Tagged: Carlos Pena

Shields, Upton lead Rays past Twins

After losing 5-4 to the Minnesota Twins in Friday’s game, the Tampa Bay Rays were once again looking to James Shields to have a strong outing. The first threat of the game came from the Rays in the 2nd inning when B.J. Upton hit a single followed by Jose Molina getting hit by a pitch but nothing came out of it. In the 4th, the Twins had their first threat after Joe Mauer singled and stole second (as Rays’ broadcaster Brian Anderson said, Molina was being lazy with that throw). Mauer would have at least made it to 3rd base but Upton robbed Justin Morneau out of a hit with an amazing catch (glad he’s back). In the 5th, Molina doubled then made it to 3rd base after Sean Rodriquez sacrificed to third baseman but for some reason Manager Joe Maddon had Desmond Jennings bunt. I was surprised by this call due to the fact that Molina is a slow runner and Jennings has been having pretty good at-bats lately. The call ended up not working after the bunt landed in Morneau’s glove, thus ending the inning.
The game started getting interesting in the top of the 6th inning when Shields allowed a single, walk, and he hit a pitcher to load the bases. Luckily, Ryan Doumit lined out to Evan Longoria, who by the way made an impressive catch. When the Rays were up, Ben Zobrist struck out but Carlos Pena walked, Longoria singled, and Luke Scott hit a sac-fly. The Twins intentionally walked Matt Joyce to load the bases with Upton coming to the plate. Upton singled to center, scoring Pena and Longoria. In the same play, Denard Span made an error, slowing Joyce to score and Upton to reach 3rd base. The Rays now led 3-0. The next time the Rays were up, Alex Burnett was pitching for the Twins. Zobrist and Jennings both reach base safely after Jamey Carroll commited an error. Pena was then hit by a pitch, allowing Longoria to come to the plate with bases loaded and one out. Longoria reaches the 1st base due to an error by Danny Valencia; the Rays now led 4-0.
Now Shields has not had any trouble since the 6th inning with the Twins, but it was surprising to see him enter the 9th inning after having 111 pitches. After giving up a single and double, Fernando Rodney was called in to get the outs. Though the Twins ended up scoring 1 run, the Rays still won 4-1.
Players of the Game:

  1. James Shields: Shields once again had an outstanding performance. Shields went deep, thus allowing the bullpen to rest (in case they are needed in tomorrow’s game). Shields has worked 8+ innings in 18 of his last 37 starts, which is the most in MLB in that span.
  2. B.J. Upton: Upton is back in his 2nd game with the Rays this season and he showed why the fans have been missing him. He made a great catch in the 4th inning, possibly preventing a threat by the Twins. Upton’s biggest moment came when he singled in the 6th inning, scoring 2 RBIs (though 3 runners scored, the last one was due to an error). Upton had 2 singles, 1 walk, and 2 RBIs today. Before the game, he visited All Children’s Hospital to visit a boy name Dom. Though he did not hit a homerun in the game, Upton “came up with a pretty big hit” possibly winning the game for the Rays. I’m sure Dom is really proud of Upton today.

What I Liked:

  1. Everything: The starting pitcher was great, the relief pitcher was outstanding, the defense was amazing, the hitting was wonderful, and the crowd was large (over 31,000 braved the thunderstorm to support the Rays).

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Catching: Jose Molina allowed a passed ball in the 2nd inning, allowing Josh Willingham to reach 3rd base (luckily no one scored). Also, Molina had an awful throw when he attempted to catch a runner stealing second. As Anderson said, he believed Molina was “being lazy.” I’ve seen catch Molina catch Carl Crawford stealing twice in one game so I know he is defensive. Hoping to see improvement as the year goes on.

