After a period of being consigned to the house computer since coming home from college, I finally got my laptop set up with internet access again on Monday, and right away, I was battling with an annoying virus. The anti-virus program kept freezing up before it could finish its task, but the virus seems to have disappeared so I’m not going to keep up the fight. While waiting out the virus scans, however, I happened to check in on the games, and found that ESPN.com had “featured” three games, one of which hadn’t even started and all three of which involved teams from a certain division–the AL East. The Yankees-Indians game was an obvious one, as A-Rod is still sitting on 599. (It’s not his only “X99”, either–he’s got 299 career stolen bases, putting him one away from becoming the 7th member of the 300-300 club. In order by homers, Barry Bonds, 762/514; Willie Mays, 660/338; Andre Dawson, 438/314; Bobby Bonds, 332/461; Reggie Sanders, 305/304; and Steve Finley, 304/320. The all-time stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, fell just three homers short. I found this out because YES offered “who are the only three players with 400 HR and 300 SB?” as a trivia question on Sunday, the day Dawson was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.) The Red Sox-Angels game, which hadn’t even started, was somewhat of a mystery–maybe it was for Lackey’s return to Anaheim? (Nope, that wasn’t until Tuesday; Monday was Dan Haren’s first start with the Angels. They did the same thing for Cliff Lee’s first start with the Rangers, which also went poorly, though without the injury.) But the Rays-Tigers game…I opened up the box score to find a double-no-hitter in progress in the bottom of the sixth, the second time this year a game had been hitless on both sides that late in the game. (That one got a featured game tag, too, despite neither side getting the no-hitter.) Max Scherzer was unable to hold onto their no-hitter as Matt Joyce hit a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the sixth (two walks and a catcher’s interference having loaded the bases), but Matt Garza became the fifth pitcher of the year to complete a no-hitter, the first in Rays history. (The next morning, one of the ESPN people cracked that it was the second time this year the Tigers had a no-hitter broken up by a guy named Joyce.) With the Rays joining the Rockies as teams earning their first no-hitters this season, only the Padres and the Mets are without no-hitters in their franchises’ histories. Also, an odd note: the Rays acquired Matt Joyce from the Tigers prior to the 2009 season in a trade for Edwin Jackson. After one year, the Tigers traded Jackson to Arizona for…Max Scherzer, whose no-hitter Joyce broke up. And then Jackson went and no-hit the Rays as a Diamondback earlier this year. (On that note, today’s Phillies-Diamondbacks game matches Jackson against Roy Halladay–no-hitter versus perfect game. Incredible.) With the trading deadline not yet upon us, we stand just two no-hitters shy of tying the modern record for a season–and it would be one away if not for Jim Joyce’s bad call. Bring it on.
The always spectacular Mariano Rivera recorded his 500th save last night against the Mets, but perhaps of greater note was that he recorded his first career RBI. After coming in to get the final out of the eighth, he came up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs, taking 2 balls and a strike, swinging at strike 2, then fouling off a 2-2 pitch before taking two more balls to draw the walk off of K-Rod to drive in Melky Cabrera. As a rule, Red Sox fans like me aren’t quick to praise a Yankee, but Mariano is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no questions asked. He’s probably the best closer ever.
Elsewhere, the Rockies refuse to go away. After losing 2 games to the Angels to constitute their first series lost since losing the first three games of a four-game series at Houston June 1-4 (the win in the finale of that series constituted the start of their 11-game winning streak), they returned to sweep the A’s and are now 20-3 since June 4th, going from 2nd-worst in the majors to tied for tenth-best (with the Brewers). They’re still a half game out in the NL Wild Card, behind the Giants, but just 7.5 behind the suddenly failing Dodgers. Wait, are they failing? Their season high in games over .500 was under a week ago (although they’re 1-4 since then). The Giants are in second at 7 back, but they had never fallen further than 9.5 back at any time, anyway (two occasions, the latter of which was, incidentally, just before the Rockies’ hot streak started.) So, yeah…since June 4th (inclusive), the Dodgers are 11-10, the Giants 15-9, and the Rockies 20-3. Looks like the Dodgers are going to have to be more than just average if they want to hang onto their lead. If memory serves me correctly, the infamous Red Sox “collapse” of 1978 also had the leading team playing around .500 ball over the span of their collapse. The Rockies and Dodgers start a 3-game series in LA tonight.
