Rays Roll, Percival To DL

Jason Bartlett

The Tampa Bay Rays extended their lead in the American League East on Tuesday night, defeating the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to clinch a series victory over their new nemesis. Tim Wakefield, who turns into Cy Young when he comes to Tropicana Field, was outpitched by Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza, who scattered five hits and one earned run in seven solid innings to earn the win.

The Tampa Bay Rays extended their lead in the American League East on Tuesday night, defeating the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to clinch a series victory over their new nemesis. Tim Wakefield, who turns into Cy Young when he comes to Tropicana Field, was outpitched by Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza, who scattered five hits and one earned run in seven solid innings to earn the win.

Despite an unusual amount of errors, the Rays won their second straight game in the battle for first place, writes Marc Topkin.

Grant Balfour, who was throwing smoke tonight and earned his second save, relishes the ninth-inning role, writes Joe Smith. Balfour, the odd man out in the bullpen at the end of spring training, went down to Durham with a chip on his shoulder, then posted unbelievable statistics in 15 appearances: 1-0, 0.38 ERA--he only gave up one earned run in 23.2 innings pitched--39-to-10 K/W ratio. His performance was hard to ignore, and it now looks as if he will take over ninth inning duties with veteran closer Troy Percival headed to the DL. Lefty J.P. Howell and Dan Wheeler have been invaluable members of the Rays' bullpen thus far, but, depending on Percival's status, Dohmann could be the key reliever for Tampa Bay down the stretch.

The Rays are willing to pay the price for a pennant, writes John Romano.

Several local Boston fans have been seduced by the Rays' success, writes John Barry.

The Rays are the feel-good sports story of the summer, writes Mark Kriegel.

Percival To Disabled List, Talbot Called Up

Percival has been great in the clubhouse. (AP)

The Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday placed closer Troy Percival on the disabled list. Percival, who was forced to leave Monday night's game with two outs in the ninth inning, aggravated his ailing hamstring while backing up third base against the Boston Red Sox. In one of his most recent outings before that, June 24 against the Florida Marlins, the veteran righty walked a career-high four batters before getting out of the jam by allowing only one earned run. Following the poor showing, he then complained about his nagging left hamstring, which has bothered him for much of the spring and already forced him to spend some time on the disabled list earlier this month.

Percival, who came off the DL on June 14, ranks seventh in the American League with 19 saves and has posted an opponents' OPS of .591 and 0.96 WHIP in 28.0 innings pitched. He has also been a tremendous influence on the Rays' younger players, helping to establish a culture of winning in the clubhouse and bullpen. Tampa Bay needs him down the stretch, though, so it is crucial for him to stay healthy in the second half. Thus, hopefully he can get the necessary rest that he needs, joining the Rays when they need his presence the most, down the stretch in August and September.

The Rays called up right-handed pitching prospect Mitch Talbot to take Percival's spot on the 25-man roster. Talbot is 7-6 with a 77-to-16 K/W ratio in 17 starts at Triple-A Durham.

Garza Continues To Shine

Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Matt Garza looked like an ace last week in Miami, pitching one of the most dominant games in franchise history. Garza, the key piece acquired by the Rays in the Delmon Young trade with the Minnesota Twins, was practically unhittable, tossing a complete-game one-hitter in a 6-1 win over the Florida Marlins. Only a day after his alma mater, Fresno State, capped off their Cinderella story to win the 2008 College World Series, he struck out 10, allowing only one run on a solo shot to Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

Garza continued to be effective on Tuesday night, giving the Rays a series victory over their new nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, by scattering five hits and allowing one earned run in seven solid innings to earn his seventh win. The 24-year old, USA Today's Minor League Player of the Year in '06, continues to make Tampa Bay fans forget about Young, who has only two homers for the Twins, every time that he takes the ball. Clocked as high as 96 MPH in the ninth inning last Wednesday, he appears to finally be cashing in on his tremendous talent with his recent performance.

With the win, Garza is now 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA and 58-to-29 K/W ratio in 15 starts.

Price Wins Again

David Price is having a fine debut season in professional baseball, perhaps emerging as the top overall prospect in the minors. Selected with the number one overall pick of the 2007 draft out of Vanderbilt University, Price is rising up the Tampa Bay Rays' farm system with ease.

Price turned some heads in the Florida State League earlier this spring, going a perfect 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA and 37-to-7 K/W ratio in six starts for the Vero Beach Devil Rays. After limiting opponents to a .220 batting average while scattering 28 hits in 34.2 innings pitched, he was promoted to Double-A Montgomery last week.

The 6'6'' southpaw, who impressed Pedro Martinez when he squared off against the future of Hall of Famer earlier this season, was solid but unspectacular in his Southern League debut. He allowed two earned runs on four hits while striking out seven and walking four in six innings to earn the fifth win of his professional career.

Price was even better the second time around, though, tossing six shutout innings--giving up only five hits--to lead the Biscuits to a 5-0 victory over Mississippi on Tuesday night. He struck five and walked two, lowering his ERA with the club to 1.50.

Overall, Price is now 6-0 with a 1.74 ERA in eight starts in 2008. In 46.2 innings pitched, he has given up only 37 hits, posting a .218 opponents' batting average. If he continues to make pitching in the minors look this easy, it is not difficult to imagine Price pitching at Tropicana Field for the Rays in September.

Notes:

Jason Barlett collected his eighth extra-base hit of the season on Tuesday, hitting his seventh double of the year. He went 1-for-3 to raise his batting average to .253, though his .598 OPS is among the lowest in the majors...Ben Zobrist hit a homer for Triple-A Durham on Tuesday, helping the Bulls to a win...Dioner Navarro collected two hits in the Rays' win over Boston, raising is his line to .316/.368/.439...

The Tampa Bay infield defense has been markedly better in 2008. Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura, who has made a flawless transition from the hot corner to second base, and highlight-reel regular Evan Longoria are all plus defenders at their respective positions. Tampa Bay, in fact, has the second-highest defensive efficiency rating--the rate at which balls put into play are converted into outs--in all of baseball, and the defensive play of the aforementioned trio is a a big reason why.

The Rays' defense has been the difference, writes Rob Neyer.

To contact Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.

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