Errors prove costly as Rays lose to Jays

The A.L. East isn’t boasting impressive win numbers from any of its five members like the other divisions, but that is because all the A.L. East teams have been playing each other; every single team is a threat. In a division that usually only saw action from the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees for numerous years, it is exciting to see that every team is now a threat. The Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays are also viewing the A.L. East Title this year.
Today the Rays headed up North to do battle with the power-hitting Jays. It was already in the Jays’ favor since lefty Ricky Romero was pitching (and we know how well the Rays hit off of left-handed pitchers).The game didn’t start out well when Carlos Pena singled, but got caught stretching at second; not sure why he wanted to test Jose Bautista’s arm. Bautista quickly demonstrated his power by hitting a towering homerun a few minutes later in the bottom of the 1st inning.
In the 3rd inning, J.P. Arencibia was safe at first on an error by Evan Longoria – no seriously, Longoria made an error. In Longoria’s defense, it was a hard hit ball and Arencibia would have probably been safe on first anyways; but then the game got weird. Yunel Escobar hit into what should have been a double play, but Longoria mishandled the ball so all players were safe. Yes, you read that correctly; Longoria made two back-to-back errors. The next batter, Kelly Johnson, hit into a fielder’s choice, making the first out (and what should have been the final out). To the horror of everyone, Bautista was up at bat and hit a sac fly, scoring Arencibia. Adam Lind, another power hitter, showed why he should also be feared by hitting a 2-run homer. The Jays now led 4-0; 3 runs were unearned.
Now the Rays’ offense wasn’t doing much; there were a few walks and hits, but no threats. In my opinion, Ricky Romero is a good pitcher BUT he was not throwing 100 fast ball strikes. In fact, many Rays were swinging at balls. The Rays finally scored a run in the 6th after Reid Brignac singled, scoring Matt Joyce and then Chris Gimenez singled, scoring Sean Rodriquez. Now the inning turned sour after Desmond Jennings bunted, getting out at first base. Jennings had a good weekend so I was surprised to see him bunt after Romero showed signs of falling apart. It was probably to prevent a double-play, but Jennings is quick enough to prevent double-play balls so not sure why he had to bunt there. Carlos Pena ended the inning by striking out. The Rays should have scored more runs in that inning since who knows when the Rays would have a chance like that to score numerous runs. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Jeff Niemann walked Bautista, causing Joe Maddon to make a call to the bullpen. J.P. Howell pitched, but after throwing a wild pitch and walking the batter, Brandon Gomes was called in to get the job done. Gomes got the Edwin Encarnacion out, but Eric Thames reached first and Bautista scored due to a throwing error by Longoria. Longoria made 3 errors tonight, which led to 4 runs scored by the Jays.
In the 7th inning, Matt Joyce hit a homerun, but that would be it for the Rays. The Jays scored another run in the 7th. In the 8th, Pena reached base by bunting, then Luke Scott walked. So the Rays had 2 on, 1 out with Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce coming to the plate. This would be the last Rays’ threat and it would end with both batters striking out. In the 8th, Brett Lawrie hit a homerun off of Burke Badenhop. Jays now led 7-3.
Player of the Game: The Texas Rangers for beating the Boston Red Sox 18-3. The Red Sox had recently beaten the Rays badly and had gained ground in the A.L. East; now they are the only team the Ray are ahead of. The Rangers had six homeruns in the game; 3 of those were in the 8th inning.

What I Liked:

  1. Matt Joyce: Joyce hit a homerun, scoring run #3 today. He went 2-for-4 today (against a lefty), so its good seeing him making hits. Joyce had an amazing beginning 2011 season and it would be lovely if he could come through again this year with the big hits.
  2. Reid Brignac: Brignac didn’t do much hitting last year and hasn’t been batting too much this year, so it was very important for Brignac to gain self-confidence by having important hits. Today, he scored the first RBI and kept the 5th inning going. He went 1-2 today.
  3. Pitchers: Yes, the pitchers weren’t pitching like Justin Verlander, but there were some things I liked. Jeff Niemann had some good pitching combinations and only made two really bad pitches; the pitches just happened to be to power hitters Bautista and Lind. The problem was the high pitch count; though he had to make extra throws due to Longoria’s errors. Brandon Gomes, who was just called up yesterday, made important throws to kill a Jays’ threat (though an error caused by Longoria led to a run being scored).
  4. Carlos Pena: Carlos Pena went 3-for-4 and is batting .390 so far this season. He got 2 hits by bunting against the shift twice tonight.

