Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘Tampa Bay Rays’

MLB Pennant Races

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 12, 2010

With about a month and a half to go in the Major League Baseball season, it seems time to offer some quick predictions on how the rest of the season will go.  I think the races will be exciting and intriguing.

AL East: It’s unfortunate that one team among the trio of the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox will have to miss the playoffs, because all three teams are better than any AL Central offering this year.  Nevertheless, one team will be out here, and I think it will end up being Boston, who currently sits five games behind Tampa Bay, who is currently leading the wild card chase.  Call me crazy, but I think the Rays will overtake the Yankees for the division when it is all said and done.  I still like their pitching, especially David Price, and their lineup, while streaky, is good enough to get runs scored when needed.  The lineup will get even better when Carlos Pena comes off the DL.  The Yankees will easily still make the playoffs as the wild card, for their lineup is especially potent as well.  Their downfall could be bridging from their starters to Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning.

AL Central: We do have a good race here between the White Sox and Twins.  Both teams have solid starting pitching, although I’d give Chicago a slight edge with Mark Buerhle and Gavin Floyd.  I think Minnesota has a better lineup, but they’re finding that hitting home runs at spacious Target Field is a challenge.  Look at Joe Mauer, who has just seven home runs this season after hitting more than 30 last year.  In the end, I think this will come down to the final week.  Two years ago this ended up going to a one game playoff with the White Sox winning the game 1-0.  It could be that close this time as well, but I’ll take Minnesota on a hunch.

AL West: This is over.  Texas has a big enough lead that it would rank as one of the biggest collapses in MLB history if they lost it.  I think the Rangers will be very dangerous in the playoffs because of their potent lineup (about to get even better with the return of Ian Kinsler from the DL).  Their starting pitching has also been surprisingly effective.  If they can keep that up, they might just win the whole thing in October.

NL East: Atlanta has a fairly comfortable lead, although they just got bad news on Chipper Jones, who may have an ACL injury according to reports.  Still, their pitching is outstanding, especially Tim Hudson, and their lineup of young players continues to come through.  Will it be enough to hold of the Philiies?  I still think Philadelphia would be leading the division if they had been able to stay healthy.  With Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in the same rotation, it really shouldn’t be fair.  I think Philadelphia overtakes Atlanta for this division when it’s all said and done, and the Braves will have a hard battle in a crowded wild card race.

NL Central: In light of the brawl earlier this week, we should have an outstanding race down the stretch between the Reds and Cardinals.  Cincinnati to me has been the surprise team this season, but their mix of youth and veterans has been playing well so far.  The key for them will be if they can keep up their surprising pitching.  I think the Cardinals have all the tools to make a run at the World Series, between a lineup that includes Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and a rotation led by Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter.  I think St. Louis will win this race, and they may not even have to sweat it in the final week.  I just don’t see the Reds being able to keep up their pace, particularly after the Cardinals snagged their mojo this week, sweeping them in Cincy after the brawl.

NL West: I think two playoffs teams will come out of this division: San Diego and San Francisco.  It’s only a matter of which one will win the division and which will be the wild card.  I think the Giants are a team that would be a force in the playoffs in a short series because of their rotation, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  The Padres though also have pitching that has been lights out all year, from guys that aren’t big names like Mat Latos and Jon Garland.  The Padres also made big moves at the trade deadline getting Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada to bolster their lineup.  I think the Padres will win this division, and the Giants will get the wild card spot in the NL, holding off the Braves and Reds in a tight race.

I think the Rockies, while having an outstanding season from Ubaldo Jimenez and a coming out party type year from Carlos Gonzalez, just don’t quite have the horses to keep up with the rest of the pack this year.  The rest of the rotation besides Jimenez is just way too inconsistent, and their inability to score runs on the road will ultimately prove to be their downfall.  In the most recent road trip the Rockies endured a string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings over three games, that’s just not going to get it done.  In the offseason they need to add another run producer to help Gonzalez and hope that youngsters Esmil Rogers and Jhoulys Chacin will be ready to take spots in the rotation next season.

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Baseball Chaos?

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 29, 2008

As game five of the World Series gets set to resume tonight, I am definitely intrigued.  Never before have we seen a World Series game get suspended due to rain.  I think I am one of the few out there that doesn’t blame Bud Selig for starting the game as scheduled Monday night.  The rain hadn’t come yet when the first pitch was thrown, and the forecast didn’t indicate that there would be enough precipitation to cause the playing conditions to go astray so quickly.  When the rain did come, everyone tried to make the best of a bad situation for awhile, until it got to the point where play couldn’t continue.  I don’t think anyone would say it’s ideal to have a two day gap between the top and bottom halves of the sixth inning, but it is far preferable to the alternatives: handing the Phillies the title after a shortened five inning win, starting the game over, or forcing the action through unplayable conditions. 

