Tag: Tampa

Red Sox vs. Rays: Keys for Each Team Winning ALDS Game 4

The Boston Red Sox were hoping to avoid a Game 4 in the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, yet that is exactly what is on the table.

As such, both teams need to regroup heading forward for, what could be, a pivotal postseason matchup. 

Which team will get more from their starting pitcher and who will be the offensive stars and catalysts during the game?

For Boston, one more game is all that is needed to advance to the ALCS, whereas Tampa Bay has to continue their comeback after staving off elimination in Game 3.

The Red Sox obviously want to avoid a Game 5 and will hope to shut the door Tuesday night.

There are a number of keys to each team’s success in this game. Whichever team gets the best out of those keys should come away with a Game 4 victory.

Boston Red Sox

Boston will turn to veteran right-handed Jake Peavy to take on the Rays. Boston wanted to clinch in Game 3, but late-inning heroics from the Rays made it otherwise.


Jake Peavy Needs to Pitch Well

This could be an obvious statement, but Peavy has not exactly been stellar as of late. Over his last three starts, Peavy has a 5.21 ERA. He also has not been that effective on the road—a 5.27 ERA in 2013 compared to 2.73 at Fenway Park.

Which Peavy will the Red Sox get on the mound tonight?

The Rays are hitting only .217 against Peavy this season, which bodes well in spite of the aforementioned statistics. Peavy tends to be effective early in the game, yet his ERA tends to rise above 6.00 in innings three and four, which means he can be vulnerable after the first time through the opponent’s lineup.

Expect Tampa Bay to try and exploit this transition.

Peavy will also try to shake off his postseason demons having lost both his previous two postseason outings while posting a 12.10 ERA for San Diego.

Hopefully, for Peavy and Boston’s sake, things end in their favor. The Red Sox do not want to see David Price in a potential Game 5.

If Boston gets a quality start out of Peavy and is able to turn the game over to their bullpen, the Red Sox should be in good shape.


Keep the Offense Rolling

In their first two wins of the series, Boston put up a combined 19 runs compared to only four in their Game 3 loss.

Some of this could be attributed to playing away from the lofty confines of Fenway Park—they have only a .206 batting average at Tropicana Field—yet in the playoffs, all of those numbers go out the window. 

Boston needs to get to Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson early and often and expose Tampa Bay’s bullpen as soon as they can. Getting to Tampa Bay’s starters was key in Boston’s first two games and the formula needs to work in Game 4 for the Red Sox to be successful.

David Ortiz has done the most damage against Hellickson and boasts a .375 batting average with three home runs. Ortiz may be called upon to provide some of the necessary offensive thump for the Red Sox lineup. If they can get something going against Hellickson early, the Rays may be in trouble.

Shane Victorino on the other hand is hitless in three at-bats, yet that is too small of a sample size to assume anything at this point.


Tampa Bay Rays

Game 3 provided some magic for a Rays team trying to avoid elimination in the series. 

Jose Lobaton’s late-inning home run provided the motivation and means for Tampa Bay to continue playing. Will that momentum carry over in Game 4?


Jeremy Hellickson Needs to Pitch the Game of His Life

In many ways, Hellickson emulates Red Sox starter Jake Peavy. Hellickson also struggled down the stretch, going 1-7 with a 7.53 ERA over his final 10 starts.

Simply put, he needs to pitch as if Tampa Bay’s season is on the line because it is. 

His lackluster ERA down the stretch does not bode well against a Red Sox team that has dominated offensively in the series thus far. Hellickson does own a 3.44 ERA against Boston in three starts this season so that is good news.

Given how important momentum is in the playoffs however, is it possible that Hellickson’s struggles resume in the ALDS?

For the Rays, Hellickson needs to be as sharp as he possibly can be. Tampa Bay cannot afford to get behind early in this game, at least by a sizable margin. 

As previously noted, Boston’s David Ortiz could be the largest threat to Hellickson’s chances. Getting him out, or at least facing him with zero runners on base, will be vital here.


Evan Longoria Can Carry This Team on His Shoulders

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria provided much of Tampa Bay’s offensive thump in Game 3. He will need to do more of the same if his team hopes to avoid going home after Game 4.

