Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rays send message to AL: We're not going away

For Boston Red Sox fan, Tuesday and Wednesday was going to be the chance their team needed to finally put away the pesky Rays.  It was a chance to show that the standings are correct, the Red Sox are a better team. It was a chance to show that last year was a fluke and those "Devil Rays" in Tampa were still the little brother of the AL East. It was a chance to show off their new 1B/DH/Catcher. A chance to show off their new bullpen phenom.  A chance to right, what to them was wrong.  

But, the Rays had other plans. The Rays showed the Red Sox and their fans that they're not going anywhere. They're in it for the long haul. They showed that the Red Sox are not going to cruise their way into the playoffs this year. They're going to have to battle, every night, with the Rays right on their tail.  Tuesday night was a marathon test of wills.  Wednesday night was the shorter sequel. In both cases, the Rays prevailed.

The series when was nice and provides the perfect momentum going into a 6 game west coast swing.  For the Rays, it's all about the game in front of them. Win today's game and worry about tomorrow when it get here.  The Rays have had some other momentum swings during the season, but failed to take advantage. Let's see how they play this one out.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 6-4 victory over the Red Sox: 

  • Starting pitching.  It looks like the starters are beginning to bear down.  David Price looked like a veteran last night, cutting through the Red Sox dangerous lineup with precision. He really did a number on the reigning AL MVP, Dustin Pedrioia. He retired him 3 times and got him to strand 3 runners. That's the kind of performance that's going to win games in August. 
  • Answering the call. I was very impressed how the Rays offense was able to answer back every time the Red Sox scored. Jason Bay hit a solo shot in the top of the 2nd and Carlos Pena answered with a 2-run shot in the bottom of the inning.  Victor Martinez homered in the 6th. Pat Burrell answered with his own solo shot. And when the Red Sox scratched one across in the 7th, Jason Bartlett answered.  The Rays offense never left Price out to dry.  They picked him up each time he gave a little. That will go a long way in helping the starters' confidence.
  • "He-who-must-not-be-named-closer" It's real refreshing to see JP Howell embrace his new roll with such success. It's amazing how easy the end of the game becomes when you got a guy who can go out there and get outs.  His emergence as "he-who-must-not-be-named-closer" has swung the advantage toward the Rays in close games.
  • PtB answers his call.  Joe Maddon repeated what I've been saying: The Rays need PtB to get hot to be successful here in the endgame.  Last night, PtB did his job... getting a solo shot to answer a Red Sox run. If PtB and Carlos Pena can both get hot, look out! This team's going to do some serious damage.
  • Yankees or Red Sox? With no game tonight, you may want to turn on the Red Sox vs the Yankees on the MLB network tonight.  The question is: who to root for?  My gut instinct is to say root for the Yankees because the Red Sox are the team directly in front of us. However, the Rays seem to play better against the Red Sox, so it might be beneficial to see the Yankees lose ground and get closer. Either way, the Rays must take care of their own business. It doesn't matter who wins that series if the Rays lay a west coast egg.
  • 35 games. That's how many games I believe the Rays have to win to get to the playoffs. It's not going to be easy, but it will sure be fun.

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