A very good friend of mine had a baby just the other day. Saturday morning, in fact.
What was the new lad’s name?
The Rays came out of the weekend with just that, a tie, in the ALDS. And now they are going to play a Game 5 to decide which team, the Rays or Rangers, gets to move on to take on the Yankees in the ALCS this weekend.
It is like ALDS Game 1 all over again.
The Rays will, once again, send the ace of the pitching staff to the mound in a “saviour-like” position.
David Price choked in Game 1, coming out on the short end of a 5-1 loss. And it wasn’t that close. Sure, the hitters stunk it up, but one thing the Rays have to depend on is strong starting pitching. They feed off of it.
Price did not give it.
The fear sets in when I think about Cliff Lee and how damn good he is. Going back to last postseason when he was with the Phillies, there have been few pitchers as dominant as Lee. The Rays will have their hands full.
But, if you remember mid-August, the Rays beat Lee 6-4. It was no fluke. The Rays hitters can wait him out before striking at just the right moment.
But the right moment has to come along with the game still in question. If the moment comes along when the game is 6-1, then it will be much too late.
What gets me is that Game 5 is EXACTLY the same as Game 1.
I’m just as amped up as Game 1. I want to see a W. But a L means alot more Tuesday night, for sure.
The crowd will be going crazy. The Rays have opened up all of the seats in the stadium for this one.
I hope they hand out towels…
What is a little disappointing is that the momentum the Rays had going into Game 4 seemed to wane as the game progressed. I would even say that it shifted to the Rangers, as they put up two late runs.
If the big Mo did shift to the Rangers, that just means that it evened everything out.
Longo’s still hitting lights out. Pena still has the cycle fresh on his mind. And the ‘pen, well, they are still just as dominant.
The team that constructively builds on its emotion will be the winners Tuesday night.
Man, I hope it is my Rays.
The 3 Keys to a W
#1–Be Patient. Just like in Game 1, the Rays have to pile up the pitches against Cliff Lee. They let the guy cruise in Game 1. And they struck out 10 times–ridiculous. They need to work the count and get their walks going, something they did well over the weekend.
#2–Don’t Choke. The big moment in Game 1 was an early bases loaded moment that saw Carlos Pena and Rocco Baldelli strike out to end any kind of threat. After that, Lee settled in. The Rays cannot miss the big moments of Game 5.
#3–Be Smart, Joe. It is hard to argue with Joe Maddon. He is a big reason for why the Rays have made the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years. But I’m going to choke on my soda pop if he puts out the same ridiculous lineup he put out in Games 1 and 2. Go with what works. And what works is the lineups he put out over the weekend.
Obviously, I have no idea how this game will go down. As I sit here, I am buzzing with anticipation that typically comes in an elmination game, but moreso because of one major fact.
It it MY team in this elmination game.
Win or lose, I’ll be proud that my boys fought back into this series.
Win, and I’ll be jumping like an idiot with jubilation.
Lose, and I’ll be quietly angry that they played so poorly in Games 1 and 2.
No matter what, I’ll know one thing.
I won’t have to miss work to see the game.
Sounds dirty, but it isn’t.
But it could get unpleasant, if the Rays’ typical west coast woes of the past are any indication.
The Rays head West in a pretty healthy situation. With so many clubs around the league getting pounded by the Disabled List, the Rays are downright lucky to head to Seattle with only Kelly Shoppach and JP Howell ailing.
Here’s a quick preview of what the Rays are looking at when they take on the Mariners in this week’s 3-game set.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers…
Here’s some numbers for ya.
Neither of these sets of numbers indicate any level of success for the Rays against West Coast teams.
In 2009, the Rays went 12-21 against all of the teams from the AL West division. Yuck. That is some pretty horrible production for a team that finished just out of the wildcard spot. In fact, one could argue that it was the Texas Rangers’ dominance of the Rays late in the season that knocked them out of a playoff spot.
Against tonight’s opponent, the Mariners, the Rays went a pedestrian 2-4 in Seattle.
That certainly does not bode well for this evening’s contest.
These numbers look much better.
Super-3B Evan Longoria has torched the M’s over his short career at a .356 clip. He has only 1 dinger against them, but that average is pretty awesome.
Tonight’s Rays starter, James Shields, does not have the wins to show for his dominance of the Mariners, but his 2.37 ERA shows that he consistently keeps his team in the running for a W against those Mariners.
Our Boys in Blue might be able to miss King Felix in this series, but they will have to face a strong set of pitchers from the Mariners.
Justin Vargas is a strong pitcher with a 3.60 ERA so far.
Then there is Cliff Lee. Sheesh. Let’s hope that he is fatigued after his first dominant start of the season last week.
The Rays finish up with the pesky Ryan Rowland-Smith, a guy who seems to pitch very well against our guys.
What Will Be Successful?
How can we measure success on this 9-game road trip?
I don’t know.
On the Rays’ last 10-game road trip, the team went 9-1 and swept those hated Red Sox in Boston.
I don’t think that an 8-1 clip is realistic, so I think that the Rays could consider this trip a success if they come back to St. Pete with anywhere from a 5-4 mark on up.
