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Essential Empy

Entries from Empyreal Environs tagged with “Rays”

One and Done

If you thought that the Red Sox have played a lot of close games this season you’d be right. The team has played an AL-high 50 one-run games this year and the results haven’t been as awful as I thought: 25-25. In 2013 Boston played 42 one-run games with a 21-21 mark. Baltimore ranks first in one-run wins with 27 and Boston is second. Raymond showed more excitement about this game than the reported 10,543 in attendance. These teams were nearly equal in futility. They split this 4-game weekend wraparound series. The Rays scored 15 runs in total and the Red Sox scored 14. Each team had a strangely symmetrical 28 hits and 25 runners left on base. Jemile Weeks made his Red Sox debut and didn’t cover himself in glory. He pinch ran for Christian Vazquez in the 10th inning but was picked off by Grant Balfour. The Rays capitalized on their extra-inning opportunity. John Farrell had Burke Badenhop intentionally walk two batters so that the onus was on the fielders rather than the pitcher to get the last outs. Matt Joyce lined the ball over Yoenis Cespedes with the bases loaded to plate the winning run. Joyce didn’t...

Almost a No-no

Clay Buchholz was close to consummating his second no-hitter but Kelly Johnson broke it up in the eighth with a liner to right. Once again after flirting with a no-no Buchholz was relegated to the friend zone. He even fixed himself up nice for it by washing his hair in the dugout before taking the mound. So fickle. Wally knows firsthand the capriciousness of affection. Sixteen years ago he emerged from the left field wall to boos. But now he is accepted by most fans, and even the occasionally prickly Jerry Remy has embraced him. (Get well soon, Jerry!) Jose Molina tried to pounce on Shane Victorino’s bunted ball as it spun foul but the ball cavorted along the line and stayed fair. Jacoby Ellsbury was already at first and advanced to second. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single to right that loaded the bases. Mike Napoli clouted the ball to the deepest part of the triangle to drive in two runs. Napoli advanced to third and Daniel Nava, who was hit by a pitch, followed him to second on Will Middlebrooks’s ground out but Pedroia was out at home. Napoli and Nava then scored on Stephen Drew’s ground out...


Now that the other Drew brother plays on the Red Sox we can revive the puns. In the top of the first Desmond Jennings smoked a liner off Will Middlebrooks’s glove. Usually tipped balls make their way to the outfield but the deflection found Stephen Drew’s leather, just like they drew it up. Rimshot. In the third Jennings exacted his revenge with a single off the wall that no infielder nor outfielder had a chance at. He thought he had a double but the ricochet went right to Daniel Nava. After Jennings Sean Rodriguez lined his shot into the left field corner where it died rather than caromed, giving him a double, an RBI, and his team the lead. David Price didn’t rehash his second outing of this season, a five-inning affair in which he surrendered eight earned runs. Instead he regained his Cy Young form, lasting six innings with two walks and eight strikeouts. Only David Ross got to him; the catcher’s fifth-inning home run cleared the wall and tied the score 1-1. The Rays threatened in the ninth when Joel Hanrahan allowed consecutive walks to Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. Koji Uehara took care of the next three...

Dugout Drama

Of course now would be the time the Red Sox stretch themselves and put together a solid effort to defeat a team with a winning record. Unfortunately every win against the Rays takes Tampa Bay further out of the playoff hunt and helps the Yankees. Boston missing the playoffs would be slightly more tolerable but the Rays and their 11,722 fans are limping through September like Aaron Hernandez. How dispiriting it must be for the Rays. Bud Selig saw fit to have a new wild card slot available to energize the end of the season but that has not fired up the Rays fan base. In the bottom of the sixth Aaron Cook impressively contorted himself to catch Jose Iglesia’s relay to complete the 3-6-1 double play. The rookie shortstop’s defense can be dazzling but his batting is proving paltry at best. As there wasn’t much of a crowd to rile them up the Rays resorted to dugout drama. Alex Cobb and Jose Molina had a heated discussion that a stern-mouthed gentleman attempted to diffuse. Just ask Dustin Pedroia and Alfredo Aceves how confrontations between teammates pave the way to the success. But seriously, couldn’t we try harder to lose...

