Sunday, May 17, 2009

Turning the corner?

So far this weekend has become a throwback to last year.  Friday night the Rays get a walk-off homer from B.J. Upton and on Saturday we see a good old fashioned grind-it-out win at Tropicana Field. All year, the Rays struggled to find their groove.  The starting pitching is having trouble.  The bullpen is not as tough. The little things they did right last year are going wrong. But, for the last two days, things are looking up.  Maybe this team has turned the corner. But, it's going to take more than a weekend for me to fully believe.  Here are 10 things I would like to see from the Rays this week:

1.  Solid Starting pitching.  Matt Garza is the only starter pitching with authority. Andy Sonnanstine's troubles are well-documented. Jeff Neimann is still learning his way around the big leagues. But, what can we say about James Shields and Scott Kazmir.  I said earlier this year that the Rays need to get 2 of 3 wins from the "big 3" each time through the rotation.  Right now, they're lucky to get one.  We know that both Shields and Kaz are capable of dominating, but we're just not seeing it.  Before I believe the corner is turned, I need to see this guys light it up on back to back nights.

2.  More Bossman.  Gary Shelton wrote a great column  about B.J. Upton's struggles this morning. In it, he makes a good point about how the Rays need Bossman to jump start the lineup in the lead-off position. He's right. Maddon knows that the "Vicious Circle" line-up is the key to the Rays' offense long term health.  That's why he's stuck with Bossman at the top.

3.  More Fire.  I've noticed all year that the Rays are lacking a fire that had last year.  They seem more like robots than the fun-loving group we saw last year.  Maybe Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske's departure have something to do with it. If that's the case, other guys need to step up and fill that roll.  We saw the fire Friday night.  According to Bossman (after the game) and Mark Topkin , Troy Percival became the cheerleader for the team.  Maybe the most hated man on the Rays roster is going to step-up into a leadership roll.

4. Series Wins. The Rays have had trouble all year winning series (against teams other than the Red Sox).  Between today and next Sunday, they have the chance to win 3 series.  They need to finish off Cleveland today.  Then, they need to take 3 of 4 from Oakland at home, followed by a weekend series against the Florida Marlins.  That would put them over .500 and possibly on their way.

5. Series wins are nice, but big win streaks are better.  The FOX guys pointed out once again yesterday that the Rays have only had one 3 game win streak all year.  That has to change.  While the Rays aren't racking up long losing streaks, they're also not getting the big winning streak that leads to making up ground in your division.  If they can't get those kind of streaks going, they'll continue to hover around .500 at the bottom of the AL East.

6. Early leads.  The past few games, the Rays have come out of the box very slowly the first time through the order.  I attribute this a little to Pat Burrell being out of the line-up, but that excuse only goes so far.  Nothing is more frustrating than watching the Rays let a mediocre pitcher get comfortable on the mound. Apply the pressure early, and it will make the Rays' starting pitchers a little better.

7. Zorilla every day.  I must admit, I'm late to joining the Ben Zobrist bandwagon.  But, that guy is becoming a baller.  I really think he's won the starting right field job from Gabe Gross.  He seems to be playing like the guy we were looking for last year in right field.  I remember last year how Maddon kept saying he really like Zorilla's swing.  I've become such a big fan that I'm putting a link to the right of the page to Zorilla's wife's CD.  Buy it now for inspiration, it's working for Zorilla.  If her CD isn't your thing, you can always check out Rays Index's Zorilla t-shirt .

8. National league dominance.  Last year, the Rays feasted on the National League going 12-6.  Specifically, they went 5-1 versus the Florida Marlins.  They start their interleague schedule Friday versus those Marlins and they need to keep that up.

9. Some Toronto losses.  I know the Rays can't do anything about this until they play them, but, wow, that team doesn't seem to lose too often.  Dare I say they're playing like the Rays did last year?

10.  More "Sox beater" jersey.  The Rays are 3-0 in the blue "Sox beater" jerseys. I want to see those jerseys  more against someone other than the Red Sox.


Matty said...

You're such a Kaz apologist. He's the one I'm worried most about. I don't think he'll ever be the same. Shields is just running into some bad luck. I think he'll be back. Oh, and as for Sonny, he should not be pitching in the big leagues. If the Rays are serious about making a run they need to bring up Price. He's got to be better than Kaz and Sonny at this point.

Michael_Rays Rev said...

Can't help it. Kaz was the only bright spots in some dreary summers.

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