Tagged: Roy Halladay

Perfection Again

Roy Halladay

What is it with Florida teams and perfect games?

For the twentieth time in the history of this amazing game, a perfect game has been thrown. 

For the third time in two seasons, a perfect game has been thrown against a team from the great state of Florida. 

Sheesh. 

Roy Halladay put together what is tantamount to absolute perfection tonight when he took down the Florida Marlins in 27-up-27-down fashion.  I know that my friend at Phillies Outside must still be celebrating, as well he should.

But why does this keep happening to us?  And by “us” I mean the baseball denizens of Florida?

The Rays went through it against Mark Buehrle and the White Sox last season before enduring the pain of another perfect at the hands of the Oakland A’s and Dallas Braden.  And now the Florida Marlins know what we “northerners” felt each time.

Of course, when the Rays took the field each time there was no real thought that a perfect game could be thrown at them, all due respect to Buehrle and Braden.

Halladay, though, is one of those rare pitchers who has no-hit stuff almost every night he toes the mound.  A perfect game isn’t as earth shattering in that case.

But that takes NOTHING away from the amazing feat of the Doc. 

Thank goodness he’s on my fantasy team.

And hopefully the teams from Florida have paid their dues with regards to perfect games…

Ring of Fire Tour Begins In “T” for Two and Maybe Three….

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Toronto, that is.

Wow, what a difference a week and a half makes.

Just when things might have been looking rather bleak, the Rays have come out and, in their last 10 games, rattle off 8 wins.

That makes them the hottest team in the American League right now!

In fact, when fans and experts alike were looking at the team’s upcoming road trip as being extremely difficult and fraught with peril, our guys have done nothing more put together two impressive wins.

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Rays 12, Blue Jays 7

None other than Roy Halladay took the mound for the Blue Jays to kick off the Rays’ 7-game road trip.  And immediately it looked like it was going to be a loss.

Jeff Nieman was not sharp at all, giving up a Rod Barajas grand salami right away in the game.

I’ll admit, I was cursing at the tv and ready to walk away.  Glad I didn’t!

The Rays rallied to beat up the Doc and put together an impressive 12-7 win.  The guy who had no business getting a win, our default ace, improved his record to a more than impressive 12-5. 

You gotta imagine this guy is going to get some serious consideration–maybe along with Scott Feldman of the Rangers–for the Rookie of the Year award.

Carlos Pena remained hot by going yard for number 35 and Ben Zobrist knocked out his 23rd.

They looked like the Rays we love.

They looked like a team that wanted to win.

Most importantly, they looked like a team ready for October.

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Rays 7, Blue Jays 3

The story here was twofold:

1) Carlos Pena hit out two to give him 37 on the year and, more importantly, 200 for his up and down career. 

Not too bad for a guy who had trouble latching on to a team before he landed in Tampa Bay.

2) James Shields finally got some run support!  And, apparently, he celebrated with……some ice cream

Ok.

As has been well documented in the Cowbell, Shields is a guy who never seems to get any help from his offense.  Well, they scored 6 runs in the first 3 innings for the guy, and he made it stand up.  That is definitely help.

I didn’t catch much of this game, but it was nice to see our guys follow up a great performance with one that was just as good. 

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Tonight, Tonight

The Rays will send the suddenly reliable Scott Kazmir (7 of his last 8 outings have been 6 or more innings!) to the hill against the guy we have seen too many times this year, and whose name I am getting sick of trying to spell, Marc Rzepczynski.

Kaz’s ERA is still a nightmare at 6.17, but his record is over .500 for the first time in a long time at 8-7.  He is trying to regain the “ace” label and, I have to admit, he has looked like one as of late. 

One of the biggest knocks I’ve had against this guy is the fact that you can’t count on him.  He’ll go 4 innings as likely as he’ll go 6.  7 is pushing it.

But lately he has been giving the Rays, and the Rays’ bullpen, plenty of innings.

They won’t need a whole lot tonight considering we have an off day tomorrow.  Hopefully Scotty can give us a solid outing, though, and we can complete the sweep.

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The Rays remain 3 games behind those darn Red Sox.  It would be nice to see them pick up a game there tonight considering the difficult series they are going to have to endure in Detroit over the weekend. 

But you take what you can get.

The Rays’ offense has been clicking, albeit via the long ball. 

Again, you take what you can get.

What I’m most proud of is the fact that this team is showing some serious resiliance.  They are not backing down.  And when people are counting them out, they are showing them that they are right back in.

Sweep ’em guys!

