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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Lightning's Ryan Callahan breaks his goal drought (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Before Sunday's Game 5 in New York, Lightning coach Jon Cooper predicted RW Ryan Callahan would break his postseason scoring drought. It turns out Cooper was off by a game.

    Callahan ended his slump Tuesday in the Lightning's 7-3 loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers with a breakaway goal on a power play in the first period. The former Rangers captain took a pass from D Anton Stralman and made a move on G Henrik Lundqvist, backhanding a shot in for his first playoff goal since May 19, 2013, when Callahan was with the Rangers....

    Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan brings joy to his teammates as well as himself after scoring in the first period of Game 6, his first playoff goal since 2013.
  2. Cedric Paquette questionable, Braydon Coburn healthy for Game 6


    Center Cedric Paquette is questionable for tonight's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after today's morning skate at Amalie Arena.

    Paquette held his right hand/arm as he left Sunday's first period after blocking a shot. He later returned but played only 5:43 in Game 5.

    Paquette briefly participated during the optional morning skate but left the ice, apparently without Cooper noticing....

    Cedric Paquette held his right hand/arm as he left Sunday's first period after blocking a shot. He later returned but played only 5:43 in Game 5.
  3. Lightning: Hedman's parents visit for Game 5; waiting party in Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    Special guests

    Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said his parents flew in from Sweden to watch Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. "To get the win in front of them was pretty special," Hedman said.

    Bishop bounces back

    Ben Bishop is only the third goalie to post a shutout in the playoffs after giving up at least five goals in the two previous games of a series. The others: Dan Bouchard (Nordiques, 1981) and Carey Price (Canadiens, 2008), according to the Elias Sports Bureau....

    MATT BAKER   |   Times
  4. Blocked shots power Lightning in victory over Rangers

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — After giving up five goals in back-to-back games, the Lightning's defense buckled down with Sunday's shutout win over the Rangers.

    "We took big steps (Sunday) in being the team we need to be to win," coach Jon Cooper said after the team flight home from New York. "We just looked after our net a lot better."

    Some of that credit goes to Ben Bishop, who became the second goaltender in franchise history with multiple postseason shutouts. But the Lightning was also proud of its unselfish, team defense in Game 5....

    Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop makes 26 saves in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 victory, and his teammates block another 24 shots.
  5. Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez upset by lack of control (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Erasmo Ramirez didn't seem overly disappointed with the two home runs and five hits he allowed Sunday.

    His bigger concern was the five batters he walked and the other one he hit, which helped Oakland score five earned runs during his six innings.

    "The whole game, too many walks," Ramirez said. "I need to be back to being a strike thrower instead of a walk thrower."...

    Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez pitches a season-high six innings but walks five and hits a batter.
  6. Rays-Mariners preview

    The Heater

    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,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Jake Odorizzi (3-4, 2.43);

    MARINERS: LH Roenis Elias (1-1, 2.76)...

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Jake Odorizzi #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo on photo day at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2015 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  7. Rays injury updates: James Loney, Steven Souza Jr. and Asdrubal Cabrera


    ST. PETERSBURG – Some quick injury updates from the Rays’ 7-2 loss to Oakland:

    First baseman James Loney left after spraining his left middle finger on a slide. He’s scheduled to be evaluated more tomorrow and was wearing a brace in the clubhouse after the game.

    “Just a little sore,” Loney said. “We’ll see.” ...

  8. Rays lose, split home series with last-place A's (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — For a team that entered Sunday leading the American League East, the Rays' 7-2 loss to Oakland was painful in more ways than one.

    The Rays (24-21) missed a chance to pad their division lead against the team with the worst record in baseball and watched three regular starters — outfielder Steven Souza Jr., first baseman James Loney and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera — leave the game with injuries....

    Kevin Kiermaier is forced out at second by shortstop Marcus Semien on Steven Souza Jr.’s comebacker in the first.
  9. Rays split series with Oakland A's with 7-2 loss


    ST. PETERSBURG -- For a team that entered Sunday leading the American League East, the Rays' 7-2 loss to Oakland was painful in more ways than one.

    Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. left the game in the third inning with a sprained left wrist and is considered day to day. The injury happened after his foul tip - and two innings after a hard collision at the plate, in front of an announced crowd of 15,692....

  10. Steven Souza Jr. leaves game with injured wrist


    ST. PETERSBURG - Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. left today's game against Oakland with a sprained left wrist. The Rays said he's day to day with the injury.

    Souza left the game in the bottom of the third, after his foul tip on the first pitch of his at-bat. He was replaced by Joey Butler.

    Souza was involved in a hard play at the plate two innings earlier, when he collided with Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt at home. Souza was thrown out on that play to end the inning....

  11. For starters, Rays vs. A's


    UPDATE, 11:04: RHP Preston Guilmet wasn't in the clubhouse this morning but is expected to arrive later today. 

    Today's Rays lineup:

    Kiermaier CF

    Souza RF

    Longoria 3B

    Loney 1B

    Forsythe 2B

    DeJesus DH

    Cabrera SS

    Guyer LF

    Wilson C

    Ramirez RHP

    A's lineup:

    Burns CF

    Semien SS

    Reddick RF...

  12. Jon Cooper: Lightning special teams must improve

    Lightning Strikes

    When coach Jon Cooper broke down Friday's 5-1 loss to the Rangers, he liked a lot of what he saw on film. The Lightning had plenty of scoring chances and played with good effort.

    One thing that Cooper didn't like about Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final was his team's execution on special teams. "Our power play didn't get it done, and our penalty kill's been a little leaky the past couple games," he said in Tampa before Saturday's team flight to New York for tonight's Game 5. "When your special teams are rolling, it helps you roll. We've just got to tighten up in some areas."...

    Coach Jon Cooper says the power play and penalty kill have to “tighten up.” The power play was 0-for-4 in Friday’s Game 4 loss. The penalty kill has allowed six goals in the past three games.
  13. Lightning: Turning the page; swagger momentum; on taking a 3-2 series lead

    Lightning Strikes

    View from Tampa Bay

    "The series is 2-2. It's probably how it should be. These are two good teams battling it out. It's really exciting hockey. Got to turn the page."

    Lightning coach Jon Cooper, after his team's 5-1 loss in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final

    View from New York

    "(We) did play with some swagger, and you want to keep that. I think swagger comes and goes. As a player, as a team, it does, and you have to fight to get it back when you don't have it."...

  14. Jon Cooper: Thought of benching Ben Bishop is 'asinine to me'


    If Rangers coach Alain Vigneault looked at reporters as if they had three heads Thursday when they asked about benching star goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Lightning coach Jon Cooper went a step farther Saturday when the thought of a goalie change was brought up.

    "I'll look at you like you have five heads," Cooper said before his team flew to New York for Sunday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. "How's that? No change."...

  15. Marty St. Louis, Rick Nash emerge in Rangers victory (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning entered Friday with a 2-1 series lead largely because its stars outshined New York's top scorers.

    That changed quickly and dramatically in Game 4, when Rick Nash scored the first goal and former Lightning captain Marty St. Louis added his first of the playoffs to help seal the Rangers' 5-1 win. The duo had more goals Friday (three) than it did in New York's first 15 playoff games combined (two)....

    Rangers left wing Rick Nash celebrates his second goal of the game, on a power play, for a 5-1 lead in the third period.