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.
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.
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…
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.
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…)
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.
(voted in as a starter)
.292, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 12 SB
(at last check, was being voted in as a starter–cross those fingers!)
.318, 60 Runs Scored, 29 SB
(not many relievers have been as dominant as he has)
2-0, 19 Saves, 1.57 ERA, 1 Blown Save
(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.
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.
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?
As Spring Training approaches (not fast enough, despite my Indianapolis Colts’ moving the Bowl of all Bowls), there are several areas on the Tampa Bay Rays that are in need of shoring up. These five areas certainly “ray-se” concerns among fans, and failure for Andrew Friedman and company to address them may result in a long summer for the Boys in Blue.
Here are the five key areas of consternation heading into these few weeks before pitchers and catchers report:
Rays fans loved Pat Burrell in 2009.
He did an amazing job of keeping those in attendance at the Trop cool every night as the human oscillating fan. Hearing Dwayne Staats announce, “Swing and a miss,” with regards to Burrell never got old. Wait…it did.
No folks, “The Bat” was far from a fan fave-the typical fate of so many .221, 14 hr, 64 RBI guys making 9 million dollars. As of this moment Burrell is still a Ray-not for lack of trying, though. While the much maligned Milton Bradley’s name was bandied about as a possible replacement at DH, nothing happened. Tough to know whether that was for the best or not.
The question remains, though: Who will fill the DH role in 2010? There is no clear cut answer. It seems unlikely that Tampa Bay will look to free agency to find a Burrell replacement. The addition of closer Rafael Soriano and the resigning of Kelly Shoppach pretty much ate up the petty cash lying around Stuart Sternberg’s office. Promoting from within might occur, with Willy Aybar itching for a chance to play every day. A Burrell trade could happen too, but the price tag for the 33-year-old veteran might be a little high for most teams.
Perhaps Rays fans should prepare for another breezy summer inside the Trop.
This position was occupied by several people in 2009. Akinori Iwamura was certainly one of the Rays’ most beloved second basemen of all time (sorry, Brent Abernathy). However, he is now gone, doomed to the Sarlaac Pitt. Other second basemen of 2009 include Reid Brignac, Joe Dillon, Willy Aybar (what an experiment in futility that was) and the great Ben Zobrist.
While Zobrist may very well become the Rays everyday 2B in 2010, there could be a problem should Zorilla be moved to right field instead. Brignac probably will not be the every day answer-though it would be neat to see him break camp as the starter so we can see what he can do with consistent at bats-so the Rays might just consider the recently acquired Sean Rodriguez.
Side Note: I know that every team wishes they had a player with the last name “Rodriguez” simply so they can take that player’s first initial and add it to “Rod,” ala “A-Rod.” But, seriously, Rays fans, let’s please avoid calling him S-rod, ok?
Rodriguez has some serious pop (easily 20 hr power) and shouldn’t be a defensive liability should he take over the 2B position. I am sure that the Rays see him as a long term answer at that spot in the infield, but it will remain to be seen if Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon will give the youngster the green light coming out of Spring Training. If he can win the job when the team breaks from Port Charlotte, many things would be cleared up as Zorilla’s move to right would be set.
Should S-Rod (oops!) take the 2B competition, the question of who will be the next right fielder becomes simple arithmatic.
Zobrist’s bat and strong arm at the corner outfield position would be a perfect fit. He would seemingly complete one of the better outfields in the majors and finally settle the revolving door that the Rays have had at that position for years.
However, if Zobrist were forced to man the 2B position because Rodriguez was not ready for the majors and Reid Brignac was, well, the same ol’ Reid Brignac-a move that Maddon may not frown upon as much as may be thought-then the Rays could potentially be in trouble in right.
In the offseason they unloaded one of the Gabes (both Kapler and Gross were really one entity in 2009, but the Kap has stuck around for about a million in 2010) which means more playing time for Kap-should he earn it. But his struggles with righties means that the Rays will have only 1/2 of a right fielder-not ideal.
Right fielders in waiting (for how long is to be determined) might be Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, Fernando Perez, and Desmond Jennings, but it is difficult to determine whether or not any are ready to be with the big club. Jennings, Ruggiano, and Perez may be better suited for CF, which limits thier contributions to RF to a simple “fill in” status from time to time.
Joyce was a big part of last year’s Edwin Jackson trade, a trade that Maddon has consistently said may work in the Rays favor despite Jackson’s double digit wins and All-Star appearance in 2009 and Joyce’s almost season-long stint at Durham. Will this be the year that Joyce shows his own All-Star potential and takes the right field spot by force?
If Rodriguez could take over 2B and Joyce was the every day RF (or at least could platoon with Kapler) then that might give Maddon the option of using Zobrist as that super-sub again-something that certainly worked in the past. Perfect scenario? Maybe, maybe not. It would seem that Zobrist would prefer to have his position staked out beforehand so he could maintain his focus throughout the long season.
This might be the most contentious position battle as we near spring training. However, the emergence of either Joyce or Rodriguez will clear everything up quickly.
The Rays seem to have gotten their money’s worth (we hope) in the Scott Kazmir deal. Adding the highly touted Sean Rodriguez and the potential of lefty Alex Torres and infielder Matt Sweeney (the biggest Sweeney) has put the Rays in a great position for the future.
However, after moving Mitch Talbot to Cleveland in the Kelly Shoppach trade (he was the player to be named later) the Rays find themselves potentially a little thin in big league ready starters.