I am intrigued to see the three and a half inning shootout of sorts tonight.  It will be a sprint to the finish so to speak, with each team going to the bullpen right away.  Philadelphia gets the “advantage” so to speak of getting three extra outs to play with, since the game will resume in the bottom of the sixth.  It will be interesting to see if the Rays keep the momentum they gained by tying the game in the top of the sixth two days ago.  It will be interesting to see if the Phillies get the same lift from their home crowd the way they have this entire series.  It is needless to say highly unusual to see a game “started” with a pinch hitter, as will be the case tonight for the Phillies, unless they wish to have Cole Hamels bat and give the Rays a free out.  It is also interesting to note that the Rays figure to have all the momentum if they can sneak away with a win, with the final two games of the series awaiting back in front of their fans at Tropicana Field.

It is interesting to note that before a very recent rule change, the Phillies would have been awarded the win even after the Rays had tied the score in the sixth inning.  I think Bud Selig seems to get a bad rap a lot of the time, for he is really being roasted here for allowing the game to start at all, and for allowing the game to be played in such conditions.  Selig certainly has had his dubious moments, but this is not one of them.  I applaud the decision to both start the game as scheduled, and the decision to stop it when they did.  Sure, a two day delay isn’t ideal, but it’s much better than seeing the champion decided by weather. 

For the record, my prediction still stands: the Rays will come back and win tonight, and they will win this series in seven.  The Phillies will feel the pressure tonight, and would not be able to recover from a loss tonight, facing the task of winning back in the Dome.

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World Series Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 22, 2008

I’ve said all along from day one that I would be first to be up front about erroneous predictions on my part.  It only seems fair if I’m going to call out others for being wrong.  In light of that, let’s look back at my baseball playoff picks.  Let’s just say that i only got one series right out of seven.  In an effort to save face, I offer a revised World Series prediction below. 

ALDS: Angels over Red Sox in five: The Angels were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and had everything clinched several weeks before the end of the season.  The Red Sox are not healthy. 

The Red Sox bats ended up booming in this series and proved to be the difference.  The Angels had chances, but couldn’t get the timely hit.  A rare blown save by K-Rod in game two didn’t help matters either.   

Rays over White Sox in four: Chicago has momentum, but they will have a letdown at Tropicana Field.  Tampa Bay’s surprise story continues, thanks in part to Carl Crawford’s return.

This is the only series I got right.  Tampa Bay’s young lineup was able to get the job done in this series (particularly Evan Longoria). 

NLDS: Brewers over Phillies in five: C.C. Sabathia is the difference for Milwaukee as the Brewers bats outslug Philly in a high scoring series.

Sabathia got shelled in game two and was essentially a non-factor.  Philadelphia clearly had the better offense in this series. 

Cubs over Dodgers in four: The Dodgers benefited from the Manny Ramirez trade, but the Cubs have the pitching and the emotion of Wrigley in the first two games.

Turns out the “emotion” of Wrigley was of a different variety.  Did the Cubs feel the pressure of the Curse?  We may never know, but the Cubs imploded at the wrong time, while LA was red hot. 

ALCS: Angels over Rays in seven: The Angels are deep, have a solid lineup, a terrific rotation, and a shut down bullpen.  Their experience is the difference against the young Rays.

The series between the Rays and Red Sox proved to be terrific.  As it turned out, Boston’s experience was not enough to overcome the young Rays.  Tampa showed a lot of gusto rebounding from their game five debacle. 

NLCS: Cubs over Brewers in six: The Cubs owned the Brewers during the regular season, and that continues in the playoffs.’

Philadelphia continued to amaze in the NLCS, beating the Dodgers even though Manny Ramirez hit over .500 in the series.  The Phillies proved that their offense can get the big hit even against a bullpen as good as LA’s. 

World Series: Cubs over Angels in seven: This would be one the best World Series matchups in a number of years.  The Cubs get it done because a 100 year drought seems long enough, and why not end it on a nice round number?

