The Rays went down to Miami and took care of business early, jumping out to a 130 lead in just the third inning and going on to win 152 behind Andy Sonnanstine.
B.J. Upton led off with a hit (surprise!), then stole a base, and a Jason Bartlett tworun double gave Tampa Bay the first runs of the game. A second inning sixrun onslaught ensued against embattled starter Ricky Nolasco, featuring home runs from Dioner Navarro (2) and Carlos Pena (15). Both guys were in droughts in that department and finally picked it up with help from that south Florida humidity. Navarro had a fourhit night, his best game of the season. The third inning featured five more runs against reliever David Davidson (that’s not a redundant name), who threw 52 pitches during that time.
Hanley Ramirez’s home run that made it a measly 131 gave Sonnanstine his only earned run in six strong innings. It was perhaps a turning point in his season, as his last start began to be. He singled in his first atbat, then later walked, scoring twice. The bat was still there after the short layoff.
Gabe Gross hit a tworun home run, his second of the year, late in the game. He was in need, too. That’s good for him, especially against a left handed pitcher, even in a landslide game. Reid Brignac scored on that play following his first Major League hit, a single to center field. Congratulations, Reid.
Dale Thayer made his MLB debut in relief, pitching three innings to earn his first save. He gave up a meaningless run on a Dan Uggla double, but pitched very effectively and had a good 9294 MPH fastball working. He also displayed a nice, new moustache to commemorate the occasion. He is a late bloomer, but I think he may be for real as a middle reliever. I liked him at Durham last year and it’s about time he got at least a brief stint in Tampa Bay.
Every starter in the Rays lineup had at least one hit, and everyone who hit except Thayer and Ben Zobrist (who did make a nice sliding catch in left field) got on base. Everyone contributed. That is the best way to win. Every single person did something positive for this team. I commend them all.
Ross Gload of the Marlins became the second position player to pitch against the Rays this season. He stranded a runner at third base when Thayer broke his bat hitting the ball back to the mound. Gload went to The University of South Florida, so he is no stranger to Tampa. Still, his team lost.
Another bit of good news is, while the Rays helped my National League favorite Braves, the Braves gave them a boost in return. Kenshin Kawakami broke out of a cold streak and outdueled Roy Halladay to give Atlanta a 10 victory over the Blue Jays, who are due for some more losses. Both starters gave up zero runs, but the Braves’ Matt Diaz scored on a an eighth inning sacrifice fly by Casey Kotchman The game ended on a very close play when Martin Prado bobbled a ground ball, then caught it out of the air and fired in stride. A great stretch by Kotchman got the out for Mike Gonzalez and the Braves won a game they were given very little chance to win. Kawakami deserves a round of applause. This is what he came to America to do. How about a few more, please?
Everyone starts from scratch tomorrow as Jeff Niemann goes for the Rays against… they don’t know, apparently. They need to make a decision quickly or the Rays will just beat them badly again. Maybe even by forfeit. That would be sweet. By the way, the Rays officially called up David Price to start Monday’s game in Cleveland. Show them again why you are the heir to the throne. Until next time, go Rays.
You may recall that, just yesterday (May 20), I wrote a piece opining on what the Rays should do with pitchers Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival, who have each been suffering from command and confidence issues this season. They have come up with one viable remedy that I did not include: both pitchers have been sent to the 15day disabled list.
The excuse for Kazmir is a right quadriceps strain, which is probably minor, but still causing a hitch in his delivery. There are other unofficial causes to his time off, such as the loss of his fastball and the need to clear his head. This is a good thing to do for him right now. Just get him away and let him heal. Then decide on another course of action based on his progress.
Meanwhile, Percival’s case may be a little more serious or, in fact, career ending. Right shoulder tendinitis is the official reason. It is a legitimate injury, as he has complained of shoulder pain. But it could be the end of the line. He has flown back to Riverside, California to speak with his family and consider retirement.
This is the fourth time since joining the Rays that Percival has seen the DL. He had hamstring and back problems in 2008, the latter of which kept him out of the playoffs. He never got it together after the middle of last season. Joe Maddon actually said that he would not be surprised if he did go ahead and retire. It would be an unfortunate ending to a great career, but seeing as he initially retired after 2006 due to arm injuries, he made a nice second effort. I think he should just leave it up to those who can still pitch a full inning without either pulling a muscle or blowing a lead.
In the place of the injured pitchers, the Rays have called up 23yearold shortstop Reid Brignac and 28yearold relief pitcher Dale Thayer from AAA Durham. Brignac had a good start, hitting .291 with three home runs so far for the Bulls. He is likely to be up as a reserve for a short time. Ditto for Thayer, who has an 0.93 ERA in 16 appearances with six saves at Durham. He also pitched phenomenally there last year, ending up with a 2.77 ERA (it was under 2.00 most of the season) in 52 games and racking up more than one strikeout per inning. He would make his Major League debut in his first appearance as a Ray.
Also being rumored to join the team soon is the one and only David Price, the number one Draft pick from 2007 who loudly burst onto the scene in 2008. In eight starts at AAA, he is only 14 with a 3.93 ERA with 35 K in 34.1 innings. He did, however, pitch five hitless innings in his last start on May 17. They are also allowing him to throw more pitches per outing as he refines the fastball command and masters the changeup. He could still boost this starting rotation right now and get a little more experience against some of the best competition out there. This would be a good move, at least for a few weeks.
As I write this, the Rays hold a commanding 151 lead over the Marlins at Landshark Stadium. Hey, look at that Brignac just got his first Major League hit. He has now put that 0for10 stint from last year way behind him. And Gabe Gross hit a home run. Good for him, he needed it. They led 130 after three innings, so I believe they should win this one as automatically as the Harlem Globetrotters win on tour. Until next time, go Rays.