The Rays took off on this 9-game road trip with high hopes in mind.
They had not fared well in the past on the West Coast, but this was not the typical Rays team. They were leaner, meaner, and playing the best baseball in the franchise’s history.
The trip began with a roar, as the Rays won the series with the Seattle Mariners and took the first game in dramatic fashion from the Oakland A’s.
Then the bottom fell out.
A poor showing on Saturday was followed by, well, the game that must not be named. A loss to the Angels in Anaheim and you suddenly have something the Rays have not experience this season.
A 3-game losing streak.
The Rays will be taking on the guy who set pretty much every single franchise pitching record before he was traded to these Angels late in August last season.
Lots of talk has been thrown around about how the Rays hitters will find it difficult to refrain from laughing when they step into the batters box against their longtime former teammate. Kazmir has said that he will simply look at the catcher’s glove so that he does not break down laughing.
Kazmir fared very well during his regular season time with the Angels last year, going 2-2 with an ERA in the high 1’s. He fell apart during the post season to the tune of an ERA above 7 in two starts.
He hasn’t done much better this season, entering the game with 2-2 record and yet another 7.11 ERA. It’s ugly, but it is typical Kaz. He doesn’t start well and ends up getting beaten when he starts to nibble at the corners and throws foul ball after foul ball.
Apparently, a reunion with former pitching coach Mike Butcher has not cured Kaz’s ills as most thought it would.
The Rays have done poorly against lefties this season (yes, that perfecto thrown at them by the A’s was thrown by a, gulp, lefty).
Kaz is a lefty.
Manager Joe Maddon is 1-14 in Anaheim against his former team.
They are in Anaheim.
Surely, those do not bode well for the Rays’ chances tonight.
I cannot say that I feel very sentimental about tonight’s game against Kazmir.
I was one of the people who did not want Kazmir to go when he was traded last last season. I thought that the Rays were still in the race and that this trade pretty much was them throwing in the towel.
However, after finding out that the Rays were going to receive youngster Sean Rodriguez as the player ot be named later, I rejoiced. The Rays were going to lose Akinori Iwamura (sniff) and Rodriguez’s possible 20 hr power was very attractive.
Kazmir was nothing but frustrating near the end of his career with the Rays, failing to throw strike and letting the other team’s bats hit the ball (fair or foul) way too often. It was a common occurrance to see Kaz with 100 pitches in the 4th inning.
Those made for some very long, and very boring, games to watch.
I hope that he gets it together out west before he is shipped to the bullpen for the remainder of his career.
But, of course, he DOES play for the other team.
So tonight I hope we destroy him.
The Rays lost tonight.
And I’m not talking about the game with Detroit.
The on again/off again romance between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Scott Kazmir has reached its fitting end.
Scott Kazmir is now an Angel.
Took Long Enough
It’s been a long road, but somehow a deal got done.
The trade started back in July when the Rays were out scouting the Angels’ farm system for prospects. At the time the rumor was that Kaz was on the block and a trade to the Angels was imminent.
Both teams denied the reports and the rumors quickly died–well before the July 31st trade deadline.
Nothing was said for weeks. Then reports started to leak this afternoon from the LA Times that a deal was done and Kazmir was an Angel. Coming over in the trade were lefty Alexander Torres and 3B Matt Sweeney.
Alas, the trade was NOT done. It fell through because the Rays wanted one more player.
Cue ominous music:
I reported that, thankfully, the Rays were going to hang on to their 25-year-old lefty and that that was a good thing. They were fighting for the playoffs, after all.
No news was good news.
Until there was news.
After the Rays loss to Detroit this evening, news came out that Kaz had, indeed, been traded.
We were shocked!
The Rays apparently got what they wanted in Torres, Sweeney, and a player to be named.
The fans lost a favorite player, and More Cowbell lost the ability to wear a certain pitcher’s t-shirt.
Kaz was not only a fan favorite, but also a teammate fave. He seemed to click very well with youngster David Price.
