Rays Nearly Sweep The Best Team In Baseball

Yes you read that right. The Rays nearly swept the best team in baseball this week dealing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels have a near impossible lead to give up and they are struggling with complacency now as they have dropped two series in a row. This was a great series and a playoff preview that could be duplicated in October. The Rays did not even have their best player available in Carl Crawford, and they did not have their rookie phenom, Evan Longoria in the lineup either. The Rays now lead the Red Sox by 4.5 games and the disappointing New York Yankees by 10 games with less than 40 games to play.

In the first game at the Trop the Rays jumped out to an early lead getting a couple big home runs by Eric Hinske (19) and Cliff Floyd (9) to break open a 5-1 lead. Andy Sonnanstine was able to make the lead stand as the Rays were able to hold off the fierce offense of the Angels in the end as they took the first game 6-4. Sonnanstine pitched five and a third innings allowing three earned runs off of five hits to improve his record to 13-6 on the year. Four Rays players had multi hit games in this one: Willy Aybar went 3-4 with two runs scored, B.J. Upton went 2-5, Cliff Floyd went 2-3 with the homer and two driven in, and Eric Hinske went 2-3 with his homer and also drove in two. Jon Garland pitched for the Halos and he pitched ok. The two homers doomed him early but sloppy defense also hurt him in his loss. Overall he went six innings giving up five runs, four earned, and striking out three. The Angels waited a little too long to get going in this one as the Rays took game one of the series.

Game 2 turned out to be a battle of attrition for the Rays as they went up against Ervin Santana and Santana was dominant but the Angels could not muster up enough offense to support him as the Rays won out 4-2. The Angels gave Santana a 2-0 lead thanks to a Vladimir Guerrero home run (23) and a Garrett Anderson double. He carried that lead for most of the game until the eighth inning when Scot Shields and Darren Oliver came into the game. Shields and Oliver blew that lead and the game for L.A. with three walks and then Willy Aybar ripped a base hit to score the go ahead runs for the Rays which proved to be the game winners. With Troy Percival out again, the Rays turned to Dan Wheeler to close out the game. He came through and nailed down the save striking out two in the inning to give the Rays the game. James Shields pitched eight innings and gave up only two runs in the game and had some defensive help as well as he picked up his 11 th win of the year.

In game three the Rays did not have another comeback in them. After rallying in the eighth inning to tie the game at 4, the Angels put one more up in the ninth and the Rays could not come up with another run to send it to extras or give the fans the walk off win they were anticipating. The Angels snapped the Rays three game win streak as well in the game. Garrett Anderson was the hero this time as the stroked a single to right to bring in the go ahead run. Anderson was criticized earlier in the game for watching three called strikes go by him in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and the Halos up by one run. He did not disappoint this time and he also extended his hit streak to 23 games on the season. The Rays jumped out to an early lead with three runs in the bottom of the 2 nd but the Halos’ potent offense came right back this time putting up a four spot in the top half of the third inning courtesy of an Erick Aybar two run triple to left. The Rays tied it in the eighth but could not rally in the ninth. Matt Garza looked human again in this one as he gave up four earned and walked four in six and two thirds innings of work. Jeff Weaver pitched for the Angels and it looked like he was going to have a short night after the 2nd inning he had but he settled down nicely and went six innings giving up only those three runs and striking out nine Rays batters. After Jose Arredondo blew the save in the eighth inning, Francisco Rodriguez came on in the ninth to record his league leading 48th save of the year and is nine saves off of the all time high of 57 set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990.

The Rays are looking good while getting hit by the injury bug. With Percival, Crawford, and Longoria out of the lineup, the Rays have continued to maintain their lead in the AL East by 4.5 games over the defending champs. Next up after an off day Thursday, the Rays to travel to the south side of Chicago to battle the White Sox. The Rays still being questioned whether they can play on the road can silence some doubters here in another possible playoff preview. The pitching probables are as follows:

“E. Jackson (9-8) vs. J. Danks (10-5)
“S. Kazmir (9-6) vs. J. Vazquez (10-10)
“A. Sonnanstine (13-6) vs. M. Buehrle (10-11)

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