Tagged: Rays

First things first

Three Division Series Game 1s yesterday and already more than a few surprises. And isn’t that typical of October?

Let’s go game by game.

PHILLIES 3, BREWERS 1

It isn’t surprising that Cole Hamels dealt the way he did, but the Brewers, particularly Yovani Gallardo, showed a lot of poise for a young team that has practically no postseason experience to speak of. If the Brew Crew can clean up a few mistakes, this might become a very competitive series very quickly — especially when CC gets his say. Here’s Chase Utley’s big hit in the third inning.

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DODGERS 7, CUBS 2

Now I didn’t expect this one. Who would have thought the best team in the National League would go down at home in Game 1 in the 100th anniversary year of their last World Series title? But James Loney had the big hit, the grand slam in the fifth inning, Manny and Russell Martin homered later, and that was all she wrote. The Cubs will have to regroup in a hurry tonight, but their big horse, the Big Z, is on the hill, so Cubs Nation has to be feeling good about that.

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RED SOX 4, ANGELS 1

The Angels had the best record in all of baseball this year and were at home with their ace, John Lackey, in Game 1, but the same old same old happened again — the Red Sox beat them in October. This time it was lefty Jon Lester giving the Angels hitters fits and the newest member of the defending world champs’ outfield doing most of the damage.

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Almost too much to blog about, but I want to hear your thoughts. What was the best moment of the first day of October baseball in 2008?

And what’s going to happen tonight as the Rays-White Sox series starts and two other series continue?

Let me know.

O.G.

OCTOBER!

We’re here, and the Postseason is ready to roll. I hope you all watched the White Sox come up big with that 1-0 win over the Twins like I did.

It was cool to see them celebrating. Fortunately for them, they’ve got an extra day to prepare for Thursday’s Game 1 in St. Pete!

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Three Division Series games today to kick it off, and I can’t wait to see what happens and what memories are made. Here are some quick blog thoughts on each one.

Brewers at Phillies

Tough call here, but the Phightin’ Phils came up huge down the stretch to take the division from the Mets, and I don’t know if you have noticed what Ryan Howard’s been doing for the last month, but you’ll probably find out in this series. Philadelphia is a great baseball town and they haven’t tasted World Series champagne since 1980. They’re hungry and I expect them to come out aggressive.

Dodgers at Cubs

Does anyone have higher expectations this season than Cubs Nation? It’s been exactly 100 years since the Cubbies won it all, and their fans have heard enough about curses and billy goats. They’ve also had to watch as the Red Sox won in 2004 for the first time since 1918 and the crosstown rival White Sox took it the next year for the first time since 1917. With the pitching, the defense and the hitting that led them to dominate the NL this year, the Wrigley faithful have to think this is the year.

Red Sox at Angels

The Angels got swept out of the first round by the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, and the Red Sox won the World Series both years. This season might be different, with the Angels winning 100 games for the first time in franchise history and owning the best record in the Majors. Great pitching matchup tonight with the Angels’ John Lackey going up against the Red Sox’s no-hitter man, Jon Lester.

Three games and all kinds of memories to be made. Now I want to hear your thoughts. What will happen tonight in each game? What are your predictions for these three series?

Let me know.

Today there’s a lot of baseball to watch and a lot of important moments to witness as we head into October, full speed ahead.

Grab some snacks, put on that seat belt and have fun. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

O.G.

Intensity

The tight pennant races are getting tighter, and I’m feeling the intensity every night as the Twins and White Sox battle it out for the last Postseason spots in the American League. I’m sure you are, too.

Meanwhile, as the Mets and Brewers try to keep the pace in the National League, the Mets are set on prolonging the life of that charming 44-year-old ballpark in Queens called Shea Stadium that’s going to make way for the new Citi Field next year.

What does it all mean? It means we’ve got less than a week to go until October, and the first five teams that have clinched as I write this are waiting along with the rest of us to see how it’s all going to shake out.

And those teams still have so many unanswered questions, too.

Can the Dodgers keep up the excitement and ride the hot bat of their newest star all the way through October?

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Can a healthy Evan Longoria help the Rays continue to prove the doubters wrong?

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Do the Red Sox have another magical run in them?

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Is it THE year on the North Side?

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Or will the team with the best record in baseball live up to its billing?

