Tagged: wildcard

Keeps Gettin Better

It has been a while. I’ve been watching the boys, but I’ve been watching MY boy more. Thus no writing.

Just saw Jed Lowrie strike out to put the Sox and Rays in a tie for the wild card. Amazing!

Who–other than a Rays fan–would have thought the Rays could be relevant this final week?

Heck, who thought they would be relevant this season!? Aren’t they supposed to be behind the Blue Jays in the AL East?

I could not be prouder to e a Rays fan now. And I am ecstatic that my son’s first season of baseball has the possibility of being so historic!!

It is a 2-game season folks. I’m excited. I am sure the same cannot be said of Sox fans.

Go get em Rays!!

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Storm Damage in Seattle

What happened?

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.

Good times.

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.

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Where Did the Pitching Go!?

I have touched on this in an earlier post, but I have to ask again: where is our pitching? 

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.

 

Friday

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!!!! 

Ouch.

 

Saturday

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.

 

Sunday

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.

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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!

Awesome, right?

Nope.

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?

Hmmmmm?

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)

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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. 

Rays Go Prospectin’ in the Ol’ West

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Fresh off of a “sweep” of the Boston Red Sox, and currently (as of this minute) 3 games out of the wildcard spot, the Tampa Bay Rays will board a plane for a good ol’ fashioned West Coast Trip.

Yikes.

The Rays will take on the Seattle Mariners and Los Anaheim of Angeles Angelic Baseball Players of California.

Sorry, the LA Angels of Anaheim.

I’ll be entertaining family for the next few days, but I wanted to drop in a few gold nuggets (get it?) of info about this extremely important series.

prospector.jpg image by file83

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Gotta Win

The Rays are in a rare position where no matter what they do in the next 3 days against Seattle they will reap some sort of benefit.  That is because the Yankees and Red Sox are duking it out in New York.

Should the Rays lose any of these games, they will lose ground to one of the aforementioned teams but not to both. 

However, should the Rays win any of these next three games, they will gain all important ground on one of the Yanks or BoSox.  That is key.

In a way, they can do no wrong.  But to lose any of these games to Seattle–a very strong team, despite the loss of Jarrod Washburn–will go down as a HUGE wasted opportunity at a time when opportunties are knocking less and less.

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Records We’d Rather Ignore

The Rays’ young men go west having fared poorly against the teams in that division.  They stand with a sub-.500 record against those teams (7-12).

They lost 2 of 3 to the M’s way back in April, but both teams have undergone a rejuvenation of sorts in the last month or so.  Even though the Mariners might be slowly falling out of the playoff picture, they have done alot of damage.  

We have to make sure they don’t do any more.

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Pitching Matchups

Friday, the Rays will send their default ace of the staff, Jeff Nieman (10-5, 3.62), to the mound against the true ace of the M’s staff, Felix Hernandez (12-4, 2.78). 

 Nieman has thrown well this season, and should find that his 12-6 hammer will have just as much movement in SafeCo Field’s pseudo-outdoor stadium as it does in the friendly confines of the Trop. 

 

King Felix is a bigtime strikeout pitcher and the Rays’ hitters will need to be disciplined if they want to have a chance.  However, as with one of my fave pitchers, “Big Z” Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, Hernandez can be his own worst enemy–he often gets inside of his OWN head.

Let’s hope for a case of the “crazies” for Felix.

Saturday the Rays will pitch James Shields (6-8, 3.75) against the M’s Ian Snell (2-8, 5.19).

Shields is a guy who gets no respect.  Or maybe that’s runs.  Either way, he gets none of it.  The guy almost threw a no hitter his last time out and STILL got saddled with the loss!  Poor hitting behind him has been the bane of Shields pitching existance this year.  The Rays’ hitters owe him.

Ian Snell Picture

The recently acquired ex-Pirate Snell will be making an attempt at impressing the home crowd in his second start for the Mariners.  He did a nice job shutting down the Rangers his last time out, and will look to put the brakes on an equally impressive offense this time. 

I’m sure my friend at The Pittsburgh Peas, Matt, will be watching with great enthusiasm to see how his guy Snell fares. 

I’m hoping it’s poor, buddy.

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I’ll get back with everybody on Saturday to talk about a (hopefully) exciting and successful Rays series.  We really need these games. 

I hope the Rays bring their best out west.

We are sitting (now at the end of the creation of this post) just 2 1/2 games behind those Sox for the wildcard lead.  Oh my. 

Let’s strike gold!

(This guy has gold.  See?  Gold.)