If they DO go 5-4, they will have an overall record of 22-11.
I’d take that, for sure.
The first post I put out a few days ago was only to rate the trades that occurred on Friday, the trading deadline day.
However, I got a few e-mails asking me why I left out one trade or the other. They got me to thinking….why NOT go through the notable trades from the trading deadline and just before?
I enjoyed arguing with some of you through comments and e-mail about what you thought of some of the trades. Good times…
This post might be more for me than anybody since I LOVE trades and how they affect teams. I think they are something that is utilized by baseball better than any other sport and is part of the reason why this game is so grand.
Again, I’m primarily looking at the team that is the bigger part of the deal, though in some cases I grade both teams.
So without further adieu….here is part deux.
Deal: Reds trade Edwin Encarcion et al to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen
Analysis: It seemed that Encarnacion never really got it going in Cincinnati. He hit a load of dingers last year, but the average the last few years was never really what Dusty Baker wanted (.209 in 2009). I don’t see him being the 3B of the future for the Jays, unfortunately. However, from what I’ve read about the two young pitchers who were also sent to the Jays, the real value might be there. These two pitchers might make an impact on Toronto this season, which would make the Jays winners here. The Reds get an aging 3B who might be able to help out a little next year. While the Reds play in a strong offensive park, the fact is that Rolen is 34 and has seen his best years pass him by.
Grade: Reds–C+ Jays–B+
Deal: Jerry Hairston, Jr. to the Yankees for a Single-A catcher
Analysis: This just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Of course, the Rays are notorious for making the “not a big deal” trades that end up getting them a bunch of wins. Maybe the Yankees have been taking notes. They already went into the Rays’ playbook to make a deal for Eric Hinske earlier in the year, after all. Hairston, Jr. has speed and versatility. For those reasons he might be a nice guy to have on a team. A National League team. I don’t see him helping the Yanks out too much. Then again, New York didn’t give up much, either.
Deal: Brewers deal to get Claudio Vargas from the Dodgers
Analysis: The Brewers needed a starter. A good starter. They needed somebody to help them contend with the Cubs, Cardinals, and, suddenly, the Astros. Instead they dealt for a bullpen guy in LA who they actually had not that long ago and dumped because of his ineffectiveness. They didn’t give up much, but they didn’t get much, either.
Deal: Cubs get John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates
Analysis: This is a case where I think both teams won out. The Pirates got a young hurler in Kevin Hart and a strong piece of the bullpen in Jose Ascanio. The Cubs needed a starter in Gorzelanny (he’ll start this week) to fill in for Ted Lilly and they needed a strong lefty in the ‘pen in Grabow who will take the place of the Tommy John-bit Neal Cotts. Grabow will complement Sean Marshall in the bullpen and add some stability to a shakey group.
Grade: A for both teams (especially because of the mad kung fu skills of Gorzelanny)
Deal: Royals get Josh Anderson from the Tigers
Analysis: This guy was got for cash. That’s it. Typically these deals are non-issues. This one fits in with that characterization. So why are we talking about it?
Grade: Who cares?
Deal: The Giants get Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates
Analysis: The Pirates are becoming to be old hat in these trade discussions. With that said, the Bucs are doing the right thing. Sanchez was scheduled to make $8 mill next year. That’s too rich for a team with so many holes. I was hoping that the Rays would get this guy–he’s one of my faves–so that they could move Ben Zobrist’s rocket arm and huge bat to right field. Alas, not to be. This move will probably lead to the Giants releasing Rich Aurelia and his salary. Sanchez will help the Giants. The Pirates got a pitcher in Tim Alderson who will help them–in the future.
Deal: Phillies land Cliff Lee from Indians
Analysis: C’mon, do we have to talk about this one? I was hoping the Rays might get active here, and they were, but not as active as the Series champs. They got Lee, gave up some guys they’ll miss, and promptly saw him throw a complete game shutout. ‘Nuff said.
Deal: Mariners get Jack Wilson from Pirates for a bunch o’ guys
Analysis: The M’s got the shortstop they had hoped they had in Yuniesky Betancourt. When they realized Betancourt was a flop defensively, they shipped him to Kansas City–where he’s struggled. Wilson is a solid piece of the future puzzle for the M’s and will get them some wins in the future. The guys the Pirates got will be helpful, but not too helpful right away. Ronny Cedeno is flopping right now and catcher Jeff Clement was not sparking the way the Mariners wanted. I thought that the addition of Clement might lead to the Bucs moving Ryan Doumit–to the Rays. Not so. Oh well.
Grade: Mariners–B+ Pirates–B
Deal: White Sox get Mark Kotsay, Red Sox get Brian Anderson
Analysis: No doubt, the White Sox won this trade–right now. The White Stockings got a premiere pinch hitter who can play almost any corner position. He is a veteran who can fit in immediately with is new team and pay dividends as they push for October. The Red Stockings got a supreme underachiever in Anderson. He might develop, though, into a guy who might be the utility outfielder Rocco Baldelli is supposed to be. With JD Drew on his way out (c’mon, folks, he’s hurt, like, ALL THE TIME) this might be a good add–next year.
