The bottom of the 5th innings saw Matt Hall get hit by a pitch just as the rain started pouring down. I am not kidding when I say pouring either. The rain I saw on the way to the ball park did not compare to this down pour. At 8:11 with 2 outs in the home half of the 5th inning the rain delay began. Both teams have left to their clubhouses and the bulk of the crowd is gone. The ones left, who are shielded by an awning are cheering the grounds crew as they struggled with the tarp in the rain and wind. It took about 15 minutes, but the field is covered and the rain has slowed down a hair. I don't think we are playing any more baseball in Port Charlotte tonight. If the game is called we have just enough ball played to make this a Crabs win! Give Frank De Los Santos his first win as a Stone Crab and give Matt Sweeney the game winning RBI. My MVP for the game is De Los Santos with a nod to Kang for his double. Really though the 22 year old lefthander De Los Santos was the story. He will get credit for a complete (4 inning) game if this is called and he will earn his first win of the season. He allowed 3 hits (but picked off 2 of them) and no runs. De Los Santos had the perfect pace, his good stuff and decent defense behind him. Mainly it was his economy of pitches that makes him my game MVP. 5 innings, 50 pitches and 37 strikes. Nice. As the rain has not slowed over the 25 minutes I am making the call myself. This game is over, my computer is closing. Stone Crabs win!!!
Pitching with the lead De Los Santos was no less effective. He sent down Paul Gran and Robert Taylor to open the inning before allowing a base hit to right fielder Isaac Galloway. With left fielder Hunter Mense (not to be confused with Hunter Pence) up at bat, De Los Santos picked off his second runner of the night to end the inning. Jupiter manager Ron Hassey took to the field for an arguement, but to no avail, inning over. Crabs still lead 1-0.
After another 1-2-3 inning from De Los Santos, left fielder Kyeong Kang led the bottom of the 4th for the Crabs. Kang was batting .318 coming into tonights game. He gave the Crabs their first hit of the night when he deposited a ball about 320 feet into the left field corner for a stand up double. Henry Wrigley followed with a line drive single and wisely Kang was held up at third base. Designated hitter Matt Sweeney followed with a run scoring sacrifice fly to put the Crabs on the board. With Mike Sheridan batting Wrigley pulled off the delayed steal for his first stolen base of the year. Sheridan grounded out to end the inning stranding Wrigley at second. Thanks to the bats in the heart of the order the Crabs are leading this game 1-0 going into the fifth inning.
After getting two quick outs the number nine hitter, shortstop Emilio Ontiveros got the first (non infield) of the night for the 'Heads. This brings up centerfielder Kevin Mattison from the left side. Jupiter went with the hit and run, but Mattison was unable to put one in play. With Ontiveros still at first Mattison struck out swinging for out number 3. Through 3 innings De Los Santos has thrown 31 pitches-23 of them have been strikes. De Los Santos spent last season with Bowling Green. He had a horrible record of 4-10, but kept a respectable ERA of 3.65 in 27 starts. Onto the bottom of the third, score still locked at zero. First baseman Mike Sheridan leads off the inning with his .059 batting average. Last season he paced Bowling Green with 14 homers, but has been less effective with Port Charlotte and is currently riding an 0-14 streak. Sheridan led the inning with a walk. Right fielder Reid Fronk followed with a free pass of his own. Second baseman Matt Hall (batting .118) laid down a perfect bunt right in front of home plate. The Heads catcher fielded and threw out Hall at first. Runners advanced. Mission accomplished. This brings up leadoff batter Velasquez with two runners in scoring position and one out. Velasquez struck out swinging to bring Tim Beckham up for the second time. With men on second and third Beckham swung at the first pitch and grounded out 5-3. Inning over, no hits, no runs. Score still 0-0 after 3 full innings.
Frank De Los Santos sent the Hammerheads down in order quickly. In the bottom half 3rd baseman Henry Wrigley grounded out to his counterpart for the first out. Designated hitter Matt Sweeney hit a high pop up in front of the pitchers mound. The 'Heads first and third baseman nearly collided waiting for the ball to drop, but it did for out number two. Catcher Jake Jeffries lined out to left field for out number 3. Two innings in and the Crabs have yet to record a hit. This is one quick game thus far... Onto the third inning...
