FIRST INNING
A look back…
On Sunday the Rays came out and played a very sluggish game losing to the Twins one day after clinching the franchise’s first-ever playoff spot…In hindsight, do you have a problem with the celebration?

This is a tough one. We have no problem with the players celebrating. But: 1) With only 9 games left (prior to Sunday), each game is very important considering the advantage of winning the division; 2) They really haven’t won anything yet; 3) The division title celebration will now be somewhat muted. On the other hand, it is nice that the team got to celebrate at the Trop. But geez, can’t the guys get their asses back home at a decent hour? The game ended before 8:00. With an early game on Sunday, it was imperative to get home. The players have all off-season to hit the bars. And the result was 5 hits, 1 run and 2 errors…WE HOPE RAYS DON’T LOSE DIVISION BY ONE GAME

SECOND INNING
Headlines
The Rays will only go with 11 pitchers in the post-season. If David Price is to be included, two pitchers that were regular contributors this season will be left off the roster…Which pitchers will be in street clothes for the ALDS? [Ed. note: Here is our playoff roster projection. For another take, he is the projection from Outs Per Swing]

The obvious answer is Jason Hammel. But after The Grim Reaper, it gets a bit murkier. Joe Maddon will only need 4 starters for the first round. It seems the most likely answer is to leave off either Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson. But would that pitcher get bumped to the bullpen? If so, who is left off? The Rays could decide Troy Percival is not healthy, in which case one of the starters would get his spot. But if he is ready to go, we don’t see another reliever being off the playoff roster. So we are back to Sonnanstine or Jackson. One is the 4th starter. The other is in street clothes. We give the edge to Jackson, but would have no problem with Sonnanstine…JASON HAMMEL AND ANDY SONNANSTINE

THIRD INNING
Headlines
BJ Upton is back and apparently healthy enough to play center field everyday…With Carl Crawford limited to pinch-running and late-inning substitution roles, who will be the starting corner outfielders in the first round?

Against right-handers, Gabe Gross will be in right field. But will Eric Hinske be in left? Hinske has struggled in the second half and Fernando Perez has played exceptional defense while showing the skills necessary to be a difference-maker at the plate. Right now we give the edge to Perez, but he may be limited to starts against lefties. Joining Perez against lefties in right field will either Rocco Baldelli or Willy Aybar, with the other at DH. It is possible the right fielder could be Jonny Gomes, but we just don’t see a roster spot available…FERNANDO PEREZ IN LEFT AND GABE GROSS (v RHP) OR ROCCO BALDELLI/WILLY AYBAR (v LHP) IN RIGHT

FOURTH INNING
Headlines
With the first round set to start either Wednesday or Thursday…who will be the game 1 starter?

As it stands now, James Shields is scheduled to go in the season finale on Sunday. If the Rays have clinched the division prior to Sunday’s game, then Jeff Niemann or Mitch Talbot could take that start, leaving Shields to start the playoff opener. But if that happens, Shields will have gone as much as 8 days between starts. He would then be followed by Scott Kazmir (on 7 days rest), Matt Garza (7 days) and either Edwin Jackson (11 days) or Andy Sonnanstine (9 days). If Shields keeps his start on Sunday (limited to 4-5 innings if the Rays have already clinched), Kazmir would likely go in Game 1 on either 5 or 6 days rest with Shields going on Friday with normal rest…UNCERTAIN UNTIL SUNDAY

FIFTH INNING
Headlines
Game 1 of the ALDS: Bottom of the 9th and the score is 4-3…Who closes the game for the Rays?

If the playoffs started today, it would not be Troy Percival. But would it be Dan Wheeler? Wheeler has been awful in the 9th inning. Wheeler’s OPS allowed is .480 in the 7th inning, .421 in the 8th inning and .814 in the 9th inning. And we are not talking about 10 appearances. That is 75 plate appearances spanning 24 games. If not Wheeler, then who? Our best guess is Joe Maddon will treat each situation differently. We could even see 2 or 3 guys on the same night in the 9th inning…BULLPEN BY COMMITTEE

SIXTH INNING
A look outside the box
With the Rays in Baltimore…what other series should RAYSHEADS watch closely?

