THE GOOD: Ben Zobrist. In the second inning, BenZo made a Jason Bartlett-esque play in the hole, turning and making a one-hop throw to first for the out. Later, with the Rays trailing 1-0 in the 7th and one of the game’s best pitchers on the mound, Eric Hinske drew a walk on a 2-out, 3-2 check swing that very easily could have been ruled a strike out. Zobrist followed with a home run to give the Rays the lead for good, and saved the Rays from having to deal with questions of an extended losing streak…James Shields came out with a chip on his shoulder and proved once again that he is the Rays stopper. His one blemish was a long home run, which he is prone to give up. But you just have to hope they happen with the bases empty and last night that was the case…Grant Balfour came on in the 8th and after falling behind Alex Rios 3-0, he came back and struck him out to end the inning. In the 9th inning, he struck out 2 for the save…Eric Hinske saved a potential run-scoring opportunity when he made a running grab for the second out of the first inning.
THE BAD: The Rays had first and second with no outs in their half of the first when BJ Upton was caught looking on a belt-high fastball for the first out. One out later, Evan Longoria would strike out on a pitch in the dirt…BJ Upton had an awful game at the plate. After going down in the first with his bat on his shoulder, with a pitch he would normally plant in the right-center bleachers, he struck out in the 3rd. This time he swung the bat, but was horribly late on the fastball. Upton is a player with some the quickest wrists in baseball and should never get beat by a fastball. Right now, he has no confidence and is at the plate hoping for breaking balls that he can handle…In the 3rd inning, Carl Crawford broke his 0-26 skid and then promptly got picked off first base.
THE TELLING: We will never know for certain, but Ben Zobrist’s home run may have saved the Rays’ season. Imagine if the Rays lose that game at home to a mediocre opponent, without scoring a run, and extending their losing streak to 8 games into the second-half of the season. That would be tough to come back from for a young team…If you were a betting person and you were going to bet on who would be closing for the Rays in 2010, would you bet against Grant Balfour?…Scott Kazmir is now officially set to make his second-half debut on Monday. Does anybody else find it strange that Kid K needs 5 days rest after throwing 14 pitches in the All-Star game, when he would normally only need 4 days after a regular start throwing 100+ pitches?…Of Ben Zobrist’s 13 hits for the Rays, 7 have been for extra-bases…Attendance was 23,706, which is a decent number against the Jays after a 7-game losing streak.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Troy Percival says he feels “perfect” after throwing a 30-pitch batting practice session. [Tampa Tribune]
- Baseball Analysts defends Dioner Navarro as being a legit all-star. [Baseball Analysts]
- USA Today ran a feature story outlining the Rays’ second-half quest for the playoffs. [USA Today]
- ESPN.com took a closer look at the struggles of Rocco Baldelli. The most interesting note is one we had not seen before. Apparently doctors have finally found a cocktail of medicine that has Rocco feeling better…Could Baldelli be the right handed hitting outfielder the Rays are seeking? [ESPN]
- Skyking162 feels Houston Street would be a perfect fit for the Rays. [Skyking162]