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Posts Tagged ‘Rays’


Who’d of thought he’d be such a huge loss?

Since I can’t find my copy of Four Views of the Book of Revelation in order to cover the 3rd view, I’ll consider sports. I’ve been meaning to work on this post for a few weeks, but haven’t had the free time and mental space. You may think I still don’t have the mental space for it.

I want to consider a similarity between the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics: injuries. The point being how injuries have derailed the last few seasons for both teams. Sports teams are really fragile things. There are times when teams can survive and even thrive during a rash of injuries. The Green Bay Packers did this to win the Superbowl in 2011. Those instances are rare. Most often, the depth of a team is tried and then depleted. Hopes vanish and dreams are squashed.

The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008 and seemed poised to win a few more before the New Big Three fell apart. But injuries have continually derailed that hope, and Celtics fans are disappointed. In 2009 it was Kevin Garnett’s various injuries that left them depleted. Without him they nearly beat the Magic to advance in the playoffs, but it was not to be. A healthy KG, and the Celtics go to the Finals. The next year, KG was not healthy, but was playing. They made it to the Finals against the Lakers. Then, in Game 6, Perkins blew out his knee. His presence in that abysmal Game 7, the film of which should be burned for the sake of both teams, may have made a significant difference. We won’t know. But the Lakers did triumph.

Then there was last year. KG was healthy, but there was the big trade that sent Perkins packing for 2 players. He was still not right, but the emotional toll on the team seemed too big. Both O’Neals had injury problems. Until the playoffs. They put it together after their late season skid. They made it to the conference finals against the arrogant Miami Heat who hope to win 7-8 titles in their imaginations (Father, may it not even be one- oppose the proud!). In a painful moment caught on film, D-Wade pulled down Rondo while falling. Really cheap play, and their series this season against the Pacers shows they are inclined toward the cheap plays. Rondo’s dislocated elbow sunk the Celtics. He valiantly tried to play, but with only one functioning arm, his defense was a liability. That moment dashed the Celtics hopes.

We felt his pain.

The Red Sox are in a similar state of affairs. They won the World Series in 2007. Despite injuries to Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, the Red Sox made it all the way to the AL Championship against new rivals the Rays in their first ever play off appearance. Beckett pitched, but was a shell of himself. So close, but they fell in 7 to the Rays who would get handled easily in the World Series. Oh, for a healthy Beckett or Lowell. Just one would have tipped the scales enough. Just one.

2009 was just a mess for the Red Sox. It is a blur of injuries in the last few months that sunk a promising season. I have erased it from my memory.

2010 looked so promising. In the opening weeks they lost Ellsbury and Mike Cameron for essentially the season. Beltre not only provided power to the line up but single-handedly destroyed the outfield.  The only remaining starting outfielder was J.D. Drew, and we all know he’s good for a few trips to the DL. Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald came out of nowhere to provide some spark. But then the injuries began to mount up- Youkilis, Pedroia, Martinez. So many injuries to key players- there were done. D-O-N-E.

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He doesn’t put up the most spectacular stats.  But J.D. Drew just happens to come thru at the right time.  Bad back or no bad back.  His grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS last year.  His key home run against the Angels this year.  His power surge while Big Papi was on the DL this year.

Last night was just unbelievable.  I was getting ready to turn off the game and hit the hay.  I was going to give the Red Sox one last half inning.  After a whole series of utter futility with RISP, Pedroia came up with an RBI hit that opened the floodgates.  Papi cleared the bases with a long overdue home run.

In the 8th it was Crisp’s lengthy at bat, fouling off pitch after pitch, that finally resulted in an RBI single to tie the game.

In between Papi and Coco, you had Drew driving a rocket into the right field seats to drive in 2.  Then, after walking Bay to get to Drew (and the lefty on lefty match up) Drew got his 5th hit in 8 tries (if I remember right) off Howell to win the game.

He gets paid a good chunk of money.  He’s not flashy, but he plays great defense in right field.  And he gets important hits (leading the Sox in game winning hits this season).  Here’s hoping that Drew and Papi have rediscovered their swing, and that last night was not a fluke.

The young, resilient Tampa Bay Rays are confident they have what it takes to close out Boston in the AL championship series.

In fact, they find it humorous anyone would believe the team’s psyche might have been irreparably damaged when the Red Sox kept their pennant hopes alive with the second-biggest comeback in postseason history. …

Thursday night’s loss is the type of defeat that might destroy some teams. But the Rays have rebounded from difficult situations all season and believe they have the makeup to complete the job against Boston.

I’m sure the 2003 A’s, 2004 Yankees and 2007 Indians all thought the same thing.  They all thought there was no way the Red Sox could beat them.  This is not any of those teams.  No Damon, Pedro, Schilling, Manny etc.  Now there is no Lowell, and Beckett is hurt too.  I can understand their confidence- they are a good team and the Red Sox are a damaged team.  Sometimes things happen like we think they will, and sometimes strange things happen.  I’m hoping for the strange things.

