IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

This just in, Rays fans: 'Losie is onfiyah

All-or-Nothing man Carlos Pena is trying to put the All-or-Nothing Rays on his wild-card back - again, Martin Fennelly writes.
/ Source:

He is the All-or-Nothing man, the perfect home run/whiff king for his All-or-Nothing wild-card contender. He throws in a smile no matter the occasion because that's just him, that's just Carlos Pena.

Right now, he is a .223 hitter trying to put a baseball team on his back – again.

Tampa Bay's first baseman was at it again Tuesday night in Toronto, with two more home runs, a pair of two-run no-doubters that led the Rays past what had seemingly been an electrified fence at 12 games over .500.

Beaten again were the Toronto Blue Jays, this year's Rays punching bag, and to 69-56 went your American League wild-card wannabes, if only to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers.

This just in:

'Losie is on fiyah.

It has been one bizarre season for Pena, who lost his cleanup spot awhile back but who is now cleaning up like crazy. Yes, there's that .223 average, and all those strikeouts – two more Tuesday for an AL-leading 151 – but then there also is:

'Losie is on fiyah.

Make it six homers in the past five games, 11 in the past 17. Pena leads the AL with 37 homers. There's almost no hot like when he gets hot. His four RBIs Tuesday suddenly gave him 91, taking over the team lead from Evan Longoria. Out of nowhere, straight from Funksville, where he has roomed with Pat Burrell, B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro most of this season, there is this:

'Losie is on fiyah.

Rays bats have been so hit-or-miss this season, a whole lot of scoring or a whole lot of nothing – seven runs then two runs, eight runs then no runs. Rays starter James Shields got one of his rare whole-lot-of-scoring nights from his boys Tuesday, though he labored to the victory.

There were other stars, like Jason Bartlett and his usual three hits, Ben Zobrist and his three walks, Burrell with a two-run single, some good bullpen work, and, oh:

'Losie is on FIYAH.

He might strike out four times tonight, on those no-chance uppercuts.

It's who he is. It's who he'll always be.

Want something better?

Go out and pay Mark Teixeira $20 million.

Until then, Carlos Pena will have to do, and he'll do just fine.

The Rays might just need someone to get red hot down the stretch, nutty hot, pathologically insanely hot, and he might just be the man.

Remember last season?

The Rays' miracle run seemed to hang in the balance after Longoria and Carl Crawford were on the shelf for long stretches after the All-Star break.

It was Pena who carried the offense.

It was Pena who drove in 29 runs in August. It was Pena who drove in 55 runs after the break, who hit 17 home runs – the biggest being the one that cleared the Green Monster and won it in extra innings in Boston as the Rays won that massive September series.

He came up large, again and again, and threw in a fun-loving pregame dugout dance that became a team rallying point. There were so many winning parts to last season, and Bartlett was voted team MVP, but I voted for Pena. I never thought he had it in him to be that kind of leader; he can be so laid back, so happy no matter what. Well, he was a gamer and then some.

He hasn't had that type of season, or hadn't until the last week or so. Last season, Pena drove in nine runs on walks alone, including a walk-off walk. This season, his swings and misses have been the story, a 200-strikeout pace. His fielding, so Gold Glove last season, so marvelous, had slipped more than a little.

But now August is about to turn to September. And:

'Losie is on fiyah.

It's just the kind of thing these Rays need, big moments from big bats. There is no time to waste; there are no games to waste. The Red Sox and Rangers actually have easier roads down the stretch. The Rays will play more games against more teams with winning records than Boston and Texas. My guess is they'll have to win at least 94 games to claim the wild card, which means going 25-12 the rest of the way, which will be hard to do. It's going to take a lot of hands on deck, a lot of big nights.

Pena had one of those nights Tuesday.

He has had a bunch of late.

He hit two homers last Saturday, then added a walk-off RBI single to beat the Rangers.

Pena's second homer Tuesday was the 200th of his career. To a guy given up on by more than one major league club, it was a milestone to cherish.

"Maybe it's not 500, but to me it's 500," Pena said.

He has hit 114 homers since joining the Rays in 2007. He hit 46 that first season. Turns out he might hit more this season. After all these bad nights, Pena should drive home well more than 100 runs.

It has been a crazed season for him.

Think about this: Pena has 37 homers and 35 singles.

More homers than singles.

Think about that.

And about all those strikeouts.

So very All or Nothing.

But his All could be huge if it stays that way.

Hey, did you hear?

'Losie is on fiyah.