Going into last night's game, the Rays had scored a total of 20 runs through nine games. By the end of the night, they'd almost doubled that total by scoring a total of 16 runs against a crumbling Red Sox pitching staff. I'm not sure exactly what hit the Rays' offense: regression or Dice-K.
We all know that the Rays have had some pretty massive offensive struggles recently, hitting a frustrating 163/.232/.284 through their first nine games. It took all of two innings, but Daisuke Matsuzaka solved those problems....and then some. The Rays took the lead in the top of the first innings on a solo homerun by Johnny Damon, and then the unloaded on Dice-K in the top of the second and scored six more runs.
Ben Zobrist led off the second inning with a weak groundball double up the left field line, and then B.J. Upton and Felipe Lopez loaded the bases with a walk and a single. At this point, the hits came fast and often: on the next three pitches, John Jaso doubled off the Green Monster, Reid Brignac singled sharply to center, and Sam Fuld brought the remaining baserunners home with a homerun just inside the Pesky Pole.
The Rays went on to tack on numerous runs over the course of the game, but that early lead was more than enough to allow the Rays to walk away with the win tonight. The Red Sox entered the game with a 6.24 team ERA - by far the worst in the majors - and they've now allowed a total of 69 runs (count 'em) through ten games. The only other teams to start a season with a similar stretch have all finished with around 84 wins (or less).
- Sam Fuld technically came a single short of hitting for the cycle, but that's only because in the ninth inning, he legged out a double on a ball hit into the left field corner instead of staying at first base. I know it's not technically a cycle, but I'm calling it that - at the very least, it was even more impressive than a cycle, as Fuld got one more extra base hit in there. His "cycle" is only the second one in Rays history; B.J. Upton had the first.
Fuld also had a nice diving catch out in left field earlier in the game, and he made a diving attempt at another ball in the ninth inning. I swear, the man is made entirely of grit and scrap. I'm still skeptical of how his bat will hold up over 300+ PAs, but he's certainly playing his way into more playing time right now. And to think: Fuld was widely considered the worst piece we got in the Matt Garza trade. Not too shabby.
- Johnny Damon had a strong first game in Fenway as a Ray, getting a season-high three hits including a solo homerun in the first. He also got booed by the fans during his first at bat - and booed by his own teammates.
- Jeremy Hellickson had an odd start, getting squeezed by the home plate umpire and walking five batters. Hellickson is notorious for his control, so seeing him walk five batters was really odd. Check out the umpire's strike zone:
Green = called balls; Red = called strikes
Triangles = Pitches Thrown by the Rays; Squares = Pitches Thrown by the Red Sox
The results don't look quite so bad if you look at the normalized strikezone instead (which adjusts slightly for batter size), but either graph will show you the same general trend: Hellickson got squeezded on the bottom corner like crazy. Actually, Boston got squeezed down there too (so at least he ump was being consistent), but Hellickson was the main pitcher really try to work the bottom edge of the zone. Hellickson also didn't get the benefit of the doubt on some pitches on either side of the zone, while the Sox seemed to get a bit more leeway. But anyway, the point of all this isn't to complain about the umpire: it's mostly just to point out that Hellickson's command may not have been as bad as it looked at first glance.
And despite allowing an average of two baserunners an inning, Hellboy held the Sox to only two runs through 5.1 innings pitched.