Longoria has good power numbers against the Red Sox over his career—20 total trailing only the Yankees for teams he likes to hit homers against.

Unfortunately, Longoria has not fared well against Boston starter Jake Peavy. To date, Longoria has hit a mere .200 against the Red Sox right-hander, although two of his three hits have been for extra bases.

Assuming that those stats resemble what may happen in Game 4, Longoria’s best chances may come in the later innings against Boston’s bullpen. Any base hits or RBI against Peavy would have to be considered a bonus.

Longoria also needs protection around him in the lineup. If Tampa Bay is to succeed, hitters like David Dejesus, Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers will have to get on base for Longoria to be a threat.

If and when that situation happens, Longoria becomes that much more dangerous.

Boston will hope to force the opposite.

For Tampa Bay, their sole concern is forcing Game 5. Expect them to put everything on the line versus the Red Sox in order to achieve this.

Boston wants to quell the Rays recent momentum and shift everything back into their favor.  They need a few things to go well in order for this to happen.

In either case, both the Red Sox and Rays will be gunning for everything in this critical Game 4 matchup. What eventually transpires will be a direct result of the listed keys. Whichever team follows these targeted goals should be in excellent shape to win Game 4.



All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.




Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.


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Sam Fuld Loses Tooth as Tampa Bay Rays Defeat Seattle Mariners 3-2

Sam Fuld lost his tooth in the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 win against the Seattle Mariners Friday night.  Although the win helps in their battle for the playoffs with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, all the buzz is about the little outfielder that looks more like he plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning than the Rays.

Fuld entered the game in the eighth inning to pinch hit for Sean Rodriguez with the Rays trailing by a run. He hit a single through the hole at shortstop.

That’s when the mystery of the missing tooth began.

The television broadcast showed Fuld without his smile that fans have come to love. Social media was full of inquiries about the location of his missing tooth.

“I wish I had a good story like I was out skating this morning. It all comes back to May or whatever when I banged my head into J.J. Hardy. It chipped my crown, and I’m trying to get a permanent one going but it’s been a while. I’ve had this temporary thing in there and it keeps popping out.”

After a request from the media for him to say, “Super Sam Fuld,” the story got better.

“Today I decided to chew some gum—real bright idea—and the next thing I know it’s in my gum and the gum became really crunchy. The crown just broke into a bunch of pieces, and that was that. The problem is I got a hit tonight so I’m thinking of leaving it out.”

Even some of Fuld’s teammates weren’t fully aware of the fake tooth.

“I just found out that he had a fake tooth our last homestand, I had no idea,” said Evan Longoria. “This clubhouse has a bunch of characters, it’s really what keeps it light around here. For him to be walking around without a tooth and to think it’s the funniest thing is the world is awesome.”

After the saga of the missing tooth, Fuld would go on to score on an Evan Longoria single starting the Rays eighth inning rally.

Johnny Damon would score the game-winning run on a Ben Zobrist single to center field.

Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand.

You can follow him on Twitter @JWilburg




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Breaking Down the AL East 1/3 Into the 2011 MLB Season

Since the inception of the American League East, it has always been a two-horse race with the exception of a Tampa Bay Rays organization or Baltimore Orioles team showing some hope early on in the season. It usually always comes down to either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, with the second place team more often than not taking the AL Wild Card home.

The 2011 MLB Season has proved to be different than the past several years. We are about a third of the way through the season and just four games separates the fifth place Toronto Blue Jays from the first place Boston Red Sox.

Let’s break down where each of the five teams are at right now and see what they need to do to improve or if it is even realistic to keep them in the conversation.

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Sam Fuld: Tampa Bay Rays Outfielder Is Hitless Since Joining Twitter

Sam Fuld came as a much-needed spark following a dismal start by the defending AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays. The relatively unknown outfielder came to the Rays as part of the trade for Matt Garza.

He jumped on the scene and got the opportunity to start following Manny Ramirez’s retirement from baseball. He took that opportunity and has made the most of it.

Fuld and the Rays became common sights and have comfortably lead the majors in ESPN “Web Gems,” which showcase outstanding defensive highlights. From his grab against the White Sox to his performance in his first visit to Fenway, he hasn’t disappointed fans.

