Bolts’ Johnson comes up big in final moments

by Gary Shelton on August 6, 2020

in general

Johnson had another big playoff moment./ CHUCK MULLER

Thursday, 4 a.m.

In the post-season, he grows.

Normally, Tyler Johnson is 5-8, and because of it he absorbs an undue amount of punishment. Then the playoffs begin, and Johnson grows taller. Some days, he seems like a giant.

Johnson, the eighth-year pro, scored a goal with 87 seconds remaining to help the Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins in the NHL's Round Robin tournament Wednesday. The goal allowed the Lightning to withstand blowing a 2-0 lead for the second straight game.

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Credit it to Johnson, who followed a rebound off a shot by Yanni Gourde for the winner. It was Johnson's 25th playoff goal, the third-most in team history behind Martin St. Louis and Nikita Kucherov. Johnson now has more playoff goals than Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

“Gordo and I had a little breakaway there," Johnson said. "He made a heck of play throwing it at the net. It bounded off the pad and went right to me. Great play by Gordo."

Nice finish by Johnson, too.

”I think Johnny's been a great player for us for a long time," said Alex Killorn. "He's played in an all-star game. He could have been the Con Smyth winner in 2015 if we had won. He's a great playoff player. He comes up big in the big moments. That was a big moment for us."

Killorn and Brayden Point also scored goals for the Bolts, who took a 2-0 lead. Boston came back to tie.

"If we’re being honest, we're still trying to put together that 60 minute game," Ryan McDonagh said. "We were persistent. We didn't get too frustrated. In the end our structure and our simplicity paid off."

Lightning coach John Coper wasn't overly concerned about giving up a two-goal lead.

"I was proud of the way we played defensively," Cooper said. "If we're going to hold the Caps and Bruins to two or less goals, it's not a bad effort."

The Lightning complete the round robin portion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday when they host the Philadelphia Flyers sy Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. Game time has not been announced.

Rays’ bats whittled down by Red Sox

by Gary Shelton on August 6, 2020

in general

Cash can't figure out why his offense is so meager./JEFFREY KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

Often, they're hitless. Sometimes, they're hapless.

Take Wednesday night, when the Rays' stumbled through the empty Tropicana Field -- where they had been very good this season -- en route to a 5--0 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

The loss was the Rays' sixth in their last seven games, a run in which their offense has struggled more nights than not. Wednesday night, the Rays managed only four hits -- two of them by Yandy Diaz.

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The Rays have scored 18 runs over their last seven games after scoring 33 in their first five games. They've hit three home runs in their last seven games after hitting seven in their first four.

”We wish we knew the answer," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "We’re going to get going, but we need to turn it around sooner rather than later. I thought we had fairly solid approaches, but the big hit eluded us. We got in hitters’ counts repeatedly but couldn’t get anything going. I’m going to bet on our guys to figure it out real quick.

"It’s been slow going for the bulk of our lineup. Ideally, you have a couple of hot bats and they’re carrying the load. You're not going to get eight guys going at one time very often, but you don’t want to have eight guys cold at one time. It’s been hard for us to get anything going offensively in the last week."

Ryan Yarbrough started well, throwing four shutout innings of his own. But Yarbrough gave up a pair of two-run homers (Michael Chavis and Alex Verdugo) as the Sox pulled away.

The Rays are off today, then play the Yankees four games. Friday night at 6:40 p.m., the Rays will send Blake Snell to the mound against Masahiro Tanaka at Tropicana Field.

Meadows’ return sparks Rays over Red Sox

by Gary Shelton on August 5, 2020

in general

Austin Meadows mad his return count./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Ah, yes. The good old days.

After a gut-wrenching slump (five games' worth), the Rays finally looked like the team you saw a year ago in Tuesday night's 5-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox. It looked good in 2019; it looked perhaps better this time.

-- The Rays finally saw Tropicana Field again. Tampa Bay is 5-1 at home this year.

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-- Austin Meadows returned to the lineup and had two hits, including a run-scoring triple.

-- Charlie Morton, after hanging up an 8.00 ERA in his first two starts, finally looked like the pitcher he was a year ago.

-- The bullpen, wobbly as of late, finally pitched with a lead. Nick Anderson got the save by striking out two batters with the bases loaded in the ninth. Pete Fairbanks struck out two with two on in the eighth.

All of which reminded you of the 96-win team of last season.

And wasn't it about time?

Rays' manager Kevin Cash said before the game that he didn't want to put any pressure on Meadows. Afterward, he admitted that wasn't the case.

"I did put pressure on him," Cash said. "I just didn’t tell you guys. We were telling him to get it together, we needed someone to get us out of this funk and he did that.

"His swings looked really good. Even in the strikeout in the first, he was fouling off 96, 97 (miles per hour pitches). It just looked like him. He looked pretty in sync."

Meadows, who missed the start of the season because of the Covid-19 virus, said he felt comfortable.

“It was good was just trying to continue what I did from last year," Meadows said. "It has been like 10 months since I played a game that counts. It was good to be out there. It's been a long hard road this year. "

Joey Wendle had three hits and Hunter Renfroe had a two-run double. Renfroe's double came after he fouled a pitch off of the catwalk.

For Morton, he went 5 2/3 innings and gave up only one run in getting the first win of the year for Rays' starter. It was crucial because of the losing streak.

"Because of the shortness of the season. Five games is a little more than a 13-game losing streak in a 162-game season," Morton said. "That’ the math. I do think we have a sense of urgency. We’re working on a shortened time frame."