Also tonight: The Rays and Jays meet for the first time this year. Quirky.
The AL won the interleague series again, 137-114 (one make-up game remains, between the Cubs and White Sox)
By now you’ve no doubt noticed that the Tampa Bay Rays have
already equaled last year’s win total and stand just four wins shy of their
franchise record with 41 games remaining. (And this after a loss, too.) XM’s
Baseball This Morning provided a nice list of parallels between the ’08 Rays
and the ’69 Miracle Mets. First off: The ’08 Rays have a 24-year-old ace in
Scott Kazmir. The ’69 Mets had a 24-year-old ace, Tom Seaver. The ’67 Mets were
61-101, ditto the ’06 Devil Rays. The Mets’ manager in 1969 was Gil Hodges, who
has three letters in his first name and six in his last name, just like current
Rays manager Joe Maddon. What does it all mean? Absolutely nothing, of course,
but the Rays are a very good team without a doubt. Remains to be seen if
they can get past the Angels in the playoffs, assuming that that’s who they
play. The Red Sox’ traditional postseason dominance of the Angels can only go
so far, and with Boston’s horrible road record, I’m not so confident in their
chances as a wild card team–especially not against a team with the road record
to nullify their home field advantage when they do have. Modified predictions
for ALDS: Angels sweep Red Sox, Rays beat White Sox in 4.
Raul Ibañez set a new Seattle record for RBIs in an inning
with 6 in the seventh inning against Minnesota, part of a ten-run offensive by
the Mariners that inning. Ibañez’s grand slam proved key to the Mariners’
comeback win. Also hitting a grand slam yesterday was Marlon Byrd of the Texas
Rangers, after the Yankees rallied to tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the
ninth, providing a 9-5 walkoff win in the regulation nine. Oakland lost their
seventh game in a row and is just 2-14 since the All-Star Break. Furthermore,
they had been playing only .500 ball leading into the break and are 9-23 since
their high-water mark of nine games over .500 on June 28th. The
Angels won last night on a bases-loaded walk, the same method Tampa Bay used to
win the previous day by an equal 6-5 score.
Milwaukee continues to reel, falling for the seventh time in
their last nine games as they were shut down by a Cincinnati team that was
coming off of a sweep at the hands of the league-worst Washington Nationals.
The game was more notable for the fight that transpired in the dugout between
Prince Fielder and Manny Parra. The Cubs also lost, 2-0 in a rain-shortened
game against the scorching Houston Astros (7-1 over their last eight), so
Milwaukee remains five games back, now just half a game up on the idle Cards in
the wild card race.
Yeah, yeah, I did it again. Two days worth of writing for
this entry. Tampa Bay got that win, passing last year’s mark with 40 games to
go. Also, I feel a lot better about the Red Sox now. They continue to get
production up and down the lineup, as Youk had his fourth straight game with an
XBH, Pedroia’s now got the longest road hitting streak by a Red Sox since 1913,
Lowrie continued his hot streak with another triple and more RBIs, Bay went 4
for 5, and even Jacoby got into the act, with two hits and two stolen bases–the
first steals in over a month. I really love this team. Where else do you see
the number four starter win Pitcher of the Month? Oh, right, Cleveland
(actually, that was the number 5, at least when it happened, back in April. 15
wins and an All-Star start can change that designation quickly). With win 15 on
Monday night, Lee leads the AL and was briefly tied for the major league lead,
but NL leader Brandon Webb picked up his 16th last night to retake
sole possession of the overall lead. Many happy returns, with Mike Hampton
picking up his first win since 2005, Chris Carpenter making his first home
start since Opening Day 2007 in an eventual 11-inning Cardinal win, and
Fausto Carmona returning for the Indians, though I’ve already mentioned that
the Indians didn’t win last night, being the Rays’ opponents. (Another
reference to XM Radio on the morning commute there. Really blew that one.)