The first pitch occured right on schedule. After an hour drive to beautiful Port Charlotte I made it to the Crabs Stadium. Through Venice I saw a lot of rain and got very nervous, but it is bright and sunny as can be. A perfect night and my view from the press box behind home plate is absolutely PERFECT. The top half of the inning was quick and painless. Starter Frank De Los Santos allowed one infield hit, but promptly picked the runner off 1-3. In the home half of the first, the Crabs went hitless. They didn't go completley without a whimper though. Lead-off batter Isaias Velasquez worked Hammerheads starter Graham Johnson inside and out, fouling off pitches left and right. He finally lined out to deep center field on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. Tim Beckham struck out swinging before Kyeong Kang grounded out to end the inning. Onto inning #2... Score tied up at ZERO.
Last night the Crabs fell to the Hammerheads of Jupiter 2-1 in extra innings. Tonight Frank De Los Santos will be on the mound for the Crabs againts those same Sharks. Ideally the Crabs bats will wake up and a new winning streak will begin. I will be posting inning by inning so check it out! Go Crabs!
By now I think everyone out there knows that the Tampa Bay Rays won their home opener in dramatic walk-off fashion. Carl Crawford delivered the bases loaded double off of Mike Gonzalez and celebration ensued. He dodged Dioner Navarro’s attempt at a pie in the face and the sell-out crowd left happy. I wanted to “get the worm” and break this story, but I also wanted to celebrate at Ferg’s Sports Bar. I thought about rushing home to my keyboard, but somehow drinking and talking Rays baseball and screaming “Go Rays!” and “Yankees suck!” all night won out. It was a grand way to start the season and it was a great first look at our new guys. It was pure excitement for me from the moment I arrived at the Trop and saw the starting line-up posted by the entry way. New addition and spring training batting king Sean Rodriguez would make his first start. He played second base and batted 8th. The rest of the line-up to start was the same as last year. The night was kicked off by an All-Star Game style introduction of both teams. Everyone lined up in V formation and the entire Rays organization, from groundskeepers to trainers to coaches were introduced. Don Zimmer, enjoying his 62nd Opening Day received the heaviest ovation. From there the Rays starting line-up was introduced. With every name called there was a burst of blue and yellow flames. It was awesome to watch, but it was a whole lot of smoke for indoors and the smoke and fog lingered throughout the entire ballgame. After the indoors pyrotechnic display, a member of the United States military rappelled down from the cat-walk on the roof. Coming from someone deathly afraid of heights, this was amazing. After his descent he joined Admiral Eric Olson of the US Navy on the mound as he threw a strike for the ceremonial first pitch and the game started right on schedule. James Shields delivered the first pitch of the Rays 2010 season and Brian Roberts hacked at his first offering, popping up to Carl Crawford in shallow left field. The season was underway. Adam Jones, batting second, broke up Shields bid for a no-hitter early when he drilled a double to center, but Shields sent down Markakis to end the inning on 5 pitches. For Baltimore new addition Kevin Millwood tamed the Rays for 5 innings, scattering 9 hits, striking out 5 and allowing 2 runs. Ben Zobrist was the Rays first base runner, drilling a double to right, but was stranded at second when Longoria struck out to end the inning. Both teams went hitless through the second inning and when Adam Jones came up in the third his first inning single was the only hit Shields had allowed. The young centerfielder had Shields pegged and launched a solo homerun to give the Orioles a 1-0 edge. Luke Scott opened the third inning with a solo homerun of his own to give the O’s the 2-0 lead. Millwood shut out the Rays until the bottom of the 5th. Pat Burrell led the inning off with a double and ran threw the stop sign to score on Jason Bartlett’s two-out single reducing the Orioles lead to 2-1. Matt Wieters, who was robbed of extra bases in the second inning by a Willie Mays-esque catch by BJ Upton drilled the O’s third solo homerun off of James Shields to lead off the 6th. Orioles 3, Rays 1. In the bottom half of the 6th Evan Longoria unloaded on Millwood drilling a blast to left field to bring the Rays within one. This was the 3rd longest homer in Tropicana Field history and may have been the longest blast I have seen in person. Wow. Carlos Pena followed him dropping a perfect drag bunt down the third baseline for an infield single. BJ Upton followed him with a sharp single to put runners on first and second with no outs. It looked like the momentum had shifted, but wise manager Dave Trembley stopped the rally with a trip to the mound that sent Millwood to the showers in favor of Matt Albers. Albers stopped the rally quickly. Pat Burrell grounded into a double play and Sean Rodriguez struck out to end the inning. Adam Jones started the 7th off with an infield single. Bartlett made a beautiful play to keep the ball in the infield, but Jones reached without a throw, collecting his third hit off of Shields, leaving him a triple shy of the cycle. That was the 9th and final hit that Shields would yield. Randy Choate entered the game and mirrored what Albers did in the top half. He struck out