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.
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?
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?
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
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.
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.
The theme of this Rays squad the last three years under the tutelage of Joe Maddon has been never to give up.
No matter what the score, the Rays always work on getting a good count to hit in, moving runners over, and throwing the best inning they can.
The result has been many come-from-behind wins such as we have seen the last two nights.
Last night the Rays fought back against the Royals bullpen from 4 runs down to take an 8-7 victory from the jaws of defeat. Tonight, the Boys in Blue came from being down–and dominated, by the way–to earn a 4-2 win.
They improved to 3-0 against the league’s best hurlers (Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke).
Never giving up on the game, no matter what the score.
Who could have guessed (ok, Ginny could have guessed) that the Rays would have been able to count on #2 guy Scott Kazmir to give them a solid start?
Kaz went 6 innings, giving up only 1 run on only 4 hits with three Ks before being lifted in the 7th due to a mild strain of his left forearm (Rays reporter told us during the game that the injury is not considered serious). Ok, he walked 4 guys, but tonight’s Kazmir has been so much better than the Kazmir we’ve seen to date.
He was able to outpitch no less than Cy Young candidate and All Star Zack Greinke.
The Royals hurler went 7 and gave up 1 run, but he allowed 9 hits–very un-Greinke-like. He continually kept the Rays hitters off balance, but was forced to leave the game because of a moderate–for him–pitch count.
That was when the Rays rebounded
The 8th Inning
John Bale entered the game to relieve Greinke for the Royals, and the Rays were only too happy to have somebody new to hit against.
And hit they did.
I thought that things were looking good when Carlos Pena coaxed a walk to start the inning. The Royals immediately brought in the goat from last night, Juan Cruz.
With one out, Pat Burrell did what he has been doing the last few weeks, he went the other way into right field, lacing a double down the line to score Pena and tie the game!
It was great!
Then Willy Aybar (a guy who could contend with Gabe Kapler for best bench player of the year) came to the plate and ripped his own double down the line, scoring Burrell. Aybar did something he had done only 3 other times in his career: he went 4-4! He had the RBI double and three singles.
Just to show that they had more in the tank, BJ Upton grounded a single up the middle off reliever Ramon Colon, scoring Gabe Kapler.
That was it. Dan Wheeler pitched the bottom of the inning to get his 11th hold and JP Howell put the Royals down in order in the 9th, striking out two, to earn his 8th save in 12 chances.
The Rays showed that they can be patient in a game where the starter dominates. Last night they did it against Brian Bannister, waiting until he left the game to unleash their offense on the bullpen.
Tonight, the Rays dominated the Royals ‘pen, scoring their runs off of three relievers in the 8th. They bided their time, waiting for the right moment to strike and take the other team down. In fact, their behavior the last two nights has been downright predatory!
Stats of the Night
They entered the 8th only 1-6 with runners in scoring position. In the 8th inning alone, they went 3-3, driving in their 3 runs. That was clutch. That was what a winning baseball team does.
Also, Dwayne Staats mentioned an unbelievable number. In order to illustrate the patience at the plate the Rays displayed on the evening, Staats told us that of the 108 pitches Greinke threw, 46 of them were seen by only two Rays hitters: Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.
Three Keys to the Game
—Be aggressive with Greinke. NOPE. The Rays hitters were very patient–almost to a fault. They took many first-pitch strikes and were constantly hitting behind in the count. It showed, as they scored only 1 run against the guy.
—Kazmir needs to keep the Royals on their heels. YEP. Kaz turned in one of his best performances of the season, throwing for strikes (63/101 pitches for strikes) and moving the ball around. He would have pitched the 7th if not for the injury.
—Do the little things to score. YEP. In the 8th, the Rays pinch hit, pinch ran, walked, hit the ball to the opposite field, and showed great poise. Those are winning traits.
Two out of three=WIN
In all, tonight’s game was fun. F-U-N. Wins usually are, but tonight’s was special.
We got to see Kazmir act like the Kaz of old, perhaps showing what The Pitcher’s Duel was saying about getting extra rest over the All Star break and coming out gunning.
Plus, the Rays took this game without hitting a ball out of the park. I like that. Too often this season, and at times last season, the Rays rely on the long ball. They won tonight’s game by waiting for their time and not missing opportunity.
