The Rays began the week by losing 3 out of 4 games to the Detroit Tigers but rallied to finish with a bang winning 3 straight games versus the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays have improved their record to 73-59 and are 6.5 games behind the New York Yankees in the race for the AL Wild Card.
Like sands in an hour glass the opportunity to catch the Yankees fades with each passing day. The Rays have 30 games left to try and make up 6.5 games on the Yankees, but the Rays schedule is full of tough matchups. Over the next 30 games the Rays will play the Toronto Blue Jays 4 times (3 home/1 away), Texas Rangers 6 times (3 home/3 away), Boston Red Sox 7 times (3 home/4 away), Baltimore Orioles 6 times (3 home/3 away), and the New York Yankees 7 times (3 home/4 away). The 7 games against Yankees will be played over the final 9 days of the season. Outside of head to head series, the Rays have no control over the outcome of the Red Sox and Yankees games, but they can continue to win and hope that time doesn't run out before catching one of the two teams.
The Rays will finish their series against the Blue Jays on Monday, travel to Texas for a three game series against the Rangers, and return home to face the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend. The final game of the Toronto series will feature Wade Davis against Ricky Romero. The pitching matchups in the Texas series will be Jeremy Hellickson vs Matt Harrison (Tuesday), James Shields vs Alexi Ogando (Wednesday), and Jeff Niemann vs Derek Holland (Thursday). The Orioles pitching rotation may be juggled due to this weekends rainouts, but the Rays will be sending David Price, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson.
The Yankees will play a doubleheader versus the Orioles on Monday, travel to Boston for three game series against the Red Sox, and return home to take on the Blue Jays over the weekend. The Red Sox have an off day on Monday before hosting the New York Yankees for three games and host the Texas Rangers for a three game series over the weekend.
Game Highlights After the Jump:
MONDAY: Justin Verlander shuts down Rays and earns his 19th victory as the Tigers beat the Rays 5-2.
The Rays entered the 4 game series against the Tigers on a 5 game winning streak and were looking to try and put pressure on the Red Sox and Yankees lead for the AL East/Wild Card playoff spots. The Rays who had battled Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda over the weekend drew the Tigers ace Justin Verlander who was 19-8 with a 2.31 ERA coming into the game. The Rays countered with Jeff Niemann who sported a 7-0 record with an ERA of 2.15 since coming off the disabled list. The Rays only highlight of the evening came in the bottom of the first inning as Matt Joyce connected off Justin Masterson to hit a solo home run to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
Jeff Niemann after the game:
"We kind of expected [a pitchers' duel] coming in to today's game and that runs were going to be at a premium," Niemann said. "The defense played great, and I just hung that last pitch to Delmon and he put a pretty good swing on it. It put us in a pretty bad spot there.
"... I felt pretty good. It was just kind of hit or miss tonight. We made some pitches when we had to, and it's just unfortunate that it didn't turn out our way." - mlb.com
Tuesday: David Price effective but offense falls short as Tigers win 2-1
David Price worked 8 strong innings giving up 2R/2ER but the Rays offense only managed to score 1 run off the Tigers pitching staff. A staff which was generous enough to surrender 11 hits and 4 walks on the evening.
Joe Maddon on the loss and what it means to win close games:
"Overall, this is the kind of game, when you're going to the playoffs, you win," the Rays' manager said. "And when you're not, you don't. We've got to start winning these games to go to the playoffs.
"You have to win 2-1, 1-0, 3-2 games, I've always said this, to win championships. You've got to. We're on the bad end of a 2-1. We've been on the bad end of two 1-0s in the recent past. Those are the kind of games that prevent you from moving on." - mlb.com
Wednesday: Wade Davis strong start and Sean Rodriguez hustle gives Rays 3-2 win in 10 innings.
Wade Davis worked 9 strong inning allowing 2R/2ER while striking out 6 and walking 3 and Joel Peralta worked a perfect tenth for the victory. The Rays victory came on an improbable walk off fielders choice in the bottom of the tenth off Tigers reliever Duane Below. Evan Longoria led the bottom of the tenth inning off with a single and was erased on a groundout by Ben Zobrist for the first out. Matt Joyce struck out for the second out of the inning but Below hit Casey Kotchman with a pitch and walked Sean Rodriguez to load the bases and bring Elliot Johnson to the plate. Johnson sent a routine grounder to Tigers 3b Brandon Inge who threw to second base for the force out but Sean Rodriguez, who had hustled all the way, beat the second baseman to the bag and was called safe allowing Ben Zobrist to score the winning run.
