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Game Preview; Friday (9/16) vs. Baltimore

Rays (60-87) at Baltimore (69-76)
7:35; Oriole Park at Camden Yards
FSN Florida

It was bound to end eventually. I had posted on RaysBaseball of my discontent with the Rays' chances of winning the series. And sure enough, like always, I was right. This game was particluarly discomforting, as the Rays let a 5-1 lead evaporate on one hit, and the worst part is, that hit came from overrated Yankee Robinson Cano. Then, in typical fashion, the bullpen continued to give up runs, and it was 7-1 by the end of the inning. Two runs in the ninth were just the icing on the cake, and the Rays dropped this one 9-5. Typical Rays game, typical Rays season. I guess we're not in Kansas anymore.

Rays-LH Scott Kazmir (8-9, 3.85)
BAL-RH Rodrigo Lopez (14-9, 4.82)

Behind Enemy Lines: Well, the 'Road Warriors' take to the highways and byways, stopping in Baltimore for a quick three game set against the Orioles. The Rays are 0-6 in Camden Yards, as opposed to 4-2 at the Trop against the Birds. That includes a sweep in their last meeting at home in late July at Tropicana Field. The O's go in to the Trop, Sept 30-Oct 2 to end both team's season. But it wasn't too long ago that Baltimore might not have ended their season. The O's were in first base just a few months ago and they had the inside track to the playoffs before collapsing and, in the process, firing manager Lee Mazzili. Sam Perlozzo, formerly the bench coach, takes the helm for the season's last few weeks.

BREAKDOWN: The Rays kick off their road trip by sending their best starter to the mound in Scott Kazmir. Kaz has, by about a run, the lowest ERA on the staff, and his stuff is even better. Kaz is tops in AL rookie strikeout leaders, and among the tops in the AL strikeout ring. Kaz has 16 quality starts this year, and has allowed one run or less 12 TIMES! Unfortunatly, the Rays' forte, the offense, has not been on in his starts, as he did not recieve a decision in half of those 12 games. Last time out on Saturday against Toronto, Kaz pitched well enough to get a win, but blown save king Danys Baez blew it in the ninth. Kaz went six innings, giving up one unearned run on six hits, keeping his control in check by walking just one as opposed to 11 strikeouts. He did, however, have a problem with fly balls, as his G:F ended up at 2:8. In his last start, against the O's, Kaz giving up three runs in 6.1 innings. It was one of his poor-command starts, as he walked four to five strikeouts. He has a 3.93 against the O's this year.

Baltimore trots out Rodrigo Lopez to the mound to face the Rays. Lopez needs just one win to match his rookie total in 2002, though it will be tough against the Rays offense. He has faced the Rays once prior to this, giving up five runs in 8.2 innings. He has a 3.43 ERA against the Rays lifetime. He was very good last time out against the M's, giving up just one earned run in 7.1 innings, though he walked three and struck out none. But, he has a 5.19 ERA against the Rays this year.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is simply that we have too pitchers on the mound who need work on their control. This one could get ugly, as walks may be abound. But Kaz has much better stuff, and he should win the battle of the pitchers. If the Rays can avoid the dreaded bullpen, the O's staff and Camden Yards should give their top offense ample scoring opportunity. Looking for the best, preparing for the worst: my motto.

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!