THE GOOD: Andy Sonnanstine. Facing the Red Sox for the first time this season, Duke didn’t disappoint. Despite hitting 2 batters (he only had 3 entering the game), he did not walk a batter and struck out 7, giving up only 1 unearned run…Carlos Pena. We thought it was just going to be off the wall, but he hit that ball so high that it just kept going. Of course, our neighbors would not call this a “good”. Loud noises…Lost amongst Carlos Pena’s home run were Akinori Iwamura and Rocco Baldelli who both singled with 2 outs to prolong the inning…Jason Hammel. We have handed out more than our fair share of grief to The Grim Reaper, but we tip our hat to Hammel after last night. Honestly that had to have been the first time in history that we were actually happy to see Hammel come in to a game. And he didn’t disappoint. The Jason Bay at bat was as good as we have ever seen Hammel and it was not his 95 mph fastball. After Bay missed the first slider by a foot, we hoped Dioner Navarro was smart enough to just keep throwing that pitch as Bay was not going to touch it. Four sliders later, Bay was the second out and the threat was almost over.
THE BAD: Troy Percival. Percy struggled once again. We were relieved at the beginning of the inning that the lead was 3 and not 1 and yet, even that didn’t seem safe 5 minutes later. Turns out Percy’s back tightened up on him when he was warming up. Which begs the question: Why did he allow himself to go into the game in the first place? It is one thing to be a “gamer”, but it cannot be done if it hurts the ballclub. Right now, Troy Percival is hurting the ballclub…The Rays were 0-13 with runners in scoring position before Carlos Pena’s home run.
THE TELLING: On the season the Rays have been walked 17 times and been hit by a pitch 4 times with the bases loaded. The 21 total “free” runs is second only to the Red Sox who have 17 walks and 5 hit batters…James Shields will now pitch on Saturday against the Yankees, rather than his originally scheduled Friday start. Matt Garza will be moved up one day and will make the start on Friday. This means Shields will not be available in the Red Sox series next week. Also, Mike Mussina has been pushed back a day to give him an extra day of rest and he will now face Shields on Saturday…The Rays magic number to win the division is now 16 and the magic number to clinch at least a wild card is 11*…The chances of the Rays making the playoffs is now 99.8% according to Baseball Prospectus and 75.5% to win the division.
*The White Sox and the Twins play each other 3 more times. The most wins the second place team in the Central can have is 96. So technically, the Rays magic number is 10. We could mark off the “guaranteed” loss now or we can do it when it actually happens…We choose the latter.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Troy Percival said this time it was his back that tightened up. He said it happened the last time warmed up in the bullpen, prior to entering the game…Which makes us wonder why he didn’t inform the coaches. Apparently Percival thinks he, unable to bend over, is a better option with the game on the line than somebody else. [The Heater]
- Shawn Riggans had surgery on his right knee yesterday in St. Pete. He is scheduled to be sidelined for 2-4 weeks, which means he could be done for the season. In his absence, Michel Hernandez will be the backup catcher and not John Jaso. Hernandez, who has played in 5 major league games in 11 seasons, will likely get a start this weekend against the Yankees. [The Heater]
- Evan Longoria took about 30 pitches of batting practice and Marc Lancaster is reporting that Dirtbag may go to Durham to play a rehab game and should be back in the lineup on Friday against the Yankees. [Rays Report]
- Joe Maddon seemed a bit annoyed when asked if he would be happy just winning the wild card. [Tampa Tribune]
- The Rays…as Muppets? Oh, Chalk. [Bugs and Cranks]
- The Snapper jumps on the bandwagon…Welcome! The more the merrier. [The Snapper]
- Jack Curry of the New York Times takes a look at what the last two nights mean for the Rays. [New York Times]
- Everybody is starting to believe, even ESPN.com. [ESPN]