Putting Out the Welcome Matt

Seeing Matt Garza seethe as he relinquished the lead on Victor Martinez’s leadoff homer in the fifth is one of those small pleasures Red Sox fans will take enjoyment in now that their team is all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Chad Qualls didn’t replicate the shutdown stuff that he displayed on August 28 in that pivotal series in the Trop. Ryan Kalish smashed an RBI double off the left field wall for a lead that the local nine would not surrender. A barrage of scoring followed, runs that would have been nice in those close losses against the Rays and the White Sox. Marco Scutaro, who continued to play despite a partially torn rotator cuff, provided much of the offense’s punch. The shortstop led off the sixth with a double to the base of the wall and homered in the seventh with Lars Anderson on base. Lars Anderson notched his first hit, a single to right field that Bill Hall spoiled somewhat by getting tagged out after running too far past second base. Ron Johnson recovered the ball from Matt Joyce and made sure it was safely stowed in the dugout. Tim Wakefield, the team’s calligrapher, probably inscribed...

Game Over, Man!

Shall we play a game? The movies quotations I made probably wouldn’t be recognized by 15 players on the 25-man roster; they weren’t cognizant when Aliens and WarGames were originally released. Which is fine, because it’s the far future where the Red Sox organization’s hopes lay rather than in October 2010. Lars Anderson still doesn’t have a major league hit but reached base on a walk in the eighth inning. He scored his first run as a Red Sox player on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double to left, which happened to be the catcher’s first RBI as a Red Sox player. If you let your mind wander forward a few years you can almost imagine them pairing up just like that but in a meaningful late summer contest. Perhaps Mike Lowell will be sending in signs as a bench coach by that time. That would surely be a more welcome sight them him hobbling around first base attempting to stop batted balls and errant throws that are within his fall-down range. Daisuke Matsuzaka will be participating in a wacky Japanese game show where one has to throw a ball over a five-sided shape 17 inches at its base. While wearing a penguin...

Not-So Phantom Power

I thought the band name “Phantom Power” might refer to Jacoby Ellsbury but it’s actually an audio engineering concept that is beyond my humble ken. This article by Eddie Ciletti explains phantom power for those who are curious. There’s a “high energy contradance band” based on Boston called Phantom Power founded by Lissa Schneckenburger and Bruce Rosen, but this isn’t NESN’s house band. Another candidate is the indie band on MySpace that goes by the same name that counts Seo Taiji, David Bowie, and Green Day amongst their influences. It was founded in Vancouver, British Columbia and has a male lead singer so it is out of the running. I did find clips of Megan’s band on Tom Guilmette’s page, so click through and enjoy. The reason we got to hear about the band was that Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy had to fill the airwaves with chatter because of blowout in the home team’s favor, something that hasn’t happened in all too long a time. What I thought might be the storyline of the evening, the major league debuts of Lars Anderson and Robert Coello, turned out to be a disappointing footnote. Anderson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and...

Extinction Event

To distract myself from the dismal series loss against the Rays I watched “Last Day of the Dinosaurs,” a light-hearted romp through the end of the Cretaceous most likely precipitated by the Chicxulub Asteroid pummeling the Yucatan Peninsula. When the six-mile long bolide impacted Earth, dinosaurs were broiled alive by the heat, megatsunamis thousands of feet high surged across the planet, and sunlight was blocked from the earth for up to a year. That got me to thinking about the Red Sox 2010 season. Consider the 2004 World Championship the asteroid obliterating the plodding, lethargic negativity that dominated the landscape much like the dinosaurs. The cataclysmic occurrence may not have measured the 12.55 on the Richter scale that characterized the estimated seismic energy of Chicxulub, but it was nonetheless sizable. In the wake of Boston’s victory another ill-starred team, the Chicago White Sox, won its first championship in 88 years. And a mere three years later the Red Sox won another championship, overcoming a 3-1 game deficit against the Indians in the ALCS to trample the Rockies in the World Series. For the Red Sox it was not possible to reuse the template for success. There was no need to...

