Tuesday, July 21, 2009

White Sox change the calendar to October

From the 1st pitch, you could tell the Chicago White Sox came to play some baseball.  Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has made no bones about his disappointment over the White Sox elimination last year by the Rays in the ALDS.  This year, he's almost turned into a crusade... a crusade the Rays haven't seen since April when the Sox came in and took 3 of 4.  

This time, Ozzie's throwing around quotes about how the Sox were "beat up last year."  Make no mistake, the White Sox consider the Rays their measuring stick.  Guillen learned his lesson last year: The road to the World Series goes through one of the AL East teams. If you can't beat them, you might as well forget about the big prize. 

The Rays would be wise to pick their intensity up a notch this week.  While I don't think the White Sox will be able to keep that intensity up for three more games, I do think the White Sox are treating this like a game in October.  The Rays can beat the White Sox, but they're going to have to plays some solid baseball.  That means: no errors, no caught stealing, no expanded strike zones, no mound meltdowns, ets.  The Rays need to have their "A+" game or we may begin wondering if Guillen's right about last year's playoffs.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 4-3 loss to the White Sox:

  • Missed opportunities. The Rays had chances in the 8th and 9th to tie the game and came up short both times.  The White Sox have a much better bullpen than the Royals and it showed. You can only pull the come-from-behind rabbit out of the hat so many times in a row.
  • Catching runners. A pivotal play in the 8th came when Jason Bartlett tried to steal 3rd with 2 on, 1 out.  Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski gunned him down and B.J. Upton didn't advance to 2nd. Of course, Carl Crawford got a single on the next play that would've probably scored someone from 2nd. I really don't have a problem with Bartlett going there. I do think that Upton should've taken 2nd.  I think that play is an example of the Sox focusing in on taking away one of the Rays strengths: stealing bases.  Pierzynski also gunned down Carl Crawford in the 1st inning.  The Sox were ready for this series.
  • CC's inside-the-park homer.  A thing of beauty and words cannot describe it.  So, here's the link to Crawford's homer.
  • Aybar's defensive woes.  It's hard to pile on Willy Aybar. He's been so good in so many clutch situations over the past couple of year. But, I'm going on the record and saying he doesn't need to be playing at 2nd base too often. His defense last night was atrocious.  I think against the Kansas City Royals, you're willing to give up a little at 2nd to get his bat in the lineup.  But when the White Sox are playing like it's Game 7, you need to make sure the defense is shored up.
  • A maturing David Price.  King David had his struggles last night, for sure.  But, it was how he reacted that most impressed me.  He could've easily folded after the Paul Konerko homer.  Instead, he continued to battle and put goose eggs up on the board... giving the Rays a chance for a comeback. He showed some real maturity. I like it.
  • Joe Dillionaire update.  Since I'm always concerned about Dillionaire's place on the team, I found this interesting. With Brian Shouse slated to return to the team soon, Dillionaire's job may be in jeopardy. However, like most people during the recession, Dillionaire is hedging his bets. He's learning how to be the emergency 3rd catcher.  That would give Maddon more flexibility when it comes to pinch-hitting for Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez.  I like it!
  • Kazmir arm cramp updates.  We're getting mixed signals from the Rays about Kazmir's arm. Kaz says he's fine and will be ready to go for his next scheduled start.  However, Joe Maddon isn't as convinced. I'm guessing they'll err on the side of caution and won't start him.  That means Garza would start a day early or we'd get a look at Wade Davis in the rotation. 

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Bud Light said...

Aybar ramblings...I'm an Aybar mark...
He should take the heat for a ground ball right to him...but guess who gets a clutch hit in the nineth when he has to...maybe thats a make up or not...you decide
But the second so called error: A high pop fly 20 feet behind 1st base...What the hell was Pena doing..Mr Gold glove doesn't know where the ball is! ....Sorry....spread the blame on this one!

Michael_Rays Rev said...

I also believe Aybar had trouble turning a double play earlier in the game. Look, I like Willy. I just don't like Willy at 2nd Base. He's fine at 1st or 3rd.

Bud Light said...

More Ramblings...
Maddon takes a lot of pride(credit) in his pitching decisions...esp late in the game!
Who the hell makes base running (scoring) decisions... esp.late in the game??
Players caught up in the action or a manager who is suppose to be thinking a little bit??
and please Maddon don't give me, "I didn't know anything about it"....you better know!

Michael_Rays Rev said...

Maddon said it was Bartlett's decision to go last night. I believe the skip gives him a green light when he feels the mojo.

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