Monday Morning Rays Wrap Up: The Rays Are Alive and Well

The Rays went 5-1 during this weeks action and finished strong by sweeping the Boston Red Sox to end the week trailing the Red Sox by 3.5 games for the AL Wild Card . The Rays improved to a season high 17 games over .500 at 81-64. The Rays played well against the Rangers in taking 2 out of 3, but the Rays way of playing baseball was in full effect in the weekend series versus the Red Sox.

The Rays looked like a younger, faster, more athletic team who were certain that they were gelling together at the right time. The Red Sox looked lethargic, injured, and lacking fundamentals. In plain English, the Rays looked like they took it to a team that is desperately trying to hold on to their playoff position for 16 more games. In the photo below, does Joe Maddon look overly anxious about September baseball?

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Next Weeks Action:

The Rays are in a position that many of us felt was improbable and that is playing meaningful playoff games in September with an eye toward playing in October. Here is where the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees play this coming week.

The Rays travel to Baltimore next week to face the Orioles for three games before heading to Boston for what is shaping up to be a season defining 4-game series against the Red Sox. The Red Sox return home to Fenway Park for a two game series with the Blue Jays before the Rays come in for the weekend. The Yankees will travel to Seattle for a 3 game series against the Mariners before travelling to Toronto for a weekend series against the Blue Jays.

Game Highlights After the Jump:

Monday: James Shields hurls 11th complete game, Longoria and Upton homer, Rays defeats the Rangers 5-1

This was the second time James Shields faced the Rangers powerful lineup in the span of a week. In going the distance Shields held the Rangers to 1R/1ER on 4 hits while striking out 6 and walking 2. Shields had a shutout entering the ninth inning and was visibly upset after walking Elvis Andrus to begin the inning and after he scored Texas lone run later in the inning. Shields is having a season where he takes the mound and doesn't believe he should give up any runs, that temperament is a quality of an ACE.

James Shields on how he altered his approach facing the Rangers for the second time in a weeks span:

"I think I used my cutter a little more [today]," Shields said. "I had to give them a little different look. They weren't swinging at my changeup too, too much. I mixed pitches up well. I used all four pitches and mixed them up." --mlb.com

Joe Maddon on watching James Shields pitch this year:

"I've not been a part of it anywhere, to see that kind of starting pitching," Maddon said. "Minor Leagues, Major Leagues, anywhere. I've not seen in person. Of course you have to go back and put the video on the '60s to see something like that, probably. ... It's usual, very unusual to see this. It's quite a pleasure to see." --mlb.com

 

Tuesday: Jeff Niemann get's roughed up and CJ Wilson pitches a shut out as Rangers defeat Rays 8-0.

Jeff Niemann lasted only 4.2 innings, giving up 7R/7ER on 9 hits while striking out 3 and walking 1.

Joe Maddon on Niemann's rough start:

"Everything was flat," Maddon said of Niemann's pitches. "It was up in the zone. He threw three or four fastballs down that were really good. Otherwise, it just wasn't his typical performance." --mlb.com

 

Wednesday: Rays Desmond Jennings delivers Walk-Off Blast to defeat Rangers 5-4

The victory over the Rangers Wednesday's night gave the Rays their 1000th franchise win. David Price worked the first 6 innings giving up 2R/2ER on 8 hits while striking out 5 and walking 2. The Rangers trailed 4-2 entering the 8th inning but were able to plate 1 run in the 8th off Joel Peralta and Ian Kinsler hit a solo home run off Kyle Farnsworth to tie the score at 4. Desmond Jennings stepped to the plate in the bottom of the tenth mired in a 3-35 slump. Ranger reliever Mark Lowe delivered a four-seam fastball to Jennings who crushed the walk off home run to left field giving the Rays the 5-4 victory.

Jennings on his walk off home run: 

"That was probably the most exciting thing I've done in a while," - mlb.com

Joe Maddon on playing rookies while in a playoff chase:

"Even though we're playing these young guys, that means nothing," Maddon said. "We're not giving up, we're not conceding, we're not just trying to give guys playing time. We believe these guys can play well now, and they're showing it."-- mlb.com

 

Friday: Wade Davis arm and John Jaso's bat lead the Rays to a 7-2 victory over the Red Sox.

The Rays welcomed the Boston Red Sox to Tropicana Field looking to gain ground in the AL Wild Card race. Wade Davis hurled a gem, pitching a complete game while holding the Red Sox to 2R/2ER on 6 hits while striking out 8 and walking 0. Wade Davis was given a 3-0 lead in the third inning thanks to a 3 run homer off the bat of John Jaso.

Wade Davis on using a cutter for the first time against the Red Sox:

"It's actually the first time I've ever really started throwing a cutter," Davis said. "I've always thrown a slider, and we just straightened it out and flattened it out a little to stay in the strike zone more. It ended up being pretty effective." - mlb.com

John Jaso on Davis' cutter:

"I think that cutter's a great pitch -- especially against a team like that. It keeps people honest and it doesn't allow them to start leaning and looking out over the plate. And it was great to do it, to have that kind of confidence."

 "It was pretty gutsy," said catcher John Jaso about Davis' decision to use the pitch for the first time against a lineup like Boston's. "He's been working on it and stuff. With their lineup, a lot of guys in their lineup can do some damage to you.mlb.com

Terry Francona on Davis' cutter:

"He's got that plane on the ball because he's tall and throws it downhill," Francona said. "He threw it outside, inside and just ate us up."mlb.com

Wade Davis Post-Game:

Saturday: Rays get walk-off single by Longoria to defeat Red Sox 6-5

Jeremy Hellickson gave the Rays 6 innings and Casey Kotchman gave the Rays a 4-3 lead with a home run. The Rays extended the lead to 5-3 on a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria in the bottom of the sixth. The Rays bullpen held the 5-3 lead until the ninth inning. Kyle Farnsworth blew his second consecutive save by giving up solo home runs to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury. After giving up a double to Dustin Pedroia and a walk to Adrain Gonzalez, Joe Maddon went to bring Cesar Ramos in to face David Ortiz.

