Monday, August 3, 2009

From near history to sad meltdown

View of James Shields from the upper deck.

We weren't talking about it, but we sure were thinking about it. Going into the 8th inning James "Big Game" Shields was tossing a no-no. He needed only 6 outs and I was going to be there for history. But somehow, as they have a few times this season, the Rays figured out a way to completely meltdown... ending a game that could've been special in a not-so-special way.

You have to give credit to Shields. The man was a pitching machine for most of the game. For those of us at the Trop, the excitement grew with each out.  Too bad the offense couldn't get anything going for Shields.  It just felt like 1 run would be enough.  But, maybe that was too much to ask.

If anything, yesterday's game tempered my enthusiasm about this team's chances of making the playoffs a little bit.  The complete lack of offense and the terrible defensive execution late in the game marks a stark contrast to what we saw last year.  If the Rays can't finish a game like this, at home, against the Kansas City Royals, what chance do they have head-to-head versus the Yankees and the Red Sox.  The next couple of weeks will be very telling.  The Rays have to have an almost perfect August to make a playoff run. Yesterday's game was not a good sign of things to come.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 4-1 loss to the Royals:

  • Not saying "no-no."  This was the first Rays game I had been to where a pitcher took a no-no so long into the game. The fans were into the game, yet the talk was at a minimum. You could tell people were taking notice because nobody was leaving their seat... even to go get food. The stairs were empty and the movement was kept to a minimum. Too bad we weren't rewarded.
  • Gross not laying out. I'm not going to blame Gabe Gross for not laying out on John Buck's soft liner.  I'm going to blame the offense. I have not doubt Gross would've laid out for that ball if the Rays are up 2 or more to nothing.  But in a 0-0 game, he made the right play.
  • Dioner Navarro's troubles.  I haven't been incredibly hard on the Rays catcher since early in the season, but things are not going well for the catcher.  It's one thing to slump a little bit at the plate. It's another to slump a little bit on defense, but that error in the 8th was an absolute mental error.  Trying to go for the double-play instead of the sure out cost his team a run... maybe two.  That was *not* an example of the "run prevention" Andrew Friedman was looking for at the trade deadline.
  • Little league play. To compound Navarro's error, Jason Bartlett made his own mental mistake in the 8th. The Royals perfectly executed the "little league" play where you attempt a steal at second with a runner on third.  The runner at 1st stops half-way and induces a rundown... while the runner at third goes home. Perfection for the Royals. Nasty for the Rays.
  • Royals hideous bullpen. I'm sure the Rays figured, like I did, that there was no need to get to starter Brian Bannister because the Royals bullpen is so hideous.  However, Royals manager Trey Hillman hedged his bets... letting Bannister go an extra inning and then bringing in closer Joakim Soaria to finish the job. It could've backfired on Hillman, except the Rays let the Royals put up 2 insurance runs in the top of the ninth. I liked the Rays chances down 2 runs with Soaria in the ninth.  4 runs was a little much to ask.
  • Bossman gunned down.  How big was the play where Mitch Maier gunned down B.J. Upton at the plate? To me, that was the turning point in the game.


Bud Light said...

Who knows whether Gross could have caught the ball or not... BUT by not trying you not only blow the no hitter...but all the things that happen later: ie bunt, bad throws, missed run downs, stealing home, probably don't happen...
If runner does get to third on a missed catch, still no guarantee he is going to score the way Shields was pitching!
Ask yourself: Is it worth the chance of keeping a no hitter alive, plus keeping the score at 0/0
or giving up 3rd base to a runner???
Don't ask Shields?

Bud Light said...

You know I forgot the comment the center fielder made in Chicago's perfect game against us...
They asked him what he was thinking when Kapler hit the ball hard to the outfield..He said:
"I didn't know how I was going to catch the ball
but if I had to run through the wall...I was going to do It"... Thats special!

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