Posted on: July 21, 2011 2:55 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 5:49 pm
The Tigers plan to have two scouts at Tropicana Field on Thursday night, to watch Rays right-hander James Shields.
They'll no doubt want to see him pitch well -- but perhaps not too well.
If Shields beats the Yankees Thursday, the Rays would be just 5 1/2 games behind New York in the American League wild-card standings, with their next 20 games against teams that began Thursday with records no better than .500. If the Rays lose, they'd be 7 1/2 games back, making their chances of catching either the Yankees or Red Sox look slim.
And while the Rays have sent out mixed signals on their trade plans, a 7 1/2-game wild-card deficit would likely leave them much more open to moving Shields or Jeff Niemann.
Besides the Tigers, Shields has interested the Reds, the Cardinals and probably a few other teams.
"You'd have to give them a lot, but you should have to," said one official from an interested team.
The Rays value the 29-year-old Shields for what he has done on the mound (he's 8-8 with a 2.60 ERA and three shutouts this season), but also for his influence in the clubhouse. And Shields isn't terribly expensive, even for the cost-conscious Rays, with club options that run through 2014.
The Rays don't need to move him, and an official of one rival team was told that Tampa Bay's top priority was to "protect its pitching."
"They're not moving Shields," that official said, adding that the Rays may even be looking to add bullpen help and a right-handed bat.
Other teams aren't so sure, with officials contending that while the Rays won't talk about Jeremy Hellickson, they may at least discuss Shields and Niemann. The scouts section at Tropicana Field will likely be full to watch Shields pitch against the Yankees.
They'll want to see him do well. But perhaps not too well.
As for B.J. Upton, people who have spoken to the Rays say it's become much less likely that he will be traded this month. Many scouts still love Upton's skills (he can run, and hit with power), but others are very down on his seeming lack of effort, his sub-par numbers and a salary that will rise next year. The feeling now seems to be that the Rays wouldn't get value by moving him now.
For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 17, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 6:11 am
Since 1996, the Yankees have five World Series titles and no 11-game winning streaks.
The Rangers just won 11 in a row for the second straight year.
Since 2003, four teams have had a 12-game winning streak. Three of those four didn't make the playoffs, and the fourth didn't make the World Series.
Winning streaks make you look like you're the best team in baseball. All too often, the long season proves that you're not.
Winning streaks feel like they ought to be important. History shows that all too often, they're not.
So what does all this mean for the Rangers, who have swept the Orioles, A's and Mariners for their 11 straight wins?
Nothing, except that Texas has once again taken command of the American League West race, and has a chance to open up an even bigger gap with three games against the Angels this week in Anaheim.
With the Mariners' collapse -- they've lost nine straight, scoring just 11 runs total -- and with the A's continuing struggles, the Angels are the lone remaining challenger to Texas. And even the Angels have now fallen four games behind.
The Angels are supposed to be the Rangers' opposites. The Rangers are third in the league in runs, while the Angels are fourth from the bottom. The Angels are second in the league in pitching, while the Rangers are . . . moving up.
In fact, if there's anything to take from the 11 straight games they've won, it's that the Rangers' pitching has been outstanding. The team ERA through the 11-game streak is an impressive 2.09 (although maybe the three weak opponents had something to do with that).
Last year, the Rangers' 11-game winning streak came in June, and it was quickly followed by the Cliff Lee trade that turned Texas into a World Series team for the first time. It's hard to know whether this streak will be followed by any kind of impact trade -- or if the Rangers even need that kind of impact deal this year.
All we really know is this: If the Rangers win Tuesday, they'll be the first team since the 2006 Red Sox to win 12 in a row. If they win Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll be the first team since the 2002 A's to win more than 12 in a row (the A's won 20).
And whether the streak ends at 11, 12 or more, we also know that history tells us it's not as important as it seems.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. There's still no game-changer like Lee on the July trade market, but the market did get a lot more interesting with the news that the Rockies would listen on Ubaldo Jimenez. The asking price is admittedly huge -- according to the reliable Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Rockies wanted Manuel Banuelos, Delin Betances, Ivan Nova and Jesus Montero from the Yankees -- but at least there is an asking price. Most likely, Jimenez will make his next scheduled start, in Braves at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field, but you never know. It's a safer bet that scouts will congregate in Denver, where Derek Lowe is scheduled to start for the Braves a night before Jimenez is scheduled for the Rockies.