Markakis and got Miguel Tejada (0-5) to ground into a double play to end the inning with no damage. Into the 8th inning, Choate sent retired Luke Scott and gave way to Lance Cormier. Choate pitched a perfect inning and a third. Cormier followed with a perfect 2/3 of an inning. It was surprising that Choate and Cormier got the call before Balfour and Wheeler, but both were perfect. Jim Johnson took the hill for Baltimore in the bottom of the 8th and retired the Rays 4-5-6 batters in order. The Rays new closer Rafael Soriano made his debut in the top of the 9th even though the Rays were down a run. He brought the drama with him allowing a leadoff double to Garrett Atkins and loading the bases for the Orioles new cleanup hitter Miguel Tejada who lined out to Crawford in left for the final out. Mike Gonzalez got the call for the save opportunity and it looked academic at first. Burrell struck out swinging to bring up Sean Rodriguez, who after a dazzling spring at the plate looked uncomfortable in the batters box all night. He looked fine in the 9th and drilled a single for his first hit as a member of the Rays. This brought up the catchers spot and in a surprising move Maddon pinch hit for Navarro who was 2-3 on the night. New Ray Kelly Shoppach got the call and drilled a line drive to center. Everyone in the stands thought it was a game winning homer, but the umps called it (properly) a ground rule double. This moved Rodriguez to third for the top of the order. With one out Gonzalez walked Bartlett (2-4) intentionally to load the bases for Carl Crawford who was hitless at that point. The Rays All Star leftfielder drilled a fastball to right field. Rodriguez scored easily and Shoppach motored home to win it in walk off fashion. The Rays dugout emptied and dog piled on CC at second base and the sold out crowd at Tropicana Field received a treat far better than pre-game theatrics, they saw a come from behind victory from a team that refused to say die. With his game winning double Crawford joined the rest of the lineup with a hit. Top to bottom every Rays batter had at least one hit. As it stands now the Rays are the only unbeaten team in the AL East, they are alone in first place and own a team batting average of .361. New closer Rafael Soriano made it very interesting, but still didn’t allow a run to plate and for that he got the win. Crawford was the hero and not with his glove or his speed. He got that mother home when it mattered and he showed his speed post game when he avoided the pie. I could re-watch that game over and over again, but I don’t have to because they are going to do it all over again in a few hours with Matt Garza on the mound. Go Rays! ALL PHOTOS ARE COPYRIGHT TB RAYS NEWS AND MAY NOT BE REPRINTED WITHOUT PERMISSION
The Rays are unbeatable! Matt Garza got off to a shaky start and yielded two runs in the first inning, but settled down and shut the Orioles for the next 7 innings striking out 9 in the process. He allowed just 4 hits, all singles and one earned run and took 4-2 lead into the ninth inning before being lifted in favor of Rafael Soriano. After working a dramatic 9th last night for the win Soriano kept Rays fans on the edges of their seats again. For the second straight night Garrett Atkins connected for a 9th inning double off of the Rays closer. Tonight his double drove in the Orioles 3rd run to bring them within a run of the Rays. Soriano then retired Ty Wigginton and Brian Roberts to end the game and preserve the win for Garza and the Rays. The final score was once again 4-3 in favor of the Rays. Garza’s dominance on the mound was the story of the night, but the Rays offensive delivered 10 hits. BJ Upton drove in Carl Crawford to put the Rays on the board in the 4th inning and Evan Longoria blasted a two-run double in the 5th to give the Rays the lead. Longo also delivered his second homer in as many games in the 8th inning off Cla Merideth. The heart of the order, Zobrist, Longoria and Pena are all batting .375 after two games. Kelly Shoppach and Reid Brignac started in favor of Dioner Navarro and Sean Rodriguez. Shoppach was hitless on the night with 3 strikeouts, but Brignac was 2-3 with a run scored as the Rays second baseman. Jeff Niemann will try to complete the sweep on Thursday night at 7 o’clock. The Rays are the only unbeaten team in the American League. You can view the full box score HERE from the Rays Official Website.
The Major League Baseball season is underway, the Yankees are in last place and the Rays are arriving to the party fashionably late. It all begins on Tuesday April 6th at 7:05 when James Shields dishes the first pitch of the 2010 season against the Baltimore Orioles in front of a sold-out crowd at Tropicana Field. Elliot Johnson and Hank Blalock won't be there. They were among the final cuts of the spring and have accepted minor league assignments. JP Howell and Matt Joyce will open the season on the disabled list and surprisingly Gabe Kapler made the team. So did breakout rookie Sean Rodriguez who had a torrid spring at the plate. He and Ben Zobrist will be rotating between second base and right field. Kapler and Reid Brignac will factor into the equation as well. This date has been circled on my calendar for a LONG time. It marks one of my favorite days of the season-rivaled only by October play and I will be there with (cow) bells on! You can expect ful coverage of Opening Day right here on TB Rays News dot com and the coverage will continue all season long. Let's go Rays and make it a good one!
