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Monday Morning Rays Wrap Up: Back on a Roll

FT. MYERS FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Justin Ruggiano #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS FL - FEBRUARY 22: Justin Ruggiano #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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After losing 3 of their first 4 games of an 11 game road trip, the Rays entered the week with a record of 30-29, tied for third in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays and 4 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. They were losers of 11 of their last 16 games and were heading to Anaheim to face the Angles where they had lost 14 of their last 19. The Rays had a very successful week going 5-1 by sweeping the Angels and taking 2 out of 3 from the Orioles. Sunday's win guaranteed the Rays a wining road trip and a chance to have an impressive 7-4 record if they can defeat the Tigers on Monday in Detroit.

Even after going 5-1 this week, the Rays remain in 3rd place in the division with a record of 35-30, 4 games out of first place behind the streaking Boston Red Sox who have won 9 straight games and 2 games behind the New York Yankees. The Rays will have their first opportunity to host the Red Sox this week and will try have Shields, Hellicksion, and Price going for them. The Rays are looking to finally break through at Tropicana Field where they have a record of 14-16 on the year, what a better time to turn that around then when the Red Sox are in town.  I'm sure there will be some dialogue about what type of reception Carl Crawford will get Tuesday evening and what type of reception he should get. Please stay classy and let's keep this dialogue clean and respectful.

This Weeks Notes & Thoughts:

  • The Rays were shutout by the Orioles on Friday night (7-0). It was the fourth time the Rays were shutout this season and the 31st time the Rays offense was held to 3 runs or less (47.7% of games). The Rays record in those games is 8-23. In 2010, the Rays offense was held to 3 runs or less 56 times (34.5%) and had a record of 14-42. The Rays scored more than 3 runs in all 5 of their victories this week.
  • Entering Sunday's game, several Rays hitters excelled during the week: Justin Ruggiano (.421/.421/.632 [3-5 on Sunday]), Evan Longoria (.400/.455/.500 [1-3 with a HR and 3 RBI on Sunday]), Ben Zobrist (.368/.478/.737 [2-4 on Sunday]), John Jaso (.357/.500/.357), and Johnny Damon (.273/.333/.500 [2-5 with 2 RBI and a HR on Sunday]). 
  • With his home run in the first Johnny Damon tied Ben Grieve with the Rays club record with reaching base in 37 consecutive games.
  • Entering Sunday's game, several Rays hitters struggled during the week: Reid Brignac (.211/.211/.368 [0-1 with a K Sunday]), B.J. Upton (.111/.158/.278 [1-4 with an RBI on Sunday]), and Matt Joyce (.125/.211/.125). It should be noted that individually Reid Brignac played a major role in the Rays victory over the Angels on Tuesday evening with a home run off Jared Weaver, a drag bunt to score the winning run and two nice plays in the field. B.J. Upton also made an absolutely beautiful catch over his shoulder Saturday night in Baltimore that was in itself a game changer. It also deserves mention that Matt Joyce did have a cortisone shot in his shoulder which has been bothering him and  may explain some of his struggles this week.
  • The Rays bullpen continues to develop. J.P. Howell appears to be getting locked in as he worked 2.2 innings over 3 appearances (0H/0R/3K/0BB) and earned his first save since September 20, 2009 on Sunday. Juan Cruz, who had seemingly lost his control, worked 2.1 scoreless innings surrendering 1H/0R/3K/0BB and picking up 2 wins and a hold. Kyle Farnsworth worked 4IP giving up 1H/0R/4K/1BB and picked up 4 saves.



On Monday night David Price was the perfect elixir for the Rays who were without B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria who both were out of the game with the flu. He was staked to an early 2-0 lead thanks to some small ball and poor defense by the Angels. The Rays scored their first run after Johnny Damon led off the game with a single and stole second, Ben Zobrist applied the sacrifice bunt to move him to 3rd, and he scored on a sacrificed fly by Matt Joyce. Casey Kotchman reached on an error by third baseman Alberto Callapso and advanced to third on a single by John Jason and scored on a single by Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano gave the Rays an added boost with a 2-run homer in the 6th inning to extend the Rays lead to 4-0 and added a fifth run thanks to a 2-out RBI single by Matt Joyce plating Reid Brignac in the 7th inning. David Price worked into the eight inning but gave up a leadoff double to Mark Trumbo and a single to Jeff Mathis. Price was replaced by Cesar Ramos who worked a scoreless eighth and Kyle Farnsworth came in to work a scoreless ninth giving the Rays a much needed series opening 5-1 victory

