News came out today that one of MLB’s most dominant and reliable relief pitchers of the last three seasons won’t throw a pitch until Opening Day 2011.
Yep, the Rays have just lost JP Howell.
As some of you may know, JP had been on the DL for the duration of this season. He was rehabbing a shoulder that had extreme fatigue in it–not surprising considering his overuse the last three years.
Rays fans were told that he would be back possibly at the end of April.
Then it turned into a mid-May return.
Then an early-June startup.
However, after a setback during a simulated game yesterday–a game from which Howell removed himself after 12 pitches–it was decided by the Rays’ braintrust that the southpaw would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
Yes, pain with the surgery, for sure. But suddenly the Rays bullpen looks a little weaker.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that the Rays’ bullpen had been beyond dominant as of late. In their last 28 games they had a collective ERA of 1.29. Can you believe that!? 1.29!!!!
But there have been two things on the minds of Rays fans and, more than likely, Rays skipper Joe Maddon.
1–Randy Choate could not continue to be the lone lefty in the ‘pen.
2–Howell will have a HUGE impact when he returned because, after missing the first two months of the season, he would be fresher than anybody else when the Rays made their playoff push in late September.
It appears that #1 will continue to be the case and that #2 is irrelevent at this point.
Choate has been solid this season after a rocky start. In fact, he has given up one run in his last 16 outings (don’t let the high-5 ERA fool you). Lefties are hitting just .145 against Choate this season but righties are mashing him for a .545 batting average.
What that means is that Choate is a 1- or 2-batter pitcher at best. Howell was able to get righties out as effectively as lefties, which allowed Maddon to save some arms in his bullpen and keep that second lefty in the ‘pen for later in the game.
Make no mistake, while the Rays’ bullpen has had great success thus far this season, they were hoping to get a 100% JP Howell back soon. With that not happening, we might see a callup of a lefty or a garbage heap hire to help Choate in that pen.
While not entirely rested from the debacle that was Wednesday night’s trip to see the Charlotte Stone Crabs play in the FSL championship game (post forthcoming), I still ventured forth to the ol’ Trop to catch some big league action Saturday night.
It was worth it.
It was Matt Garza figurine night, and, strangely, the real Garza was on the mound pitching.
(I believe it to be much more fun to watch Matty on the mound in person than on the tv primarily because you see far less spit emitting from his mouth when you are sitting 30 rows away.)
I’ve never done a post where I include pics of a trip to a ballgame, so I hope that this is effective. I have seen many of your posts so I’ll be pretty much imitating the mix of pic and story.
It was Hispanic Heritage night at the Trop and there were all things latino in attendance from mariachi bands to maraccas to beautiful Latin Ladies parading around the stadium.
Throughout the game players were announced alternatively in English and Spanish, which was different and, therefore, kind of neat.
I bought a few things at the team store (lots of clearance stuff): a World Series hoodie–yeah, we need those alot down here in Florida–and a Jonny Gomes t-shirt. Still love the guy. Still miss the guy.
Pedro Guerrero was there signing autographs. I wasn’t terribly enthused as I can recall his days in St. Louis haunting the Cubbies.
I was there early with some friends and was sporting an ensemble of Evan Longoria jersey and Charlotte Stone Crabs hat. I love that hat. Very cool.
There were some strange sights at the stadium. This guy must have thought it was ’70s night instead of Hispanic Heritage night. He was decked out in brown suit, butterfly collared shirt, and…mutton chops. Weird.
Eventually it was game time and we made our way to our seats on the third base line. The crowd was amped up and the first inning provided lots of fireworks.
Longo got a hit (that’s him at first).
Ben Zobrist came through too.
The Rays plated player after player after player after player, with Akinori Iwamura ending the inning after 4 runs had scored and the Rays had batted around.
We certainly gave Matty a nice margin of error to work with.
He wouldn’t need any but one of those runs.
Garza was dominant throughout the night, striking out batter after batter and helping the crowed to get coupons for a free pizza the next day when he hit the 10 strikeout mark.
The crowd was raucous every time Garza set down a Blue Jay, and I found my own voice strained before the night was over.
Joe Maddon eventually lifted Garza in the 8th inning
–nobody knows why, really–and the bullpen made it hold up with Russ Springer getting a nice strikeout,
Randy Choate ending the 8th, and Dan Wheeler locking it down in the 9th.
