Rays play down to the Mets’ level in loss

by Gary Shelton on September 23, 2020

in general

Snell struggled in his latest start./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

The best weapon the New York Mets had going against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night, it turns out, was mediocrity.

The Mets just aren't very good.

Which puts the Rays exactly where the Mets want them.

The running-in-place Mets, 25-30 on the season and in fourth place in the NL East, dominated the Rays in a 5-2 victory Tuesday night. Seth Lugo (Seth Lugo?) allowed only four hits through 6 1/3 innings and denied the Rays a chance to clinch the American League East.




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It isn't the first time the Rays have played own to their competition this season. Against good pitchers (such as Jacob deGrom on Monday night), the Rays are superb. But against the meek, they struggle. They're 21-9 against teams currently over .50 and 15-11 against teams at .500 or under. They've now played 15 straight against teams at .500 or under, and they're 8-7.

It also raised further concerns over whether the Rays will be able to score enough to advance deep into the playoffs.

"It was pretty tough," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "Give Lugo a lot of credit. He really commanded his fastball. He threw just enough good curveballs to keep you honest. He had his way with the fastball. We did’t get any type of rhythm going offensively.

“The last three games we’ve been pitched tough. When you have pitching like that generally you’re not going to piece much together. Certainly, we would like to bounce back and see if we can get some life to our offense. It has been quiet. The strikeouts have been high. Give credit to the guys who are pitching. I’m pretty confident we’re going to be fine, but there is no doubt it's frustrating. We’re not putting any pressure on the opposing pitcher. “

Blake Snell didn't offer much forgiveness. Snell gave up six hits and three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He gave up two homers (he has now given up 10 on the season in 11 starts).

"He kind of had to battle," Cash said. "He didn’t pitch bad. I don’t think he was as sharp as he would have liked. He kind of battled through it. He gave up two homers. The ball that Robbie Cano hit out..that’s probably why Cano is going to the Hall of Fame one day. You don’t see many guys do that. Then (Pete) Alonso got hold of one. It looked like it was down. I think Blake was trying to get it up. That’s not the worst thing that his pitch count got to where it was."

Snell wasn't buying it.


“I’ve just got to do a better job," Snell said. The walks are annoying. I have to do a better job — stop walking people, attack the zone better."

The Rays play the Mets again tonight at 7:10 p.m. at Citi Field. Tyler Glasnow will start for the Rays against Michael Wacha.





Bolts finish strong in victory over Stars

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2020

in general

Point gave the Bolts a 1-0 lead./CHUCK MULLER

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The sizzling first period, when the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that it had finally started the Stanley Cup Finals, is irrelevant.

So, too, is the shaky second period, when a team was bailed out, once again, by its goaltender.

For the Lightning, the focal point of Game Two should be the way the Bolts smothered the Dallas Stars in the late going of a 3-2 victory.




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The Stars managed only five shots in the final period, as the Bolts made a one-goal lead look like plenty as it evened the series.

"There is one thing this team has done, and it’s never put themselves in panic mode," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Instead of trying to protect the lead, they went out there and kind of took it to them. Not  in the sense that we were trying to score, but we were completely engaged and it was really calm on the bench. Our attitude — we don’t go through the waves with the game. There are so many emotions that occur through 60 minutes. it’s easy to get caught up in it. The talk of the bench was to close this one out and they did.”

The Bolts, who had given up the first goal of the game in six straight, finally jumped to a lead. They took a 3-0 first-period lead, getting power play goals from Brayden Point (off a pass from Nikita Kucherov) and from Ondrej Palat (ditto). Kevin Shattenkirk also scored.

Cooper was glad to see the power play return.

“We went back to a familiar group," Cooper said. "It has been streaking. We definitely needed them tonight. They were executing."

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves, 17 in the second period.

The Bolts are now tied in the series at 1-1. They play Game Three at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Looking back on Bucs’ win over the Panthers

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2020

in general

Arians enjoyed Sunday's game more./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 2 a.m.

Five Thoughts

In the rush to stop Ronald Jones II's rushing, I suggest we all slow down. Jones has run hard for two games in his Run to Darkness. It's just that Leonard Fournette had the best performance the Bucs' have had in a long time Sunday. So don't throw Jones away. But Fournette should get the lion's share of the carries, shouldn't he?