What I didn’t like:

  1. Errors: Evan Longoria made 3 errors in tonight’s game, which led to 4 of the Jays runs (officially it was 2 un-earned runs, but I think the other two were scored also due to errors). Longoria is a gold-glove, so it is very surprising to see him commit so many errors tonight. Longoria also went 1-for-4; as one announcer said, he’s “playing angry.” Longoria was trying too hard to hit a homerun, which led to him striking out. I’ll be surprised if Longoria scored another error this year; it is no argument, he’s the best 3rd baseman in the A.L.
  2.  Pitching: Jeff Niemann’s bad pitches ended up resulting in homeruns. Brandon Gomes looked a little shaky; J.P. Howell walked and had a wild pitch. Jake McGee allowed run #6 and Burke Bandenhop allowed run #7. The Rays have allowed 29 runs in 7th inning, the most in MLB.
  3. Lack of runs…again. The Rays only scored 3 runs, which is not much considered that the Blue Jays are known for hitting homeruns. The Rays are not going to win games by scoring three runs; just tonight the Rangers scored 18, the Red Sox scored 3, the Orioles scored 3, and the Yankees scored 8. If the Rays want to beat teams, they need to score more than 3 runs. Also, the Rays have been outscored 18-0 in the 8th inning; in the old days, that was the only inning they would score in. All Rays’ fans know that the Rays don’t start hitting until the 7th inning, but this hasn’t happened this year. Today, the Rays went 2-for-10 with RISP.

I predict that the Rays will win tomorrow; Evan Longoria and David Price will come through.

Matt Moore Fails to Limit Red Sox Damage

The game has just started and already the Red Sox have taken the lead (3-0). Since it is only the 2nd inning, I am nervous to see what is going to happen in the 8th inning. This is Matt Moore’s third career start for the Rays and he is not showing his best stuff out there. Moore had no trouble in the 1st inning but in the 2nd he allowed Kevin Youkilis to single, David Ortiz to double, and Cody Ross to hit a 3-run homer. The Rays attempted to answer back in the 3rd, but luck was not on their side. After Matt Joyce singled, Desmond Jennings hit a ground-rule double because the baseball skipped over the back wall. If the ball had stayed in, Joyce would have scored a run. Instead, Joyce was stuck on third. Power hitters Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena failed to hit a sac-fly, stranding the two players in scoring position (a common pattern in this game).

In the 4th inning, Jeff Keppinger hit a ball (that barely stayed foul) that hoped the wall, making it another ground ruled double. So the Rays have the leadoff man on – can anyone guess what happens next? If you guessed that they left him stranded, you are actually wrong. What actually happened was after the next two Rays batters got out, Sean Rodriquez got a hit; but Keppinger misread the ball and got stuck between third and home, being tagged for the out. The Game got interesting, for the Red Sox, in the 4th inning after Ortiz singled, Ross walked, and Kelly Shoppach doubled. Luckily, even though Longoria dropped the ball, he recovered and threw the ball to Chris Gimenez (catcher called up yesterday), who tagged Ross out at home. The score was now 4-0.

In the top of the 5th, Gimenez singled as did Desmond Jennings. Pena looked as though he hit a homerun, but it went right over the foul pole. He came through, hitting a double and scoring 2 runs. Longoria hit a ground rule double, scoring Pena. The score was now 4-3, in favor of the Red Sox. Moore quickly got rid of the next 3 Red Sox batters, bringing the Rays back to the plate with momentum on their side. Luke Scott, who badmouthed Fenway earlier this week, hit a homerun, tying the game and kicking the Boston pitcher Felix Doubront out of the game. Sean Rodriquez and Matt Joyce reached base, but Gimenez attempted to bunt. It was the ugliest bunting attempt ever; he looked awkward and was trying to bunt balls that were outside the strike zone. I have no idea why he was being told to bunt and I believe it helped kill the Rays’ momentum. Jennings and Pena were the next two outs, stranding the two runners on base. This would come back to haunt the Rays after Moore walked Youkils and allowed Ortiz to double; Red Sox now led 5-4. (Why anyone would throw a fast-ball down the middle to a power hitter is beyond me).