The Rays picked up a game on the losing Red Sox and keeping pace with the Yankees. Right now they stand at 5 1/2 out of first and 3 1/2 behind New York.
It was quite the STELLAR game and definitely a happy night.
Tonight our Rays will face one of the best pitchers they’ve seen all year, in fact, one of the most effective pitchers in all of baseball.
The Rays take on the Royals tonight. Scott Kazmir will square off against the heralded Zack Greinke.
The Pitching Matchup
Greinke has been a stud in the Royals rotation, winning 10 games for a poor team. He leads the AL in ERA with an miniscule 2.12 and has one of the best WHIP for a starter in the league at 1.08.
Guys do not get on base against Greinke, and if they are lucky enough to get there, they do not score.
What is scariest about Greinke is his penchant for the strikeout. He has struck out 129 guys in 127 innings, an impressive pace for a starter. This is particularly upsetting because the Rays have been susceptible to the K all season long.
In fact, Greinke told Tony Fabrizio of the Tampa Tribune:
The way I look at their lineup, they’ve got a bunch of power and a bunch of strikeouts. One or the other is going to win, probably. I feel like with that team, if you pitch good you’ll win, and if you pitch bad, they will crush you.
He’s right. The top Rays’ hitters are also guys who strike out a fair amount (Upton, Longo, Pena), something that could play to Greinke’s strenghts tonight.
But if Greinke is off a little, as he has been recently, they Rays should be able to go Rocky 4 on him and “crush him.”
In fact, the Rays seem to do well against the league’s best, taking down no other than Roy Halladay both times they have faced him this season. It is the little known pitchers with little experience that, inexplicably, give the Rays fits.
Kazmir has had a rough year. Not only has he been beat up this year physically, he’s been knocked around in games as well. He’s basically been bullied by the teams he’s faced this year.
He stands at 4-5 with an unsightly 7.11 ERA. Hitters (unbelievably) are hitting .302 against him. He is not striking guys out like he usually does and his longevity in a game is often a toss up–nobody can count on him going more than 5 innings.
I am hoping that my friend Ginny at The Watercooler will be rooting extra hard for Kaz tonight, because he is going to need all the good vibes he can get in order to turn his season around.
You can catch some excellent points on this pitching matchup by heading over to the “Matchup Master” at The Pitcher’s Duel. I think what he has said about Kaz turning his season around after so much time off is dead red. I’m hoping that Kaz proves him right tonight.
The Royals batters surprisingly knocked James Shields around last night, scoring 7 runs off of him in 5 1/3 innings.
And he was our ace. Yikes!
It is going to be up to Kaz to be agressive in the strike zone in order to keep the Royals on the defensive. If he falls behind in counts, then the Royals will be able to wait for that straight fastball and knock the cover off of it.
He needs to keep an eye on Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Gordon just returned from the DL, and you know he will be looking to hit the ball hard.
The Rays displayed some serious power last night, playing an almost perfect offensive game–even if their run scoring was a bit tardy.
They hit two big flies (Burrell and Longo), walked at the right times, worked deep counts, and scared the bejesus out of the Royals’ pitchers on the basepaths.
You know, typical Rays baseball.
Only Dioner Navarro (let’s hope he gets out of that season-long slump tonight!) and Ben Zobrist have modest numbers against Greinke in their careers, with our big boppers Carlos Pena, Longoria, Crawford, and Upton being pretty much dominated by the Royals hurler.
Like I said before, we have them just where we want them. Don’t worry.
Three Keys to the Game
—Rays hitters can’t wait for Greinke to throw them something. They need to be aggressive. Last night they could work counts, tonight they cannot. Greinke throws first pitch strikes. If you fall behind 0-1 or 0-2 you are going to be in trouble.
—Kazmir needs to keep the Royals hitters on their heels. Throwing lots of first pitch strikes like Greinke does will help with that.
—The Rays wll have to do the little things to score. Greinke does not give up runs. So the Rays will have to utilize their speed more than ever to win this one.
Last night was an ugly win. They count as a win just the same. However, the Rays cannot hope to get another ugly win tonight. Tonight they will have to be sharp.
After all, they are facing one of the best pitchers in the game.