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Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801

Email: topkin@tampabay.com

Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays


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  1. Rays' Boxberger falters for second straight game

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Brad Boxberger didn't have too happy of a 27th birthday.

    Tuesday night, he gave up a 10th-inning homer to Kyle Seager that cost the Rays in a 7-6 defeat. Then Wednesday afternoon he allowed a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz that was the difference in the 3-0 loss to Seattle.

    After seven weeks as the Rays' best reliever, Boxberger was at his locker for two straight games trying to explain what went wrong, primarily that he can't get the ball to go where he wants....

    Brad Boxberger, who has been the Rays’ best reliever for most of the season, says he’s struggling to throw the ball exactly where he wants to.
  2. Rays: Off day

    The Heater

    Today: off

    Next game: at Baltimore, 7:05 Friday

    Probable pitchers: Rays — RH Nathan Karns (3-2, 3.71); Orioles — RH Miguel Gonzalez (5-3, 3.83)

    Up next

    Saturday: at Orioles, 4:05. Rays — RH Erasmo Ramirez (2-2, 6.62); Orioles — LH Wei-Yin Chen (1-3, 3.13)

    Sunday: at Orioles, 1:35. Rays — RH Jake Odorizzi (3-5, 2.31); Orioles — RH Chris Tillman (2-6, 5.59)...

  3. Pitchers' duel ends badly for Rays in 3-0 loss

    Blog

        Chris Archer did all he could to keep the Rays even while outpitching Seattle's King Felix Hernandez on Wednesday afternoon.

        But Archer was removed after eight brilliant scoreless innings, and reliever Brad Boxberger failed the Rays for a second straight game, allowing a three-run homer in the ninth inning to Nelson Cruz, giving the Mariners a 3-0 series-sweeping win.
      Boxberger struck out the first two hitter in the ninth, but then walked Seth Smith and Robinson Cano, and gave up the blast to Cruz, the ball splashing into the Rays tank just to the right of center field. It was the third homer in regular-season play, and fourth overall, to reach the tank.
       The game was every bit the pitching duel it was expected to be between Archer, the Rays young ace, and Hernandez, the Mariners Cy Young Award winner.
        Archer allowed only two hits over eight innings, striking out a career-high tying 12. He ran his pitch count up a bit early, then work economically at the end, throwing eight and six pitches in his final two innings, finishing with 95.
       He also got some help from his defense, most notably a running and diving catch in the leftfield corner by David DeJesus to end the sixth.
       Boxberger had allowed a 10th inning homer to Kyle Seager that was the difference in Tuesday's 7-6 loss.
       The Rays had some chances against Hernandez, but grounded into four double plays in the first six innings. They had two on with one out in the second, but Jake Elmore grounded into a double play, and they had the same situation in the sixth and Joey Butler did the same.
      Hernandez allowed four hits and struck out six in finishing with a 101-pitch complete game.
      And the Rays lost another player to injury, centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier leaving shortly after being hit by a pitch on what looked to be his right ankle. Kiermaier initally stayed in after being hit in the bottom of the sixth, but when the Rays took the field for the eighth he was not with them.
       Archer and Hernandez squared off last June at the Trop. Archer worked 6 1/3 shutout innings, allowing five hits. Hernandez posted 7 zeroes, allowing four hits and striking out a career-high 15. The Mariners rallied in the ninth off Grant Balfour - who got the first two out and had an 0-2 count on Brad Miller - for five runs and won 5-0.
       Then again, the Rays had seen Hernandez at his absolute best, as he threw a perfect game against them in 2012.

    ...

  4. Rays lose to Mariners after dominant Archer is pulled

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer did everything he could in outdueling Seattle ace Felix Hernandez over eight dazzling innings Wednesday afternoon, except convince manager Kevin Cash to let him pitch the ninth.

    Cash instead opted for his best reliever, and for the second time in about 16 hours, Brad Boxberger let him down, allowing a three-run homer by Nelson Cruz that splashed into the Ray Tank at the Trop and sunk the Rays, the 3-0 loss their fifth straight....

    Mariners ace Felix Hernandez signals skyward after striking out Joey Butler to complete his shutout.
  5. For starters, Rays vs. Mariners, facing the King

    Blog

    UPDATE, 11:44: Cash said he hoped he didn't get fined for his comments.  ... He said he felt trrhe decision on putting Joey Butler on 3B rather than home "could have gone either way" but he thought they should factor in the leftfielder being on the ground and the ball rolling the other way.

    UPDATE, 11:25: Manager Kevin Cash said he stuck by his comments about the "terrible" and "embarrassing" umpiring in Tuesday's game but also wanted to make sure he gave the Mariners credit for winning....

  6. Balfour opts out of Durham deal

    Blog

    RHP Grant Balfour opted out of his minor-league deal with Triple-A Durham and was released.

    Balfour, 37, had spent the last few weeks with the Bulls hoping to regain his form after being released by the Rays in late April.

    The Rays had to pay him his $7-milliion salary, and Balfour decided to re-sign with them and try to work his way back to the majors.

