Series Preview in Blog: Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Round 2)

My wife’s family (I guess now it’s my family too, right?) lives in St. Petersburg, FL. So when I first met her and explained to her my deep seated fanaticism for the Twins, she told me she was a Devil Rays fan (to my credit, I kept a straight face). Anyway, after a couple of years I have successfully converted her to a true Twins fan. She actually turns on the game if she’s home and I’m working late (which was unheard of in her dark days of Devil Rays fandom). So, take that Devil Rays, I’ve stolen one of your fans! Rest assured I’m working on the rest of the in-laws as you read this.

What did I marry into?
Minnesota Twins (14-11) @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays (11-14)

This is the first time that I’ve attempted to put together a full article on a team that the Twins have already played once. I don’t think that finding enough posts will be an issue, but if it is, I’ve added some of the opposing bloggers’ take on the previous series against the Twins at the end of the post to give it a little extra meat. As always, thanks for reading!

The Twins continue their road trip with their final series of the season against the Devil Rays. It’s been a successful trip thus far, taking two of three from the Tigers this weekend. In the last week, the Devil Rays swept a two game series from the New York Yankees at home, and then headed west where they lost two straight in Anaheim before rebounding to win two of three in Oakland. The Devil Rays are 5-6 at home this year and currently reside a full game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East in fourth place. The Twins are 7-4 on the road.

On to the Rays:

The advantage to watching baseball in person in Florida is that there are always plenty of options. This entry takes a look at the Devil Rays extended spring training which takes place a few short minutes from the Major League club’s home field. Everything from the sometimes quirky format of the games to the chances of any of these players making it to the big show is covered.

There are a couple notable injuries for the Rays. Rocco Baldelli looks ready to return for this series after he got a significant bruise on his right leg running into the outfield wall in Anaheim, he’s been out for the last three games. Akinori Iwamura will not be playing in this series (he was 3-11 with a 2B, 3B, and 5BB in the previous series against the Twins). He is suffering from a strained oblique muscle and isn’t expected to return until three to five weeks from now. This injury has done nothing to slow the glowing reports on his transition to the major leagues.

One of the recurring themes of my last entry was the struggles of the Rays bullpen. Things haven’t gotten any better, causing some to call for a youth movement for the relief corps. The bullpen’s struggles are the #1 reason some fans are already giving up on this season. The starting pitching has been up and down, but most agree, Jae Seo belongs in the down category. The top candidate to replace him is currently burning through AAA (sound familiar?). Incidentally, the fewest runs Seo has allowed in a start is four. And you’re right, it was against the Twins.

Manny Stiles, at Devil Rays Universe, finally made it to Tropicana Field for a Devil Rays game. He liked it so much that he stayed for the remainder of the series against the Indians and penned three lengthy entries about the experiences of the D-Rays newest blogger/fan. My favorite part is when he interviews various Tropicana workers (on day 2) about their favorite Rays and when they will win their first World Series (one optimist picked ’07).

The Rays lost Josh Hamilton as a rule five draftee to the Cincinati Reds and he has been turning heads thus far with his hot start. Some of the Rays fans have followed his progress (including a whole blog devoted to Hamilton). For a recap of his suspension and return to baseball, this entry, although a little dated, sums it all up nicely.

Finally, if anyone is in the Tampa area for the game on Thursday, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus will be at the game, along with Jenn Sterger (she’s on the left), which seems like an odd combination to me. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a chance to check it out.

UPDATE: The Twins didn’t see James Shields (2-0, 3.75) in the first series, but they will get a chance on Thursday. Fortunately, his secret weapon has been discovered.

Remember when … the Twins split four games with the Rays in the middle of April?

“I’m just glad nobody was on base tonight”
-Carl Crawford, after his inside the park homerun one night after his infamous double turned double play.

MN-3, TB-2 – Most of the focus was on Crawford’s baserunning blunder after this game.
TB-4, MN-2
MN-12, TB-5 – Not, surprisingly the Rays weren’t happy with their effort in this blowout loss.
TB-6, MN-4 – Overall, Tampa fans were satisfied with the result of their most successful trip to the Metrodome in years.

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