Joe Maddon about Sean Rodriguez and the Rays hustle:
"Everything we try to be -- great pitching, great defense -- we want to hustle all the time," Maddon said. "We win the game because a guy, running at first base, does the right thing. He just does the right thing. The thing we try to get everybody to do, and it's incredible you can't get everybody to do it all the time.
"We win because of him, because of his effort, period. Routine ground ball to third base, they're probably playing a little bit deeper to field a ground ball wherever it was hit. And Sean gets a great lead at first base, a great jump, and makes the play. That doesn't happen every night. For all the Rays watching in the Minor Leagues, that's what we're looking for here." - mlb.com
SIDEBAR TO THE RODRIGUEZ HUSTLE PLAY:
Brad Penny barked at Sean Rodriguez for hustling after a pop out on Tuesday evening. After the game Penny claimed he was upset at the language used by Rodriguez since their aren't that many people at the Trop and the kids could hear. Rodriguez responded that although he regrets the language he may of used was upset that Penny felt it was his business to lecture him for how he conducts himself.
Brad Penny about yelling at Sean Rodriguez:
Said Penny before Thursday's game: "To me, that's a sign of disrespect if you're screaming that loud. All these kids can hear you, it's not too loud in here. So to me, that's not really professional. ... Why would I get on somebody for hustling? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. I love when guys hustle. I get on them for not hustling." -USA Today
Sean Rodriguez on Penny's Action:
Rodriguez acknowledged that with games being televised and fans being able to read lips, he can see why Penny says it's not professional to use that language. But Rodriguez pointed out he's not the first baseball player to have such frustration build up and "there's no need for (Penny) to come out and bark at me."
"Whether it was unprofessional or not, it's not his place to do that," Rodriguez said. "That's not the time to do that." - tbo.com
Joe Maddon on Brad Penny's Actions:
"For anybody to bark at another player for [hustling] is absolutely insane, ludicrous," Maddon said. "If Sean would have just charged the mound at that point, I would have been fine with that at that particular point. I think that's ridiculous. And then he shows him tonight what that means to play hard. So any time a guy gets on another guy because he's going to show him up by playing too hard, I have a hard time with that myself, personally." - mlb.com
Thursday: Jeremy Hellickson falls victim to lack of run support as Tigers win 2-0
Doug Fister improved his record with the Tigers to 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA after shutting out the Rays for 7 inning on 5 hits with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks. Jeremy Hellickson was the tough luck loser as he went 7 strong innings, giving up 2R/2ER giving up 6 hits while striking out 7 and walking 1. The highlight of the evening came in the third inning when Hellickon became the first Ray in franchise history to strike out 4 batters in an inning.
Matt Joyce on the struggles of the offense:
"When you look up at the scoreboard, we have the hits, it's just the runs," Joyce said. "Obviously, that has to come with home runs or hitting in clutch situations. We just have to find a way to bunch them together." - mlb.com
Friday: Rays blast 4 home runs to back another complete game by James Shields as Rays win 6-1.
James Shields threw his 10th complete game of the season, holding the Blue Jays to 1 run on 7 hits while striking out 12 and walking 1. Shields performance gave the Rays their 11th straight game where the starting pitcher went at least 7 innings, the longest stretch since the Mariners in 2003. Shields also become the first pitcher to strike out Jose Bautista 3 times in a game since Felix Hernandez on September 24, 2009. Shields received most of his run support via the long ball as Desmond Jennings delivered his 6th home run of the year, Evan Longoria blasted his 23rd and 24th homers, and John Jaso hit his 4th on the year. Shields eclipsed the 200 inning mark for the fifth consecutive season.