    It was clear the Rays were not going to call him up. Now the question is whether he will sign elsewhere or retire. Rays manager Kevin Cash said he had not heard his plans, and Balfour's agents said the same....

    Grant Balfour, 37, had spent the last few weeks with the Bulls hoping to regain his form after being released by the Rays in late April.
  7. Rays Cash on umpiring: "It's terrible ... It's embarrassing"

    Blog

    For the first time in his two months on the job, Rays manager Kevin Cash blasted the umpires, saying decisions made by Brian Gorman's crew and the replay squad in New York were "terrible" and "embarrassing.''

    Cash was primarily upset with a first-inning safe call at the plate that withstood a replay review to give the Mariners their second run, when it appeared catcher Rene Rivera had taken the throw from Alex Colome after a comebacker and tagged Seth Smith while keeping him from getting to the plate....

  8. Rays waste ninth-inning rally, lose in 10 to Mariners (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The shock of seeing reliever Jake McGee give up a lead-changing grand slam in the eighth had been wiped away by a ninth-inning rally against old buddy Fernando Rodney to send Tuesday's game into extra innings.

    But then the Rays were stunned again as Brad Boxberger made the same mistake, giving up another homer to Kyle Seager, saddling them with a 7-6 10-inning loss to the Mariners that dropped them to 24-23 and out of first place....

    Rene Rivera stands by as Nelson Cruz, left, greets Kyle Seager and Willie Bloomquist after Seager’s grand slam.
  9. Rays-Mariners preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Mariners

    When/where: 1:10 today; Tropicana Field

    Radio: 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $7-$200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Chris Archer (5-4, 2.40)

    MARINERS: RH Felix Hernandez (7-1, 2.19)...

  10. Rays' Archer focused on Mariners, not King Felix (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As one of the top young starters in the game, Rays RHP Chris Archer knows today's matinee matchup with Seattle RHP Felix Hernandez, one of the absolute best pitchers, has the potential to be special.

    He just doesn't want to think about it as any more than another start.

    "I'm pitching against his lineup and he's pitching against mine," Archer said. "I'm trying to give up zero runs and I'm sure he's trying to give up zero runs....

    Getty Images
  11. For starters, Rays vs. M's, with no Cabrera and Souza again

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:10: Here is a stat that tells you all you need to know about the Rays lineup tonight:

    3B Evan Longoria has 189 career home runs, 656 RBIs and 1,020 hits. The other eight players in the lineup COMBINED have 84 homers, 359 RBI, 854 hits.

    UPDATE, 5:05: Manager Kevin Cash said both Cabrera and Souza are doing better and could be available tonight, though ideally the Rays would like to give them both until Friday. Souza has taken some dry swings (no ball) and taken throws on the infield during batting practice....

    The Rays are starting RHP Alex Colome, pictured. The Mariners will counter with LHP J.A. Happ.
  12. Rays-Mariners preview

    Sports

    Rays vs. Mariners

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $7-$200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Colome (3-1, 4.81)

    MARINERS: LH J.A. Happ (3-1, 3.61)...

    SEATTLE, WA - MAY 15:  Starting pitcher J.A. Happ #33 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning at Safeco Field on May 15, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) 538579347
  13. Injury-plagued Rays lose to Mariners (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have done an impressive job surviving a series of injuries to key players to get to Memorial Day atop the American League East, but staying there will be even tougher having to play without James Loney the next four to six weeks.

    That leaves them with the remnants of a lineup that on some nights, to put it politely, doesn't provide much support around Evan Longoria. Consider Monday's 4-1 loss to the Mariners, when not one of the other eight players had a full season as a big-league regular....

    Logan Forsythe rounds the bases after giving the Rays their only run with a homer in the sixth inning.
  14. Rays' James Loney to miss 4-6 weeks with broken finger

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — SS Asdrubal Cabrera, who has a mild groin strain, and OF Steven Souza Jr., who sprained his left wrist, are expected to return to the Rays lineup within the next few days.

    But 1B James Loney will be out 4-6 weeks due to a fracture of his left middle finger, and the absence of his bat and glove is significant to their already depleted squad.

    "That's probably the biggest blow," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's a guy that hits right in the middle of our lineup. We know he's going to be down for some time. We're going to have to call on some guys to help out and fill that void a little bit."...

    Rays first baseman James Loney injures his left middle finger on this attempted steal of third base during Sunday’s game. [Associated Press]
  15. For starters, Rays vs. Mariners on a holiday night

    Blog

    UPDATE, 3:11: Mariners lineup with ex-Ray Justin Ruggiano in CF:
    Smith rf,
    Miller lf,
    Cano 2b,
    Cruz dh,
    Seager 3b,
    Ruggiano cf,
    Morrison 1b,
    Taylor ss,
    Zunino c,
    Elias p

    DEVELOPING: After losing the last two games to the A's and three players to injury (with 1B James Loney ending up on the DL), the Rays cap off the holiday weekend by hosting the Mariners tonight at 7:10....