What is it, a week since I last wrote something? Well, while I basically haven’t seen the Rays play in that time, we have, I think it is fair to say, had a good week.
It started with the Rays taking two of three up in Toronto, the third game a 13-inning spectacular that, despite Troy Percival blowing his first save of the season, saw the players keep on battling, finally being rewarded with the win thanks largely to a grand-slam from Dioner Navarro…
Wow, that was quite a game. A proper big-league battle. It went well into the night over here, but was more than worth staying up for – the Rays’ first extra-inning game of the season was also the best contest so far.
It started out in the bottom of the first with Carl Crawford doing what he does best, tripling to centre. There is just no better sight in baseball than CC rounding first, looking up, and turning on the afterburners…
Continuing my day-behind blogging for the week, last night I watched Wednesday night’s game – the second of the three at Disney. I imagine I shall watch the series finale this afternoon unless I get a mad rush on at work, and jot down something on that this evening.
So, Wednesday’s game, and Roy Halliday on the mound for the Jays…
Not quite the home opener that the new, improved Rays had been after, methinks. I watched the first 5 innings last night, before tiredness and the thought of getting up for work got the better of me, and while it was an enjoyable game, it was also one of those where you have the feeling that its just not going to be your night…
For most players, an inning like Jonny Gomes had in the second yesterday would pretty much set the tone for the entire game. Within the space of ten minutes, Gomes had been embarrassingly thrown out at second while in his home run trot – believeing his line drive to right had cleared the wall, not bounced off the top of it – and then missed a routine fly ball, losing it in the wind and shadows. You would have excused him for thinking that it was going to be one of those days.
But Jonny is not really one of those sort of players. Next inning he came back to the plate, and delivered a sacrifice fly to give the Rays the lead for the first time at 2-1. Next time up in the fifth, he found another Andy Pettitte pitch to his liking and belted another line shot, this time to left, and this time clearing the wall by inches for a 3-run homer ad a 5-1 lead. That would be extended in the eighth with a solo-shot by Willy Aybar, before the Yanks completed the scoring in the bottom of the frame.
On the hill, Edwin Jackson struggled early on, but ended with a fine line of 6IP, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 4Ks and the win. It really was very encouraging to see him work through the first couple of innings without giving up the big runs, and then settle down – he breezed through the last 9 hitters he faced with relative ease. He was followed by another perfect 7th from Dan Wheeler, a shaky 8th resulting in two runs given up by Trever Miller and requiring Al Reyes to get the third out. Troy Percival then came in for his first appearance of the year, and earned his first save since 2005 with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Other good news yesterday was that Scott Kazmir had a strong mound session as he works back from injury. If everything goes well there is a chance he could be back with the Rays at the end of the month – which would obviously be great news all round.
Today’s matchup is James Shields against Chien-ming Wang. So you may want to watch this one!
Expected news from the Rays yesterday, as the announcement was made that CC’s option for 2009 has been picked up, while Rocco Baldelli’s has been declined. Obviously given his situation, the decision over Rocco’s option is no surprise – though like many fans I’m sure I do hope that we haven’t seen him in a Rays uniform for the last time.
Of course picking up CC’s option was an even bigger no-brainer. At $8.25million, he will still be one of the biggest bargains around, and I for one hope that he will be in St Pete for years beyond this current contract. Though for the stat-watchers there is obviously a big question mark hanging over him this year – his 5-year streak of increased batting average is getting tougher and tougher to keep going. It was up to .315 in 2007, and you know what, I think the smart money could be on a .316+ year in ’08!
We’ve also signed Dan Wheeler to a 2 year extension which, considering the cost – $10m – is an encouraging sign that the bullpen is a serious focus. Its one of the last pieces of the puzzle, and Wheeler is the sort of solid pitcher that we need to have around for the late innings.
Meanwhile, tonight Matt Garza makes his Rays debut, and I am looking forward to it. Midnight first pitch UK time, so whether I watch tonight or tomorrow is still to be decided – it will probably depend how awake I need to be for work in the morning!
In other news, I have set up a parallel Rays from across the pond over on Blogspot. The thing I’ve always liked about MLBlogs is the traffic that can be generated for even a relatively obscure blog like mine, but at the moment I’m not convinced that thats going to continue to be the case. So I figured that while I see how things play out, I may as well take advantage of the easy customisability (possibly not a real word) on offer there and start cross-posting to see which I prefer. Hopefully if things work out, and the issues here are sorted then I will continue the main Rays-watching here, and add in some more wider-baseball world posts over there. But we shall see.