That could have been a bad thing, considering that Price, upon being called up this year, immediately took on some of Kaz’s traits:
Throw lots of fastballs, work slowly, and get pulled before the 6th inning.
Regardless, you have to imagine that such a positive guy as Kaz being gone will negatively affect the Rays clubhouse and make players search for what is the next step.
It should also cause them to question the front office’s faith in their ability to win this wild card spot.
Keep in mind that Kazmir was starting to come around. He had been solid in his last 8 starts, going 4-2 with a 4.41 ERA. He had thrown 6+ innings in 7 of those 8 starts and dominated Wednesday night with 10 Ks.
He was starting to look like the guy who set franchise records for wins, innings, strikeouts, starts, and quality starts.
And, despite his good-faith contract signing for much less money than he could have gotten on the free agent market recently, the Rays STILL shipped him off for prospects in what can only be seen as a cost-cutting move.
A cost-cutting move during a playoff run!?
Potential Fan Reaction
I think that Rays fans are going to be mixed on this one.
On one side will be the fans who remember the last 2+ years during which our once golden child struggled to get out of the 5th inning. The kid who set the bar for all future starters for this frahchise.
They’ll remember the guy who was the DEAL OF THE CENTURY when we stole him from the New York Mets for who WAS our franchise record holder in wins etc, Victor Zambrano.
That was a Chuck Lamar deal…one of the few things he did right while with the Tampa Bay franchise.
They’ll remember him as the Icarus of the team who fell much too quickly and disappointed us much too strongly.
Remember when he was the fixture of the rotation?
Remember when EVERYBODY saw him as the team’s ace, the only 2-time pitcher All Star in franchise history.
He was supposed to be one of the greats.
The fall was quick and hard.
Those fans are going to be excited about this 21 year old pitcher and his 21 year old counterpart 3B and what they will bring to the Rays 1-2 years down the road.
The other side will remember a kid with blonde hair and a cherub face who was ready to help a terrible team get better. A kid who went out every 5th day from, seemingly, the beginning and threw gems.
A kid who just won–Period.
He was a kid who made us forget we rooted for one of the worst teams of all time. He gave us hope when we had none.
Those fans are going to miss him. They’ll miss the “Kaz” and “Kid K” nicknames and wonder if this deal is going to be something we rue as much as the Mets did when they dealt him in the first place.
What I’ll remember most of the kid was one game during the “Devil Rays” days when his teammates decided to have fun with him one night.
It was miraculous that the cameras caught it, but one night Kaz’s teammates (I believe it was Jonny Gomes) decided to make Kid K look stupid.
They blew up a Dubble Bubble bubble and pinched it off.
Then they placed it on his head.
Scott went most of the game with that bubble on his head. His teammates fell out every time he came up to shoot the sh– with them.
Of course, this kid had no idea why he was so funny all of a sudden.
He smiled and waved at the cameras everytime he saw the red light come on. He thought he was suddenly some kind of celebrity, though he had no idea why.
After a few innings he took his hat off. And the camera caught him going nuts over the fact that he had been on tv all night long with a HUGE bubble gum bubble on his head.
I’ll always remember that one. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had watching a baseball game.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Rays acquired two very young, but very talented, players from the Angels farm system. Both guys played primarily at Class-A the last year or so, but recently were promoted to Class-AA.
Alex Torres was named the organization’s pitcher of the month for July for putting up stellar numbers. He was just moved to Class-AA Arkansas.
Matthew Sweeney missed the entire 2008 season with an ankle injury and two months of the 2009 campaign. He still impressed enough for the Rays to get him, but his power numbers this season (9 hrs) are not impressive at all.
As fans, we’ll just have to wait and see just who got fleeced in this deal. I don’t see this as a win/win situation. I see this as a “somebody beat somebody else” situation.
I don’t know if the Rays got the best of this deal, but I doubt it very much.
I don’t want to be too negative here. The deal is done. Kaz is no longer a Ray. We have to deal with losing our franchise’s best starting pitcher ever.
What makes me more upset than anything is simply the timing.
