Devil Rays 11, Padres 4.
Shhhh. *in a hushed tone* The Rays have now won 7 of 9. We are afraid to say it too loud. If other people find out, they may think it is some sort of mistake and take some of the wins back. Last night it was the Scott Kazmir from the first half of 2006…at least for the first 5 innings. He was sharp. His slider was great. He was striking batters out and not walking anybody. Most importantly, he was managing his pitches. After 5 innings, he only had 77 pitches, which is not great, but is good for Kid K. Then came the 6th inning. 40 pitches (!) and 2 runs later, Kazmir had 117 pitches and couldn’t come out for the 7th. baby steps.
And of course Carlos Pena. El Gato. For those that want to knock Joe Maddon and his staff, you have to give them credit for resurrecting Pena’s career. Once considered one of the top prospects in baseball in the Rangers organization, he bounced around to 5 different organizations in 6 seasons. Coming into this season he had a .243 career batting average and a .790 OPS. He was reduced to accepting a minor league contract from The Tampa Bay Devil Rays with only the promise that he would have a chance to compete for a roster spot. Then Joe Maddon and George Hendrick convinced Pena to use the whole field. They reminded him that he has enough power to hit home runs to the opposite field and straight away. Now? Pena is hitting .311 with a 1.055 OPS. He is 5th in the AL in home runs despite having 50% fewer at bats than anybody else in the top 10. His .656 SLG would be good for 3rd in the AL if he had enough at bats to qualify.
A look at the standings and the Rays are now tied with Toronto for 3rd place in the AL East, a game ahead of the Orioles. The Rays are actually a game up on the Jays in the loss column and only 2 games behind the Yankees. Is it a mistake? Others will think so. It is now the middle on June and the Rays should be in their customary last place position…right?
Rather, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now only 4 games below .500. Only 4 games below The Charlie Hough Line. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are 4 games below Charlie with 31 starts by the Axis of Evil (Seo/Fossum/Jackson). 4 games below .500 with one reliable relief pitcher who can’t pitch every day.
But like they say in baseball…Momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher. So our excitement is tempered by the knowledge that Edwin Jackson is on the mound tonight and the Rays must face Jake Peavy who is 7-1 with a 1.97 ERA. In Jackson’s defense, the Rays have actually won 2 of his last 3 starts, despite his 0-7 record. And should the Rays lose tonight? Tomorrow it is JP Howell, and we’ll take that over Jae Seo.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- The Rays made it official yesterday and signed Jay Witasick to fill the vacancy in the bullpen.
- Joe Maddon stated that Jay Witasick will be the 7th inning set-up man. Of course, knowing Papa Joe, that might last as long as a Delmon Young at bat.
- The Rays designated Ruddy Lugo for assignment to make room for Jay Witasick. They will need to remove another player from the 40-man roster in two weeks when Juan Salas returns from his suspension and a second player will have to be designated if David Price signs a major league contract, which is the standard for top picks. It would not surprise us if a trade is made in the next two weeks to free up at least one of those roster spots.
- According to Heath Bell, the Rays tried to acquire him from the Padres after the Padres acquired him from the Mets. The Rays were interested in making Bell the closer and from the sound of it, Bell would have liked the move.
“I eventually would like to be a closer,” said Bell, who lives some two hours from Tampa Bay, in Port St. Lucie. “The Devil Rays didn’t have a closer. I would have been pretty fine with that. I was a closer in the minors. It was just so much fun doing it.”
- This must be a mistake…Every week SI.com releases their “MLB Power Rankings”. The Rankings actually cover three pages with 10 teams on each page. We always go straight to page three to find out exactly where the Devil Rays are ranked that week. Well, this week, the Rays were no where to be found on the third page. They have jumped up from #24 all the way to #19. PAGE 2 BABY!