"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Tampa Bay Rays VI: Wait ’til Next Year

Though the games are meaningless, it seems appropriate that the Yankees are finishing the 2009 season against the Rays. Tampa Bay was supposed to be in the thick of the AL East race and are the defending American League Champions. The Yankees, having replaced the Rays atop the division, hope to succeed them as pennant winners as well.

The Rays mediocre finish, nearly 20 games behind the Yankees in third place, feels like a disappointment, but it’s important to remember that this is a franchise that had won as many as 70 games just once prior to 2008. This has been the second-best season in Rays history by a dozen games. Entering the final series of the season, they Rays are just one game behind the Twins, who remain alive in the AL Central race.

The 2009 Rays suffered through brutal seasons from Dioner Navarro (.219/.259/.317), B.J. Upton (.238/.308/.362), and Pat Burrell (.226/.321/.376), and got just 67 games from second baseman Akinori Iwamura due to a knee injury, but benefited from what were likely flukey late-20s spikes from Ben Zobrist (.290/.399/.531) and Jason Bartlett (.319/.385/.492).

Carl Crawford bounced back from his disappointing 2008 campaign, but remains a good player rather than a great one. Nonetheless, the trade that sent Scott Kazmir and the $20 million left on his contract over the next two years to Anaheim suggests that the Rays will pick up Crawford’s $10-million option for 2010.

Kazmir was made expendable by the strong performance of 26-year-old rookie Jeff Niemann, a thick, 6-foot-9 righty, as well as the late-season arrival of 23-year-old righty Wade Davis, who has been dominant in three of his five September starts (though two of those came against the lowly Orioles) and good in the fourth. Niemann and Davis will start the final two games of the season against Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett.

Fellow rookie David Price will start tonight against fellow lefty CC Sabathia. Price was supposed to be the rookie sensation in the Rays’ rotation, but after spending April and most of May in the minors to suppress his innings total, he struggled with his control and the longball upon returning the majors. In his first 11 starts, he gave up 11 homers and walked 33 in 53 innings, which translates to 1.87 HR/9 and 5.6 BB/9.  As a result, he was averaging less than five innings per start and sported a 5.60 ERA.

In his 11 starts since then, however, Price has allowed just six more homers and walked just 19 in 68 1/3 innings (0.8 HR/9, 2.5 BB/9, almost 6 1/3 innings per start). The result has been a solid 3.82 ERA and a 6-3 record over that span. That’s the kind of progress the Yankees had hoped to see from Joba Chamberlain this year.

The rotation of Matt Garza, James Shields, Price, Niemann, and Davis is the primary reason the Rays will remain contenders in 2010, and the Yankees will get a preview of that in this final series. That seems like a good thing to me. Though Joe Girardi will continue to rotate days off through his lineup, facing good young pitchers will keep the Yankee hitters from falling into any bad habits in the process of playing out the string. Similarly, playoff starters Sabathia, Pettitte, and Burnett will be facing a solid lineup (fourth best in the AL on the year), rather than the glorified Triple-A squad run out by the Royals.

Meanwhile, the pesky Twins are forcing the Tigers to sweat out their Central Division title, and could force them to start Justin Verlander on Sunday, thus bumping him from what would otherwise be his Game 1 start in the ALDS. I’ll, of course, have an in-depth preview of that series next week. In the meantime here are some individual stats that are within reach for the Yankees this weekend:

CC Sabathia: a win tonight would be his 20th, a new career high. Six strikeouts would get him to 200.

A.J. Burnett: needs 8 Ks for 200.

Mark Teixeira: needs 1 homer for 40

Nick Swisher: needs 1 homer for 30

Derek Jeter: needs 2 homers for 20

Robinson Cano: needs 2 doubles for 50

Alex Rodriguez: needs 7 RBIs for 100 and two homers to tie Mark McGwire for 8th place all-time.

Derek Jeter: needs 4 RBIs for 70 (Jeter has reached 70 RBIs in all but two of his full seasons and missed by one last year. Leading off has cost him RBI opportunities this year in what has been one the best seasons of his career.) The Captain also needs four hits to tie Hall-0f-Fame shortstop Luke Appling for 48th all-time.

Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui rest today as Jerry Hairston plays left (and tests his wrist) and Jose Molina DHs. That gives Molina some at-bats before the postseason and allows Sabathia to work with Posada. Swisher bats fifth. Melky starts in center against the lefty Price.

Tampa Bay Rays

2009 Record: 82-77 (.516)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 84-75 (.528)

Manager: Joe Maddon
General Manager: Andrew Friedman

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Tropicana Field (102/103)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Chris Richard (minors) has replaced Carlos Peña (DL)
  • RHP Dale Thayer has been recalled

25-man Roster:

1B – Willy Aybar (S)
2B – Akinori Iwamura (L)
SS – Jason Bartlett (R)
3B – Evan Longoria (R)
C – Dioner Navarro (S)
RF – Ben Zobrist (S)
CF – B.J. Upton (R)
LF – Carl Crawford (L)
DH – Pat Burrell (R)


L – Gabe Gross (OF)
R – Gabe Kapler (OF)
S – Fernando Perez (OF)
S – Gregg Zaun (C)
R – Shawn Riggans (C)
L – Chris Richard (1B)
L – Reid Brignac (IF)


R – Matt Garza
L – David Price
R – Jeff Niemann
R – James Shields
R – Wade Davis


L – J.P. Howell
R – Dan Wheeler
R – Grant Balfour
L – Randy Choate
L – Brian Shouse
R – Chad Bradford
R – Russ Springer
R – Lance Cormier
R – Jeff Bennett
R – Dale Thayer
R – Andy Sonnanstine

15-day DL: 1B – Carlos Peña (broken fingers)

60-day DL: RHP – Jason Isringhausen (torn elbow ligament), RHP – Troy Percival (shoulder tendonitis)

Projected Lineup:

R – Jason Bartlett (SS)
L – Carl Crawford (LF)
R – Evan Longoria (3B)
S – Ben Zobrist (2B)
R – Pat Burrell (DH)
S – Willy Aybar (1B)
R – B.J. Upton (CF)
S – Dioner Navarro (C)
L – Akinori Iwamura (2B)

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Thread  Series Preview

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1 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 6:48 pm

Can't believe it's the last series of the regular season. Where has the year gone?