Interesting play in last night’s Red Sox-Royals game. One of Jason Bay’s four
hits had just barely enough distance and height to clear the wall if
uncontested, but of course, it was contested. Royals centerfielder Mitch
Maier managed to get a glove on it but couldn’t make the catch, instead weakly
knocking the ball away. The ball continued to roll on top of the outfield
wall for 10-20 seconds before left fielder Ross Gload batted it down and
threw in, limiting Bay to a double. Nevertheless, it was a wholly inexplicable
turn of events. Chris Waters had a phenomenal debut, shutting out the Angels
for eight innings, and the Tigers continued to struggle as they continued to
have trouble closing out games, blowing a 6-1 lead at the halfway point with a
run allowed in the bottom of the fifth, two more in the sixth and one each in
the seventh and eighth and wasting a two-run top of the 14th by
allowing four runs in the bottom of the inning, the last three on a Nick
Swisher home run.
Put it off another day…I really, REALLY despise the Tampa
Bay Rays. I wasn’t really paying that much attention to yesterday’s afternoon
games while they were in progress, but I knew that there were some going on,
including Rays-Indians. No sooner do I find the game on my radio… “WAAAAAAAAY
BACK!!! THIS GAME IS TIED!!!” I’m not going to do the whole quote, but yeah. I
then found out that the first two batters of the inning doubled. Disgusting…and
it only got worse. The infield single was disappointing, the four-pitch walk
was horrifying, and the three-run homer was, by that point, almost
predictable–I say almost because I was actually expecting the following batter
to get a grand slam instead. I’m watching the very beginning of SportsCenter
right now, and baseball is nowhere in sight–Brett Favre got traded, and the
entire rundown of seven topics is Favre-related. (I think it froze up again, though,
because this isn’t the top one any more. It may not even be one of the seven,
which would be really disturbing.) More media circus here in Jersey, too–the
Jets ended up winning out over the Buccaneers. (That’s a bit of a shame,
really; not only do I hate both “New York” football teams, Brett Favre would
probably be an upgrade for the Bucs–who do they have, Jeff Garcia? Garcia was
good for us when McNabb went down in ’06, but I’d rather have Favre
there–remember, the Bucs are in the same division as the Carolina Panthers,
whose ’09 first-round draft pick the Eagles picked up in a draft-day trade. So
improving the Bucs helps my favorite team.) Oh, wait, I was wrong about it
freezing up; we’ve returned from the first break and four of the seven are still
on the rundown. The end of SportsCenter was also all Favre…which detracts from
a different kind of Buc. I swear, good accomplishments on bad teams get
no attention at all–the next five on the rundown are “Indians-Rays”, “Walk-off
HR”, “Yankees-Rangers”, “Joba Chamberlain”, and “Red Sox-Royals”. In a way, it
makes sense–the Rays are a division leader and had an incredible comeback win,
the Yankees are in the same division and have a major starter who will be
missing some time, and the Sox are also in that division and leading the wild
card. Unfortunately, after that, it’s even more football coverage–about to fill
up the rundown again. Okay, so what’s the rule–you have to carry the
no-hitter into the ninth to get mentioned by the halfway point? Remember last
week’s entry, when John Lackey’s 8⅓ no-hit innings against the Red Sox got the
top story on SC (and brought the rest of the AL East to the top), even with
plenty of Favre news to go around, and Doug Davis, his cancer-survivor status
and his 7⅔ perfect innings couldn’t get in until after the second
commercial break? Guess what–it happened again, except this time it doesn’t
seem like this one will beat the third break. Eight NFL pieces in this
block, followed by…the NL East: Padres-Mets, then Marlins-Phillies. Hello? 7⅔
perfect innings!!! This time the Diamondbacks were on the other side of the
