Rays top White Sox for eighth straight victory

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A week ago it appeared the Rays may be reduced to the role of spoiler when they faced the White Sox and Orioles in their final seven games of the season. Now, they’re right back in it after winning their eighth straight game on Thursday night against the Pale Hose.

Evan Longoria homered in the top of the ninth and Fernando Rodney closed the game with yet another scoreless inning as the Rays prevailed 3-2. It was Rodney’s 46th save of the season.

The White Sox got their only two runs off James Shields on a HBP in the fourth and a Paul Konerko double-play ball in the fifth. Jake Peavy was left with a no-decision after a strong effort that saw him allow two runs in 7 1/3 innings. Brett Myers took the loss in the ninth.

At 86-70, the Rays control their own destiny, even though they’re still three games back of the Orioles and two behind the A’s in the wild card. That’s because they still have three games against Baltimore next week.

The White Sox, on the other hand, have lost three straight to fall two games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. They don’t get to face Detroit again, so their fate is out of their hands. Since the Tigers finish with the Twins and Royals, the White Sox may have to win out to have a shot.

But that’s going to be exceedingly difficult with three more games against the Rays on the slate. The White Sox have look putrid against mediocre pitching of late, and now they’re getting Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and David Price this weekend.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