Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The 2009 endgame begins today

The endgame of the 2009 season begins tonight at Tropicana Field.  The Rays have 56 games to make up 5 games on the Boston Red Sox... and that's just to make the playoffs.  Whether we like it or not, it's no longer early. It's no longer a long marathon.  There's no longer time to make up ground later.  The Rays must turn it on now!

We can already see that Joe Maddon's thinking about the endgame. Yesterday's insertion of Willy Aybar in the DH spot and Jason Bartlett in the leadoff spot shows that skipper knows he's run out of time to get "streaky" players hot. Each game must be treated as a must-win.  Do the Rays have to win every game on the schedule? No. But they can't let games like Sunday get away from them. The offense can't take nights off. Pitchers can't work through their troubles.  All in all, it's crunch time.

So buckle up and get ready!  We, as Rays fans, have never got to see our team "chasing" in the last couple months of the season. Last year, the Rays were the hunted. This year, the Rays are the hunters.  I think this team has the roster to make up the ground and get in the playoffs. The question is: Do they have what it takes mentally to grind out a five game differential over the next 56 games?  And that's how Joe Maddon will earn his paycheck this year.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 10-4 victory over the Royals:

  • Applebottom jeans, boots wit da fur.  Willy Aybar is a man of few words. Instead, he lets his bat do the talking for him. And, if yesterday was any indication, Willy's ready for a run to the playoffs. Aybar rewarded Joe Maddon's decision to start him at DH with not one, but 2 homers from each side of the plate. Aybar has now made Maddon's job of filling out the lineup card a little more difficult tonight.  Should he listen to the angry villagers and go with Aybar over Pat Burrell? Or will he keep his right handed DH in the lineup to do what he's supposed to do: hit lefties.
  • Batting first, playing shortstop, Jason Bartlett.  Another Ray who decided to reward Maddon for a little change in the lineup.  MVB, as he's called in some circles, went 3-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBI's in the leadoff spot. More importantly, he started the game with a walk to get a 2 run rally started against Zack Greinke. How many times have we seen B.J. Upton start the game with a ground out? This is another place where Maddon will have to make a tough choice today. Stick with Bossman or go with the hot bat? Judging by his comments: I think we'll see a batting order change today.
  • Scott Kazmir, trade deadline acquisition. I know it's only been 2 starts, but the change in mound presence from Kazmir has been night and day over the last couple of starts. It's almost as if Mark Buerhle's perfect game inspired him in some strange way.  The Kazmanian Devil didn't go deep into the game, but he provided 6 solid innings and left the bullpen in good position. A solid Kaz during the endgame will be much more valuable than any trade deadline acquisition the Rays could've made.
  • The Greatness that is Michel Hernandez.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention Hernandez's first ever triple.  He's another guy pushing for more playing time.
  • Some 2008 vs 2009 comparisons. If you inserted the 2008 Rays after 106 games into the 2009 standings, the 2008 Rays would be in 3rd place. They would be 1 game behind Boston and 1 1/2 behind the Yankees. But, the 2008 Rays got really hot in August. They went 21-7. They only lost 2 games in row once in the month.  The Rays need that kind of August this year.


Bud Light said...

We will see how Maddon reacts...Everyone knows JB
should bat first, Aybar at DH except when he has to field a position, and Hernandez at catcher most of time...If he doesn't...He's stupid and costing us a chance to be in the playoffs..
Actually.. common sense vs. his stubborness

Michael Weber said...

It's really a catch 22 situation. Maddon believes that Bossman can be a great leadoff hitter, if given the chance to thrive. He's still young and has to learn more patience. Taking him out of the leadoff spot will not help him get the patience he needs to be successful. As you've seen this year, when Bossman is hot, the Rays can score some runs.

As for PtB, the Maddon knows that they're going to need PtB to get hot before this team can catch fire. While Aybar is good, he's not the power guy you want behind Pena. The Rays need the guy they expected PtB to be. Same catch 22, you sit PtB, you risk not having that guy at all for the stretch run.

Maddon has shown he doesn't run his team by mob mentality. Patience is a virtue that brought us to where we are today. Some would've run Maddon out of town before he had the chance to coax the team into the run they made last year.

Bud Light said...

You gotta be kidding..is this candid camera??
Let me try ..
Let BJ "thrive" in 8th or 9th spot.... NOT #1..
We Can not afford the runs he costs us!!
BJ IS our leadoff hitter!
Ptb can NOT out hit(power or avg.) Ayber at this stage of his career, Admit they made a mistake move on ....Willie at DH..
Hernandez is a BETTER catcher than Navarro...the love affair is over! move on!
Maddon may be run out of town if he doesn't make these "common sense" moves ANY causal fan can see by watching! "patience" is over..move on!

Bud Light said...

JB obvious mistake...hard to type when when in shock!

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