Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rays to Jays: Get outta my way!

The message from the Rays is clear:  We've got a playoff hunt to get into and you're in our way.  
The Rays have been playing catch up to the Toronto Blue Jays since opening day. For now, it's over.  The Rays will leave the Rogers Centre in 3rd place ahead of the Jays and nipping on the New York Yankees heals. 

Don't get me wrong, the Jays aren't completely out of it.  It was only 2 games out of 18 between the Rays and Jays the rest of the season.  But, the Rays sent a message in this first series.  It's a message they'll remember when they come to the Trop next week. It's also a message coming through loud and clear to the Yankees and Red Sox.

Here are some things I noticed in the 4-1 victory.

  • Setting the table. Speaking of messages, what did it say when B.J. Upton took the 1st pitch of the game deep and staked Matt Garza a 1-0 lead.  I'm sure it's nights like this that Maddon dreamed of when he first imagined Bossman taking over the lead-off spot.
  • Speed and Power.  Not to be out done, Carl Crawford showed why he's still one of the best outfielders in the American League.  He hit his 2nd homer in 2 days.  When you have Bossman and CC going deep at the top of the order, you're going to score plenty of runs.
  • Matt Garza's stuff.  The Rays righty didn't have his filthiest stuff last night. But, between him and the defense they had enough stuff to keep the Jays at-bay.  More than once, the Jays threatened, but each time Garza and the defense shut them down.  As Maddon said: Streaks like this begin and end with pitching.  The Rays are getting good solid starting pitching to go with their hot bullpen.
  • Rays rock June. The Rays went 19-7 this month.  They put together 1 four game win streak, 1 six game win streak, and now a 7 game win streak. In case you're wondering the the Rays are 44-35 right now... in 2008 at this time they were 48-31. And last year, the Rays got real hot in August.
  • Saucy J.P. Howell.  Joe Maddon said after the game last night that J.P. Howell was "saucy" before the game. I'm not sure if that was good or bad, but the "unofficial" closer brought his "sauce" to the mound and closed out another game. Rays pitching coach and some time broadcaster Brian Anderson actually called Howell the "unofficial" closer.  In my book, that means he really is the closer.
  • Apple bottom jeans... boots with the fur.  One reason I know things are really starting to turn for the Rays is Maddon's decision making seems to be up to task again.  He decided to sit Evan Longoria to rest his hamstring and instead give Willy Aybar the start. Willy rewarded Maddon with a solo homer. After the game Maddon said: Willy stays ready. Willy loves to play. Willy is a beautiful man.

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