FIRST INNING…
The Rays just missed out on the chance for their first road series sweep of the season, in large part because of the emotional implosion of Matt Garza…Can the Rays win with Matt Garza as their third starter?

A team can dominate in the post-season with 2 great pitchers. The Rays have 2 great pitchers in Scott Kazmir and James Shields. But in order for a team to get to the post-season they almost always need at least three very good-to-great pitchers. Garza has the talent to be great, but he is not there yet and the biggest thing holding him back is the ability to be consistent. Consistent with his command and consistent with his emotions. In a way ’08 Garza reminds us of a slightly better version of ’07 Edwin Jackson. We know the greatness is there, but rarely do we get to see it for an entire start. Of course, this means that Garza isn’t going anywhere and he will learn the ropes while in the Rays rotation all year long. At this point, the only way the Rays are going to make a serious playoff push is if Jackson or Sonnanstine step-up…NO

SECOND INNING
Jon Lester is not appealing his 5-game suspension, but he is not happy about it all. Lester said “It really is B.S. that I got suspended and [James] Shields, the guy that hit somebody, only gets one more game than me…I didn’t throw any punches, and didn’t hit anybody on purpose.”…Is Lester justified?

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Notice the key words in there…”didn’t hit anybody on purpose“. That is only because his aim was so shitty. Shields did hit a batter and he did throw punches. Of course the only reason Lester did not throw a punch was because none of the Rays didn’t go bat-shit crazy, ala Coco Crisp, when Lester missed them with intentional beanballs. We will admit that the curveball that hit Carl Crawford did not look intentional, but there were 3 or 4 other pitches that were clearly intentional. Shields got 6 games. He hit one batter. Lester tried to hit 3 or 4 batters and got 5 games. He should feel grateful…NO

THIRD INNING
Troy Percival is set to come off the DL at the end of the week. The three pitchers at the back-end of the bullpen, Gary Glover, Jason Hammel and Grant Balfour are all out of options…Who is going to DFA hell?

First of all, Hammel is safe, although he might have the most value on the trade market if the Rays decide to go that route. However, we saw on Sunday exactly how important Hammel is, when he came on in the 5th inning for Matt Garza, and we will see it again next week when Hammel makes a spot-start in place of the suspended James Shields and Edwin Jackson. So that leaves Glover and Balfour. The fans favorite player on a football team is always the backup QB. And the same appeared to be true when Balfour was called up. After allowing only 1 run in 23.2 minor league innings and posting a 39 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio, many were ready to cut ties with Glover. However, since his promotion, Balfour has walked 4 and allowed 2 runs in 3.2 innings while Glover has pitched 4 scoreless innings without allowing a walk. Keep in mind that Balfour couldn’t make the squad in spring training and openly admitted that he had trouble with the pressure of pitching for a job…BALFOUR

FOURTH INNING
One-third of the way into the seaon is Joe Maddon the odds-on favorite to win AL Manager of the Year?

Along with Maddon we have to assume that both Dave Trembley of the Orioles and Bob Geren of the A’s, would also get consideration if the season ended today. Those two teams were supposed to be two of the worst teams in baseball and right now Oakland is 5 games over .500 and Baltimore is sitting right at .500. Still, no team has gotten more attention for their turnaround this year than the Rays and the feistiness of the Rays in the face of the Red Sox and the Yankees seems to resonate well with the mainstream media. In fact, we wonder if the voting would even be close…YES

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING…FIFTH INNING
Is Scott Kazmir the best pitcher in the AL right now?

The only thing that has kept Kazmir from that crown in the last couple of seasons was his pitch-count and Johan Santana. The pitch-count is starting to come down and Santana is in the NL. So far in ’08 after coming off the DL, Kid K is 6-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 7 starts. He was named AL’s pitcher of the month for May and would be leading the ERA category by more than a run if he had enough innings to qualify. Cliff Lee of the Indians is 9-1 with a 2.45 ERA, but nobody expects that to last much longer. Right now, Kid K has no equal…YES

SIXTH INNING
The Rays drafted Tim Beckham with the top pick last week…does Reid Brignac still have a future with the Rays?

