I have a few little things to add about tonight’s Rays game as I am up on a Saturday night out of other things to do. My viewing of Rays games and, therefore, updates on this blog will become far less frequent from May 26 through July 2. I will be taking Summer classes at The University of Tampa four nights a week (MondayThursday) for six weeks. So I should write now while the time is there and while my teams are winning.
The Rays defeated the Marlins 103 in tonight’s matchup, though it was a much closer game until the end.
Jeff Niemann started for Tampa Bay and brought the good stuff with him. He pitched six innings, allowing one run (a Dan Uggla home run), walking one with five strikeouts. This outing was definitely “good Niemann.” Just like the last one. He faced off with Sean West, making his MLB debut straight from AA. He held the Rays to just two runs in five innings. They should have piled it on early, but they repeatedly left runners on base and took little advantage of walks and singles.
The Rays led 31 in the seventh inning when J.P. Howell entered the game. As soon as he went 30 to his first hitter, red flags went up. When he can’t throw strikes, you know runs are about to score. He walked two batters, going 32 to each of the first three Marlins that faced him. A hit by pinch hitter Ross Gload scored one run, then Joe Maddon should have taken Howell out of the game. He refused, and two batters later, Jeremy Hermida’s ground ball was deflected by Akinori Iwamura and the tying run scored.
Howell entered the game with a 2.21 ERA, but obviously was not that great in big late game situations. He left with the ERA back up to 3.00 and already his third blown save of the season. He only has three holds; this was not one of them. He would do so much better if he just quit walking people. He needs to throw strikes early and often like he did in 2008. That is his key to victory.
Grant Balfour ended up striking out Hanley Ramirez to end that inning.
Evan Longoria singled home Iwamura, who led off with a walk, to retake the lead in the eighth inning. The next one saw the Rays spring to life and score in droves.
After a strong inning of relief from Dan Wheeler, the Rays ended up sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring six times to turn a close, dramatic game into another landslide. Michel Hernandez, Ben Zobrist, B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett all drove in runs, and the Marlins even balked one in when Upton squared up to bunt and pitcher Matt Lindstrom panicked and halted his delivery.
Zobrist started the game at second base and finished with three hits. Hernandez started in catcher Dioner Navarro’s spot and drove in two runs, including the first of the game on a bases loaded walk. No matter who was in the lineup, the Rays scored enough to get the job done.
And get the job done Jason Isringhausen did. Initially warming up to go for his 294th career save, he went out there just looking to end the game with a comfortable lead. Despite hitting a batter on a twostrike count, a strikeout and a short popout ended it and Isringhausen escaped scot free. Despite a bit of early trouble tonight, I like having him as a viable option to close games. His track record shows that he certainly knows how to do it.
Carl Crawford Watch: He stole his 26th base in as many attempts, giving him 28 consecutive steals dating back to 2008. It came in the seventh inning against Burke Badenhop. Later in the same inning, Bartlett stole his 13th base out of 14 tries.
Ramirez (8) and Emilio Bonifacio (9) stole bases for the Marlins, but neither scored and they still lost.
The Braves beat the Blue Jays once again, this time 43. Derek Lowe pitched his usual strong performance and picked up the win. He also drove in a run with a single, which factored in the outcome of the game. Despite another ninth inning scare, Atlanta survived and did the Rays a favor once again, which the Rays returned by beating the Marlins. This is the first time this season that the Rays and Braves have both won on consecutive days. Hopefully about 20 more will follow.
That is about it. I still hope Troy Percival retires. And that Tom Glavine’s comeback proves successful. Both men have had great careers, but with drastically different endings. Let’s see some sweeping now. We could really use it. Until next time, go Rays.
The Rays placed designated hitter Pat Burrell on the disabled list due to a stiff neck that has hampered his approach to hitting. This explains his only having one home run this season, hit back on April 13.
Additionally, they called up pitcher Jason Isringhausen from Durham. The former Cardinals closer had been on a rehab assignment and may very well assume the same role in Tampa Bay.
Isringhausen pitched the ninth inning in the Rays’ 134 beatdown of the Oakland A’s, allowing one double but otherwise pitching very strongly. He had a decent fastball working and showed a lot of break to his signature curveball. The Rays could have lost him for nothing within a few days had he not been brought up, but it was the right time and the right decision. Now they have another anchor in their deep bullpen that can keep the team afloat. They definitely need everyone they can get right now. I can’t wait for Chad Bradford to return as well and round out the relief core.
The Rays are on a good streak right now, which they absolutely have to keep up and running if they want to catch the pesky Blue Jays (who my dad now believes will finish 14814 this season), the Yankees and the Red Sox anytime soon. The A’s look like they could use a broom ride out of town. 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).
One day after the Rays traded the team’s best relief pitcher in 2007, Juan Salas, to the Indians for wellrounded singleA second baseman Isaias Velasquez, they signed former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen to a Minor League deal to boost the lateinning bullpen competition. The 36yearold Isringhausen has 293 career saves and was a dominant closing pitcher for nearly 10 years in Oakland and St. Louis before arm injuries hit him hard in 2008.
He is definitely a good choice to have on call if Troy Percival is rendered unavailable. We saw what happened when the Rays signed the recently unretired Percival before last season. Isringhausen adds a further veteran presence and a solid arm in the back end of the bullpen. He made 32 saves with a 2.48 ERA just two seasons ago. It’s very good to have a guy like that come in at a discount price.
Spring Training rolls on in Port Charlotte, and now 9 > 8. The math is accurate this year. Until next time, go Rays.