Monday's win was especially important for the Rays because the Rays had to face Dan Haren and Jeff Weaver on Tuesday and Wednesday. Alex Cobb, coming off a very good start against the Rangers, was looking for redemption after the Angels took advantage of his tipping of pitches to batter him for 4 runs in 4.1 innings on May 1st. The Rays gave Cobb an early 1-run lead thanks to a leadoff triple by Johnny Damon and a groundout by Ben Zobrist. B.J. Upon led off the 3rd inning with a home run to give the Rays a 2-0 lead and Johnny Damon had a RBI double in the fourth inning to push the lead to 3-0. Cobb got through the first five innings unscathed before surrendering an single run in the sixth. Cobb gave up a leadoff double to Mark Trumbo in the seventh and retired Vernon Wells on a infield pop up before being lifted for J.P. Howell.  Howell, still looking to knock the rust off, struck out Maicer Izturis and Hank Conger to end the inning. The Rays added a single tally in the eighth inning and Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth worked a scoreless 8th and 9th inning and  the Rays won 4-1.  Cobb picked up his first major league win going 6.1 innings, 7 hits, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts, and 0 walks.

Tuesday's game pitted James Shields against Jared Weaver. Shields was coming off his most disappointing start  of the year versus the Mariners (4IP. 8R/7ER, 3BB/4K) and was looking to give the Rays their first ever 3-game sweep in Anaheim. The Rays were still without Evan Longoria with the flu and several other players were fighting the flu bug as well. Reid Brignac got the Rays on the board with a solo home run in the third, Justin Ruggiano gave the Rays a 2-0 lead with a double in the 7th, and Ben Zobrist boosted the lead to 3-0 with an RBI triple in the 8th. Shields held the Angels scoreless through 7 but hit Maicer Izturis with a pitch to lead off the 8th, gave up a single to Torri Hunter, and issued a walk to Alberto Callapso to load the bases with nobody out. Shields was replaced by Cesar Ramos to face Bobby Abreu who promptly unloaded the bases with a double. Ramos was replaced by Joel Peralta who retired the next three hitters to keep the score tied at 3-3. The game went extra innings and John Jaso led off the tenth inning with a walk and advanced to second on a a pinch hit infield single by Evan Longoria. Reid Brignac attempted a sacrifice bunt but fouled off the pitch. John Jaso noticed that Callapso was charging in on the bunt and didn't feel he could get back to make the play on a stolen base. Jaso took off on the next pitch and successfully stole 3rd base and eventually scored on a drag bunt by Brignac giving the Rays the 4-3 lead. Kyle Farnsworth came in and worked a scoreless ninth and notched his 13 save in a 4-3 Rays victory.

The Rays continued their road trip by heading back east for a weekend 3-game series against the Orioles. On Friday night the Rays sent Jeremy Hellickson to the mound against Jake Arrieta. Rays nemesis J.J. Hardy led off the bottom of the first with a home run and Nick Markakis hit a 2-out Grand Slam homer in the second to give Arrieta a 5-0 lead. The Rays offense was shut down by a trio of Baltimore pitchers  held the Rays to 3 hits and the Rays lost 7-0.

On Saturday night the Rays sent David Price to the mound to face off with Jeremy Guthrie and home plate umpire Time Welke. The Rays jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an Evan Longoria double to score Johnny Damon in the first inning. The Rays increased their lead to 3-0 in the top of the fifth on a double by Ben Zobrist and a single by Evan Longoria. The Orioles came back with two in their half of the fifth on a home run by Mark Reynolds and a 2-out ground rule double by Adam Jones. The Orioles took a 4-3 lead on a 2-run home run by Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the sixth. The Rays tied the game in the top of the seventh on an infield single by Casey Kotchman and a throwing error by second baseman Robert Andino. The Orioles regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Joel Peralta walked Brandon Snyder with the bases loaded. The Rays were down to their last out against Orioles closer Kevin Gregg but had runners on first and third when Casey Kotchman laced a single to center to tie the game at 5. In the tenth inning the Rays added two more runs on a single by Evan Longoria and a double by Casey Kotchman. Kyle Farnsworth came in and worked a scoreless tenth earning his 14th save and making a winner out of Juan Cruz (4-0) as the Rays won 7-5.

