Man, this is quite a season.
I don’t think it compares with 2008, to be honest, because that season was a season of “firsts” all over the place. This year has a “been there, done that” feel while infusing every game with a new kind of enthusiasm.
No longer is it, ” I hope.”
Now, it is “I expect.”
Who knew that would happen?
The Rays took on the Red Sox last week. Sure, the series did not go as Rays fans would have liked, but it wasn’t a sweep. And, to be honest, seeing the Sox 7 1/2 games in the rearview mirror (along with their pale hosed counterparts from Chicago) makes any loss to Boston totally endurable.
But to follow that big series with a much BIGGER series against the Yanks, well, let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have a heart condition.
It’s getting tough to take!
Tonight’s game has been simply amazing. CC Sabathia and David Price have shown why they are two of the top candidates in the Cy Young race. So far, each pitcher has absolutely shut down the other’s vaunted offense.
(Currently, the Rays have first and second with 1 out in the 8th)
What is at stake in this series–heck, in this GAME?
No less than first place.
Man, I love baseball.
Watching these two teams battle as they have tonight, go pitch by pitch, at bat by at bat, has been a delight one can get from few other endeavors.
Forget the football on ESPN. I have my main event right here.
I don’t know how this series will go.
But, I will tell you that I don’t HOPE the Rays will win.
I EXPECT it.
Isn’t that what happens when you believe in your boys?
What a game.
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.
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…
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.
Rays 9, Yankees 3
And it wasn’t that close.
David Price, the Rays’ phenom 24-year-old lefty, led the team against the invaders from NYC and gave them more than they could handle.
The offense didn’t want to be outdone, so they put their best bat forward and put up 8 earned against the Yanks’ big offseason acquisition, Javier Vazquez.
In the end, there was not much to complain about.
If you are a Rays fan, of course.
Price Was Scary Good
Price went out and simply gave the Rays his longest–and one of his more solid–performances of his young career.
7 2/3 IP 3 ER 7 H 3 BB 7 K
Through 6 innings, however, Price threw only 66 pitches. Aside from a double in the 2nd that brought home 2 runs by Alex Rodriguez, there was nothing scary.
When he reached the 8th inning, Price admitted he began to press a bit, which led to a bases-loaded jam and another run given up. But Lance Cormier came into the game and ended the frame with a strikeout.
It was an almost-effortless performance from a guy who is the Rays’ NUMBER 4 PITCHER!
Big Inning: The 4th
The Rays almost batted around in the bottom of the 4th against Vazquez.
A few doubles, a few singles, a stolen base from BJ Upton, and a huge blast from Carlos Pena gave the Rays all the runs they would need for the rest of the game (5).
While the home run was fun, I was more excited about the double that just eluded left-fielder Marcus Thames’ glove from the bat of Jason Bartlett. It was one of those moments that you were hoping would happen (him missing the catch) and it led to two big runs. Whew!
Sleeping Bats Awakened–Look Out!
Pena had been hitting terribly this season. And he had been suffering from a power outage, with no balls of his bat threatening to leave the yard. It was nice to see him take one out against a tough pitcher like Vazquez.
The other area the Rays are getting no production from is DH. I am going to lay off the Burrell Bashing–for now–and simply say that Willy Aybar’s big 2-run home run in the 6th was a respite from worrying about what to do with the DH position. After striking out horribly earlier in the game, it was great seeing him rip one down the line and out.
The Rays are going to have a tough one against the Yanks and CC Sabathia. Even though CC got knocked around pretty good by the Red Sox on Opening Day part 1, everybody knows he is a tough hombre.
The Rays are sending out youngster Wade Davis, who will make just his 7th start of his young career. He had to work hard to beat out Andy Sonnanstine for the 5th starter job, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against a tough Yankee club.
I’m excited. Can you tell?
The Rays are now entering the final 6 weeks of the season.
They haven’t done so badly in the previous portion of the year, winning 67 games and finding themselves in the wild card hunt. While there are many teams out there within 7 games of first place of either their division or the wild card, the fact is that their seasons are pretty much over because of, oh, REALITY.
The Rays, though, are still going strong. Coming off of a 6-3 home stand, their confidence might be as high as it’s ever been.
They’re going to need everything they can muster in order to push through this brutal final portion of the season and make it to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Strong Pitching Ahead
The Rays will find themselves taking on some of the better pitchers and pitching staffs between now and the end of the year.
It begins tonight against Roy Halladay.
It’s like Indiana Jones and snakes.
“Why does it always have to be Halladay?”
We haven’t fared that badly against him, but he did get the best of us the last time out.
Regardless, the Rays will be taking on many pitchers of his ilk in the final 6 weeks.
We are guaranteed to face Justin Verlander IN Detroit this weekend (he pitches tonight).
New York will more than likely throw CC Sabathia and/or AJ Burnett in one if not both of the final series we have with the Yankees.
Boston will have Josh Beckett on the mound in at least one of the final series we have with them.
Texas’ strong rotation will get another shot at us–with revenge on their minds and a playoff spot in sight, mind you–when we face them the final time in Arlington.
It’ll be questionable whether or not the Rays hitters will be able to weather the constantly strong pitching they will seemingly have to face in practically every series from now to the end of the season.
The Bad News: The Road
Like the dystopic novel from Cormac McCarthy (a good read, if not depressing; check it out), the Rays will have to travel frightening pathways away from home sweet Trop for 21 of the final 39 games this season.
Their road record thus far?
On those trips they will go to Toronto, Detroit, New York, Boston, and Texas. I don’t know if you noticed, but those are all teams that are clamoring for a spot in the final 8.
They ain’t going to be easy to beat.
The Rays have won 67 games thus far this year. If they have a realistic time in those final 21 games, we can probably expect 9-11 wins.
If we take the mid-point of that projection, then that would give the Rays 77 wins.
However, we have to figure that winning 10 of 21 games against competition such as that might be tougher than we think. And the Rays have had their issues on the road, obviously.
The Good News: Home
(yeah, it’s a stretch–so sue me!)
Unfortunately, the Rays only have 18 games left at the Trop this year.
And, double unfortunately, they will spend most of those 18 games facing playoff-type teams in Boston, Detroit, and New York.
The Rays record at home?
The most wins of any team in the majors!
And when you figure that during “crunch time” the Rays will play 12 of their final 15 games in the friendly confines of Orange Juice Central, then we should be feeling pretty good.
I can see our guys having the carrot of a playoff spot dangling there to be taken as they fight for it in front of 30,000+ every night in St. Pete.
It can be oh so sweet.
But they cannot ruin it on the road.
The Rays begin battle tonight sitting just 3 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the wild card spot in the AL. Texas is just 2 games in front of the Rays, effectively making this a three-team race for the final space.
Our Boys in Blue will face those two teams 9 more times before it is all said and done.
You couldn’t ask for more.
If things go well, those 9 games will be some of the biggest of the season, by far.
But things HAVE to go well on the road, that is the key.
If they don’t, then we’ll be hoping to play spoiler for teams we could have, and should have, beaten.
So let’s buckle in and get ready for a fun ride down a bumpy road.
The best things in life ain’t free, eh?