- If you ever wondered why I was a fan of Justin Ruggiano, he showed it tonight in the fifth inning. After swinging on a first pitch strike (fastball 90 MPH) Ruggiano took strike two called (fastball 90) before fouling off another fastball (88) taking another just off of the pate (91 MPH) fouling off a curveball in on his hands (77), another fastball inside (90), taking an outside fastball for ball two (90), a down and in curveball for ball three (77), and fouling off three straight pitches (fastball 90, fastball 91, curveball 75) Ruggiano touch the 12th pitch of the at-bat, a 90 MPH fastball over the middle deep into left field for his first career major league homerun.
Then in the 7th Ruggiano took two straight fastballs sitting at 91 for called strikes, Geoff Geary went to the well again and Ruggiano made contact, reaching base on a single. Ruggiano would be lifted in the 9th for Eric Hinske. I'm not sure what the team has in plan for the next few weeks when Carlos Pena returns, but Ruggiano and Jonny Gomes have to be in a competition for that RF/DH platoon spot. Against lefties Ruggiano could DH while Gross played right field, and against righties Hinske could play the field while Floyd was the DH, Ruggiano or Gross could then check into the game late as a pinch runner or in a defensive sub position.
- Edwin Jackson was only okay tonight. Early on he was throwing 58% balls at one point which is unacceptable. Joe Maddon made a terrible mistake by intentionally walking the bases loaded and leaving Jackson in to face Mark Loretta and it ended up costing the Rays their lead. Edwin only threw 55 % strikes tonight, which is awful, walked three, and struck out three while giving up a homer to Carlos Lee - catcher Shawn Riggans was set up low and outside, the pitch was up and in, and the arc of the hit lead the ball into the stands. In each of his last five starts Edwin has seen his strike percentage drop: 68%, 63.8%, 63.5%, 60%, 55%, making for 62% overall in those games, I don't really know why it's happening, but I know it needs to stop. His ratios over those 29.3 innings are 4.3 strikeouts per nine and 3.4 walks per nine, his seasonal averages are now at 5.76 strikeouts per nine and 4.25 walks per nine.
- J.P. Howell and Dan Wheeler remain really, really good. Someone asked if Howell's usage reminded me of any other pitcher in recent memory and the only guy I could come up with was Justin Duchscherer in 2004. The Duke was used primarily in the 6th and 7th innings for the A's, but made an occasional appearance in every inning from the 4th on, occasionally working as many as five innings, but usually sticking to three innings and below. Duchscherer would end with 53 appearances and 96.3 innings, Howell is on pace for roughly 59 appearances and 104 innings.
- Carl Crawford went 2-4 but prior to his second hit of the night swung on a pitch in the right-handed hitter's box on a 2-0 count. The biggest problem was the pitch being a fastball, suggesting that he wasn't fooled by movement, but was simply hacking. Getting to 2-0 counts is an improvement over his usual routine, but his hits lately have been good results with bad processes, something that's simply unsustainable over the course of a season.
- At least Joe Maddon got it right tonight when he pinched-hit for Jason Bartlett in the 9th. Barty's glove is full of sunshine, but his bat has turned his WARP to all of 0.3. He's a bit unlucky this year, but still, the guy has to start to hit, or at least walk.
- This game wasn't a "must win" despite the Red Sox losing and sitting only a half game up on the Rays, but this series is a definite "can't lose". Sweeping the Cubs was pleasant and unexpected however the team needs to bring the same results to the lesser games. After tomorrow the Rays will head into the all-star break after three games at Florida, three at Pittsburgh, three at home against Boston, three against Kansas City, two at New York, and four at Cleveland. Of those 16 games it seems the Rays would have a distinct advantage over Pittsburgh and Kansas City and perhaps even Cleveland. The Rays were playing three games over their pythag expected records entering tonight's game.
- Shawn Riggans hyped up defense is a lie. Within a short span Riggans let strike three on Lance Berkman sneak by him, threw the ball away - allowing Berkman to advance to second, and then let Berkman steal third base. The stolen base is one thing, but giving the opposition two free bases on a strikeout is ridiculous. Riggans doesn't play enough to have anyone call for his job, but his only saving grace seems to be the pop shown in his bat.
- The Riggans point leads into another point I'd like to throw out there, last year it seemed some were calling for Navarro's job because he couldn't call a game, yet a year later Navarro is seemingly adequate at the job and excels at throwing out baserunners especially those who he catches in mid-action.
- Finally, how good is that Wheeler/Wigginton swap looking?