So maybe Phillies-Rays isn’t as sexy as a Cubs-Angels World Series would have been, but it will still be a very entertaining series.  Both teams can swing the bat, the Phillies featuring Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, and the Rays sporting the young guns of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.  Both teams stack up well with their rotation, the Phillies sporting Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, while the Rays can counter with Scott Kazmir and James Shields.  Philadelphia appears to have a slight edge in the bullpen with closer Brad Lidge, but the Rays may have found an answer for that role in David Price, who got the final four outs of the ALCS game seven against Boston.  Tampa Bay has home field advantage thanks to the American League winning the All-Star Game, and the Rays have been very tough to beat at Tropicana Field all year.  The Phillies have also been successful at home this year, and should have a raucous atmosphere for their home games, but the extra game at the Trop will ultimately be the sway factor for the Rays as they complete arguably the most surprising season in MLB history, completing their worst to first turnaround.   Keep in mind also, the Phillies have been off for a full week while the Rays just wrapped up the ALCS on Sunday.  As the Rockies proved last year, the time off isn’t always a good thing. 

The Pick: Rays in seven.

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Week Seven Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 17, 2008

Before we get to the NFL picks this week, I have to admit that I didn’t watch the entire ALCS game last night between the Rays and Red Sox.  I turned the game off when the Rays entered the bottom of the seventh inning with a 7-0 lead and Scott Kazmir pitching a shutout.  Imagine my surprise when, a little while later, I flipped back expecting to see postgame reaction of the Rays victory, only to find the game had only progressed to the 8th with Tampa clinging to a 7-6 lead.  “NO! What the hell happened?”, I screamed to the room at large.  If you haven’t already guessed I am rooting for the Rays for several reasons, not the least of which is a refusal to root for the team that swept my Rockies in the World Series last year, but it also has a lot to do with rooting for the underdog.  Watching the rest of the game was exactly like watching a train wreck.  The Rays gave up the tying hit on a Coco Crisp single in the 8th, then wasted an opportunity with two runners on in the top of the 9th, only to kick away the game on a throwing error by Evan Longoria and a walk-off single by J.D. Drew.  It would seem easy to blame the Rays bullpen for not holding the lead for Kazmir, but Boston does deserve credit.  Sure. David Ortiz had been in a slump, but he’s still David Ortiz, one of the best playoff clutch hitters in MLB history.  The Red Sox clearly got a tremendous lift from the Fenway Park crowd, most of whom stayed for the finish.  (Side note: How dumb would you have to be to leave ANY playoff game early?  Seriously, if you leave a playoff game early, you should receive an automatic lifetime ban from the stadium.  If you’re going to bail out, give your ticket to a real fan who cares!  Sometime I would very interested to hear from fans who leave these games early, to find out what exactly they were thinking).  The energy provided by the fans who stayed gave Boston all the momentum they needed, and to their credit they capitalized.  From a fan’s perspective it will no doubt go down as one of the great games in MLB playoff history, but did it completely turn the series around?

This is the type of loss that really has to be devastating for Tampa Bay, considering they allowed the biggest playoff comeback since 1929.  This is a Red Sox team that erased a 3 games to 1 deficit against Cleveland in the ALCS last year and came back from 3 games to 0 against the Yankees in 2004.  Boston does not know how to quit, and even though the series is headed back to Tampa, the Rays won’t be helped by the legions of Red Sox fans that will surely be able to elbow their way into Tropicana Field.  What Tampa does have going for them though is James Shields on the mound tomorrow night, going against Josh Beckett.  Shields has been dominant all year for the Rays and actually pitched very well even in defeat in game one, while Beckett got shelled in game two and is clearly not healthy.  The key for the Rays is they need to quickly forget about how close they got last night, and remember this simple fact: to make the World Series they need to win one of two at home this weekend, where they have been nothing less than stellar all season.  That doesn’t seem so bad for Tampa now does it?  The fact is the Red Sox will not die quietly, and obviously deserve a great deal of credit for their comeback win, and the question is, can the Rays kick it back up a notch? It should make for great baseball this weekend, and I guarantee I’m not the only one hoping Tampa Bay can get the job done and complete their Cinderella season.

Now on to the picks:

Last Week: 8-6 (.571)   Season: 53-35 (.602)

– Bills over Chargers: This should be a fantastic game.  The Chargers looked like the favorites they were expected to be in trashing the Patriots last week, while the Bills come off a bye and will get the benefit of Trent Edwards back in the lineup after he suffered a concussion against Arizona.  San Diego should keep it close for a majority of the game, but the Bills will be highly motivated to prove they aren’t a fluke.  The Buffalo crowd will be fired up for this one, and that combined with the early kickoff time will spell doom for San Diego.  It’s a script that never seems to fail in the NFL: west coast team playing on the east coast in an early kickoff (10 a.m. pacific) = win for the home team.  The Bills gain legitimacy with a huge win. 