It is just 12 days until Opening Day and the have trimmed the number of players in camp to 34. The starting pitching is set. James Shields (28) will be the opening day starter. He will be followed in the rotation by Jeff Niemann (27), Matt Garza (26), David Price (24) and Wade Davis (24). Andy Sonnanstine will remain with the team, but coming out of the bullpen, not starting ball games. Eleven players were cut today. Dan Johnson, who came back to Tampa Bay after a year in Japan, will not be making the squad. Fellow first baseman Ryan Shealy was sent to minor league camp along with pitchers Winston Abreu, Joe Bateman, Jeff Bennett, Richard De Los Santos, Carlos Hernandez and Heath Phillips. Infielder Angel Chavez was also reassigned. The most surprising, make that shocking move involved Justin Ruggiano being optioned to AAA Durham. Ruggiano was leading the team with a .447 batting average and had 3 homers and 11 RBI so far this spring. He also had 3 triples, 3 stolen bases and an .868 slugging percentage. It makes you wonder how good a spring he would have had to have in order to make this team. Meanwhile, aging outfielder Gabe Kapler, who has yet to have a hit for extra bases, remains in camp. No matter how hard I try, I cannot grasp the logic behind cutting Ruggiano, I just can’t. What do you think Tampa Bay?
If spring training stats don’t matter, why are we keeping track? In Port Charlotte the Rays have 11 games left on their schedule. All Stars Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are living below the Mendoza Line. That doesn’t worry me. Longoria, Upton and Bartlett aren’t setting the world on fire, but they are getting by. Ben Zobrist isn’t making last season look like a fluke just yet and Joe Maddon has made it known that Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach will split the catching duties. Those 8 guys are locks. Beyond that, it should be left up to competition, based on what they are doing in spring training. With the 5 All Stars locking up their positions and the catching platoon established, there are still 4 positions that should be up for competition. I would be surprised if BJ Upton isn’t the opening day centerfielder, so I am not even going to consider that one. The positions that I am thinking about are second base, right field and designated hitter. Sean Rodriguez has shocked me with his absolutely torrid bat. The first day I saw him in spring training wearing number 1 I thought that was a bit cocky and it made me miss Akinori. Who? All Rodriguez has done so far is bat .425 with 6 homeruns and 14 RBI so far. He has been an animal at the plate and good enough in the infield. Defensively I prefer him to Zobrist at second. I give the second base job to Rodriguez giving the Rays an infield defense of Pena, Rodriguez, Bartlett and Longoria. Zobrist’s spring has been less impressive than Rodriguez’s, but still pretty great. He is batting .333 with 2 homers and 6 RBI and I like him in the outfield. He can still give Bartlett or Rodriguez a day off every now and then though, so the right field spot is going to be similar to a platoon as well. With last year’s right field platoon gone-Gabe Gross is in Oakland and Gabe Kapler is batting just .136 with no homers, I think it is time for a new two-headed-monster in right. The Rays have no shortage of talented young outfielders that is for sure. Desmond Jennings is going to be a star, but he isn’t ready yet and he has already been reassigned as has Fernando Perez. Calling Zobrist an outfielder and adding him to Crawford and Upton gives the Rays their starting 3-that leaves two spots open. I like the left-handed hitting Joyce in center field, but serving as a utility guy. So far this spring he has batted .375 with a homer and a couple of steals. I give him the 5th outfield spot. The 4th outfield spot or 3.5th spot should go to no one other than Justin Ruggiano. He is a natural right fielder with a GREAT arm. Honestly he is better in right than Zobrist, but I am not going to push Zorilla to the side just yet. Still though, Ruggiano’s time has come. He didn’t log a single inning in Tampa Bay spending the entire year with Durham and batting .253 with 15 homers and a high strikeout count, but spending a 4th year in Durham isn’t going to do him any favors and like Rodgriguez this spring, Ruggiano has been smoldering at the plate. He leads the team with a .429 average along with 3 homers, 3 steals, 3 triples and 11 RBI. As good as his arm is, I want to see him in right field, but if not I would much rather see him in the DH spot than Pat the Bat who holding to a .200 average this spring. To answer my own question in the opening-when they are impressive as Justin Ruggiano and Sean Rodriguez's have been, well they matter enough to give them a spot in the line-up. What do you think Tampa Bay?