According to reports, Kaz could have been moved around the trade deadline.
Know who we could have gotten?
Mr. Cliff Lee.
You know. Mr. 5-0 sub-1.00 ERA for the Phillies, Cliff Lee.
Instead we’re getting two guys (and a player to be named) who have yet to reach AAA.
These moves do not win you Executive of the Year, Andrew Friedman. These moves make you a joke.
Not only does the timing of this move stink because of what we COULD have had, but it makes the Rays look like they are giving up on the post season.
It is as if the Rays are showing the team–and their fans–that they don’t think making it to October is plausible, so moving a surging pitcher now is not that big of a deal. Might as well get what we can for him, right?
Moving Kaz is not the bad move.
Moving Kaz NOW is what makes this stupid.
I’ll admit, my confidence in this team’s committment to winning this year is now shaken. I bet I speak for lots of fans when I say that.
Regardless, I wish Kazmir luck in California. He’ll certaily help out that Angels rotation. Maybe he’ll even get his elusive World Series ring.
I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.
But, no doubt, he–and we–would have enjoyed it alot more if he could have earned that ring playing for the team that annointed him a Golden Child.
We called him “Kaz.”
And he’ll be missed.
Painful. Just painful.
The Rays left the friendly confines of Tropicana Field last Thursday ready to find a way to climb back into the fight. To take the wild card spot away from those blasted Red Sox. To start their run to the postseason.
In the news that day everything from The Sporting News to The Tampa Tribune was calling the Rays a surging team that was about to make that run we have been waiting for.
Apparently the beautiful weather of the West somehow cooled the Rays white hot squad.
Terrible West Coast
It was as ugly playing baseball in the West as the smog-plagued LA skyline: hard to tell what was going on, impossible to put fingers on landmark issues, and overall chokingly bad.
Almost as bad at that forced metaphor.
After losing today’s game to the Angels, the Rays will travel back to St. Pete for a 3-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays. Their return is both welcome and full of disappointment.
The Rays left the Bay Area a mere 1 1/2 games out of the wild card spot. A spot that the Red Sox were doing everything to give away. The Rays and Texas Rangers were only too happy to oblige taking it.
The Rangers continued to snap at the spot, while the Rays had other plans.
After enduring a 1-5 West Coast swing–YES I SAID 1-5 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 6 GAMES!!!–the Rays now find themselves 4 games out of the final playoff spot and searching for answers.
Why can’t we hit?
Why can’t we pitch?
Why can’t we field?
Where’s our clutch hitting and our timely pitching?
There don’t seem to be any answers out there right now. Only results.
Friday: L 7-6
Saturday: W 10-4
Sunday: L 11-2
Monday: L 8-7
Tuesday: L 6-0
Wednesday: L 10-4
It’s like reading an autopsy report replete with all the gory pictures.
Today’s Problem Inning: The 7th
If you have read any of my past posts, you know that it seems the Rays get hit in the forehead with one 2-by-4 of an inning almost every game. Sometimes they are able to weather the storm and hang on to a win, sometimes they fall down, knocked cold.
Today they fell.
Jeff Nieman had already endured the disappointment of losing the lead of a game he could have won when Grant Balfour gave up a 3-run dinger to Gary Matthews, Jr. in the 6th.
That gave the Angels a 5-4 lead.
In the top of the 7th, Jason Bartlett led off with a double. He would end that part of the inning standing on second.
The bottom of the 7th was entertaining–in a comical kind of way.
Reliable Randy Choate entered the game and promptly gave up two consecutive singles. After a groundout moved both runners to 2nd and 3rd, he intentionally walked Vlad Guerrero.
Then, as I have said so often about the 7th inning before, and also said to my friend at Julia’s Rants this morning, it all fell apart.
A groundout into the hole at SS led to Jason Bartlett making a little league throw (actually, that insults little leaguers) to Evan Longoria at 3B that ended up being more towards the Angels dugout than anything.
Two runs scored there.
Angels up 7-4.
