Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pena and Shields prove Rays ain't done yet

Picture courtesy of Rebecca from

I'm going to admit it. I was pretty bummed watching Johan Santana cut through the Rays line-up with precision yesterday. It didn't matter to me how good James Shields was pitching, I thought that the one run the Mets got in the 2nd inning would be more than enough for Santana.  It was a script that had been written over and over again the past three days.  The starter gives up a couple of runs early and the Rays can never catch up.  Even when Jason Bartlett and Gabe Kaplar hit back-to-back doubles to tie the score, I wasn't convinced.  

Then came Carlos Pena's monster shot.  It doesn't get any better than that.  Facing a tough pitcher in a tough ballpark, Pena put his team on his back and made sure James Shields ace performance wouldn't go unrewarded. And what a performance it was.  He only gave up 1 run on 3 hits.  He retired 14 Mets in a row after giving up a double to Joey Cora in the third.

The Rays go at it again today.  A win and they finish the 6 game road trip and 3-3 before heading back to the Trop for some home cooking.

Here are some things I noticed:

  • Playing with the lead.  Pena's home run gave the Rays their first lead in 4 games.  Since the first game in Denver, the Rays have unsuccessfully been playing catch-up.  Yesterday, they finally caught up.  Granted, it was only a 1-run lead, but against Johan Santana that seemed almost insurmountable. 
  • Longo's slump.  One reason the Rays have been having trouble catching up is Evan Longoria's little mini-slump. In the past four games, he's just 3-14.  This team is a lot more potent offensively when Longo's knocking the ball all over the park.  I'm not sure yet if he's being pitched differently or if the hamstring injury has somehow affected his swing.  Right now, his average is down to .299.
  • Crawford's bigger slump.  CC is also slumping a little at the top of the order.  National League pitching doesn't seem to agree with him.  Since this round of interleague play started, CC is 3-for-29.  The Rays have trouble generating offense while CC and Longo are slumping.
  • Big outs from the bullpen.  Dan Wheeler has taken a lot of heat this year, but he really looked solid in his last couple of outings.  Following the long rain delay, Wheeler went out and got a 1-2-3 inning from the Mets to keep Shields' lead intact.  There was no drama, no concern, just a workman-like hold.  J.P. Howell made things a little tougher on himself, giving up a 2 out hit to Carlos Beltran.  But, he made David Wright look bad and struck him out to end the game.
  • Zorilla's insurance run.  Ben Zobrist continues to come up big in the clutch.  With 2 outs in the top of the ninth, he tacked on an insurance run with his 15th homer of the season.  Zorilla is becoming a fan favorite here in the Bay Area, yesterday he showed a national audience why.
  • More Cowbell.  Looks like the cowbell craze is catching on past Tropicana Field.  Last night, I flipped on the Marlins/Yankees game and what did I see?  Marlins fans sporting orange cowbells and ringing them to cheer the team.  At first, I was offended that the Marlins would rip the Rays off.  Then I realized, who cares? If it upsets Yankee fan in Florida, I'm all for it.  Plus, the Marlins beat the Yankees allowing the Rays to pick up a game in the AL East.  

Happy Father's day to all the fathers who are reading this right now.  Baseball and fathers just go together.

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