Sports Outside the Beltway

Tampa Bay Ray Matt Garza no-hits Detroit

It was the first in franchise history. From AP-

The Tampa Bay Rays finally wound up on the right side of a memorable pitching performance.Garza

Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in franchise history and the fifth in the major leagues this season, beating the Detroit Tigers 5-0 Monday night.

“We needed one. I don’t care who it came from. We just needed one for our own confidence,” Garza said, mindful that the Rays have been held hitless four times in their 13-season history — three times in the past year. “The guys are just as excited as I am. It’s fun.”

The 26-year-old right-hander faced the minimum 27 batters in his 106th career start, allowing only a second-inning walk to Brennan Boesch, for a team that’s often been on the wrong end of pitching gems lately.

Two of the no-hitters tossed against the Rays since July 2009 were perfect games. They didn’t manage a hit Monday off starter Max Scherzer until Matt Joyce’s sixth-inning grand slam.

There has been a high amount of no-hitters this year, but not unheard of. Contrary to what the AP writer of the article thinks, this is not the year of the pitcher. That belongs to 1968 when one fifth of the games played that year were shutouts and only one AL batter(Carl Yaztremski) batted over .300. The AL league batting average was .230. 2010 only matches up to 1968 in one thing, no-hitters thrown(5).


Arizona Diamondback P Edwin Jackson throws a no-hitter

Jackson pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays as recently as two years ago. From AP-

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Edwin Jackson had a chance to finish the ugliest of the no-hitters in this the Year of the Pitcher, and nothing was going to stop of him.APTOPIX Diamondbacks Rays Baseball

Not Arizona manager A.J. Hinch. Certainly not the Tampa Bay Rays.

Barreling ahead despite a soaring pitch count, Jackson tossed the fourth no-hitter of the season Friday night, beating his former team 1-0 despite walking eight, hitting a batter and watching another reach base on an error.

It took an astounding 149 pitches — most in the majors in five years — to complete the second no-hitter in Arizona history.

“We talked every inning after about the sixth because I was checking on him. It’s such a complicated situation with the game in the balance and him chasing a no-hitter,” Hinch said.

“He kept saying he was fine and, `I’m not coming out, I’m not coming out, I’m not coming out.’ As the momentum built and the situation grew, it was pretty evident he had an extra gear. It’s something to celebrate.”

All but one of Jackson’s walks came in the first three innings, but the Rays still were no-hit for the third time in less than a year, including perfect games by Dallas Braden at Oakland on May 9 and Mark Buehrle at Chicago last July 23.

Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez no-hit Atlanta on April 17 and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay tossed a perfect game at Florida on May 29. Detroit’s Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game with two outs in the ninth on a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce.

Jackson’s no-hitter was only the 2nd in Diamondback history and was the first ever thrown at Tropicana Field.

Three no-hitters in a year is hardly unprecedented. In 1969, six no-hitters were thrown. I don’t know if that is a record, it is just the only year with more than five that I could come up with glancing quickly.


Oakland A Dallas Braden throws a perfect game

It was the 19th in MLB history. From AP-

Dallas Braden definitely owns the mound now.APTOPIX Rays Athletics Baseball

Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history on Sunday, shutting down the majors’ hottest team and leading the Oakland Athletics to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Braden threw his arms in the air after Gabe Kapler grounded out to shortstop for the final out, his simmering feud with Yankees star Alex Rodriguez merely a footnote to the first perfect game for Oakland in 42 years.

The closest the Rays got to a hit was Jason Bartlett’s liner to third leading off the game. Evan Longoria tried to bunt leading off the fifth, drawing boos from the small crowd.

Oakland has always been a pitcher’s park. Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game there in 1968 and an A’s pitcher named Mike Warren threw a no-hitter there too in 1983. The A’s have also been on the wrong end of no-hitters by several pitchers, the recently deceased Jim Bibby threw one of those gems.

On the other hand, Tampa has been the wrong end of the last two perfect games. Mark Buehrle, of the White Sox, did it last July. I’ve never been in attendance at one of these games, unless you count a 3-inning little league game where my team went 9 up, 9 down and lost something like 20-0. I did watch Ken Forsch no-hit the Atlanta Braves in April 1979. The Braves games were televised on WTBS and that was about the only way I could watch baseball then


Washington Nationals release OF Elijah Dukes

One would think the worst team in MLB would be in need of this player. From AP-

Outfielder Elijah Dukes has been released by the Washington Nationals, a sudden move with about two weeks left in spring training.

The Nationals announced the transaction with a terse, two-sentence news release Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Dukes had been expected to be Washington’s starting right fielder.

He hit .242 with 31 homers and 123 RBIs in three seasons with Tampa Bay and Washington. He was limited to 188 games with the Nationals the past two seasons because of injuries.

Why was Dukes released? Two people in the Washington Nationals dysfunctional family organization have given conflicting statements.

Manager Jim Riggleman said it was a strictly baseball decision and not related to any off-the-field problems. “We like some of our other options in right field, really,” Riggleman said. “Elijah was great.”