Cody Ross and Kelly Shoppach were intentionally walked. At this moment, a little of me died inside at the thought that Shoppach is actually a threat to the Rays. Moore survived the inning after almost walking a run in, but now the Rays had to hurry and score some runs if they wanted to split the series.  In the 7th Mike Aviles hit a homerun, making the score 6-4. Jose Peralta was then put into the game and managed to get Youkilis and Ortiz out. This is a good sign since Peralta hasn’t looked too hot this year due to not playing winter ball during the offseason. In the 8th, Jose Molina and Gimenez both singled, but Jennings and Pena failed to bring them in. Fernando Rodney pitched the 8th, getting three quick outs on 6 pitches. The Rays lost 6-4.

Player of the Game:

  • Power Hitters: Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Luke Scott all had RBIs today. Its great to see that Pena is continuing his hot start, Longoria is hitting again at Fenway, and that Scott is acting like a DH and hitting homeruns. They were the only players to have RBIs.
  • Bullpen: Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney did their job and got the last five batters out quickly.  After a bullpen that has recently allowed 28 runs in 20 innings, this was an amazing feat.

What I like:

  1. Hitting: Rays were actually hitting today; every player but Ben Zobrist had a hit today. Desmond Jennings, Sean Rodriquez, and Chris Gimenez each had two hits. There was a total of 13 hits today.
  2. Bullpen: Bullpen did not allow 8 runs in the 8th; in fact, there was not even a threat in the 8th thanks to Fernando Rodney.

What I didn’t like:

  1. Matt Moore: This is only Moore’s third career start and he did last to the 7th inning, but he also allowed 6 runs. He kept throwing fast balls right down the middle to the power hitters and seemed to lack variety in his pitches. Moore has ALOT of potential, but so far this year I have not seen the Moore from 2011.
  2. Hitting: Though the Rays actually hit the ball today, they had 13 hits and only 4 runs. They left 10 on base. It is the same old story; the Rays failed GTMI: Get The Man In.
  3. I still can’t believe the Rays lost a series to the Red Sox…

Tampa Bay Rays lose again at “The Dump”

When Rays DH Luke Scott was asked several days ago about Fenway Park, he said it was a dump to play at. In Game 2 against the Red Sox, Scott drove in 4 RBIs, showing that he indeed hates Fenway Park. But sadly, he was one of the few Rays to express his hatred for Fenway Park in this game. The Rays failed once again to beat their biggest rivals in baseball, giving the Red Sox their first two consecutive wins since August 27, 2011.

The Rays took an early lead in the first inning when Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz had trouble finding the strike zone. Desmond Jennings walked and scored when Carlos Pena doubled. Pena continues to be hot, hitting RBIs in nearly every game this year. After Buchholz got Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce to get out, Ben Zobrist walked to bring Luke Scott to the plate.  Scott has been absent after having hamstring troubles, but he quickly showed what the Rays have been  missing in the past few games by hitting a homerun. Rays were winning 4-0 after the 1st inning.

Trouble started in the bottom of the 2nd when Jeremy Hellickson managed to get the first two outs, but walked Ryan Sweeney then gave up a homerun to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The score was now 4-2, in favor of the Rays. In the 3rd, Scott was back at the plate, hitting a double to score Joyce. This would be the last run scored for the Rays, who after getting an early lead, failed for the third time in three games to keep it. Dustin Pedroia hit a solo homerun in the third, making the score 5-3. In the fourth inning, Hellickson fell apart after giving up a single to Ortiz. Though bases were loaded, Hellcikson managed to prevent the Red Sox was scoring, but his pitch count increased drastically. In the fifth inning, Hellickson managed to get the first two batters out, but allowed Kevin Youkilis to single than gave up a homerun to David Ortiz. The game was now tied. Usually, the Rays begin to play baseball toward the end of the game, but for some unknown reason, they went down without a fight. Buchholz found the strike zone and was plowing the Rays down.

