FIRST INNING (A look back)…
In game 1 the Rays were shutout and didn’t get a hit until the 7th inning. In game 2 the Rays scored 8 runs in the first 5 innings, including 3 home runs…Which offense are we more likely to see the rest of the series?
We expect game 3 to be low scoring with Jon Lester and Matt Garza. But the 8 runs scored is closer to the real Rays than the 4-hit shutout. David Ortiz said the Rays looked nervous and Joe Maddon agreed. For the first time this season, the Rays looked like a young team that snuck into the adult club and then had no idea what to do. One day after the heart of the order (Upton, Pena, Longoria, Crawford) went a combined 2-13 with 3 walks and 5 Ks, the quartet went 8-19 with 1 walk, 3 Ks and 8 RBI. There have not been too many games in which all four of those guys were available. Once the Rays get past the lefty tonight, we should see more of game 2 the rest of the series…RAYS ARE STARTING TO CLICK
SECOND INNING (Headlines)…
Scott Kazmir once again struggled early on in game 2 and recently has looked more like Casey Fossum than the ace he should be. Now Joe Maddon may move Kazmir up a spot in the rotation bringing him back in game 5, and holding James Shields back to game 6…Is this a good idea?
We need to look at this from the point-of-view of both Kazmir and Shields. For Kazmir, he would be on normal rest. He does have a history of big starts in Boston (3.15 ERA in his last 7 Fenway starts), so the atmosphere shouldn’t affect him. Also, we wonder if the crowd noise and pressure will actually be a good thing for Kaz. Right now Kazmir seems to be struggling mentally. By his own admission he becomes fixated on solving mechanical issues during the game. In Fenway, the crowd and the pressure of the situation may actually distract him from his mechanics and help him focus on the task at hand. As for Shields. Shields pitches much better at home, so holding him back for game 6 could be a good idea. The downside is getting too much rest. If Shields does not pitch until game 6, that would be 7 days of rest. Occasionally a pitcher will be too strong if he has too much rest. Normally being stronger is a good thing. But if the pitcher’s best pitch is a changeup, being “too strong” can keep the changeup up in the strike zone…WORRIED MORE ABOUT SHIELDS THAN KAZMIR
THIRD INNING (Headlines)…
Troy Percival is not with the team this series, choosing to be at home with his family…What does this mean for Percival and the Rays moving forward?
This is a very surprising move. Especially considering everybody else that was left off the roster is with the team and even participating in pregame warmups with the active squad. The Rays have Percy under contract for ’09. Based on the slew of injuries this season, being left off the postseason roster and now this, we have to wonder if his heart is still in the game. We would not be surprised if Percival retires after the season. The Rays have a closer-in-training with Grant Balfour and even if he is not deemed ready at the beginning of next season, they could still go with Dan Wheeler for the time being…WE MAY HAVE SEEN THE END OF TROY PERCIVAL
FOURTH INNING (Headlines)…
Evan Longoria has apparently apologized for comments he made during an interview last week (Recap can be found here)…Was the apology necessary and why hasn’t this been a bigger issue with the mainstream media?
As a follow-up question in which Carlos Pena’s Dominican heritage was brought up, Longoria said of Pena, “I don’t even look at him as Dominican, and that’s nothing against Dominicans, but he’s been in the States for so long — he went to high school and college here — in the States. He’s very well educated and it’s tough for me to look at him and think he came from the Dominican.” It seems to us that Longoria is not saying Dominicans are uneducated. Rather Longoria is just pointing out that Pena was educated in the United States so English really isn’t a second-language to Pena. In other words, because of his upbringing Pena sounds more American than somebody that has only been here a few years and is still learning the English language. That being said, we completely understand why Dominicans and Latinos would be offended by this statement. But what he said and what he was trying to say were two different things…YES AND NO, IT WAS JUST A SIMPLE CASE OF MISSPEAK
FIFTH INNING (Headlines)…
There is a lot of talk about how great Jon Lester has been for the Red Sox, especially in the postseason…Is he as good as advertised?
At only 24, Lester could very well be the Red Sox’ ace already, and he is even better in the postseason. Dating back to last season, Lester has made 3 playoff starts and has yet to allow a run. He has worked 19.2 innings (as a starter), giving up 13 hits and 6 walks, while striking out 14. On top of that, he is a lefty and the Rays struggle against lefties. But let’s keep in mind that his three starts came against the ’07 Rockies and the ’08 Angels, two highly overrated ballclubs. He is good. But we need to see a little more before we stamp his ticket to Cooperstown…GOOD? YES. GREAT? WE’LL SEE
SIXTH INNING (A look outside the box)…
[Red Sox fan running on the field delay: Queue the tasers]
SEVENTH INNING (Over/Unders)…
1.5 runs by the Rays off of Jon Lester tonight:
We wouldn’t be surprised if the score is 1-0 or 1-1 or 2-1 after 6 innings. In other words, Matt Garza needs to keep the game close and hope the Rays have another one of their late-inning rallies…UNDER
1.5 stolen bases for the Rays tonight:
This is an area that the Rays need to step up. In the first two games combined, the Rays combined for 1 stolen base. Jason Varitek threw out only 22.2% of would-be base stealers this season. Unfortunately Jon Lester has an above-average pickoff move so opportunities will be scarce. Rays will only steal tonight if they get to Lester early and get into the bullpen…UNDER
6.2 innings for Matt Garza tonight:
Garza is capable of working late into the night, but we wonder if the length (time) of these games will push a manager to take a pitcher out earlier than he would normally. Also, with the off-day yesterday, most of the bullpen should be well-rested. Once Garza gets past the 5th inning, Joe Maddon will likely pull him at the first hint of trouble…UNDER
EIGHTH INNING (On deck)…
Many are talking about the game 3 matchup between Jon Lester and Matt Garza as if it is a guaranteed win for the Red Sox…Is there any chance the Rays could take a 2-1 lead in this series?
We don’t do a lot of gambling, but this game is starting to sound an awful lot like the sure-thing bet that everybody jumps on. Those games always seem to go against the public. Garza is capable of pitching a 2-hit shutout if he can keep his emotions in check. And much of the Rays struggles against righties this season came before the return of Rocco Baldelli who will be in right field tonight. The key will be Evan Longoria and BJ Upton. They have both had big games in the postseason. The Rays will need at least one of them to step up tonight…SURE THINGS HAVE A FUNNY WAY OF BEING SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY
NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)…
Joe Maddon drinks wine after every game…Should Papa Joe keep the red wine in the rack during this series?
Maddon drinking red wine while playing the Red Sox in the ALCS is almost as bad Ferg’s serving Sam Adams during the series…JIM HICKEY NEEDS TO GET PAPA JOE A BEER
Rocco Baldelli will start in right tonight with Willy Aybar at DH and Fernando Perez on the bench…Are the Rays stronger with Perez in right and Rocco at DH?
We like Perez doing what he should have done in game 1 and what he did do in game 2. Pinch-running. That is a lot of pressure on the basepaths late in the game…NO
The Red Sox flew home after game 2, arriving in Boston at 7am and then had a workout at Fenway later in the day. The Rays chose not to leave until 2pm the next day and Joe Maddon canceled a planned workout…Was this the smart move?
It is two days later and we are still beat up from game 2. The extra rest will do them more good than a sluggish workout…YES