe he had the guts to pull Sabathia after 8 innings the way he claims he would have done.

It makes for interesting copy in the newspaper and can make manager appear decisive.  Of course, we’ll never know whether he would have followed through because Shoppach’s hit announced Sabathia’s removal from the game.

I would have liked to have seen whether Joe would have actually followed through.

1 and Oh MY!

To say that was a great game would be an injustice. 

It was an AMAZING game!

All the drama that came with the fact that it was Opening Day was overshadowed by the drama that came at the end of the game.

Sure, the smoke from all the pyro hung in the air all game long, but it was easy to see that this was a game to remember.

The guys were ready to play after the intros, and they sure played their hearts out. 

(Alas, I was able to get pictures from most of the game before my camera’s battery died!  Dang it!  And pardon the HIGH view, I decided to downgrade on tickets to upgrade the thickness of my wallet)

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The Pitching

You cannot complain about James Shields’ pitching performance.  It was his first outing of 2010, he had a wife who was abou to give birth…yeah, I would say that what he did Tuesday night is just fine.

        6 IP        3 R        9 H       2 BB

I know that the 1,83 WHIP and 4.50 ERA aren’t sexy, but he kept things from getting out of hand.  He gave up 3 home runs–but they were all solo shots–the perfect type of home run to give up. 

Kevin Millwood pitched well also, but he reached his 100-pitch limit much earlier than Shields did, going only 5 innings in his debut. 

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The Big Inning

Every game has an inning that affects the outcome.

I felt that the 9th inning was the inning that changed the course of this game.  But it was NOT the bottom of the frame, but the top.

Rafael Soriano’s laconic performance nearly cost the Rays the game.  He entered with the Rays trailing by 1 with the objective of keeping the deficit just that small.

It seemed he did all he could to fail at that objective.

If it were not for several great plays in the inning, the Rays certainly would not have been mobbing CC at home plate at the end of the game.

Soriano gave up a double to Garrett Atkins, a single to Cesar Izturis (was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt) and had a botched double play put runners at the corners with 1 out.

If Atkins scores, the game is probably over.

Instead, Evan Longoria saved the game with a great play to get Atkins at the plate. 

With two outs and runners in scoring position, Soriano got Miguel Tejada to scorch one right into Carl Crawford’s outstretched arm. 

And we want to trade this guy?  No CC means the Rays sit at 0-1 instead of 1-0.

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Longo Goes Long—OH!

(Ok, this pic is cool, isn’t it?  It is like Longo is Lording over everybody at the Trop)

My goodness, did that ball land yet?

  

I’ll admit, from my perspective in the nosebleeds it was tough to get an idea of how far the ball was going.  I knew it was gone, but how far it went was beyond me.  I was too busy celebrating to watch the ball land, anyway.

Turns out, it was the third longest dinger in Tropicana Field history.  It landed several rows up into the party deck! 

Holee Cow! 

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Carl’s Moment

I don’t want to belabor the amazing-ness that is Carl Crawford, but wow.

I thought it was incredible when he killed those Red Sox in 2003 with a line drive long ball in the bottom of the 9th to get an Opening Day win. 

But this was just as great.

Following his great catch in the top half of the 9th and an almost-walk-off from Kelly Shoppach, Carl delivered a great line drive into right field that secured the game.

Pandemonium, folks. 

I almost fell down the 596 stairs I had to climb to get to my seat. 

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3 Keys to a W

1–Shields’ Composure.     Check.  He gave up 3 dingers, yet no more than that.  Quality start. 

2–Get the Long Ball Workin’.     Check    Longo took one out–WAY out–and Shoppach’s almost dinger helped make the difference. 

3–The Rays Republic Must Represent.     Nope    Sorry Republic, I thought that the Trop was WAY too quiet all game long.  Of course, I was sitting in the Swiss Alps, so I might have missed some of the cheering.

Gotta get at least 2 of the 3 Keys in order to get a W.

So…

2 Keys Checked = Rays Win!

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Final Thoughts

I’m looking forward to this season even more.  The Rays were more than impressive Tuesday night, not only because of their offense and clutch hitting, but because of their resilience. 

That resilient spirit was what helped the Rays take the AL East in 2008.  Game after game was decided because the Rays refused to give up.

Can’t wait to see how Matty does tonight.