ball, unable to get a baserunner until there were two outs in the eighth. Two
more pieces appear on the rundown, and they’re Tigers-White Sox and
Twins-Mariners. We’ve hit the third commercial break, and they’ve told us to
stick around for highlights of the Cubs’ eight-run third against the
Astros–they often tell us to “stick around” for something that we’ll still be
“sticking around” for at the next commercial break, like yesterday with
the surreal play from the Red Sox-Royals game. We’re back, and the next one is,
rather cryptically, “Images”. I’m guessing it’s more Brett Favre. The clock by
the rundown says 11:37, and I might be wrong about the “Images” because the
next one is Dodgers-Cardinals. Will this be it? NO! The next one is
Astros-Cubs, so the following one should be Brewers-Reds…and it is…PGA
Championship. Man, and I was sure that they were going for the NL
Central thing. They go for the second-in-the-West Dodgers versus
second-in-the-wild-card, third-in-the Central Cards, and then follow up with
the Central’s leader…and doesn’t go to the Brew Crew next? Bad editing,
guys…Twins-M’s took us into the fourth commercial, and “End of an Era” followed
“PGA Championship”, followed by even more Favre. I am not going to
finish this entry until SportsCenter gets to the biggest accomplishment of the
night…I mean, you’ve got this 25-year-old, recently acquired…Ah, there’s
“Images”. Image of the week–Manny arriving in LA, Favre arriving and leaving
Green Bay, Carl Edwards celebrating a win, or US cyclists wearing black masks
in Beijing. Manny won out in the poll. “Headlines” and “Legends” follow
“Favre’s Best”…wait…at 11:47, “Headlines” could be that bit I saw…IT IS! The
next one after “Legends” is “Long, Strange Trip”, which was the final
segment–and, yep, there’s “Top Stories” again. Oh, look, “Favre’s Best” is the
daily top 10–they’re taking all of them from Favre’s career highlights instead
of the day’s plays. So, we’ve now got SportsCenter all wrapped up, and so many
games left uncovered. Brewers-Reds, A’s-Jays, Orioles-Angels, Braves-Giants,
Nats-Rockies (okay, that one got rained out; doubleheader today), and, of
course…Pirates-Diamondbacks. If a large-market team kept an opponent of the
bases–or was kept off the bases–for so much as six innings complete,
it’d probably be the top story. Jeff Karstens retires the first twenty-three
Diamondbacks he faces, and it doesn’t get on SportsCenter at all. Come on, near
perfect game? Against a division leader? Still a complete-game shutout–unlike
the Lackey game, which wasn’t a shutout, or the Davis game, which wasn’t a complete game?
Opposing a sure-fire Hall of Famer–“the ugly guy”, as my mom calls him. (Randy
Johnson may not be pretty, but he throws a mean fastball.) ESPN, you disgust
Another one that was written a bit in advance. I wanted to go with a number that could easily be related to something else, which left the possibilities at seven and ten. At first, it took some stretching to get enough, but soon I found myself having to delete earlier ideas. As the Rays lose their chance at their first franchise no-hitter (solo HR leading off the seventh for Hanley Ramirez), I present to you (with apologies to Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith), “Ten Things I Hate About the Tampa Bay Rays”.
Their ownership is gutless. Folding under pressure to drop the “Devil” from their name. Have some backbone!
The new color scheme. Remind me exactly where on the old unis the word “Devil” appeared? Because I remember already seeing a lot of just plain “Rays” last year. Critics called the new colors “Kansas City lite”, and this seems like a fair assessment, as the Royals put much more life into the color blue. Go back to green, guys!
So, then, what is a “Ray”? Well, if you’re to believe the logo on the front of the jersey and the official press release, they’re now talking about rays of sunshine, which seems awfully lame. However, the old ray still appears on the jersey, and the R in Rays has the same exaggerated tail as the Y in the old Devil Rays logo.
