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.
Here it is, pulled straight from the news wire:
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The Tampa Bay
Rays have made an historic trade that finally gives them a fulltime power
hitting right fielder for the 2009 season.
the Rays agreed to send a player to be named later or cash considerations to
the Alcor Life Extension Foundation for former Boston Red Sox AllStar Ted
The Rays will
receive Williams in a press conference Thursday after he flies in from Alcor
camp in Scottsdale, Arizona. Williams, 90,
had been with Alcor since 2002 after a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red
Sox prematurely ended in 1960. Alcor
called his trade a “cost cutting move,” claiming they could no longer pay
Williams’ hefty salary.
the best hitter we ever had,” Alcor COO Jennifer Chapman said in a statement to
the Associated Press. “But with the
turmoil we faced this year, with our plummeting attendance, it was time to give
him an opportunity to finally win that longawaited World Series ring.”
the Rays were ecstatic and ever eager to receive their new cleanup hitter.
this was the best move to make, we’re giving up very little for Ted,” stated
Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. “Here is a guy who can come in and hit .350
with 40 or so home runs, then terrorize opposing pitchers in the playoffs. With the way Carlos Pena has been swinging
and missing all Spring, someone has to pick up his slack.”
baseball guys told us he was too old,” added Rays President Matt
Silverman. “But we think he has aged
gracefully, and he can still produce.
When he hits, it’s as if time has been frozen. He is truly a never say die player.”
fans are getting in on the action, too. A
devoted season ticket holder known as “Cowbell Kidd” said in response to the
Williams deal, “Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring!” Another famous fan, Hulk Hogan, told the
press, “Brother, this Ted Williams dude is gonna hit like 100 home runs
man. He’ll take us all the way to the
bank, Jack. I’ll bet my wife’s mansion
on that dude. Brother.”
layer to this story lies in Boston,
the city whose Red Sox retired Williams’ number 9 and bestowed upon him
nicknames such as “Teddy Ballgame” and “The Splendid Splinter.” Outside Fenway
Park Wednesday, thousands of fans gathered
for a public protest of Williams agreeing to play for a division rival in Tampa Bay. They chanted such sayings as “Ted is dead” and “Down with Williams” for two hours while not getting anything important accomplished.
Benedict Arnold, he betrayed our people,” Red Sox Nation President Jerry Remy
told the angry crowd.
will be hit with a swarm of batteries and beer by the 10,000 of our fans that
go to Tropicana Field,” Vice President Rob Crawford added to the cheers of the
sea of red. “Just imagine his reception
The Rays later
responded to the futile protest.
Crisp were they smoking this morning?” asked Rays manager Joe Maddon, who also
promised to hit Williams in front of third baseman Evan Longoria. “They obviously don’t understand the business
of baseball. You know they would be
holding parades down Yawkey Way
if their beloved Sox acquired Don Mattingly.”
also had responses. Friedman told local
reporters, “This just goes to show how insecure Red Sox Nation is. You trade for one of their Hall of Famers,
and suddenly it’s Armageddon.” Right
fielder Gabe Gross chipped in, “Wait, he’s taking my spot?” Cowbell Kidd added, “Ring ring.”
The Rays are
sending Gross to someone, anyone who cares, in order to make room for Ted
Williams to join the team before Opening Day. In an ironic twist of fate, Alcor is expected
to call his son, John Henry Williams, up from AAA to fill his roster spot.
Well, there you have it. The Rays would have a new right fielder, but, as if you haven’t figured it out by now…
I have had this story in the can since last year’s trade deadline, so I figured this would be the right time to publish it. And Gabe Gross is staying right where he is. Until next time, go Rays.
There has been major news out of Atlanta Braves camp in the past 24 hours.
First off, Josh Anderson has shockingly been traded to the Detroit Tigers. Anderson, expected by many to start in center field, was given away for Minor League sidearm pitcher Rudy Darrow. He was out of options and, at age 26, not the most attractive prospect. He had been surpassed for the center field job by incumbent starter Gregor Blanco and top prospect Jordan Schafer, who has hit .373 this Spring. Anderson’s inconsistency and limited batting power likely drove him out of Atlanta. Blanco has a good skill set of speed, range and getting on base, while Schafer is a possible fivetool star of the near future. I think Schafer should start this year at AAA Gwinnett because his lack of higherlevel experience calls for more seasoning. Blanco can hold down the fort until he is ready. But the Braves may start Schafer from day one based on his play so far in camp. Who knows? Only time and the legendary Bobby Cox will tell.
Atlanta also signed its franchise player, third baseman Chipper Jones, to a threeyear contract extension with an option for 2013. This keeps him with the team through his 41st birthday, at which point his career will likely be over. With the defection of John Smoltz to an enemy camp, it was important for the Braves to sign Chipper for the rest of his career. He will forever be a Brave, figuratively and now literally. Now let’s see him play at least 130 games and win another batting title. That will send him straight to the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.
In Rays news, the team has made no decision yet on the future for reliever Jason Isringhausen, who was signed to a Minor League deal coming off of some injuries. He does not want to go down to Durham and has the option to leave, placing the ball in his court. Joe Maddon wants to keep him with the team by any means necessary. I think he should stay, at least at the beginning of the year. That kind of veteran depth is critical in the bullpen.
My idea of trading either Jason Hammel or Jeff Niemann may be coming to fruition. Multiple teams are interested in each pitcher. They are both out of options and one will likely be expendable before the season starts. The San Diego Padres are interested in either one of them. The Colorado Rockies have been after Hammel since last year’s trade deadline. The Pittsburgh Pirates have talked about bringing in Niemann. Why not? They need some kind of help. As long as we get something in return (first baseman of the future?), it is a great idea.