2. Rangers manager Ron Washington chose Jered Weaver to start the All-Star Game, but he also agreed to Angels manager Mike Scioscia's request that Weaver pitch only one inning. That enabled Weaver to start Saturday in Oakland (where he won for the 12th time this year), and it also set up Weaver to start against fellow All-Star C.J. Wilson in Rangers at Angels, Thursday afternoon (3:35 ET) at Angel Stadium.
3. I'm still not sure who baseball's best pitcher is -- Verlander? Halladay? Felix? I do know that CC Sabathia is baseball's winningest pitcher (he's 14-4, with wins in each of his last seven starts), and that he's also baseball's hottest pitcher (5-0, 0.45 in his last five starts, with nine walks and 50 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings, with a .449 OPS against). I also know that Sabathia has an All-Star matchup coming up, in Yankees at Rays, Thursday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. And I know that this is the last game of what the Rays saw as a critical 10-game stretch against the Yankees and Red Sox. By Thursday, the Rays figure to have a better idea of whether a run at the playoffs is realistic.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: July 9, 2011 12:15 pm
The day the Yankees first brought Derek Jeter to the big leagues, the New York Times handled the news with three lines attached to the bottom of the game story.
"It is Derek Jeter to the rescue, or so the Yankees hope," Tom Friend wrote that day. "With nearly the entire infield in the infirmary, the Yankees need someone with energetic legs, and their best candidate was Jeter, who was batting .354 at Class AAA Columbus."
Jeter was 20 years old. Baseball America ranked him as the fourth best prospect in baseball (behind Alex Rodriguez, Ruben Rivera and Chipper Jones), but there were no daily internet chats about what day the Yankees would call him up.
There were no daily internet chats about anything in May 1995. But there were no daily water cooler debates about top prospects back then, either.
The world has changed in the course of Jeter's 19-year career, to the point where on the same day that Jeter will be going for 3,000 hits, a significant portion of the baseball world will still be buzzing about the Angels' decision to call up 19-year-old Mike Trout.
Like Jeter, Trout will make his big-league debut against the Mariners, tonight in Anaheim. Like Jeter, whose arrival was speeded by injuries to Tony Fernandez, Dave Silvestri and Pat Kelly, Trout is coming to the big leagues now because someone got hurt (in this case, Peter Bourjos).
Who knows if this is the start of another 3,000-hit career?
What we do know is that Trout was the second biggest name in the minor leagues (there's some debate over whether he or Washington's Bryce Harper is the best prospect, but Harper is definitely better known). And we know that if you want to get 3,000 hits, it helps to get the first one when you're young.
Jeter was 20, as was George Brett. Pete Rose and Paul Molitor were 21. Tony Gwynn and Craig Biggio were 22.
Now Trout arrives at 19, as the youngest player in the major leagues. He was one year old when Jeter signed with the Yankees. He was three when Jeter debuted in the big leagues, and now he's given Jeter a 2,998-hit head start.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. Jeter batted ninth in his debut at the Kingdome, going 0-for-5 against Mariner pitchers Rafael Carmona, Jeff Nelson and Bobby Ayala, in a game Rich Amaral won for the M's with a 12th-inning walkoff home run off Scott Bankhead. Trout will debut in Mariners at Angels, Friday night (10:05 ET) and Angel Stadium, with 22-year-old Blake Beavan starting for Seattle. Beavan is just up from the minor leagues himself; he allowed just three hits in seven innings to beat the Padres last Sunday in his debut.