There are actually two series that matter. Obviously the Red Sox series at home against the Indians is huge, but we also need to keep on eye on the Yankees in Toronto. The Red Sox finish the regular season with 3 games at home against the Yankees. While the players will take that series seriously, we are not sure yet if Joe Girardi and the front office will take it seriously. We also need Mike Mussina to get a win tomorrow night. That would be #19 on the season. If he does, he and the team will go all out for win #20 (the first of his career) on the final day of the season. If he loses tomorrow night, there is a chance he won’t even start that final day. But for now…INDIANS @ RED SOX

SEVENTH INNING
Over/Unders
7 hits allowed for David Price tonight?:

The Orioles have lost 5 in a row and have averaged 6.5 hits per game over the last 4. Price looked great against the Yankees and then he looked good against the Twins. His arm looks fresh. The only question will be how much he has to dial it back in order to work 6+ innings…UNDER

4.5 wins in the final week for the Rays:

The Orioles have given up on the season and the Rays have a good chance to get 4 in this series alone. Traveling to Detroit will be tough, but the Tigers have also given up on the season, losers of 9 of their last 10…OVER

4.5 wins in the final week for the Red Sox:

The schedule definitely favors the Rays over the last week. The Red Sox should win 2 or 3 against the Indians, but one of these 4 games is against the likely Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, who is 22-2. But the real boost will be the Yankees series. Andy Pettite is scheduled for game 1 and Mike Mussina could be going for win #20 in the finale. And if the Rays can put just one more game between them and the Sox over the next couple of days, the Red Sox will start preparing for the Angels…UNDER

2.5 wins for the Rays in this 4-game set with the O’s:

The O’s have been just awful recently. The Rays had there one-day hiccup on Sunday. Joe Maddon will have them ready for this series. We would not be surprised if the Rays score 27 runs in this series…OVER

EIGHTH INNING
On deck
David Price will make his first major league start tonight in Baltimore…What does Price have to do to earn a spot in the post-season rotation?

If Price goes out tonight and can go 8 innings (under 100 pitches) with 9+ strikeouts and no more than 6 hits and walks combined, it will force Joe Maddon to at least consider the option. But even then, we are not sure it will happen. Remember, one starter is already going to be out of the rotation. If Maddon inserts Price, that means both Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine would be out. If this was 2007 that would not be a problem. But both pitchers have pitched well enough to start in the playoffs. We think Price is more likely to turn in a dominating performance. But considering his inexperience, he may also be more likely to not get out of the first inning…THROW A NO-HITTER

NINTH INNING
Putting out the fire
Jason Bartlett was named the Rays’ MVP by the local media…Got a problem with that?

Bleh. If we were going to go with one guy, we probably would have voted for Carlos Pena. When the Rays suffered a number of injuries, Pena placed the Rays on his back and carried the offense the last two months. But Bartlett is a decent choice. His defense solidified the pitching staff and his offense has been better than advertised…WE WOULD HAVE GONE WITH CARLOS PENA OR EVAN LONGORIA OR…

David Chalk over at Bugs and Cranks has joined the ranks of fans sporting mohawks…Thoughts?

We admire his bravery and are grateful that he went mohawk so we don’t have to…EXCELLENT WORK

Obviously, it is a little early to think about the World Series…But what team should THE RAYSHEAD ARMY be rooting for in the NL?

Part of us wants to root for the Cubs and Lou Piniella knowing cosmic forces will be on the side of the Rays. But then if the Rays win the Series, people will only remember it as the Series lost because of a series of inexplicable events that would only occur in a Cubs World Series. Of course it would also be fun to win the World Series with Scott Kazmir on the mound against the Mets…CUBS?

The Yankees tragic number is 1…Any last words for the franchise once known as an Empire?

It is fitting that the Rays clinched their first playoff spot on the same weekend as the Yankees played the final game in Yankee Stadium. It was like a passing of the torch in the AL East…DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON THE WAY OUT

With four big games in three days…What is the drink of choice for the Orioles series?

We couldn’t come up with a good anti-Baltimore beer, so we are going back to Boddington’s, which served us well in the Red Sox series…BODDINGTON’S

 
 

4 Comments

  1. PTownFan says:

    Awesome job. That was really fun to read.

    BTW… My MVP vote would have gone to Navi. But maybe I give his improvement over the 1st half of 2007 too much credit. IMHO, his rock solid performance behind the plate AND his consistent bat picked the team up every bit as much as Bartlett’s D.

  2. The Professor says:

    man. that is huge oversight by me. I actually made the same argument on another site a week ago.

    Navi definitely deserves a boatload of credit.

  3. Chalk says:

    You don’t get off the hook that easy. Not only should you get your own, but since mine is more of a conservative Maddon-style mohawk, you as The Mayor OF Devil Ray Town could easily top it with a Zobrist or Perez full-out mohawk.

  4. stunna says:

    What is Upton’s average over the last few weeks or so? Now that teams know he’s playing with a messed up shoulder and learning how to pitch accordingly, he barely gets on base. Much like Percy, he’s hurting the team more than helping at this point. Why don’t they just shut him down for the season and make him get it fixed? I really don’t see him helping at all in the playoffs, but I hope I’m wrong.

    I’m still disappointed that Jonny Gomes didn’t get a real shot this year. Who knows how well he might have done had he gotten more regular playing time. Despite his lowly numbers this year, he does so much for this team and I’d really love to see ownership keep him around next year.

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