When you get to the Trop. on Thursday, do not be surprised that a few of the Maddon’s Maniacs show up on the Jumbotron in a short “feel the Heat” video. The vocal and cowbell-oriented group at the Trop., were busy at work on a short video for the Rays shot before the Rally on Monday on Bayshore Blvd in St. Petersburg.
The video will be set to the Rays theme music, “feel The Heat” and took about 25 minutes to complete. As susal, we all had a wild time and look forward to seeing our mugs up on the screen again.
I would estimate that a group of 60 or so maniacs showed up for the shoot and had a wild time interacting with friends about the recent Rays surge into the Playoffs, and the upcoming games at the Trop. If you have not heard of the Maddon Maniacs, let me tell you a short bit about this unique group in Rays history. The Maniacs were invented to act as the Trop’s unofficial fan cheering leaders to get the crowd motivated and into the games at the Trop. The group first met back in 2006 and was attended by about 5–60 fans picked by the Rays to promote this new arm of the Fan Experience wing of the Rays. It consists of meetings attended by active members were important events and upcoming tidbits of information are given to the group to intice the Rays fans into trying new cheers or to teach basic cowbell ethics to the new Rays faithful.
When Rays current Manager, Joe Maddon came here he wanted the Rays to have an enviorment that other teams would consider hostile without violence. A great example is the University of New Mexico Lobos basketball arena, which is considered by many to be the loudest and rowdiest arena in the NCAA. Maddon wanted to gain that type of advantage over the opposition by imposing the noise and cowbells to mess with the mental and concetration levels of our visiting teams.
The Cowbells became a fast identifier of the small group, and them blossomed into most of the Rays fans faithfully joining in the Cowbell Army and raining noise down on all visiting teams and during great plays either offensive, or defensive for the Rays. The group is identified by their bright yellow shirts with a cartoon likeness of Maddon on the front of it. The character, known as “screamer” was actually adopted as a symbol of the fan’s screaming and supporting the Rays squad.
So if you see one of the memeber of this Rays society. Be sure to thank them for their support and ask about joining the Maddon’s Maniacs group in 2009. If you are interested in becoming a member, you can consult any of the maniacs, or contact the Rays front office and ask for the Fan Experience department and they will get you on the mailing list for upcoming events. To give you an example of how far this group has come since 2006. I was at that first meeting with about 60 other people, and it has grown to over 500 people at the last count.
We usually meet before select home games in the Trop. and have guest speakers beside our faithful leader, Joe Maddon. Usually the team is out stretching in the field when we begin, and it is not unusual for us to give a loud cheer to show of support for the guys on the team. First and foremost, the group is for the bonding of fellow Rays fans to support and have a common bond in the Rays development. A second, and something great reason to join is to be a part of the early history of this franchise. In 10 years you can tell people you were on the ground floor of an organization that one day might rival the Red Sox Nation. So be sure to support the team as they ready themselves for the fight for the American League Divsional Series, and be sure to show your Rays colors and support loud and proud in the Tampa Bay area and at the Trop.
If you missed the Tampa Bay Rays Rally at Straub Park in St. Petersburg on Monday, you missed a party 10 years in the making. Not that we have a habit in this area of saving our parties for special occasions, but this day was for celebrating baseball in general. I got there about 1 P.M. to meet with a few on the Maddon’s Maniacs and participate in a short promotion video that will grace the Jumbotron this week during the two ALDS games at the Trop.
It is a short little diddy around our lovable mascot Rayomnd and the “Feel The Heat” theme song that is a huge success for the Rays. It was not a long shoot, and it was a bit corny for my tastes, but you never know what the video genies will do with a small piece of film. We shall see on Thursday.
After getting that video situation out of the way, I scoped out my stage right standing position right next to the lous speakers that would be blaring music by the 80’s group Survivior in a few hoiurs. It was about 2:30-ish and I had a bit of time before the activities were to start. Florida Sports Network and Sunshine Network were setting up to broadcast the event and provide some commentary and extra footage from the Rays Television trio of Dewayne Staats, Joe Mcgrane and Todd Kalas.
As 5 P.M. got closer, Rusty, the Rays usual Tropicana Field game M.C. got us all excited and reminded us that the Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game was still in a rain delay. This is important to us Rays fans so we can decide who to email and hassle before Thursday’s game. At 5 P.M., Rusty came out and started the event off by letting us know that national figures had sent a few videos kudos to the team.
We had the usual ESPN people and members of the TBS broadcasting teams shot during the All-Star game, but there were a few unusal greetings also sent to the Rays. Rob Schneider, of “You can do it” fame sent a bizzare, but really thought out diddy that even included his dog pimping out for the Rays. Kevin Costner unvealed his new song, “It’s All Up To You” written for the Rays as a show of respect from Costner and his band, Modern West. The video was a montage of the visit by Costner and the band last November to help promote the new uniforms, and included some batting pratice pieces from Progress Energy Field.
Orlando, a popular DJ from 98.7 radio station in town also brought his new song for the Rays to be unveiled today during the Rally. The song was titled, “The Trop. Boys”, and it had a grat beat and was a cool sounding song. I know we will be seeing more of that song here in the playoffs at the Trop.
After that, it was onto the introduction of the players. I am going to post an additional blog with the picture on it to save some space here today. The Television guys, Staats, Mcgrane and Kalas all started the program off with a video recalling the highs of this magical season for the team. the video played up the Boston, Chicago and Angels series sweeps, and showed the walk-off wins for the team in 2008.
After that, Todd Kalas came out and got into the player and coaches introductions of our 2008 Rays team. The most applause of course went to skipper Joe Maddon and Don Zimmer today. After the coaches took their place on the stage, the players were intorduced one by one, with Akinora Iwamura getting the “Aki” chant from the crowd. the guys were all sporting their Rays white uniforms, and it made a great background for the hundreds of cameras snapping their every move. After getting through all but one of the players introductions, Kalas introduced B J Upton, who I still believe is the most unsung hero of this season.