2. It's hard to know exactly how big this weekend's "National League East showdown" in Philadelphia really is. Yes, the Phillies' NL East lead over the second-place Braves is down to just 2 1/2 games, heading into the weekend. But with the Braves holding a five-game lead in the wild-card race, the Phils are actually up a comfortable 7 1/2 games on a playoff spot. It could be that the Phils and Braves this September will be like the Yankees and Rays last September, where they'll only be playing for playoff seeding. What we do know is that there's a great pitching matchup, in Braves at Phillies, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Citizens Bank Park. Tommy Hanson, who many feel should be on the All-Star team, faces Cliff Lee, who is on the All-Star team.
3. Jeter enters the weekend needing just two hits for 3,000, so the first game to watch is probably Yankees-Rays on Friday night. And if he doesn't get two hits Friday, the second game to watch is Yankees-Rays on Saturday. But let's say he just gets one hit in those two games combined, so that we can focus on Rays at Yankees, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. And even if the Jeter celebration comes Friday or Saturday, Sunday's game is worth watching, with All-Star James Shields facing could-have-been All-Star CC Sabathia.
Posted on: May 15, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: May 15, 2011 11:15 pm
The last time the Yankees and Rays met at Tropicana Field, the games were great.
And basically meaningless.
It was last September, and both teams were headed to the playoffs. One would be the American League East champion, the other would be the wild card. Either route would be acceptable, and you even could have argued that the wild card was preferable (sure enough, the wild-card Yankees won a playoff series while the division champ Rays didn't).
Expanding the playoffs (and punishing the wild card) could take care of the problem, as soon as next year.
But there may not be a problem in the AL this year, if early-season results hold at all. The way things look, there's a real chance that the race for the wild-card spot could be a multi-team free-for-all deep into the season, which would mean no easy fall-back position for the AL East runner-up.
As of Sunday morning, eight of the 11 teams that didn't lead their divisions were within three games of the wild-card lead, with the Tigers in front. Obviously, not all those teams are going to stay in the race through the summer.
But do you want to bet right now that two or three of them don't?
So as the first-place Rays get ready to host the second-place Yankees for the first time this season, here's a suggestion: Win the division, and you don't need to worry about the wild card.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. Josh Johnson has faced the Mets 13 times in his career. He has lost just once, and in five of the 13 starts he allowed either two or three hits. So when Johnson goes against the Mets, as he will in Marlins at Mets, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field, it's worth paying attention. In his first start against the Mets this year, on opening night in Florida, Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
2. The other day, I asked two scouts who had just seen the Rays what they liked about them, other than the starting rotation. The answer: "The starting rotation," both said. And if you want to know why that rotation looks even better than it did last year, look no farther than James Shields, who takes a 4-1 record and 2.08 ERA into Yankees at Rays, Tuesday night (6:40 ET) at Tropicana Field. Scouts say the big difference in Shields is that he is spotting his fastball better, and thus avoiding an over-reliance on his very good changeup.
3. Sunday's rainout in Detroit set up the pitching matchup of the week, with Justin Verlander going against Josh Beckett in Tigers at Red Sox, Thursday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last three starts in Boston. It's an interesting two-game series, with the hot Tigers against the recovering Red Sox, and with Victor Martinez returning to Fenway. As bad as the Red Sox catching has been, you think anyone in New England will suggest that they should have kept Victor?
Posted on: June 13, 2010 7:33 pm
Given that most American League teams play only five National League teams in any given year, there should only be about a 31 percent chance of a "World Series rematch" in any given regular season. And yet, this is the fifth time in six seasons that the two World Series teams have played an interleague series the following year.
I'd like to say there's some great meaning in that. The fact is that it means basically nothing.
But with the Phillies due back at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, for the first time since Game 6 last November, this is one of the few times it has felt like not only are we seeing the two best teams from last year, but we also may be seeing the two best teams the two leagues have to offer this year.
Granted, the Phillies have played so poorly of late that they've managed to fall behind the Braves and the Mets in the NL East. Granted, the Yankees have spent most of the season behind the Rays in the AL East, finally catching them on Sunday.
There's obviously no guarantee that these two teams see each other in October, but it's still easy to think that we could have the first true World Series rematch (in October, that is) since 1977-78.
And if we're not seeing a World Series preview this week in the Bronx, maybe we're seeing one in Atlanta, or in Minnesota.
