Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:27 pm
Before we get too far away from the greatest regular season night of baseball ever, some quick reactions in the aftermath of Wednesday night. ...
FROM: James J.
Re.: Rays' final chapter in comeback story defies belief
You're not that naive are you? Seriously? Joe Girardi gave Tampa Bay that game! Leaving Luis Ayala in after walks/hit batters ... and following him with SCOTT PROCTOR? C'mon Scott ... you're more with it than this! If Girardi cared about this game, Mariano would've been in.
You could not be more wrong. Girardi's Yankees had clinched the AL East title. He had Game 1 of the playoffs in two days. His responsibility was to rest his key guys and make sure they're ready for the postseason. If Boston doesn't like it, the Red Sox shouldn't have been in the position where they needed the Yankees' help. Period.
FROM: Jim M.
Do you think it was right that the Yankees treated it like a spring training game? Get your two ABs then in go the minor leaguers. The Yankees need to develop some integrity. I am not saying they lost it on purpose, but they never played to win the game. Imagine the richest team in baseball just cheapened the game!
You could not be more wrong, either. Any other takers here?
You asked how did the Rays impossible comeback and miracle happen? I can tell ya how. I prayed on it. From the 7th when they were down 7-0, through the Longoria blast in the 12th, every pitch, every at-bat. I prayed them into the playoffs and into the World Series in 2008 as well.
Now I know who I'm going to turn to in times of crisis.
FROM: Tom H.
You are so right. Last night was one of those nights that I will always remember. All I can is, Wow. For those of us that love baseball, last night will live [forever]. I will always remember the emotional roller coaster of that night. It just doesn't get any better than last night. Thanks for capturing the emotion of the night!
Five days later, I'm still trying to catch my breath.
FROM: Daniel D.
Being a Yankee fan, I just loved way Red Sox folded! Tampa Bay played great down stretch!
At the very least, the Rays seized the opportunity.
FROM: Andrew T.
Re.: Charmed life continues for Tampa with remarkable triple play
Great story! The article emotes the excitement of the now! Thanks! Go Rays!
It's been fun! Let's keep watching! Rays are looking good! Thanks!
FROM: Wally B.
The team is the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa is a city, Tampa Bay is the home of the Rays. Where is Tropicana Field? You need to know these things.
And the Sunshine Skyway goes over ... the San Francisco Bay, correct?
Likes: Kyle Chandler was waaaaay overdue for the Emmy he won for Friday Night Lights. Too bad Connie Britton didn't win for her portrayal of his wife on the best show that's been on television in years. So sad it's over... Razzoo's Cajun restaurant in Fort Worth, Tex. The crawfish etouffee and spicy shrimp and chicken gumbo are outstanding. ... The shrimp gumbo at Pappadeaux. ... Heritage Park in Fort Worth, great place to run.
Dislikes: Smokers who toss their cigarette butts out the car window as if the world is their ashtray. Happened again on a freeway in Texas on Thursday as I was driving from the airport to my hotel. Lady in front of me just flicked it out. Pig.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric:
"Nobody on the road
"Nobody on the beach
"I feel it in the air
"Summer’s out of reach
"Empty lake, empty streets
"The sun goes down alone
"I’m drivin’ by your house
'Though I know you’re not home"
-- Don Henley, The Boys of Summer
Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:10 am
This Dan Johnson character ... c'mon.
He's not real, is he?
He can't be. Because what he did on Thursday night ... again ... was beyond fiction. He stepped to the plate batting .108, with Tampa Bay's season down to its final strike ... and he did it again?
He sliced a low liner of a gloriously colorful Tampa Bay rainbow that rifled into the seats just inside the right-field foul line to push the game into the 10th.
Then Mr. Triple Play, Evan Longoria, took it from there in the 12th, smashing a game-winning homer against Yankees reliever Scott Proctor within 10 minutes of Boston blowing one, final game in Baltimore.
And just like that, Tampa Bay's in.
Just moments after St. Louis staged the greatest comeback ever when Atlanta lost, the Rays topped them.
Tampa Bay's in.
It was unreal, unbelievable and for so long for the Rays, unattainable. They trailed 7-0 by the fifth. They were still trailing 7-0 in the eighth. Then they scored six runs, then came Johnson in the ninth and. ...
Dan Johnson? The guy is like the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus. Daniel Ryan Johnson. In his fourth season, 31 years old. He shows up once or twice a year and ... wham!
When the Rays were staging their miracle World Series run in 2008, he clobbered a huge, late-season home run against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in Fenway Park at a time when the young Rays were trying to believe in themselves. The homer sent the game into extra innings.
He belted a game-winning home run against Boston's Scott Atchison at Tropicana Field last August that helped the Rays' playoff bid.
He crushed two go-ahead home runs against Phil Hughes and the Yankees last September that helped pave the Rays' way to last October even more.
