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.
2 home runs.
Now THAT’s Rays baseball.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Rays can be really streaky, and the losing streak appears to be over.
This could be it.
Like all Rays fans, this Saturday is not quite a day for resting. We have been on the edge of our seats since the final out of the disasterous Game 2 in St. Pete when the Rays went down with a whimper, 6-1.
So the anticipation is about to reach a fever pitch.
(Good movie, by the way, even if it IS about the Red Sox)
Joe Maddon will trot out our last gasp in the form of righty Matt Garza.
This guy should give the Rays a great chance to take a necessary step towards Game 5. He has had great success in the playoffs, winning the ALCS MVP against the Red Sox in 2008, but the pressure will never have been greater for the guy.
They will go up against Colby Lewis (a guy who helped me to my second fantasy baseball championship this season, by the way). Lewis was a game under .500 (12-13) on the season, but his ERA was at 3.72.
What worries me most is that he struck out nearly 200 hitters (196). That bodes ill for the Rays, who led the league in Ks.
The only number that matters today, though, is runs. The Rays need to give up one less than the Rangers.
The Rays will trot out the type of lineup that has helped them win 96 games this season.
I’m happy with this lineup, no matter the handed-ness of the guy on the opponents’ mound. These guys know how to look for good pitches and how to work the count.
Upton and Bartlett at the bottom of the lineup help Joe’s boys get some production from the latter third of lineup leading back to Jaso at the top.
I love it.
3 Keys to a W
1–Emotion. It might be said too much, but Matty needs to keep his mind in the game. He dominated the Rangers at the Trop this year, but he was roughed up in Texas. That can’t happen. But it can’t be just Garza who keeps emotion in check. Hear me, Joe?
2–Hit. ‘Nuff said. 8 hits in two games stinks.
3–Be Patient. Honestly, Lewis does not walk alot of guys (65 this year). But the Rays know how to walk. They have to get him to miss the zone throughout the game and they have to get to the Rangers’ ‘pen early.
I don’t know how this is going to turn out.
Like most of the country, though, I know that we haven’t seen the best of the Rays yet in this series. It would be a shame for them to go out of the postseason without showing MLB fans just how good this team really is.
I’ll be on the edge of my seat throughout the game.
Nervous for sure.
The Rays did it.
I’m just feeling great right now.
Seeing the boys spray the champagne and beer. Watching Don Zimmer get doused with champagne by BJ Upton. Seeing Matt Garza with his diving mask on.
These are memories.
You start off the season hoping your team will be good enough to be one of the final 8 teams after 162 games.
When it happens, it is tough to put into words.
The Rays aren’t supposed to be here. It’s supposed to be the Yankees and Red Sox. The Rays are supposed to be small market also-rans.
And here they are clinching a playoff berth.
And here they are watching the Minnesota Twins struggle against the Kansas City Royals, hoping to get that much closer to the best record in the AL and home field advantage throughout the AL side of the playoffs.
It’s tough to explain.
Joe Maddon said it best when he said that 2008 was pandemonium and 2010 is more controlled.
I agree to an extent.
I’m happy. I’m ecstatic.
But I’m not just happy to be here.
I want to see the boys do something. I want to see them win the Series. 2008 was a time when we were happy to be there and kept getting more and more surprised with each playoff win.
But it seems that in 2010 there is a job to do.
I’m blown away.
I have chills.
And I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Great job, Rays.
Thanks for giving your fans a hell of a year.
This might sound dumb, but I wanted to say THANKS to those who have continued to stop by the blog. I have stopped by your blogs too, but have not really had the time to leave comments as I usually do.
I have had alot going on these days–who doesn’t, right?–and I have let my blogging duties lapse. I miss it, and I hope that when things settle down for me I’ll be able to get more involved with talking baseball with all of you great folks.
Thanks for being a great ‘sphere…
That title has so many meanings.
First, it is good to be back. Vacation was great. A week at a resort ain’t bad no matter what.
But, obviously, I have missed alot. Let me check that, I have not written about alot. I have missed nothing.
Second, it seems that “catchin’ up” is exactly what the Rays have been doing. They fought back in this tough division to take the lead by a game, only to fall back out of it before finding themselves back in the thick of it with a few strong games of late.
Here are some of the things I have seen over these last weeks.
The Rays have not given up on this season at all. As I mentioned, they took the division lead a week or so ago, despite a 7-game losing streak. Then, just as soon as they got the lead, they relinquished it to the Yanks again.
Even though they currently sit in 2nd place in the division, they could easily have packed it in. They overcame a mini-losing streak in the last few weeks before getting a nice start from Jeremy Hellickson his last time out (before today). Then they seemed to hit rock bottom, being shut out by the last place Orioles on Friday. Now they have won 2 in a row (again, behind a strong start from Hellickson) and find themselves wrapping up the weekend in the thick of it once again.