– Dolphins over Ravens: Both teams are coming off losses, but the Dolphins have not only the home field edge, but also know that Joe Flacco has not played well on the road for Baltimore.  In fact, the Ravens’ offense has been practically non-existenton the road this year, while Miami’s defense has played very well at home.  Miami continues to improve and is certainly one of the surprise teams in the league.  The Dolphins also continue to fool teams with their creative formations and plays, and they should be able to come with at least one play to surprise the Ravens’ defense and pull out a win in this low scoring affair.

– Jets over Raiders: It should not have come as a surprise to anyone that the Raiders’ coaching change had no impact, and likely made things a lot worse.  Oakland did nothing right in their loss to New Orleans, and even a return home to the Black Hole will not help.  The Jets are in the midst of an easy part of the schedule and have not wasted any time taking advantage.  Brett Favre has unequivicably proven he can still play at a very high level, and he seems like he’s getting more and more comfortable in the offense each week.  The Jets win what should end up being a yawner.

– Steelers over Bengals: How bad is it in Cincinnati right now?  This should give you a pretty good idea.  This means there could well be more terrible towels in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday then there will be Bengals fans.  The Bengals once again start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, which gives them about a 0.10% chance to win against anyone, even at home.  Factor in Chad Johnson being unhappy as usual, and the fact that they’re playing the Steelers, and well, that chance goes down to about 0.00000000001%.  Pittsburgh has absolutely owned the Bengals for the past few years anyway, let alone when Cincinnati is a complete mess.  Even if Willie Parker can’t play, Pittsburgh should win this in their sleep.   

– Redskins over Browns: This one is certainly tricky after Cleveland’s spectacular effort on Monday night and the Redskins’ surprising loss to St. Louis.  This game will go a long way toward helping us find out a lot about both teams, as both really need the win to stay in their respective division races.  Clinton Portis should be able to continue running well for Washington, but the Browns also seem like they have finally found their offense again.  Perhaps Derek Anderson will continue to play well if he knows he’s not liable to be yanked for Brady Quinn at any time.  That being said, a hunch says that Jim Zorn and his staff will not allow Washington to drop two home games in a row, and for that reason I take the Redskins, but you might as well flip a coin here. 

– Texans over Lions: Houston finally picked up a win last week, and that should really give the Texans confidence heading into this one.  Houston is in the midst of something you never, ever see in the NFL: they are entering game three of a four game homestand, and five of six at Reliant Stadium.  This came about because of rescheduling needs due to Hurricane Ike, but with the remaining home games all winnable (the Bengals and Ravens remain on the home stretch), Houston seems likely to make a big, big move in the AFC.  Even though Houston started 0-4, and even if that proves to be too much to overcome, the Texans will be a major player in the AFC race.  As for Detroit?  This play says it all.  The countdown to next year has already begun.

– Colts over Packers: The unquestioned game of the week.  Indianapolis finally looked like themselves last week, and there was even a Marvin Harrison sighting!  Green Bay slugged their way to road win in Seattle, and will obviously benefit from a return to Lambeau Field.  The Packers have played reasonably well considering the slew of injuries they’ve been dealing with, and it stands to reason that Ryan Grant should be able to gain 100 yards against a defense that has had trouble stopping the run without Bob Sanders.  This seems to be the consensus anyway even though the Colts completely shut down Baltimore’s running game last week.  Still, a great game like this often comes down to the quarterbacks, and I’ll take a (now healthy) Peyton Manning over Aaron Rodgers 100 percent of the time.  The Colts have debunked the myth for several years now that they can’t win away from the Dome, and they get an important road win here to get back on track. 

– Titans over Chiefs: It seems as though Days of Our Lives has made its stop in Kansas City this week.  Tony Gonzalez remains with the team after they refused to honor his trade request, and Larry Johnson will not suit up for the Chiefs because he violated team rules this week.  Kansas City playing one of the best defenses in the league without any threat of a running game?  Case closed, the only question here is how much the Titans will win by.  Besides, Johnson rushed for only two yards on seven carries last week against the Panthers, so is Kansas City really missing anything anyway?  Then again, every time I say the game is a guaranteed blowout we have an upset or near upset (see the Minnesota-Detroit game last week, which the Vikings barely won).  You could make the case that Kansas City will benefit from the Arrowhead crowd, but really, do you see the Titans imploding here following a bye week? I sure don’t.