The result? A nice 4-0 Rays win.
Of course, the game was peppered throughout by the usual stuff that just makes me laugh:
Raymond being Raymond
(Raymond is on top of the dugout in the Lucho Libre outfit)
The Chik-Fil-A “Find the Cow” contest
and the Pepsi race (Aquafina won).
I love that stuff…
The Rays win was memorialized, of course, by the Trop’s roof being lit orange, and that was that.
It was a perfect night for a less than perfect team in a not even perfect season. But no matter what, it was fun.
And much more so because I could get home BEFORE 2:30 AM!
The only downfall of the night?
Garza’s arm was missing!!!
Luckily, the real Garza’s arm was on display all Saturday night at the Trop, and the Rays were able to ride it to a needed victory.
Nice finish, guys.
After a game that had Rays fans doubting the sincerity of their team, and others doubting the sincerity of the team’s fans, the Rays came out and blasted/shouted/ran/dove/gutted their way to a big victory.
The outcome was in doubt late, but, as usual, the Rays were able to put on the finishing touch with a flurry in the 8th that helped restore faith across the republic.
He was not sharp tonight. His off speed junk was weak and his fastball was spotty. He threw near 30 pitches in two separate innings and went to a full count 4 TIMES in the 4th inning alone.
But he kept his team in it by slowing down one of the best teams in the league.
Can’t ask much more.
Matt Garza gave his team 6 strong innings, throwing 119 pitches, before being pulled in the 7th. He left with a 5-3 lead and had a chance to be the victor in another big game against the Red Sox.
He didn’t get the win, as the ‘pen was not a strongpoint tonight, but he did get greater respect than ever for being a big-game pitcher and being able to shut down teams when his own team needs it.
Without Garza’s gutty performance, the Rays do not win tonight.
Key Inning: The 8th
The 8th was crazy.
The entire game was a battle. No team could really pull safely ahead.
Rays were up by 3, then up by 2, then 3, then 2, then 1.
The the top of the 8th came and the bullpen decided it had had enough. Randy Choate walked Ortiz, Grant Balfour walked two guys to load ’em, and JP Howell–what has happened to our splendid JP?–threw another wild pitch to tie up the game.
Jeez! I yelled at the plasma! (Actually, I had some other words of choice but I don’t like to print that stuff)
Game tied at 5.
The Rays fans were keeping the faith, though.
In the bottom of the frame Carlos Pena–the only reliable guy these days–knocked a double.
Ah, that NEVER QUIT Rays spirit.
Boston’s Ramon Ramirez seemed rattled at that point as he struggled to keep the game tied.
The cowbells were ringing, the fans were cheering, I was screaming at the tv. I could see fans banging the too-many-empty seats in front of them. Anything to make some noise!
Pat “The Bat” Burrell lined a single to right to score Pena and give the Rays a 1-run lead. It was nice to see Pat contribute. He’s got that average up to a ******** .240 now.
In all seriousness, though, Pat homered early in the game and then drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run. I’ll take that.
But it wasn’t over.
Evan Longoria, batting 6th in the lineup (and I hate it, by the way), launched a long ball over the wall to increase the Rays lead to 8-5.
And the Republic rejoiced.
3 Keys to the Game
1– Don’t chase Beckett’s junk. NOPE The first two Rays hitters of the game chased off speed stuff that either bounced or was in the dirt to strike out. Beckett got touched up, but his stuff was not that bad.
2–Garza’s gotta show that savvy. YEP!!! Matty showed that he is the real “big game” pitcher on this team.
3–The ‘pen must stop the Sox hitters. YEP/NOPE The bullpen did allow the Sox to tie it, but when they had to shut the door to end the game they were able to do so. Not terribly impressive, though.
1 1/2 OUT OF 3 “YEP” = RAYS WIN!?
The Rays’ pitching staff was far from dominant tonight. Garza did well, but even he had to leave the game under duress. The bullpen bent heavily, but it did not break.
The offense was a big hero tonight. We kind of had to outscore the Sox.
Ok, sometimes you have to do that.
The end result is that the Rays got back to being 5 games out of the wild card and have given them a chance to win the series, something they desperately have to pull off.
