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Sunday, September 13, 2009
Updated: September 15, 1:28 AM ET
Series with Giants about playoff possibilities, not respect for Rockies

ESPN.com

Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Rays fans showed up in big numbers last year; this season, not so much.

By Steve Berthiaume, ESPN

Enough with the whining. Somebody's team wins a few games, optimism rises and then some fan decides the team is getting "disrespected" and complains that "nobody ever talks about MY team. You guys have never talked about MY team. In fact, you've ALWAYS 'disrespected' my team." Good grief. Happens every year. Stop it.

We saw it last season from Rays fans. The Rays are an exciting young team that plays the right way with the speed and the defense and the pitching and the whole thing. The team felt it was getting pushed around and it pushed back; first against the Yankees in spring training, then in Boston, when Coco Crisp, then with the Red Sox, charged the Rays' James Shields. The players dug in, made their point and justifiably wound up in the World Series. They were, however, surrounded by trendy bandwagon-hoppers clanging cowbells. The cowbell people went negative and played the "disrespected" card. Then they went back home and that's where they've stayed.

With the Rays' 2009 season on the line, they hosted Boston in a critical three-game series that started on Sept. 1 at Tropicana Field. In what was likely Tampa Bay's biggest series of the season, the cowbell-clangers didn't show. The Rays, one of baseball's most enjoyable teams to watch, were supported by the following announced crowds: 17,692 for the series opener. Then 19,148 (it was Josh Beckett vs. Matt Garza, for crying out loud) followed by 20,823 for the series finale. Those are great crowds -- if you're the New Jersey Nets! Hello? (OK, that was mean. I went too far there.)

Empty seats, a lot of them. I realize The Trop isn't exactly AT&T Park or Camden Yards in terms of aesthetics, and that, these days, we can't all afford to go to the ballpark as often as we'd like, but folks who complained they didn't get enough attention in 2008 couldn't be bothered in 2009. With the Rays' season at stake, it was crickets, not cowbells.

Here's the point (yes, I have one). Rockies fans -- be better than that. I'm not talking about attendance, because Denver has got that one covered; they do a great job supporting the team in a great sports city. Here's a chance to raise the bar. Enjoy the run and the way your team plays the game of baseball, with its joy and passion and hustle and timely hits. It's a beautiful thing. Root for the Rockies in the same way; it's your chance to leave the "disrespected" card in the deck. We're doing what we can on our end, I promise. We've had the Rockies up near the top of "Baseball Tonight" every night for the past several weeks and we'll continue as such with the team at such a crucial point in its season.

The Rockies begin a huge three-game series in San Francisco on Monday night. Colorado enters a 4½-game lead over the Giants for the NL wild card, but here are three reasons for concern in Colorado: Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain.

Before losing the final two games of their weekend series in San Diego, the Rockies were rolling. They'd won eight straight and 10 of 11. However, that stretch started after a five-game losing streak that included getting swept at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Giants' three starters in those games Aug. 28-30? In order: Lincecum, Zito, Cain. The Giants' three starters in this series that begins Monday night? In order: Lincecum, Zito, Cain. Same ballpark. Same opponent. Same three rotation aces in the same order.

Lincecum said his bullpen session on Saturday, following lower-back problems, was pain-free. He'll take the mound Monday night, and he'll bring with him his NL-leading 2.34 ERA. Zito's ERA against the Rockies this season is 0.42, and over the past two seasons, Colorado has hit just .188 overall against Zito and only .193 against his fastball.

If the Giants win the first two games of this series, San Francisco will be 7-1 against the Rockies at home this season when Cain gets the ball Wednesday night on ESPN. If what happened in the Rockies' previous visit to San Francisco happens again against these same three Giants starters, the Rockies' wild-card lead will be less than two games.

There's a lot at stake for the Rockies over these next three days. We talked to Jason Giambi on "Baseball Tonight" this weekend. He loves it in Colorado, calling his new role there "a great fit."

"It's really exciting," The Giambino said of the Rockies' mix. "I'm really enjoying it. The clubhouse is incredible. I mean, this ball team that they've got rolling here is unbelievable."

Watch the games, and the mix and the vibe translates through.

Rockies fans, you were there in 2007 and you're up again here in 2009. Let's leave the cowbells for those pseudo-baseball-fans who think they're at SEC football games and embrace the high road for the homestretch.