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Stupidity

It’s not that our team doesn’t have smarts, it’s just that our team’s smarts are inconsistently used. Mike Lowell is widely regarded as particularly wily, so he knew that keeping Carlos Pena pegged at first with the bottom of the order coming wasn’t a priority. But Clay Buchholz is the poster child for nervous throws over to first. His pickoffs are like Nomar’s pre-batting tics or Wade’s chicken dinners, except since they happen in-game they may cause mayhem. Pena didn’t even have a lead and Buchholz tossed over to first. Lowell is wise the the ways of the game but at this point is so inert he has to flip to pitchers on many ground outs to his position. One game he is going to be at first and Wakes is going to be pitching and neither will make it to first in time to stop a Molina from getting an infield single. So Mikey couldn’t get to Clay’s errant throw and it gamboled through foul territory to the Rays bullpen. Carlos galloped all the way from first to third while J.D. and Mikey pawed through the equipment, chairs, and relievers that littered the area. (Later Amalie Benjamin tweeted that...

Over Priced

It was like the old days in the Trop last night: Red Sox fans were louder than the Rays supporters and the visiting team came away with the victory. The irony is that Boston devotees are indirectly supporting the Rays. This is because the revenue-sharing scheme in MLB has luxury tax-paying teams like the Red Sox forking over money to small market teams such as the Rays. Compared to the Marlins and Pirates, the Tampa Bay franchise is the exemplar of how revenue-receiving teams should reinvest the funds they receive to improve on-field performance. As a follower of a team in the Rays’ division, however, I really would prefer that the Rays ownership were more like Bob Nutting and Jeffrey Loria. Although I was reeling from the news that Dustin Pedroia would probably be out for the year his teammates soldiered on. Jon Lester twirled seven innings, allowed only two hits, and struck out ten. The game was in the balance in the sixth when walked B.J. Upton to start the sixth and then allowed a frozen rope off Jason Bartlett’s bat for a single to center. Upton didn’t go all out around the bases and was surprised to be...

Sweeping Generalizations

Top 11 Things I Would Rather Do Instead of Being Swept by the Irksome Rays Drink 20 Wally Coolattas (I love raspberries but the otherworldly shade of green and splash of orange entrances yet frightens me)Vote for Nick Swisher for the All-Star game (sorry, looks like it’s my fault Youk isn’t going to Anaheim)Listen to Ronan Tynan sing “God Bless America”Evaluate the probability that Gloria James, LeBron James’s mother, will hook up with Miami Heat player(s), where, and what position(s), given her alleged historyRead the doctors’ reports by James Andrews and Lewis Yocum on Jake Peavy’s detached latissimus dorsi muscleWrite, produce, and direct a Sullivan Tire commercial, as I might have delusions of auteurism that I could improve the oeuvreOr how about an Olympia Sports advertisement? “That’s Jennie Finch.” Really, dude? You didn’t recognize her until she pitched?Join a reading group with Jason Varitek, J.D. Drew, and Kevin Youkilis. Our next book? Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.Have Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the booth for the remainder of the Red Sox gamesDine on Paul the psychic octopusSit next to Robert Szasz for an entire game. Although the inane cowbells might drown out his drone.Game 85: July 7, 2010Red...

Injury Prone

When Kevin Youkilis limped out of the batter’s box to start the fourth inning, I wasn’t even angry. I chuckled mirthlessly as he got stretched out by the trainers. What’s next, pneumonic plague? Schistosomiasis? Ebola hemorrhagic fever? The injuries plaguing this team are becoming so ludicrous it’s like the body count in Heathers. But the All-Star first baseman is back in the lineup as his ankle soreness has since resolved itself. Youkilis was replaced by Niuman Romero. With runners on first and third with two out, score 3-2 in favor of the Rays, Romero’s slot in the order came up. The replacement player tapped out to second base for the final out, and it will be his final out in the majors for a while. Romero was designated for assignment and replaced on the rosterby Ryan Shealy. When the fate of a key game against a divisional rival was in the hands of someone who was so easily demoted, you know your team is stretched to its breaking point. Dan Wheeler smashes his pitching hand into his glove before each pitch. It reminded me of the relentless grinding of a pestle in a mortar and the way Rays relievers have...

