Rays (58-81) at New York (77-60)
7:05; Yankee Stadium
Ah, what a great feeling it is, eh? There is little more satisfying in life then beating the Yankees, and we have gotten a lot of that pleaseure this season. With the win last night, the Rays clinched the season series 10-4, and we still have five more games left to extend our run vs. The Evil Empire. The only thing that could possibly compare to this was when the Rays took three of four to end the 2001 season, just barely losing their 100th in the final game 1-0. No, this is much better. And to think that the Yanks might actually be knocked out of the playoffs thanks to our efforts is even more satisfying.
In perhaps their most all-around team effort of the year, Casey Fossum rebounded from several poor starts to throw six decent innings. His nine hits allowed were alarming, but he only surrendered three runs, two earned, on a walk and five strikeouts, a much better K:BB. Chad Orvella got the win though, pitching two shutout innings, and Danys Baez finished up for his 34th save. On offense, the production was spread ar around, with only Carl Crawford and Jonny Gomes getting more than one hit. Joey Gathright even contributed, without making the AB, scoring the winning run after being put on a first for Aubrey Huff.
So does this mean we lay down and die, lose the last four games to the Yanks just because we have clinched the season series? Hell no. Let's go for 15 wins against the Skanks, starting with tonight's game.
Rays-RH Doug Waechter (5-9, 4.04)
NYY-RH Jaret Wright (4-2, 5.82)
BREAKDOWN: The Rays try to clinch the series tonight in New York by sending to the mound righty Doug Waechter. Opposite him is another righty, Jaret Wright. The Ex-Indian/Brave (man, he's gotten around the Tribes) goes after several shakeups in the probables. At one point, Al Leiter and Aaron Small were set to go, but yhe Yanks had a change of plans, and instead, Chien-Ming Wang goes tomorrow.
But taking the hill for the Rays is the St. Pete native and Northeast product, who sports the third best ERA in the rotation, getting it under 5 before his last start. He picked up his ninth 'L' after his last start, in Bston in which he gave up six runs on eight hits over 6.1 innings. He struggled, true to form, with the longball, as 13 of his 16 outs were fly balls, and he surrendered two homers. Waechter is coming off a great month though, as his ERA for August was just 4.04. That includes perhaps his best start since his debut against the Mariners in '03. And it came against, who would have guessed it, the Yankees. At the Trop on August 16th, Waechter pitched nine innings giving up nine hits on three runs, only one of which was earned, while surrendering NO HOME RUNS. What's most impressive about it, however, is that he blanked the Yanks over his final seven frames. He got a no decision hoever, in a game that went into extras and was eventually won by the Rays, 4-3 in 11 innings. This will be Waechter's first game at Yankee Stadium this year, but at the Trop, Tino Martinez has been money off him. The former Ray is 3 for 7 with two runs scored and a homer. Jorge Posada has one hit of Waechter in three at bats, though that one hit was a home run. Lastly, Bernie Williams is 2 for 4 with a run scored off Dougie. Let's hope he can keep the ball down, and leave tonight with a quality start, though the latter is often dependant on the former.
Taking the mound for New York is their second-biggest free agent bust of the offseason (Pavano), who's only been spared of a horrible outing when he's injured. It will be interesting to see how Wright does in this start, as he was struck in the neck by a liner last time out. It appears he will make the start, but in case he does not a a Leiter is pushed into active duty, let me sum up Leiter in a brief scouting report:
With that, we move on to the likely hurler, Jaret Wright. Wright actually piitched decent in his last start vs. the Mariners, going 5.1 innings, giving up only one run on three hits. The problem? He left with a K:BB of 0:2. Sounds kind of like a certain pitcher we traded to the Mets last year. Wright has faced the Rays twice this year, and in one start, he surrendered eight runs, all earned, on 11 hits in 5.1 innings. His actual last start vs. the Rays came on August 15th of this year at the Trop, when he went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on four hits. So the Rays can hit this guy (as can a Little League team judging by his numbers), and probably will in the launchpad that is Yankee Stadium. Several Rays will likely key that offense, especially Carl Crawford, who is 3 for 7 against Wright, including 3 for 4 at 'The Stadium'. Jonny Gomes has a homer in one AB, as does Aubrey Huff in three at bats, and Toby Hall is 3 for 4 with two runs scored and an RBI off of Wright. Should be tee time for the Rays tonight in the Bronx.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is...feel good. Feel very good. For even if the Rays drop their final five against New York, they leave with a winning record in the season series. But don't expect them to lose their final five, certainly not with matchups like tonight, when the Rays send Doug Waechter to the hill against a very shaky Jaret Wright. If the Rays can pound the ball off of wright and get to the Yankee's anemic bullpen, they will almost surely win. But even if Wright does half-decent, which is a very big if, I am anticipating a good start for Dougie. Granted, the Yankees are one of the top AL offenses, and Doug is very vulnerable to the home run, but tonight feels like a quality start waiting to happen. Let's hope so.
Anyways, expect an infield of (in no particular order) Lee-Cantu-Lugo-Gonzalez, though I would not be surprised to see the lefty Eric Munson get some work, at first, third, or at DH. Assuming Huff is finally back in time, expect an outfield/DH of Crawford-Gathright-Huff-Gomes.
Should be a fun game, and I look forward to getting win No. 11 against the Yankees!!!!!!