The move may indicate that the elbow soreness which has been bothering Farnsworth may be worse than thought as Oritz is 0-10 with 6 K's lifetime versus Farnsworth. Cesar Ramos induced the ground ball double play to get out of the inning. The game entered the bottom of the 11th and Desmond Jennings sent a fly ball to right centerfield where Jacoby Ellsbury and Darnell MacDonald misplayed it. Jennings took advantage of the miscue and hustled the play into a triple. Daniel Bard was able to get B.J. Upton to ground out to first for the first out, but was not so lucky against Evan Longoria who lined a single up the middle to give the Rays the 6-5 victory. The victory moved the Rays to within 4.5 games of the Red Sox (4 back in the loss column) for the AL Wild Card.

Evan Longoria on the victory:

"When we got out of the [ninth] inning, all of us had a pretty good sense at some point we'd be able to win that game," said Longoria, who has five career walk-off hits, including two this season. "There was a lot going on there because I didn't know if they'd walk the next two guys. [Daniel] Bard is a tough pitcher, so it becomes a battle in your own mind. I was just trying to put the bat on the ball. When he got me to two strikes, I didn't want him to blow me away with a fastball. The pitch was probably a ball up, and I was just swinging to put the ball in play." -mlb.com

Evan Longoria Post-Game:

A Sign in the Crowd: Thanks to Mike Weber for the Tweet Pic

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Sunday: James Shields effort and B.J. Upton Grand Slam lead Rays to sweep over the Red Sox.

The Rays jumped on Boston ACE Jon Lester for 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning and forced him to make 43 pitches. Desmond Jennings led off with a single and moved to second on an infield hit by B.J. Upton. Evan Longoria walked to load the bases and Ben Zobrist delivered a 2-RBI single. Johnny Damon sent a grounder to second, but Ben Zobrist stopped dead in his tracks and forced Pedroia to tag him out which avoided the double play and moved Longoria to 3rd base. Sean Rodriguez brought Longoria home with a sacrifice fly.

The Red Sox cut the lead to 3-1 in the top of the third on a solo home run by Marco Scutaro. The Red Sox preceded to load the bases with 1-out but Shields retired David Ortiz on a soft fly out to left and a Josh Reddick on a pop out to Evan Longoria to end the inning. The Rays answered the Red Sox run in the bottom of the 3rd. Johnny Damon led off with a triple to right centerfield and scored on a double to left field by Sean Rodriguez. 

The Rays extended their lead to 8-1 in the sixth when B.J. Upton's connected on a 2-0 pitch for a Grand Slam for his 20th home run of the year. It was Upton's first career Grand Slam and it couldn't of come at a better time.

The game took a rather precarious turn in the bottom of the sixth. The Rays had 2-on with nobody out and Sean Rodriguez laid down a sacrifice bunt. After the runners advance and a trip to the mound by the Red Sox pitching staff, Casey Kotchman was hit by a pitch. Apparently, the Rays had violated an unwritten rule in baseball not to sacrifice bunt with a 7 run lead....or something?

The Rays extended their lead in the 7th when Dustin Pedroia threw away the relay throw on a double play which allowed B.J. Upton to score from second base. James Shields worked into the 9th inning finishing after surrendering a walk to Darnell MacDonald. Shields worked 8.1 innings giving up 1R/1ER on 7 hits while striking out 5 and walking 3. In earning his 15th win against 10 losses Shields moved the Rays to just 3.5 games behind the Red Sox for the wild card and possibly into the discussion for Cy Young.

BJ Upton's post-game comments:

Joe Maddon introduces a term called meatloafing:

"We did need to win these," manager Joe Maddon said. "There was no other way to look at it. Two out of three -- meatloafing right now -- didn't taste nearly as good. ... Under the circumstances, you have to do what you did. Otherwise it's pretty much impossible to recover from that moment." -mlb.com

Interesting quotes from David Ortiz about the Red Sox and Rays:

 "No, at this point you panic," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz when asked about being the kind of team that doesn't panic. "You've got to panic at this point. But you're not going to do anything panicking but playing better. Of course you're freaked out. You go on this road trip 1-6, it's not good. We've got these guys breathing down our necks and we're not in first place either. We've got to come back and play better, though."

Ortiz added that the Rays have a good look about them right now.

 

"Well, you know, to be honest with you, the past three days, they look like they have no pressure on themselves," Ortiz said. "That makes a huge difference."-mlb.com

What does SF1 have to say:

Hello Rays fans everywhere,

What a week (end) it was. After my concession speech last week, I am thrilled to announce we are in a playoff race as of this writing. The Rays after their three game sweep of the hated Red Sox find themselves just 3.5 GB the Sox for the coveted wild card spot in the AL.

I have never seen the Rays play with as much intensity and never say die attitude than this weekend, in a series that it can now be said was a must sweep situation for us.

The SP again was outstanding. Who'd thought Wade Davis would twirl a CG versus the Red Sox?

The offense had one good AB after another, as the three game set saw Boston starters go 3,4 and 4 IP in each start.

As for those that wanted to trade anyone not tied down at the deadline for more prospects, I say I'm sure glad Friedman didn't play along. I don't know about the rest of you but I like playing meaningful games in mid September.

Now it's on to Baltimore for three and as always: 

Go Rays!!!
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