Interleague play didn't start the way the Rays had hoped, dropping the first game against Atlanta by the score of 5-3 in front of 19,693 at Tropicana Field.
James Shields was good but faltered in some key situations, allowing four runs in six innings. Usually getting 18 swinging strikes, while striking out eight, in six innings yields positive results. He was able to successfully work low in the zone, registering all but three of his whiffs there.
He had a rocky first two innings, allowing a run in each, but settled down in the third and fourth. It was the fifth that would be his undoing. After retiring the first two batters on five pitches, Shields gave up a two out walk to Martin Prado who advanced to second on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and would then score on Freddie Freeman's double to left field. After another two out walk to Dan Uggla, Brian McCann singled to right-center past a diving Ben Zobrist giving the braves a 4-2 lead. It's a baseball cliche, but you really never want to give up a two out walk. Shields gave up two of them that inning and it ended up costing the Rays.
That's not to say that the Rays would have won if not for those walks. The offense didn't mount much of an attack against Tommy Hanson. They had their chances, in the second inning after an Elliott Johnson bunt scored Luke Scott they had men on first and second but came away with nothing. In the third they loaded the bases with one out and plated one on sac fly by Luke Scott but were unable to break anything open as Jeff Keppinger grounded out. They were able to get a run in the eighth on a Luke Scott single - and nifty slide by Sean Rodriguez - but that would be the extent of their night.
On the night the Rays got one hit and two walks out of the top four men in their order. That's not going to get it done a vast majority of the time. The lefties in the lineup should have had a good shot against Tommy Hanson, who came in with FIP's of 4.25 and 5.97 against left-handers last season and this season. The only one that did was Luke Scott who picked up two hits against him. Ben Zobrist, Carlos Pena and Matt Joyce went hitless. Elliott Johnson, hitting from the left side, dropped in a safety squeeze for a base hit. Scott's star shone bright tonight, going 3-3 and knocking in two of the team's three runs.
Alex Cobb starts tomorrow in his first major league action since undergoing surgery last season after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Facing a good Braves lineup is no welcome back present, so hopefully he can show the poise and promise he showed late last season.
After the game the Rays optioned Jose Lueke, who was impressive in his one inning of work, to Durham to make room for Cobb.
- One note about the Braves, Chipper Jones left the game with a contusion on his left leg after being drilled by a B.J. Upton liner. He received a big ovation from the crowd before his first at bat, stepping out of the big to wave his cap in appreciation. The Rays have a video tribute planned for him Sunday as well.