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Globe staff/Jim Davis

Globe staff/Jim Davis

I was nearly jumping for joy with them after an exciting final 2 innings to last night’s game.  Jon Lester continues to build a reputation as a money pitcher, throwing 7 shutout innings that was nearly wasted by a spent bullpen.

Francona made an uncharacteristic mistake, I think, by pulling Okajima.  Another walk, a passed ball and Hunter’s timely hit tied that game.  Maybe Okalima would have surrendered a home run.  I don’t know.  But I didn’t like it then.

After Shields got the heart of our line up out in the 8th, I thought it was going to be another marathon session.  That is until the Angels had a man on 3rd in the 9th.  An incredible play by the Captain to end the threat.  Yes, a bit controversial- but the ball was knocked out by the ground, not the tag.  Like Cal Ripken, it would be interesting to see what the rule book actually states.  I think they made a reasonable call- but I am biased.  [what is different here from a play at the plate is that Varitek clearly had possession & control of the ball prior to the tag- he’d run 90 feet with it.  in a play at the plate, the action happens so fast the ump can’t be sure if the catcher has control of the ball until after the play is done.  if ESPN asked for my opinion to refute their ‘expert analysts’, I suspect they might go ‘hmmm, hadn’t thought of that.’]

It seemed like the Angels got a break on that ground rule double by Bay.  Especially when Teixeira grabbed that screaming line drive down the line.  But another Red Sox rookie came through as Lowrie dumped a single into right field so Bay could get home.  Awesome ending (unless you cheer for the Angels).

Now the Rays- a solid, gutsy team.  When the Rays won the regular season series the Sox were struggling with injuries to Lowell, Drew & Beckett.  Yes, Longoria and Crawford were out too.  What I didn’t know until yesterday was that Drew led the Sox with game-winning RBI, despite missing a good chunk of the season to back injuries.  His effortless defense, combined with that, gives him an edge of Crawford (a player I really like).

So now we see who is better- the battered Sox who just dispatched the team with the best record in baseball, or the upstarts who eliminated a one dimensional team in the White Sox.  Make no mistake- the Rays can win this series.  They are good enough and deep enough.  They got rid of the clubhouse distractions and have lots of character guys who also play very well.  This is no lopsided series.  The Rays have the Red Sox’ respect.

I think the Red Sox will win due to the intangibles.  It is not just having been there before- but succeeding there before.  They’ve developed a great system of scouting teams and prepping players that pays dividends in the playoffs.  They have a few days to put together a game plan they can execute.  That gives them an edge- not a guarantee, but an edge.  It should be fun to watch.

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For hours last night I was wondering what in the world the Angels have to do to actually beat the Red Sox in the post season.  Look at that stat sheet and it should have been a blow out, not a 12-inning barn burner.

The Red Sox should NOT have been in that game.  Beckett was atrocious, but they were only down by 1 thanks to an outfield gaffe with 2 outs that enabled Jacoby to get the 1st 3 RBI single in post-season play.

The Red Sox had plenty of opportunities to put the game away, but failed.  Pedroia has struggled offensively this series.  He’s hitting that ball hard, but not finding any gaps.  If he starts to hit, we’re in good shape.

Lowell, on the other hand, looks like he needs Francona to sit him.  It’s painful watching him out there.  He’s got a huge heart and wants to compete, but those injuries have hobbled him significantly.  It is time for him to sit, putting Kotsay at first.

I was really hoping to seal the deal so Lester could start the next series (in Tampa?).  But if they do play in Tampa, Wake has a good history in the dome so maybe he should start Game 1.  But first the Sox have to beat the Angels.  They are a very good team, so it is not a guarantee.  But only a few teams have won a series after being down 0-2.  The Sox have the confidence to not panic at this point.  And the with Lester pitching in the friendly confines of Fenway, they have a good shot at finishing the series up tonight.

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After just 1 loss some of th Rays’ fans were panicing.  Now that they have lost 4 out of 5 games, and their lead is merely 2 games (with the Red Sox still to play tonight), they must be lining up to jump off the bridge.

I heard some talk radio guys whining about Red Sox fans this week.  That we are now acting even more entitled than the Yankees’ fans.  I didn’t hear the context.  I suppose success does create expectaions.  When your team has never had a winning season before … you can be a bit defensive and envious.

Very excited that both Beckett and Lowell played well in their first games back from the DL.  The Red Sox have adjusted well to the recent rash of injuries.  And there have been plenty.  They didn’t give up, but have continued to play well.  Good news as well that they seem to have cured their road issues from earlier in the season.  Dustin Pedroia has been quite impressive, showing that size does not matter when it comes to playing baseball.  He’s been the everyday player to lead the team everyday.  You can’t say enough about how important he has become to this squad.

Not only are the Sox closing in on the Rays, but the Angels as well.  It would be great to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  This should make for an exciting 3+ weeks as we move to the end of the regular season.