In the 7th inning, the Red Sox showed that the Rays’ bullpen is their biggest weakness at the moment. Mike Aviles hit a homerun off of Burke Badenhop. J.P. Howell was called in to limit the damage, but allowed Adrian Gonzales to double to center, walked Youkils, gave up a hit to Ortiz, and then gave up a double to Cody Ross; the Red Sox now lead 8-5. Meanwhile, the Rays seemed to raise the white flag AGAIN. They did not hit, walk, or work the pitch count. They looked awful at the plate. Now the 8th inning was up and it was déjà vu from Game 1 of the series. Dan De La Rosa, who was just called up today, was making his first appearance. Since this was his first game, I will not bad mouth him. But, let’s just say I was not too impressed by him. Darnell McDonal walked, Aviles doubled, Pedroia singled (because De La Rosa forgot to cover first base for Pena), Gonzales hit into a double play, Youkils walked, Ortiz doubled, and Ross homered. The score was now Red Sox 13, Rays 5.

Now for some fun facts

  • The Red Sox have scored 13 runs in the 8th inning in the past two games.
  • This was the first time since July 21-22, 2007 in which the Devil Rays allowed 12 or more runs in consecutive games. (I was not even in college yet)
  • The Red Sox have scored 25 runs in the past two games.
  • The Rays Starting pitchers have allowed 23 runs in 47 innings while the bull pen has allowed 28 runs in 20 innings.
  • Third game in a row in which the Rays starting pitcher failed to make it to the 6th inning.
  • The Rays have scored 15 runs in the past five games (2, 4, 2, 2, 5).  How nice, the Rays have scored 2 runs or less in 37.5% of the games so far. Last year, it was 32%. This is not a good sign!!! The starting pitchers will get better because they usual do, the bull pen will get better because it usually does, but the batting has not changed in the past few years. How many times do I have to say “Get the Man In!?”

What I Liked:

  1. Luke Scott: Scott, who looks like Wolverine, showed up today. Scott decided it was unfair for the Rays to depend on Carlos Pena for all their hits, so he went 2-for-4 today. Scott had 4 RBIs, including a home run. If Scott did not show up today, the Rays would of scored only one run… (Ok, maybe I’m being harsh, but who knows; just glad Scott is back).
  2. Carlos Pena: Pena continues to hit, scoring 1 run today. He is batting .379 at the moment, which is way better than .190 in 2010. Maybe if I wear my Pena jersey tomorrow, he’ll hit another grand slam…
  3. Jacob Ellsbury: Ellsbury, who was injured yesterday, might be out for a few months. Though I don’t like it when players are hurt, Ellsbury purposely slid into Reid Brignac to break up the double play, so its his own fault.
  4. Kelly Shoppach: Shoppach wasn’t in the game today so I didn’t have to watch him play.
  5. Orioles: Yankees lost to the Angels today so the Orioles are now in first place in the A.L. East. Go Orioles!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Bullpen: The bullpen has made another negative appearance in my blog. As mentioned earlier, the bullpen has allowed 28 runs in 20 innings. Though this is due to the fact that the Rays starters have failed to pitch past the 5th inning, it does not help that the Red Sox have scored 13 runs in the 8th innings. The 8th inning is usually bullpen territory, so this is just not acceptable. My advice, James Shields, get ready to start throwing complete games again this year if you want a win. There will be more depth in the bull pen with Kyle Farnsworth returns, but what if he is not the same as last year? Fernando Rodney is the only pitcher that can be depended on, Wade Davis being second. On the plus side, Scott Lueke has been sent down to the minors.
  2. Starting Pitching: For the past three games, the Rays starters (Jeff Niemann, David Price, and Jeremy Hellickson) have started out well, but failed to find the strike zone after the second inning. Now I am super curious as to why this is. Jeff Niemann’s issue could be blamed on James Shields being put between Matt Moore and Niemann in order to duel against Justin Verlander; but this does not explain Price and Hellickson. Hellickson had a large pitch count from his previous outing, so maybe that is the reason. It’s just very disappointing to see how the best rotation in baseball is not living up to the expectations, especially since the Rays can’t hit a baseball. Matt Moore, it is up to you to save the series.
  3. Lack of Hitting: Once again, the Rays did not hit the ball. Yes, they scored 5 runs, but Luke Scott had 4 RBIs and Carlos Pena had 1 RBI. No one else is hitting the ball! Evan Longoria, who usually loves playing at Fenway, has been hitless this series. He usually bats around .270 against Boston, not .000. But, it is stupid to think that the three power hitters will win every single game. Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings have random hits, but where are the other hitters???
  4. Injuries: Jose Lobaton has been sent to the D.L., Chris Gimenez has been called up and will start as catcher on Sunday. Elliot Johnson, who may not be the best hitter but is a decent fielder, was injured trying to make a catch in left field. Not good, since Sam Fuld is going to be out for a while.
  5. Technical Difficulties: Game 162 wasn’t shown after the game due to technical difficulties, thus I am still upset over this series and writing angry blogs.

