Monday, June 29, 2009

Another milestone in sprint to All-Star break

The Rays in sweep over the Florida Marlins, combined with the Philadelphia Phillies handling of the Toronto Blue Jays put the Rays in a place they haven't been in a long time: Legitimately back in the playoff hunt.  They've passed the Blue Jays, taken sole possession of 3rd place in the AL East and are a season-high 7 games over .500. It's a nice place to be with only a couple of weeks until the All-Star break.

Now, they get the opportunity to take care of business themselves.  They're headed north of the border for a showdown with the Toronto Blue Jays that will show us exactly where this team is. Will it be easy? Hardly.  The Rays haven't been the best road team all year and the Blue Jays play tough in their dome.  Plus, Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay is coming of the disabled list just in time to cool down the Rays.

Earlier this year a Red Sox friend of mine on Twitter compared the 2009 Blue Jays to the 2008 Rays. He said there was no comparison because the Blue Jays lacked the "swagger" the Rays had both last year and this year.  Interesting.  We'll see what kind of swagger the Rays can muster up this week.

Here are some things I noticed from the Rays 5-2 victory and sweep over the Marlins:

  • J.P. Howell, fireman.  Have the Rays finally found their closer? Howell doesn't think so, but it sure is looking like he's Maddon's go to guy late in the game.  For the 3rd game in a row, Howell shut the door on the Marlins allowing the Rays to take the game.  He's got my vote.
  • Toasty Upton.  After the game, Joe Maddon was listing off the reasons the Rays are playing better now and one of those was "Upton getting toasty."  I have to agree with the skipper, this lineup is way more dangerous with Bossman hitting homers and getting on base. 
  • 100 homers, 100 stolen bases.  Maddon said yesterday that everyone always talks about the Rays speed on the base paths, but fails to acknowledge the team's power.  There's no doubt the rest of the league will take notice now.
  • Work in progress. David Price kept his spot in the rotation following Scott Kazmir's return, and he went out and proved he still belonged.  He did have some shaky moments, but all-in-all was able to keep a tough Marlins lineup in check.  He definitely looked better than he did the other night against Philadelphia.


Matty said...

It's amazing what a hot B.J. can do. It seems as if the rest of the big bats (Longo, Zobrist) have cooled off, and B.J. is single-handedly carrying the offense. Welcome back, Bossman!

Also, it's been a while since we've seen Lance Cormier. That's a good thing. When we get frequent Cormier appearances that means the starting pitchers ARE NOT doing their jobs.

Lastly, the bullpen continues to look like 2008 this month. That's going to be the key in Toronto. Stopping potential rallies and posting zeroes. If the games are low scoring with the Jays, I think that favors the Rays.

Michael_Rays Rev said...

I'm going to use the Cormier observation in my 10 things post. The bullpen is real hot right now. JP is lights out and the rest of them look pretty good. I just want to see if they can keep it up on the road. Remember, they're going to have to get to .500 on the road at some point to get back in contention in the AL East.

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