Tomorrow’s going to be a big one.
A chance to get to within 4.
I’d like an easier win tomorrow night, but I have to admit…
This is just too much fun!
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.
I had a few ideas of moves that the Rays should consider before the 4 pm trade deadline hits today. I know that this post has a shelf life (about 6 hours), but I think that talkin’ trades is one of the fun parts of this game we love. I wanted to spend a little time on it.
Of course, NOTHING I write about here is coming true.
But I did a little digging and a little research to see if something out there made sense for my Rays that could get them to the post season again.
Guys to Get: Catcher
One of the needs the Rays have falls right behind the plate. Our catcher position has been brutal offensively. Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez have combined to hit about .228 with 6 home runs and 38 RBIs.
Not the type of production you can live with from ANY position.
In their defense, so to speak, those two guys have played some great defense this year and really called some solid games. That is worth its weight in gold and will probably keep both of them at the Trop for the remainder of the year.
If the Rays made a move I think that there are two guys who would fit VERY VERY well.
.255 5 HR 20 RBI
Doumit is better known for his offense than his defense. He broke out big time for the Pirates last year (.318/ 15 / 69 / 34 2b). He has had some setbacks with his health this year, missing time several times over the course of the season. However, the production he has been able to put up in spite of only 109 at bats is phenomenal for a catcher.
He’s 28 years old, which means that he is getting ready to enter his prime offensively. I am sure his defense can come along if coached properly.
And keep in mind that the Bucs just trade for Jeff Clement with Seattle. Clement was a highly touted catching prospect for the M’s and just might have made Doumit expendable.
He has a team-friendly contract that puts him under team control until 2013. Hmmmmmm….sound like a Rays-type of player?
.285 6 HR 47 RBI 1 error
This is the guy I’m most excited about. And it might be a long shot for the A’s to drop him. But he is only 25 years old, has some pop in his bat (26 doubles!), and does not make errors. He calls a good game and, if you’ve watched him play much, is nimble around the plate. He is a tough out and will draw a walk from time to time.
His contract is league-minimum right now and for next year. In 2011 he becomes arbitration eligible–something the Rays should be able to buy out after Pat Burrell’s contract is off the books.
He could bring alot of stability offensively to the catcher position and maintain the defensive prowess behind the plate we have been used to.
Guys to Get: Reliever
I don’t think that that the Rays have a big hole anywhere on the team right now. Surely, the starting pitcher has been quite inconsistent, but you don’t want to make any trades to shore that up (especially with Cliff Lee gone and Roy Halladay ridiculous). Our other position players have done just fine–offensively and defensively.
I look at the bullpen as a spot where we could improved. Specifically, our 7th and 8th inning guys. I love Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, love ’em. But they have not put together the most consistent seasons this year. And you can’t have guys who are inconsistent come into the game to hold the lead for JP Howell.
It is with this in mind that I nominate the two following guys for acquisition.
1-2 1.88 ERA 65 K 18 BB 15 SV 12.19 K/9 (!!!)
This guy is just a dream, more than likely, because the Rays are probably not going to throw the money he will be scheduled to make next year at him. He should make 6.1 million next season in the final season before he becomes a free agent. He is 29 and is coming off a shakey year in 2008.
He has shuttled from setup guy to closer all year long. But wow. What a drastic difference if you could get hitters looking at Soriano’s 95mph heat in the 8th and Howell’s 85 mph “heat” in the 9th. The Braves don’t mind moving him because they have….
3-3 3.06 ERA 60 K 20 BB 9 SV 12.06 K/9 (!!!)
He is 31 but seems to be finally hitting his stride with the Bravos. He is a lefty, but he would be a great replacement for either (or both) Randy Choate and Brian Shouse. He has been moved from team to team over the course of his career, playing middle reliever, setup guy, and closer at each stop. The Braves have been pleasantly surprised at his output this year and have alternated between Soriano and him as the closer all season long.
His contract is more manageable for the Rays next year–his final contract year–as he should make 3.45 million. He has a quirky delivery but he can strike anybody out at any time. Not too bad for a setup guy.
