Tagged: Kelly Shoppach

It Was Meant To Be: Garza Says No, No, No…

I’m on vacation.  So there is no way I should have seen this game.

It was meant to be, then, considering the Rays happened to be on ESPN as a nationally televised game.

It was meant to be that I happened to be in a golf club while the game was playing.

Enough about me, though. 

Matty did it.

He did it.

After the ridicule that has come with being no-hit 3 times in two years, Matt Garza lifted the Rays from mediocrity to superiority.

Matt said after the game that his mechanics felt off.  He said that he felt terrible while warming up.

Yet he went out there and faced the minimum (his lone walk being erased by a double play) while dominating the entire time.  While his fastball did not exceed 93 mph pretty much all night long, his command was impeccable.  He was placing that fastball on the outside part of the plate throughout his 120 pitches, dropping in a few curve balls here and there for good measure. 

The Tigers’ hitters did not know what to expect.  Take the 9th inning, for instance.

The first two hitters fell behind 0-1 after Garza caused them to foul off fastballs on the outer part of the plate each time.  However, when Austin Jackson came up with 2 outs in the 9th, Garza dropped a curve on him. 

The pitch might have missed, but the tone of the at bat was set.  Nobody knew what was going to be thrown next, or where it would end up.

Credit the execution to Matt Garza.  But be sure to give props to Kelly Shoppach for calling a game that was darn near perfection.

All of the offense Matt would need came off the bat of Matt Joyce, who knocked a grand slam in the unfamiliar role of DH.  In fact, before the game started, the newspapers were talking about how Joyce was slightly uncomfortable in that hitter’s role. 

It was meant to be.

After Garza’s last start against Cleveland, he got plenty of credit for tossing 1-hit ball.

He was one hit better than that tonight.

Let’s face it, it was meant to be.

Nice job Matty.

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Speedy Post: Rays/Red Sox Game 2

 

So…last night stunk.

How else do you describe an 8-5 loss?

And it wasn’t that close.

The Rays find themselves 2 games behind the Red Sox for second place and 3 games out of first.  Nobody said that the AL East was going to be easy, but the Rays as of late have made everything look more difficult than it needs to be.

The Rays send righty Matt Garza to the mound tonight with the hopes of earning a split in the truncated 2-game series.  He has done well and done poorly in two starts against the Red Sox, but there is something tonight that Garza has going for him.

Nobody on the Red Sox team who might start tonight has faced the spitfire righty, emphasis on the SPIT.

In fact, only 6 guys on the Red Sox roster have any at bats against Garza and only Adrian Beltre is hitting over .261 against him. 

In other words, Garza is due for a good start in a big game against a tough team tonight.  As long as the youngster can keep his emotions in check, of course.  That certainly seems to have been a challenge for the Rays as of late.

The Red Sox will send Daisuke Matsusaka to the mound.  The Rays have had moderate success against the guy with the exaggerated windup, though Ben Zobrist (no hits), Jason Bartlett (.143), and BJ Upton (.077) have had significant struggles.

I would expect to see John Jaso behind the plate (he’s a lefty and has yet to see Matsusaka), Reid Brignac at SS (he has yet to face Matsusaka), and either Kelly Shoppach (.400) or Willy Aybar at DH (.333) tonight. 

Will BJ start?  Who knows?  He didn’t start yesterday, but he did end up getting into the game late.  Manager Joe Maddon said it was not a punishment, but, well, we can all read between the lines. 

No matter who starts, the Rays will have to be patient.  Matsusaka thrives when opposing batters jump on his early pitches.  If the Rays hold back and wait for their pitch, work the count, draw some walks, I think we will see them even the series and get to within one game of second place yet again.

But if the Rays’ hitters are overly aggressive and Garza struggles with his emotions, we can expect another ugly game, for sure.

What a Weird Series This Is

Tonight the Rays start a series that holds alot of promise.

It would be an understatement to say that the Rays have underachieved the last month, winning only 11 out of their last 28 games to relinquish 1st place to the Evil Empire and find themselves in danger of falling into 3rd place in the most competitive division in the league.

However, this is the perfect time for our Boys in Blue to take on the team that entered the league the same year they did: the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

The D-backs are scuffling themselves this season.  They sit in last place in yet another difficult division (the Pads, Rox, Dodgers, and Giants ain’t no slouches), but in last place nevertheless.

The Rays should be able to right the ship this weekend against one of those teams that good teams are supposed to beat.

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Some of the Weirdness…

So here are some of the things about tonight’s game that just scream WEIRD (to me, anyway).

1–The Upton family reunion will take place tonight.  The Rays’ BJ and the D-backs’ Justin will square off for the first time ever.  Pretty exciting.  While Justin is having a much better season (and had a better off season as well after signing a mid-term contract extension), BJ rises to the top when he is in intriguing situations.

2–The Rays will suit up without Dioner Navarro.  Navi was sent down to Durham to make room for Matt Joyce.  You can’t blame the Rays for sending down their longterm catcher–the guy was hitting .207 with 1 homer and 7 RBIs.  It was time, considering the emergence of John Jaso and the free agent signing of Kelly Shoppach.

3–Two guys facing each other who were once traded for one another.  Edwin Jackson will start for the D-backs.  Matt Joyce will start in left field for the Rays.  These guys changed teams a few years ago when Jackson was dealt to the Tigers for Joyce.  Always fun to see those matchups.

4–These two teams came into the league at the same time in 1998.  I know I already said it, but I love when teams matchup who are the same age.  It isn’t quite the same when the Marlins and Rox match up since they see each other multiple times each year.  But the Rays and D-back see each other (possibly) once every 3 years, so it is kind of neat.

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This is a series the Rays need to sweep.  Sure, it is only June, but when you are in a division with the Red Sox and the Yanks, every win means alot.  I think that the Rays will have a great chance to sweep.  They will avoid Dan Haren and, after Jackson, will take on two pitchers who have been hit and miss all season long.

Enjoy the weirdness!!!

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.

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.