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Rays Monday Wrap Up: Rays of Hope?

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Will this be an outfield we see more and more of in August and September?
Will this be an outfield we see more and more of in August and September?

The Rays All Star break was sandwiched between a 3 game road trip in New York against the Yankees and a 3 game homestand against the Boston Red Sox. The Rays were 2-4 in those games and  fell 7 games behind the Red Sox and 5.5 games behind the Yankees.  This past week was an opportunity for the Rays to lift the spirits of the fanbase with 4 games at home against the New York Yankees and 3 games on the road against the Kansas City Royals. The Rays held their own against the Yankees by splitting the 4 games series but lost 2 out of 3 to the Kansas City Royals.

The Rays (53-47) ended the week 3-4 and a quick glance at the standings this morning shows the Rays in third place in the AL East,  9.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox and 6.5 games behind the Yankees. It would be difficult for the most Pollyanna of fans to find a path for the Rays moving forward that has them playing games in October. Barring a formidable collapse by the Yankees or Red Sox or the Rays playing out of their minds over the next two months, the remainder of this season will be focused on establishing as many components for a 2012 team as possible. 

This Weeks Notes & Thoughts:

  • Trade rumors involving B.J. Upton have been swirling for a few weeks  now but talk seems to be accelerating as Ken Rosenthal reports teams are exploring Upton as the Beltran alternative. This should lead to some very fun trade proposals from the Rays fanbase over the next week or so.
  • Most teams don't utilize a six man rotation. There has been a lot of discussion about James Shields being available, but as we have discussed on DRB, could Jeff Niemann be on his way out? As Jason Hanselman offered up long ago, the Rays would be smart to get Niemann healthy and pointed in the right direction and then trade him. Which Rays starter is most likely to be dealt, if any?
  • Will any contender pay enough for the Rays to move Kyle Farnsworth, who has a team friendly 2012 option of 3.3 million dollars. What would be deemed overwhelming or enough to move Farnsworth and the 2012 option?
  • A lot of roster moves have been made this week. Some were making their major league debuts (Robinson Chirinos, Dane De La Rosa, and Alexander Torres) and others were coming back to the Rays (Desmond Jennings, Jake McGee, and Brandon Gomes). What are your impressions of these guys and what are you looking for moving forward?
  • Reid Brignac was finally sent down to Durham. I understand that Reid Brignac has an above average glove at shortstop but his shortcomings with the bat this year were disturbing to say the least. What is Brignac's future for 2011 and beyond. How will he respond in Durham and will he have to rework his swing in order to rebound in the majors?
  • One question that has been bantered about as the trade deadline approaches is what is Casey Kotchman's value to the Rays moving forward and what is his trade value? Trying to find a match  for Casey Kotchman is difficult as he doesn't provide the punch that most teams would want in a first baseman, he doesn't seem to adapt real well to part time duty, and many teams aren't using the July 31st deadline to acquire defensive specialist at first base. 
  • After the 16 inning loss to the Red Sox the Rays called up Alex Torres to pitch out of the bullpen in Monday's game and Jose Lobaton was placed on the disabled list and Robinson Chirinos was called to replace him. Joe Maddon inserted Torres in Monday's evening game with the scored tied 4-4 and Torres did not impress working 1-inning, giving up a hit and 3 walks including the go-ahead walk to give the Yankees the 5-4 victory. 
  • Monday's game featured a brief power outage at the Trop due to a lightning strike to a bank line that goes to a substation that feeds Tropicana Field.Power_outage_medium
  • Tropicana Field's roof came into play in Tuesday's Rays victory. As Bill Chastain of wrote, "a major meltdown under Teflon skies enabled the Rays to take a much needed, come from behind 3-2 victory over the Yankees..." The Rays had runners at 1st and 2nd with one out when Justin Ruggiano hit a routine fly to center that Granderson couldn't track and let drop to load the bases. Elliot Johnson hit a comebacker of Boone Logans glove to score Robinson Chirinos from third and Johnny Damon hit a sacrifice fly to score Sean Rodriguez and give the Rays the 3-2 lead.Lost_it_medium