In fact, fans have even started buying his No. 5 Rays jersey to the ballpark to cheer him on in the same way they used to cheer for Carl Crawford.

He even developed what is likely to be the most viral following of any Rays player on Twitter.

The Twitter trend #LegendOfSamFuld became a battle cry for fans of the Rays and Fuld alike. That also marks where the story takes a downhill turn.

Fuld was batting .350 and had 10 stolen bases prior to creating his Twitter account, @SamFuld5. Although the account was a success with almost 5,000 followers in less than three days his hitting has suffered.

His first tweet was: “My teammate @DAVIDprice14 convinced me to join Twitter. Love the #legendofsamfuld tweets. Keep em coming. Thanks for all the support!”

Following his dismal performance in the double-header in Minnesotal he sent out a follow-up that said: “0 for Twitter today, had a feeling I would jinx myself. But big sweep for us!”

Fuld has yet to record a hit since David Price convinced him to join the social network. If the jinx on Fuld wasn’t enough, Price had his worst outing in almost two years on his first appearance on the mound following the recommendation.

If Sam Fuld truly is Superman, then Twitter has become his kryptonite.

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David Price: Tampa Bay Rays Only Hope to Win AL East Is If He Wins 20 Games

David Price is going to have to win 20 games if the Tampa Bay Rays have any aspirations to repeat as AL East Champions.

In Friday night’s 8-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, he got put to the test and fell short…very short. It brought his record to 3-3.

“I didn’t play very well at all,” Price said in reference to his outing. “You know, our offense did a great job, gave me some runs early and that’s all I can ask for, and we played good defense. I just didn’t throw the ball very well and the mistakes I made, they hit them.”

“That’s why you get 33 starts. I didn’t beat myself, they beat me.”

It was Price’s worst outing since getting pulled after 1.1 innings against the Texas Rangers in 2009 when he allowed six earned runs and walked five batters.

Price threw 98 pitches and gave up five earned runs in 4.1 innings of work against Angels. His performance tied his shortest career outing at Tropicana Field.

He allowed a career-high 12 hits.  His previous career high for hits allowed was 10 on two occasions.

During the Rays‘ 13-3 run, starters threw for seven or more innings in 12 of the 16 games. They also held opponents to a .209 average during that stretch.

The weakest link by far for the 2011 Rays is the bullpen. The team has been able to compensate with losses at the other positions by having players like Sam Fuld step in and perform beyond expectation.

Cesar Ramos entered Friday night’s game with the Rays trailing by a run. He was quickly pulled after 0.1 innings, allowing two earned runs and increasing the deficit to three.

During the team’s five-game win streak, Rays relievers only threw 106 pitches. On Friday night, they threw 98 pitches in 4.2 innings.

“You won’t see David with that kind of performance very often,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said about Price’s performance. “David is such a professional and that’s the thing with a guy like that—he’s not a machine. Everybody expects him to be almost perfect on a nightly basis.”

“Overall, David just wasn’t on tonight and that’s a big part of our problem tonight.”

The Rays will have a big problem for the season if Price isn’t on enough to get 20 wins.

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Manny Ramirez: Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way out

So, Manny Ramirez has decided to retire rather than face another suspension for failing a drug test.  Not surprising in the least, either the failed test or the walking away.  Once again, a lack of character taints an entire career and for Ramirez this is just the latest example.

Ramirez is one of those sports figures that gets a lot of press.  Not necessarily because of his on the field performance, though over some of the 19 years of his career they were quite good (but most likely PED enhanced), but for his demeanor and look.  Ramirez is one of those guys that the sports media eats up with a spoon.  They get down on their knees and pray that he does something they can spin into stories for a couple of weeks.  And more often than not, he was more than willing to give it to them.

He has always had a lack of character in my opinion.  He is one of those ‘ME’ athletes that wants the attention on him for whatever reason, good or bad.  He wasn’t about team.  If the team was winning and he had a part in it, his part was of course the most important and the most worthy of coverage.  If the team was losing and he was doing his part to help, dogging balls, batting poorly, acting like a jerk, then he got the coverage as well.  So it was a win/win for him in the press.  Remember, there’s no such thing as bad press and in this day and age, bad press is even better.  

Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violation of the drug policy.  When he returned, he was never the same.  On the field or as a celebrity of the moment.  A downtrodden, poorly performing Manny on losing teams is just not interesting to the media.  He joined the Rays in the off season and has performed abysmally.  His batting verage was hovering near .060.  The Rays hadn’t won a game, until he announced he was retiring.  He also took a couple of days off this past week to deal with a “personal matter.”  We now know what that was.

Ramirez tested positive in Spring Training for a banned substance, what exactly we do not know as yet.  Instead of going through the drug program process, which would have included a 100-game suspension this time, Ramirez walked away.  Abandoning the Rays and almost surely abandoning his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.  Yes, he has the numbers.  He also has two failed drug tests, one suspension and another pending suspension if he had not retired OR if he returns to the game.  He will still have to serve the suspension if he should return to the game at some point.  It doesn’t just go away.

His lack of character will not go away either.  His poor choices will not go away.  And the taint of PEDs use that this newest failed test perpetuates will never leave the game of baseball, which Ramirez and others like him have ruined for all time.  Thanks Manny, hit the road.

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Kyle Drabek Among the Top 5 Rookies Poised to Have a Major Impact in 2011

The countdown has begun, and it is only 26 days to Opening Day.  

Every year, new players filter in and out of the league as they look to make a name for themselves in the majors.  

However, these particular players won’t take long to cement their spot on their teams as we look at the top 5 rookies who will make an immediate impact for their team in 2011.

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Tampa Bay Rays: Even If Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez Shine, Rays Will Fall Short

Tampa Bay Rays fans shouldn’t pin their hopes upon the dual offseason signings of veterans Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez

The addition of the pair of former World Series-winning heroes is merely papering over the cracks of Tampa Bay‘s unconvincing roster.

Early signs out of Rays camp seem encouraging, as the former Boston Red Sox teammates each have shown a willingness to prove themselves coming off subpar seasons.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon is confident that both can be positive influences on his young roster.

Maddon appreciates the effect Damon can have inside major league clubhouses. 

“I’ve been watching it from a distance and I know what he’s doing and I can see it. You read about him every place he’s been he’s done it in those clubhouses, so I’m just watching it because I know he’s going to have a great impact,” he explained.

He also commented on Ramirez’s renewed focus: “I love the idea that he feels as though he needs to go out there or wants to go out there and prove something. It’s going to benefit him and us.”

Ramirez missed a significant portion of 2010 and only took part in 90 games in combined duty between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. He was able to hit .290 overall, but his power numbers took a sharp decline as he only managed nine home runs and 42 RBI in more than a half-season of play. 

It remains questionable whether Manny will be able to regain the power stroke that once made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball, but he has come to spring training 12 pounds lighter and is eager to prove himself once again.

Damon’s numbers at the plate also took a dip last season, but his lack of production as a member of the Detroit Tigers could be partially attributed to hitting at Comerica Park.

The spacious ballpark shaved 16 home runs and 31 RBI from Damon’s 2009 totals, but that season was spent at Yankee Stadium, which is very friendly to left-handed hitters.

His 2010 average of .271 makes for a more alarming statistic, but could be boosted by Tropicana Field’s turf known to help grounders get past infielders.

In a “best-case” scenario in 2011, Damon could pick up his power numbers and raise his average closer to his career mark of .287. Meanwhile, a resurgent Ramirez could team with superstar Evan Longoria for an imposing middle-lineup for opposing pitchers to get around. 

Even in that case, Tampa Bay is still lacking what is needed to defend their 2010 AL East Division Title.

The free agent departures of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano will greatly hinder the Rays’ playoff chances in 2011. Soriano and Crawford will especially hurt the Rays after joining their AL East divisional rivals, the New York Yankees and Red Sox, respectively. 

Crawford’s athleticism, raw tools and energetic presence now will be providing a spark for Boston’s lineup while Soriano will form a dynamic one-two punch with closer Mariano Rivera in late games for the Yankees

Pena’s massive power will be missed, as will his Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base after joining the Chicago Cubs.

Losing Crawford and Pena’s production will be difficult even with the additions of Damon and Ramirez.