The Rays play Boston again tonight at 6:40 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Ryan Yarbrough pitches for Tampa Bay and Martin Perez for Boston.

McCoy hopes to make a difference with Bucs

by Gary Shelton on August 5, 2020

in general

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Think of him as insurance. Think of him as an alternative. Think of him as another piece of a threatening offense.

When it's all over, think of the Bucs as the next (final?) stop on the LeSean McCoy tour.

McCoy had his first practice with the Bucs' Tuesday after signing with the team. He's a six-time Pro Bowler, and he has six 1,000-yard seasons, but he gained just 465 yards a year ago.

“I think the biggest thing – where I’m at in my career – I had a couple teams reach out," McCoy said. "No disrespect to the teams, but it didn’t fit. I wanted to win. I wanted to contribute. I needed something to push me. I want to be with a group of guys that want to win and I think this is a perfect place. You talk about Rob [Gronkowski] – I’ve been friends with Rob for so long. Just seeing how he came back – you get that itch to compete. Then you bring Tom Brady here – with the group of guys they already had as far as young guys – I want to be a part of it, I really do. It’s a mixture of leadership with age and also the youth and talent.

"I started out pretty hot in (Kansas City) when I got there. Then some things happened, which happens in football. I think another part of that is to go out there and show players and teams that I still can play. I think [there are] a lot of questions about guys here like that. You know, I want to fit in. I want to be a part of that group that, ‘Hey, we’ve got things to prove.’ I’ve done a lot of great things in my career, but I’m not finished. When I decide to step out on the field and to continue my career, that means a lot. I really dive in – I give it my all – and that can be a lot of different things from on the field playing to actually helping out the younger guys in the room. I witnessed today that they’re so young and I really could help them out for this team and for the future. I just want to have a big impact any way that I can, but I also want to get out there, contribute and show my worth.”

The Bucs could use the help. Last year's starter, Ronald Jones II, was inconsistent. McCoy gives them another look.

“I think most guys – once he signed here and then Rob (Gronkowski) signed shortly after – would want to play here," McCoy said "But that’s kind of how it happened. They (Tampa Bay) always had an interest level with me. They contacted my agent a couple of times. It’s all about the right timing. I was waiting to see what was going on – [Philadelphia] was another big one that I really wanted to explore that option when they reached out. It just clicked at the right time. Enough waiting – let’s do it. Let’s get in there with the team, let’s learn the offense, things like that. I mean, come on – I’m in Tampa, nice weather and I’m playing with Tom Brady? How do you beat that?

“I think in every position guys are competing, no matter if it’s out publicly or if it’s mentally. Guys are trying to compete, to push each other to get better. It’s his role, it’s his job. He is the guy here and I want to help him out in any way possible. I see he has a lot of talent. If I can help him out to be any better for our team, I’m willing to do that.”

McCoy said he didn't know yet what his role will be with the Bucs.

“I only can control what I can control. If it’s five carries, if it’s 10 carries, whatever it is, I’m willing to give it my best effort – 100 percent. I can’t really complain – I had zero touchdowns and zero carries in the Super Bowl, so just to be on this team and help out and be part of it. They’re building something special here – I truly believe that. Any way possible I’m willing to help out and contribute.”

Bolts successful in their return to ice

August 4, 2020 general

Tuesday, 4 a.m. Is this really the Stanley Cup playoffs? No fans? A three-on-three overtime? A shootout (the first in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs)? To the Tampa Bay Lightning, it doesn’t matter. After 806 days without a playoff victory, the team was pleased to take whatever post-season victory it could. The team […]

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Bucs’ Barrett wants big numbers once again

August 4, 2020 general

Tuesday, 3 a.m. Nice number, 12. Nice thought, a dozen. Unless you’re Bucs’ defensive end Shaquil Barrett, whose aim is much higher than that. Granted, 12 sacks is a solid number for a defensive end. A lot of great ends have had had less than that. But for Barrett, 12 means something else is wrong. […]

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Sinking Rays swept by Baltimore

August 3, 2020 general

Monday, 4 a.m. They are a stone in water. Every day, they sink a little farther. The Tampa Bay Rays lost again Sunday, and what else is new? They were swept by the lowly Orioles, a team you wouldn’t exactly confuse with a contender, and their losing streak reached five games — matching last season’s […]

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Baserunning leaves Rays as losers once again

August 2, 2020 general

Sunday, 4 a.m. In a season that is so short, how can a team endure a losing streak that is so long? The Tampa Bay Rays lost their fourth straight game Saturday night, sleepwalking their way to a. 5-4, 11-inning decision against a cellar-dwelling team Baltimore Orioles team. Five games? It doesn’t sound like that […]

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Sloppy play dooms Rays vs. Orioles

August 1, 2020 general

Saturday, 4 a.m. The defense continued to play in its funk, and the old ace continued in his slump, which meant that the team continued on its slide. Pick an adjective. Pick any adjective, but the lackluster play of the Tampa Bay Rays continued Friday night in Baltimore. The Rays lost a 6-3 decision to […]

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Late comeback fizzles as Rays lose again

July 31, 2020 general

Thursday, 4 a.m. What’s the old line? You can’t come back to win them all? Oh, the Tampa Bay Rays are trying. This season, they’ve trailed in six of their seven games. But sometimes, the hole is just too deep — or the other guys make a key play, too — and a losing streak […]

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