So what now? Matt Moore needs to last at least 7 innings tomorrow, allowing the bullpen a smaller chance to ruin the game Fernando Rodney to pick up a save. Also, more batters need to participate in hitting and scoring runs.

Tigers tear Rays into Pieces

The Tampa Bay Rays entered Detroit with a 3-0 series over the New York Yankees. The Detroit Tigers were ready to face them, having won a 3-0 series over the Boston Red Sox. The afternoon game was played in chilly 40-50 degrees weather; but the Rays looked frozen throughout the whole game. The only Rays’ action was in the 3rd inning where Brignac singled (his first hit of the year), Jennings singled, Pena was hit by a pitch, and Longoria was walked to score Brignac. The Rays’ lead quickly fell when Rays’ ace pitcher Matt Moore walked Alan Jackson on two outs. The next batter, Brennan Boesch, singled, scoring Jackson. The Tigers had another threat brewing in the fifth inning after Jackson walked (also on two outs), and Boesch singled. Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked and somehow Moore got Prince Fielder to fly out to left field.

The Rays took the lead again in the 7th inning after Molina hit a ground rule double. For some odd reason, a Tiger fan decided to reach and take the baseball that was still in play. This is the third fan interference call in the past three games for the Rays. Jennings managed to score Molina, Rays now led 2-1. The Tigers quickly answered back when Jackson hit a homerun; the game was now 2-2. The game was under control until the 8th inning. Cabrera and Fielder teamed up for one run, chasing Jake McGee out of the game. Burke Badenhop was brought in to do control damage, but the Tigers scored two more runs off of him. The Tigers won 5-2.

The Tigers won 6 out of 7 games against the Rays last year, so it is not surprising that the Tigers still have the Rays’ numbers. Actually, the Tigers look more like a threat than the Red Sox and Yankees since the Tigers have power and pitching. I’m glad we only have to play them six more times this, with four games being played at Tropicana Field. It is up to Shields and Niemann to halt the Tigers’ winning streak. Shields is looking to redeem himself after his poor performance on opening day while Niemann is out to show that he does deserve the fifth starter spot on the team.

Player of the Game: Matt Moore.  Moore is still young and was not pitching like an ace today, but he kept the score low. Moore’s biggest problem was throwing balls; he walked a total of 5 (though 1was intentional) players today. Moore also showed he was able to get the first two batters out, but he had trouble getting the third batter out. (I believe Shields had this problem two years ago). Moore managed to keep his cool in dangerous situations, showing a high level of maturity.

What I like:

  1. Reid Brignac had his first hit of the season and ended up scoring the first run of the game. Ever since Jason Bartlett left, the Rays’ shortstop position has been hitting around .220. If the short stop can start batting around .250, then the Rays will have more opportunities to score runs.
  2.  Carlos Pena: Pena only had one hit, but had several very good at-bats. He hit the balls hard, but sadly the Tigers were in the perfect place to catch the balls. Pena also worked the count, unlike several Rays players who swung at the first pitch and became quick outs.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Rays’ Offense: Only Desmond Jennings had 2 hits today while Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriquez had 0 hits. Most of the innings in the game were 1-2-3 outs, thus the Tiger’s pitchers had low pitch counts and Matt Moore did not have much time to rest between innings.
  2. Bull Pen: The Bull Pen allowed the Tigers to score 3 runs in the last two innings, allowing the Tigers to win 5-3. McGee and Badenhop were the two pitchers who failed to get the job done today.
  3. Jose Molina: Molina let a wild-pitch get by him, which led to the Tigers scoring their first run of the game. This is the second time in four games that a wild-pitch has gotten by Molina. The Rays haven’t had a decent catcher since 2008 when Dioner Navarro had an All-Star year, excellent defense and high batting average. The Rays NEED a catcher; to me, this is their biggest problem every year. Everyone knows we don’t have a catcher. I can’t diss Molian too much since he did score a run and I did like Moore and Molina talking in the dugout, but I want a catcher to play defense.

