Thursday, September 11, 2008

PTown Plea: Pitch Percy

But please, not as a closer.

Last night Percy got the call in the 14th after Carlos Pena broke a 1-1 Boston stalemate with a 3 run opposite field bomb that lead to a 4-2 Tampa Bay win. Unfortunately, the Rays couldn't push across any of the 25 guys they left on base before Pena's two out blast. The bullpen nearly died trying to give them another chance. Trever Miller threw a 7 pitch one-two-three 13th. 6 of those pitches were strikes. I'd have let him finish the thing, but Jo Jo is big into friendship and tradition and the Rays Way and all. So Percy got the call. He threw 11 pitches to three hitters and parsed out one strike to each of them. Elsbury burned his on a nice leadoff double. Pedroia and Ortiz used their's to add drama in back-to-back walks. After Joe stared into Percy's Good Face for a long minute or two, he didn't sense another skin of the teeth save. Hamel took the mound with bases loaded and picked up his first career save with a K and two fly outs.

And the Rays won the biggest series in team history. Again. The magic mojo continues.

Joe Maddon seems to be a lock for Manager of The Year. But continuing to rely on a closer who can't close could be his undoing. Over his last 6 appearances, Percy has pitched 3.2 innings giving up 5 hits, 8 walks, and 8 runs. The Ray's offensive production has been thin all year. Defense and pitching have picked them up. The Rays are a bit battered right now with Longo, Crawford, and Upton out of the lineup and the reserve catcher probably out for the season. Every win is critical with the Sox just 2.5 games back and Baltimore likely to be the only "gimme" series in the rest of the schedule. The Rays need to get those runners across in the 8th and 9th innings and they need a closer they can count on. Percy's stints between trips to to DL have become shorter and less effective. Last night, it was back stiffness, not the hammie or the knee. Percy has worn himself out and it's time to crown another closer while there is still a game or two of wiggle room to make the adjustment. Percy's a veteran , a leader, a huge part of the team chemistry that has powered this season and we love him. He can still be useful to the Rays. Just don't ask him to close.

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