FIRST INNING
A look back…
The Rays called up Fernando Perez and John Jaso now that the rosters can be expanded…Where is David Price?

Right now, Price is getting ready to pitch the opening game of the IL playoffs for the Bulls. But more importantly, the Rays do not have an immediate need for Price. The starting rotation is 5-deep and the bullpen is about to get an extra arm in the form of Troy Percival. In addition, there is a nice gap between the Rays and the Red Sox and the Yankees are roadkill. So King David is not necessarily needed to slay Goliath. And with two players on the DL, the Rays still have the option of adding 2 players to the roster and still be eligible for the post-season. Joe Maddon did say call-ups would happen in two waves, with the second batch coming after Durham concludes their season. So we could see Price in a week or two, but we are still not convinced that will happen…NOT NEEDED

SECOND INNING
Headlines
With the Rays calling up Fernando Perez, John Jaso and Juan Salas…Are you surprised nobody else was called up?

Even though the Rays could have added as many as 15 players, nobody ever expected more than 4 or 5. Still, we are not sure anybody thought it would be as few as 3. Even though his numbers were awful, we were surprised Kurt Birkins did not get the call to add a third lefty to the ‘pen, especially with JP Howell being scaled back to give his arm rest. And if not Birkins, why not another reliever? It was only a couple of weeks ago when Maddon had to use all 7 relievers in 1 game, leaving the bullpen depleted the next night…ONE MORE RELIEVER WOULD HAVE HELPED US SLEEP BETTER AT NIGHT

THIRD INNING
Headlines
The Rays decided to promote John Jaso instead of Mike DiFelice despite having an open slot on the 40-man roster. The Rays then decided to release DiFelice…Was this the right decision?

We said all along that our preference was to have DiFelice on the playoff roster in place of Shawn Riggans. But Maddon has confidence in Riggans, even though the only runner he has thrown out this season came on a missed hit-and-run. The Rays say they chose Jaso because they do not plan to use the 3rd catcher as anything other than a late-inning pinch-hitter. DiFelice was released so that he would have a chance to hook up with another club for the last month. Noble, but worrisome. What happens if Riggans or Dioner Navarro goes down with an injury? Jaso is all of the sudden the Rays backup catcher. What if Navi is the one to go down? The two catchers on the playoff roster would be Riggans and Jaso, both of whom are below-average defensively…NO

FOURTH INNING
Headlines
It has long been hoped that Evan Longoria would be back in time for the Yankees series. He will not play in this series and there is no word when he will return…Should we be worried?

With the lead in the East and the comfortable lead over the teams in the Central, the Rays may just be holding off a few more days to make sure he is 100% and to make sure he does not aggravate the injury. On the other hand, wrist injuries are particularly fickle and there is a little worry the break is not healing as fast as the team originally hoped. If we do not see Longoria taking batting practice in the next couple of days, then he might not be back until the Rays next home stand which begins with the Red Sox on the 15th. And even then, this injury may leave Dirtbag with less power for the rest of the season…YES

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

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

There is no easy answer this week. First you have the Red Sox at home against Baltimore. Any win by the O’s in that series is bonus. So let’s look to the wild card. The Rays magic number to clinch at least a wild card berth is now 19. The Twins are in Toronto and the White Sox are in Cleveland. We still think the White Sox will put away the division at some point, so any loss by the Twins is a game closer to clinching for the Rays…TWINS @ TORONTO

SEVENTH INNING
Over/Unders
100 wins for the Rays…

The Rays are now on pace to win 101 games and have a good shot to become the first team to ever have the worst record in baseball one season and then the best record in baseball the next season. Only one other team went from worst record to first place, the ’91 Twins, and only one team has ever gone from 95 losses to 95 wins, the D-Backs in ’99. However, the schedule will not be kind to the Rays. Looking at the schedule, which includes 12 with the Red Sox and Yankees and 4 with the Twins, our best unbiased guess is 15-12 down the stretch. That is 99 wins…UNDER

0.5 starts for John Jaso in September…

If and when the Rays clinch the division (not just a playoff spot), look for many of the regulars to get a day off. And with Riggans playing a lot recently, that means Jaso could get a start that day, with Riggans splitting time with Dioner Navarro with the remaining games…OVER

1.5 wins for the Rays against the Yankees…

This is not going to be easy. We don’t trust the Rays young lineup against Mike Mussina tonight. Matt Garza might have to throw another shutout. Carl Pavano goes to the mound tomorrow and he has pitched well in his first two starts after missing nearly 4 years. Still, a toss-up with the suddenly ace-like Edwin Jackson going for the Rays. We feel better about Sunday. The key to us is tonight. If the Rays can get a win tonight, with a likely Red Sox win at home against the Orioles, that will be the final nail in the Yankees coffin. That would deflate the Yankees for the rest of the series. A win tonight and the Rays will sweep the series…OVER

EIGHTH INNING
On deck
Almost two years ago, you did a comparison of the payrolls of just the starting lineups in a game versus the Yankees. The starting 10 of each team was $7.6MM for the Rays and $127.7MM for the Yankees…With the Rays now sitting 12 games in front of the Evil Empire in the standings, how do the starting lineups compare now?

NINTH INNING
Putting out the fire
The Yankees will field a starting lineup tonight with a combined salary of $140MM…What happened to all the injuries Hank Steinbrenner was complaining about?

In the Yankees defense, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig are unavailable tonight…WE REALLY HAVE NO IDEA

The Red Sox schedule looks easier than the Rays…Will the Red Sox catch the Rays before the end of the season?

The only way this happens is if the Red Sox win at least 5 of the head-to-head matchups. Possible? Yes. Likely? No. The Twins and the White Sox are worried about each other. If the Red Sox put a few games between themselves and the wild card runner-up, we think they will ease up on the gas a bit…NO

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