April 2009

It’s over for Garza

ST. PETERSBURG — Jacoby Ellsbury’s speed was just too good.

The Red Sox center fielder hit a little nibbler towards shortstop to lead off the seventh, as Jason Bartlett charged hard but was unable to get Ellsbury at first. Dustin Pedroia then hit into a 4-6-3 double play, but Garza walked David Ortiz on a 3-2 pitch, meaning he wouldn’t face the minimum 27 batters.
Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted. Rays lead, 8-0, heading into the bottom of the seventh, and Garza has struck out eight. Complete-game shutout still possible, but he’s thrown over 90 pitches.
— Alden Gonzalez

Garza perfect through 6

ST. PETERSBURG — That’s right, Matt Garza is nine outs away from becoming the first Ray to throw a perfect game. In fact, no Tampa Bay player has even thrown a no-hitter.

The Rays led the Red Sox, 7-0, going into the bottom of the sixth. And at that point, Garza — 0-2 with an 8.74 ERA in his previous two starts — has struck out eight and no ball has even come close to being a hit.
The last no-hitter in the Major Leagues was Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano against the Astros on Sept. 14, 2008. The last perfect game came on May 18, 2004, when Randy Johnson — then with the Diamondbacks — blanked the Braves at Turner Field.
— Alden Gonzalez

Riggans, Bradford progressing

ST. PETERSBURG — A couple of Rays on the disabled list were said to be progressing on Thursday.

Backup catcher Shawn Riggans, already eligible to be activated from his 15-day DL stint, said he’s progressing from right shoulder tendinitis, saying “It’s not 100 percent, but it’s getting there.” The 28-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native said he’ll get in some rehab games in the next few days and, if everything works out well, he’d like to make it back with the club by the finale of the Red Sox series in Boston on May 10.
Riggans is 1-for-4 in his only game this season.
Meanwhile, Chad Bradford (recovering from right elbow surgery) threw a bullpen session, and manager Joe Maddon said live batting practice is next.
“He threw the ball very well,” Maddon said. “Right now, he’s on pace to throw a live BP on Sunday, and then maybe another one on Tuesday if everything goes well. And then we’ll move him into a game.”
— Alden Gonzalez

Game 1 lineups for Red Sox – Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Not many surprises here. Both teams’ catchers will have an off-day on Thursday, and Jason Bartlett said his left hamstring — which forced him to leave Wednesday’s game after the top of the fifth inning — is just fine. Gabe Gross will get his ninth start of the year in right field, and Michel Hernandez will get his fourth starting nod behind the plate to give Dioner Navarro a rest.

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
George Kottaras, C
Julio Lugo, SS
SP: Josh Beckett
B.J. Upton, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Pat Burrell, DH
Gabe Gross, RF
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Michel Hernandez, C
Jason Bartlett, SS
SP: Matt Garza
— Alden Gonzalez

Red Sox – Rays in just over 4 hours

ST. PETERSBURG — Greetings, all.

Bill Chastain is off this weekend, and I, Alden Gonzalez, will be taking over from Tropicana Field on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Big series for the Rays right now — you think? Tampa Bay has lost six straight series, and the schedule isn’t going to get any easier. Currently 6 1/2 games back in the tough American League East, the Rays haven’t had an off-day since April 20 and won’t get another until May 11. After the Red Sox, they’ve got the Orioles for two, then a five-game road trip against the Yankees and Red Sox.
Oh, yeah. They’re facing Josh Beckett tonight.
Let’s see what happens …
— Alden Gonzalez

Tough Road For Rays

After the Rays took a 1-0 loss Thursday in the rubber game against Seattle, Pat Burrell summed up the Rays’ situation best when he said: “We’re making it tough on ourselves.”

He went on to say that the Rays were going to have to tough it out to fight their way out of their current plight. And looking at where they are right now at 6-10, it will be a tough fight indeed.

The first pitch is about to be thrown in the first game of a three-game series against the A’s in Oakland, which is a tough place to play. After playing the A’s, the Rays will head to Minnesota for three against the Twins — also at a tough place to play.

While I don’t believe a disastrous road trip would be the end for this year’s Rays, I can see a winning road trip serving as a rallying point for the team to get back on track. But the Rays do have their work cut out for them.

–Bill Chastain

Maddon Out, Niemann Keeps Cool

Jeff Niemann thought he had Jermaine Dye for the second out in the sixth inning, but the White Sox slugger pointed to his toe enough to have the umpires investigate whether he had fouled the ball off his front foot.

After consulting one another, they ruled in favor of Dye, prompting Joe Maddon to leave the dugout to argue the other way. Like many such arguments, this one ended with an ejection. Home plate umpire Brian Gorman tossed the Rays manager.

From the replay, the umpires appeared to make the right call.

Dye then singled and two additional singles followed to load the bases. But Niemann showed some toughness. First he made a nice play fielding a swinging bunt when he flipped to Dioner Navarro at home for the force. Then he got the inning ending ground ball. No runs scored.

Upton Ready For Monday

B.J. Upton played center field for Single-A Charlotte Thursday night and after going 0-for-2 in five plate appearances — he was hit by a pitch (grazed on the shirt) and walked twice — and stealing two bases, he declared he was ready to play for the Rays in Monday’s home opener against the Yankees.

“”The timing is there,” Upton said. “Sometimes you get a little nervous facing the younger
guys, but other than that, I feel great, physically I feel great. I’m just
trying to pan a few things out with my swing right now.”

Thursday night’s contest was Charlotte’s opener and Upton appreciated the significance of the occasion.

“Lot of fun,” Upton said. “Any Opening Day is a lot of fun. It felt good to finally get out
there in front of some fans and go out and play some baseball and play in a
stadium instead of playing on the backfields where there is really nothing going
on. It felt, a little new to me, but let’s move on with it.”
–Bill Chastain

Maddon Loading Up for Lester

The Rays and Red Sox meet again Wednesday night at Fenway and this time the Rays will be facing a left-hander in Jon Lester.

Hoping to combat Lester’s effectiveness, Maddon plans to use right-handed hitting Jason Bartlett in the leadoff spot. Here’s what tomorrow night’s lineup tentatively will look like:

Bartlett, SS
Crawford, LF
Longoria, 3B
Pena, 1B
Burrell, DH
Navarro, C
Zobrist, RF
Kapler, CF
Iwamura, 2B
–Bill Chastain

Opener Tomorrow

Amid the news of Jason Hammel being traded to the Rockies, the Rays worked out Sunday in chilly Fenway Park. Weather wise, cold air isn’t a problem compared to the forecast for rain Monday, which could threaten the opener.

James Shields, who will start the opener, looked relaxed as did the entire Rays clubhouse. The expressions and antics pretty much resembled what went on during the 2008 season. Clearly, this is a team that enjoys being together.

Here’s the lineup for Monday if the weatherman is wrong:

Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Pat Burrell, DH
Matt Joyce, CF
Dioner Navarro, C
Gabe Gross, RF
Jason Bartlett, SS
–Bill Chastain