As a high schooler, Beckham is not expected to be ready for the majors until 2011 at the earliest. Assuming Beckham is not a bust, that leaves ’09 and ’10 as question marks for the Rays at shortstop. Jason Bartlett has been one of the biggest reasons for the Rays turnaround this season with his defense that has helped stabilize the pitching staff. He will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this off-season, and is under Rays control through 2011. However, his bat still leaves a lot to be desired. on the other hand Brignac is proving that his bat is going to be a force in the majors, hitting .277/.319/.469 and above-average defense. The impressive number is the slugging with 30 extra-base hits in 58 games. The unimpressive numbers are 50 Ks and only 15 walks. Still only 22, it is possible that the Rays will give Brignac more than one season in AAA. So look for Bartlett to still be at short at the beginning of ’09, and stay there barring a horrendous slump or injury. Brignac might get a shot at short in ’10, but his future with the Rays may ultimately be at another position…MAYBE IN RIGHT FIELD

SEVENTH INNING STETCH (ODDSMAKERS)
Scott Kazmir will be named the starting pitcher for the AL All-Star squad:

He won’t start showing up on AL ERA leader boards until just before the all-star break, but if Kid K has 10 wins (a very real possibility) and is still sporting an ERA below 2.50 (currently 1.40), and unless Cliff Lee suddenly rediscovers his winning ways from the start of the season…50.1%

The City of St. Pete will host an all-star game in the next 10 years:

Bud Selig promised an all-star game with a new stadium and the next available slot for an AL stadium is 2014. And while opponents of initiatives are always louder, we just don’t feel like we are hearing enough support for the new stadium…49.9%

The Rays will win the AL Eastern division:

Despite having the best record in the AL and leading the AL East for the better part of the last month, the Red Sox are still the team to beat and still have the most talent. The Rays should eye the wild card unless of course Josh Beckett decides to go on a Mormon Mission sometime soon…3.14159%

The Rays will win 2 games against the Angels:

For the second straight start, Edwin Jackson gets paired up with the oppositions best starter. Last time it was Josh Beckett. This time it is Joe Saunders. Let’s just say we feel a lot better about games 2 and 3 when the Rays get Scott Kazmir and James Shields on the mound and have to face Jered Weaver and John Lackey. Shields is well-rested and Kaz is hot…66.7%

EIGHTH INNING
Will the Rays offense be able to break out against the Angels?

If they do, it won’t be tonight against Joe Saunders. The Rays struggle against lefties with all the lefties in their regular lineup. And we assume that with Saunders on the mound, Cliff Floyd will get his third straight night on the bench. However, tomorrow night against Jered Weaver, might just be what the offense needs. Look for 7-8 runs and 13-15 hits tomorrow night…YES

NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)
Are the Rays and Red Sox a legit rivalry?

From the Rays point of view, yes. But to many Red Sox fans, the Rays are still less of a threat than the Yankees in the division despite the current standings…NO

The first cap that new pick Tim Beckham put on after being drafted was an old “Devil Rays” cap. Is this an embrassment?

In 2006, Evan Longoria, didn’t even know the Rays had never been to the playoffs…NO

Entering this season, half of Joe Maddon’s six career ejections came against his former team the Angels…Will he be ejected in this series?

Normally this would be an easy “Yes”, but with all the craziness surrounding the Rays recently, they don’t need any more negative publicity…NO

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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if anyone else caught it, Beckham not only put on the OLD D-Rays cap, but he talked about Longoria being the team's SS

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  2. BlueWorkhorse says:

    How is Joe Saunders the Angels "best starter?" His name isn't John Lackey, who was an All-Star and third in the Cy Young voting last season.

    Saunders may be 9-2, but since returning from the DL, Lackey has been pretty much dominant (2-1, 1.70 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 25 K in 5 starts).

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  3. Chalk says:

    Last I saw, Vegas was giving our Devil Rays better than 3 to 1 odds to win the AL East. And yet, Professor Pessimism has us at worse than 30 to 1.
    Am I the only one disturbed by this?

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  4. Robert Rittner says:

    If things continue as they are, I think Ozzie Guillen will be in the mix for manager of the year as well. Of course, he might be fired before then should another slump lead to another attack on his organization, but right now his team is playing terrific baseball and dominating its division.

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  5. Steve says:

    Way to go chalk, it's great to see the optimism. However, I find it hard to believe the "Devil Rays" have those kinda odds when they don't even exist.....douchebag.

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