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Game Preview; Thursday (9/8) vs. New York

Rays (58-82) at New York (78-60)
7:05; Yankee Stadium

Cancel the missing person's report. Call the  search posse back in. We've located our man. He is alive and well,  and after almost two months in hiding he has reappeared. Mr. 1st  Half returned last night, and made himself known to all in the Rays' 5-4 loss to New York. All the signs were there, it was just a matter of putting them together. After all, he did blow a four run lead achieved in the early innings, and if that wasn't enough, the winning run crossed the plate in the EIGHTH INNING> I mean, this guy obviously wanted to come out of hiding, how obvious could it get? So he is back after a long abscence. Will he return tonight? Only afterwards will we know. But the bottom line is, he's  alive and still lurks around, waiting to pounce.

Rays-LH Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson (8-7, 6.09)
NYY-RH Chien-Ming Wang (6-3, 3.89)

BREAKDOWN: Well, the Rays try to salvage the series in New York  with a win today, and get their 11th win of the year overall in the season series. Through 15 games, the Rays hold a 10-5 edge. Taking the mound tonight for the  Rays is the biggest argument AGAINST evaluating based on W-L records, Mark Hendrickson. To his credit, however, Lurch has pitched well as of late, and after an awful June and July, sparing that one start vs. the pathetic Royals, Hendrickson has got back on track last month, pitching to a 4.55 ERA. Since his awful July 20th start vs. Boston, Hendrickson's ERA has decreased from 7.07 all  the wway  down to its current 6.09. His most sustained, and impressive, run during that time have been his last three starts, in which Lurch has given up no more than two earned runs in no less than six innings pitched, three straight quality starts. His ERA over that span has been 2.23. Thanks to his great control, Hendrickson's walks have totaled three, and his WHIP is a microscopic 0.99. He has also  racked up a piar of rare high strikeout starts, which have contributed in helping Lurch to a 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. So Lurch has been pitching extraordinarily well over his last few starts. The bad news? Save for Cleveland, they have come against the Angels and the Blue Jays, not exactly All-Star offenses. Today will be a real test of his recent success, as he faces the powerful Yankees.I'm currently at a cruch for time, so let me just say this: If Lurch can get his ERA under 5.50, I would very much like to see him  in a lefty long relief role next year. Hell, if he is within a close range, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Taking the mound for the Yankees has been one of their barrel-bottom success stories, Chien-Ming Wang. Wang has pitched to a pretty good 3.89 ERA  on the year, and will likely be a plug for New York's roation  through the playoffs with Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, and possibly Mike Mussina down because of injury. So while he may not carry a $20 million name, he has been a savior for New York this year. But this will be his first start  since before the All-Star  break  because of injury.  He pitched fairly decent for AAA Columbus in two rehab starts prior to his scheduled one here.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is, let's hope this guy does not make another appearence tonight. Let's hope Mr. Second Half will return. Anyways,  with a starter coming off the DL for the opposing team and a hot hand on the mound for us, I like our chances.  But you know what happened when Isaid that last  night,  so  I'll keep the accolades to a minmum.  Expect your normal crop of players in tonight vs. the righty, and let's hope for the best. LET'S TAKE THE SERIES!!!!!!!!

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!