Friday, July 20, 2007

Rays Notes

The Rays offense continued it torrid pace since BJ Upton has come of the disabled list and helped the Rays take two out of three from the Angels. It seems that Joe Maddon has finally found a lineup that he likes, and that works. The two through six hitters in the Rays lineup, ate the Angels pitching staff up, and even in though the Rays lost 3-0 in the final game they still managed to rack up 9 hits, only one short of the Angels in the game. The Rays also got outstanding pitching performances from their starters and even some of the bullpen.

During the 3 game set the two through six hitters went a combined .431, scoring 11 runs, and driving in 12. The lineup looks to have had a jolt put into it since Upton came off of the DL and has looked very impressive since he was moved into the three hole and Carlos Pena was moved in the cleanup spot. Upton in the three hole moves Carl Crawford up to the two hole where he is the most effective and he has shown it with his improved base stealing. Crawford nabbed four bases in the three game set with the Angels and scored four runs. Pena has continued his torrid hitting and has looked even better in the cleanup role. Delmon Young has also responded well to being moved up to the 5 hole batting .500 in the series.

The bats being hot has happened before, but the pitching was never there to match. This series the Rays got outstanding 7 inning starts from all three starters. James Shields bounced back nicely from a couple of bad outings and only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings, but most importantly he did not give up any home runs, which have been a problem for him recently. Scott Kazmir followed with his best performance of the year. Finally, even though the Rays lost game three, Andy Sonnanstine threw a great game and only gave up three runs in 7 innings and did not walk a batter.

Kazmir's game was his second great outing in a row against a solid team. After the All-Star break, Kazmir said that he was going to stop worrying about all the mechanical changes and just go out on the mound and throw. Since than Kazmir has looked outstanding and has kept his pitch count down. Kaz did not have his best slider on Wednesday, but his fastball was electric and he worked quickly and efficiently. For the first time all year Kazmir was in the 60's for a pitch count during the 6th inning. Although Kazmir was not going for the strike out, he still manged to strike out six batters as a by product of his outstanding pitching. Kazmir has had a tough year so far, but he looks to be back to his dominant form.

The Rays also got some decent outings from some of the members of the bullpen. Jay Witasik, Al Reyes, Gary Glover, and Brian Stokes looked outstanding in each of their innings they pitched. Reyes pitched a perfect inning in his first inning back since coming off the DL, which is a great sign for the Rays. While the Rays got some good outings from some members, they still got the crap from Casey Fossum and Sean Camp. Fossum has not been able to get anyone out all year and has become a huge waste of money. Camp had a string of good outings, but has come back down to earth and is giving up runs. While the Rays got good news from some, they were reminded that they still have a bit to go in close games.

The series against the Angels showed what this team can do when given a chance in a game. With good starting pitching this team can compete with anyone. If the Rays can get some consistent starting pitching and decent relief help they will be in the hunt next year. The Rays look to continue the good play on a seven game road trip to New York and Baltimore.

Rays Moves

After the Angels series the Rays made some moves to help the pitching staff for the upcoming Yankees series. The Rays sent Jorge Cantu down to Durham and designated Dustin Mohr for assignment. They called up Scott Dohman and Jae Kuk Ryu to take there places on the roster. Dohman has a 2.03 era in 48.2 IP in Durham for the year, but his past in the majors has not been good with a 5.74 era in 125.1 IP and a .273 BAA in his career in the bigs. Ryu was sent down earlier with a 5.06 ERA in 21.1 IP and actually pitched worse in Durham. Ryu had a 5.97 ERA in 37.2 IP while in Durham. I am not sure why these moves were made over others, especially the Ryu move considering how bad his numbers have been in Durham and while up with the big club.

Jorge Cantu was not happy about being sent down to Durham and has said that he knows he is not wanted here anymore. Cantu will report to Durham, but has asked the Rays to trade him as soon as he can. Cantu has realized he is no longer in the Rays plans and wants to leave. If the Rays could get a baseball for him I am sure they would trade him.

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