That should have been enough, right? I mean, who does this kind of thing? Who does he think he is, Gates Brown?
On one of the most exhilarating nights of baseball in memory, the playoff field is set.
Detroit at the Yankees and, incredibly, Tampa Bay at Texas.
And Arizona at Milwaukee and, yes, incredibly, St. Louis at Philadelphia.
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: February 22, 2011 7:07 pm
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays always have been dependent on B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria. But after taking massive losses this winter, especially in Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay is going to be need those two more than ever.
Upton is coming off of a highly disappointing year in which he batted a career-low .237 with 164 strikeouts. Only Detroit's Austin Jackson (170) had more in the AL.
The Rays are bullish on him bouncing back strongly this year, partly because his talent is so rich and partly because they know his character.
"B.J. does a lot of things really well," general manager Andrew Friedman says. "The fact that he had such an incredible year in 2007 (.300, 24 homers, 82 RBI, 22 steals), the expectation bar is extremely high.
"At times, we all get caught up in the 'He's not matching or exceeding that.' But when you just step back and watch what he does do, he brings a lot to a team in terms of what he does defensively, what he does on the bases."
As Friedman notes, Upton is one of only two players last year who had 40 or more stolen bases and 60 or more extra-base hits.
"The other one got $142 million from the Red Sox," the GM says.
Longoria, a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, quietly has grown into a leader in just three seasons. That said, he is not looking to force things in that department in this post-Crawford and Pena spring.
"I'm not going to look at myself as the veteran," Longoria said. "I'm going to look at myself as I have every year, come here and work hard and maybe continue to set that precedent or be a leader but not vocally. Mainly based just off of my actions and what I do both on and off the field to prepare myself."
-- Tampa Bay has won two of the past three AL East titles, but this is a completely different challenge this year. Which suits this eclectic bunch just fine. Maddon already has chosen his theme for the season: "Another Way."
"One, you've got to look at our manager," Longoria says. He's a player's manager, a real easy manager to play for. A lot of guys who haven't been here in the past have come in here and feel very comfortable playing for him. In turn, it makes it comfortable for them to play, it's an easy environment.
"In turn, I think that's going to play a big part in how we come together as a team. Everybody understanding that we're all here for a reason and Joe's going to make it easy playing for him. The challenge is there, but the challenge is there every year. We understand that."
Sunblock Day: Starting to sound like a broken record, but simply exquisite. Sun, 80s, no humidity.
Likes: The three signs Maddon has posted on the wall in the clubhouse for the players to soak in. One is from legendary coach John Wooden: "Discipline yourself so no one else has to." Another is from Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve: "Rules cannot take the place of character." And the third is from philosopher Albert Camus: "Integrity has no need of rules." ... Bill Chastain, Rays beat writer for MLB.com, has just had a new paperback novel published, Peachtree Corvette Club. It's available on Amazon. ... Can't wait to see the Hank Steinbrenner-Derek Jeter Visa commercial. Tweeted that the other day and few seemed to get the joke. Remember, Hank's dad one year accused Jeter of staying out too late and next thing you knew, Jeter and George Steinbrenner were doing the conga line through a club in the classic Visa ad?
Dislikes: In a development more rare than an appearance from Halley's Comet, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band are firing up for a tour beginning next month. But they've only announced it a couple of shows at a time. We're up to a month's worth, the first 11 shows. Come on, man. Some of us have schedules to keep and summers to plan! Announce the whole tour already.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter"
-- Taylor Swift, Mine
Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.
As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.
Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.
The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.
Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.
Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.
The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.
"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."
Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.
"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."
Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.
What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.
"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."
Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.
Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried
Posted on: April 19, 2010 6:53 pm
They're taking away Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's hoodie?
I understand the whole uniform thing, that teams are teams and everyone should look the same, and one renegade wearing a hoodie could lead to total anarchy.
I mean, what if Evan Longoria used Maddon's hoodie to take the liberty of wearing a Tampa Bay replica pajama top instead of an authentic jersey? What if B.J. Upton suddenly figures it's OK to wear flip-flops with cleats on them for home games?
You never know into which dark neighborhoods one stinking hoodie could lead.
If I'm baseball, I'm banning those ridiculous-looking Elmer Fudd caps with the ear flaps long before I ban hoodies.
You want to talk about a wardrobe malfunction, those are a blight on the game far more than a hoodie-wearing manager.
Likes: Really looking forward to seeing Ike Davis play, but settle down, Mets fans. Unless he's got a medical degree, he won't solve ALL the Mets' issues. ... Love the 11 a.m. Patriot's Day Red Sox games. Living out west, nothing like baseball on the tube over breakfast at 8 a.m. I can think of dozens of worse ways to start the day. ... If you enjoy music and American history, a terrific read is The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger, by Alec Wilkinson. Seeger, an acquaintance of Woody Guthrie's back in the day, is a fascinating guy. And it's interesting to have it reinforced that some of the same issues we're living through today (is that guy a true American? Which are the real parts of America?) have been going on for decades.