Choate departed in favor of Dan Wheeler. Check out what Wheeler has done before in the 7th.
Wheels got a groundout before presenting Howie Kendrick with a gift of a fastball that the latter batter flung out to deep left field.
In a snap, the game was 10-4 Angels.
Oh, and in a snap, the game was pretty much over.
Lots of teams from the East go through rough trips to the West. Don’t know why. I listened to Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy debate why the Rays were so much off their game.
–Taking in the sights
–Too much time at the beach
–Strange time zone
–Sun baked brains (ok, they didn’t say this last one)
Whatever the reason, the Rays absolutely stunk on this trip. Winning 1 out of 6 games will not get you to the playoffs.
It’ll get you an early fishing trip in October.
(I’m going to watch Jaws tonight, my fave flik)
I know that the Mariners are a surging team and that the Angels are one of the best.
But the Rays were SUPPOSED to be a surging team too. And, last I checked, the defending AL Champions should be one of the best too.
Maybe neither of those are true.
Maybe their brains really were sunbaked.
Time to get into the shade of the Trop and take out our frustrations on the Blue Jays.
Forget the West.
Wow, just when you thought it couldn’t get tougher. Our Rays find another way to lose a game.
This time it was death by two innings. But those two innings were more than enough to subdue what WAS one of the hotter teams in the East.
But when you go West, you don’t know what’s waiting for you.
The Inning That Did It: The 5th
Price had been battling throughout the first 4 2/3 innings. Hey, he had had a no hitter going through 4!
It was at that point that things went downhill.
With Juan Rivera on first, catcher Jeff Mathis lined a single to left fielder Carl Crawford. CC might be great tracking down liners just out of most left fielder’s reaches, but this one hopper he bobbled.
That’s ok, just get the ball into second base. That’s baseball 101.
Instead CC tries to gun Rivera out at third. Poor choice. On the throw not only was Rivera safe at third, but Mathis moved up to scoring position. When you have a young pitcher on the mound who might be reaching his limit (75 pitches through 5 innings, ouch) you have to do the little things to keep his confidence high.
CC was charged with his 3rd error.
Of course, when things like that happen behind a youngster, things often get worse before they get better.
Price threw 5 straight fastballs to Reggie Willits, and what self-respecting MLB hitter won’t get a hit when that happens?
Mr. Willits respects himself. He got a hit.
A 2-run single put the Angels up 2-0.
Bad. But, of course, it was made worse by sudden malcontent center fielder BJ Upton when he tried, inexplicably, to throw out Mathis at the plate. That allowed Willits to move up to 2nd.
He was then driven in by Chone Figgins who sliced another fastball down the right field line.
Rays in a hole they couldn’t dig out of.
Jekyll and Hyde
What was up with David Price?
Something serious changed with our young lefty phenom.
This guy was lights out through 4. He was cruising along with a low pitch count and was setting ’em up just to knock ’em down.
His line: 4 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 3 Ks.
Not too shabby.
Then he got rocked in the fifth.
His line in THAT INNING: 1 inning, 4 hits, 3 runs, 0 Ks.
Then the sixth came along and Mr. Hyde came out again!
His line in THAT INNING: 1 inning, 4 hits, 3 runs, 1 K.
You want to know what was really upsetting about all that damage? Huh? Do ya?
IT ALL HAPPENED WITH TWO OUTS!
Even manager Joe Maddon, in the 6th, was upset about the 2-out damage, being caught on camera mouthing the words:
“That’s all with 2 outs.”
The Hits Just Don’t Keep Comin’
Wow, another pathetic hitting display by our Tampa Bay guys. They were shut out on a measley 3 hits.
Evan Longoria had one hit and newbie Greg Zaun had two.
Ervin Santana induced 14 groundball outs, one of which came off the bat of Upton ON THE FIRST PITCH OF THE 9TH INNING ON A FASTBALL ON THE OUTSIDE PART OF THE PLATE!
The Rays have not been able to hit and have not been able to score. When they DO score lots of runs they are still not hitting, thus the 10 run 7 hit performance the other night.