They also still have their old mascot, Raymond, although he never looked much like a devil ray to begin with.
Jonny Gomes needs to be medicated. Heavily.
But this recent brawl between the Sox and Rays is nothing new. Up until a couple of years ago, you could pretty much count on there being an incident of some sort at a Tampa Bay-Boston game, even if it was only by accident. Usually, though, it wasn’t. See: August 29, 2000–a bench-clearing brawl in the first inning and a spoiled no-hitter in the ninth. Pedro’s come so close to no-hitters in every stop he’s made except Los Angeles.
The player who broke up that no-hitter was John Flaherty, who later became a Yankee. Immediately following his stint as a Yankee, he signed as a free agent with the Red Sox as a possible replacement for Doug Mirabelli (who had been traded to San Diego for Mark Loretta), only to retire in spring training to become a broadcaster for the YES Network. Also on the list of Devil Rays-turned-Yankees: Tanyon Sturtze. Oh, wait, his presence on the Yankees was usually good for us–like in the Tek-A-Rod brawl game.
One of those accidents cost us the 2005 AL East title. Matt Clement earned a trip to the All-Star Game for his performance in the first half of his first season in Boston, but was useless for the rest of the life of his contract after being hit in the head by a Carl Crawford line drive. Okay, so maybe that can’t account for him spending most of ’06 and all of ’07 on the DL, but it does explain why he was horrible for the remainder of 2005.
And that long-anticipated bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox for the services of Carl Crawford, who has been historically brilliant against both of those teams, now looks like it may never happen. Ah, well, at least it’s a legitimate star owning us and not some nobody like whoever the hero of the day is when we face Toronto now (used to be Frank Catalanatto, but he’s with Texas now–and still consistently plays well above his career averages against us).
Wade Boggs tried to convince the Hall of Fame to enshrine him as a Devil Ray–a team that didn’t even exist until his penultimate season. Granted, Boggs wasn’t exactly our favorite person after he bolted for the hated Yankees in search of a ring (and rode around Yankee Stadium on a horse after he got it in 1996), but the Rays have Boggs’s number retired. Yes, he’s originally from the Tampa area; yes, he had his 3,000th hit as a Devil Ray, but he only played there for two years!!! Get real, guys!
Note: This was originally written to run yesterday. The appropriate changes have been made.
Been a few days since I updated, so in backlogged news, let me congratulate the Kansas City Royals on their remarkable comeback against the Giants, trailing 10-3 in the middle of the fifth, and also congratulate King Felix on his grand slam, the first by an American League pitcher since the DH rule was implemented. The M’s were brilliant again Tuesday night, crushing the Mets 11-0. The other New York team didn’t fare much better, losing 12-5 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, two late runs making the final margin only remotely respectable. Now, for an instant classic. Like most Red Sox games as of late, it began with a rain delay. When things resumed, it was time for the festivities, for June 24, 2008 was designated as Jerry Remy day, celebrating twenty years of the Remdawg in the NESN booth. Remy made all the right moves, making a plug for Jim Rice to be inducted into Cooperstown next year, and received a shiny new Ford Mustang. The game started out on the right foot, as Justin Masterson set the D-Backs down in order in the top of the first and Dustin Pedroia homered into the Monster seats to give the Sox the 1-0 lead after one, but Masterson didn’t have it and gave it back before getting a single out, falling behind 4-1 after a three-run homer by Chad Tracy in the bottom of the third–Tracy also had the RBI in the second. As the game wore on, numerous guests visited Don and Remy in the booth, and Tom Werner and John Henry had a humorous list of “Top Ten Reasons why we had Jerry Remy Day”. The number one reason was “we wanted to have something with Jerry’s name on it that he wasn’t selling on his website.” I could probably recall most of the others for you, but that’s not the point, and I’m sure NESN.com probably has it archived anyway. Anyway, comedian Lenny Clarke arrived in the top of the eighth, and after directing more on-field