If rookie Desmond Jennings is given a full-time role in the majors, he could actually match Crawford’s 2010 stole base total of 47, but it is unlikely he could come anywhere near Crawford’s plate-production.

Tampa Bay’s projected starting lineup lacks a solid supporting cast; outside of Longoria, their entire infield is made up of unproven and weak hitters. 

In the outfield, both B.J Upton and Ben Zobrist need to prove that their respective career-years of 2007 and 2009 weren’t a fluke. It would be very unlikely for the Rays to match their 160 home runs that was sixth-best in the AL last season.

Finding a reliable closer will be an even harder task without Soriano who led the American League with 45 saves and posted a sparking 1.73 ERA in 2010.

J.P. Howell—who is recovering from shoulder surgery—could return in May but it remains to be been seen whether he can match his successful stint as the Rays closer in 2009.

If Howell has a setback, do the options of Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta or Andy Sonnanstine sound like capable backup plans? I didn’t think so.

Tampa Bay’s saving grace is their talented rotation. 

David Price is a strong candidate for the 2011 AL Cy Young and is joined by a blossoming group of young starters. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann have proven to be reliable hurlers at the big-league level—though James Shields needs to rediscover his early career form after suffering a miserable 2010.

The highly-touted Jeremy Hellickson has the ability to become a future ace like Price, but Rays fans shouldn’t expect brilliance right away.

His sharp command and excellent Triple-A numbers might suggest otherwise but placing such demands on a young starter wouldn’t be fair. The Rays are taking a patient approach with Hellickson.

Judging by the assembled team for the upcoming season, Tampa Bay’s roster has the look of a club built for the future rather than one that can actually compete for a postseason spot in 2011. 

It wouldn’t be shocking if the Rays fell out of contention by the trade deadline and would be willing to move both Ramirez and Damon to secure more promising talent for the future.


What do your team’s chances, Rays fans? Join in the discussion below or send me a tweet at http://twitter.com/HartyLFC.

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MLB: Spring Training Games Offer New Beginnings

Spring training games offer much for the baseball world.  They offer knowledge; they offer glimpses of the upcoming season; they offer looks at minor league up-and-comers; and they offer first looks at those recovering from injury.  

Spring training games are not your average gamesthey do not feature a team’s starters all the way through for the most partbut they do offer looks and lessons to be learned.

The first few days of spring training are in the books, and baseball teams and fans have already learned much.  T

he Yankees have learned that Bartolo Colon can still pitch, but he is very, very heavy on the mound. The Braves have learned that Chipper seems to be recovering fairly well from his knee surgery. The Twins have learned that neither Mauer, nor Morneau are completely healthy.  

The Rockies have learned that even spring training games can result in injury as a collision between Ian Stewart and Carlos Gonzalez showed. The A’s learned that Michael Choice is a baller.  The Padres and Mariners learned that minor league pitchers in spring training games can have some very, very bad showings that lead to massive run productiona total of 25 runs scored.  

The Phillies learned that their aces are on point, but Chase Utley has knee tendonitis. The Marlins learned that Mike Stanton has a strained right quad.

Spring training can also lull teams and fans into a false sense of success.

Teams get a good spring win/loss record, and everyone starts to see visions of the post season dancing in their heads, only to come crashing back to earth when the regular season begins.  

Spring training games have to be taken with a grain of saltespecially early on.  

While there is much to be learned from spring training games, the real story only starts to develop as opening day approaches; but that is still several weeks away.  

In the meantime, teams and fans can enjoy a little bit of what they might see in the regular season, and a lot of what they might see in the future from minor leaguers who get playing time.  

All in all though, every bit of knowledge is to be absorbed like a sponge for all those winter starved baseball lovers.

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AL East Positional Analysis and Ranking: Starting Rotation (No. 4 Starter)

I am in the midst of a series examining the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams in the AL East, on a position-by-position basis. The players at each position are being ranked in relation to their peers within the division, with each team being assigned points based on where their player ranks in comparison to the other players.

Today, the series continues with a look at the No. 4 starters in each rotation.

The best player will earn 10 points for his team, with the remaining players being assigned points as follows: 7-5-3-1.

At the end of the process, I will accumulate all of the points for each team and create a divisional power ranking.

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