  • The Rays were shut out 4-0 by the Yankees on Wednesday. It marked the 10th time the Rays have been shut out this season. The loss went to David Price who pitched 7.1 innings giving up 2 earned runs on 6 hits striking out 5 and walking 2.  Dane De La Rosa completed his journey from minor leaguer to real estate salesman to independent league pitcher to minor league pitcher to finally getting his call to the majors. De La Rosa worked 1 inning and gave up 2 earned runs, no hits,  a strike out and walked two. Casey Kotchman went 3-4 in the loss and finally qualified for the batting title. Kotchman's .337 average placed him 3rd in the AL.
  • James Shields was magnificent on Thursday by holding the Yankees to 1 run over 7.2 innings on 6 hits while striking out 6 and walking 3. Brandon Gomes and Kyle Farnsworth worked the final 1.2 innings to give the Rays a split in the 4 game series.
  • On Friday, the Rays scored an early run to take a 1-0 lead but were looking for more with the bases loaded and nobody out, but Matt Joyce struck out and B.J. Upton flew out to Jeff Francouer who threw out Ben Zobrist at home to end the inning. The game just got progressively worse from there as the Royals came to the plate and put up back to back doubles to score a run to tie the game, then Sam Fuld misplayed a ball into a double to allow the second run to score, and Mike Moustakas broke an 0-22 slump with an RBI single to give the Royals a 3-1 lead. It was going to be one of those nights for Wade Davis and the Rays. Later, Fuld lost a ball in the lights which turned into a double and Matt Joyce dropped a fly ball which allowed a run to score. Later, with 2-outs Fuld charged in and made a diving catch on a line drive that would of ended the inning but the umpire ruled it a trap and a run scored. To make matters worse, J.P. Howell allowed RBI singles to the next two hitters to magnify the umpires blown call. The most interesting part of Friday's contest was the removal of B.J. Upton from the game along with the removal of Desmond Jennings from the game in Durham. This sequence of events led to wide spread speculation that B.J. Upton had been traded. After the game, Reid Brignac was demoted to Durham and Desmond Jennings was called up to Tampa.
  • The Royals beat the Rays 5-4 on Saturday night on a tenth inning RBI double by Eric Hosmer. The loss was frustrating on many levels. The Rays entered the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead and had Kyle Farnsworth on the mound to shut the door but Alex Gordon delivered a 2-out double to tie the game at 4. As frustrating as Gordon's double was, the Rays offense provided the fans with an even more frustrating moment. In the top of the 10th inning the Rays loaded the bases with nobody out. Casey Kotchman grounded out to the pitcher Joaquin Soria  who threw home for the force out and then struck out Sam Fuld and Elliot Johnson to end the threat. Brandon Gomes came in to work the bottom of the 10th inning and gave up a lead off single to Billy Butler who was replaced with pinch runner Mike Aviles who came around to score the wining run on an Eric Hosmer double. The highlight for the Rays was Desmond Jennings who took his spot at the top of the batting order and delivered a double, triple, two walks, and a stolen base.
  • Alex Cobb combined with Cesar Ramos, Joel Peralta, and Jake McGee for a 5-0 shutout over the Royals on Sunday. Desmond Jennings once again had a stellar game getting on base 4 times via a double, a single, and two hit by pitches. Alex Cobb is the first Ray to ever go his first seven starts without a loss and is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his last 5 starts.
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. 

Hello Rays fans. This was generally a very sad week for me. We are pretty much out of the playoff hunt. We needed to win three of four versus the New York Yankees, to sneak back in and then losing two of three to the dreadful Kansas City Royals was the topping on the cake.

For the most part another great week of SP especially against the Yankees and Niemann and Cobb versus the Royals. For me I let Wade Davis spend an entire 30 days in rehab, but what do i know?

Bringing up Desmond Jennings and his fast start certainly is encouraging at the top of the line up. Let's hope it continues.

And now i save the best for last. Parting ways with one of the worst players I've ever seen in a MLB uniform, at least for the time being, put a smile on my face. MrNegative1 and I have been calling for this action for months and finally Reid Brignac is a Durham Bull, hopefully for a long, long time

Good luck in Oakland and Seattle

Go Rays!!