Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:05 pm
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It took the Rays 125 days this season to pull back into a share of the American League wild-card slot.
So no way was the streaking, gutsy crew from Tampa Bay going to surrender it 24 hours later.
It was close, it was a battle, but when they write the story of the 2011 Rays, two huge monumental moments from Tuesday night's 5-3 nailbiter over the Yankees in The Trop will be at the top.
The first came with nobody out in the seventh when Matt Joyce bashed the game-winning homer, savagely attacking a pitch from former Rays closer Rafael Soriano and driving it into the right-field seats for a three-run blast.
The other moment was an honest-to-goodness triple play, which came in the sixth, during a tense time when the Yankees were threatening to blow this game open.
Leading 3-2 with runners on second and third and, of course, nobody out, the Rays elected to intentionally walk Jorge Posada to load the bases.
And then came a moment screaming that Tampa Bay is living right: Russell Martin scorched a ground ball to third, about one step from the bag. Evan Longoria was all over it, took the one small step for the Rays and one giant step for the AL wild-card race.
His foot on the bag, he wheeled and whipped the ball to Ben Zobrist at second, who turned and fired a strike to Sean Rodriguez, who was playing first after Casey Kotchman was scratched from the lineup pre-game and taken to the hospital with discomfort in his chest.
There was no question. Martin easily was out at first.
You could hear Boston groaning all the way from Baltimore. Given a reprieve from imminent disaster, the Rays turned it over to Joyce in the seventh, and Tampa Bay had done the impropable: The Rays have pushed their season to Game 162, still very much in position to push the Red Sox over the cliff and dance into October themselves.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:43 pm
-- The Yankees are doing exactly what they need to do in the first few weeks of the season, and that's take advantage of home cooking. They opened with 11 of 14 games at home, and through May 1, they play 18 of their first 25 games at home. So far, they're 10-5 at home, and they've got a chance to continue to pad their home record while they play 46 of their first 79 games at Yankee Stadium. The flip side, and the reason it is important for Joe Girardi's club to build up as much collateral at home as possible: From Aug 1 through season's end, the Yankees are home just 20 times (nine home games in August and 11 in September).
-- Zo-Rilla is back: Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist has crushed four homers in his past five games, including one each in Thursday's day-night doubleheader in Minnesota. He had a monster doubleheader, collecting 10 RBI, giving him 18 over his last five games and 25 for the season. Impressive, yes, but his best moment might have come right after the game when he quipped to reporters, "This must be what it's like to feel like Sam Fuld."
-- Tampa Bay is 13-3 since April 10 which, yes, is the best record in the majors since that date.
-- Kansas City was the last team in the majors to lose a series this season, and now look at the Royals: six losses in a row. The Yankees were the last team in the majors to lose consecutive games, to the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.
-- Seattle's historically bad offense last summer looks positively Ruthian compared to what the Padres are doing (or, rather, NOT doing) so far this season. San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez-less lineup has been shut out seven times in the month of April. That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a major-league record. When the Padres score just ONE run, they're 9-9.
-- Yes, it's a different deal this year for the Padres from their 90-win team of a year ago. Ryan Ludwick (.202, four homers, 11 RBI), Brad Hawpe (.143, 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats), Orlando Hudson (.238, .300 on-base percentage) and Jason Bartlett (.231) have gotten off to miserably slow starts, and there are growing questions regarding whether cavernous Petco Park is defeating hitters mentally. That was one key to last year's group -- which included David Eckstein, the Hairston brothers, Jerry Jr. and Scott, and Tony Gwynn Jr. -- the bottom line was winning, and there was no griping about Petco. "You've got to be mentally tough to get through some things," Padres manager Bud Black says. "That's part of being a total player, part of being a total, major league professional player. It works the same way if you're a pitcher in a small park. It works the same way for pitchers in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Houston."
-- The Dodgers' Andre Ethier takes a 24-game hitting streak into this weekend's series with San Diego, but it could be in jeopardy Friday night. Ethier lifetime is hitting .077 (1 for 13) against Padres starter Clayton Richard.
Likes: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying the other day he has his closer -- outfielder Brent Lillibridge -- following Lillibridge's great, diving catches in Yankee Stadium. ... Andre Ethier's hitting streak at 24 games. ... The way Brandon Phillips always refers to the "Redlegs", not the "Reds", in his tweets (@DatDudeBP). ... Great casting on Hawii Five-O. Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan (son of James) are really good together. ... First listen reaction to Steve Earle's new disc I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive: Outstanding. The disc might even be better than the title.
Dislikes: If you see me at Fast Five, please come up and say hello. Maybe that would then distract me from my next move: Jumping off of a bridge. Man, summer movie season stinks.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now listen youngster, be on your way
-- Little Esther, Aged and Mellow Blues
Tags: Andre Ethier, Ben Zobrist, Brad Hawpe, Brandon Phillips, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Jason Bartlett, Joe Girardi, Kansas City Royals, Little Esther, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Orlando Hudson, Ozzie Guillen, Ryan Ludwick, Sam Fuld, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Steve Earle, Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: October 22, 2008 5:34 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2008 7:28 pm
ST. PETERSBURG -- Game 1 lineups are in as the beginning of the World Series approaches, and there are two noteworthy decisions from Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel and Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon.
The first: Manuel has decided to use Chris Coste as his designated hitter. A backup catcher to Carlos Ruiz, Coste hit .263 with nine homers and 36 RBI in 98 games for the Phillies this season. He will bat eighth.
The interesting thing with this decision is that the Phillies only list two catchers on the roster. So if Ruiz is hurt and Coste fills in, the Phillies will have to play without a designated hitter.
"When I managed the Indians, I didn't do it very much, but since I've been over in the National League, I've done it quite a bit," Manuel said of using both of his catchers at once. "I've taken my catcher out quite a bit this year, and especially when Coste is catching, I'll put Ruiz in, sometime in the eighth inning or ninth inning, especially to catch (closer Brad) Lidge. ...
"As far as Coste DHing, I did think a lot about it, but I wanted to make sure that I could cover everything."
Also, Maddon will start Ben Zobrist in right field in place of Rocco Baldelli or Gabe Gross. Zobrist, the Rays' superutilityman who has only four postseason at- bats and hit only .253 with 12 homers and 30 RBI this season, will bat eighth.
Maddon told me at Tuesday's workout that matchups were favorable enough for Baldelli that he was considering playing the outfielder both in Games 1 and 2. But ultimately, given Baldelli's battle with mitochondrial disease (it leaves him fatigues and saps his muscles of energy), Maddon decided it was too risky to play him in both games.
"It's a matter of getting him physically ready to play today or tomorrow, and we chose tomorrow," Maddon said while the Rays took batting practice before their first-ever World Series game.
Part of that is because Cole Hamels, Philadelphia's Game 1 starter, is unusual in that he is a left-hander who is more effective against right-handers (like Baldelli) than lefties. For the season, right-handers hit only .215 against Hamels, while lefties hit .262.
As such, Maddon is playing three lefties -- second baseman Akinori Iwamura, first baseman Carlos Pena and outfielder Carl Crawford -- while leaving one semi-regular on the bench (outfielder Gabe Gross) in favor of Zobrist. Also, switch-hitter Willy Aybar will be the designated hitter, leaving lefty Cliff Floyd on the bench.
"We look at the way Hamels pitches and the way different guys in the lineup hit and the way pitchers are able to handle them," Maddon said. "Zoey has been getting work in the outfield. He's done great for us the last week of the season. We like Willy in there and we like Ben in there."
Said Baldelli: "I think I'm going tomorrow. When I showed up today, I wasn't in the lineup. That's all I know."