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Game Preview; Saturday (9/24) vs. Anaheim

Rays (64-90) at Anaheim (88-65)
10:05; Angel Stadium of Anaheim
NO TV; Radio: 1250 AM

Ugh. This was yet another one of the 'bang your head against a wall' type of games. I mean, this has the potential to be the best week of the season. Lou quits, and we take two of three from the Red Sox, how much better can life get? And then the bullpen and the defense blow it all up over the course of two innings. It's a slap in the face to those loyal fans who had the radio cranked until 1:30 listening to Rays programming. Of course, I can't really judge Lee or Gonzalez's defensew since I was not watching, but I'm gonna trust the official scorer in thinking that the D was error worthy. Then again, Joe Borowski and his troubles did not aide the cause, and he takes the loss from it all. The bullpen just seems more first halfish lately, and it needs to stop. Having Chad Orvella sidelined because of "tenderness" doesn't help, but our former staple, Borowski, has fallen flat since his scoreless streak ended. Since giving up three runs to Boston in 1.1 innings, Borowskik has a 7.44 ERA, not exactly rivaling the 0.00 he had put up previous to that in a Devil Ray uniform. The point is, while he hasn't become a complete hack, he is still the same pitcher he was in the Windy City, and the best case senario for him over a full season is 2003-type numbers. Those weren't bad, but they aren't this year's line.

RAYS-RH Doug Waechter (5-10, 5.27)
ANA-LH Jarrod Washburn (7-8, 3.35)

BREAKDOWN: As proven last night, as good as your starter can do, if the bullpen doesn't hold it, it means nil. With Doug Waechter taking the mound tonight, that lesson we learned may have to be reversed. Waechter comes into tonight's game off of a solid start against Baltimore in which he gave up four runs on nine hits over six innings. He struggled somewhat with command, walking two and k'ing one. Nonetheless, he fared better than he had in his previous start at home against New York, when he did not retire a batter. He didn't leave the ball up in the zone too much, and thus did not surrender a home run in a start for the first time since August 16th, and for only the second time since rejoining the rotation on July 25th. However Waechter appeared to fatigue greatly in his final inning of work, once again raising doubts about his ability to remain a starter. He last faced the Halos on August 27th at the Trop, doing well by giving up three runs on seven hits over 7.2 innings, giving up just one long ball while walking none and striking out five in his second longest outing of the season. Waechter has struggled this month, putting up a 7.64 ERA as opposed to 4.04 last month. After getting his ERA under 5 for a short amount of time, he has bombed and will look to the Angels' weak lineup as a cure.

The Angels are not concrete on today's starter, as mentioned in yesterday's game preview. The probability of Washburn starting is high, but it is not etched in stone and should he not be able to go, rookie Joe Saunders is a possibility. The other rumored candidate, Kevin Gregg, will almost certainly not take to the mound, as he pitched in last night's game. So I'm gonna go ahead and make my Angels report a little longer, doing a breakdown for Washburn, but also Saunders should the scheduled starter not be able to go. Washburn, as mentioned, has struggled a bit with injury, and the Halos are going to get a full read on his left forearm before trotting him out. While beating the Rays and staying ahead of Oakland are important, the Halos already have a lead, and won't jeopardize a starter's playoff availibility. The questions about injury were raised after an awful outing on the ninth against the White Sox in which he gave up five runs on seven hits over five innings. He gave up two home runs in the process. So the Halos have sat him for about two weeks now, and are ready to go longer, as Washburn has been competeing with Bartolo Colon as Anaheim's best starter. He last faced the Devil Rays on August 28th at the Trop, and he gave up two runs on five hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out five. The telltale sign of how bad the Halos offense really is? Washburn got the loss in that game.

An alternative to Washburn comes in rookie southpaw Joe Saunders. Saunders has struggled a bit in two starts for Anaheim, giving up eight runs and 10 hits over 9.1 innings, with an even K:BB. He also has given up three home runs. Saunders has made his way through the upper echelon of the Angels' minor league system this year. He was pretty impressive in the hitting-favored Texas League, making 18 starts and putting up a 3.49 ERA for 'The Greatest Show on Dirt'. He put up a K:BB of 2.5, and a WHIP of 1.32. The WHIP could be better, but the Angels' hierarchy will take those numbers in the Texas League. After being bumped up to Salt Lake, his numbers regressed a bit in the hitter-friendly PCL, as his ERA slipped to 4.58. His K:BB slipped up a whole lot, barely holding steady against higher competition at 29:21. His WHIP also went up to a hefty 1.56. Saunders is up for a short stint in the majors and should be back down with the Stingers next year, and I bet if you ask Rays hitters which of these two pitchers they want to face, you will get a pretty clear consensus.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is indecision. We are not sure which pitcher will be taking the mound for Anaheim today, and we can only hope it is the latter. The normal keys for Doug Waechter apply. Keep the ball low, yet don't be afraid to challenge hitters or you will fatigue quickly like last time out against the Black and Orange. Should Washburn take the mound, the Rays had better pray for rain. Okay, it isn't THAT dire, but the Rays better hope Washburn is the type of starter he was against the White Sox, and not the one he has been for pretty much every other start this year. Washburn is essentially Doug Waechter in a best case senario. He'll struggle with the long ball, and he'll have an erratic up and down career, but will have years lioke this when the balls in play go into fielders' gloves and he can manage a decent K:BB. He is not impossible to beat, as evidenced by his last start against the Rays, but you can pretty much count on this being a low scoring game. If the Rays want to win this game, the absolutely need Waechter to keep the ball down and eat up six or seven innings. If Waechter yields more than three runs, we are most likely screwed. Pretty much the same applies for Saunders, though the game should be a little less close if he is in. He has showed problems with control, so the Rays need to break out of their free swining mentality and just let the balls go past without swining. It may be frustrating not to have anything to swing at, but if you start becoming free swingers, you will have as much success against him as the Double A hitters did. So, here are the keys:
-Keep the ball down (Waechter)
-Remain paitent (Rays hitters)

If we do that, we have a decent shot at victory.

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