Jeremy Hellickson celebrates Birthday by beating New York Yankees

Jeremy Hellickson turned 25 today, but his birthday was not on his mind when the final game of the Rays-Yankee Series started at 1:40 today. The American League Rookie of the Year only allowed 3 hits and almost threw a complete game, until Fernando Rodney was called in to get the final out. The Tampa Bay Rays were out in front, beginning in the first inning when Matt Joyce hit a triple, scoring Evan Longoria who had doubled earlier. In the third  inning, Homecoming King Carlos Pena hit homerun number two, making the score 2-0. Then in the fifth inning, Carlos Pena supposedly hit another homerun, but it was ruled Fan Interference after a fan reached out over the rail to catch the ball. The homerun was then changed to a ground rule double. Umpire Joe West did not review instant replay of the hit, though replays show he made the correct choice.

The New York Yankees finally had some action in the fourth inning when Alex Rodriquez walked to first then ran to third when Mark Teixeira doubled. The threat ended after Desmond Jennings made a spectacular catch, robbing Raul Ibanez of an extra base hit.

Yankees had another threat in the sixth inning when Rodriquez doubled then stole third, but Hellickson struck Swisher out to end the threat. In the bottom of the sixth, Jeff Keppinger hit a homerun, making it 3-0. In the ninth inning, Hellickson was able to get the first two outs, but after walking Swisher on pitch #118, Rodney was called in get the final out. The Rays beat the Yankees 3-0, thus sweeping the Yankees in the opening series.

Player of the Game: Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson was on his A-game today. Hellickson walked four, struck out four, and was one out from throwing a complete game. He kept his cool throughout the game, though he did display a smile after Jennings caught Ibanez’s ball in the 4th inning.

What I Liked:

1) Jeremy Hellickson throwing like an Ace: After Shields’ miserable outing in Game 1 and Price showing some shakiness in several innings in Game 2, it was wonderful watching Hellickson throw strikes through all nine innings.

2) Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger hitting homeruns: Glad to see that the Rays are showing power in the line-up.

3) Rays’ Defense: Today the Rays did not make any errors and all of them looked sharp, a great improvement after several players looked sloppy playing defense in the previous two games.

 

What I Didn’t Like:

1) Fan Interference: For the second time in two games, a fan has caught a ball in right field, making the possible homerun a double due to the fans interfering. Fans need to stop reaching over the rail!

2) Luke Scott exiting the game with tight hamstring: It is reported he will miss 3-4 days. It is important he returns since he is the DH and had 3 RBIs in Game 2.

3) Joe West: Joe West is an evil umpire who hates the Rays. Today he decided that he did not need to review the reply of Carlos Pena’s possible homerun. Luckily his call ended up being right, but with his history with the Rays, it is no surprise that he refused to review the replay. I’m glad he won’t be around for the Rays-Tigers game.

Welcome Back Carlos Pena!

Tampa Bay Baseball started at 3:10 today inside Tropicana Field in front of a sellout crowd; the best part was the fact that majority of the fans were actually Tampa Bay Rays’ fans. Little did we all know that the video clip about Game 162 shown before the game started would foreshadow Game 1 of the 2012 baseball season.

