Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maddon plays "Do or Die with Pena"

I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm a huge Carlos Pena fan.  But really, was he the best person to be batting in the top of the 9th with 2 on and 0 outs.  The Rays finally wrestled a little momentum from the Red Sox.  A walk by Akinori Iwamura and a hit by Jason Bartlett had Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on the ropes.  His head wasn't straight and you could tell that Red Sox nation was holding their breath.  Up walks Carlos Pena with the game on the line.

Before we go any further, let's rewind.  Rays manager Joe Maddon gave Pena the night "off."  I understand that it is a long season and that guys need to rest, but c'mon it's the Boston Red Sox at Fenway on a nationally televised stage.  Carlos will get plenty of time to rest during the off day. Instead, Willy Aybar takes the field and makes an error that leads to an early Red Sox run.  Do you know who else missed Pena? Evan Longoria.  He wasn't quite as hot with Pat the Bat behind him. It was almost like you had one half of a dynamic duo.

Back to the top of the ninth.  Maddon has a "fresh" Pena ready to pinch hit against Papalbam, but the question is where?  You really like starting the inning off with Aki and Bartlett.  This is where they shine.  Plus, you don't want to pinch hit for one of your middle infielders.  So, what about the catcher?  He's batting .182.  Fine. Grab a helmet Carlos, you're going in for Navi.

Except, the situation changed.  Aki was unable to score on Bartlett's base hit.  So, now you have the 2 on, no outs situation with a flustered closer.  Next in the order is a guy who can sacrifice bunt.  But, you've already committed to a man who pretty much either strikes out or hits a homer.  Worse yet, he's followed by a guy who's not only in a slump but also is 2nd on the team in strikeouts. 

Maddon decided to play "Do or Die with Pena!"  In this case, it was die.  Pena strikes out. Upton strikes out. Carl Crawford strikes out.  End of game.  End of series.  I guess if Pena hits a 3-run blast, I'm writing about how great a manager Maddon is.  Actually, I doubt it.  If I'm able to correctly predict a strikeout for Pena before he even gets up, I'm sure Maddon's charts say the same thing.  He was hoping for a miracle.

I felt like the Rays were sleepwalking through the game.  That seems to happen this year after huge offensive nights.  Some joke that they use 2 days worth of runs up in one day.  Garza pitched well.  The bullpen did just enough to lose the game and here we sit... ready for yet another last place battle against the Baltimore Orioles.

I would also like to issue a challenge to Joe Morgan to watch a few more Rays games. He actually said that Papelbon was pitching around Crawford to get to Longoria.  Really, Joe? Did you miss the part where Longo owns the Red Sox? You were probably the only one in that stadium that thought pitching around CC to get to Longo was a good idea.   Also Joe, trading Edwin Jackson did not diminish the Rays starting pitching as much as you would have us believe.  I understand he won 14 games last year, but we didn't call him Ed"winless" Jackson because he was good at winning games.


Adrian said...

It's great that the Rays get national exposure but I'll take Dewayne any day. Or at least mute it and listen to Dave and Andy.

Michael_Rays Rev said...

It's interesting to hear what other announcers have to say about the Rays... for about 5 minutes. Once their ignorance of the team or their blatant pandering to Red Sox nation comes through... I've had enough. Morgan did a pretty good job except for the 2 parts I pointed out.

Matty said...

Not laying down a squeeze with a man on third and no outs is inexcusable. That would have at least tied the game. Instead you have 3 strikeout prone guys swing away? No question, Joe Maddon cost the Rays a game last night. A game they will probably end up regretting got away at the end of the season. The division is too good - missed opportunites WILL haunt you.

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