Bumpy Road Ahead–An Analysis of the Rest of the Rays Season

Bumpy Road Ahead

The Rays are now entering the final 6 weeks of the season.

They haven’t done so badly in the previous portion of the year, winning 67 games and finding themselves in the wild card hunt.  While there are many teams out there within 7 games of first place of either their division or the wild card, the fact is that their seasons are pretty much over because of, oh, REALITY.

The Rays, though, are still going strong.  Coming off of a 6-3 home stand, their confidence might be as high as it’s ever been.

Good. 

They’re going to need everything they can muster in order to push through this brutal final portion of the season and make it to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

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Strong Pitching Ahead

The Rays will find themselves taking on some of the better pitchers and pitching staffs between now and the end of the year.

It begins tonight against Roy Halladay.

It’s like Indiana Jones and snakes.

“Why does it always have to be Halladay?”

 

We haven’t fared that badly against him, but he did get the best of us the last time out.

Regardless, the Rays will be taking on many pitchers of his ilk in the final 6 weeks.

We are guaranteed to face Justin Verlander IN Detroit this weekend (he pitches tonight). 

 

New York will more than likely throw CC Sabathia and/or AJ Burnett in one if not both of the final series we have with the Yankees. 

 

Boston will have Josh Beckett on the mound in at least one of the final series we have with them. 

 

Texas’ strong rotation will get another shot at us–with revenge on their minds and a playoff spot in sight, mind you–when we face them the final time in Arlington.

It’ll be questionable whether or not the Rays hitters will be able to weather the constantly strong pitching they will seemingly have to face in practically every series from now to the end of the season.

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The Bad News: The Road

 

Like the dystopic novel from Cormac McCarthy (a good read, if not depressing; check it out), the Rays will have to travel frightening pathways away from home sweet Trop for 21 of the final 39 games this season.

Their road record thus far?

25-35.

Uh-oh.

On those trips they will go to Toronto, Detroit, New York, Boston, and Texas.  I don’t know if you noticed, but those are all teams that are clamoring for a spot in the final 8

They ain’t going to be easy to beat.

The Rays have won 67 games thus far this year.  If they have a realistic time in those final 21 games, we can probably expect 9-11 wins.

If we take the mid-point of that projection, then that would give the Rays 77 wins.

However, we have to figure that winning 10 of 21 games against competition such as that might be tougher than we think.  And the Rays have had their issues on the road, obviously.

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The Good News: Home

(yeah, it’s a stretch–so sue me!)

Unfortunately, the Rays only have 18 games left at the Trop this year. 

And, double unfortunately, they will spend most of those 18 games facing playoff-type teams in Boston, Detroit, and New York.

The Rays record at home?

42-21.

The most wins of any team in the majors!

And when you figure that during “crunch time” the Rays will play 12 of their final 15 games in the friendly confines of Orange Juice Central, then we should be feeling pretty good. 

I can see our guys having the carrot of a playoff spot dangling there to be taken as they fight for it in front of 30,000+ every night in St. Pete.

It can be oh so sweet. 

But they cannot ruin it on the road.

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The Rays begin battle tonight sitting just 3 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the wild card spot in the AL.  Texas is just 2 games in front of the Rays, effectively making this a three-team race for the final space.

Our Boys in Blue will face those two teams 9 more times before it is all said and done.

You couldn’t ask for more.

If things go well, those 9 games will be some of the biggest of the season, by far.

But things HAVE to go well on the road, that is the key.

If they don’t, then we’ll be hoping to play spoiler for teams we could have, and should have, beaten.

So let’s buckle in and get ready for a fun ride down a bumpy road.

 

The best things in life ain’t free, eh?

Struck Out

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This was a bad day.

On my end, unforeseen circumstances kept me from my plan to head over to the Trop to catch the game.

I’m wondering if that was such a bad thing. 

The Rays mounted little offense today behind a decent pitching performance from David Price, falling to the Rangers and Scott Feldman 4-0. 

It is a day that, hopefully, will not be looked on as being to big when considering our playoff chances.

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KO’d

The Rays–and their fans–came into today’s game riding high off of the 10-inning walkoff win last night.  Carlos Pena’s amazing performance in that game gave the Rays faithful reason to believe in this defense, this pitching staff, and this offense.

Today, only 2 of those 3 showed up to the ball park.

Carl Crawford and Gabe Kapler turned in exceptional defensive efforts, making important diving catches today, and David Price threw 7 strong innings (3 hits, 3 runs, 4 K’s). 

But the offense managed only 5 hits today, and 2 of those 5 were marginal errors that were ruled hits. 