After that, Kalas introduced a few people I know well, but Tampa Bay should get to know. Bullpen Catcher, Scott “The Enforcer” Cursi is one of the most tireless workers I have ever met, and is a great guy to boot. Chris “Chico” Fernandez does a great job getting game and scouting video for the team. And last, but not least is the Rays clubhouse manager Chris “Westy” Westmoreland. I have heard fron a number of people that he runs the best clubhouse system in the major leagues. Kudos to him for that.
After these last 3 important introductions, Kalas turned the mic over to the skipper, Joe Maddon to talk a bit to the crowd. Madden as usual, was uplifting and totally believeable and the crowd showed its energy by clapping and cheering for the boss. After he was done speaking, the mic was turned over to the team’s charismatic Carlos Pena who pumped up the crowd more by urging them to come out and make the Trop deafening with their noise and enthusiasm on Thursday and beyond in the playoffs.
After the players left the stage, Rusty called up a few local icons who have been true Rays fanatics for years. The first was current WWE Champion John Cena, who confessed he used to live in Boston, but has converted into a true Rays believer now. Cena also provided one of the best moments of the Rally when he informed the crowd he had heard from Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and first baseman Sean Casey that the Rays had no heart.
Well, Cena decided to call Sean Casey on his cellphone, but Casey was probably either at the Red Sox Rally held that day before the hit the airport for California, or he was not going to take the call because he knew he would hear a load of crowd noise in the background. Cena made sure Casey had an interesting voicemail and proclaimed that the Rays did have spirit and heart and you heard the entire crowd roar towards the stage to voice their opinion on Casey’s comments.
Right before Cena was going to leave the stage, he called up the Rays appointed 10th man, Brian “Nasty Boy” Knobs to the stage for some comments. Knobs came onto the stage in his usual manner blowing smoke and fire from his nostrils and pumping the crowd into a frenzy. Of course, Knobs could not leave the stage before getting the entire crowd to chant, “Let’s Go Rays.”
After that, the show was winding down and Rusty intoduced the band, Survivior who put on an amazing concert for about 2 hours. During this time I got to go sit in the VIP section in front of the stage courtesy of Trisha Johnson of the Rays and snapped a few hundred pictures. I am thinking I might include a few of them on the blog. The band did an amazing show and ended it with “Eye of the Tiger” to push the crowd into a frenzied climax to the event.
At this time we still did not know who was going to be our opponent for Thursday, but the White Sox were up 1-0 at the time. As I was walking to my car in the Pier parking lot, it hit me that this might not the only Rally this year for the Rays. That we have a possibility of 2 more Rallies and a few hundred chances of cheering for the team between now and a possible World Series game. I am not going to jinx or put a hoax on anything, but 10 years ago, that was not even in my mindset for this squad. Wow, how times flies when you are having fun!!!
It must be a true rush to be on stage and singing……….that is something I wish I had done in my younger life….totally, totally into music
Best thing about having a winning team is the fact that when they finally come home at the end of the season they are in a fun and totally excited state to see their fans. Well, if that was the case on Sunday, then the Rays will have to have a few dozen straitjeckets delivered to the Trop. after the Playoffs are over. This team is so into this adventure they looked almost like deers in the headlights last night.
But considering they were not expecting almost 1,200 fans in and around the Airport Concourse and you can see why they hads those looks on their faces. I got there about 5 minutes after Jason Hammel earned his 2nd save of the evening at 4:45 P.M. I was the onyl fan I saw in the Baggage Area, but some could have been lurking outside by the full Pepsi trailer. The event was just getting set up, and the carpet guys were rolling out that blood red carpet from the tarmac to the bus loadinf area outside the Terminal.
I decided that I wanted to get a great view of their faces as they came in the door, so I stationed m,yself right up front, just to the right of the doorway. I had a nice angular look at the DJ and the stage area where they would position the guys berfore they did the Conga line out the door to thr waiting buses’. High on my priority list was the free Pepsi and Aquafina products that were delivered by Joanna Moore, the Pepsi Pre-Sell Manager from the St. Petersburg plant.
Pretty soon the area was starting to fill with about 300 fans milling and wandering all over the concourse looking for the right spot to see their favorite players. I had a friend from the Security detail, Angel put this very beuatiful mother and daughter next to me, and let me tell you. I truly thought they were sisters. They were very exhuberant and a thrill to be around. They even got to go out there and dance with the Rays team during the “Cuban Shuffle.” During this time local dignitaries and politicians came and went in the small VIP area. but mostly they greeted and talked with fans about this great adventure.
When the team was just past Jacksonville, Rusty, the Rays excitable MC was telling us that “the Rays plane was in the air and heading here,” And then Rusty added sarcastically, “And the Yankees’ plane is also in the air tonight, but they are headed home, while we are headed to the Playoffs.” I do not have to tell you what kind of reception that comment got in the room. But my ears are still ringing today.
A local group Cristol featuring Big Gill and Bay Boy sang their Rays theme song, “It’s Our Season”, to the loud applause of the crowd. I know the song from plugging it on my website and was singing along as they were strolling through the crowds. It was a huge party going on and the crowd was really into the song. About that time, Raymond, the team mascot was out there doing his famous dance moves and getting crowd into a frenzy.
About 9:30, the team’s plane pulled in to a shower of water over the plane from the airports fire trucks to symbolize the event and show their gratitude to the team. Then, one by one the team flowed into the concourse and they were amzed at the turnout from the fans. I saw more than a few guys just light up at the sight in front of them and were just in awe of the support. After they all got into the building, Rays Manager Joe Maddon was presented the Key to Pinellas County and St. Petersburg by the city’s mayor, Rick Baker.
Maddon gave a short speech, but was firm on the fact that the crowd had alot to do with their successes this year. That the fans and the noise in the Trop. played a huge part in their year, and he thanked the fans for the support. Then the Rays Press Corps had the players file out one after another towards the bus area. As they were going down the pathway, Rays fans were fist bumping and shaking their hands with the players. From the team down to the clubhouse guys, you saw how much this all stunned and pleasantly surprised these guys.