2. Antoine Winfield had a nice day, but let's not overrate this secondary. Teddy Bridgewater still threw for 366 yards.

3. I like him, too, but has there ever been a player the broadcasters love more than Christian McCafferty? The guy runs for one yard, and the analysts fall all over themselves talking about what a nifty cut he made.




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4. So the Bucs buy into the aging quarterback market, and who shows up? Brett Favre, of courses.

5. I say we should put out a missing person's report on Rob Gronkowski. Who's with me?

5 Bruce Arians Comments

(From his Monday press conference)

(On whether Leonard Fournette could become the team's primary runner): “I love the way it’s at right now. RoJo (Ronald Jones II) had a great run for a touchdown – saw that good blitz pickup. We did screw up the handoff on the draw, but that’s easily correctable. To have Leonard come in with fresh legs in the fourth quarter and pound it like that – very few teams have that combination. Shady (LeSean McCoy) did a good job on third down. I know he had the one catch he’d like to have back that he dropped, but I thought our backs played really, really well other than the handoff fumble."

(On the merging of Tom Brady's philosophies with the Bucs'): "It’s going to take time. It’s both – it’s our offense, [but] it’s letting him have his say like we always do with all our quarterbacks and build a game plan for the best way to beat the defense and put every guy in a position to be successful.”

(On Gronkowski's lack of production): “Not really. He got a nice pass interference call for us [and we] missed him on the over route. We’re not throwing the ball 50 times to tight ends – that’s what we have receivers for [and] that’s the way our offense is built. Gronk’s playing great run blocking in the fourth quarter, so I’m not concerned with his pass catches or his targets.”

(On the Bucs' dropped passes): “Oh gosh – we dropped, probably, about 125 yards worth. About seven drops [and] two touchdowns. Maybe three touchdowns, really. You put the ball right there and we don’t catch it – I don’t think I’ve ever seen Scotty [Miller] drop that ball. I know LeSean (McCoy is going to catch it nine times out of ten. The wind did get Cyril Grayson a little bit – that ball moved a little bit – it hit him in the head. But, the guy’s got great hands and that’s an easy touchdown. That should have been three touchdowns. Tom [Brady] should have had a 400-yard day if we just catch it.”

(On Devin White's play): “He should have had 20 [tackles]. He had a lot of pass coverage in that fourth quarter – he got a little gassed. He played a heck of a ballgame and that’s what we expect out of him every single time. He’s going to be a double-digit tackler every game. He’s the leader – he’s calling it [and] he’s checking it. He had to run the deep middle too many times and he got gassed a little bit in that fourth quarter.”

Game Balls

Offense: Leonard Fournette, running back: Fournette showed a nice burst, especially on his 46-yard touchdown run. I'm not saying Jacksonville should have made him happier, but are cupcakes out of line?

Defense: Rookie Antoine Winfield may have been a second-round steal. He had 11 tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a forced fumble. He can stay.

Special teams: Don't discount Ryan Succop's late field goal. It was straight.

Grades

Quarterback: Tom Brady had a nice first half, but the offense sort of napped through the second half. Still, it was an improvement. Grade: B-.

Running back: Fournette stole the show, but Jones had some nice moments. Hard to forget Shady McCoy dropping a touchdown pass, though. Grade: B+.

Offensive line: No sacks and a hundred yards on the ground. That's better. Grade: B+.

Receivers: The Bucs missed Chris Godwin (who will be back this week), but Evans showed up big. Not enough attention paid to the tight ends, though. Grade: B.

Defensive line: Five sacks and holding McCafferty to less than 60 yards is a good day.

Secondary: Too many completed passes, even with a big lead. Grade: C.

Kicking: No major quibbles. Grade: B.

10 Who Started Over (After two games)

QB, Team Year A-C Yards Td Int. Rating

Joe Kapp, Boston 1970 12-33 104 1 3 17.7

John Unitas, Chargers 1973 19 35 2 3 50.9

Joe Namath, Rams. 1977 27-53 277 3 1 77.3

Jim Plunkett, Raiders. 1982 24-49 310 3 2 78.6

Joe Montana, Chiefs 1993 35-57 529 3 0 102.7

Warren Moon, Vikings 1994 46-71 456 3 3 54.6

Kurt Warner, Cards 2005. 53-88. 591 1 2. 63.6

Peyton Manning, Broncos 2012 43-63. 494. 3 3 87.7

Brett Favre, Vikings 2009 37-48 265. 2 0 110.2

Tom Brady, Bucs 2020 46-71. 456 3 3 79.3

5 More Thoughts

  1. The Denver Broncos are beaten up. They'll play Sunday without Drew Luck, Courtland Sutton and, of course, Von Miller. Tim Tebow is rested and ready.

2. If you were an opposing defensive coordinator, would you worry about the Bucs' tight end?

3. When you saw Brett Favre strolling through the RayJay Sunday, did you , too, think that Warren Sapp was going to come out and jaw at him a little more. Just for old-time's sake.

4. Did. you think that Tom Brady would have won the Super Bowl by now?

5. Hey, the offensive line had a good day. Clip this statement and save it.

Bullpen leads narrow victory over the Mets

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2020

in general

Lowe had a home run for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

Nate Lowe's pretty good at hitting home runs. He may be better at handing out nicknames.

Lowe was on the field ding a oct-game interview when Tampa Bay's pitchers of the night began to file past him on their way to the dugout.

"Here they are," he said, grinning. "the Zero Factory."

Like most nights, it seemed to fit on Monday night. The Rays had sent a half-dozen pitchers at the New York Mets, and together, they were just enough to beat the New York Mets and ace Jacob deGrom in a 2-1 game.




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The Rays can lock up their first division crown since 2010 with a win Tuesday or a loss by the Yankees against Toronto. Tampa Bay leads New York by 4 1/2 games with six days left in the regular season.

As it has often this season, the bullpen was the highlight of the night for the Rays. They threw six pitchers -- Pete Fairbanks, Ryan Thompson, Josh Fleming, Diego Castillo, Ryan Sherriff and Nick Anderson -- who held the Mets to one run on only four hits.

“Outstanding effort by everyone involved," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "They (the Mets) can hit. They’ve got a bunch of guys throughout their lineup who are having solid seasons. For us to do a that, we have to be on. Every guy that was called on did good job."


Together, their eight strikeouts weren't close to deGrom's 14, but deGrom gave up a sacrifice fly to Manuel Margot and a solo homer to Lowe.

Speaking of Lowe, Cash said: "Day-by-day and at-bat-by-at-bat, he’s showing comfort. Nate has probably checked every single box you can in the minors. Now he’s getting at bats in the big leagues, and he’s checking those boxes too.”

The Rays play the Mets again tonight at 7:10 p.m. at Citi Field. Blake Snell starts for the Rays against Seth Lugo.


Bucs’ good moments offset their bad ones

September 21, 2020 general

There was something for everyone Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. Good news? Bad news? They Bucs had both. Cause of optimism? Reasons for skepticism. They were there, too. A great first half? A sleepy second half? Pick your poison. Tight throws by Tom Brady? Ones that got a way? Big plays by the defense? […]

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Rays waste good start by Yarbrough

September 21, 2020 general

Monday, 3 a.m. Here at the end of the season, it is as obvious as ever why the Tampa Bay Rays may succeed in the playoffs, and why they may not. The Rays, leaders of the American League East, can pitch. With Ryan Yarbrough rounding into shape, their arms are at their strongest point of […]

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Bolts absorb defeat in Game One of Finals

September 20, 2020 general

Sunday, 4 a.m. Sometimes, the search for solace takes some doing. Take Saturday night, as the fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning looked for a reason to believe that the team could overcome its 4-1, opening-game loss to the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals. Perhaps, just perhaps, the calendar cane help out. Go […]

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Another Rays’ pitcher saves another victory

September 20, 2020 general

Sunday, 3 a.m. What’s so hard about shutting the door? What’s the big deal about turning out the lights? For the Tampa Bay Rays, it doesn’t seem to be that hard. Ryan Thompson became the 12th Rays’ pitcher of the season to earn a save for his team Saturday night, getting the final two outs […]

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Notre Dame shows USF it has a way to go

September 20, 2020 general

Sunday, 2 a.m. If there were any misconceptions after the USF Bulls’ opening-week victory, well, welcome to reality. New USF coach Jeff Scott has a ton of work to do. The Bulls were drop-kicked in their second game, losing 52-0 to seventh-ranked Notre Dame. If there was any thoughts of an upset — like the […]

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Yes, Bucs could lose to Carolina, too

September 20, 2020 general

Saturday, 1 a.m. The different is in the perspective. A week ago, you didn’t see any way the Tampa Bay Bucs could lose. This week, you can see a thousand ways. What if Tom Brady is mortal again? What if the team can’t overcome Chris Godwin’s absence? What if Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is as […]

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