FIRST INNING

A look back…
On Sunday, Troy Percival blew a save for the third time this season…Can Percival be trusted right now with a 1-run lead?

The Rays are 3-0 in games in which Percival has blown a save. Still, it was the 3rd time since coming off the DL, in which he has allowed a run. In those 7 appearances, only once did he get through his appearance without allowing a baserunner. He has also been touched for 3 home runs, and a couple of near-misses, after only allowing 4 home runs in his first 29 appearances. To us, it just doesn’t look like he has the same swagger he had in the first-half of the season. But we also know we wouldn’t want to be the one to try and tell Percival he should make a couple of non-save appearances to get his timing back. So, Percy will remain the Rays closer, but the 9th inning is no longer a sure-thing, and eventually it is going to bite the Rays in the ass…NO

SECOND INNING

Headlines
After sweeping the Tigers this weekend, the Rays have extended their lead in the AL East to 3 games. More importantly, the distance between the Rays and out-of-the-playoffs is now 5 games over the White Sox (5.5 games over the Yankees)…Can the Rays start printing playoff tickets?

Don’t look now, but the Rays only have 52 games remaining (51 for NYY and 52 for CHW). The Rays are up 5 in the loss column on the White Sox and 6 over the Yankees. It may not seem like much, but with only ~50 games remaining, we are quickly getting to the point where it is going to be very difficult to overcome that deficit. If the Rays only play .500 the rest of the season (26-26), the Yankees would still have to go 31-20 just to tie. That is a .608 winning percentage, and only one team in baseball has posted better than a .608 winning percentage this season. The Angels (.622). And let’s say the Rays go 28-24, a very reasonable mark. The Yankees would then need a 33-18 finish (.647). In other words, the Rays truly hold their destiny in their own hands. It would require a nose-dive over the final 2 months to keep the Rays from the playoffs. We don’t see that happening…NOT YET. MAYBE NEXT WEEK.

THIRD INNING

Headlines
Rocco Baldelli could be activated as early as today. Earlier this year, many, us included, wondered aloud if Rocco’s career was over after he was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder that left him fatigued after even moderate exercise…Now that his return appears imminent, should this be a bigger comeback story than even Josh Hamilton?

We are on record as one website that has openly rooted for Hamilton all along. We truly wanted to see him succeed and make his way back, even after he was no longer a member of the Rays’ organization. Still, the love-fest that is now the Josh Hamilton Story, is a little disturbing. We are still talking about somebody that pissed away his talent, millions of dollars and several years of his life, so he could do every drug under the sun. We should help people like Hamilton and we should root for them to straighten their lives out. But while he may be a hero to people addicted to drugs, he should not be treated as a hero to everybody, especially children. It is a fine-line to be crossed before we are saying it is better to do drugs and do what Hamilton did than to stay clean your entire life. Then we have Rocco who is coming back from something not of his choosing and unlike Hamilton, it appeared his career was over. Unfortunately, it still appears Rocco will never return to being an everyday player. But we will stand and cheer when he steps to the plate for the first time, and to us this is a bigger story…IT SHOULD BE

FOURTH INNING

Headlines
John Jaso continues to tear through the IL’s pitching since his promotion to triple-A Durham…With the emergence of Dioner Navarro and the solid bat of Shawn Riggans on the bench, what is Jaso’s future with the Rays?

Jaso was the Rays’ 12th round pick in ’03. Few have doubted Jaso’s ability to hit. He has hit at least .300 each of the past 4 seasons, and after hitting .271/.408/.405 with double-A Montgomery and making his second consecutive SL All-Star team, Jaso was promoted to Durham. Since he arrived he has cranked it up a notch, hitting .370 (17-46) in 12 games. The question still remains whether or not Jaso can step-up defensively. Reports from Montgomery are that Jaso has improved behind the plate but he still has a ways to go. Also keep in mind that both of the Rays catchers are young. Dioner Navarro will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this off-season, and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the ’11 season. Riggans on the other hand has one more season before he is even arbitration-eligible. Jaso will likely spend ’09 at Durham and the Rays will have to make a decision at the end of that season what move to make. Then again, Jaso could be a gigantic trade piece next year when the trading deadline approaches…DURHAM IN ’09, AND THEN TRADE BAIT

FIFTH INNING

Headlines
Mark Cuban is one of the finalists to purchase the Chicago Cubs from The Tribune Co…If the Cubs are sold to Cuban, how does this affect the Rays?