Dislikes: Prayers for Nick Charles, the old sportscaster who was on CNN back in the very early days of CNN, is battling cancer.
"Now they took Pete Seeger before the law
-- Ry Cooder, Three Chords and the Truth
Posted on: October 27, 2008 6:09 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2008 7:32 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Two of his most dependable sluggers buried in an 0-for-29 hole, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has shuffled his Game 5 lineup as the Rays attempt to push this World Series back to Florida.
The lineup changes for Monday night are not drastic, but Maddon did bump Carlos Pena (0-for-13, six strikeouts) from third to fourth and Evan Longoria (0-for-16 with nine strikeouts) from fourth to fifth.
Crawford is one of the few players hitting for the Rays, who are batting .187 overall as a team in this World Series. Crawford is hitting .267 with two homers and two RBI.
"It's bumping Carl up as much as anything, too," Maddon said. "I wanted to get Carl up there, and he's been a successful two-place hitter for us. And I wanted to unfreeze those two guys a little bit. The fact that they've had a little bit of problems in the normal slots for both of them, I thought just by giving them a little different perspective today may help."
Earlier this season, Maddon gave Pena a game off when he was slumping. There's no time for that now, though. It's called adjust on the fly. Maddon thinks both Pena and Longoria are pressing, and while the Phillies are making good pitches on them, his theory is that his guys simply are not waiting for what may be given to them.
"I see them getting themselves out more than anything," Maddon said. "I'm not denigrating the Phillies' game plan. I think it's wonderful. I know exactly what they're trying to do. From our perspective, we're permitting them."
"When you're making outs on strikes, your kind of pitch, that's one thing," Maddon continued. "But when you're making outs on their pitches, primarily ... again, it speaks to organizing your strikes on seeing pitches."
Posted on: October 27, 2008 2:54 am
PHILADELPHIA -- On one end of Tampa Bay's clubhouse late Sunday night, slumping third baseman Evan Longoria worked on mysteries without any clues.
Together, the two are 0-for-29 with 15 strikeouts in this World Series.
And unless they make a sudden turnaround, the Rays are not going to come back and win this thing.
Not like this.
"They've been pitching well," said Longoria, 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts. "You've got to give a lot of credit to them. They haven't left too many pitches over the plate to hit.
"But when you swing at bad ones and strike out, you can't complain."
Pena is 0-for-13 with six strikeouts.
"We were swinging the bats incredibly well in Boston," he said.
Difference here is, it's an even bigger stage and, more to the point, the Phillies appear to have scouted these two exceptionally well.
Philadelphia went into this series determined not to allow its staff to fall into familiar patterns with individual pitches. It's worked especially well on Pena, who looks completely lost. The Phillies pegged him as a "guess hitter", which is as it sounds: It means that he has a tendency to read counts and guess. When it's a fastball count, he looks for a fastball. Other times, maybe he is guessing slider, or change-up.
He's very proficient at it. He collected 31 homers and 102 RBI this season
He's got one RBI in this World Series. It came on a ground ball to second in the first inning of Game 2.
Longoria, who had 27 homers and 85 RBI this season, also has just one RBI in this series. It also came in the first inning of Game 2, on a ground ball to shortstop.
Other than that, the silence has been deafening.
And, to Tampa Bay, deadly.
"From my old hitting coach days, I can just see what's happening," manager Joe Maddon said. "I've been trying to relate to both of them exactly what the Phillies are trying to do to them. But you have to go up there in the batter's box yourself. ...
"I just think both guys are just out of their game a little bit right now, quite frankly, in regards to their strike zone. If I preach anything to them, it is to not expand their strike zone. Because more often than not ... the Phillies are making good pitches, absolutely, and they've done a pretty good job. But if we stick to our game plan, we'll be able to counter-punch them."
Pena said that the Rays "haven't done well focusing on what we need to focus on."
Longoria said that, "I think I'm just in one of those stages where I'm not locked in. I'm getting maybe two pitches per at-bat to hit. When you're locked in, you hit those pitches. Like tonight against (Ryan) Madson, I hit it foul."
Longoria absolutely crushed a Madson pitch in the eighth, but he was so far ahead of it he pulled it to the wrong side of the left-field foul pole, into the upper deck. He wound up striking out on the at-bat.
He also was unlucky in Game 3, walloping a ball to deep left field that would have been a home run had the wind not knocked it down.
The fixes must be quick, but they will not be easy. Tampa Bay's season is on the line, and the Cinderella story could be over in just nine innings on Monday night.
The Rays simply must keep grinding, Longoria said.
"We've been doing it all year," he said. "We've never given up. We've been written off plenty of times. I think the emotions will be high, and we'll be as excited about this game as any we've played all year."