A great big goose egg displayed the runs they scored today, only the 6th time they’ve been shut out this season.

But what makes the lack of hitting and scoring runs difficult to swallow is the fact that the Rays hitters showed no discipline whatsoever today.  Instead of a patient approach that can often be effective against young pitchers, the Rays looked like inexperienced hitters all day long.  They flailed away at poor pitches and watched the good ones go right by.

Evidence?

How about 15 strikeouts!? 

15 K’s!!!

That will cause any team to go down.

And while 11 of those strikeouts came from Feldman, the Rays also allowed Darren O’Day to strike out the side in the 8th and Frank Francisco to strike one out in the 9th.

YucK.

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Sweep Would Have Been Nice

Everybody loves a sweep, of course.

But when it comes at the end of a 9-game home stand to make the home team go 7-2 in a heated playoff race, it means that much more.

So what does it mean when it doesn’t happen?

And what does it mean when it doesn’t happen against a team you are fighting for a playoff spot?

And what does it mean when it doesn’t happen just before you leave home to go on an extremely difficult 9-game road trip?

This was a missed opportunity, no doubt.

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Lazy Sunday

The Rays have absolutely stunk on Sundays this year.  It’s difficult to figure out why.  It is one of those things that teams go through, I guess. 

I hate it.

They just can’t score on the 7th day of the week.  On their last 8 Sunday games, they have scored just 18 runs.

That’s about 2 a game.

Ouch.

And if you remove newbie Gregg Zaun’s grand slam from last Sunday’s 5-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays, then you have the Rays scoring 14 runs in 8 games. 

Under 2 per game.

In those games the Rays have gone a terrible 2-6!

Again, maybe it’s just one of those things.  But it sure would hurt if “one of those things” kept us out of the playoffs.

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Maddon Not Concerned

In Joe’s postgame conference he gave off a very nonchalant attitude.

When asked if he was worried about the team’s offensive inconsistencies as of late, his answer was a short “No.”

When asked about the upcoming road trip being make or break, his answer was again, “No.”

As usual, Joe kept things positive. 

–“I’ll take 2 out of 3 from any team any time.”

–“Our effort today was fabulous.”

–“That was the best pitched game against us all season long.”

–He also heaped tons of praise on Price for keeping the team in the game and saving the bullpen.

Joe’s approach has worked the last two years.  But let’s hope he’s talking to his guys with a little more ugency in the clubhouse.

Maybe it’s the new hair that’s helping him stay mellow.

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I felt that this series was big for the Rays. 

It was.

Luckily, it was not a devastating series for us.  Sure, instead of picking up 3 games on the Rangers we picked up only 1, but the other way around would have really hurt. 

So we’ll take a 6-3 home stand and hope to make it a 6-3 road trip.  It’ll be tough.  Roy Halladay awaits us at the Rogers Centre tomorrow night and the Yankees are also lurking out there.

When the Rays get back to the Trop next week I think we’ll have a good idea of what kinds of plans to make for October.

4th Time Not the Charm

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The Rays had beaten the Blue Jays and ace Roy Halladay three consecutive times this season.

There would not be a fourth.

The home crowd was raucous on a Friday night, welcoming back the Rays from an arduous–and unsuccessful–West Coast road trip.  We received BJ Upton posters and with them came a little bit of hope that we would see a win tonight.

I was happy to be in attendance, excited to see some in-person baseball for the first time in a while. 

Well, hope was crushed, happiness was scattered, and the excitement left right around the 2nd inning.

My friend Ginny at The Watercooler said she wished she could have been there tonight. 

Be happy you weren’t.

Blue Jays 5-2.

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The Pitching

Halladay owned the Rays tonight, throwing 8 innings and giving up only 1 earned run while striking out 7.  He walked none, which is strange for a pitcher against the Rays because while they might strikeout alot, they also walk alot. 

Halladay had it going.

James Shields was not sharp at all tonight. 

I can’t tell you how he was missing with his pitches, having been there in person and not seeing replays and such on tv, but with the way the Jays were rocking him it seemed he had little to no command out there. 

Lyle Overbay took him deep in the 1st, and Adam Lind did the same in the 3rd.

Both Halladay and Shields threw 111 pitches, with Shields throwing more strikes than Doc.  However, the better pitcher showed his fact tonight and he was not wearing Rays blue as Halladay diced the Rays lineup every which way.

Guess he’s not too worried about his trade status anymore, huh?

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No O

As usual, the Rays were ineffective in the batter’s box.  While they outhit the Blue Jays 9-8, they were easily outscored.  Typically, the Rays did a great job of getting hits when they did mean anything and finding a way to knock themselves out of an inning.

