We all knew the opening of the 2012 season was going to be a bear. We recognized that 19 of the first 22 games were going to be against teams that finished .500 or better in 2011. We knew that the first 16 road games and 24 of the first 27 games were going to be against those teams. We knew that wins would be hard to come by yet many seem ready to give up on the 2012 season already?
The Rays finished up the week 1-5 and are now 4-5 on the season and will meet up with the Red Sox today at 11:05 to try to break a four game losing streak. The one good thing about the Patriot Day game is that neither the Rays or their fans have to stew over the Sunday afternoon loss.
The Rays starting pitching has been inconsistent and the bullpen has struggled but opposing lineups like Detroit, New York, and Boston do not afford the opposing pitchers to get away with lack of location. Entering Sundays game against the Red Sox the Rays had walked an AL high 38 batters and allowed 11 of them to score. The Rays haven't walked more than 38 batters in their first 8 games since walking 43 to start the 2003 season. Entering Sunday the Rays had given up an ML leading 51 runs their most after 8 games since 2007 when they allowed 59.
The Rays will play their 8th straight day game today will head to Toronto to finish off their longest road trip of the season. The week will finish with a weekend series at Tropicana Field against the Minnesota Twins. The tentative pitching matchups for the Rays are below.
Saturday - James Shields vs Carl Pavano
Sunday - Jeff Niemann vs Francisco Liriano
The Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins for 4 games prior to heading to Boston for a weekend series. The Red Sox will finish their 4 game series with the Rays (today) and then host the Texas Rangers for 3 games before welcoming the New York Yankees for a weekend series.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012: Matt Moore makes 2012 debut but Rays lose 5-2
The Rays left the state of Florida for the first time since the beginning of spring training in mid-February and visited the motor city to begin their longest road trip of the year. A three city ten game jaunt through Detroit, Boston, and Toronto. Matt Moore started for the Rays and held the Tigers to 2R/2ER in 6.2 innings on 4 hits while striking out 4 and walking 5. The Rays bats were held in check by Tiger starter Rick Porcello who held the Rays to 2 runs over 7 innings on 7 hits while striking out 4 and walking 1. The Tigers scored three times in the 8th inning off Jake McGee and Burke Badenhop to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead. Phil Coke worked a scoreless 8th and Jose Valverde worked the 9th to earn his first save of the season.
"There's no advantage to gain by bringing in Peralta because he's right-handed," Maddon said. "This guy [Cabrera] doesn't know righty from lefty. I liked Jake's velocity against him a lot." - mlb.com
Wednesday, April 11, 2012: Rays get rare comeback victory to defeat Tigers 4-2
James Shields and Justin Verlander locked up in a pitchers duel for 8 innings with the Tiger hitters breaking through for 2 runs off Shields to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead heading in to the top of the 9th. Justin Verlander had cruised through the first 8 giving up only 1 hit and throwing 81 pitches. The Tigers had a lead after 8, their ace on the hill, and a full complement of high leverage relievers in their bullpen - that plus the fact that the Tigers had not lost a game when leading after 8 since July 31, 2010 and were 229-1 in those games since opening day 2009 made a comeback seem highly unlikely.
Pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger singles on a ground ball to center fielder Austin Jackson to open the inning and after Verlander got Reid Brignac to strike out swinging gave up a single to Desmond Jennings to put runners at first and third. Carlos Pena got behind in the count 1-2 but refused to bite on back to back curveballs and on the 3-2 pitch Verlander uncorked a 100-mph wild pitch that allowed Jeff Keppinger to score to cut the lead to 2-1. Evan Longoria ended Verlander's day with a RBI single to left scoring Desmond Jennings to tie the game at 2-2.Daniel Schlereth replaced Verlander to face pinch hitter Elliot Johnson who quickly fell behind 0-2 but remained patient and worked a walk. Jim Leyland replaced Shclereth with Jose Valverde who gave up a 2-run single to Ben Zobrist which put the Rays ahead 4-2. The Rays brought in Fernando Rodney to work the ninth and he retired Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Johnny Peralta to earn his third save of the season.
Prior to the game Jeremy Hellickson was hit by a batted ball and had to be carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for examination. Everything checked out all right and Hellickson is on schedule to make his next start (Saturday in Boston). Hellickson spoke to the media following the game:
Thursday, April 12, 2012: Rays fail with RISP costly as Tigers take series with 7-2 win
The story of the game is simply that the Rays went 2-13 with RISP and the Tigers went 3-8. Jeff Niemann worked 5 innings giving up 3R/3ER on 4 hits, striking out 6 and walked 2. The Rays were facing left hander Drew Smyly who was making his major league debut who walked the first three batters he'd faced but escaped the jam by getting Keppinger to fly out and striking out Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez. The Rays jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Carlos Pena homer in the 3rd inning but the Tigers took the lead back with 3 in the bottom of the fifth. The Tigers added a pair of runs in the bottom of the 7th and 8th innings to win the series with a 7-2 victory.