In the bottom of the first, CC Sabathia looked rattled, something rarely seen. He walked Desmond Jennings, allowed Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria to single, and after getting Jeff Keppinger to ground out, Sabathia was told to walk Sean Rodriguez. That’s right, he walked Rodriguez to take on power hitter Carlos Pena; this move by Yankees’ Coach Joe Girardi would prove to be a mistake after Pena hits a Grand Slam. Welcome Back, Carlos Pena!!!

The next few innings the Rays gave up the lead due to James Shields’ poor outing and poor defense; Evan Longoria even committed an error. The fact that Joe West, an umpire known for making bad calls against the Rays, was behind home plate didn’t help. The television replays showed that several strikes were called balls, thus favoring the Yankees (because the team with the biggest payroll in baseball needs help to win?). The whole crew seemed to be against the Rays since the umpire covering second called Jennings out when he was indeed safe. But somehow the Rays managed to keep their cool and did not let the Yankees score after the third inning.

The Rays finally had a threat brewing in the bottom of the eighth after having a man at first-and-third with no outs, but the bottom of the line-up failed to get a man in. Due to B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld being injured, Coach Joe Maddon had Stephen Vogt pitch hitting for Elliot Johnson… Matt Joyce went 0-4 in the ninth spot today.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Rays showed the Yankees once more that baseball is played in nine innings. Jennings singled and Zobrist followed him with a triple; the game was now tied 6-6. Longoria and Luke Scott were walked, brining up Rodriquez. The Yankees at this point had five infielders – the game felt as if it was the American League Championship Series. Rodriguez struck out to bring up Pena. Pena singled, Zorbist scored, and the Rays’ celebrated their first win of the season. As the man in front of me said at the end of the game, “That was an amazing game #163.” There are seventeen games left between the Rays and Yankees, seventeen guaranteed exciting games of baseball.

Player of the Game: Carlos Pena. Pena went 3-for-5, hit a grand slam, singled in the opposite direction, and overcame a lefty pitching. He showed why all the Rays’ fans gave him a standing ovation when his name was announced.

What I Liked:

  1. Bull Pen: The Bull Pen did not let one runner score after Sheilds left after pitching five innings. J.P. Howell looked amazing, a great sign after his horrible year last year. Wade Davis was only so-so, but not worries. Burke Badenhop almost had a batter out, but Longoria made an error.  Jake McGee and Joel Peralta survived after walking a few pitchers, but Fernando Rodney looked great out there. There was no threat in the ninth inning and  he kept his composure after Ump West ripped him off; he better get used to it.
  2. Top of the Line-Up was Hitting: Longoria reached base every at-bat, Jennings and Keppinger each had 2 hits, and Zobrist hit the ball when he needed to hit the ball. The top of the line-up showed that they are able to get on base, they just need the bottom of the line-up to get them in.
  3. Carlos Pena not batting .196.
  4. Rays’ Fans chanting “Yankees Suck” in the stadium because it showed that 1) there are more Rays fans in Tampa and that 2) my opinion of the Yankees sucking is shared among fellow Rays’ Fans.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. James Shields’ Outing. Shields is coming off his best year and is once again the Rays’ number one pitcher, so maybe he felt pressured to be the best pitcher.  There were some words exchanged in the Rays’ dugout today between Shields and catcher Jose Molina. (Remember Matt Garza and Dioner Navvaro?) Hopefully Shields and Molina work on their communication and Sheilds goes back to being the best pitcher on the team.
  2. Evan Longoria looking sleepy and making defense mistakes, Pena going for the out at home and not the guaranteed out at first (guy was safe at home), Zobrist and Jennings almost colliding with each other in center field; the small mistakes that need to be addressed quickly since spring training is now over.
  3. GTMI: Two years ago, Rays’ outfielder Carl Crawford said “Get The Motherfucker Man In.” Sadly, the Rays still don’t know how to do that. They had several scoring chances but failed to get a man from third twice today. Every year its the same problem. Grr.
  4. Joe West and his crew. Did Major League Baseball purposely pick the one umpire who hates the Rays with a passion to start the first game of the season against the Yankees? Is MLB worried that their poor Yankees/Red Sox might not make it to the play-offs because of the Rays, so the Rays must be taken cared of as soon as possible? Why is Joe West so mean to the underdogs? The world may never know…