Monday, July 6, 2009

Red hat role reversal

I'm still blaming the red hats. For the third consecutive night, the Texas Rangers played like the Rays and the Rays played like the Rangers.  The Rangers had good pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting.  The Rays had shaky pitching, spotty defense, and absolutely no hitting.   They didn't look like a team who had just had 4 players selected to the AL All Star team. In fact, Robin (Pixie1212) on twitter remarked on the difference between the two teamslast night: 
Given national stage, #Rangers using AllStar snubs as motivation, while #Rays missing opportunity to justify why so many were chosen.

This slump is eerily remincint of the Rays slump going into last year's all-star break. Fortunately, this year, the Rays got six home games to right their ship in the race to the All-Star break.  They can't let the Blue Jays, who are also slumping, back in to it.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rangers 5-2 victory:

  • Rays shaky starting pitching.  I've got to give a little credit to Matt Garza for not getting pounded like David Price did the night before, however he had an increasingly annoying habit last night of giving up lead-off hits to the Rangers.  In each of the 1st four innings, the lead-off batter got on and in each case they scored.  That accounted for 4 of the Rangers 5 runs. 
  • Rays spotty defense.  The Rays have had a serious drop-off on their defense this year.  I think defense is one area that you can look at and say a team is not as hungry.  Last year, the Rays were lights out on defense when they were trying to prove to everyone that they were for real. This year, they don't have as much to prove, so the defense is slacking off a little.  In games when they're knocking the cover off the ball it doesn't show up as much.  But, when the offense is getting hits, the bad defense is that much more glaring.  It was so glaring last night that it looked like the Rays and Rangers had switched teams.
  • Dead offense.  When I pronounce the offense dead, I really mean they're dead.  The Rays only got 3 hits last night and all of them were rather weak.  No shots to the gaps, no homers, no nothing.  It's not like they were hitting against the creme of the crop when it comes to AL pitchers. On Thursday, they face Roy Halladay again... now, that's a pitcher.
  • Dead offense, Part 2. If you want to look for a cause for the recent offensive woes, look no further than the number 3 and number 4 holes in the batting order.  Evan Longoria was 1 for 18 on the road trip. He did have a sacrifice fly last night for an RBI, but he's really been cold since his hamstring injury.  Last time he hit a homer? June 17th versus the Colorado Rockies.  The clean-up hitter, Carlos Pena, was 2 for 20 on the road trip. But, as we've seen before Pena's struggles can be directly attributed to Longo's struggle.  If pitchers aren't afraid of Longo, Pena sees a lot less hittable pitches.
  • Foreshadowing? Last Sunday, after the Rays finished off the Marlins, Jason Bartlett said in the post-game interview "a lot of guys are tired, but we're battling."  I made a mental note of that because I hadn't seen it show up on the field.  Following the Marlins series, the Rays went out and pounded the Blue Jays two straight, so it didn't seem to be an issue.  But, looking back, I wonder if it finally caught up to them in Arlington.  They definitely played like a team that was tired and listless this weekend.  The bad thing about having four players on the All-Star team is that they won't get as much rest.  However, I don't think Maddon's going to overwork his guys.
  • Last word on the red hats.  I hate the red hats. I hope the Rays never wear them again. They look horrible and it's a travesty that MLB would make teams with no red in the color scheme wear those things.  One thing I would like to point out to MLB, they didn't do a good job marketing the hats. When the Rays took the field on ESPN last night, this blog got slammed by people who had searched in google "Rays red hats." Obviously, the rest of the country was confused on why a team with blue in their colors would wear red hats.  My guess is these were the casual fans MLB is trying to get money from.  Red Hat fail!

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