FIRST INNING

A look back…
With the loss of Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria, many are saying the Rays will nosedive and fall out of the playoffs. On “Pardon the Interruption”, Rick Reilly said the clock has struck midnight for the Rays…With 42 games remaining, is it even possible for the Rays to fall out of the playoff race?

Just take a look at the standings. Right now, it is nearly impossible for the Rays to fall out of contention. In the East and the Central there are four teams for three spots and the Rays have the best record of the group. The Yankees may have an outside shot at the Wild Card, but they cannot make up 10 games in the loss column on the Rays. Even if the Rays finished 21-21 down the stretch, the Yankees would have to go 30-11 just to tie. The Yankees are roadkill. The key is the distance between the Rays and the Twins, which now stands at 6 games. If the Red Sox do surpass the Rays in the East, can the Twinkies make up a 6-game deficit in 40 games? Not impossible, but not likely either. So the question should be: Will the Rays make the playoffs? It would take a collapse of Metsian proportions for the Devil Dogs to miss October baseball…NO

SECOND INNING

Headlines
In yesterday’s game Troy Percival once again injured himself running off the mound. This time it was fielding a sac bunt…If Percival goes on the DL, who will take his place in the bullpen?

Marc Topkin is reporting that Percival has been placed on the DL and Juan Salas has been recalled from Durham. That is exactly what we were going to say. Honest…JUAN SALAS

THIRD INNING

Headlines
There are a lot of rumors swirling about the Rays being interested in players to replace the production lost with Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria on the DL…Do the Rays need to add a player?

Before the trading deadline, many thought the Rays needed to add more offense. Now, calls for the Rays to sign Barry Bonds or trade for Gary Sheffield or Raul Ibanez have turned into shouts. But we are not so sure it is necessary. The Rays have been carried all season by their pitching and for the most part that group is intact. And with their lead in the East, the Rays have a cushion to play with. Longoria will be back in time for the tough stretch at the beginning of September when they play the Red Sox and Yankees 12 times in 16 days. And should the Devil Dogs make the playoffs, Crawford should be ready to run in October. But the biggest reason we are not worried is the recent reemergence of Carlos Pena. Since the All-Star break Pena has 8 home runs and a 1.009 OPS. And he is hitting home runs at a pace (1 every 10.9 ABs) similar to ’07 (1 every 10.7 ABs). Pena and Co. are not going to remind anybody of the ’27 Yankees, but there is enough offense to support the pitching staff and hold off all challengers for the final six weeks…NO

FOURTH INNING

Headlines
As we approach the signing deadline for this year’s draft picks, the Pirates still haven’t come to terms with Pedro Alvarez…Does this help reassure that the Rays made the correct choice with Tim Beckham?

In the end the Rays picked a player and signed him to a minor league deal with a reasonable signing bonus. By the time all the signings are concluded, there will likely be several players that will receive bonuses larger than Beckham’s and spots on 40-man rosters. Beckham has struggled a bit, but he will also have at least 40 games experience under his belt before many of these guys ever play a game as a pro. We still want to believe the Rays selected the player they wanted, but a small part of us wonders if Scott Boras scared the Rays, even if just a little. Would the Rays have been able to sign Alvarez? Probably, even if it would have cost more money and a player on the 40-man roster. So the only issue is talent and it will be at least 3-4 years before we can evaluate that aspect…A LITTLE

FIFTH INNING

Headlines
David Price struggled in his triple-A debut…With so little time left in the minor league season (~2 weeks), will this cause the Rays to reconsider promoting Price to the majors this season?

One start is not going to be the determining factor in any promotion. Our feeling is the Rays already know Price is ready both physically and mentally to pitch in the majors. The only question at this point is whether or not they want to add more pitches to his young arm. We think they will see how he feels in 2 weeks and see what the team needs. Then they will make a final decision…NO

SIXTH INNING

A look outside the box
With the Yankees essentially eliminated from the possibility of catching the Rays, what other series this weekend should RAYSHEADS watch closely?

We are really beginning to wonder if the Red Sox will ever lose another game. We are starting to feel good about making the playoffs, but there are still 4 teams for 3 chairs. The Twins appear to be the weakest link. Let’s get them out of the picture and then the Rays can start concentrating on winning the division…SEATTLE @ MINNESOTA

SEVENTH INNING

Toss-up
If David Price is promoted to the majors: Starting pitcher or reliever?

Now that Troy Percival is on the DL (again), the bigger need may be in the bullpen, but even if Price goes to the rotation, somebody is going to be added to the ‘pen. Ultimately, we think the bullpen makes more sense because there will be fewer pitches added to Price’s arm and the rotation doesn’t really need any help right now…RELIEF PITCHER

But, if David Price is moved into the rotation, who gets bumped: Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson?

There is no easy answer here. Do you bump a guy with 12 wins? Or the guy that is 4-1 in 5 starts since the all-star break? We still feel Sonny’s control is better suited for the bullpen…ANDY SONNANSTINE

If the Rays make the playoffs and David Price is in the rotation, who is the Rays’ 4th starter: David Price or Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson?

While we think Price could bump Sonny in the regular season, we don’t think Price would bump Jackson in the post-season. Unless Price is lights-out the final four weeks (as a starter), those extra starts may be all the Rays are willing to add to their ace-in-waiting. More likely he will go to the ‘pen in the playoffs and work the 6th or 7th inning. He could also serve as long relief for any starters that get in trouble early, but that would more likely be Sonnanstine’s role…EDWIN JACKSON

More wins in this series: Tampa Bay Rays or Texas Rangers?

The Rangers just rolled over and died in Fenway Park the last 3 days. We don’t see any life and the Rangers pitching staff which has a negative VORP as a group, could be just what the Rays need right now…RAYS

EIGHTH INNING

On deck
We know the Rays can’t look past the Rangers, but they have played terribly of late…Have they already given up on the season?

The Rangers are even more roadkill than the Yankees. This is a beaten team and they can’t get to the end of the season fast enough, having lost 7 of 8. The pitching staff hasn’t been good all season, but they have been worse recently, giving up 62 runs in the last 6 games. On the season, the Rangers are the only major league team with a negative VORP (-54.0). In other words, if they had signed 12 random, available pitchers prior to the season, they would have fielded a better pitching staff then the one they went into battle with. This could be exactly what the struggling Rays offense needs…YES

NINTH INNING

Putting out the fire
Will we see Carl Crawford again in the regular season?

CC had surgery on his finger yesterday and word is all “went well”. There is an outside chance Crawford could play the final week of the regular season, but that will only happen if the Rays are still battling for a playoff spot. With only 4 teams still alive and the Rays owning the best record in the group, there is a very good chance those last 6-7 games will be meaningless to the Rays outside of trying to win the division. Then again, if the Rays do qualify for the playoffs, the Rays may want to get CC a few ABs before the post-season…VERY GOOD CHANCE

Earlier this week Gery Fraley wrote a piece saying Evan Longoria’s recent injury helps his MVP chances…Does Dirtbag have a legit shot at the AL MVP?

Dirtbag is going to win the Rookie of the Year and there is a sense that is the award he is due. We have heard very little chatter pushing Longoria for MVP and let’s face it, the MVP award is a popularity contest. A player not only needs to be on a contender, but there has to be a groundswell of support, or a player will be ignored. Dirtbag will get some votes. But we doubt he even finishes in the top-5…NO

The Rays say they won’t sell playoff tickets in the upper-deck that is now covered with a tarp…If the Rays make the playoffs, should these seats be offered to the public?

We like what one commenter suggested. Make those tickets available day-of and sell them cheap. Even if those seats have obstructed view, many will prefer that just for the chance to be in the Trop for the playoffs…YES

Some are crediting yesterday’s victory as Joe Maddon’s 200th win…Gotta a problem with that?

Apparently they have forgotten Papa Joe abandoned his players for 2 games against the Marlins back in ’06 to attend his girlfriend’s graduation. The Rays won both of those games. Without those 2 wins, that is only 198. Maddon is a very good manager, but those wins should not count towards his total…Yeah, we do

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