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Vote in the poll and let me know how you think it will all play out. The good news is we won’t have to wait very long to see what happens.

O.G.

New beginnings

The Cubs and their Nation of fans are partying like it’s 1908, and can you blame them? They officially joined the October dance over the weekend, making it two postseason appearances in a row.

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Now comes the fun part — seeing if the team from the North Side of Chicago can take 100 years of close calls, disappointments and heartbreakers and turn it all into one World Series title. And why not? Their South-Side neighbors did it in 2005 and the Boston Red Sox did it in 2004. It’s the decade to end all “curses.”

Or maybe it’s just the year of the underdog.

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NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY, thought the Tampa Bay Rays could go from the worst record in the Major Leagues to an October clinch with a week to go in the regular season. But when you’ve got young talent all over the field, veteran role players, a great bullpen and defense and an optimistic manager who gets you to click from Day 1 in Spring Training … well, I’ll say it again. Why not?

But before we all say hello to October, we had to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. I’m a grown man, but I’ll admit that my eyes watered a bit, especially when the Captain delivered the final speech.

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That’s what baseball is all about. And October’s what baseball’s all about, too.

One more week and we’re there.

O.G

A big week

Are you sweating yet? September is getting tight and the pennant races are heating up even more, but three prime-time players made big-time statements that can carry all the way into the Postseason, and I’ve got to give them some October Gonzo blog love.

First up is Big Z, better known as Carlos Zambrano. He hadn’t pitched in 12 days but he served a whole lot of National League notice that he’s ready now and ready for October by no-hitting the Astros in Milwaukee.

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Then there’s Big Papi, better known as David Ortiz. He’s been injured for the Red Sox, but he lives for this time of year and he showed the Tampa Bay Rays a thing or two about that Monday in St. Petersburg.

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And let’s not forget the Phillies, who are right in the thick of it again. Sunday saw Brett Myers continue his resurgence to the top of his game, throwing a two-hitter against the Brewers and showing he might just be the October ace they always thought he’d be.

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A quick shout-out to the thousands of you who voted in the last poll and kept our conversations going. I want to keep hearing all your thoughts about October and who you think will win it all and make the next Postseason memories. It was also good to see that we’re up to sixth in the rankings of the Latest Leaders at MLBlogs. Who knows? Maybe we’ll make it all the way to the top.

But on the field, you can be sure that more history will be made soon, which is why I don’t plan to miss many games between now and the end of the World Series. Only two weeks until October, and I can’t wait.

O.G.

A long time coming

October’s all about making the most of opportunities, and four teams this year have the opportunity to make some serious history and give their fans a long-awaited party.
 
It’s been 100 years since the Cubs last won it all, but they’re looking good for the Postseason and could make the North Side as happy as the South Side was three years ago when this happened.
 
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The Milwaukee Brewers only got one shot at the Fall Classic, when they were Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982, but this year’s model has Wild Card written all over it, and we know what Wild Card teams can do with everything on the line.
 
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Then there are the Tampa Bay Rays. They’d never even had a winning season until this year, and they’re still holding on to the American League East lead. The Tropicana Field faithful have to be saying, “Why not us?” And a recent series win in Fenway Park shows the Rays can get it done on the road when it counts.
 
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And don’t forget the Houston Astros. They’ve been counted out before only to shock the world with a sizzling September. They made it to the World Series in 2005 and the NL Championship Series in 2006 and are getting huge pitching performances — led by Roy Oswalt — at the right time.
 
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In other words, don’t be surprised if one of these four prospective drought-busters ends up parading through their city with a trophy. And don’t be surprised if baseball crowns yet another champion that’s been waiting a long, long time to celebrate.
 
O.G.

Your turn

September is upon us.

It’s show-up or go-home time for the teams in the pennant races all over the Major Leagues, and it’s countdown time until the first pitch of October. I’ve got to say that you all must be feeling the drama the way I am, because you’ve been voting like mad in the October Gonzo polls every week.

The last one, which asked you to name the team that has most surprised you this year, wasn’t exactly a surprise in the end. Of course it was the Tampa Bay Rays, who continue to shock the baseball world by controlling the American League East.

But what surprised me? The thousands upon thousands of responses! You people are passionate about the Postseason, just like I am, and you deserve to be heard.

So here are a few more questions you can respond to in the comment section below. We can keep the discussion going until the lights come out in October!

* What teams that won’t make the Postseason are in the perfect spot to become legendary pennant-race spoilers?

* Which bench players are going to come up huge and make September statements to help get their teams in?

* Who’s going to be the September horse, the starting pitcher who has the biggest month for his October-bound club?

These are just three of hundreds of questions we can all talk about. Now let’s hear thoughts, questions and comments from YOU.

O.G.

Crazy time

Any baseball fan knows that when you get to October, you throw everything out the window because you know crazy things are bound to happen.

And this year? Turns out crazy stuff is happening all over the place ALREADY.

Who would have thought that it would be late August and the Tampa Bay Rays would still be in first place in the American League East … over the Red Sox AND Yankees? Not me, but here they are.

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If you told me in April that CC Sabathia would be leading Milwaukee’s rotation on a serious Postseason run, I would have flat-out spilled coffee all over my keyboard in a fit of laughter. But, again, here’s CC, dealing for the Brew Crew when it counts the most.

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I think I could have believed that the Angels would be in first place, but I NEVER could have predicted them trading for Mark Teixeira in the heat of a pennant race. That’s what I call serious October commitment.

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And Manny Being Manny, Hollywood style? Now that’s just too much.

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And that’s the point. As the calendar inches ever closer to October, you gotta get ready for crazy, because once the Postseason starts, it just gets crazier.

O.G.

Surprise, surprise

Check your watch or your BlackBerry or your computer or just rip down the old-school calendar from the fridge. We’re officially in late August, and you know what that means: Less than 40 games until the postseason. Now check the standings. Do a few things surprise you as much as they surprise me?

Tampa Bay is not only still there in the American League East, but they’re still there over the Red Sox AND the Yankees. They’re banged up but a good team’s a good team. Still plenty of September games in the division that will give them the ultimate test, but who would have thought they’d be this good this late in the season? It’s the story of 2008 in my book, and with sluggers like Carlos Pena starting to heat up, who knows how far they could go?

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There are serious pennant power plays brewing in the National League West and American League Central. Toss a coin to separate the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in the NL and the Twins and White Sox in the AL.

There are lots of things to like about all four teams and lots of reasons to watch all of their games down the stretch, but since we’re talking surprises, man, how about those Twins? They trade Johan to the Mets, Silva leaves for the Mariners, Torii goes to the Angels, and there they are, still contending. And now they have Francisco Liriano back? That’s just filthy.

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Yup, everywhere I look, there are surprises, like in L.A., for example. Joe Torre’s Dodgers were looking like a solid team for most of the year, but all of a sudden Manny Magic starts spreading like wildfire throughout the Ravine and everyone’s thinking World Series. Just ask Andre Ethier if he can feel it like I do.

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Big moments and bigger plays, and it only gets more intense by the day. Get comfy on that sofa. We’ve still got a quarter of the season to go …

O.G.

Dunn right

I’m loving how the trades keep heating things up. Take the National League West, for example. The Dodgers get Manny, so the D-backs turn around and snag Adam Dunn from Cincinnati. Take that, L.A.!

It’s all in the spirit of October, people. Seriously, if you want to rock on to the World Series, you have to make things happen on the field AND with the cell phones.

So what does Arizona get in this Dunn deal? The power, on-base percentage and ability to change a game in a hurry, like Dunn did here.

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Here are some other pieces of my blogging brain, spinning dizzy with the postseason possibilities:

*Tough break — literally — for super-stud Evan Longoria and his Tampa Bay Rays. Dude’s a Rookie of the Year shoo-in and now he’s got a fractured wrist? And now he’s got to join Carl Crawford on the DL? It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the big leagues. Here’s what happened:

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*I’ve been trying to figure out how the whole National League East picture is going to shake out, but the only thing shaking is my head. If the Mets’ bullpen doesn’t get better in a hurry, the Fighting Fish from South Florida can swim right by them. But if that’s going to go down, my boy Hanley Ramirez needs to break out of his slump and start hitting like this again:

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*Did anyone see the Twins coming? Not me, but take a look at the AL Central. There they are, right at the top! Pretty cool the way this organization keeps bringing it, and now that they’ve got Francisco Liriano back, healthy and dealing, who’s to say Minnesota won’t be a major factor in October?

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Too many things to think about right now, and we’re not even in late August yet.

Time to relax… and watch more baseball!

O.G.