Even though the Cubs are in the NL, this deal could have a huge impact on the Rays and every other small- to -mid-market team in baseball. The feeling is Cuban will turn the Cubs into the Yankees-West. That is, he could run the payroll up to the $200-250 million mark without hesitation. With another team bidding on free agents, prices will go through the roof. This could effectively eliminate most of the league from ever even considering upper-echelon free agents. And the next tier of free agents will base their values on what that group is making. The trickle-down affect could be catastrophic…IMMENSELY

SIXTH INNING

A look outside the box
What other series in baseball should RAYSHEADS keep on eye on the next few days?

With the Red Sox in Kansas City, we can only hope the Royals win one game and we would be stoked if they could take 2, but we are not getting our hopes up. Rather, the series we will pay close attention to is the Yankees at the Rangers for 4 games. With about 50 games to go, the Yankees are getting dangerously close to becoming an afterthought in the race for first in the East. If the Rays can win 2 or 3 against the Indians, the Rangers could do the Rays a huge favor with 2 or 3 wins against the Yankees…YANKEES @ RANGERS

SEVENTH INNING

Over/Unders
Games for Rocco Baldelli in this series: 0.5

The Rays face 2 lefties in this series, with Cliff Lee on the hill tonight and Jeremy Sowers on Wednesday. If he is not activated today, we do expect him to be activated for Wednesday’s tilt, which will be a huge boost for our Live Blog-A-Baloo ratings…OVER

Wins for the Rays in this 3-game series with the Indians: 2.5

Cliff Lee versus Matt Garza will obviously be tough and we still are not to the point where we can trust Edwin Jackson or even Scott Kazmir. Will he pitch 5 innings, or 7? Too many question marks in this series. Not to mention, in at least the first two game, the pitchers will not have the benefit of Jason Bartlett behind them…UNDER

EIGHTH INNING

On deck
The last time the Rays played the Indians, it was the last series prior to the All-Star break and the Rays were swept in a 4-game series in Cleveland that concluded a 7-game skid…Do the Indians just have the Rays’ number, or will we see a different Rays ballclub this time around?

As we mentioned above, the pitching match-ups make us nervous in this series. We think the offense will be fine as we have seen signs of life. And after getting swept in Cleveland, we think the Rays will be fired up. Winning or losing in this series won’t have anything to do with Cleveland “having the Rays’ number”, but will have everything to do with how the Rays pitch…DIFFERENT

NINTH INNING

Putting out the fire
With the sweep of the Tigers, Detroit has now fallen 7 games back in the division and 8.5 games in the wild card race…Did the Rays just eliminate a potential foe for a playoff spot?

We showed you already how difficult it will be for a team to come back from just 5 games. 8.5 games at this point in the season is like being 6-feet under with the first scoop of dirt already in place…YES

Victor Zambrano has signed with the Yankees and is working out in Tampa…Should RAYSHEADS be worried about Zambrano being too close to the Rays when the going is good?

Are you kidding? RAYSHEADS should be ecstatic. This guy, along with Jim Duquette, Al Leiter and John Franco are the 4 people most responsible for starting the turn around of the franchise. And since he was signed by the Yankees and started working out in Tampa, the Rays are undefeated…THE RAYS SHOULD RETIRE HIS NUMBER

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13 Comments

  1. WiNKy Oconklin says:

    Playing a Little Pepper = fuck. ing. awesome.

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  2. Charles says:

    You know, I'm actually most encouraged about tonight's pitching matchup, because Garza seems to be at his best when facing the other team's ace for some reason, as Roy Halladay could testify to the congregation.

