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07/26/2010: First No-Hitter in Rays History - After being no-hit three times in 12 months, the Tampa Bay Rays were in danger of being held hitless yet again Monday night as the resurgent Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth against them. Matt Joyce broke up that no-no with a grand slam after Scherzer had walked the bases loaded, and the no-hit bid that Rays starter Matt Garza had going lasted all nine innings.

This was the fifth no-hitter of 2010 (or sixth if you count the Armando Galarraga game) and the second time this year that a franchise authored its first ever no-hitter. The record for most no-hitters in a season came in 1991, when seven were tossed, but only six went for the full nine innings.

05/09/2010: Dallas Perfect in Oakland - Dallas Braden tossed the 19th perfect game in major league history Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays. Braden needed just 109 pitches - including 77 strikes - to set down all 27 Rays hitters he faced in order. The final out of the game - Gabe Kapler - was the one who authored the long drive that DeWayne Wise caught in the ninth inning of last year's perfect game by Mark Buehrle. Kapler worked the count to 3-1 in the ninth before grounding out to shortstop and cobbled together a 12-pitch at-bat in the sixth that ended with a pop foul.

While the Rays may be reeling a bit from having perfect games thrown against them in consecutive seasons, the fact that they ended the game with the best record in baseball serves as some consolation.

11/3/09: The Offseason Begins - The World Series may not be over yet, but for 28 teams, the offseason has already begun. The Rays and the Pirates signaled that beginning by completing the first trade of the winter: Akinori Iwamura for Jesse Chavez.

For the Rays, the move was basically made just to get some return on their salary dump. They did not plan to exercise their $4.85 M option on Iwamura with Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist slated to start around the infield. The 26-year old Jesse Chavez went 21-30 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in the minors, but the minuscule chance that he develops into something more than the 12th man on the pitching staff is better than no return at all, I suppose.

Iwamura provides a similar glove as Freddy Sanchez did for the Pirates, plus a more consistent bat. He is also younger and cheaper than Sanchez, who signed a two-year, $12 M extension with the veteran-loving Giants a few days ago. The Pirates not only have a far better value now in Iwamura, but received former Giants first-round draft pick Tim Alderson from their deadline trade of Sanchez. --KG

09/08/09: Carlos Pena Out for the Season - At this point, we have to begin to discuss the possibility of an official curse – for the second year a row, the American League homerun leader has suffered a season ending injury in September, and for the second year in a row it may cost the American League a 40-homerun hitter. On Monday, Carlos Pena broke two fingers by being hit by a C.C. Sabathia pitch against the Yankees. Pena currently leads the AL in homerun with 39, ahead of Mark Teixeira’s 35, but is now done for the season.

Last season, Carlos Quentin led the AL in homeruns with 36 and had essentially locked up the AL Most Valuable Player Award going into September when he broke his wrist after slamming his bat in frustration on September 5th. He ended up second in the league with 36 homeruns behind Miguel Cabreras’ 37.

One is also reminded of Sammy Sosa’s first elite-power season, in 1996, when he had 40 homeruns and 100 RBI through August 20th, but had his wrist broken when he was hit by a pitch against the Marlins. He finished fifth in the NL in homeruns behind Andres Galarraga’s 47, and almost certainly would have led the league if not for the injury; Galarraga hit 13 homeruns from the date of Sosa’s injury through the end of the season.

Sadly, unlike Quentin and Sosa this injury may cost Pena three different crowns. Not only does he currently lead the American League in homeruns, but he also leads the league in walks (87) and strikeouts (163). The AL bases on balls race is very tight, with Chone Figgans tied with Pena and Nick Swisher one walk behind him, while Jack Cust (152) and Russ Branyan (149) are more than capable of catching Pena in the strikeouts department. --ABC

5/20/09: Half Way Home a Quarter of the Way Through - Through 40 team games, Carl Crawford now has 25 stolen bases and 0 caught stealings. Not only does this match his 2008 total, but it is also half of the total that managed to lead the American League in each of the last two seasons. --ABC

5/18/09: Not Just About the Price - When David Price began the season in the minor leagues, it was universally chided as a financial decision aimed at saving the Rays a year before Price becomes arbitration or free agent eligible. Right now, Price is looking as though he may not even be ready for the majors until 2010. He is 1-4 with a 3.97 ERA for the Durham Bulls, and has allowed 18 walks and five homers in 34.1 innings. Everyone was so dazzled by his 12-1 record and 2.30 minor league ERA last year that few bothered to notice that his peripheral stats were only good, not great, that he worked in pitcher's leagues, and that he struggled a bit in four Triple-A starts. --KG

5/04/09: Rare But Mixed Company - Carl Crawford joined Eddie Collins, Otis Nixon, and Eric Young as the only players to steal six bases in a game Sunday. He has now stolen 17 bases this year without getting caught. Collins, Nixon, and Young each rank among the top 25 in career steals since 1900, although Young and Nixon aren't widely regarded as terrific players. Crawford has now stolen 319 bases before turning 28, putting him 146 behind Young, 301 behind Nixon, 425 behind Collins, and 1,087 behind Rickey Henderson. --KG

4/05/09: Right Size, Wrong Shape - Jason Hammel, who was out of minor league options, was traded to the Colorado Rockies today.  While this ostensibly follows Asher's edict of trading some of the Rays' excess pitching, it really doesn't, because they get minor league pitcher Aneury Rodriguez back in return.  Rodriguez ranked 14th among Scout.com's top 20 prospects for the Rockies, but does nothing to bolster Tampa's still-questionable offense.  Hammel figures to be used as a swingman in Colorado --KG

1/05/09: Bargain Burrell - The Rays signed Pat Burrell to a 2-year, $16 million deal. This represents a phenomenal bargain for a man who made $27 million over the past two seasons. The remarkably consistent Burrell becomes the highest paid Rays player and the best Rays hitter. Over the past four seasons, Burrell has slugged between .502 and .507 and posted OPS+ marks between 122 and 128. His defense and base running skills are both atrocious, of course, so Joe Maddon will require Gabe Gross to relieve Burrell late in games. --KG

12/16/08: Even Edwin - The Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce swap with the Detroit tigers flew under a lot of radars, but it epitomizes the win-win deal.  A team with a glut of young pitching and few thumpers hooks up with a team that generates a lot of offense but has awful pitching.  Joyce is likely the better player while Jackson is the rarer talent, making the trade even, mutually beneficial, and fascinating.    --KG



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