Guys to Go
For reasons mentioned before, I think that the Rays could throw in these guys to any deal just to help sweeten it. I don’t think that any of the players mentioned below will work for one-to-one straight up trades, but they are certainly salary dumps and add-ons that could help any deal go through.
His value has taken a hit since his return from the DL. His ERA has balooned to above 5.00 and he is not getting the one guy Maddon allows him to face out.
He is not recovering from his slump. He is trending in the wrong direction. As a switch hitter he does fine against lefties, but against righties he hits only .190. Not good.
I love the guy. He leads the team in holds, but he is not reliable. He’s given up 6 runs in his last 10 appearances. That is not a consistent set up guy. He is a free agent after this year.
The Red Sox have pulled 4 1/2 games in front of the Rays for second place in the division with the Yankees up 7 games! Time is ticking.
I don’t want the Rays to make any drastic moves that will affect negatively our ability to win next year. That is one of the things that makes me proud of our front office–they do NOT succumb to peer pressure at all. If they think we can make it to October, the deal will be done, but only if it does not hurt us next year or the next two years.
Only 6 hours and counting!!!
The MLB trade deadline will hit us this Friday, July 31st.
It is a fun time of year as teams who think they are still in their respective races “buy” what they can while teams that are already looking ahead to 2010 (or 2011, 2012, 2013…) “sell” what they can to prepare.
We have already seen some interesting moves take place early in the trading season what with Matt Holliday moving from the West (A’s) to the Midwest (Cardinals), Rafael Betancourt going from low altitude (Cleveland) to way up in the air (Colorado), and Julio Lugo being lucky to go anywhere (Cardinals).
Other than those deals nothing notable has really happened.
It is with all this in mind that Ginny at The Watercooler and Bob at More Cowbell are putting together the first (of many) co-posts where we will look at certain aspects surrounding our beloved Tampa Bay Rays.
First up, the trade deadline and which Rays players could/should move before Friday.
We are not really debating on whether or not something will happen with each of the players discussed. We are Rays fans. We know NOTHING is going to happen.
What we are doing is looking at the team’s needs, current player performance, and the potential for a move to occur.
It is pure fun.
More Cowbell and The Watercooler are putting on our General Manager’s hats to see if something can be done to help our guys reach October, and the World Series, for the second consecutive year.
So enjoy our hypothetical (and pathetic-al) attempt at doing a job we’re never ever going to have!
Dioner Navarro C
2009 Stats: .226 13 2B 5 HR 25 RBI 2 SB 266 AB
Keep or Cut?
I am sure Ginny will agree, this is a tough one. Navi is one of the bigger fan favorites at the Trop. He and his family have gone through alot during his time with the Rays and that has kind of bonded fan and catcher together.
Looking at it from a purely baseball point of view, though, I think that Dioner needs to go. The Rays need to look into either moving him or finding somebody (Victor Martinez from the Indians?) to take his place. His stats are some of the worst in the league for a catcher.
Navarro has had a roller coaster career with the Rays. Two years ago he was brutal, hitting just .227 with a .286 OB%. Terrible. Last year he was a big reason why the Rays went to the playoffs, handling the staff well and hitting .295 with a .349 OB%.
If we keep him it will be because he handles the staff’s pitchers deftly. The Rays might also think that he’ll bounce back next year.
The Gabes: Gross and Kapler RF
Gross 2009 Stats: .271 11 2B 1 3B 5 HR 28 RBI 6 SB 177 AB
Kapler 2009 Stats: .250 13 2B 1 3B 4 HR 23 RBI 3 SB 124 AB
Keep or Cut?
These guys have worked in tandem to create a very effective platoon in right field for the Rays. No doubt, you lose a little bit defensively when Gross is in the lineup, but you gain that much back with his bat. Right now it is just the opposite with Kapler.
I think that the rightfielder of the future for the Rays is already on the team. I just don’t know who exactly that will be. It might be Ben Zobrist, Fernando Perez, Desmond Jennings, or even BJ Upton himself (with one of the latter two taking center). It will not be Gross or Kapler in 2010.
With that in mind, I think that either one is expendable. I wouldn’t trade either one of them now, though, unless putting them in a package deal can land us another starter or a catcher. Gross would probably fetch more on the open market than Kapler would. But since Akinori Iwamura is hurt and Zobrist is playing well at 2B, I would keep them both.