2 a.O   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:38 pm

Molina at DH is one of the funniest things I have read all season. But a shrewd move for ALDS purposes to be observed by all you Girardi haters out there.

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:39 pm

「1」autumn wind
in Ise's shrine cemetery
even more lonely

4 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:43 pm

Wow! I hope Tex is ok.

5 Just Fair   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:46 pm

Eat shit, Price. I don't trust Maddon after the Frankie Cervix collision.

6 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:47 pm

Gotta wait for a non postseason roster pitcher to retaliate.

7 Just Fair   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:49 pm

[3] Skeleton Ruth's House
Desolate, itching next door
Craves one last pennant

8 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:50 pm

[5] yeah i mean c'mon you have to get revenge still and now - when your opponent is going to the post-season - i would have thought it bullshit if the yanks threw at the rays last year in a similar situation

9 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:50 pm

「5」You think it was really intentional? Price does have control issues..

「7」Struggling to interpret this one..but I like it!

10 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:53 pm

[9] are you going to go back to normal brackets for the post-season :}

11 RIYank   ~  Oct 2, 2009 7:59 pm

October baseball!

Though not really.

12 Just Fair   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:00 pm

[9] 4 career HBP in about 135 career innings. And yes, I believe he threw at Teix. We'll never know.
C'mon Big Daddy, 1 more out.

13 RIYank   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:04 pm

No 20.

14 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:04 pm


15 RIYank   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:04 pm


16 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:04 pm

凹10凹 Promise!

17 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:05 pm

Well get your bad start out of the way here, instead of next week.

18 vockins   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:05 pm

There goes my chance at winning my fantasy league.

19 Just Fair   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:06 pm

Why Joba would take advice from Joba in his last start is beyond me. I wonder if Swisher walks around in his spare time just handing out triples. And lastly, Cano should have caught that. I think it knuckled on him.

20 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:25 pm

[19] Joba's taking advice from Joba?

21 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:29 pm

[16] yay!!

[20] no wonder he is struggling :}

22 bxsparksnyc   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:29 pm

Just kills me how Po pokes at pitches...love the bat...can't stand pitching to him...ugh..

23 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:31 pm

damn the rays must not know swish has a bs arm

24 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:32 pm


25 JeremyM   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:32 pm

Molina is the DH?!?! I thought Girardi was trotting out the A-lineup to help CC win 20? But it doesn't look like that is going to happen anyway- I hope this isn't a harbinger of things to come....

26 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:34 pm

[25] mk thinks it is a harbinger that molina is going to be catching burnett in the playoffs and thus they want to get him abs

but certianly let's hope this is not a harbinger for cc and is merely one of those shitty games that he is just getting out of the way

27 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:35 pm

That was one shitty throw from shallow LF

28 Just Fair   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:36 pm

[20] Ha. I'm a dumbass. So much for making fun of C.C. throwing too many pitches in the first inning AND having a basess loaded walk. oy.

29 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:36 pm

min up 5-0, top of the 2nd

and det down 3-0 top of the 6th

30 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:37 pm

that was weird

31 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:38 pm

Seeing CC (Cing CC?) shit the bed is rather scary.

32 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:38 pm

OK, get the weirdness game out of the way now.

33 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:39 pm

So.... if Verlander can NOT pitch the 1st game, but can pitch the second one, do you go with a short series, so we don't see him twice?

34 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:44 pm

[33] is game 4 of gaudin worth 1 time of verlander, or verlander on short rest?

35 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:53 pm

OK, take CC out now. Rest up for the post season.

36 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 8:55 pm

time for carsten to hit the showers

37 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:01 pm

Well that was a butt ugly outing.

38 Just Fair   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:03 pm

Is it Wednesday yet?

39 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:05 pm

Oh well. Get it out of his system tonight

40 ms october   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:09 pm

[39] you can prosecute that side of the argument

41 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:14 pm

OK, let Tex rest. But put in a scrub reliever just to plunk one of the Rays.

42 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:21 pm

Perez can fly...
Oh well, time for some chores, more fun than watching this..hope they avoid a brawl

43 rbj   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:23 pm

Well I'll do some channel flipping, but time to turn off the computer.

44 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:44 pm

Good for him. I was rooting for it.

45 thelarmis   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:45 pm

wow. BJ Upton with a cycle in the 5th freaking inning! is that a record for earliest inning to achieve the cycle?

46 thelarmis   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:46 pm

twins up big. detroit lost big. minny's gotta face greinke tomorrow though...

47 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:54 pm

So Minny still alive but have to beat Zach the Great..I want to watch that game!

Upton is a great player, wonder if he'll put it together for a full season at some point?

48 JeremyM   ~  Oct 2, 2009 9:55 pm

[47] It's supposed to be on Fox tomorrow.

49 joe   ~  Oct 2, 2009 10:28 pm

So Detroit will have a 1 game lead if twins win?

50 JeremyM   ~  Oct 2, 2009 11:04 pm

Royals are not going down without a fight.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver