FIRST INNING

A look back…
Several of the Rays top hitters continue to struggle including Carl Crawford, BJ Upton and Carlos Pena…At what point do we stop assuming that they will eventually break out?

Crawford was 3-12 in the Jays series and is hitting .255/.295/.378 in the last month. Upton went 1-10 over the weekend and is .205/.309/.265 over the last 30 days. He was even dropped to the 7-spot in the lineup on Saturday. And while Pena did homer on Sunday, he was 2-11 in the series. It is amazing to think the Rays are where they are with the heart of the order hitting that poorly. That alone should give voters something to think about when considering not only AL rookie of the year, but also MVP honors for Evan Longoria. The Rays will be scary-good if all three pick up the pace in the second half, but more likely we will see one bust out, one will get a little better and one will continue to struggle the rest of the season. Which one is which? Our money is on Upton having a huge second-half as his problems appear mental. Crawford will continue to struggle as his problems appear to be physical and Pena will get a little better…REMAIN PATIENT

SECOND INNING

Headlines
On Saturday, the Jays took exception when Dioner Navarro tried to bunt for a basehit with a 5-0 lead. Halladay then tried to hit Ben Zobrist and later, Navi was plunked by Brandon League. No retaliation was doled out on Sunday…Are the Rays just “being the bigger person” or will they remember the two beanballs later this season?

The ’08 Rays are like Gitmo in “A Few Good Men”. There is a proper way to do things and if that is not followed to the letter, punishment is handed down through the proper chain-of-command and it is handled in a very efficient manner. That being said, MLB is watching closely after a few previous incidents, so the “Code Reds” might be on hold for a while. But when the time is right, order will not come from Colonel Maddon. Rather, it will be the veterans, Troy Percival, Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller, that will make sure the Rays young guns know what to do…THE RAYS WILL REMEMBER

THIRD INNING

Headlines
After four straight starts in which Edwin Jackson worked into at least the 7th inning and allowed no more than 3 runs, Edwin reared his ugly side on Sunday, getting pounded for 6 runs in 4+ innings…Can the Rays be a serious contender with Jackson in the rotation?

He is fine for a 5th starter, especially if the offense ever gets on a roll. But we do not want to see Jackson on the mound with the playoffs on the line in the final week of the season. One crappy start in five, is no reason to panic, but it does remind us just how bad Jackson can be. That being said, there is no reason for the Rays to panic and trade for a pitcher. But there is definitely room for somebody from the system to fill the void should a change become necessary…YES

FOURTH INNING

Headlines
Wade Davis was dominating in his triple-A debut and David Price seems to be too good for the double-A competition…Are either of them a better major league starting pitcher than Edwin Jackson, right now?

Both pitchers are better starting pitchers than Jackson, right now. Outside of the difference in competition, we can look at stuff and command. Stuff is not a problem with any of the three, but command is something that Price and Davis seem to have and Jackson only has sometimes. Still, we can’t be certain how either would handle the pressure of the major leagues or a pennant race. Then again, nothing in Jackson’s past indicates that he will be able to step-up in a pennant race either…YES

FIFTH INNING

Headlines
For really the first time in a long time we heard some encouraging news concerning Rocco Baldelli, in which doctors appear to have finally found a combination of medications that has Rocco feeling better…Do you feel any better about the chance of seeing Rocco in a Rays’ uniform this season?

Mark your calendars. We will see Rocco in a Rays’ uniform when rosters expand on September 1st. The Rays don’t usually use all of the allotted spots on the big league roster in September. The only issue is the Rays will need to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Rocco is currently on the 60-day DL, so he is not counted against the 40-man. But unless Rocco suffers a setback, we will see him again this season. He probably won’t play the field, but he will probably become the starting DH against lefties and receive considerable action as a late-inning pinch-hitter.

SIXTH INNING

A look outside the box
With four playoff spots available in the AL, how many teams are still alive for one of the coveted spots?

The Angels appear to be running away with the West. Right now it looks like 4 teams for the remaining 3 spots. The Rays and White Sox are division leaders. Red Sox and Twinkies are within an arm’s length of each other and the division leads. Outside of those 4, only 2 other teams have a shot. The Yankees are lingering (3 back in WC). Oakland and Texas don’t look like contenders despite only being 5 and 5.5 back respectively in the wild card. The other team is Detroit, a preseason favorite sitting at .500 and 7 back in the wild card (6.5 in the Central). A hot streak could get them right back in the race. That being said, Rays fans should keep a close eye on the series in Yankee stadium for the next few days as the Twinkies take on the Yankees. If the wild card comes from the East as we believe, the Rays would be helped by a series win from the Twins.

SEVENTH INNING

Toss up
Who leads the Rays in saves in 2009…Troy Percival or Grant Balfour?

Our gut tells us that if Percy is serious about pitching in ’09, he will do a better job of conditioning his body this upcoming off-season. It wouldn’t surprise us if most of these injuries are either directly or indirectly related to his weight, which the Rays list at 240, but is probably 10-15 more than that…PERCIVAL

More likely in ’08…Wade Davis with the Rays as a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher?

Davis pitched 158.1 innings in ’07. This year he has 114.2 innings already with about 7 starts remaining in Durham’s season. That will likely take his total to about 165. There is room for a few more innings in September, but the Rays will not want to put too many on his young arm…RELIEF PITCHER

More likely starting pitcher for the Rays this season…David Price or Wade Davis?

As we showed in the last topic, Davis will be nearing his pitch limit for ’08 at the end of Durham’s regular season. On the other hand, Price threw 133.1 college innings last year and only has 65.2 this year thanks to missing the first month of the season with a sore shoulder. If he adds 7-8 more starts in Montgomery and/or Durham, there will still be plenty of bullets left in his arm for the ’08 season…DAVID PRICE

More wins in this series…A’s or Rays?

Normally this would be a no-brainer, but the A’s are starting 3 lefties in the series and the A’s pitching staff has the lowest ERA in the majors. It is not like the Rays’ offense is hitting anybody very well right now, especially lefties. On the other hand, the Rays do throw out their big-2 and the A’s are starting to look like they are ready for the big fade into oblivion…RAYS

EIGHTH INNING

On deck
If the Rays struggle in this series against three lefties, will that increase the chances of Andrew Friedman going out and landing a right-handed hitting outfielder?

This is what we know about Andrew Friedman…When the deal is right, he pulls the trigger. He does not hold off and shop around for better deals. The Rays are more likely to make a deal sooner, rather than later. If the Rays struggle this series and the Rays decide they need to make a deal, it will happen by the end of the week…YES

NINTH INNING

Putting out the fire
Is Gary Glover really injured?

One has to wonder a little. We have been assuming that somebody would have to be DFA’d from the bullpen for a couple of months now and yet every time somebody is ready to return from the DL, somebody else conveniently has to go on the list. This time it was Glover when Troy Percival was healthy. Certainly it is better than losing a pitcher for nothing, but it sure seems like a continuing string of coincidences.

Will Jonny Gomes step-up with this chance to start all three games against Oakland?

Look for Jonny to homer tonight and then strikeout 8 times over the rest of the series.

What was the worst impersonation from “Batting Stance Guy” when he covered the Rays, past and present?

There were several bad ones, but Dioner Navarro’s was by far the worst.

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