Joe Maddon on leaving the bases loaded:
"It was all there for us, the big at-bat. I felt really good about Keppinger," Maddon said, "with everything we've talked about, him moving the ball. And he did. It was a popup, but he didn't hit it like he normally would. Then you've got punchout, punchout after that. So that gave [Smyly] that little breath of fresh air that kept him going later into that game. -mlb.com
Friday, April 13, 2012: Rays get crushed by Red Sox 12-2
Josh Beckett owned the Rays in 2011 and in three starts against the Rays he allowed only 2 runs in 23 innings. The mastery of the Rays hitters continued on Friday as Beckett worked 8 innings allowing a single run on 5 hits while recording only 1 strikeout and walking 1. On the other side of the coin, David Price was without his command and was roughed up and taken out of the game after only 3 innings giving up 3R/3ER on 4 hits while striking out 3 and walking 3. Burke Badenhop relieved Price and gave up a single run in the bottom of the fourth and the Red Sox led 4-1. Boston erupted for 8 runs off Josh Lueke and Joel Peralta in the 8th inning. Ben Zobrist capped the scoring for the Rays with a solo homer off Mark Melancon and the Red Sox won the first of a four game series 12-2.
Saturday April 14, 2012: Hellickson & bullpen unable to quiet Red Sox in 13-5 loss
The Rays offense got the scoring started in the first inning. Desmond Jennings led off with a walk and came around to score on a Carlos Pena double. Ben Zobrist joined Carlos Pena on base by drawing a two-out walk and Luke Scott connected for a 3 run homer to put the Rays up 4-0. The Red Sox cut the lead in half on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia homer to straightaway centerfield in the bottom of the second.
Luke Scott added the Rays 5th run on an opposite field double in the third scoring Matt Joyce putting the Rays up 5-2. That completed the scoring for the Rays as the Red Sox spent the rest of the afternoon teeing off on Jeremy Hellickson and the rest of the bullpen.
The Red Sox used a solo home run by Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the third and a 2-out 2-run homer by David Ortiz to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Sox took a 6-5 lead in the 7th inning thanks to a Mike Aviles homer off Burke Badenhop and later in the inning received a 2-run double off J.P. Howell to extend their lead to 8-5. The Red Sox added 5 runs off Dane De La Rosa in the 8th to roll to a 13-5 victory.
Joe Maddon on Buchholz start:
"I thought we had good at-bats [against Buchholz]. I really liked it," Maddon said. "I tell you what was a big moment: when he was at 88 pitches after [five innings]. By the time he left the game [after seven innings], he was [at 104], so we only had  pitches for two innings in the latter part of the game. We were putting a lot of first pitches in play and he was getting some easy outs. Up to that point, we had a pretty good plan working against him." - mlb.com
Sunday, April 15, 2012: Matt Moore roughed up as Rays lose 6-4 for fourth loss in a row
Cody Ross blasted a 3-run homer off of Matt Moore in the bottom of the second to give the Sox a 3-0 lead and they extended their lead to 4-0 on a RBI double by Kelly Shoppach in the bottom of the fourth. The Rays cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the fourth and tied it at 4-4 thanks to a Luke Scott homer in the top of the fifth.
The Sox took the lead back in the bottom of the 6th on a RBI double by David Ortiz and added a run on a solo home run by Mike Aviles in the bottom of the seventh. The Red Sox bullpen including Scott Atchinson, Vincent Padilla, Franklin Morales, and Alfredo Aceves held the Rays scoreless over the last 4 innings. Matt Moore took the loss dropping to 0-1, the win went to Vincent Padilla (1-0), and Alfred Aceves was credited with his second save on the year.
What does SF1 have to say:
What can one say? Awful, horrid, unreal....I could say I projected this if anyone read my sf1 challenge here or on twitter, but I won't.This is a bad baseball team, a very bad baseball team. Is it temporary? For Rays fans, let's hope so. What aspect of the game can even the apologists point to as positive?This isn't a good Red Sox team that has pummeled us 31-11 in the first three games. It's a team who has all their projected outfielders on the DL, two- fifths of their rotation probably out for the season, their closer out till after the all star game and one of their set up men simply out (Bobby Jenks). It's a team that features a Rays castoff as a catcher and a guy named Mike 'Babe' Aviles at SS.What really bothers me is what Red Sox hitters may have shown AL batters how to handle the Rays starting pitching, taking pitches till they either give in or exit via pitch count. I don't buy David Price's excuse of it's 'one start' out of thirty three or four he'll make. Isn't it curious that three of our top four starting pitchers were all bitten by the same bug? Now we can point to James Shields with his career .300/.356/..526 .882 OPS 10 HR allowed 139 OPS+ in 10 games at Fenway to salvage a win. Good luck with that.I'll still root for the Rays but I have to admit the confidence is goneGo Rays!!
Also, do not forget about the Baseball Prospectus event at Tropicana Field on May 5th. Click here to purchase tickets if you have not yet already done so!