James Shields on his complete games:
"Double-digit [complete games] in one season, you only have about 33 starts in a year, so it's pretty special," he said. "I'm very pleased. I'm really happy I hit 200 innings. I make it a goal every season. This is five straight, I'm pretty proud of that." - mlb.com
Evan Longoria on his recent power surge:
"It's sad it took me this long to get back to feeling normal," Longoria said. "But it's better late than never. This is kind of the right time where all of us would like to hit our stride, being within striking distance, starting to feel like we're primed for a run, so there's no better time for me to start swinging the bat a little bit." -- mlb.com
Joe Maddon on the mood of the Rays after losing 3 out of 4 to Detroit:
"The boys were good when I walked in today, chirping nice," Maddon said before Friday's game at Rogers Centre. "There was good chirp going on, I like that. I like when they chirp."-- mlb.com
Saturday: Jeff Niemann and Rays offense lead Rays to 6-5 victory.
Jeff Niemann was unable to complete 7 innings on Saturday but was good enough to limit the Blue Jays to 3R/3ER on 6 hits in 6.1 innings while striking out 6 and walking 2. The Rays extended their lead to 6-2 in the top of the seventh thank to a 3 run blast by B.J. Upton. The Rays bullpen was shaky as the Blue Jays cut the Rays lead to 6-5 on solo home runs by Marcus Thames and Edwin Encarnacion in the bottom of the eighth. Joel Peralta filled in for Kyle Farnsworth (out with a tender elbow) to retire the Blue Jays in order and earn his second save on the year.
Joe Maddon on Jeff Niemann's outing:
"Not great but good," manager Joe Maddon said. "He got through it. He started out slowly. I thought he settled in well and I thought eventually at the end there you could see that he got tired."
Sunday: The Price Is Right
David Price set a Rays franchise record for strikeouts in a game with 14 and the Rays offense supported the stellar pitching with 12 runs including 3 home runs off Jays starter Brandon Morrow on their way to a 12-0 victory. It was the 13th shutout recorded by Rays pitching on the year. David Price was phenomenal as he worked 7 shutout innings giving up 3 hits while striking out 14 and walking just 2. Desmond Jennings gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead with a leadoff home run and extended their lead to 5-0 in the 2nd inning on a RBI double by John Jaso, a 2-run homer by Sean Rodriguez, and a solo homer by Desmond Jennings. The Rays extended their lead to 6-0 on a RBI single by Matt Joyce in the to of the seventh inning. Brandon Gomes came in to replace Price in the seventh inning and worked himself into a 2-on/1-out situation with Jose Bautista at the plate. Gomes fell behind Bautista 3-1 but came back to strike him out looking and then retired pinch hitter Mark Teahen to fly out to retire the side. The Rays capped the scoring with a 6 run ninth on a RBI triple by John Jaso, a RBI single by Desmond Jennings, a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria, a RBI single by Ben Zobrist.,a 2-RBI double by Matt Joyce. Brandon Gomes retired one batter in the ninth before giving way to Cesar Ramos who finished the shutout for the Rays.
David Price on his dominating performance against the Jays:
John Jaso on David Price's performance:
"Hitting is hard enough already," Rays catcher John Jaso said. "What David brought today made it pretty much impossible." - mlb.com
David Price on using the wind to his advantage:
"Absolutely, yeah, I saw the movement on my fastball," he said "I wanted to continue to use it. The wind kept going and it was making my eyes watery all game. I knew it was blowing pretty good and I just kept going. I've never had a wind like that."- mlb.com
What does SF1 have to say:
Hello again Rays fans
This weekend has been quite a contrast to how our week started. A disappointing and almost near fatal four game set versus DET which saw us lose three times in close faction. The loss to Brad Penny is the one that frustrates me, followed closely by our loss to Doug Fister. One or two timely hits in either of those games and the series would have been different.
The Jays seem to be just what the doctor ordered, as the SP continues to excel, with Shields getting his MLB high 10th CG and Price setting a franchise record with 14 K's
The offense this series has been centered around Evan Longoria and the continued impressive start of Desmond Jennings.
Sunday's game told me a couple things. Let's continue to see more of Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce (MOM) versus both LH and RH pitching. The alternatives to Joyce sitting mean Ben Zobrist is in RF, that's fine, but puts Elliot Johnson usually at 2B that's not. The alternative to Sean Rod sitting is Reid Brignac, nuff said
Let's win tonight and sweep the Jays
At the time of this writing we had drawn to 6 GB the Yankees, so "it ain't over yet", and it's certainly not the time to call up Canzler and Guyer