FIRST INNING
A look back…
On Tuesday night in the 9th inning, the Rays had just blown a 1-run lead and were down to their final 3 outs against one of the top closers in baseball and on the verge of losing their 5th straight and relinquishing first place for the first time since the all-star break…They say that in baseball, momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher, can a case be made that Dan Johnson’s home run was the most important hit in the history of the franchise?

We might accept an argument that Carlos Pena’s 3-run home run the next night was just as big. Pena’s blast added legitimacy to the win the night before. While a loss on Tuesday would have hurt worse, the win on Wednesday proved that the night before was not a fluke. It proved that the Rays can beat the Red Sox. It proved that the Rays can win in Boston. And it finally proved to many, including some of their own fans that the Rays are not only a playoff team, but a World Series contender…JOHNSON’S HR IS #1 AND PENA’S IS #1A

SECOND INNING
Headlines
In 2.1 innings since coming off the DL, Troy Percival has allowed 5 hits, 5 walks and 7 runs. In the 14th inning on Wednesday night, Percy loaded the bases without retiring a batter nearly blowing a 3-run lead, before Joe Maddon removed Percy with an injury…Can Percival be trusted to close any games for the rest of the season?

*checks to make sure liquor cabinet is stocked*

THIRD INNING
Headlines
David Price and Jeff Niemann have both made their final appearance for the Bulls…When can we expect to see either or both called up to the Rays?

In theory both could be called up today prior to the Yankees series. While Price is likely to start one game of the Sept 23rd double-header, we doubt the Rays want him to make his major league debut (as a reliever) in Yankee Stadium. Besides, he is not available to pitch again until Sunday. More likely, we will see Price promoted prior to the Red Sox series on Monday in the Trop. Niemann pitched last night and won’t be available again until Monday…MONDAY

FOURTH INNING
Headlines
Troy Percival says he is fine, but may need to go on the DL…Would Andrew Friedman call up a pitcher from Durham for the Yankees series even if David Price and Jeff Niemann are unavailable to pitch?

The most likely candidate seems to be Heath Phillips, but he is not on the 40-man roster. In fact, of the pitchers in the minors on the 40-man roster (David Price, Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, James Houser), only Houser did not start a game in the last couple of days and is the only one available to pitch this weekend. Would the Rays call up a starting pitcher from double-A to work out of the Rays’ bullpen in Yankee Stadium? Not likely. So if the Rays feel they need an extra pitcher for a couple of days, they will have to DFA somebody and make room for somebody like Phillips. However, the Rays are running out of expendable players on the 40-man. JK Ryu? Jonny Gomes? Elliot Johnson?…MORE LIKELY TO GO WITH WHAT IS ALREADY ON BOARD

FIFTH INNING
Headlines
Joe Maddon seemed to hint that David Price would start one game of a Sept 23rd double-header in Baltimore…Any chance the Rays change their minds?

Like any decision the Rays front office ever makes, there is no decision until a decision has to be made. In other words, Price is just a leading candidate at this point. A lot depends on what the standings look like with a week to play. If the Rays are still fighting for the division, and the game is important, Joe Maddon will want a lefty against the O’s, and that means Price. But if the Rays have clinched the division crown or the magic number is only 1 or 2, we still think the Rays would prefer to start Jeff Niemann in that game. While the Rays have more important things to worry about than the ’09 roster, Niemann will be out of minor league options next season. We would think the Rays would like another opportunity to get a first-hand look at what they have in Niemann before having to make a decision this off-season…IT WILL BE PRICE OR NIEMANN

SIXTH INNING
A look outside the box
With the Rays making their last-ever trip to Yankee Stadium…what other series this weekend should RAYSHEADS watch closely?

With the magic number now at 10, a playoff spot is just about a lock, so we no longer have to worry too much about the Twins. They are in Baltimore, and we will watch from afar to see how many numbers the O’s can help take off the magic number. But with the playoffs firmly in the Rays’ grasp, it is time to move our focus solely to the Red Sox and their Pink Hat nation. Boston will have to play 4 games over the span of 45 hours against the hottest team in baseball, the Blue Jays. Toronto enters this series having won 11 of 12. Two wins for the Jays is very realistic…BLUE JAYS @ RED SOX

SEVENTH INNING
Toss up
More saves the rest of the season: Troy Percival or Dan Wheeler?

If Percival is “healthy” he is the closer, which means Joe Maddon’s only bullet is to put Percy on the DL, and we think that is going to happen…DAN WHEELER

More wins in this series: Rays or Yankees?

Each of these games we can see going either way. Tomorrow is the marquee matchup with James Shields and Mike Mussina each going on 5-days rest. Moose still thinks he can win 20 games for the first time in his career. But with only 4 starts left, we don’t see it happening, but he could get one on Saturday. Can Matt Garza win tonight and Edwin Jackson win on Sunday? One? yes. Both? Eh…YANKEES

EIGHTH INNING
On deck
There is a good chance Evan Longoria will be back in the lineup tonight or tomorrow. One of the biggest reasons the Rays have continued to be successful without Dirtbag is the emergence of Willy Aybar…What will Aybar’s role be the rest of the season?

Longoria has not played since August 8. Over that span, Aybar is hitting .310/.375/.534 with 5 home runs, as an everyday player. Prior to the injury, Aybar only started 8 of 20 games since the all-star break. We are not sure how he will do it, but have to think Aybar’s playing time will be more than that down the stretch. Joe Maddon will want to get his regulars some extra rest before the playoffs. So look for Aybar to get regular starts at a number of different positions…SUPER-DUPER UTILITY STUDMUFFIN

NINTH INNING
Putting out the fire
Has Dan Johnson secured a spot on the postseason roster after his dramatic 9th inning home run?

THE RED BEARDED BULL! He gives the ball wings…NO

With Shawn Riggans out with knee surgery, there is a chance that the backup catcher in the playoffs will be Michel Hernandez…Should RAYSHEADS be worried?

Who?

Outs Per Swing wants to know who should be closing instead of Troy Percival…Your pick?

Does it matter?…Don Zimmer would be a better closer right now.

Drink of choice for the Yankees series?

Against the Yankees?…Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale

 
 

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Exciting news… D. Price officially called up.

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