One Game Out
The Rays are sitting just one game behind the Yanks.
They are heading into a very difficult series with the AL West division leading Texas Rangers. There will be no easy wins there. The Rangers are as good as it gets, and the Rays will have to be on top of their game if they want to get closer than they already are.
Hellickson is Awesome
How good is this kid?
His win today pushed his record to 3-0. He has given up almost no hits in his starts; specifically, he has not given up more than 3 hits in any of his three starts. And he is still a kid. He has stopped any bad baseball played by the Rays to inspire them to wins in each of his starts this sesaon.
In other words, he is exactly what a contending team needs down the stretch.
DL? What DL?
You would have thought that the Rays would have faltered when 19 wins of their starting rotation left at the exact same time with shoulder injuries.
I know that I was very worried when Jeff Nieman and Wade Davis went on the DL together. However, Andy Sonnanstine and Hellickson have not missed a beat, pitching solid baseball over these last few weeks to bridge the gap to the two starters’ return from their respective ailments.
What’ll Joe Do?
Finally, there are some really important decisions Joe Maddon will have to make in the coming days.
First, he will have to decide what to do once Nieman and Davis return from the DL. Does he replace a hot Hellickson and solid Sonnanstine or does he ride the hot hand and send the incumbant starters to a “rehab” in the minors? You would think that Sonny’s move to the ‘pen is a foregone conclusion–he’s a great spot starter, but it is tough to rely on him longterm–but you really don’t want to send down Hellickson. Tough one.
The other decision will be what to do when Carlos Pena returns from his plantar faciatis issue. Maddon has already said that nobody from the bullpen will be sent down. So, does that mean Dan Johnson’s days are numbered? They might be. He has a ******** .405 OBP, but his average (.125) is pitiful, even when compared with Pena’s.
Caught up. Now let’s get ahead.
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?
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.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been trying something new in center field lately.
Their current center fielder is a guy with alot of talent and a bat that can potentially put a ball into the outfield seats on any pitch.
Oh, and THIS guy is grown up enough to understand what it means to be a REAL baseball player.
His name is Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist has been starting in center field for the Rays all week and has yet to be accused of failing to hustle after a ball in the gap, unlike his predecessor.
Yep, BJ Upton has not been in center field since Tuesday night, when he came on late in a game against the Boston Red Sox, and has not started in center since Sunday, when he made the decision that trying to track down a ball hit into the gap did not quite fit with the type of baseball player he felt he was.
And when the budding leader of the Rays, Mr. Evan Longoria, chose to mention this oversight to the “always-potentially-never-really” talented Upton, this happened.
Thanks for dailyskew.com for the pic
It was great to see the more mature Longoria turn and walk away from the histrionics of the childish Upton, almost as if to say, “I don’t have time for this baby crap. Grow up and play the damn game.”
Well done, Longo.
Manager Joe Maddon said that he had “frank” discussions with Upton several times between Sunday and Tuesday and that the talks went well.
Funny, I think he said that in 2008 when he had to bench Upton THREE TIMES because the center fielder decided then, too, that hustling was beneath him.
What kind of makes BJ’s current escapade so atrocious is that not only did he jump into the face of one of his “friends” on the team (yeah, right–I don’t know that reacting as if you want to rip the face off a guy indicates that any friendship really existed there) when he was rightfully called out for being a chump, but he also threw a kid who has just been called up, Matt Joyce, under the bus, saying that the left fielder should have gotten to it first.
When Upton was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday against the Red Sox, a game the Rays HAD to have, a game against the team the Rays are currently battling for the wild card playoff spot, a game that everybody in Boston and in the Tampa Bay area were eager to watch, Maddon said that it was only because Upton did not match up well with Lackey and NOT because of punishment.
I think that every Rays fan was able to read between the lines at the message that Maddon was sending to the youngster:
Insult your team and your fans, and you’ll sit.
Forget the lame excuse for why Upton sat, he sat nevertheless, as he should have.
Then Upton sat again on Wednesday and again on Thursday. Upton and Maddon claim it is because the loafer has a leg injury of some sort.
**Is it any coincidence that the Rays have won both of those games? I don’t think so.
**Is it any coincidence that Upton taking a seat for those two games came immediately following his temper tantrum? I don’t think so.
**Is it a coincidence that his “benching” has come against two very good teams that the Rays must fire on all cylinders to beat? I don’t think so.
It is obvious that Maddon is sending a message.
The only real question out there is, will Upton hear it?
I don’t know about that, but I know that there are many things that BJ needs to start doing.
It’s time to realize that the label “potential” has a shelf life, BJ.
It’s time to start playing for the fans and your team, BJ.
In other words, it’s time to grow up, BJ.