Sure, the rotation looks fine at the top with James “Big Game” Shields and Matt “Just As Big Of A Game” Garza. Spots 3 and 4 should be fine with David Price and Jeff Nieman, especially if both build on their 2009 performances.
But where do the Rays go from there?
At the moment the 5th spot is manned by Wade Davis, but he was hardly consistent in his 6 starts last season in spite of his 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA. While he struck out an impressive 36 in 36 1/3 innings, he also had games where he simply blew up.
If Davis does win the 5th spot, who do the Rays turn to should somebody or, God forbid, two somebodys get injured? In the wings stand Jeremy Hellickson (he might be ready sooner than we think-hopefully) and-<gulp>-Andy Sonnanstine. Not exactly a scenario that inspires great confidence.
The likelihood of the Rays adding a 5th starter via free agency seem small, though veterans such as Vicente Padilla and Joel Pineiro might be interesting (both would likely expect more than the Rays could afford).
At the moment it seems that Joe Maddon’s squad will be content with the arms they have and head into Spring Training hoping for two things: 1) that those aforementioned arms remain healthy; and 2) that one of the guys in camp really stands out to claim the 5th spot.
We are now through the first week of Septemeber! The season is quickly approaching its final end.
It feels like a good time to get away from what the Rays might be doing on the field these days (especially since it could be better) and take a look at the guys who have been recently added to the expanded Rays roster.
Ginny at The Watercooler and Bob at More Cowbell are doing another co-post.
This time the duo will be analyzing the September callups of the Rays and deciding whether each player’s promotion to the big club should be designated a
GOOD CALL or a BAD CALL.
Remember, just because a guy is moved to the MLB roster does not always spell good things for the team. Or does it?
Let the debate begin!
After reading Bob’s analysis, click here to See what Ginny thinks!
.282 AVE 24 2B 8 HR 44 RBI 5 SB
This is the third time Brignac has been moved from Durham to St. Pete. Over the course of the season it seems that the guy has logged more air miles than a pelican! He has had so much promise, yet has yet to break Spring Training with the club and become a regular starter. All that aside, Joe Maddon has said that having Brignac is a good thing because when starter Jason Bartlett needs a day off he can avoid putting Ben Zobrist in a position he has rarely played this year and simply plug in Brignac. I like that idea. It allows Zorilla to concentrate on 2B or RF and keep his bat steady.
10-9 3.40 ERA 1.25 WHIP 158 IP 140 K
I get chills when I think about what this guy can do on the mound.
This 24-year-old righty has been seen as the next big thing in the Rays system. How amazing is it that the Rays can continually put out the “next big thing” for their fans year after year? (see: Evan Longoria, Jeff Nieman, David Price, Wade Davis) He will make his first start Sunday for the Rays against the Detroit Tigers, and I think that the entire Republic will have its eyes glued on the screen (or in person, hopefully) to see just what the kid can do.
Having him on the roster now gets him a few major league starts before Spring Training next year. He just might have a shot at cracking the rotation next year, especially with the move of Scott Kazmir out west.
.200 AVE 2 2B 1 HR 5 RBI (11 Games)
The call on this move is kind of tricky. I think that the addition of Gregg Zaun was a godsend for a club whose catcher play was inconsistent offensively at best. Seeing Zaun from the left side and Dioner Navarro from the right side has really helped the offense click a little more from the backstop position and the results have been pretty solid (who can forget Zaun’s grand slam!?). Adding Riggs might be a mistake, though. He will not log much playing time with the big club because of the reasons mentioned above and whatever playing time he does get will take away–and disrupt–the smooth flow that has been established by the Zaun/Navi platoon. It can’t hurt having Riggs on the bench, but if he gets some playing time I think the results will be less than desirable.
Last start: 4 IP 8 H 3 R 4 BB
Sonny is kind of a strange situation in that he was brought up September 1st because of the departure of one Scott Kazmir. His first start did not go much better than the previous 15 before it. This is a great chance for Sonny to earn a spot in next year’s rotation, but he did not impress in his first game back. He’ll be moved back one day to allow Davis to start at the Trop on Sunday and to get Sonny into the double header against the Yankees Monday. I am losing some faith in Sonnanstine’s ability to get batters out, and he may be ticketed for a long relief spot if he’s not careful.
.278 AVE 3 2B 0 HR 2 RBI 8 SB (13 games)
(This is Davey Lopes…but the ‘stache is the same–I can’t find a good pic of Perez’s stache!)
If the mustache doesn’t get you excited, then you must be dead!
This is one of my favorite players. The “Columbia Kid” was impressive in his stint with the Rays last season, culminating with a 2008 playoffs to remember. He is exciting on the basepaths and plays above average defense in center or right field. His bad is adequate, but he is also young (26) and will get better. His switch hitting ability is another plus.
He comes along at the right time, for BJ Upton’s ankle injury will sideline him for a few days. I think that this is a perfect chance for Perez to show the front office that he and BJ are the same age, possess the same skill set (minus the power for Fernando), but totally different salary situations. Hmmmmm….
The September callups for the Rays used to mean that the year was over. That it was time to figure out what to do next year.
I don’t think that is the case just yet, though things don’t look so great.
The guys above are all guys who could/should break Spring Training on the Rays major league roster. They should all be contributers to next year’s team as well.
This opportunity, though, comes with alot riding on it. Not only do they get to audition for the team for next season, but they can help get the team to the playoffs if they do well.
I’m hoping for some great baseball from these guys over the next few weeks!
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR OUR NEXT CO-POST, COMING SOON!