We'll touch on all three, in this week's 3 to watch:
1. The Yankees (and 12 other teams) were happy to see Roy Halladay depart the American League last December. They won't be nearly as happy if they see him in Game 1 of the World Series this October. There's a long way before then, but a Halladay vs. CC Sabathia matchup will give Phillies at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium even more of an October feel. Halladay is 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA in 37 career games against the Yankees.
2. The Phillies are behind the Braves. The Yankees have spent most of the season behind the Rays. So naturally, while the Phillies play the Yankees this week, the Braves will play the Rays. And if you don't believe Halladay vs. Sabathia is a look-ahead to what we'll see in Game 1 this fall, how about James Shields vs. Tim Hudson, in Rays at Braves, Thursday night (7:10 EDT) at Turner Field ?
3. Don't like Halladay vs. Sabathia or Shields vs. Hudson as a possible Game 1 World Series matchup? OK, then how about Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Francisco Liriano, who will meet up in Rockies at Twins, Thursday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Target Field . The Rockies are four games out of first place in the NL West, which sounds pretty good when you remember that a year ago at this time, they were 10 1/2 games out.
Posted on: October 23, 2008 11:37 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2008 11:42 pm
The win was important, of course. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria called this a "must-win game."
But this was a game a manager could be proud of, starting in the very first inning when they had runners at second and third with nobody out and got both runs home without the benefit of another hit.
"Get 'em over, get 'em in," Maddon was saying the other day.
Two ground balls to the right side later, it was 2-0 Rays. They were on their way, with the help of another night of Phillies offensive futility.
There was no way the Phillies could go 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position for a second straight night. They didn't. They were 1-for-15 in Game 2, but the one hit was a fourth-inning Shane Victorino infield hit that didn't even score a run.
Even with that, and even after trailing 4-0 in the eighth, the Phillies brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning against rookie David Price.
Price, who finished Tampa Bay's Game 7 win over the Red Sox in the ALCS, entered Thursday's game with two out in the seventh. He gave up a pinch-hit home run to Eric Bruntlett in the eighth, and a Carlos Ruiz double to begin the ninth.
The Rays scored their final run in the fourth inning, on a Jason Bartlett squeeze that brought home Cliff Floyd.
James Shields worked the first 5 2/3 innings for the Rays, allowing hits in every inning but the first but never allowing a run. Dan Wheeler, who was Tampa Bay's closer when the postseason began, followed Shields and got the next three outs.<o:p></o:p>
Posted on: October 15, 2008 11:49 am
Edited on: October 15, 2008 12:47 pm
BOSTON -- Joe Maddon and the Rays have been right so much in this postseason that they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Maddon said he likes Kazmir in Game 5 because there's an off day after it (and not after Game 6), and Kazmir's high pitch counts often force the Rays to use their bullpen extensively in his starts. That was certainly true in Game 2, when Kazmir couldn't hold a 4-3 lead and couldn't make it out of the fifth inning.
Maddon also pointed out that Shields has been better at home (9-2, 2.59 in the regular season, vs. 5-6, 4.82 on the road). He didn't have to mention that Kazmir had a problem earlier this year with umpire Derryl Cousins, who will be behind the plate for Game 6 (although Maddon insisted that wasn't the reason for the switch).
All that makes sense, except for one thing: The Rays shouldn't be worrying so much about Game 6. If Shields really is "Big Game James," as the Rays call him, they should want him on the mound for Game 5, pitching the biggest game this franchise has ever played, and trying to end this series as soon as possible.
Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times this morning that if the series was tied 2-2, Shields would be pitching Game 5, because "you just feel at this particular juncture Shields has been more consistent."
In other words, he gives you the best chance to win Game 5.
One more stat to show how historic the Rays' ALCS offensive outburst has been.
According to research through baseball-reference.com's play index, the Rays are the first team EVER to hit three or more home runs in each of three consecutive postseason games. Before this week, no team had ever homered more than seven times in a three-game postseason span (several teams had done that, most recently the 2004 Astros).