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Game Preview; Thursday (9/15) vs. New York

New York (82-62) at Rays (60-86)
7:15; Tropicana Field

Well don't that beat all? After splitting or winning each of our five previous series vs. New York, the Rays dropped one last night by dropping a game that was actually pretty well-played by both squads The 6-5 final was just as close as it looks, and would probably have been 6-5.9  if it possibly could have. The two teams were neck and neck through the whole game. The Yanks would score two, and then the Rays would match. But on the last go 'round the Rays stayed true to form, and left a  runner at third base to end the seventh after getting two RISP with no out. That  second runner? One Joey Gathiright. There is nooooo excuse for that. So what went wrong? Well first off, Hendrickson continued to struggle with leaving the ball in play, and he racked up three walks in five innings. Yet still, the Rays were in the game until the dynamic duo of Chad Orvella and Travis Harper gave the Yanks a two run lead. But let me go off on a rant on the bullpen for a second. Why  are some of these guys still here? Has management ever heard of the phrase "Less is More"? The ability to call up more people from Durham at  the end of the year doesn't mean that you should rush to get AWOL on the phone. Calling up awful pitchers does not help the team. Using the Baseball Prospectus godsend VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), the Rays have seven pitcher on staff that are below replacement level. And it isn't called replacement level because they should be kept. Doug Waechter is one, and he is close to 0, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Tim Corcoran is also close, and Lou has handled him like, well, Lou. Seth McClung and Mark Hendrickson are both over 10, but McClung has also been a product of a  stupid DRO decision, and Hendrickson has been  pretty good as of late (not counting last  night). But, why in the hell are Jesus Colome, Travis Harper, and AWOL on the roster? I'm sorry, you couldn't find pitching machines to take their place? You couldn't find a bum drinking liquor out of a flask? Both of those would have better results against hitters than any of those three. I don't know who has got something on someone, but this is just ridiculous. I love how they sent that 'tough' message to AWOL when he was  sent down to Montgomery. Those three innings must have really made him learn his lesson, and apparently, that lesson wasn't 'Pitching 101'. As for the other two, at least they have ever pitched decent. But in baseball, it's what have you done for me lately. Scan the waiver wire, call up someone, but 'The Three Suckateers' are not the answer. Oh, and to give you a little perspective on how the three really have pitched, take BP's VORP rankings. These rankings are out of 641 pitchers all around baseball that have been ranked:

So while the other two are in a league of their own (there's no crying in baseball), all three do not need to corrupt this team further.

NYY-RH Aaron Small (7-0, 2.82)
Rays-RH Seth "Big Red" McClung (6-9, 6.32)

BREAKDOWN: Well, the Rays and Yanks meet for the final time this year  (I'm fighting to keep from sobbing), and the Rays still lead the season series 11-7, though they need a win today to avoid the sweep and become the first team in Joe Torre's tenure to take 12 from the Yanks in one season. Trying to avoid that for the Yanks is their fluke....err great find Aaron Small. Small is working to try to achieve his sixth  win as a starter, and eighth when you add in his bullpen wins. He is the first Yankee to win this many games without a loss from his debut in 25 years. But even his minor league numbers are mediocre, and it is highly unlikely this will continue. Small last pitched on Friday in the ever so important Red Sox series, doing okay by going 6.1 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits. He struggled with control, walking two and adding only one more than that to his K Count. He has faced the Rays only one other time since his callup, last August 17th at Tropicana Field when the righty gave up two runs on three hits in just one inning of work out of the bullpen. So he has a limited knowledge of the Rays, and thankfully, not a very good one.

Going to battle for the Rays is Seth "Big Red" McClung. McClung is coming off his shortest  ever start at Tropicana Field, if not the worst. In just two innings, the West Virginia native gave up five runs on eight hits, though only two of those runs were earned. That  followed  what might have been the best start of the year, an eight inning masterpiece north of the border. I have already ranted and raved about how McClung is a much better pitcher when you take his bullpen stats out, and this rings true in his appearence against New York. Like Small, he faced his opposing team in relief all the waaaay back in  April, and in one of Lou's  stupid.......nah, not gonna go there. Anyways,  McClung pitched just two-thirds of an inning  in the Bronx, surrendering two runs on three hits. But both of these's pitcher's prior performances, IMHO, are a wash because they haven't pitched even two innings combined against their respective opposing teams, and, in McClung's case, you have to go five months back to find that last start. But he has  pitched well at home, and if he can pitch left-handed batters at least half-decent, then he has a shot. That, and he generally needs to pitch good. I mean, what can  I say? Walks, home runs....McClung has struggled with them all. But hopefully his first start this year vs. New York will be a good one.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line for the day is 'good god, do not let the Yankees come into my town and sweep my team'. Just because Yankees fans show up in droves  does not mean they own the stadium, and it would be awesome if the Rays were to prove that. Alex Gonzalez might actually have a rare decent game, as he is hiting .571 with a long ball off of Small. Let's keep the bleeding to a  minimum guys.

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!