General manager Mike Rizzo called the release “a performance-based decision” but also implied Dukes’s place in the clubhouse adversely affected the Nationals. Rizzo said the Nationals “will be a more cohesive, united group” without Dukes.

“The clubhouse will be more united,” Rizzo said. “We’ll have a better feel around the ballclub. We’ll gain just by that alone.”

The Nationals discussed the possibility of parting ways with Dukes this winter, Rizzo said. The Nationals “made several inquiries to many” teams, Rizzo said. “We found there was no interest in a trade for Elijah.” The Nationals could have also optioned Dukes to the minor leagues, but they felt he had peaked in his development, Rizzo said.

I tend to believe Rizzo. Dukes has alot of personal problems that detract from him as a ball player. Why would the organization release him out right without trying to make a trade? When healthy, Dukes is a fair to good starting outfielder and would be a excellent 4th outfielder.

I think something recent occurred with Dukes that is not known at present or he was causing trouble in the clubhouse. That is why Washington cut him loose.


Tampa Bay Rays acquire Catcher Kelly Shoppach from Cleveland

The 29-year-old was up for salary arbitration and this may be why Cleveland wanted to move Shoppach. From AP-

The Tampa Bay Rays acquired veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later.

Tampa Bay is clearly hoping for a return to 2008 levels from newly acquired catcher Kelly Shoppach. How his last three seasons compared to Rays regular Dioner Navarro’s:

Shoppach, 29, hit .214 with homers in 89 games for the Indians in 2009, a decline from the strong season he put up in 2008, when he hit .261 with 21 homers, with a .517 slugging percentage.


Shoppach earned $1.95 million in 2009 for the Indians, and because he’s arbitration-eligible, he is in line for a significant raise. Cleveland is rebuilding and has other catching options, having acquired Lou Marson in the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia, and so the Indians have indicated a willingness in this offseason to deal Shoppach for a second-line prospect.

Not knowing what Cleveland will get in return for Shoppach makes this trade hard to evaluate, but I’ll take a shot at it any way.

If Tampa expects Shoppach to play again in 2008, they are having a case of wishful thinking. 2008 was Shoppach’s opportunity to start in the majors, and many players at the same age as Shoppach excel for one year, then drop off.

Catching is also on a person’s body.Most players at this position age rapidly. Shoppach is also at the age where all position players have peaked already.

All this said, Shoppach could still be an offensive improvement on the Rays current catcher, Dioner Navarro, who hits for low average and has little power.


Tampa Bay Rays trade 2B Akinori Iwamura to Pittsburgh

The trade saves the Rays from having to pay a $650,000 on Iwamura’s contract if they didn’t pick up his option.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been plugging holes after trades for years, but filling the Freddy Sanchez void proved difficult.

On Tuesday, the team agreed to acquire second baseman Akinori Iwamura from the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Jesse Chavez.


Iwamura was batting over .300 early last season for the Rays before sustaining partial tears of the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He returned in September and batted .290 for the season in 69 games. He was Tampa’s everyday second baseman when the Rays went to the World Series in 2008 and batted .274 with six homers, 48 RBIs and a .349 on-base percentage.


Chavez led Pittsburgh and all major league rookies with 73 appearances in 2009, going 1-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He was taken in the 42nd round in 2002 by Texas, and made his major league debut with the Pirates with 15 appearances in 2008.

The Rays think they have 2nd base plugged with Ben Zobrist. Maybe they do, but the team got shockingly little compensation for Iwamura. A run of the mill reliever was the best Tampa could do?


Seems like old times- Boston Red Sox beat Tampa 3-1

The Rays are in the midst of their worst losing streak since 2007. From AP-

Dustin Pedroia’s opposite-field power surprised almost everyone, including Boston manager Terry Francona.

The 5-foot-9 Pedroia hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer to right field in the eighth inning and the Red Sox beat Tampa Bay 3-1 on Sunday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader, sending the Rays to their 10th straight loss.


Victor Martinez added an RBI single for Boston and blocked the plate on a tag play that prevented Tampa Bay from taking the lead.

I saw the video of Martinez blocking home play on the play in question. He did a great job, but baseball umpires have really let some rules lapse. A baserunner is supposed to not be obstructed from getting to the next base but the rule is read so that if the fielder is attempting to field the ball, the obstruction is legal. That loophole is huge and catchers take advantage of it.

The Red Sox, who lead the AL wild-card race, won for the 10th time in 14 games.

Tampa Bay is on its longest losing streak since dropping 11 straight in 2007.

Tampa won’t be going to the playoffs this year. One of the reasons for their slump-

Tampa Bay DH Pat Burrell is in a 1-for-18 slump.

Memo to Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Madden. Joe, a DH’s only job is to help his team with his hitting. If he stops hitting, get him the hell out of the lineup and put someone else in! Oh you don’t have much of a bench because you feel the need to have 8 relief pitchers. That sounds at least as dumb as using a DH who can’t hit.(Burrell has a .386 Slugging Pct for 2009, which is awful for a DH)


Tampa Bay 1B Carlos Pena out for the season with two broken fingers

Is there anyone outside of Florida who thinks the Rays will still make the playoffs this year? From AP-

Tampa Bay slugger Carlos Pena broke two fingers when he was hit by a CC Sabathia pitch in the opener of Monday’s day-night doubleheader against the Yankees.

Pena was hurt on an 0-1 offering in the first inning of a 4-1 loss, with the ball hitting his left hand and then his bat.

“I knew when the ball hit me it was going to be bad,” he said. “You don’t take a 95 mph fastball on the finger and live to tell about it — or the finger live to tell about it.”

Pena broke the middle and index fingers. He will return to Florida on Tuesday and meet with the Rays medical staff before a determination is made whether he needs surgery.

Pena leads the AL with 39 homers and finished with 100 RBIs.

Those are some awfully big shoes to fill. So who took Pena’s roster spot?

Tampa Bay put Pena on the 60-day disabled list and purchased the contract of first baseman Chris Richard from Triple-A Durham. Richard was in Durham, N.C., and immediately headed to New York.

He arrived just before the night game began and pinch hit in the eighth inning of the Rays’ 11-1 loss. He walked in his first big league appearance since April 30, 2003, for Colorado against Cincinnati.

A guy who hasn’t played ML baseball in over 6 years. Wait till next year should be the rallying cry for Tampa.

Update- I noted the thinness of the Rays bench a month ago. It has come back to haunt manager Joe Madden


Tampa Bay Rays trade P Scott Kazmir to the Angels

I thought teams with Pennant hopes made deals to acquire more pitching, not trade it away. From AP-

The Los Angeles Angels, looking to bolster their rotation for the last five weeks of the season and in October, acquired left-hander Scott Kazmir of the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

“This is a surprise. I had heard rumors before, but it’s hard to believe that it is now official,” Kazmir said after Tampa Bay’s 6-2 loss to Detroit. “It’s a disappointment because of all the relationships I’ve built in the organization and the city, but you can’t control the business side of the game.”

The Angels and Rays had extensive conversations before the trade deadline about Kazmir, who is 8-7 with a 5.92 ERA.

Tampa Bay receives two minor leaguers — left-hander Alex Torres and infielder Matt Sweeney — and a player to be named later in the deal.

“We’re very excited about the player that we can’t name yet, but also about the other two,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “The lefty has a great arm, and Sweeney is one of the best hitters in the minors.”

Kazmir leaves Tampa as the franchise all-time leader in wins, strikeouts, and several other pitching categories. Tampa has a record of 69-58 and are still in the playoff hunt for a wild card spot. So why trade Kazmir.

John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times fills us in-

The Rays just got better in 2010. And 2011, for that matter.

And all it may have cost them was a chance for the playoffs in 2009.

That’s pretty much what this Scott Kazmir trade means. By getting out from under Kazmir’s overpriced contract, the Rays will have a better chance to keep the core of their team together in the next couple of seasons, and that, absolutely, is a good thing.

But there’s no way to spin this trade to make you believe the Rays have a better shot at defending their American League pennant today. Not by taking their No. 3 starter out of the rotation. And not by sending him to the team the Rays would most likely face in the first round of the playoffs if they somehow beat the odds and win the AL wild card.

For now, this trade stinks. There’s no other way to paint it. You could say the Rays have Andy Sonnanstine and Wade Davis in Triple A, and so the rotation is not without options. But if those guys were better than Kazmir, they would have already been with the team.

Whatever carpe diem means, this is the opposite.

Other than for financial reasons, the trade makes no sense. I bet there are a lot of irate baseball fans in Tampa right now.


Tampa Bay Rays acquire Reliever Russ Springer

There must be a ‘I need another ancient relief pitcher’ virus going around the offices of MLB teams at this moment. From the St. Petersburg Times-

The Rays had interest in adding veteran Russ Springer to their bullpen anyway. After going through two extra-inning games in four days, they believed it was even more important to make a move.

The 40-year-old right-hander was claimed on waivers from Oakland, with the Rays assuming the nearly $1 million remaining on his $3.3 million contract.


Springer was 0-4 with a 4.10 ERA in 48 games with Oakland but had a 1.61 ERA over 25 games since early June.

The addition of Springer required Tampa to make another personnel move.

The Rays’ decision to designate IF Joe Dillon for assignment to make room for Springer wasn’t cut-and-dried. Ultimately, the Rays decided to go with eight relievers and three bench players in large part because they had played two extra-inning games this week.

Though Dillon rarely got off the bench, Maddon said he didn’t like having to cut him loose. In addition to being a fan of Dillon’s approach to the game, Maddon will have to be especially creative with the way he uses his bench.

That’s an understatement. Only three bench players severely limits a manager’s options. One of those backups has to be a catcher, the most likely player to get injured in any given game. Managers are a cautious lot, and will be cautious in using their only backup catcher. That limits a team’s strategy moves with only three bench players even more.

Springer, like the recently traded David Weathers, has been all over the major leagues for fifteen plus years. He is a decent reliever, but for the reasons I already stated, I don’t understand why Tampa needed this guy.


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