– Rams over Cowboys: MAJOR UPSET ALERT.  The Cowboys have struggled for three weeks now, getting a win only because they got the gift of a home game against the Bungles.  Dallas does not know who will start at quarterback.  Will it be Tony Romo with a broken pinkie finger, or Brad Johnson?  How will new receiver Roy Williams fit in?  His presence should make it interesting to see how Mount TO will be affected.  The Dallas secondary is also in shambles, as they will be without Pacman Jones and Terrence Newman.  I sense a huge passing day for Marc Bulger and Torry Holt, who is waiting to break out after a really slow start.  How quickly the mighty have fallen, I have a hunch that St. Louis wins this at home, being that they’re playing much harder for new coach Jim Haslett.

– Giants over 49ers.  This is not a good week for San Francisco to be making the trip east.  The same thought from the San Diego-Buffalo game about a west coast team and an early east coast kick also applies here, but a larger factor is the Niners will be facing a really angry Giants team.  The defending champs know they laid an egg in Cleveland, and they’ll be out for blood on Sunday.  The 49ers have shown some spunk offensively, mainly thanks to Frank Gore, who should really be getting the ball more, but their defense won’t have any answer for a motivated Eli Manning and company.  The Giants also know they enter the really tough part of their schedule and need to win this game.  This should be another blowout in the Meadowlands.

– Bears over Vikings: Both teams are 3-3, and both have been really up and down in the early part of the year.  This should be a really tight, low scoring, defensive game, which gives the Bears an edge, especially at Soldier Field.  Kyle Orton has actually been playing pretty well for the Bears, and I actually give him a slight edge over Gus Frerotte in the quarterback battle.  The deciding factor could very well be turnovers, and both defenses are capable of forcing mistakes from the other team.  I go with Chicago primarily because they’re playing at home, and I would probably take the Vikings if the game were in the Metrodome.  The winner of this game will have at least a share of the lead in the NFC North. 

– Panthers over Saints: This should be a very entertaining game in the NFC South.  Carolina will be highly motivated after getting blown out last week, while the Saints are on a roll coming off a blowout win.  Both offenses are capable of lighting it up, with Reggie Bush and Steve Smith usually stealing the show for their respective teams.  New Orleans should get star receiver Marques Colston back, which will clearly help their offense.  Carolina will be looking for a better effort from their running back duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, plus they hope Mushin Muhammad will be healthy enough to play.  The difference in this game is likely to be Carolina’s motivation factor playing at home, and Smith should be able to outshine Bush, but not by much.  Carolina wins a squeaker. 

– Buccaneers over Seahawks.  This game could very well be second fiddle in the central Florida area if the Red Sox and Rays are playing game seven at Tropicana Field Sunday night.  If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see what kind of crowd is on hand for Sunday Night Football at the pirate ship.  Tampa Bay in any case should have little trouble winning easily, with a defense that is suffocating as always under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.  Seattle continues its musical chairs at quarterback with Seneca Wallace likely to get the nod after Charlie Frye struggled last week and Matt Hasselbeck still at least a week away from returning.  Lots of quarterbacks is never a good thing, and the Bucs defense is licking its chops in excitement.  The fact that Jeff Garcia is healthy and playing well again can’t hurt either.  If there is an ALCS game seven, Tampa sports fans at least shouldn’t have to worry about the football game after the first quarter.  Tampa Bay by at least three touchdowns in this one.

– Broncos over Patriots: The Monday night game this week is a really good matchup of two teams coming off a loss.  Denver should get some reinforcements with the return of Eddie Royal and likely Tony Scheffler, although Brandon Stokley is questionable with a concussion.  The Broncos defense has struggled against the run, but the Patriots have really struggled to run the ball in recent weeks.  Going with one of the weekend themes of looking at quarterback play, how can anyone possibly go with Matt Cassel over Jay Cutler?  Partially on that note, the Brandon Marshall has a better chance for a big game than Randy Moss because Moss will be matched against Champ Bailey.  The deciding factor here is actually history: the Broncos are the only team in the NFL with a winning record against the Patriots since 2000.  Denver has actually won five of its past six games against New England, including three in a row.  Mike Shanahan is 8-3 against the Patriots and Bill Belichick is just 2-9 against Denver.  So even in the height of the Patriots’ dynasty, they still always struggled against Shanahan.  Now that New England is clearly down without Tom Brady?  The Broncos get a much needed win entering the bye week. 

BYE: Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Arizona

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