As the team made their ways onto the two buses’ outside, several players got back off the bus along with Maddon and began to throw hats and sign autographs for the faithful outside. After about 10 minutes the guys all got back on the buses’ and they departed for Tropicana Field. The Florida Highway Patrol and the St. Petersburg Police Department gave them a world class escort to the stadium before the guys got settled back into the Trop. and departed for their own homestyle celebration with friends and family.
Thank you to the Rays and Erin Busemi for setting up this great event and totally unforgettable moment. It was an event I hope these pictures can do justice to, but I know it was something you just had to be there to understand the total effect of the moment…………………….GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was glad to see that Rays Manager Joe Maddon let Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi take out the lineup card today before the game. I have known Scott now for about 8 years and I know of no one else in the organization who has done more and wished more for every pitcher who has graced the mound at the Trop. From the late Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle, to David Price and Mitch Talbot, Cursi has warmed them all up and made sure they were up to the task of pitching for the Rays.
He is one of the unsung heros of that Bullpen that most fans would never know die to his low key demeanor and style. But he ia also a viable reason alot of these guys feel so calm and secure going out to the mound. He is the silent Bullpen Coach. And the honor today was fitting for one of the Rays hardest workers over the last 10 years.
I am saddened to know that after today’s game, Detroit Tigers’ Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez was let go by the team. Hernandez was with the Rays in the minor league system before finally coming up tho the major league level and leading the team in t lean years. He was here in the infant days of Scott Kazmir, and as a leftie, he could illustrate and teach Kazmir about the tough job of a lefty in today’s game. I know who ever get this great coach next season will see how fast this guy can fine tune and turn a Bullpen into a winner.
I also want to alert fans of an upcoming video to be shown in the Rays Playoff games. The video will be members of Maddon’s Maniacs, that group that first brought the cowbell into a cult status at the Trop. You might know them more by their bright yellow shirts with the screaming baseball that looks like Rays Manager, Jow Maddon. This group was formed several years ago to act as a cheering conglomerate in their sections of the stadium. So look for the video on the Jumbotron during the Playoff games, and Go Rays!!!!!!!
It was just a formality that Rays starter James Shields even hit the mound today. The Rays were using the start as a stretching out period to get Shields some work before he starts the Rays first Playoff game in the Trop. next Thursday. Shields came out and threw 10 pitches in his 1 inning of work and got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3. All 3 outs were on ground balls and were alternated between the 3 infield positions.
Talbot is in the mix as one of the guys the Rays were going to discuss before deciding if he was to be on the team’s first ALDS 25-man roster. After today’s performance, I have a feeling that the young rightie will have thrown his last pitch this season for the Rays. It has been a wild season for Talbot, first brought up for 48 hours before heading again for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. In today’s relief appearance, he never looked calm or in control on the mound.
Talbot had an eventless 2nd inning as the Tigers went again down 1-2-3. But in the 3rd inning, the tide began to turn for the young pitcher. Brandon Inge hit a smoker down the leftfield line into the corner and ended up with a double, with no outs in the inning. Inge moved to 3rd on a Wild Pitch by Talbot. Ramon Santiago then walked to put men on the corners for the Tigers. Curtis Granderson then took a 2-1 count the deposited the ball into the leftfield stands for a 3-run homer, and put the Tigers up 3-0.
In the 4th inning, Talbot had a few control issues and gave up 5 walks in the inning. Edgar Renteria singled to right to lead off . After Dusty Ryan flied out to center, Inge, Santiago,Granderson ans Gary Sheffield all walked to scored 2 runs in the inning. With those runs crossing the board, Talbot was done for the day. In his 2.1 innings of work, Talbot gave up 5-runs on 5-hits, and gave up 5 walks on 71 pitches for the Rays.
The Rays Bullpen then combined to post 4.2 innings of scoreless work lead by Rookie David Price going the first 1.2 innings and striking out 2 batters. After Price, Dan Wheeler came on for 1 inning and posted 2 strikeouts and 2 walks in his time on the mound. With today’s appearance, Wheeler now has 4 straight years of at least 70 appearances in a game. His 26 holds is tops on the Rays, and 4 short of the AL lead held by the Angels’ Scott Shields.
Then Troy Percival came on and got a hitless inning to boost his chances of being added to the post season roster. Percival has been on notice that Maddon wanted to see a effort and control during his last appearance this season. In his last 8 appearances, Percival has not been too impressive, he has given up 7-hits and 9-runs in 5.1 innings of work. Opponent’s are hitting only .188 against him this year, good enough for 7th in the AL. Trever Miller then came on in the 8th inning and pitched another scoreless frame for the Rays.
Then in the 9th inning, Maddon inserted usual Rays starter Edwin Jackson to close out the game for the team. Jackson started the 9th by throwing some hard stuff around 96 M.P.H. plus against the Tigers. But Sheffield ended up hitting a single into rightfield to lead off the inning for the Tigers. Magglio Ordonez then hit a 2-run homer on a 2-2 pitch to left to tie the game at 7-7 and send the game into extra innings. Jackson ended up pitching 2 innigs and gave up 4-hits and 2-runs, while throwing 43 pitches. The homer gave Jackson his first blown save of the year.
Powerful 5th inning
In the end, Jackson ended up winning the game when the Rays won the game in the 11th inning. With the win, Jackson joined fellow starters former Rays Rolando Arroyo and James Shields as the only Rays starters to win 14 games in a season. The win was Jackson’s second in the week and puts him at 14-12 for the season. This is a massive improvement over the 5-15 he posted last season.
In the first 4 innings of today’s game, the Rays went down in order and did not seem to have the offensive firepower today. But in the 5th inning, the Rays began to attack Tigers starter Zack Miner. Rocco Baldelli hit a leadoff homer 423 feet to centerfield to put the Rays finally on the board. Willy Aybar the hit a double into the leftfield corner to put another Rays into scoring position. After 1 quick outs, Eric Hinske hit a 2-run shot to rightfield 402 feet over the scoreboard to bring the Rays to within 2 runs, 6-4.