Rolling Rays Ramp Up For Red Sox

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Blood is in the water.

It’s Shark Week.

Da-Dumm…Da-Dumm…

(I have a petrifying fear of sharks, so I hope you appreciate the trauma that went into putting up this picture)

No!  Not on the Discovery Channel.

It’s do or die week at your local Trop where the Rays are getting ready to take it to those pesky Boston Red Sox in a series that’s bigger than a Great White!

The Rays can smell that wildcard berth.  Now they just need to catch it. 

A good showing against the wild card’s owner will be a step in the right direction!

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Both Teams are on Fire!

A scorching Red Sox squad comes to St. Pete.  They have won 4 in a row and 7 of their last 10.  Sure, they’ve beaten up on the lowly Baltimore Orioles as of late, but the hallmark of a good team is that they beat who they’re supposed to beat. 

And this is definitely a good team.

The Rays are no slouch, either.  They are coming off of a series in which they beat the Kansas City Royals in 3 our of 4 ballgames.  Again, we KNOW it’s the Royals, but see above for explanation of good teams beating bad ones.  The Rays have won 6 of their last 10 and might have found their stroke yesterday afternoon against the likely Cy Young Award winner this year in Zack Greinke. 

They touched Greinke up for a season-high 6 runs in 5 innings.  Guys who never hit the KC hurler were touching him up.  Carl Crawford, Jason Barlett, Carlos Pena, and Gabe Kapler all had key hits in the game, making it one of Greinke’s worst.

Let’s hope those bats stay hot tonight.

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Pitching Matchup

The Rays are sending Matt Garza (7-8, 3.69) to the hill against John Lester (9-7, 3.90). 

Garza is coming off a matchup with the Yankees in which he matched Joba Chamberlain pitch for pitch all game long.  The Rays dropped that game, but Garza stood out as the tough luck loser.  We might have to call him “Big Game” Garza with the way he continually puts forth solid performances yet receives no run support (like his buddy James Shields).

But tonight Matty should fare well, if the numbers tell the story.  He’s had three starts against the Red Sox this season, going 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA.  Not too shabby.

Lester has been on a roll lately, seeing his ERA drop from 5.09 in early June to its current 3.90.  This is a guy who gives the Rays fits–as most lefties do–so it’ll be interesting to see how our lefty specialists Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, and Gabe Kapler do.

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Lineup Issues

Yesterday Joe Maddon employed a drastically different looking lineup against KC’s Greinke.  He moved Bartlett to the leadoff spot (BJ Upton was getting the day off) and put Aybar at DH instead of Pat Burrell

BJ and Burrell have been hitting in the .230s and .240s most of the season. 

The Rays promptly scored 10 runs in yesterday’s game.  Against a likely Cy Young winner.  Maddon was questioned incessantly about whether he might put out the same lineup today.  He said he’ll take a bike ride to think about it.

Apparently he agreed that he was a genius yesterday. 

Today will be the most drastically different lineup that Joe has put out all year! 

Here it is:

Jason Bartlett  SS  (he loves lefties)

Carl Crawford  LF

Evan Longoria  3B

Ben Zobrist  2B

Willy Aybar  DH (hitting in Pena’s 5th spot!)

Carlos Pena  1B  (he will never complain, but his drop to 6th must hurt.  He’s hitting .214 though!)

BJ Upton  CF (he might complain)

Dioner Navarro  C

Gabe Kapler  RF  (love this guy)

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Three Keys to the Game

1–Bartlett must set the table for the offense.  For Joe’s plan to work, Jason must get on base.  He does not have the speed of BJ, but he can still disrupt pitchers on the base paths.

2–The bottom third of the order must produce.  With BJ moved to 7th in the lineup, this has the potential to be a run scoring part of the order.  Navi and Kapler must see pitches, give BJ a chance to run, and make the most of their swings.

3–The Rays must get off to a nice start.  Momentum is big in Rays/Red Sox matchups.  The crowd at the Trop can go either way.  Garza needs to shut ’em down early.

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This is only a 2-game series, but there is alot at stake.  The Rays have to bring their A game to the stadium against these Sox if they want to climb two games closer to the wildcard.

This could be a perfect series for the Rays.  It is only 2 games, so they only have to deal with the terrible pressure the Red Sox bring to town for a short time.

If things go well, the Rays could emerge from this series only 3 games out of the wildcard spot. 

And then things will really get interesting.

Da-Dumm….Da-Dumm…

(I’m serious!  Sharks give me the shakes!)