KEEP BOTH (for now)
Randy Choate or Brian Shouse LH Relievers
Choate 2009 Stats: 0-0 2.25 ERA 4 SV 16 IP 15 K 5 BB 1.00 WHIP .198 BAA
Shouse 2009 Stats: 1-1 3.77 ERA 0 SV 14.1 IP 9 K 3 BB 1.40 WHIP .298 BAA
Keep or Cut?
Choate has had an amazing year with the Rays. His stats show how well he’s pitched and watching him in action backs them up. His Batting Average Against is stellar. When he is brought into a game to face a left-handed batter you can pretty much assume that Choate will get the out. Lefties are hitting just .189 against him this year. He is just the kind of guy that Joe Maddon loves.
However, we already have that guy in Brian Shouse. Or do we?
Shouse’s numbers do not stack up with Choate’s at all. He gets lefties out to a .235 clip, but righties are hitting .325 against him. That pretty much means that Shouse is in for one batter and that is it. Choate has made righties hit only .200 this year.
I think that Choate is a keeper, but since we already have JP Howell, Shouse is now expendable. I know that Maddon has said that he is excited about having a “toybox of lefties” in his bullpen, but 3 is a crowd. Choate stays. Shouse goes.
Choate: KEEP Shouse: CUT
Andy Sonnanstine RH Starter (currently at AAA Durham)
2009 Stats: 6-7 6.71 ERA 81.2 IP 50 K 22 BB 1.52 WHIP .305 BAA
Keep or Cut?
Sonny is doing very well with Durham (2-0, 3.35 ERA) since his demotion a few weeks ago. However, as well as he is doing there is just about how horribly he did here. Maddon kept waiting (as did we all) for Sonnanstine to turn it around, to turn into the guy we loved last year. He was a great alternative to the flamethrowers already in the rotation, but when teams are hitting .305 off of you something has to give. It did. Andy’s at AAA.
He needs to stay unless there is some great trade the Rays can pull off of which he is a part. BUT, if the Rays are able to put him in a deal then we still have Wade Davis at AAA who can come up and be the next Sonny.
KEEP, UNLESS THE DEAL IS GOOD THEN CUT
Scott Kazmir LH Starter
2009 Stats: 4-6 6.69 ERA 74 IP 58 K 40 BB 1.72 WHIP .289 BAA
Keep or Cut?
Ahhhh, Kaz. This guy was the golden child when he was acquired from the New York Mets a few years ago for nothing more than our ace at the time, Victor Zambrano. It was such an amazing deal for the Rays and such a terrible deal for the Mets.
It’s still a good deal for Tampa Bay as Kaz developed in the ace for several years and came up big in big games last season. However, he has developed an inability to go past the 5th inning and recently has developed the inability to get guys out. It is not a good sign for the team’s current #2 starter.
He has quite a fan following (I know Ginny at The Watercooler is especially infatuated), but that is no reason to hang on to the guy. When you look at his performance you see that he is improving here in the second half of the season but that his “improvement” is still worse than many #5 starters in the league. Kaz is slotted to make $10 mill next year. He says he signed the contract to give the Rays a “bargain” and ensure that he would be able to play out his contract in Tampa Bay.
I say let him. I know it sounds crazy, but this guy has talent. It is just off a bit. I have ranted and railed at how sick of his ineffectiveness I am, but he could come back next year and become the All Star he was last year. He is one of the guys who got it all started here, and I respect that. He wanted to stay with the Rays before they were good. I doubly respect that. I want nothing more than to see him return to form. I’ll have to hope for that.
Wade Davis RH Starter (currently at Durham)
2009 Stats (at Durham): 8-6 3.22 ERA 114.2 IP 103 K 47 BB 1.29 WHIP .229 BAA
Keep or Cut?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know a great deal about the Rays’ top pitching prospect. I know that when the Rays drafted him, Davis was supposed to be part of the new wave of Rays pitchers who would arrive in the majors and dominate. He was supposed to team up with Jeff Nieman and Mitch Talbot to form the best homegrown 1-3 of any rotation in the league. Nieman is here. Talbot is hurt. It’s Davis’ turn.