Big 8th Inning Rally
In the 8th inning, the Rays sent 9 men to the plate and scored 4 runs to Rays up 7-5 in the game. The inning began with John Jason hitting a ball throught the hole between short and thrid for a single. Then Dan Johnson hit a liner about 15 feet off the ground to put 2 rays on base with no outs. Fernando Perez then walked on 8 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Jonny Gomes then hit a ball that went over centerfielder Curtis Granderson’s head and over the wall for a Ground Rule Double.
Gomes got 2 RBI’s on the play. Aybar then walked after Baldelli struck out to give the Rays a man on with 1 out. Ben Zobrist then hit a grounder to right to score Perez and move Gomes to third base and Aybar to second base and Zobrist to first to load the bases again for the Rays. Ruggiano then struck out, and Hinske walked to score Gome and leave the bases loaded for Jaso. Jaso was till at the plate when Aybar was called out on a runner’s choice for the 3rd out of the inning. But the score was now 7-5 Rays.
In the 10th inning, with the scored tied, Gomes tried to turn his single into a double and was tagged out at second for the 1st out in the inning. The play was a bit too aggressive, but Gomes could have gotten the base if he slide to the infield side of the bag. Aybar hit a screwamer into foul territory down the rightfield line that Mike Joyce caught for the third out.
For the game, Zobrist went 2-5 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored for the team. But it was his solo homer in the 11th inning that sealed the win for the Rays. Zobrist has now hit 4 homers in 4 games against the Tigers this weekend. In hitting his 12th homer of the season, Zobrist is showing a new power aspect to his game that was not there last season for the Rays. His 12 homers this season have come in only 198 at bats for the Rays.
The Rays might not know their opponent in the ALDS until maybe Tuesday because of the make-up game tomorrow between the DEtroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have to win that contest to advance into a one-game playoff for the AL Central division title against the Minnesota Twins.
If the White Sox do lose tomorrow, the Minnesota Twins will be the Rays opponent when they start the divisional series on Thursday at Tropicana Field. If the White Sox win both contests, they will represent the AL Central in St. Petersburg, Florida.
For some reason I have a mental block some night and get Ben Zobrist’s name wrong. I want to send a apology through my blog that it is not intentional, and I love your mohawk a bit more than Trever Millers’. Zobrist has been on fire lately, and I have smoldered a bit by messing up his name. I am sorry Ben, and I will try and not let it happen again.
If Rays fans remember, right before the end of the first half/All-Star break we also had a bit of a losing season and naysayer were predicting that the Rays were about to feel the heat of the closing in Boston Red Sox. We got through that debacle and came out like a rose winning the A L East last night.
I think we are having the same kind of mental laspe and fatigue we suffered in that series versus the Cleveland Indians. If you remember, we came out of the All-Star break on fire and ready to be the dragonslayers of the world. I am of the mind that it is good to sometimes lose right before you need your big wins. It gets you into another mental state, and actually transfixes you on the goal at hand……..to win the ALDS in 4 games.
Not know who we will play is not a big thing. We have played the teams in the A L central enough to know that they will both be good opponents for us. If I had to pick a opponent, I would pick the Chicago White Sox. I know we have had trouble with their lefty pitchers this year, but I also know that we can beat them at U.S. Celluar Field. We did win that series 2-1 earlier in the year, and I honestly think that we match up better with them for a series win.
To play against the Minnesota Twins so soon after out homestand debacle might work more into the Twin’s favor than into the Rays. We might have an excuse for the Sunday game (hangover city), but the 3 games played before that day were so closely contested that it was a crapshoot every night as to who might take control of the game. And their lefties also played a few numbers on our guys. So, here to hoping that Chicago wins on Sunday and takes the Tigers to task on Monday at home to win the division and get to come to the friendly confines of the Trop. for the first 2 games.
Coming into this series against the Tigers, Rays starter Matt Garza has gone 0-3 in th 4 career starts against the Tigers and has posted a 4.84 ERA against them. The Tigers Magglio Ordonez has feasted on Garza in the past going 5-11 against him prior to this start. Garza was making his 30th start of the season. Garza comes into the game with an Opponent’s Batting average of .246 this year, the best on the Rays staff this year.
In the game, Garza got off to a great start getting the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 1st inning. But in the 2nd inning, on a 3-2 count, Garza hung a breaking ball that Miguel Cabrera deposited in the leftfield stands for his major league leading 37th homer of the season. Garza got out of the rest of the inning without incident. In the 3rd inning, after issuing a walk to Brandon Inge, Garza got a 3-6 double play to end the inning.
In the 4th inning, Ramon Santiago came up and slap a ball to the right of Garza that the pitcher picked up and 1-hopped to Dan Johnson at first base. The play pulled Johnson off the bag and Santiago was safe at first on Garza’s errant throw. The error was only Garza’s 2nd of the year. Ordonez then got on base on a single to centerfield to put 2 runner on base for the Tigers. Rays catcher Miguel Hernandez then committed a pass ball and the runners advanced to put men on third and second with no outs in the inning.
Garza had a bit of bad luck on the first ball hit to leftfield in the 5th inning today. Mike Joyce hit a ball high in the air to Justin Ruggiano in left, and Ruggiano looked prepared to catch the ball for the 1st out, but it missed his glove and bounced over the outfield wall for a ground rule double. This would have been the first out of the inning. Edgar Renteria then hit a high chopper to Ben Zobrist at short and Zobrist took the play to thrid, but the tag on Joyce was not in time. This put men on the corner with no outs in the inning. Inge ten came up and hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Joyce from third and score Detroit’s 2nd run of the game.
Granderson then came up and hit a ball down the first baseline that Johnson fielded and threw to 2nd, ten Zobrist tried to complete the double play, but a high throw pulled Johnson off the bag. That put Granderson at first with 2 outs. Santiago then walked, and Ordonez hit a single into rightfield to score Granderson and notch the score at 3-3. For the start, Garza went 5.1 innings, and gave up 4-hits and 3-runs in the game on 74 pitches.
The Rays went to the Bullpen after the top of the 6th inning, and Jeff Nieman came out to pitch for the Rays. Neimann started the inning by walking Gary Sheffield on 6 pitches. Sheffield then tried to steal 2nd base, but Hernandez overthrew the base by 10 feet and the ball sailed into centerfield. Hernandez was given an error on the play, and Sheffield was standing on third with no outs in the inning. Neimann got two quick outs before Renteria hit a double down the leftfield line and put the Tigers up for good today 4-3. Neimann got the Tigers to go down 1-2-3 in the 7th inning.
In the 8th inning, Cabrera lead off the inning with a double to right on an 0-2 count. Sheffeild walked for the second time in the game to put 2 men on for the Tigers. Tiger’s catcher Dane Sardinha then came up and put down a bunt to the right of the 6’9″ Neimann, and he slipped and fell to the turf not able to complete the out. Neimann did get 2 quick outs to keep the Tigers from adding any runs in the inning. Niemann ended up throwing the Rays last 3 innings,and gave up 3-hits and a lone run to take the loss for the Rays. The loss evened his 2008 total to 2-2 for the year.
With the Rays resting a majority of their starters’, the Rays put Ben Zobrist at short for the game. Zobrist made several key plays for outs in the contest, but it was his bat that did the most damage in the game. Zobrist went 3-4 on the day, with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored in the contest. In his first at bat, he hit a ball to shallow left-center for a single.
The play moved Fernando Perez, who had walked to start the game to third with no outs. Zobrist lead off the 3rd inning with a single to deep center. And in the 5th inning, Zobrist hit his 11th homer of the year on a 1-2 count to put the Rays up 3-1 at that moment. For this series, Zobrist has now hit 3 homers in the 3 games in Detroit. In his last 4 games, Zobrist has now gone 7-14, with 3 homers and 5 RBI’s for the Rays.
Coming into the game, Baldelli is hitting .260, and has played in 25 of the last 44 games for the Rays. He was the D.H. today for the Rays against the Tigers. Baldelli went 1-3 today, with 2 RBI’s. It was his lone hit in the 1st inning that set the pace for the Rays. After Perez and Zobrist were on 2nd and 3rd respectfully, Baldelli hit a smash that 1-hopped to the right-centerfield wall and scored both men to put the Rays up 2-0 in the game. Baldelli also got on base in the 3rd inning when Detroit starter, Dontrell Willis hit him with a pitch.
With the Rays 2 errors today, they have now committed 90 errors for the season. That currently puts them as the 4th best defesne in the American League. Even with this decrease in their defensive mistakes, the Rays are making their mistakes come back to haunt them this season. And in the playoffs, a single error can change the scopre of the game in an instant.
Twins and White Sox
With neither of these teams seeming to want to win the American League Central Division, it looks like the Chicago White Sox will have to conclude their season with a Monday make-up game against the Tigers. The Twins currently lead the division by 1/2 of a game after both teams lost again today. Both teams will be playing at the same time tomorrow, and if the Twins lose and the White Sox win, it will come down to the make-up game for the White Sox to take the title and move on to face the Rays on Thursday night at the Trop.
I was on my Myspace page today and got a bulletin from the Cowbell Kid. He was urging fans who might have an extra ticket to share to contact him and he will buy it from you. He was unable to get a ticket through the regular channels and was hoping a generous Rays fan would help him out. He is willing to pay for the ticket and maybe give you a Cowbell lesson.
Seriously, I might not agree with the guy on a few issues, but he is a fixture at the stadium and should enjoy it with the rest of us regulars. And, I feel he has toned himself down a bit in the last few months to the point of everyone loving him again, even the old ladies in the front row.
So if you have an extra ticket and think you can spare it for the guy, go to his Myspace page and let him know as soon as possible. He would really appreciate it…………….
Sorry everyone, but I got so many of these pictures I need to just do a phto blog of the celebration photos. So just sit back and relax and open something cold, but do not throw beer on that poor dog. He will not know what you are celebrating about today.
I hope you enjoyed these pictures. I know there will be a million more by morning time plastered everywhere in the city.
Complete Worst-To-First Season With First AL East Division Title
RAYS CLINCH TITLE IN EARLY A.M.
They had to wait a day, and did not get it the way they might have dreamed about, but the Tampa Bay Rays can now lay claim to the American League East Divisional Championship. With the Rays loss against the Detroit Tigers tonight 6-4 in front of 39,617 fans in Comerica Park. The Rays thought they might have to get it done on the field again on Sat. night against the Tigers.
But a Boston Red Sox, 19-8 loss against the New York Yankees clinched the title for the 11 year old Rays. Manager Joe Maddon and a few of the players remained in the clubhouse at Comerica Park to watch the Red Sox game. Others watched it at Detroit’s MGM Grand and back at the team hotel.
Players and coaches, some of whom had left the park and then returned in anticipation of the party they had been awaiting, sprayed champagne and beer to commemorate their achievement.
The scene in the clubhouse at Comerica Park suggested the Rays didn’t mind at all that they couldn’t clinch on their own terms. The early morning party more than made up for the way the Rays met defeat Friday night.
Complete Worst-To-First Season With First AL East Division Title
RAYS CLINCH TITLE IN EARLY A.M.
Tampa Bay, which had never won more than 70 games in a season, became the first team other than Boston and New York to win the division since Baltimore did it in 1997. The Rays also became the first AL team in the divisional era to finish with the worst record in its league then win its division in the following year, according to Stats, LLC. Atlanta in 1991 and the Chicago Cubsin 2007 also accomplished the feat
The Rays’ Division Series playoff opponent will shake out in the final weekend of the season. Winning the AL East assured the Rays they will begin the playoffs at home against the winner of the AL Central — either the Twins or the White Sox — while Boston, the Wild Card winner, will head to Anaheim to play the Angels, who will finish with the AL’s best record.
I will get some photos in the morning from the news sources and update this blog. But as of right now at 1:32 A.M. I have only the result for you, and no photos.
What is it about old hairband songs and the American League. I am starting to believe that in this Karaoke inspired world that we are playing too many golden oldies and adapting them to our team as models of our character. Remember a few years ago when the Chicago White Sox were tearing up the playoffs, the chose a Journey song as their muse. “Don’t Stop Believing” is a great song, but not one I would every tag to a baseball team. But then I never thought the Rays would have Survivor of “Eye of the Tiger” cult status do a free concert to celebrate our Playoff success.
The Rays have been comtemplating who should throw out the first pitch at the Rays ALDS games. My choice is first Dick Vitale for obvoius reasons. Vitale was inducted with me in the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame in the same year. I still have his chair sign in my collectible folder. He is also a clssic example of the kind of fan we love. Loud, proud and totally bonkers at times.
But the guy to throw out the second pitch will get alot of debate. I think it should be Kevin Costner. He has done so many concerts both for the Rays and the Durham Bulls this year that he has been a symbol of the new logo, jerseis and attitude since his Straub Park concert. He is also a consumate baseball guy who is a true fan of the game. And his character Billy Chappell, is still one of my favorite baseball heros.
I hope that Placido Planco only has a sprained ankel or a turned ankle after that collision at home plate with Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 1st inning. He came into home pretty hard towards the right foot and shinguards of Navarro and he might have caught his foot under Navarro and twisted before crossing the plate. He was replaced in the top of the 2nd inning and you did not see him on the bench area, so maybe he was sent to get some X-rays to rule out a break or any ligament damage.
B J Upton
What can you say about B J Upton since he came back off the bench a few games ago and has been hitting the cover off the ball. Tonight Upton went 3-4, with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored in the game. And to top it all off, even with his bum shoulder he was able to muscle a homer out to leftfield in the 5th inning. It was only Upton’s 9th homer of the season, but it came at a time when the Rays needed a shot in the arm to get back into this game. His blast put the Rays within 2 of the Tigers, 5-3.
Upton was a combines 1-19 on this roadtrip before tonight’s game, and has played in 8 of the last 9 games for the Rays. Before his injury, Upton was hitting .396 in his last 48 at bats. Upton also stole second base after walking tonight to give him 44 for the season. That is currently good enough for 2nd in the AL, 5 behind Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox.
He has been trying for the last 7th starts to reach his 14th win for the Rays. Tonight was his last chance to grab at that golden ring this season for the Rays. Coming into tonight Sonnanstine has gone 0-2 since his last win against the Los Angels Angels back on August 18th. Alot of the problems have been after his exit in the game, but Sonnanstine also has done some damage himself this season. For example, in his last 3 starts, he has gone 19.1 innings and given up only 2 Earned Runs on 16 hits, while posting a 0.92 ERA.
Usually when you have a almost 3 games worth of totals like that you tend to have at least 2 wins in the books. But Andy has been snakebit and has been awarded nothing in those 3 starts. He is a guy who keeps you in the game and gives you a chance to win every time out. But tonight, he got his 9th loss of the season by just not hitting the right spots to one certain Tiger batter.
Sonnanstine got into trouble in the first inning tonight and it put himself and the Rays in a big hole early in the ballgame. Curtis Granderson fought off Sonnanstine’s pitches and finally walked after 7 pitches to open the game. Sonnanstine then walked Placido Polanco to put the first two Tigers on base. Magglio Ordonez then took a 0-1 pitch the drilled it into the leftfield corner to score both baserunners.
Miguel Cabrera then hit a sharply dipping ball that B J Upton grabbed off the turf and completed a double play by throwing to 2nd base and tagging Ordonez out at 2nd base. The Gary Sheffield came up and hit the first of his 2 homers to righfield to put the Tigers up first 3-0 on the Rays. Ramon Santiago again camne back to bite the Rays tonight in the 2nd inning when he hit a 2-run homer to left to up the score to 5-0 Tigers. Santiago has now hit 3 homers in 2 days against the Rays. He had 1 homer the entire season before this series.
After the 2nd inning, with the Tigers up 5-0, the Rays began to shut down the high powered Tiger offense. The only hits between the end of the second inning and the 8th inning , was a single to left by Sheffield in the 3rd inning and a single by Dane Sardinha in the 6th inning.
David Price came on in the 6th inning with 2-outs and hit the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Brandon Inge. He then walked Sardinha on 4 pitches to load the bases. Price got Santiago to line out to Gabe Gross in right for the final out of the inning. Price then came out in the 7th inning and got 2 quick outs before being replaced by Grant Balfour with Ordonez comint to bat for the Tigers.
Balfour got Ordonez to end the 7th inning. Balfour then got Cabrera to strike out before leaving a breaking ball up and Sheffield hit his 499th career homer to right to put the Tigers up 6-3. Balfour then got Mike Joyce to strike out and Inge to ground out to Akinora Iwamura to end the inning.
Frustration Level: HIGH
In tonight’s contest the Rays left 14 men on base. This is a stat that I have been harping on for almost the entire season. It is one that can make or break a team during a short series like the playoffs. The Rays have had breat opportunities to capitalize and score runs, but something always happens in thses situations.
Plenty of Scoring Chances
That tonight’s game, in the 3rd inning Upton got a fielder’s choice to the pitcher and scored Bartlett from third base, but Iwamura was forced out at second for the 2nd out of the inning. With Upton on first, Carlos Pena popped up to third to end the rally. Then in the 4th inning after Navarro hit his 27th double down the leftfield line, and Gabe Gross walked to put 2 men on base, Eric Hinske struck out to end the inning.
