Archive for the ‘Tampa Bay Rays’ Category

rays party wolfman

The Rays, for better or worse, always seem to zig when every other team in baseball zags. In the playoffs, the Wild Card games in particular, teams load up their roster with pitchers. Turn starters in to relievers, carrying as many as 11 hurlers out of 25 spots.

Tampa Bay, of course, chose to do the opposite. They named just nine pitchers on their roster for tonight, going with a very long bench of position players instead. A long bench that curiously includes three catchers. Perhaps Cleveland, with Carlos Santana and even Yan Gomes, could understandably carry three catchers as the aforementioned receivers can both play first base. Santana’s bat is such that he could forcibly start as the designated hitter – in fact they’re doing just that.

Nobody would ever accuse Jose Molina, Jose Lobaton, and Chris Gimenez of being designated hitters. The three catchers combined to hit fewer home runs and Gomes, who hit 11 to Santana’s 20. But the Rays are here today, and have been a consistent contender since 2008, because of their ability to get more out of all 25 spots on their roster. To play matchups as soon as an edge presents itself. To move players around and platoon and extract the, erm, extra 2% that can make the difference between winning and losing.

Perhaps this is a case of Billy Beane‘s famous quote from Moneyball, about how his shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. For all their regular season success and marginal surplus value, the Rays have not won a playoff series since they reached the 2008 World Series – losing twice in a row in the LDS. The extra 2% makes a difference over the long haul, but in a coin flip game? That two percent might not outweigh the zillion other tiny factors that could each swing or hang on a single moment in a single game. This is the joy and pain of the win-or-go-home Wild Card proposition.

The Rays don’t have the horses to shift gears dramatically, just running out their nine best and going toe-to-toe with the AL’s best as they reach the postseason again this year. They will (potentially) die as they live – seeking tiny advantages, leaving no stone unturned.

They will counter Cleveland’s barrage of relief pitchers with a parade of pinch hitters to the on deck circle. Defensive replacements until the cows come home. It should be Overmanagin’ Joe Maddon in his element – making moves for moves’ sake. The Rays Way, like it or lump it. Settle in and prepare for a very long game – one that may turn on a hunch or a single cell in a spreadsheet.

As the Blue Jays rallied from a 7-0 deficit against the Rays in Sunday’s finale, it sort of felt like destiny. It felt like a destiny mirroring Tampa Bay’s remarkable 2011 comeback. As everybody who had a pulse in 2011 knows, the Rays came back from down 7-0 in Game 162 to eventually beat the Yankees and steal the final playoff spot from the Red Sox in the most dramatic display of regular season baseball the sport has seen.

Of course, this isn’t Breaking Bad, and the bounces of the baseball don’t know symmetry. In the seventh inning, the Blue Jays had arguably their best chance: down 7-4, with one out and the bases loaded, Adam Lind came to the plate and hit a scorcher up the middle. Yunel Escobar was positioned perfectly, but he had a long way to run to second base, and the resulting throw caught first baseman James Loney with a medium hop right at his body, one of the toughest scoops a first baseman can face. If the ball goes by him, at least one run scores, and chances are an aggressive Brett Lawrie would have scored from second base as well.

Naturally, Loney picked it perfectly.

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On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers will compete against each other in the 163rd game of their respective seasons. The winner of this match will progress to another single elimination game (against the Cleveland Indians), while the loser will be done for the season. This is the case because after 162 games, the Rays and Rangers both have 91 wins, 71 losses and a .562 winning percentage.

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

Unless you’re a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, everything you know about Edwin Encarnacion is a lie. If you still think of Encarnacion as “E5″, you’re wrong. Not only has he made just 10 starts at the hot corner over the last two seasons, he has evolved far beyond the the league-average hitter who pounded 26 home runs as a member of the Cincinnati Reds (with stops in the minor leagues and on waiver wire in between).

Here, in 2013, Edwin Encarnacion is one of the best power hitters in the game. He is the only player with a slugging percentage above .450 who still manages to walk more than he strikes out. He has more extra base hits this season than strikeouts. Nobody else in baseball, not Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Beltre, can claim that. Just Edwin Encarnacion.

On Sunday afternoon, Edwin Encarnacion came to the plate in the seventh inning with his team down a run. The opposing pitcher, Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays, was dealing. Archer had allowed just a single hit to that point, striking out five batters without issuing a single walk. Archer was doing it with his superlative fastball, commanding the pitch and coaxing a series of lazy fly balls.

This presents itself as a good matchup for Edwin Encarnacion, who pounds fastballs for a living. 21 of EE’s 31 homers have come against the heat this season, tying him for the lead league with Miguel Cabrera. It is a matchup of strength versus strength.

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Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros

Every Friday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the four competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Wednesday night’s Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros game. We call this #PropHate.

The Narrative

We like to say that things have a way of evening out, and while there’s some truth to that statement, it’s a bit more complicated than putting faith in the due theory. Coming into Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Houston Astros had lost five in a row, including back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Rays, who outscored the Astros 20-0 over the last two games.

Tampa Bay is a good team. Houston is a bad team. But the gap between good and bad in terms of Major League Baseball teams isn’t as wide as heroes and villains in summer blockbuster movies. Even the lowly Astros are unlikely to be consistently outscored by an average of ten runs a game by the mighty Rays.

And so, we get Wednesday night. A game in which Houston’s ace, Bud Norris, did what he’s done at home for the past two seasons. And a game in which Chris Carter did something that he hasn’t done at home since coming to the Astors. Good starting pitching and home run hitting combined to give Houston a 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

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Rays suck

Remember yesterday when we praised the Mariners marketing initiatives, engendering good will in the face of decades of futility on the field? With the Mariners starting the season on the road, they opened Safeco Field to fans and it was an unqualified success.

The Rays are the opposite of the Mariners. They built a very successful ballclub in a less-than-optimal location, with very little fan support for a whole host of reasons. The Rays, try as they might, haven’t built the same type of love affair with their fans.

The Rays are still willing to try, however. They see how well the Mariners create memorable experiences for their fans and they want a piece of that pie. So what did the Rays do? They ripped off one of the most successful Mariners promotions and made it their own.

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Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays

Most teams fresh off trading an innings-eating sub ace like James Shields would have problems filling out their rotation the following year. Replacing the innings and overall goodness of a pitcher like Shields isn’t easy. It’s hard, in fact! That why teams give up their number one prospect to get Shields – guys like him are hard to find.

The Rays are not most teams. The Rays have pitchers – lots of pitchers – ready and willing to fill out their rotation. Can they replace Shields right away with available talent? Apparently the Rays can fill out their rotation without using any of their heralded young starters.

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