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  3. Infamous Promotions says:

    Help Save Baseball. Stop the Pitch Count.

    Please sign our petition and share this website with every baseball fan you know

    http://stopthepitchcount.com/

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  4. The Professor says:

    not to mention Garza has been ridunculous at home this year. I am just worried about Lee being lefty and having a career-year. No Bartlett. No Crawford. The only players on the bench will be Riggans and Gross. Lots going against the Rays tonight.

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  5. The Professor says:

    as for the "pitch count" link above. I will just say, that i love baseball tradition, and I love complete games as much as anybody, but for every Fergie Jenkins and Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, there are 100 pitchers whose careers were ruined by overuse. Who knows what all-time greats would have gone on to win 300 games if they had a better pitch-count back in the day.

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  6. Robert Rittner says:

    I think Gross is starting in RF tonight. Floyd will be available to pinch hit. My guess is that Crawford will be able to pinch hit as well.

    Given Gross's problems against lefties, it is not an optimum lineup.

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  7. Robert Rittner says:

    I think there is an emerging consensus that pitch counts are now becoming too rigid. It was always noted that the count itself was misleading if not considered in combination with the extent of stress under which the pitches occurred and observations about pitching mechanics as the game proceeds.

    But as often happens, the simplest interpretation became orthodox, so it was too easy for managers simply to count pitches. It is interesting that Maddon has demonstrated more flexibility here. On a few occasions he let pitchers go further than expected because he thought they had not had much stress during the game and so the elevated pitch count seemed less important.

    On the other hand, there remains a very legitimate concern with work load for pitchers and the need to monitor very carefully, especially for younger ones. Pining for complete games or any other traditional approach is pointless. You might as well call for a return of non-specialized players (as most were in the 19th century) or the elimination of professional relievers. The game evolves; that does not mean it gets worse or makes players less manly. (Gossage is a real pain in the ass on this issue.)

    During the 1970s, players from the previous era mocked pitchers for not having the stamina or fortitude to complete games the way they had, and of course the Mathewsons and Walter Johnsons of the world could have said the same about the next generation. All such nostalgia is pretty silly.

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  8. TP says:

    I get Duquette and Zambrano helping, but could you explain Franco and Leiter's role in the Rays' turnaround?

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  9. Scot Gould says:

    General comments and thoughts....

    When is the next live blog? I miss those moments and once September hits, I probably will not be able to participate.

    After Rays first win against the Tigers, Tigers announcer Rod Allen said it best, "The Rays are for real."

    He does not have the name recognition of Crawford, but I'm a fan of Greg Gross. He works the count and he is a TOP fielding right fielder. Baseball Prospectus has him contributing to the offense on the level of Crawford, Aki and Gomes. (See: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/eqa2008.php)

    Maddon should win manager of the year. He uses his top reliever when its most important which might be in the 7th inning with 2 runners on. Balfour would be wasted as the closer.

    I'm also a fan of Robert Rittner. I enjoy reading his contributions to this blog and I wish I were half as articulate.

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  10. Scot Gould says:

    More comments - Pena's walk off walk was pretty impressive in my book. Smart baseball.

    I love to watch Gomes play - especially in RF (every ball hit is an adventure), but he really doesn't help out much more than Justin Ruggiano. Expect this to be his last year.

    Stick a fork in Reyes.

    Does anyone else watch the Rays on MLB.TV?

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  11. The Professor says:

    it has long been rumored among mets media and fans that Kazmir had somehow disrespected the veteran pitchers in spring training. I think it had something to do with playing music too loud followed by some f-you's. Supposedly they went too mgmt and demanded that he be traded saying they would never play with him. Rumors were that back then mgmt did whatever the veterans demanded

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  12. Steve says:

    You're a big fan of "Greg Gross?" Who does he play for?

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  13. Scot Gould says:

    Greg Gross - why he played for years for the Astros, Cubs and Phillies.... of course I meant Gabe. Guess I'm showing my age. (grin) Good call.

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