Floundering in Florida

Many words that start with “f” come to mind when I think the opening game of this series against Boston’s foils in the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays. Frustrating, as in how I feel when Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches. The starter had his typical first-inning fits: walking leadoff batter Ben Zobrist, allowing a double off the bat of Carl Crawford for the first run, then walking Matt Joyce after getting two outs. The fatiguing inning curtailed Matsuzaka’s outing such that he only lasted 5 innings with a forgettable line of 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts. Fantastic, which is how Eric Patterson must have felt about his first two-homer game. The light-hitting utility man mustered the four-baggers against Rays ace Matt Garza and middle reliever Andy Sonnanstine. If Zobrist and Crawford hadn’t made web gems ahead of Patterson’s third-inning shot the Red Sox newcomer would have given his team the lead rather than the 1-1 tie. Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, and Bill Hall came through with more two-out mayhem, increasing the lead to 4-1. Frazzled, an apt encapsulation of Garza’s pitching performance, his worst since his 1⅓ inning outing against the Florida Marlins on...

Manny’s Meatballs and Ribeyes by Ramon

The languorous torture of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first inning would have been more bearable if I weren’t suffering from a lingering cold. In the time it took the Red Sox starter to load the bases I went through a half dozen tissues. By the time the Rays leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist lined a single into center to plate two runs in the fourth, the Theraflu Nighttime had unentwined the last tendrils of thought tethering me to consciousness. Did I imagine Kevin Youkilis flinging the ball right at home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in a vain attempt to cut down Kelly Shoppach? According to my medication-addled notes, that actually happened. I was thankfully tucked away when Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez joined forces to serve their guests a generous helping of batting practice. The six runs they surrendered put the game out of reach of the local nine. Delcarmen was put on the fifteen-day disabled list with a right forearm strain after the game. Matt Garza, unlike the other aces the Red Sox recently humbled, lived up to his billing. Although he had three earned runs in his tally, two of those came when David Ortiz doubled off Randy Choate to drive...

David is Goliath

For four innings James Shields limited the home hitters to four baserunners but in the fifth inning the Rays starter failed to show proof that his team’s pitching staff has the best earned run average in the American League. Mike Cameron’s gutshot single to his counterpart set the stage, Marco Scutaro’s wall-ball warmed up the crowd, and David Ortiz’s three-run shot over the visitors’ bullpen set the audience into a frenzy. Ortiz nonchalantly tossed his bat after the blast, like he had just swatted a fly and flung away rolled-up newspaper. Shields hunched over, hands on knees as if someone had just thumped him in the diaphragm. He swiped angrily at the dirt as fans battled over the ball and Ortiz rounded third. Evan Longoria refrained from criticizing his teammate’s pitch selection but instead manned his base and pondered why he let a four-year old cut his hair. Pinch hitters infused the shell-shocked Tampa Bay squad with new life in the late innings. Responding to Bill Hall’s two-run homer was Willy Aybar’s two-RBI effort over the left field wall in the eighth. Joe Maddon summoned B.J. Upton to pinch hit with two out and the center fielder showed hustle on...

Three Feet High and Rising

The Red Sox are finally meeting the lofty expectations fans had of them, against the team with the best record in the majors no less. The visiting baseball squad swept their opponents and secured third place in the AL East, a heartening turnaround from an underperforming team whose record was hovering around .500. Given the pitching match-up it seemed to be a game that Boston had little chance of winning, but Matt Garza’s command was as straggly as his goatee. The volatile Rays starter lasted just five innings with a disastrous line of 6 hits, 6 runs (all earned), 5 walks, 3 strikeouts, and 3 home runs. Prior to this game Garza had surrendered five home runs in 64⅔ innings pitched. Heidi Watney visited the catwalk and roof of Tropicana Field in a foiled attempt to end it all because of the Celtics’ precipitous fall. Or it was a just a photo opportunity granted by someone on the Trop’s grounds crew wishing to be featured in a segment on “The Ultimate Red Sox Show,” or maybe something more lascivious. Not only are the Celtics attempting to replicate the Bruins’ choke job by losing Game 5 113-92 but are sustaining concussions...

