I attended our last Maddon’s Maniacs’ meeting today before the 3:30 PM contest. Rich Herrera, the Rays pre and post-game host was the master of cermonies today. He made a a reference to us “old timers”, who have been here during the lean wins season as the wily veterans who can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. And how we can boast that we are the group of fans who can now say we supported the first winning team in Rays’ history.
He also remarked on how the Maddon’s Maniacs first meeting there wer only 30 of us, and of today, there are over 560 Maniacs strolling through the Trop during game days. It has been quite a ride this season, and to show their appreciation for everything, the Rays’ put a sticker of our club;s symbol on the back wall of section 132 for all to see. The cartoon redition of “screamer” with Joe Maddon glasses can be seen by everyone in the ballpark now, and we can share our stories with the masses.
Rays skipper, Joe Maddon came out and chatted with us for a while and answered questions from the crowd. In the background you could see Evan Longoria doing some soft toss near the durgout, and several of the Bullpen pitchers out warming up in the outfield. Eric Hinske then came up and talked a bit about how our noise and enthusiasm filters down to them and gets them motivated during the game.
After all that, we got to toy with a few new chants to be sung during the Rays’ games. I will put the two chants in the blog tomorrow night so we all can practice them on Monday’s day off and be ready for the Yankees when they invade the Trop.
Oh Rocco Baldelli, you had your coming out party again tonight to show the national audienceon FOX that you are back and will be a force in the lineup again. For the day, Rocco went 2-3, with 2 RBI’s and a run scored. But it was his hit in the bottom of the 9th on a 1-0 pitch that made us cheer for you again and again today.
Rocco hit a blistering ball past former Ray Aubrey Huff and into the leftfield corner to score Carlos Pena from first and secure the win for the Rays. Rocco also singled and scored in the 5th inning. Rocco has now made 6 starts since his August 10th reinstatement and has hit safely in 5 of those games. Baldelli increased his avewrage to .294 with today’s offensive outburst.
The Rays did have some close plays at the plate today that could have made the score more in their favor. In the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro was trying to score from second on a Jason Bartlett single to center. Jay Payton took the ball and fired a strike to Ramon Hernandez at home. Navarro tried to sneak his hand in the backdoor, but Hernandez quicky tagged Navarro on the shoulder for the out. Payton recieved an outfield assist on the play.
Not to be outgunned, the Rays also had a chance to nail a runner at the plate today. Nick Markakis tried to score from second on a Hernandez single to center. B J Upton came up with the ball cleanly and fired a low strike to the plate to nail Markakis. Upton received his 11th outfield assist of the season on the play.
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine was going for his second attempt to get a franchise tying 14th win on the season. Sonnanstine did not factor into the victory, but pitched 3.1 innings and gave up 7-hits and 6-runs early to the Orioles. Sonnanstine seemed to have trouble getting the good placement over the plate on his pitches. Andy got into early trouble giving up a 1st inning homer to Jay Payton to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Sonnastine gave up 2 homers on the day to the Orioles.
After Brian Roberts walked on 4 pitches, Sonnanstine got Payton to strike out before giving up a ground rule double to Markakis. Aunbrey Huff then hit his 30th homer to rightfield to put the Orioles up 5-3.
The play involving Markakis was almost the first reviewed call this year. Markakis hit a ball that was heading for the right field wall when a fan reached over and tried to catch the ball a few feet into and under the yellow home run line. Second base umpire Chad Fairchild took a few seconds before signalling a ground rule double. The fan did reach into the field of play and hinder the path of the ball. It was a good call, and one that could have fallen uner the guidelines to be reviewed by the umpire crew chief.
Not lost in thsuffle of today’s game was the contribution in the bottom of the 9th innig by Carlos Pena. Pena walked on 6 pitches and was on the move the second the ball went past Huff into the left field corner. Pena was at full speed when he got to third and third base coach Tom Foley did not hesistate to send Pena home. The throw to the plate by Orioles’ rookie Lou Montanez was not close and was falling away from Hernandez as Pena reached the plate.
The Rays slugged 13 hits on the day, and walked 9 times in the game. Ohter Rays to come up big today were: Akinora Iwamura who went 3-5, with 3 runs scored today. Willy Aybar who went 2-4, and Jason Bartlett who went 2-5, with a run scored. Ben Zorbrist went hitless today, but got on base twice via walks and had a run and an RBI on the day.
On the day, the Rays left 14 men on base and 7 men in scoring position. This is a statistic the Rays will need to work on before the playoffs start in October. When the playoff traditionally start, the runs are harder to come by, and are earned at a slower pace. For that reason, the Rays will have to begin to use their speed and quick bats to get “National League” style runs by using the hit-and -run, and maybe a suicide squueze. But then again, a well placed homer never hurts either.
Dan Wheeler blew his 3rd blown save of the year. On the positive side, Wheeler got the win to improve to 3-5. Wheeler was going for his 11th save of the year, which would have tied him for his career high set in Houston before his trade to the Rays. Opponents are battling .173 against him this season.