In the 5th inning, the Rays did start their most impressive rally of the night with Upton hitting his 75th career double to left to start the rally with 2-outs. Pena then hit aball up the middle to score Upton and Evan Longoria hit a ball through the hole at second base to put himself at first and Pena at third with Cliff Floyd coming to bat. Floyd ended up striking out to kill the rally
In the 7th inning after Upton hit his 9th homer of the season, Pena hit a beauty up the first baseline for a single. Longoria followed with a shot through the hole at shortstop and the Rays had 2 men on with 1-out. Rocco Baldelli pinch-hit for Floyd and struck out on 5 pitches. Navarro then hit a long fly ball to center for the 3rd out. In the 8th, the Rays again mounted a rally with 2-outs in the inning.
Jason Bartlett hit a ball deep into the shortstop hole for a single. Iwamura then hit a single just three feet left of Bartlett’s hit to put 2 men on with 2 outs. Uprton then hit a single to short and loaded the bases for Pena. Pena hit a long fly ball to Granderson in center for the 3rd out. In the 9th inning, Baldelli walked on 5 pitches to give the Rays a runner. Navarro then hit a blooper to center for a single. He was then replaced by pinch-runner Jonny Gomes. Willy Aybar then hit a nice ball down the first baseline and scored Baldelli from second base. With Gomes now on third and Aybar at first, he was replaced by pinch-runner Carl Crawford. But two quick fly balls by Zorbrist and Bartlett ended the game and the rally for the Rays.
Rays Win by Default Tonight
With the New York Yankees winning 19-8 against the Boston Red Sox, the Rays’ players and coaches’ and fans will be celebrating into the wee morning hours with their first AL East title in the books. I know this is not the way the guys wanted to win this title, they wanted to win it on the field. It is important for these guys to actually have the chanceto win it on the field for their confidience level going into the playoffs. You never want to back into the playoffs in any manner, much less win your first division title by default.
Still, the excitement of finally fulfilling the goals set in Spring Training should be the thing right now. The fact that the Rays can still win their last 2 games and make tonight a moot point in this default setting. Thi is the first time since the Rays first season that someone other than the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title.
Hey all, just got this Press Release from the Rays and thought you might like to know all the infoirmation concerning the Rallies scheduled for nest week. Please come out and show our hometown Rays just how wild this Playoff season will be for them and their opponent.
See you there,
For Immediate Release September 24, 2008
RAYS POSTSEASON RALLY SET FOR MONDAY;
PARTY IN THE PARK FOLLOWS ON TUESDAY
ST. PETERSBURG, FL—To celebrate their first trip to Major League Baseball’s postseason, the Rays will host
two events beginning with a rally on Monday, September 29 at 5 p.m. at Straub Park in downtown
St. Petersburg, presented by Budweiser and the St. Petersburg Times. A free concert by Multi-Platinum
Recording Artists SURVIVOR will conclude the event, which is free and open to the public.
At Monday’s event, all Rays players and coaches will be on hand and the Rays will offer a variety of familyfriendly
activities including interactive areas for kids featuring the Rays Street Team, inflatable wiffleball and
speed pitch machines. Food will be available and beverages will be provided by Anheuser Busch. Free
Mohawk haircuts will also be offered. SURVIVOR will perform ’80s hits as “Eye of the Tiger”, “High on You”
and “I Can’t Hold Back.” Fans are encouraged to park in the Baywalk garage for this event.
The following day, Tuesday, September 30, the Rays will host another free event, Party in the Park, at
Tampa’s Lykes Gaslight Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Ray Team and the Rays Street Team will be
on hand and free hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack will be handed out. There will also be an interactive
zone with the Rays hitting and pitching machines that people can play for a chance to win Rays prizes
and Smokey Bones will be on hand with free food.
Playoff merchandise will be on sale in the Rays Tampa store which is located across the street from the park at
400 N. Tampa Street. The latest Rays postseason merchandise will be available at both events. Postseason
ticket packages will be available to those who place deposits on 2009 Rays season tickets, based on
Media can park on the Kennedy side of Gaslight Park, spacing is limited.
The Rays Post Season Rally is schedule to be simulcast live on both FSN Florida & Sun Sports and will replay
from 11:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. and Tuesday, Sept 30 from 9:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
ATTENTION MEDIA – Parking for satellite trucks for the rally in St. Petersburg on Monday, September 29 will
be on Bayshore Drive.
For more information please contact the Rays Communications Dept., (727) 825-3242.
The Tampa Bay Rays have proudly represented Major League Baseball in the Tampa Bay region since 1998.
The organization and its foundation are committed to building a strong community bond through meaningful
interaction and charitable contributions.
I wanted to first start off my blog tonight by telling everyone that former Rays closer, and current Tigers reliever Todd Jones has announced his retirement from baseball on 9/25/2008. Jones was a closer for most of his career for 8 teams in the majors. He leaves with 319 saves in 1,072 major league innings. Tood spent his 2004 Spring Training with the Rays before being released on March 25, 2004. Jone might have not ever thrown a pitch during the regular season for the Rays, but he was good to the fans and made an impression on me as a treu professional on the field. I wish the best for him in his life away from baseball.
Okay, now back to over regularly scheduled blog moment. I am really psyched that the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays have decided to have a celebration in Straub Park this Monday at 5 P.M. It is an exciting time to be a Rays’ fan, and to actually just be a baseball fan. The current playoff season should be one of the most closely contested playoffs in a long time. Our opponent has not been decided, since the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins have been fighting it out the last 3 nights. Just remember, the White Sox have 4 games left to play, not 3 like I thought earlier in a blog.
I forgot about their make-up game against the Detroit Tigers, that will certainly be played this Monday unless the Twins or White Sox hit rock bottom this weekend and the divsion is handed to either team. I am expecting that the game will be played because of the 3-games series these team play this weekend. If for some reason they both win all 3, or have an similar record in the series’, the Monday contest would decide the division. If that happens, I expect the White Sox to pull out all the stops and put their best on the mound, because a loss will mean they are in front of the TV watching the other play the Rays.
Rays Magic Number: 1
Any Rays win or Boston loss gives the title to the Rays. Also do not forget if by some ungodly reason we are tied on Sunday, the Rays win on the tiebreaker of winning the overall series against the Red Sox 10-8 this year
Already the local media have brought out the Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde aspect of Scott Kazmir’s last few starts. I am thinking more in the line of, is he trying to spot his pitches, or is there a true mechanical issue with him right now? Seriously folks, sometimes it looks like the guy is trying to put it to a spot instead of being the power pitcher that he has always been for the Rays.
