Joe Maddon Pushes All The Right Buttons As Rays Clinch Tie-Breaker
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THE GOOD: The Rays have now won 4 of their last 5 versus the Red Sox...Joe Maddon. With the Rays up 8-3 in the 5th with 2 on and David Ortiz due up, Papa Joe treated the situation like it was the 8th inning, calling on Grant Balfour. Balfour got Big Papi to fly out to end the threat...Before the series we predicted that Papa Joe would find a start for Willy Aybar in this series and that it would likely be in the final game. We also figured Aybar would bat right handed as many switch-hitters prefer against a knuckle-baller. Sure enough Aybar started and homered in the bottom of the first to give the Rays lead. Fernando Perez also batted right handed and homered. Speaking of which. Perez needs to slow down his home run trot. When the camera came back to Perez after watching the ball land in the stands, Perez was already rounding third...Joe Magrane. Magrane predicted a "big night" for Gross against Tim Wakefield only moments before Gross homered...Two wins in this series against the Twins and the Rays will clinch a playoff spot.
THE BAD: David Ortiz. First home run. Fine. Second home run? We have never seen a ball hit farther at the Trop. Hit Tracker Online is a website that uses mathematical models to project how far a ball would have travelled had the path not been impeded by things like Catwalks and human bodies. They project that Ortiz' second ball would have only travelled 428 feet. No way. That ball was 475 at least. They claim it wouldn't have travelled as far as the Gabe Gross shot back on August 6 that did hit the back wall and was measured at 463 feet...Grant Balfour worked in parts of 3 innings, and likely will not be available for the first two games of the Twins series...Wade Boggs threw out the first pitch. Tell us again why his number is retired?
THE TELLING: The Rays have now won the season series and will have the tie-breaker should the two teams tie for the division lead at the end of the season. Last night's win essentially knocked 3 off of the magic number to win the division which is now 9...The Rays are only 1 game behind the Angels in the loss column for the best record in the AL and home field advantage throughout the playoffs...According to Baseball Prospectus the odds of making the playoffs is now 99.99% percent, and 80.2% to win the AL East...Last night's game was the Rays' 6th sellout of the season...Tonight marks the return of Delmon Young to the Trop.
DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA...
- BREAKING NEWS! The Cowbell Kid called a local radio station to announce his retirement...Wow. In the middle of a pennant race? Just before the playoffs? Do you know the kind of air time that guy would have gotten on Fox during the playoffs? Color us shocked. Of course we never sat behind the Cowbell Kid during a game. If that had happened maybe our feelings would be different. [97xonline]
- Troy Percival was unavailable last night after receiving a shot for his back. Percival will require off-season back surgery, but will be available Thursday for the opening game of the Twins series. [MLB]
- Justin Ruggiano got the start last night and Brittany Ghiroli reports that Joe Maddon was rewarding the rookie for his improved approach recently. [MLB]
- Cliff Floyd says he still hasn't decided whether or not to retire after the season, noting that at the beginning of the season he was sure 2008 would be his last season. He credits this roster with making baseball fun again and feels he does have "something left in the tank." [Tampa Tribune]
- Wait. What is going to fly? [Tampa Tribune]
- A fan got arrested last night trying to jump over the Rays dugout and possibly onto the field (he never made it to the field). We have mixed reports as to whether or not the fan was tasered. The police say no. And surprise, surprise, it was a Red Sox fan. [The Heater]
- Gary Shelton says that Joe Maddon is "either smarter than most, luckier than most or a guy who is having the combination platter." [St. Pete Times]
- It happens a lot. Somebody in the national media refers to the "Tampa Rays" or when referencing a home game or the Trop, they mistakenly say one or both are "in Tampa". But the crossword puzzle editor for the St. Pete Times, an official sponsor of the Rays? Yikes. [St. Pete Times]
- Jayson Stark notes that dramatic wins are becoming the norm for the Rays. [ESPN]
- The Rays released their '09 schedule. The season begins on April 6 in Boston and the home opener is April 13 against the Yankees...How sweet would it be to hand out World Series rings to all the players in front of the Yankees and their local bandwagon fans. [MLB]
- Even if the Rays want to play a series in Orlando in '09 (and there is little indication that they do) they may not be able to unless changes are made to the schedule. [Orlando Sentinel]
- Everybody thinks they have a sense of humor...Even Red Sox fans. [Boston Score]
- There is something amusing about the idea that Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe feels he needs 400 words to explain how tie-breakers work to Red Sox fans. [Boston Globe]