If the Rays make any deal for a substantial return (Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez anyone?) then Davis is more than likely going to have to be part of the package. My gut says “do it.” I believe in NOW in alot of ways, and this season is the NOW for the Rays. Contracts are going to start kicking in soon and it won’t be long before the Rays and owner Stuart Sternberg have to dump some salary. We’ve got to do it now. If there is a way to make a deal for people who will get us to October this year, then do it.
I don’t know if that deal really exists. If we get a pitcher, it will be for about 7-8 starts the rest of the season. If we get a catcher, he’ll have to learn the staff and adjust his hitting to our stadium. In the end, a deal for a pitcher and catcher might not help us as much as we might think. And it would be stupid for a team with cash restrictions to give up an uber-talented and VERY cheap pitcher for that.
Finally the White Sox had a closer who could end a game with little fanfare. This time it was Matt Thornton. And although the Rays tried to make it more interesting in the bottom of the 9th, they came up one hit/wild pitch short.
C’est la vie.
This time it was not the Rays who mounted a big comeback late in the game. Tonight they got a taste of their own medicine from the Sox.
“Big Game” Let Down
James Shields deserved better. Once again, he turned in a gem of a performance only to have the offense fail to show up. Shields pitched 6 2/3 innings of 4-hit, 2-run baseball. He struck out 4 and had his changeup working well tonight.
However, as is the case in almost every Shields start, the offense was unable to give James more than 3 runs. He entered the game as one of the least-supported pitchers in the league, he left the game the same way.
In 9 of Shields’ 21 starts this year the Rays have score more than 3 runs. Less than half the time! In 6 of those 9 games the Rays have won and in 4 of those 6 wins the W has gone to Shields.
He has alot to complain about.
A pitcher who is 6-6 with a sub-4.00 ERA getting run support like that might need special help to deal with those issues. Easily Shields could be a 10-game winnner. Instead his record stands at .500.
A Craptastic 7th Inning
The Rays entered the 7th with a 3-1 lead. They left it down 4-3. What happened? Tough to imagine.
The Rays used 5 pitchers total in the frame, 4 of them in relief of Shields. Three of those 5 pitchers failed to record an out! Yep, you read that right.
THREE GUYS ENTERED THE GAME IN THAT INNING AND DID NOT GET A GUY OUT.
Shields got the first two outs of the inning. Then reliable Randy Choate entered and gave up a fluke hit that All-Star SS Jason Bartlett made worse by throwing the ball into the stands. That put runners at the corners with 2 outs.
No problem, right? Wrong.
Chad Bradford entered the game. He felt a twinge in his back and had to be removed. That brought on Dan Wheeler.
“Wheels” for short.
Wheels got two quick strikes on free-swinging Alexei Ramirez. Then Dan threw strike three on the outside corner. Only problem was the umpire didn’t call it. The Rays dugout was not happy about it and clearly Wheels was rattled.
Next pitch was lined into center.
Right at BJ Upton.
Right over BJ Upton and to the wall.
It was a catchable fly, but BJ turned it into a game-tying triple. Jermaine Dye blooped a single into center to give the Sox the lead and that was how it ended.
This Was Not Raysball
The Rays did not play their brand of baseball tonight. Among the things they did poorly:
1—The Rays did not hit. The offense mustered 8 hits and scored only 3 runs. Their top hitters let them down all night, culminating on a weak pop out by Evan Longoria to end the game. Pat Burrell did hit a home run, but it was not enough.
2—The Rays did not pitch. The bullpen didn’t anyway. Any time you have to use 4 pitchers to get 1 out, there is a problem.
3—The Rays did not play defense. Bartlett’s poor throw paired with Upton’s misplay spelled doom for the Rays. They gave the Sox 5 outs in a crucial inning–something you cannot do to good teams.
The Rays will need to regroup to figure out how to score runs and get outs. Every game on this road trip has been decided by 1 or 2 runs. That says that our guys aren’t scoring runs and that it is imperative they stop other teams from scoring them. Especially late in the game.
The Rays will throw Scott Kazmir at the Sox’ Mark Buehrle. Both pitchers have had some recent success, so it is anybody’s game.
One thing is for sure. The Rays will not get the W tomorrow if they fail to show up as they did tonight.
And for a team that is currently 5 1/2 out of first place in the tough AL East, that is unacceptable.