August 2009

Pena Hitting Third

The Rays’ lineup will look a little different tonight with Carlos Pena hitting third.

The Rays slugger is heating up and manager Joe Maddon said he wanted to make sure Pena saw something to hit in tonight’s game. He figured if Pena was in the fifth spot, he might not see a pitch all night.

Meanwhile, Gregg Zaun is behind the plate. Zaun caught Kazmir during the left-hander’s last outing and it was his best outing of the season. So Maddon figured he’d give the pair another chance to work together.

–Bill Chastain

Roughed Up But Still Standing

Jeff Niemann showed me something last night.

I love to see a pitcher take a punch to the gut and remain standing as Niemann did Monday night against the Blue Jays by surviving a five-run second to give the Rays 6 1/3 innings.

So many times it seems that once a pitcher gets damaged, his will gets broken. Not Niemann.  He took the shot and kept getting after the Blue Jays. He now has 12 wins this season and I believe his 12th victory was his best performance to date.

–Bill Chastain

Critical Road Trip Begins Tonight

I don’t have to tall Rays fans about the importance of the coming days.

The team has not fared well on the road this season — they are 25-35 away from the Trop — and now they are about to begin series at Toronto and Detroit.

Seems like each time they head north of the border, Roy Halladay is waiting for them. Well, here goes again. Anyway, I’m not really certain that another disastrous road trip can be overcome, but I do think a successful trip could propel the team toward a late run at the Wild Card spot.

This year’s team is a good one. They just can’t seem to find the right gear for a sustained run.

–Bill Chastain