FIRST INNING
A look back…
The Rays were swept this past weekend and have lost 5 of 6…How worried are you?

The Rays still have a 9 game lead over the Twins in the loss column. Of course, that is in large part due to the Twinkies playing as bad as the Rays. We are worried. The Rays are not playing well. Upton is swinging with one arm. Longoria is still not back. Percival looks like a relief pitcher that is 39 years old, overweight, been on the DL several times and who hasn’t spent a full season as a closer since 2004. We still have little confidence in Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson in a big spot. And Saturday’s loss may have been the worst loss we have ever experienced as a Rays fan, sitting in the back of a wedding ceremony in West Virginia, following the play-by-play on our phone. We were by far the most miserable people at the wedding. Ugh. The Rays are going to make the playoffs. But this team will be an early exit if the ship doesn’t get righted…SICK TO OUR STOMACH

SECOND INNING
Headlines
Jeff Niemann has pitched well recently, throwing a shutout one night and taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning this past weekend…Are we more likely to see Niemann pitching for the Rays this season and if so, what will be his role?

The Bulls are in the IL championship series that begins tomorrow night. If the Bulls keep the same rotation, David Price and Mitch Talbot will throw the first 2 games and Niemann will be ready to go on his normal 4-days rest for game 3 on Thursday. That would be his final appearance for the Bulls this season and he could be called up as early as Friday. Prior to this recent run we thought Niemann might being tiring down the stretch. With his 2 starts for the Rays in April, Niemann has 142.1 innings on his arm already, a career-high and 11 more than last season. Still, these recent starts indicate that Niemann is fresh. If the Rays can clinch a wild card spot early, Joe Maddon may want to give Niemann 1 or 2 starts down the stretch so that the rest of the rotation can get a couple of extra days of rest prior to the playoffs…YES, AS A 6th STARTER BUT NOT UNTIL THE RAYS CLINCH A PLAYOFF SPOT

THIRD INNING
Headlines
Last week we learned that BJ Upton has been playing most of the season with a torn labrum…Ignoring that this explains his lack of power this season, what will be the impact on the Rays down the stretch?

Making this news public only confirmed what many already had suspected. And if the fans knew, other teams probably already knew also. Still, knowing that Upton is afraid to swing a pitches in certain locations is certainly bad news for the Rays and news that is certain to be exploited by other teams. As a player that used to feast on fastballs, look for Upton to get a steady dose of fastballs on the inside portion of the plate. We can only hope that Upton adjusts and figures out a way to make the other teams pay…SMART TEAMS AND GOOD PITCHERS WILL EXPLOIT

FOURTH INNING
Headlines
On Saturday Troy Percival blew a 1-run lead in the 13th inning when he gave up a grand slam. It was his 4th blown save of the season and he has now allowed 6 runs in 2 appearances since coming off the DL…Is there any gas in his 39 year old tank?

In 29 appearances prior to the all-star break, Percy had a 3.54 ERA and had only allowed 16 hits and 11 walks in 28 innings. Since the break Percival has an 8.03 ERA and has given up 10 hits and 9 walks in only 12.1 innings. An even bigger concern is the home runs. Percival gave up 4 before the break but the grand slam on Saturday was the 5th since the break. That is 5 home runs in 14 appearances. And there was at least one more that just missed being a home run when it went foul about 6 inches. Something is wrong. Anybody can see that. Can he rediscover the magic? Maybe. But we would rather see him looking for it in 9-2 games, rather than 1-run games in the pennant race. But Papa Joe says Percival is still the closer. How many more blown saves before Maddon’s loyalties are overruled?…IT DOESN’T LOOK GOOD

FIFTH INNING
Headlines
[RAIN DELAY…Queue episodes of The Baseball Bunch]

SIXTH INNING
A look outside the box
With the Rays facing the Red Sox…what other series this weekend should RAYSHEADS watch closely?

This is an easy one. With the Rays struggling and facing a series in Boston, where they are 0-6 the season, the Rays may need some help from the Royals to lower their magic number. The Twins on the other hand have been helping the Rays by losing 5 of their last 6, but now get a weak Royals squad at home. The magic number right now is 13, but with these matchups, the RAYSHEADS should be happy if the number is 10 after these games…ROYALS @ TWINS

SEVENTH INNING
Over/Unders
0.5 batters thrown at intentionally in this series.

Make no mistake neither team has forgotten the shenanigans from earlier this year. But now is not the time to exact revenge. Too much is on the line and if the younger players do not know that, the veterans will make sure they do…UNDER

0.5 starts for Fernando Perez in this series.

Joe Maddon seemed to be impressed with the game-changing athleticism of Perez. Lefty Jon Lester starts tonight for the Sox. If Perez is going to get a start it will be tonight. But does Papa Joe want to put the pressure of Fenway Park in a pennant race on the shoulders of a player that has been in the majors for a week?…OVER

0.5 wins for the Rays in Fenway park the next three days.

The Rays are 0-6 in Fenway this season. No James Shields. No Matt Garza. Some old fat guy impersonating Troy Percival. No Evan Longoria. If the Rays get swept, it will be the first time since the all-star break that the Rays will be out of first place. On the plus-side, David Ortiz says his wrist is not OK. Scott Kazmir has pitched well in Fenway and the Red Sox have not faced Andy Sonnanstine this season. If he is on his game, that could cause problems. One is definitely possible, but we doubt they get two…OVER

EIGHTH INNING
On deck
The Rays will not have James Shields or Matt Garza for the Red Sox series…Was it a mistake for Joe Maddon to not find a way to shuffle the rotation in preparation for this series?

We would feel a lot better about this series if the Rays were set to start Shields, Garza and Scott Kazmir. But shuffling the rotation on off-days goes against what Maddon is preaching to the team that no one game is any more important than any other game. And keep in mind, the Rays really only need one win in this series. One win guarantees that they will still be in first place on Thursday. Again, we are more worried about the 9th inning…NO

NINTH INNING
Putting out the fire
Joe Maddon has always been a bit quirky, but is making the team wear $200 emo-boy shirts going too far?

Papa Joe is tying to keep the team loose. But maybe the team is playing too loose. We just don’t want to see Zim in one of these shirts. Our stomach wouldn’t be able to handle it…BLEH

Marc Topkin fans the flames by asking if the season would be a disappointment if the Rays miss the playoffs…Would it be a disappointment?

Considering the Rays lead the Twins by 9 games in the loss column with only 21 games remaining, the Rays are almost assured of making the playoffs. Even if the Twins finish 19-0 the Rays can force a 1-game playoff if they only finish 12-9…YES

The Hardball Times calls Scott Kazmir the key to their hopes of going deep into October…Are they right?

We are more worried about Troy Percival. The Rays middle relief corps is good enough right now that if Kid K only goes 5 innings, we are not terribly worried. Of course we prefer 7 innings. But Percy is more of a worry right now. Blown saves in the playoffs can be death sentences and kill team morale…NO

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2 Comments

  1. Jim says:

    Thank you Professor, now maybe we can avoid the sweep.

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  2. Chris in Raleigh NC says:

    I think you're right about Niemann. He's looking very good, even with one very shaky inning per game. If defense backs him up for that inning, he could be your sixth starter.

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