Good news everyone! We're tied with the Red Sox!
Seriously though, that comparison should remind us that no matter how much Ron and Ian want to jump to conclusions and talk all doom and gloom about how bad the team looks, it's TWO FREAKIN GAMES! Not much can be definitely said about the team at this point but there are a few things to ponder about individuals.
One of the two things I was watching was Alex Gonzalez's hitting, trying to see how he looks at the plate. I guess I caught him on a good night though because he looked pretty good. He wasn't too good in his last plate appearance but his first three he looked solidly in control of what he was doing. Even though he struck out in his third at-bat he only had one bad performance within it, when he swung and missed at a high inside fastball that he had no chance to do anything with even if it had ended up where he thought it was going to. His final strike was on a nasty slider that dipped right under his bat at the last second. His first hit was on a pitch low and away that he could have tried to do too much with but didn't. There wasn't any way to really hit that pitch for power so he just stroked it right where he wanted it, through the infield hole and into right field. On the home run he appeared to recognize the pitch perfectly, reviewing that pitch afterwards you could see that he was preparing to swing almost instantly and put the bat on the ball perfectly. The only thing that kept it from being a monster home run was the location, he wasn't able to put a full power swing on it. Heck, maybe he always looks good at the plate but just can't do anything productive most of the time; we shall see.
I complain a lot about Toby Hall's stance and how it's keeping him from having any shot at being a good hitter but he appears to have changed it some. He isn't in as much of a crouch and he seems to hold the bat back farther behind his body than he used to; I remember him kind of holding straight out more. Unfortunately his swing hasn't changed much, it's still very compact and brief. That's not a power swing, it's going to keep getting hard grounders and pop-ups. He did appear more patient though, just a little more willingness to lay off a close pitch and he would have had three walks on the night.
Perez wasn't an outfielder last year and he looks worse this season. He made two huge miscues and didn't appear to be showing a lot of effort overall out there.
TampaRays made a great point on the Scout.com board. If the reasoning on keeping the best centerfielder on the rosters in left field is that it could cause him to let his hitting slip while he concentrates on defense then why is it ok for him to fill in sometimes like he did last night? If he knows that he's going to be expected to play there sometimes then he'll have to work on his defense there anyway. Not that any of that matters, that's a ridiculous excuse for it anyway.
The other thing I was tracking last night was Kazmir's pitches per plate appearance. Although he threw 89 pitches last night in only five innings without a lot of baserunners, it wasn't really due to wildness. He had a lot of extended plate appearances against him, mainly because of foul balls. I don't know how often balls are fouled off on average by hitters but having 23 balls fouled off (26%!) seems really high to me. The pitching line I have below won't match the official one completely, I charted pitches based on where they actually were. Pitches outside the strike zone that batters made contact with are still balls in my eyes.
89 pitches, 49 strikes, 40 balls, 23 fouls.
He had only one one-pitch at-bat and four two-pitch at-bats so the Jays weren't being agressive at all. His strikeout total was disappointing but not surprising considering the way he looked overall. He didn't have strikeout stuff, it was good enough that hitters were having trouble making solid contact but not enough to miss bats. I think that explains the large number of fouls too. Overall he looked fairly good, he should have had a shutout. I'm not too worried about the inability to strike hitters out, his stuff still looked pretty good and he has a history of always being a strikeout pitcher so it's not a cause for concern at all right now.
There's not really any way to sugarcoat this, McClung was awful. The radar gun wasn't active on the broadcast but his velocity didn't look like it was there. He didn't show any ability to strike hitters out, his pitches weren't moving and everyone was making pretty good contact. His control wasn't there either, he had a lot of pitches miss way outside the zone. A better offensive team probably would have hit at least one home run off him. He could still be feeling the after-effects of his surgery some, Tommy John surgery is common enough that it's easy to think of it as rountine but it's still a major injury and a lot to recover from. McClung can't keep pitching like this and hope to stay in the majors but I'm not anywhere near ready to judge him yet. Don't lose faith, give him a couple more outings before you even think about whether or not he belongs up here. Judging a pitcher off one or two bad outings, especially when he's recovering from injury still, is never a good idea.
On a brighter note about pitchers coming back from injuries, Fossum looked great. Three strikeouts in 2.1 innings, no walks, and some nasty breaking stuff (that Hillenbrand strikeout was hilarious, he swung through a pitch that came inside so far it hit him in the shin). He did give up three hits but they were all singles, though Perez turned one into a triple. If he keeps that up he'll cement his spot as the first candidate to replace someone in the rotation.
Harper was himself. That's all I have to say and it's a good thing.
Look, I'm worried about the offense too but it's still so early. The starting pitching, while not as good as some people believe so far, has been strong enough. Kazmir and Brazelton didn't really beat themselves, they made the Jays get the job done. It would have been nice if Colome didn't give up a two-run homer but if he pitches another 7.1 innings and only gives up one more run he'll have a 3.00 ERA and everyone will be happy. The first two games of the season have really sucked but I refuse to panic. Keep the optimism going and let's see if the Rays can come back strong the rest of the homestand.
Edit: One final note. The plate umpiring was horribly inconsistent last night for both teams.
Good news everyone! We're tied with the Red Sox!