The Rays looked for a series win on Sunday and sent Wade Davis to the mound against Baltimore lefty Brian Matusz.  The Rays gave Davis and early 3-0 lead thanks to a lead off home run by Johnny Damon, a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria, and an error on a Sean Rodriguez grounder by Mark Reynolds. The Orioles came back with 2-runs in their half of the first on back to back home runs by Adam Jones and Vladimir Guerrero. The Rays loaded the bases with 1-out in the second inning and Orioles manager Buck Showalter removed Brain Matusz for Alfredo Simon. B.J. Upton drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and the Rays led 4-2. The Rays added their fifth run in the top of the 3rd inning on a Johnny Damon Single and the Orioles responded in their half of the third with a single run on a Adam Jones double. The score remained 5-3 until the 7th inning when the Rays added two runs on a 2-out single by Kelly Shoppach. Wade Davis came out to work the bottom of the seventh but was removed for Adam Russell after giving up back to back singles to begin the inning. Russell induced Nick Markakis and Adam Jones to hit the ball in the ground, each ground out scored a run, but Sean Rodriguez was able to make magnificent plays and record outs on each ball. Russell retired Vladimir Guerrero to end the inning with the Rays leading 7-5. The Rays added two runs on a knuckle ball line drive by Evan Longoria that Adam Jones misplayed into an inside the park home run giving the Rays a 9-5 lead. Luke Scott led off the bottom of the eighth with a  home run off Cesar Ramos to cut the lead to 9-6. The Rays called on J.P. Howell to come into the game for Juan Cruz with a man on first and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. Howell got J.J. Hardy to fly out and Nick Markakis to ground out giving him his first save since September 20, 2009 as the Rays held on for a 9-6 victory.

The Rays will send Alex Cobb against Phil Coke in the makeup game in Detroit on Monday before returning home for a matchup with the Boston Red Sox. The Rays will send James Shields vs Tim Wakefield on Tuesday, Jeremy Hellickson vs Josh Beckett on Wednesday, and David Price vs Clay Buchholz on Thursday. After the Red Sox series the Rays will host the Florida Marlins for three games. On Friday the Rays will send Wade Davis vs Ricky Nolasco, Alex Cobb vs Chris Volstad on Saturday, and James Shields vs Javier Vazquez on Sunday.

The Red Sox will be in Tampa Bay for 3 and then travel to Milwaukee for a 3 game series with the Brewers. The Yankees will finish their home 4-game series with the Indians before hosting the Texas Rangers for 3 and then travelling to Wrigley for a 3 game weekend series. The Blue Jays will host the Baltimore Orioles for 3 and then head to Cincinnati for a weekend series with the Reds. The Orioles will travel to Toronto for three with the Blue Jays and then head to Washington for 3 with the Nationals.

SF1 has had many contrary opinions over the course of this season, so let's see what he has to say about the team moving forward. 

While many of us might have been consumed with the Red Sox winning 9 straight games and assuming first place in the ALE the Rays quietly went 5-1 including a 3 game sweep of the Angels in Anaheim a franchise first.

Price, Shields and Cobb had very good starts against the Angels going deep into games which allowed Joe to call on this somewhat precarious bullpen less. With Damon and Zobrist at the top of the order the offense seems to be rolling. Let's hope Joe keeps those two where they are. Wade Davis continues to struggle allowing 2 more HR's today. The Rays really need to turn him around.

Reid Brignac is simply not a MLB hitter He now sports a 402 OPS. Three AL hitters have a OBP higher than his OPS. We need to replace this automatic out. 

Here's something I thought interesting, the Rays were 1-4 during Casey Kotchman's injury absence. With him back in the lineup we're 6-2.... Coincidence? I would like to call it the magic of Kotch.

Let's win the makeup game against Detroit tonight and roll into the Trop where we'll sweep Crawford and the Red Sox.