D-Rays 7, Texas 3. Something strange is happening and we can’t quite put our finger on it. Here at RI we have been hesitant to give Joe Maddon a hard time. Sure we have poked fun at his glasses from time to time, but we have held back criticism of his managerial decisions and chalked up the horrible moves to being a rookie, and all rookies suffer growing pains. OK, we haven’t always held back. But we have muffled our criticisms of his obviously poor decisions at times. This is the manager that decided to pitch to Manny Ramirez with 2 outs in the 7th inning of a tied game and first base open and Jason Varitek on deck. Yes, he really did that. In actuality Joe Maddon has done everything wrong short of giving the umpire a wedgie during an argument. Of course Joe would actually have to argue something in order to be close enough to give the umpire a wedgie. In actuality, we at times think it is more likely that after a bad call against the Rays, that Joe Maddon will go give the umpire a hug and then explain in the press conference after the game that the ump’s dog was sick and should be forgiven. Still, others have not been so kind, and quite frankly we are surprised that FireJoeMaddon.com hasn’t popped up someplace. But like we have said before and will say again, it is just Maddon being Maddon.

So we think it is fitting that Joe Maddon finally made a good managerial decision and that decision paid dividends on the same day that Madden ’07 was released. Maddon decided to give Jorge Cantu a couple of days off to clear his head. It has been a trying year for Cantu. After hitting .286-28-117 last season, he was poised for another big year this season. An early foot injury knocked Cantu out of action for more than a month and he hasn’t been the same since then. He only had 1 home run before the injury, but he was batting .291. Since returning from the DL, his average had fallen to .236 and his power numbers are way off last years pace, leading some to speculate that ’06 was a fluke. Well, last night Cantu returned from his Maddon-enduced exile with a vengeance. He went 3-4 with 2 doubles and 2-run home run in the 5th that gave the Rays a 3-0 lead. Starter Casey Fossum quickly surrendered that lead in the top of the 6th, but an RBI double by Cantu in the bottom of the 6th gave the Rays the lead for good. B. J. Upton struggled mightily for most of the game, in which he struck out looking the first three times up to the plate, but he came through when it was needed. After a Rocco Baldelli triple (who is suddenly red hot) Upton hit a bouncing ball through the drawn-in infield for an RBI. That was followed by a 2-run home run by Carl Crawford that just cleared the left field wall.

So we must give credit where credit is due and Joe Maddon deserves credit for giving Cantu a breather for a couple of days. He also deserves credit for sticking with Rudy Lugo in the 9th inning. Lugo worked through the 8th in only 8 pitches. He also deserves credit for sticking with Lugo after he gave up a leadoff single in the 9th. Lugo settled down and struck out the next three batters.

All of the sudden the Rays have won three in a row from a team that was red hot entering the series and had their eyes on a playoff run. Now the Rangers are 7.5 games out and their playoff hopes are D-O-N-E. Rangers fans are having such a tough time coping with a potential sweep at the hands of the Rays, that they are actually making up words. It must be tough to root for a team managed by Buck Showalter.



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