Shields Down

Bob Davidson ejected Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon in the fifth inning after Crawford vehemently disagreed with a called strike. Crawford got close enough to graze the brim of his helmet against Davidson’s face. Maddon rushed to the scene to get give his piggy bank full of two cents. Take two of these and call me in the morning. If ejections last longer than four hours, contact your doctor. Evan Longoria is a two-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, and Gold Glover. He is the lead in a New Era commercial where he goes through a Jason Bourne-like pursuit of a guy he thinks took his hat (“That’s not my cap!”). But before he was a star in the majors he allegedly sent a picture of a different cap to a woman on Facebook. That’s my cap! Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon combined to one-hit the first-place Rays. Only Willy Aybar managed to find turf with his line drive single to center in the fourth. Lester’s five walks were offset by his nine strikeouts and superb fielding by Adrian Beltre at the hot corner. The visitors’ only runs came with two outs in the third. J.D....

First Against First Place

Terry Francona is nowhere to be seen on the list of highest-paid coaches by Forbes. In fact, no MLB skipper is to be found in the top ten, which is populated by NFL and NBA honchos. Should Francona ever dine with Bill Belichick or Doc Rivers the latter two should offer to pay; with a nifty $7.5 million a year Belichick is second on the list and Rivers tenth with $5.5 million annually. For $1.5 million less than Rivers Francona coaches about twice as many games during the regular season. The $3.5 million gap between the baseball manager and the grid iron guru could be attributed to Belichick’s trio of championships compared to Francona’s pair. The fundamental difference between the MLB and the other leagues is that football and basketball are flagship programs in collegiate athletics. The earning potential of these two sports enables a top coach for a major college’s marquee football or basketball program to earn a salary comparable to the median salaries of their pro sport counterparts. Not so for baseball managers. Baseball talent requires years of seasoning that the NCAA monopoly has no patience for. While there are prospects that go the college route, there is...

Swept Under the Rug

The Red Sox failed to win a single game against the visiting Rays in their four-game series. A glance over their team statistics compared to the rest of the American League reveals the squad’s flaws. Boston batters found themselves in the middle to bottom in several key metrics:The Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians are tied for ninth with a paltry .313 on-base percentage.They fare better in the power department, taking the sixth slot between the Rays and Angels with a .426 slugging percentage.With 50 runs scored, the Red Sox are tenth, only bettering the Rangers, Mariners, Indians, and Orioles. The front office’s stated goal was to emphasize run prevention over run production. Thus far the team’s pitching staff not successfully carried out this strategy: 12th in WHIP: 1.4411th in slugging percentage against: .4459th in on-base percentage against: .337 (just a sliver worse than the Orioles’ .336)12th in strikeout to walk ratio: 1.47Next to last in strikeouts per nine innings: 5.72 Unlike past teams that had a balance between hitting and pitching, the 2010’s languid offense cannot chip away at the leads the starters have been spotting the opposition. As my friend and baseball sage noted, pitching and defense can’t...

Matt Painting

Matt Garza’s pitching evoked Pedro Martinez circa 2000. Although Ubaldo Jimenez has been the young right-handed pitcher of note because of his recent no-hitter, Garza has made himself an early candidate to win the American League Cy Young. The Rays ace’s accomplishments have flown under the radar even though his heater lights up the gun in the mid-90s as he paints the black like a latter-day Velazquez (the painter, not the Red Sox infielder). Perhaps because his first two eight-inning performances were against the lowly Orioles Garza’s dominance has been ignored. Baltimore’s hitters only managed 10 hits, 2 earned runs, and 5 bases on balls over the 16 innings they faced Garza. The Charm City squad currently sports a record of 2-11, so it is expected that they would have difficulties against mediocre pitchers let alone a hurler of Garza’s caliber. Therefore taking the mound in Fenway would be a true test for Garza despite the Red Sox’s failure to play up to expectations. The fireballer carried a perfect game into the fourth. Garza was none too pleased that Dioner Navarro wasn’t in place behind the plate when he was ready, but the backstop was the last out of the...


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