THE GOOD: Scott Kazmir pitched 9 innings! Wait. What? Oh. That was the last 2 games combined. Nevermind…Playing like a champion. Yesterday was just one of those days that we expected the team to just roll over and die. A noon affair against a team the Rays have struggled against, with a lefty on the mound. No BJ Upton, who was benched for not running out a ground ball. No Carl Crawford. Jason Bartlett was limited to DH-dutym, which is the exact-opposite of his strength. And the Rays had plenty of opportunities, falling behind several times including 7-4 in the 9th. It would have been very easy to just hack away in the 9th and start packing for the west coast…Dwayne Staats. When Hinske doubled down the right field line to score the first run of the 9th inning, many play-by-play guys might have perked up a tad as if there was a small sign of life. Staats on the other hand matched the intensity of both the team and the crowd with an exuberant call. He got us back into a game that we had already given up on…Gabe Gross’ 2-strike, 2-run home run that tied the game in the 9th. We have seen some mammoth shots at The Trop, but we have never seen a line-drive home run travel farther than Gross’ home run, nearly hitting the back wall…And of course Carlos Pena, who now has 9 home runs in the last 30 games, after hitting only 5 in May and June combined.
THE BAD: Scott Kazmir (again)…Our managing skills. We wondered aloud if Troy Percival should be given a few non-save outings to get his legs back under him. After being called upon to pitch in the 9th inning yesterday with a 2-run deficit, and giving up run #7, we suddenly remembered how much we hate putting closers into non-save situations. We see it all the time, a closer has a certain intensity when trying to save a game, that they lose in other situations. It is as if they let up a bit…Rocco Baldelli will shave his beard once he is activated. We were growing attached to the Lumberjack look.
THE TELLING:Eric Hinske started in left, with Willy Aybar back at SS and Jason Bartlett at DH…Remember the Xavier Nady trade the Yankees pulled off with the Pirates in which most “experts” felt the Yankees robbed the Buccos? Not so fast. With Joba Chamberlain’s season in jeopardy as he goes to visit the Rays’ own Dr. James Andrews, Jeff Karstens who the Pirates acquired for Nady nearly threw a perfect game last night against the D-Backs and is unscored upon in 2 starts for the Pirates.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Outs Per Swing shows that Scott Kazmir has become more reliant on his fastball this season, moving away from his deadliest pitch, the slider. They show that his flyball rate has ballooned this season…We have heard it before from people more intelligent than us, but one of Kazmir’s biggest problems is that his fastball is usually up in the strikezone. As a lefty throwing in the mid-90s, it is still tough to hit. BUT, when the fastball is up in the zone, it is easier for a batter to make contact, which leads to more flyballs and many, many foul balls. And it is the foul balls that kill Kid K. Lots of pitchers throw balls and still get into the 6th and 7th innings. But throw balls and foul balls, and you have situations where a pitcher can’t get past the 5th inning on a regular basis. [Outs Per Swing]
- The New York Times has a feature piece on Rocco Baldelli. [NYTimes]
- Paul White of USA Today feels this 10-game roadtrip may “show if Rays are serious contenders.”…This is getting tiresome. The Rays have a 4-game lead in the loss-column over the Red Sox for the division lead and the Rays have a 6-game cushion in the loss column over the next team in the Wild Card (Twins). That means, if the Twins go 7-3 over the next 10 games, the Rays will only need 1 win to still be in the Wild Card lead. The Rays WILL still be contenders no matter what happens over the next 10 games. [USA Today]
- Baseball Prospectus calculates that the Rays are playing above themselves. [Bugs and Cranks]
- Fans in the Tampa area care more about the Rays than the Brett Favre-to-Bucs hooplah? [My Fox Tampa Bay]