As the Tampa Bay Rays closed out a disappointing August with a tough loss to Oakland yesterday, and an 11-15 mark for the month, they will continue to push forward, aiming for the playoffs. As of now, they stand 1.5 games behind Oakland for the first Wild Card in the American League, and 4.5 games behind Boston in the A.L. East.
Recently, the team has struggled to score runs. Over their past ten games (not all have played in each of the past ten contests) Wil Myers, Evan Longoria, James Loney, Yunel Escobar, and Desmond Jennings have combined for a batting average of .184 on thirty-two hits in 174 at bats. To go along with that, they have tallied only twelve runs and fourteen ribbies.
Not all the Rays’ have been cold, however. David DeJesus has an OBP of ..346 with five runs scored in his eight games with the club. Ben Zobrist has scored four and knocked in four, while hitting .324 over his past ten games, and Matt Joyce and Jose Lobaton have been a fuego over the same stretch. Joyce as five runs scored with six ribbies, while hitting .375 over only twenty-four at bats, and Lobaton is hitting .387 with seven RBIs and four runs scored his past ten contests. However, for a lineup that relies on a swarming affect, there haven’t been enough men getting on base to allow those who are hot to knock them in.
As you know, if you’ve read my posts in the past, I’m not ripping anyone, but simply pointing out the numbers. Teams go through slumps, and part of that is running into buzz-saw pitching staffs. The Rays have faced a number of great arms and staffs over the past thirty-one days, from Tim Lincecum pitching like his Cy Young self, to Mariano Rivera playing The Sandman. Now, they’re up against a more than formidable Oakland staff that has the A’s in the top Wild Card seat.
Over the past month, Tampa Bay has traveled out West and come up empty against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Oakland. It seems that “Go West, young man,” was not meant for the Rays, as they’re oh-and- seven in those games.
Not to worry, however. The Rays have a winning recipe, and it’s for the long haul. Good-to-great pitching, excellent defense, and timely hitting. Hitting is the hardest part of that concoction. With the bats struggling now, it’s a pretty good bet that they will warm up soon. Matt Moore will be back soon. David Price and Alex Cobb have been great recently, even when on the wrong end of the score. And who knows, Luke Scott could come off the DL swinging a hot bat.
Speaking of recipes, my daughter Sarah texted for the rub recipe for spare ribs the other night. We’ll both be doing ribs, her on the West Coast of Florida, and me on the East Coast between today and tomorrow. So, here’s my rub recipe, and how I do ribs. Old Florida style, with great smoke from Florida oak, dry rub ribs.
1 C. paprika
¼ c. kosher salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. oregano
2 tbsp. chili powder
1.5 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
- Mix the rub, coat the ribs, both sides. Be sure to pull of the silver skin underneath if needed. Be sure to REALLY rub in the rub mix. Allow to sit for an hour – or more, if possible.
- Soak the wood in water that you will use for smoke for thirty minutes while the coals are heating up – and yes, you can use a gas grill if that’s what you have. I use Florida oak, which gives a good smoke ring, but doesn’t overpower the meat.
- Put the wood chips/chunks on the coals/heating unit. Be sure to BBQ with indirect heat. Check every twenty minutes to be sure there is wood that is still giving smoke. Basically, if no smoke is coming from the grill, get some more oak on there!
- When you can see the meat shrink back and show a half-inch or so of bone, they’re probably about done. You can drizzle honey on them and allow them to cook for another 10-15 minutes until the honey caramelizes, and isn’t too sticky. Pick them up from the middle, using tongs. If they sag on both sides, you have BBQ ribs. I cook mine at a fairly high heat, and it takes @ an hour-and-a-half.
- They don’t fall off the bone - that’s a bit over-done. They have a bit of a tug to them. And believe me, they get eaten. I also don’t usually do them wet. If you want them wet, add the sauce a short while before you take them off the grill. You don’t want it burning. Or add it at the table. Your call.
- As with any recipe, you have to make an adjustment here or there. Maybe a different wood, maybe a bit more pepper-heat. And that’s about where the Rays are now. Just a little tweak here or there, and their recipe will work. I’m going to have faith in Joe Maddon and the brain trust in St. Petersburg.