One way they disappointed was on the basepaths.  Carl Crawford and BJ Upton both were throwing out trying to steal (when was the last time both guys got a CS?).  CC was thrown out in the 1st trying to make something happen, no biggie there.

BJ was gunned down, though, in the 8th inning after Gregg Zaun had homered to make the game 5-2.  So instead of a man on 1st with none out, there was nobody on with 1 out.  Needless to say, nothing else happened that inning and the Rays went easily in the 9th.

I don’t mind the aggressive running.  When the bats aren’t working you’ve got to do something to manufacture runs.

My problem is that when we get opportunities, we blow them.  In the 4th Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell struck out (as usual) consecutively to end a rally.  BJ’s CS ended a potential rally too. 

We aren’t good enough to waste chances, but our hitters continue to do just that. 

What else can Joe Maddon do except run guys in situations where running might not be the best idea?

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Three Keys to Tonight’s Game

1–Rays’ hitters must be aggressive, or be passive, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!!!  NOPE  Since there is no good way to measure this except in Win or Loss, we have to fail the Rays here.

2–Shields must get strike 1.  YEP   Shields threw plenty of strikes, but his command was so far off at times that it didn’t matter.  After the first 3 innings he had given up 5 runs, and with the amount of run support he typically gets, well, it was game over, man.

3–More hits, less homers.  NOPE  The Rays hit one dinger tonight, and had 8 other hits.  But they scored their only other run via the sac fly.  So those other hits were pretty much meaningless because they did not cash in.

RESULTS:  1 out of 3 correct=LOSS

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The Rays probably faced their most difficult opponent of the next 9 games tonight in Halladay.  That is a good sign.  He’s out of the way and now, maybe, the wins will start to come. 

It is pointless to dwell too much on the hitting negatives from a game against one of the best pitchers in baseball. 

However, we have to be depressed a little about the poor outing by our own ace.  

His inconsistency is indicative of where this team is headed.

And we’ve got 5 losses in a row to prove it.

Time for the Rays to Start Winning

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It’s enough already. 

I can’t take it.

It’s time to get a winning streak going.  To start becoming relevant in this playoff chase.

The Rays are welcoming the Toronto Blue Jays to the Trop this weekend.  They do so with arms wide open because the Jays just might be what the doctor ordered.  They are a team that is disjointed and unfocused, and they are coming to our house.

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Pitching Matchup

       

The Jays will throw THE MAN Roy Halladay (12-5, 2.78) against the Rays Friday night.

No problem.

The Rays have only beaten the Blue Jays in all three of the games in which Hallday has pitched, most recently in the extra inning Rays win in which both Halladay and Matt Garza threw complete games and dominated the other.

The Rays were just a little better. 

Let’s hope they’re a little better tomorrow too.

James Shields (7-8, 3.79) will look to improve on his recent bout of inconsistency by toeing the mound against a team he has faced twice this year.  In one start he lost 5-0, but pitched 7 innings.  In the other start he pitched 7 innings as well, but the Rays lost 3-1.

For some reason Shields has entered the grey area between ace and unreliable starter.  The Rays seem to have alot of those right now (see Scott Kazmir and David Price). 

A solid pitching performance tomorrow night will go a long way towards giving this squad a little more confidence as they come off a West Coast trip that was anything but fun.

They need Shields to come up big Friday night.  He is a great Tropicana Field pitcher, so we should be able to count on him.

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Three Keys to Friday’s Game

1–Rays’ hitters must be aggressive, or be passive, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!!!

It can be confusing.  There is no good way to beat Halladay.  How the Rays have done it 3 times this season is beyond me.  With a pitcher like him, you choose a strategy……..and then throw it out the window.

2–Shields must get strike 1.  I have noticed that Shields tends to miss with strike 1 too often.  For a guy who relies on his changeup, missing with strike 1, and thus removing the change from the at bat for the next few pitches, is grounds for danger.

3–More hits, less homers.  Halladay won’t be beaten by the long ball.  The Rays have relied on this too much the last two weeks (more on this in a future post).  Let’s string together some singles and doubles and see what happens.

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Win, Baby, Win

(This might be the new go-to pic for Rays wins!)

The next six games will serve as a great opportunity for the Rays to climb out of this funk and get back into the playoff hunt.  They face the Blue Jays for 3 and the Baltimore Orioles for 3 after that.

The Blue Jays come in having lost 2 in a row and splitting their last 10 games down the middle (5-5).  They were beat up by the surging Yankees pretty good too.

