The Good, The Bad and The Telling sandwich, where The Bad is nice and lean and the The Telling is ripe.
THE GOOD: Jeff Niemann. The Giraffe was the hard-luck non-winner going toe-to-toe with one of the best in baseball in Justin Verlander. Niemann allowed just 5 hits in 7+ innings and did not walk a batter…Evan Longoria. Dirtbag has struggled a bit recently, and Joe Maddon rewarded him by dropping him to 6th in the lineup. Longo responded with a 2-run home run…Aki’s Back. He played for the second straight day which is a great sign for his rehabbed knee and he responded with his first home run since last season.
THE BAD: The Overthinker. As great a manager as Joe Maddon is, he is still prone to overthinking and trying too hard to reinvent the game. On Sunday the Rays were leading 3-1. Grant Balfour relieved Jeff Niemann after a leadoff double. He got two easy outs including a 4-pitch strikeout with blazing 96-mph fastballs. Then Joe Maddon does the unthinkable. He orders Balfour to pitch around Curtis Granderson to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. On the list of managerial options at that point in the game, that was about #14, right ahead of “let Don Zimmer pitch to Granderson,” and right behind “punch Grant Balfour in the face.” If JoeMa doesn’t have confidence in Balfour at that point, then he should have gone to a lefty to face Granderson. And if the Tigers pinch-hit, so what. Then maybe you pinch around. Otherwise, go at him. Worst case scenario is a tie-game and the Rays are still in the game…Wet Track. The Tigers and White Sox always seem to be the most active when it comes to making the infield very difficult for the Rays to run on. Yesterday, the Tigers staff had the infield soaked and yet Joe Maddon still tried to run. The Rays were 1-3 in stolen bases.
THE TELLING: Time of Death. That’s it. Call it. Time of Death for the Rays season was 3:35pm on August 30th. The tragic number is down to 28. The Rays are now 5.5 back in the Wild Card with 33 to go and they are not chasing just one team. Maybe the Rays could count on one team going in the tank, but not two. If the Red Sox finish 16-16, the Rays would have to go 22-11 just to tie. About the only slim chance the Rays have is to go 5-1 or 6-0 in remaining game with Sox. Not likely. Ben Zobrist played right field and batted third…CoolStandings.com now gives the Rays an 8.9% shot at making the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus says it is 12.3%, but their PECOTA version says 4.8%.
SUNBURST PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jeff Niemann.
DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- We have a special edition of the Webtopia coming later this morning.
- With the Rays falling off the pace, they are now planning a larger September roster expansion. [St. Pete Times]
- Starting September 1st, the Rays will have a stuffed gorilla available at the Trop with a Rays jersey that says “Zorilla” across the back with the number 18. [Rays Revolutionary]
- John Romano writes something that many fans have been thinking for a long time. That the Rays really miss some of the veterans that were on the roster last year. [St. Pete Times]