When Michael Dunn's fastball sped past the flailing Gabe Kapler last night, the signaling of the final out of an 11-1 game likely marked the end of the Rays post season hopes. The Rays lost two games yesterday and though they stand a possible 7.5 games behind the wild card leading Red Sox, they simply are not playing the way a contending team needs to play. What further sinks this team is the fact that one of the biggest bats in their lineup, Carlos Pena, is now out for the season after breaking his fingers on an inside pitch from Sabathia. The season is not totally lost for the Rays, as they were able to see Longoria put up strong numbers in his sophomore season, and were able to get blue chip prospect David Price to start regularly. Personally, I think trading Kazmir was a huge mistake for their 2010 chances, but apparently they feel they got the right prospects for him.
It was a rough season over all for the Rays. Kazmir didn't perform up to his standards and never pitched right after his injury. BJ Upton, who had hit .273 with a .383 OBP in 2008, has hit .237 with a .310 OBP in 2009. They lost their middle infield of Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura, for a stretch of time. Grant Balfour, who was the bridge in that bullpen has a 4.77 ERA after posting a 1.54 ERA last season. Andy Sonnanstine has a 7.23 ERA on the season, and Pat Burell who was supposed to be an added power bat for them, hit just .234 with 13 homeruns, as opposed to the .250 average and 33 homeruns he hit in Philadelphia the season before.
It seems like everything went right for the Rays in 2008, and nothing is going right for them in 2009. In other words, the 2009 Rays are the 2008 Yankees. Though everything seems to be going right for the Yankees, lets not forget that early on, many people thought we weren't going to compete this year. We started the season with an ineffective bullpen, with a stumbling rotation, and an inconsistent offense. A-Rod missed the first few weeks, Nady's been out all season, Teixeira had a slow start, Sabathia had a slow start, Wang never got on track and then we lost him for the season. We had both Posada and Molina go on the DL at the same time, Joba continues to pitch horribly, etc. But it just goes to show how a well built team can overcome such obstacles. Where would we be if we didn't have Swisher to replace Nady early on in the season, and also fill the power void left by a slumping Teixeira and an absent A-Rod? Remember when Sabathia was pitching awfully early in the season? Where would we have been if we didn't have Pettitte posting a 2.96 ERA in April? Where would we be without Cervelli filling in brilliantly for Posada? Or without Hughes and Aceves locking down the bullpen after Ramirez, Veras, and Albaladejo couldn't get it done at the beginning of the season?
The Yankees have come a long way, and now they have a legitimate shot at the world series. Now the team is not perfect. We have two big weaknesses on the team, namely our 4th and 5th starters. Hopefully between Joba, Aceves and Gaudin, we can peice together that 4th start in the postseason, but no team is completely without weaknesses. I personally feel good about this team, and I'm excited to see what the rest of the season tells us about this squad.