Grade: White Sox–B+ Red Sox–B+ (potentially)
Deal: Giants get Ryan Garko for Single-A pitcher
Analysis: Garko was a fan fave in Cleveland, but he was going to be up for big money in the off season. So he was shipped. He was taking playing time away from guys the Indians really wanted to see and they did not view him as a piece of the future. He has a gift for being offensive–in a good way–and should help the Giants offense get going. The guy Cleveland got will be good two years from now. That’s something to be happy about in Clevelend–and there isn’t much these days. However, the move will give more AB’s to superstar-in-the-making Matt LaPorta
Deal: Matt Holliday goes to St. Louis
Analysis: Waste of time to talk about. He’s hitting .529!!!
Grade: A+ (and it sickens me to say that)
Sorry if the pics got a little weird there at times. I’m as distracted by the strange moments of our favorite sport as anybody.
I think that runs down most of the more notable trades that have occurred the last few weeks (and a couple of not-so-notable trades).
I think that this time of year is the most captivating of any sport out there. Teams are fighting for division titles. Others are scrambling for wildcard berths. Franchises are deciding whether to buy or sell. Squads are scouting for both this and next year–and with a do-or-die attitude.
It’s just great.
And the waiver-wire trades are going to get going soon too. Teams have to make waiver deals before August 30th if they want that guy to be eligible for the post season.
And the countdown begins.
And if anybody asks me about the Julio Lugo deal……..
The Rays got a hit and a walk in the first inning.
So that drama is over now.
What is more important is that they got a bloop single from Evan Longoria in the 10th inning to drive in two runs and give the Rays the final margin in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and Roy Halladay.
It was perfect.
Good Ol’ Fashioned Shootout
Both Halladay and the Rays’ Matt Garza fought hard throughout the game. Their stats were nearly identical, with both guys throwing 9 innings, giving up 2 runs, and only giving up a handful of hits. Garza walked none and struck out 9, earning the win, while Halladay struck out 10 and walked 3 in a no decision.
It was like a shootout at the OK Corral, as Doc Halladay and Garza stared each other down, waiting to see who would blink first. Neither did.
But Scott Downs did. He took the loss after giving up a hit to BJ Upton, walking Carl Crawford, and then allowing a bloop hit to Longoria.
Longo had been worked into a 2-strike count at the time, but he put good wood on the ball to drop it in front of a diving Joe Inglett.
Sometimes I think that Longo literally has ice water in his veins. He does not get rattled. He is one cool cat when it counts.
(This guy is cool)
JP Howell dominated the bottom of the 10th to get his 10th save in his first game as the Rays’ official closer.
Curtains for the Doc?
The entire game played out as if it were the last for Halladay in a Toronto uniform. He received standing ovations after every inning and the crowd would cheer him on in every big–and medium, for that matter–situation that arose.
While nobody knows the fate of Halladay right now, there was plenty of speculation during the broadcast and plenty on the blogs and websites out there.
Lots of people were holding signs.
Every tv shot of General Manager JP Ricciardi on the phone was met with thoughts of what deal he might be listening to.
To his credit, none of it fazed Halladay. He went out there and threw an amazing ballgame. However, it may very well be these types of ballgames that are the impetus for his desire to leave. How often can you throw 9 innings and strike out 10, giving up only 2 runs the whole time only to walk away with a no decision?
(I hope that you are taking notes on this Rays, ahem James Shields!)
Where’s the Offense, Guys?
The Rays have been struggling mightily in the run-scoring department.
In the month of July, the Rays have scored more than 3 runs only 7 times in 19 games! That is beyond inept.
During that time the offensive stalwarts of the team have been beyond horrible:
–Evan Longoria has managed to hit only .179 with 3 homers
–Carlos Pena has hit .183 with 30 strikeouts and 2 homers
–BJ has hit .223 with 2 homers
–Jason Bartlett has hit .262 while riding high around .350 and up most of the year
This will not get it done down the stretch, no doubt.
The Rays got a nice win tonight, but so did the Red Sox and the Yankees. That leaves Tampa Bay still 6 1/2 out.
The pressure on our guys will only get worse with every passing game, and if the offense does not get in gear they will find themselves watching the playoffs on tv instead of from the field.
The Rays play Saturday at 1:00 pm. Early game. Kind of different for our guys.
We will send out David Price, who owned the Blue Jays the last time he saw them.
He will be opposed by Brian Tallet, who was owned by the Rays offense.
Hmmmmm, should be interesting.
Odds and Ends
–According to MLB.com the Rays may be interested in shipping Scott Kazmir in order to free up their money situation for the acquisition of Indians pitcher Cliff Lee.
–Another rumor has the Rays inquiring on the availability of Indians C Victor Martinez (this deal would make sense considering the extreme lack of offense coming from behind the plate these days–Sorry Tribe Chick).
–The Rays are giving away t-shirts to the first 10,000 fans wearing Rays gear to 5 games during the next home stand. I am really excited for Monday’s game against the Yanks because I need me one of these: