Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rays Won?

TigerBlog figured that the Boston Red Sox were safe, at least for another day, when the Yankees were still up on the Rays 7-0 in the seventh inning last night.

So what did he do? He put on "Criminal Minds" and watched an episode that once again made him wonder what the writers' meetings on that show must be like. Hey, let's have the guy pour sulfuric acid in his victims eyes and mouth and on their hands. Yeah, that'll work.

While the bad guy was going crazy with the acid, the Red Sox were up 3-2 on the Orioles in the seventh in a rain delay. TB never bothered to go back to the baseball

As such, it wasn't until TB heard the sports report on the "Imus in the Morning" program this morning that he found out that the Rays had rallied from that deficit to shock the Yankees 8-7 in 12 innings.

And that the Red Sox had lost to the Orioles. And that the Phillies had beaten the Braves, knocking Atlanta out as well.

It wasn't until even later than that that TB learned that the Orioles-Red Sox game ended three minutes before Rays-Yankees.

And even later still that he learned that Dan Johnson, the player who tied the game at 7-7 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on a solo home run, had the lowest batting average (.108) of any player in the Majors with at least 75 at-bats.

And TB has to give credit to the Orioles and Yankees for playing so hard in these games, even though they were playing for nothing. There was even a great sign in the crowd at the Red Sox-0's game, held up by a fan in a Boston jersey, that read "I can't believe I'm saying this, but go Yankees."

The Rays were nine games back earlier this month, giving them the record for the largest September deficit ever overcome by a team that made the playoffs.

The Cards came from 8.5 back, tying the 1964 Cards, who rallied famously against the Phillies, for the second-biggest deficit overcome.

A month ago, it seemed like there would be no drama in September in Major League Baseball, except for the race betwee the Diamondbacks and Giants or possibly the Rangers and Angels.

So what happened? The Red Sox completely fell apart, and St. Louis couldn't lose. And the Rays made up ground basically every day, as Boston never won consecutive games in the month, during which they went 7-20.

Beyond all that, there was the issue of the batting title in the National League.

Jose Reyes, a prized free agent this coming winter, bunted in the first inning and then went out of the game to preserve his spot on top of the NL leaderboard. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun then had to go 3 for 4 to catch Reyes, and instead Braun went 0 for 4.

Braun was on "PTI" yesterday afternoon and came across as a very down-to-Earth guy; Reyes comes across as a spoiled, me-first player who only played hard this year because of his contract situation. TB would be hesitant to sign him long-term.

Anyway, now that we're transitioning into the "root against the Yankees" portion of the sports year, the playoff matchups are: Yanks-Tigers and Rangers-Rays in the AL and Phils-Cards and D-backs-Brewers in the NL.

The temptation would be to say Phillies-Yankees, but TB thinks that it'll be Brewers-Tigers in the World Series.

None of the eight postseason teams has a Princeton player on its roster.

In fact, the 2011 season wasn't a great one for Princeton's three Major Leaguers.

Chris Young, who looked like he was off to a big year with the Mets, was hurt in April and never made it back. In fact, the big question is whether Young will be able to be back next year or beyond.

Ross Ohlendorf had an injury filled season for the Pirates, and he was on the DL for most of it and made only nine starts. When healthy, Ohlendorf looked okay in some spots, though his final numbers were shaky: 1-3 with an 8.15 ERA (though he did hit a home run).

TigerBlog still thinks Ohlendorf has his best days in front of him, as long as he can stay healthy. Judging him by the remnants of this season, when the Pirates were long out of the race, is unfair - though he is 29.

The Princeton alum with the best season was Will Venable, the San Diego Padres outfielder. Venable finished the year with a .246 average, nine home runs, 44 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 370 at-bats. He struck out 92 times, which is too many.

Venable's year included a demotion to the minors, and he was a much better player in the second half of the year than he was before his demotion. He's a year younger than Ohlendorf, which means he should be in his prime, but he is a bit young baseball-wise because he came to it a little late. As Princeton fans may remember, he played basketball more than baseball in his earlier days.

He is on the cusp of establishing himself as a legitimate Major League starter who can produce offensively while continuing to be on the best defensive outfielders in the game, but TB thinks the odds are better that he will achieve that than that he won't.

The 2011 regular season ended in wild fashion, though not for the Princetonians (though Venable did hit his first career grand slam last night).

Now it's time for the postseason, which means all that's really left is to root against the Yankees.

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