Despite a lateinning implosion leading to an 87 loss to Boston, three Rays who needed home runs smashed them today. Matt Joyce, Gabe Gross and Jon Weber all went deep in the narrow defeat. Joyce needed to start proving himself worthy of a Major League spot in B.J. Upton’s place at the start of the season, and this is a good start. Meanwhile, Weber has done exceptionally well so far in Rays camp. I think they should consider him for the final roster spot. He is 31 years old, so what more can he do in the Minor Leagues? He has decent speed and power, and has been bringing it for a month straight. If Joyce starts at AAA and Weber begins with the Rays, I have no complaints. Weber can finally try proving himself to MLB teams and Joyce can touch up his game a little more.
I also believe that Adam Kennedy would make a nice addition to the team if there is an open spot. He can play multiple infield positions and bring a variety of talents and leadership to the Rays. The shocking Tigers release of Gary Sheffield, who has 499 home runs, to make room for Anderson has sparked discussion of the Rays bringing him in at a $400,000 price. It’s a nice deal, but he is past his prime and there is no room left. That’s about all that is fit to blog today, but more will definitely come soon. I will be posting my lineup and pitching rotation predictions before Spring Training ends. Until next time, go Rays (and Braves).
Those 2008 Rays… just when everyone wants to give up on them and leave them for dead, they storm right back in their faces. One step back, two steps forward. The cliches are actually coming true this season in Tampa Bay. There is not one disappointed Rays fan right now, as they have defeated the Boston Red Sox two games to one at Tropicana Field to gain a two game division lead. They have now won 90 games yes, 90win Rays, believe it or not and are now down to a magic number of three (Rays wins/Twins losses, and we get them next) for a playoff berth. These last two games coming back from the vicious Monday night beating usually reserved for Monday Night RAW, have been two of the most important and exciting victories ever for this franchise.
That Tuesday night game cost me about a gallon of water and a few hours of time best saved for work, but it was worth the wait. The Rays’ Andy Sonnanstine and Josh Beckett matched last week’s pitcher’s duel with more of the same. The Red Sox scored on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, an unearned run charged to Sonnanstine (after an unusual Evan Longoria error, which followed a hit that only occurred thanks to a missed third strike call). An inning and a half later, on the very first pitch, Carlos Pena launched a hanging Beckett curveball for his 29th home run of the year, hitting the first row of left center field seats and tying the game at one. In the ninth inning, Boston decided to call on Justin Masterson to avoid using Jonathan Papelbon. Maybe they should have thought about avoiding defeat. Jason Bartlett’s leadoff single fell into right field between three fielders, followed by a mildly controversial walk to Pena. He swung and missed a fastball that would have made the count 12, but timeout was called before the pitch due to a stray bullpen ball entering the infield. Out of the Red Sox bullpen, too. Pena ended up walking on a close 32 pitch. Two batters later, Cliff Floyd took an 02 slider to the shinguard to load the bases. Dioner Navarro stepped up, fell from 20 to 22, then hit a hanging sinker right back up the middle. Very far up the middle, in fact. The ball flew over the head of a desolate Coco Crisp, Bartlett scored, the Rays won, and victory ruled the day. The ball actually bounced over the wall, but the game ended after one base anyway… the Mets have the Grand Slam Single, and the Rays now have the Ground Rule Single. This is what pennant races and playoff games are all about.
My vision of Rays playoff games came last night, featuring the bats big and small taking the hammer to Tim Wakefield (see, he only owned the Devil Rays, not these guys) and winning 103. Matt Garza had a mediocre pitching performance drowned in offensive support, pitching 4.2 innings on three days’ rest. Willy Aybar, Gabe Gross and Fernando Perez all homered, Aybar and Perez (normally switch hitters) doing so right handed against Wakefield. David Ortiz’s two home runs only dented a catwalk and the stat sheet. The Rays are now up by two full games in the American League East division, and the magic number for their first division title is now ten. The playoff magic number is a mere three following Minnesota’s 64 loss to Cleveland. This means that if the Rays win their first two games against the Twins, they will clinch their playoff berth on Friday night, on ESPN, in a game that I am attending. I sincerely hope they can pull it off then and there I would love nothing more than to be in that rocking house when the celebration begins.
Now it’s time for the Rays to beat the Twins back into their own dome and rightfully claim their playoff spot. Until they finally accomplish this historic feat, go Rays.
This Rays team has continued winning at home and setting new records by the week. After this weekend’s series victory over the White Sox, they finished this ten game homestand at 8-2, the best three series homestand record in franchise history. Now it’s up to Boston on Tuesday night to begin a critical three game series with the Red Sox. The Rays have done a great job holding on to first place, but to cement their status, they’ll have to beat the enemy in their house. After seeing the great pitching of James Shields and Scott Kazmir, along with the walk-off home runs from Cliff Floyd and now Gabe Gross, I think it’s an attainable goal. The Red Sox have played very well too, so it’s just a matter of who runs out of energy first. Boston plays in Baltimore tomorrow, while the Rays have a travel day. Advantage: Rays.
One Boston player should be congratulated here: Manny Ramirez, on his 500th home run. He hit it in Baltimore off Chad Bradford deep into the right center field seats. He hit number 501 today, but I think he’s due for a cold streak. Through the Boston series and beyond, go first place Rays.