Update: The Sox failed to capitalize.  But the Rays have given them another chance on Sunday- so far the Sox are up 2-0 midway through the game.

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This year the baseball trade deadline has prompted to some very exciting deals- if you cheer for the Yankees and the Angels.

The Yankees are repeating the pattern of the past, though with a bit less luster.  They are taking on additional payroll (with that ever end???) and sending back prospects or low money guys in return.  First they bring over Xavier Nady and his .320+ average to fill their hole in left field, as well as giving them a right handed bat that has been missing to restore balance to their line-up.  That deal also brought them a solid left-handed reliever.  The analysts basically agree this deal was a steal for the Yankees.  They have Nady signed for next year at an affordable salary, and an option for Marte.  So, this is not a rent-a-player situation.

Marte’s presence allowed them to  ship out Farnsworth, which saddens me.  The hard throwing relief pitcher was hittable often enough.  In return they pick up an aging Ivan Rodriguez.  He started the year slowly at the plate, but has brought his average up to about .290.  So, they add a strong bat behind the plate, replacing Posada who is done for the year.  From the Tigers’ perspective, this move surprises me since they seemed to have climbed back into the AL Central.  This is basically a salary dump.

They have positioned themselves nicely for the stretch run in an organization where failure is not an option.  The weak and vulnerable Yankees of April-June are once again gone as Brian Cashman made some wise moves internally (some forced by injuries to guys who weren’t performing as expected), and brought in some guys to address the remaining weaknesses.  All we can hope for is that they lack chemistry.  Only they could do this because they added millions in payroll.

The Angels also made a really good move in picking up Teixeira for Kotchman.  That is a big improvement in my book.  Though he might be a rent-a-player.  But the Angels see this as the year they could go all the way.  They have the pitching, and needed 1 or 2 more good bats.  Teixeira is the piece they needed to avoid a repeat of last year’s playoff sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.

If you haven’t noticed, the Red Sox payroll has been decreasing over the years.  They are showing greater financial restraint, but this may come back to bite them like it did in 2005.  They are trying to dump Manny and his primadona act.  His recent actions seem to be mostly about his desire to make more money.  It is hard to avoid thinking that he no longer wants the Sox to pick up that option because he wants another $100 million contract- which seems unlikely with his diminishing skills.  But Scott Boras only makes money on Manny if he does get a new contract instead of the option.  So ….. this round of Manny Being Moronic seems to be driven by money since he sure is hitting well for a guy with a bum knee.  But he seems to play better when there is drama going on, so who really knows.

The only remaining possibility out there, after the Phillies, Mets and Dodgers have all denied any interest, seems the Marlins of all teams.  It is reported the Red Sox could get either Josh Willingham or Jeremy Hermida and a prospect in return.  I doubt anything will happen though.  Maybe the Marlins think Manny will actually put some fannies in the seats there.

The Rays have been mentioned in rumors, but I couldn’t see them picking up any of these guys, contrary to what I hear on the local sports radio.  The owners don’t want to spend that much extra money, and they don’t want to give away their prospects.  You aren’t getting any of the players traded for Johnny Gomes, folks.  They have survived a stretch where they have not produced many runs, which is a positive.  The local jock talkers think they have the guns to score lots more runs.  I suspect this latest stretch was a “regression to mean” after some superlative play.  The real Rays are somewhere between those 2 offensive extremes.  Longoria has been killing my fantasy team the last few weeks (as have a few other guys- I even dumped Ellsbury which may come back to haunt me).  But the re-constituted Yankees will surpass the Rays until A-Fraud does his typical October disappearing act.

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Dice-K and Rays’ pitcher Scott Kazmir are very much alike in 2 significant ways.

1. They both have incredible “stuff”.  Most MLB pitchers would sacrifice digits on their catching hand to have that much talent.  Most hitters want nothing to do with either of them.

2. They work against themselves with a lack of aggressiveness.  Both guys went 5 innings last night.  They don’t go deep because they have too many innings with high pitch counts.  They are trying to finese guys, avoiding contact, rather than getting guys out.  Down here in Florida, it is the big wrap on Kazmir.  He should be the team ace, but Shields and Garza are out-pitching him.  They are aggressive, not trying to get a guy to swing at a bad pitch which leads to 3-2 counts and long innings.

Successful pitchers recognize that the goals are:

1. Get guys out.  It doesn’t matter how.  You can pitch to contact if you have a great defense.  Save pitches by getting pop ups and weak grounders.

2. Don’t allow runs.  This happens if you play around and walk guys.  It will catch up with you.  It has been Dice-K achilles heel all season long.  Too many walks leading to runs.

3. Eat up innings.  You can’t do this with high pitch count innings.  Their job should be to get to the 7th or 8th inning 80-90% of the time.  5 inning outings ruin the bullpen.  I saw it coming last night.  And the bullpen fell apart.  The Rays’ bullpen almost gave the game back (with help from some uncharacteristically weak defense).

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