traffic than Julian Tavarez, he left by imploring the Sox to score some runs, a tough task seeing as how they’d only had two hits since the three in the first inning. They listened. Julio Lugo led off with a single, Jacoby Ellsbury followed in kind, and after Diamondbacks starter Doug Davis was pulled (if Lester was starting for the Sox, it would’ve set a new record for most cancer survivors on a single pitching mound), Dustin Pedroia lined one just over the glove of Orlando Hudson to drive in the second run of the game. J.D. Drew, no longer the hottest thing in all of baseball, struck out, and Manny hit a sharp grounder to third, too tricky a hop to turn a double play–second and third, two outs, Mike Lowell coming to the plate. The Diamondbacks stuck with the reliever they had out there, Chad Qualls. The graphic appeared on screen that Mike was 1 for 1 off of Qualls in his career and that that hit was an RBI double, and I remarked that a double would be fine right now. A minute or so later, I was pleading with a ball to keep heading back, back, and it did, bouncing off the Wall for a two-run double. Am I good at this or what? Jason Varitek, who ended the longest hitless streak of his career with a double in Monday’s game, followed with a single to give the Sox a 5-4 lead, and as the unexpected starting first baseman, Brandon Moss, came to the plate, the cameras showed Kevin Youkilis in the dugout seemingly trying to convince his manager and bench coach that he could go in for defensive purposes for the ninth. (In a bizarre fluke, Youk was hit in the eye by a ball that took a bad bounce during between-inning warmups in Monday’s game and had to be removed, and Moss made a crucial mistake in the seventh inning of that game, repeatedly bobbling a ball hit to him with runners at second and third and one out until the only play he had was to tag the batter-runner–so no error was charged, but the run scored, leading to the Diamondbacks’ 2-1 win. Presumably Sean Casey is serving his suspension from the Rays brawl.) Moss singled to extend the inning and chased Qualls from the game, and Coco Crisp became the ninth Sox batter of the inning. Reliever Tony Peña induced a fly-out. Despite having a black eye and being bothered by wateriness that kept him out of the starting lineup, Youkilis came on for the ninth, and although he again walked a batter, Pap nailed down the save this time. Four runs in the eighth inning to win by a score of 5-4, on Jerry Remy Day–this, in my opinion, is an instant classic. The oodles of special guests, the exciting matter in which they won, and the fact that on a day honoring the Sox’ former second baseman, Dustin Pedroia homered and had the first RBI of the Sox’ rally with a single, makes this a NESN classic, a near shoo-in for the All-Star Break marathon of first-half games. Let’s see, they need three games for that marathon…I’m thinking Lester’s no-hitter, this game, and…hmm…oh, right, of course; Manny’s 500th home run game. It’s a shame that those games are blocked out in my market.
Final note: While both New York teams were embarrassed immensely, neither was the most lopsided defeat of the day. Cincinnati lost to Toronto by the score of 14-1. Also embarrassing: The Marlins’ eighth-inning collapse. After scoring in the bottom of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie, giving Scott Olsen, who’d been pinch-hit for, a chance to pick up his first win since May 9, they found themselves with the bases loaded and no one out. A beautiful play allowed them to get the first out 5-2, and after an at-bat so long I was able to see an entire half-inning of the Sox game before it ended, they got the second out 3-2, preserving the lead that was also 3-2. Then they walked in the tying run, following another half-inning of the Sox game. Then they walked in the go-ahead run. Then in the ninth, they found themselves with a runner at third, two outs, and Carl Crawford up, and they intentionally walked him to get to Longoria, only to end up walking him as well to load the bases. What followed was a two-run single, important because the game that had at one point seemed so far ahead of the Sox game was still going on when the latter had ended, Troy Percival having already allowed one run in with runners at first and third and two outs. The bases would be loaded by a walk to Dan Uggla after I’d begun watching, but that’s all that would happen as the Rays won 6-4 to remain just one game behind the Red Sox.