Enjoy the great job that broadcasters Drew Goodman and George Frazier do on the Rockies' telecasts. They're smart, sharp and into the game and into what's happening on the field, with great attention to detail. They're a really good watch. So are the Rockies. Everybody is on board, so all that's left now is the baseball. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 10 | Sept. 9 | Sept. 8 | Sept. 7 | Sept. 6

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem points.

Web Gem points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem points leaderboard
Ryan Zimmerman 45
Mark Reynolds 43
Jack Wilson 37
Brandon Inge 36
Carlos Gomez 27
Jacoby Ellsbury 27
David Wright 26
Cristian Guzman 25

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Third base 15
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 12
Mark Reynolds Arizona Third base 11
David Wright New York Mets Third base 10
Jack Wilson Pittsburgh-Seattle Shortstop 9
Chone Figgins L.A. Angels Third base 8

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Pittsburgh 36
Washington 35
Cincinnati 32
Philadelphia 29
Minnesota 27
L.A. Angels 27

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Prince Fielder, MIL39ScherzerTop 4: 3-2, 1 Out. None on.
Derrek Lee, CHC32BurtonBot 7: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Joe Mauer, MIN27GonzalezBot 3: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Hideki Matsui, NYY24WatersBot 8: 0-0, 1 Out. 2 on.
Adam LaRoche, ATL23ThompsonTop 9: 0-2, 1 Out. None on.
Lance Berkman, HOU21CappsBot 9: 2-0, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Sunday's homers

BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Dave Winfield

12 a.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Dave Winfield

BBTN MINUTE: BIG SERIES IN SAN FRANCISCO

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the disparity in the earned run averages of the Tigers' starting pitchers since Aug. 1:

Best ERA since Aug. 1
Tigers starting pitchers (min. five starts)
Rick Porcello* 3.40
Justin Verlander 3.43
Edwin Jackson 4.83
Jarrod Washburn 6.64
Armando Galarraga 8.10

* Porcello pitched six solid innings Sunday, allowing two runs in a 7-2 win over the Blue Jays.

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Pedro Martinez• Perhaps it's time to dispel the theory that Pedro Martinez can only go six innings these days. Martinez tossed eight shutout innings -- and threw 130 pitches, 80 for strikes -- in a 1-0 win against the Mets. Martinez, who went 5-0 with the win over the Mets, threw 119 pitches in his previous outing.
WORST
Bob McCrory• The Orioles had a rough time trying to pitch to the Yankees on Sunday, giving up 20 hits in the 13-3 loss. Bob McCrory had the worst time of it. He did not record an out, but he did give up four hits, four runs and a walk. The tough day bumped his ERA to 15.00 for the season.

ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

A's at Rangers, 1:05 p.m., 8:05 p.m. ET

Scott Feldman is 7-0 in eight starts since Aug. 2. He is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in September as the Rangers try to stay close to the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race. In fact, over his past four starts, Feldman has allowed a total of one run in 26 1/3 innings.

Pirates at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

Jon Garland makes a start for the Dodgers against someone other than the Diamondbacks. Garland faced Arizona in each of his first two starts since joining L.A.; he won the first one and walked away with a no-decision in the second. The Dodgers' lead in the NL West has shrunk to three games.

Rockies at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

The Rockies are still chasing the Dodgers in the NL West, but they have created a cushion in the wild-card race should they not catch L.A. Colorado enters this series with the Giants holding a 4½-game edge over San Francisco. The Giants' Tim Lincecum, who missed his past two starts because of back spasms, is scheduled to return for Monday's series opener.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Joba Chamberlain The Yankees have drastically reduced Joba Chamberlain's workload over the past few weeks in an attempt to preserve his arm for the postseason.

With the lack of time on the mound as of late, Chamberlain has lost some of his edge and his pitch counts have been even higher than normal since the start of August. He's averaged nearly 19 pitches per inning over seven starts in that span -- to put it in perspective, Cleveland's Fausto Carmona has the highest pitch-per-inning average in MLB at 18.5.

Joba Chamberlain (2009)

April-July August-September
W-L 7-2 1-3
ERA 3.58 7.76
IP/start 5.53 4.14
Pitches/innings 16.9 18.8
WHIP 1.40 2.00
Quality starts 11 0

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 11 games on Monday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the wild-card races:

AL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Red Sox 84-58 -- 88.6%
Rangers 80-62 4.0 21.3%
NL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Rockies 82-62 -- 86.5%
Giants 77-66 4.5 8.5%
Marlins 76-67 5.5 5.0%
NL WEST
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Dodgers 85-59 -- 99.6%
Rockies 82-60 3.0 86.5%
Giants 77-66 7.5 8.5%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October