Add to the mix the fact that they are reeling a little bit from various factors.  They were unable to move Doc Halladay, the fans have begun to turn on them, and the clubhouse is a place where hope goes to die.

Players in the Jays dugout have been questioning management about the lack of movement on Halladay’s part and the loss of 2-time All Star Alex Rios to the White Sox for nothing.  (He was claimed off waivers a few days ago)  Lyle Overbay voiced his displeasure at losing such a talented young man for nothing in the papers recently. 

This is a team that has lost its way.

An equally lost team is the Orioles.  They have lost 7 of their last 10 and seem to have passed all of their players through waivers, most notably Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and Danys Baez.  Nobody feels safe in that clubhouse.

Perfect time to lower the boom.

Let’s burn ’em up, Rays!

Perfect Follow-Up for the Rays

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The Rays got a hit and a walk in the first inning.

So that drama is over now.

What is more important is that they got a bloop single from Evan Longoria in the 10th inning to drive in two runs and give the Rays the final margin in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and Roy Halladay.

It was perfect.

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Good Ol’ Fashioned Shootout

Both Halladay and the Rays’ Matt Garza fought hard throughout the game.  Their stats were nearly identical, with both guys throwing 9 innings, giving up 2 runs, and only giving up a handful of hits.  Garza walked none and struck out 9, earning the win, while Halladay struck out 10 and walked 3 in a no decision.

It was like a shootout at the OK Corral, as Doc Halladay and Garza stared each other down, waiting to see who would blink first.  Neither did.

But Scott Downs did.  He took the loss after giving up a hit to BJ Upton, walking Carl Crawford, and then allowing a bloop hit to Longoria.

Longo had been worked into a 2-strike count at the time, but he put good wood on the ball to drop it in front of a diving Joe Inglett.

Sometimes I think that Longo literally has ice water in his veins.  He does not get rattled.  He is one cool cat when it counts.

dosequis.jpg

(This guy is cool)

JP Howell dominated the bottom of the 10th to get his 10th save in his first game as the Rays’ official closer.

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Curtains for the Doc?

The entire game played out as if it were the last for Halladay in a Toronto uniform.  He received standing ovations after every inning and the crowd would cheer him on in every big–and medium, for that matter–situation that arose.

While nobody knows the fate of Halladay right now, there was plenty of speculation during the broadcast and plenty on the blogs and websites out there. 

Lots of people were holding signs.

      

Every tv shot of General Manager JP Ricciardi on the phone was met with thoughts of what deal he might be listening to.

To his credit, none of it fazed Halladay.  He went out there and threw an amazing ballgame.  However, it may very well be these types of ballgames that are the impetus for his desire to leave.  How often can you throw 9 innings and strike out 10, giving up only 2 runs the whole time only to walk away with a no decision?

(I hope that you are taking notes on this Rays, ahem James Shields!)

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Where’s the Offense, Guys?

The Rays have been struggling mightily in the run-scoring department. 

In the month of July, the Rays have scored more than 3 runs only 7 times in 19 games!  That is beyond inept. 

During that time the offensive stalwarts of the team have been beyond horrible: 

–Evan Longoria has managed to hit only .179 with 3 homers

–Carlos Pena has hit .183 with 30 strikeouts and 2 homers

–BJ has hit .223 with 2 homers 

–Jason Bartlett has hit .262 while riding high around .350 and up most of the year

This will not get it done down the stretch, no doubt.

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Final Thoughts

The Rays got a nice win tonight, but so did the Red Sox and the Yankees.  That leaves Tampa Bay still 6 1/2 out. 

The pressure on our guys will only get worse with every passing game, and if the offense does not get in gear they will find themselves watching the playoffs on tv instead of from the field.

 

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Next Up:

The Rays play Saturday at 1:00 pm.  Early game.   Kind of different for our guys.

We will send out David Price, who owned the Blue Jays the last time he saw them. 

He will be opposed by Brian Tallet, who was owned by the Rays offense.

Hmmmmm, should be interesting.

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Odds and Ends

–According to MLB.com the Rays may be interested in shipping Scott Kazmir in order to free up their money situation for the acquisition of Indians pitcher Cliff Lee.

–Another rumor has the Rays inquiring on the availability of Indians C Victor Martinez (this deal would make sense considering the extreme lack of offense coming from behind the plate these days–Sorry Tribe Chick).

–The Rays are giving away t-shirts to the first 10,000 fans wearing Rays gear to 5 games during the next home stand.  I am really excited for Monday’s game against the Yanks because I need me one of these: