Monday, April 16, 2007

Silent but deadly

That's what it's like playing the Devil Rays in Tampa Bay. You think you're gonna go down there and sweep them, at least take 2 out of 3, and then the next thing you know, the Rays are handing you your ass on your way to the airport after taking 2 out of 3 from you.

I know the Devil Rays are a perennial doormat for the rest of the league, but for the Orioles, a perennial doormat themselves as much as fans don't want to admit it, the Rays are a formidable rival. And that shouldn't change anytime soon.

The Rays are finally reaping the benefits of finishing in last place for 9 straight seasons. They used their many first round draft picks to stock their farm system and it's finally paying off. They've got a young and speedy offense that should give Alberto Castillo and Paul Bako fits on the base path this series. It's still unclear whether Ramon Hernandez will play at all this series.

The Rays are still trying to find the young pitching to go along with their hitting, but as long as they throw a couple of LHP's against the O's, they should do pretty well, and the Rays have LHP's in Casey Fossum and Scott Kazmir going in the series, which doesn't bode well for the O's.

On top of that, Rays always play the O's tough, at least in their own backyard. They're like a Venus fly trap, slowly closing around its prey. The crowd noise (or lack of) lulls the O's to sleep. And when the O's are leading in a 3-1 or 3-2 game, suddenly other shoe drops and then BAM! -- they've lost the game.

Thankfully, the Rays no longer have Aubrey Huff and the O's no longer have Jorge Julio, who routinely served up meatballs for Huff to drill over the fence in the 9th inning for a win. Huff is now an Oriole, although O's fans may not want to admit it. Huff is struggling to find his groove and currently has a .707 OPS. But if there ever was a time for Huff to heat up, it's in his old stomping grounds.

The O's are also said be calling up RH OF John Knott for the series, but it's still unclear whether it will be Knott, who deserves to start against all LHP, or another scrubby speedster like Adam Stern or Ruddy Yan, who can run, but not much else.

If I weren't an Oriole fan, it would almost be comical, to sit back and watch as O's fans prepare to pad their record against the lowly Devil Rays in Tampa Bay, only to be surprised when the Rays have stolen 2 games from them in a 3 game series.

But it's not funny. In fact, it's downright pathetic. The Rays have routinely been the worst team in baseball since they entered the league in 1998, topping out at only 70 wins.

But then reality sets in.

While the Rays have been dreadful, so have the O's. And it appears that the Rays have found their rival, although the O's, and their fans, don't want to admit it.

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