It’s gettin’ scary.
The Rays fell to 1-12 against the Angels in Anaheim in their last 13 games in Cali. The Big A has been a nightmare for our guys.
What I saw tonight was a complete lack of energy. A “go through the motions” type of performance.
In the meantime, the Boston Red Sox extended their lead in the wild card over the Rays to 3 1/2 games.
Somebody’s starting to play with a purpose.
I wish it were our guys.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been entertaining family the last few days. We had a lot of fun spending time in Orlando, swimming, and watching my brother graduate from college.
It was kind of cool picking my mom up from the airport not only because I got to see her after a long time apart, but also since I was able to be reminded of something ELSE I love very much.
Ah yes, my Rays can never be far from from my mind.
The last post I put up indicated my excitement over the Rays’ “sweep” of those blasted Red Sox and how great it was that they were sitting just 2 1/2 games behind them in the wild card race.
After that everything went dark.
No, not like the typical gloomy, storm-ridden skies of Seattle (though we had our own scary weather down here in Tampa too).
Dark as in lack of energy, no electricity, nothing working.
I was able to pay attention to my guys as much as possible, but it might have been for the best that I didn’t see the heartbreak of Friday, the lack of permanance in Saturday, and Sunday’s stinkfest.
Right now I feel like I’m surveying the damage after the storm, and it looks pretty grim.
Where Did the Pitching Go!?
You know, the guys who helped to guide us to the Series last year when the hitting disappeared from time to time?
Don’t get me wrong, our hitting needs to get the thumb out.
But what made the Tampa Bay Rays a playoff-caliber team last year was the fact that when the hitting fell the pitching was there to catch it.
Right now we’re falling into the abyss.
Rays sink in extras 7-6
I’m glad I missed this one. Rays hitters must have thought that getting 5 against Felix Hernandez was enough and put it into cruise control. You can’t blame them. Wait, yes you can.
Jeff Nieman pitches a great game–until the dreaded 7th. He falls apart to give up 4 runs in his 6 1/3 innings. His bullpen did not help at all. The M’s manage 4 runs on 5 hits in the inning, launching them back into what was shaping up to be a blowout. Then Ryan Langerhans takes our most trusted ‘pen guy, JP Howell, yard in the 11th to win it.
He was down to his final strike!!!!
Rays win 10-4
Rays hitters manage only 8 hits while scoring 10 runs. Ugh.
James Shields gets run support, but he needed it; he threw only 5 1/3 innings and gave up 4 total runs on 8 hits, walking 3. That’s about a 2.00 WHIP, folks. That is stuff that gets people who aren’t a team’s ace sent to the minors.
Rays get blasted 11-2
Our “hitters” get 2 runs on 7 hits.
Scott Kazmir had looked like he was climbing out of the hole he was living in so he could finish strong. Not so. His line was typical Scotty: 4 1/3, 7 R, 9 H, 2 BB. Terrible.
The Seattle pitching was awesome.
Opportunity Knocked and Knocked and Knocked and Knocked…..
Four times the Boston Red Sox choked out a loss to the New York Yankees. Four times in four games. It took them about 2 1/2 weeks just to score a run!
It felt like a storm ripped right through the heart of this team in Seattle as the Rays were only able to grab 1 1/2 games (the 1/2 only because they didn’t play that day!) so they can now sit 1 1/2 games out of the wild card.
You tell me.
How many times do you think the Red Sox will lose 4 in a row after being swept by the Rays between now and the end of the season?
NONE! IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN AGAIN! THIS WAS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY THAT JUST BLEW AWAY!!!!
Somebody please drop a large fan thing on me for goodness sakes….
(Don’t worry, nobody was hurt)
The Seattle series did little to help our chances to catch the Sox for the wild card spot.
It did wonders for allowing New York to start to run away with the East.
This next series just might go a long way towards determining what kind of October we are going to enjoy in the Tampa Bay area:
Stormy or sun-drenched?
Man, why can’t storm damage be more like this?
I think I could live with that.