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Game Preview, Sunday (9/4) vs. Toronto

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Rays (56-81) at Toronto (67-68)
1:07; SkyDome (Screw that corporate label)
FSN Florida

Hurrah!!!! The Devil Rays finally won a game again!!!!!! Ah, winning feels so good. And not just winning, winning in the ninth inning. There is just something about it that makes a win feel a little more special, even if it was a garbage time win against Toronto.

And what can you say about Travis Lee? Nothing that the stat line doesn't. In the last month (30 days) Lee is hitting .360/.407/.693, and is starting to show what may be his REAL form, not the injruy-plauged 1st Half one. He has raised his batting average more than 50 points in the last month and a half, and is now hitting .284/.349/.450 on the year. I will admit to making a few comments suggesting that Lee should be DFA'd and that Lou was a fool to keep him on the roster. I did say as much. But I will admit my faults and Travis has done that ather nicely. But wait, there is more to Travis. He just keeps getting hotter. Over the last week, he is hitting .444/.500/.883. He has hit a homer in two of his last three games, and this is the second homer in a month for Travis that has decided a game (1-0 game that Sunday in Cleveland).

The following is not a Game Preview, but I figure I should take some time and do a mini-rant. Would it be apporpriate to bring Travis back next year to fill the time until Wes Bankston comes up? This provides a dilema, because Delmon is likely to be up before Wes, and slotting him in the outfield pushes Jonny to DH (assuming Rocco is in center), and leaves Aubrey Huff in limbo. Now one option which I would not mind is a trade of Aubrey this offseason, and if that happens, all bets are off and case is solved. But if he doesn't what do you do? It is almost a certainty that Bossman Junior will not be in the Rays' lineup next year, so that leaves Lugo and Cantu (hopefully) in the middle. So do the Rays go out and try to get a third baseman, let Lee go, and slot Huff at first? You could, or bring Lee back and put Huff at third. Honestly, if we can bring back the combo of Eduardo Perez-Travis Lee to first, and if Lou could actually stand to put Huff at third (should he return), I'd be moe than satisfied. And by the way, seeing as though this has slipped under the radar, in the last month, the lefty-killer Perez has hit .348/.516/1.000. So don't say this guy an't hit. Ever since his GW Boston homer this year, Eddy has taken a lot of flack from Rays fans, but he is hitting .274/.388/.563, and that is on the season. So the Rays have themselves a good combo at first. And with Lee's always consistent, no matter what defense, the Rays would be well-served to keep these guys aboard until Wes gets up.

Before I move on, I just want to sneak this on because I deserve a slap if I don't heap praise on Rays righty Seth "Big Red" McClung. McClung was absolutely masterful yesterday. I mean, he was just on, going eight innings, giving up ONLY TWO HITS on two runs, walking three and striking out six. I'm sorry, but if this guy isn't in the roatation next year, there is something wrong with whomever will be making the decision. Throwing out his last start against the Red Sox, which was just screwed up and doesn't deserve to count against him, Seth is 5.34, which may not sound so good, but it does him better justice than his ERA. Throughout his career, Seth is going to be a guy where the line score respresents his true talent. He has much better stuff than it indicates, and has shown this year a raw potential, if he can just develop his breaking pitches, of being a top of the line starter for years to come. His fastball is there, he has the velocity, but if he develops his breaking pitches better, watch out. This is truly a talent to behold, and hopefully he is a lock going into next year. He picthed after the loss of his grandmother, and this right here could be the turning point and springboard of an elite pitcher's career.

Alright, finally, on to the game preview!!!!!

PITCHING MATCHUP:
Rays-LH Scott Kazmir (7-9, 4.20)
TOR-RH David Bush (4-7, 4.31)

BREAKDOWN: Well, it has been a constant battle over the last few days for the Blue Jays to get over .500 these last couple days. Every time they reach the mark, they lose the next day and are one game under. Well, let's relieve them of their pian. Let's put them TWO GAMES UNDER .500! We certainly have a good chance today as the Rays send out Scott Kazmir to the hill. Kaz, who has a team-best 14 quality starts, makes his workhorse-like 28th start of the season for the Rays, coming into the game leading the major leagues with 83 walks. Much the same, he is one of the league leaders in strikeouts, as he is 23rd in the bigs, and and fifth in the AL. He is winless against Toronto this year, and thus, in his career, and has picked up one loss in surrendering five earned in 12.2 innings. Last time out Tuesday in Boston, Kaz went just five and two-thirds innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs. Walks hurt him (no surprise there) as his K:BB was even at three for the game. On the plus side, he didn't do horrible, and kept the ball on the ground, so it wasn't as bad as the linescore might indicate. To go back to his last start means going back two months, as he did not pitch in the four game Toronto series north of the border, the only Ray starter at the time not to pitch in the series. On June 28th, his last start vs. the Jays, he was very impressive, going 6.1 innings, giving up one run on six hits. Again, he struggled with the walks, allowing four to six strikeouts. Previous to that, he had started twice before against Toronto, both in the month of April (including his first start of the season) and both producing mediocre results. Several Blue Jays have done rather well against Kaz. SS Aaron Hill is 2 for 2 with an RBI, IF John McDonald is 3 for 8 with an RBI, stolen base, and a farm.

Taking the mound for the Blue Jays is impressive righty David Bush. Bush has been scorching hot since being called up from AAA Syracuse, pitching to a 3.71 ERA, over a run lower than his firstr half ERA of 4.89. Take out his August 8th clunker against Detroit, and Bush's ERA drops to 2.73. Bottom line? The guy is pure on fire. Also working to his advantage? No Devil Ray has faced him this season, as he has not pitched in a Rays-Jays game. Aubrey Huff did rather well for himself last year against Bush though, going 4 for 11 with three runs scored, a double, a home run, and four RBI.

THE BOTTOM LINE: So, let's crunch that all down. Besides Huff, no Rays currently with the team has done well against Bush in the past, and oddly enough, mediocre players from last year (I.E Rob Fick and Geoff Blum) did very well against this guy, as did Tino Martinez. And now they have all departed. So on top of not facing them this year, he also has the tiny advantage in the fact that he has been scorching hot since the All-Star Break. If they Devil Rays want to take this series going into New York, they'll have to earn it against this guy. But the anemic Blue Jays offense should fare no better against Kaz, whose fastball hitters only claim to see. He has been, well, Kaz, and mowing down the awful Blue Jays hitters should be no problem for him. If the Rays can muster up more than the three runs they did last night against Toronto pitching, they have a good shot at winning, but even the Jays will score a couple, so the Rays have got to do at least something in what should be a fine pitcher's duel.

As for the lineups, with Toby Hall getting the day off yesterday, expect him back in the lineup today, and certainly on Tuesday vs. Yankees lefty Randy Johnson. And before I move on with the lineups, let me go on a quick rant. Why did Lou sit Toby yesterday? That made no sense. Had he sat him today, Toby gets two straight days off going into a very stressing stdaium jam-packed full of drunken taunting Yankee fans. Playing, not playing, playing, and then not playing has got do have its wear and tear on a player, much less a catcher, and Lou had nothing to gain by starting LaForest. Wake up sweeheart. Anyways, expect an infield defense of (in no particular order) Lee-Cantu-Lugo-Gonzalez, and an outfield/DH of Crawford-Gathright-Gomes/Huff-Gomes/Huff.

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