Kazmir is a power pitcher period. He is too young and too talented for a pitching coach to try and change his delivery right now in his career. He was the 2007 strikeout king, but this year an elbow injury has even kept him off the leaderboard because of innings to qualify for the honors. He is 8.2 innings short right now from being able to post his number with the big boys this year. His 9.65 strikeouts/ 9 innings would be leading the AL, and his .217 opponents batting average is 2nd in the AL. And his 3.49 ERA would put him 11th in the AL this year. It is a shame this guy is not able to show his true numbers to the rest of the league.
This game was not vintage Kazmir by any measure of the imagination. His command was not awful, but he did let more thna few batter off the hook yesterday after getting them to a 0-2 count. Kazmir gave up a total of 4 homers in this contest to match the amount given up a few weeks ago in a start. In his last start, Kazmir rebounded from the worst start of his career to win and clinch a playoff berth for the Rays. A victory today would have sparked off another mad run for the champagne bottles, but it was not in the cards for the Rays.
Kazmir worked 5 innings today and gave up only 6 hits and 4 runs in 102 pitches in the contest. But it was his leadoff homers in the 1st and 3rd innings to Ramon Santiago that took the game out of Kazmir’s hands. Santiago entered the game with a grand total of 1 homer this year before facing Kazmir today.
Not to be lost in the translation is the fact that he also gave up a leadoff homer to Mike Hessman on a 0-2 pitch in the 4th inning, and a another leadoff homer to Dusty Ryan on a 3-1 gount in the 5th inning. At this point, Kazmir had given up 4 homers to lead off his first 5 innings of the game.
Before this season, who would have thought you would be using the words power and hitter together to describe Ben Zobrist. He has honed a great power stroke this season at the plate, and his switch-hitting has been a blessing to the Rays. Ben again displayed his power by hitting his 9th homer of the year to tight in the 1st inning. The play put the Rays up early 1-0, and it would be the last time they led in this game.
Zobrist for the day went 2-4, with 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored for the Rays. His 3-run homer, his 2nd of the game, was a thing of beauty traveling maybe 421 feet to just pop over the deep centerfield wall in Comerica Park. That brought the Rats close 5-7 in the game, but after his homer, the Rays offense could not click to produce any more runs in the game. That was Zobrist’s first multi-homer game of his career.
I sometime do not know what to think of Jason Hammel. He has had moments as a long reliever this year with the Rays, and as a closer in the Boston series. His mixed review appearance leave you with a feeling that he might not be here on 2009 based solely on the talent this team has behind him. Because he is out of minor league options, and would have to clear the Waiver wire to even get to the minors, the Rays have not been able to move him up or down this year. Tonight was anotherexample of how much he stills needs to learn to be a top reliever. But I do feel he has the talent and the motivation to be a reliever, but the Rays might not have the time and position in 2009 to teach him the position. Nothing personal Jason, I get a kick out of you personally in the way you carry yourself on the squad.
Hammel came in and pitched 1 inning today abd gave up 2 critical runs in the 7th inning He gave up 2 runs on 2 hits, which began with a Santiago single to right. He then gave up a screamer down the leftfield line to Marcus Thames that Eric Hinske lost in the corner and Santiago scored from 1st to give the Tigers their 5th run of the game. Hammel pitched great for the Rays until Miquel Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Thames with the game winner. Curtis Granderson then came up and put a 1-2 pitch into the rightfield stands to give the Tigers their last run of the game, and a 7-2 lead.
Longoria hit his 27th homer of the season in the 7th inning. The line drive shot barely cleared the leftfield wall, but gave the Rays their 2nd run of the game. For the day, Longoria went 1-3 and als got a walk in the contest. Evan has benn batting .240 since returning to the lineup on Sept. 13th. His 27 homers leads all MLB rookies, and he is the 11th AL rookie in the last 25 years to reach 26 homers. He also leads all rookies in RBI’s ( 85 ), total bases ( 236 ), and Extra Base Hits ( 60 ) this season.
I am a huge fan of the work that Percival has done in the Bullpen this season both on the mound and in teaching the younger guys the hidden secrets in relieving in the majors. You know this guy has a great mind for baseball, and he is always egar to share the information with his teammatea and make this Bullpen better daily. I know the Rays and Manager Joe Maddon have to make a decision soon on Percival to either include or delete him from the Playoff roster.
The roster is not dues until early nest week, but the nest few games might be an audition for Percival to show he can pitch on notice and can be depended on in multiple day outings. Today’s appearance was for 1 inning and he threw 17 pitches and gave up only a single walk to Matt Joyce. His velocity looked good and his command was a bit off, but around the plate. He looked more like he was trying to use the corners too much tonight instead of going after the guys like he usually does on the mound. But all in all, it was a productive and great outing for Percival. Tomorrow might be the true test and might be the deciding outing on his post season bid.
I have always been cautous to use the phrases collusion and pre-meditated when talking about the relationship bewteen the Rays and the MLB brass. But this schedule situation just reeks of improper usage of power and uncommon misinformation by the league office. Isn’t there a MLB travel rule that states if you travel by air more than 1 and 1/2 hours, your next game can not be played brfore 5 P.M. the following day?
Funny, the Rays got into the Detroit area after 2 A.M. and might have been in their hotel at 3:30 or 4 A.M. before having to get up and get on the team bus to the stadium at 10 A.M. Funny, the Yankees and the Red Sox do not these kind of farse games on their schedules this late in the year. Nice messup MLB, maybe we might try and win it all now and you can stuff this game somewhere very dark.
Here is a nice stat for Rays fans. Since our first game in 1998, no one other than the New York Yankees, or Boston Red Sox have won the American League East title. So by winning the title, the Rays will break the streak by the fab two that has been deadlocked for otyher teams for 11 years.