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Game Preview; Sunday (9/25) vs. Anaheim


Rays (64-91) at Anaheim (89-65)
4:05; Angel Stadium of Anaheim
FSN Florida/ESPN

Well, there goes the spoiler role. After losing yesterday, the Rays are now out of luck in their quest to win the series, and it wasn't even near as close as it was on Friday. As stated as a key in the game preview, Waechter needed to keep the ball low. He did not do so, surrendering two early home runs, and by the time he had left after six innings, the Rays were down 6-2. And, just for good measure, the Halos scored one more the next inning in an eventual 7-3 loss. Unlike Friday, when the Rays blew a 5-3 lead late in a 7-5 loss, the Halos were all over them in this one. Washburn dominated after giving up two first inning runs, and the Rays only mustered one more, not surprisingly it was off of former Devil Ray Esteban Yan. The season series is now knotted at four apiece, and the Rays need a win today to take it.

PITCHING MATCHUP:
RAYS-LH Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson (10-7, 6.14)
ANA-RH Bartolo Colon (20-7, 3.34)

As mentioned, the Rays try to take the season series in the final matchup of these two teams this year. To do so, they send out Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson, who has not lost since July 20th, over two months ago. Lurch leads the Rays in victories, and his 10 wins match his career high set in 2004. Last time out, Lurch faced Boston and struggled mightily, going six innings while giving up six runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out two. Keep in mind, however that this was the Boston offense, and he faced a much worse Anaheim unit today. Unfortunatly, that much worse Anaheim unit has laid 14 runs in two days on Rays pitching. Lurch has had success against better Angels units in the past. He has a 3.79 ERA all time against Anaheim, and that number goes down to 3.55 this season. In both of his starts against the Angels this year, Lurch has walked away with victories, including a masterful outing in his last start against the Angels. Last August 28th at the Trop, Lurch went 7.2 innings, giving up one run on five hits. Let's hope Lurch can keep that streak going with a similar start today.

The Rays will have their hands full in the other half inning, as the Angels send Cy Young candidate Bartolo Colon to the mound. Colon became the first Angel to win 20 games in 31 years by beating Texas on Tuesday. Colon ended up going seven innings, giving up an unearned run on four hits, while striking out four and walking none. As with Washburn yesterday, there was talk floating around that his scheduled start may be moved, but Colon will make his start today as his back spasms problem was not deemed serious enough to keep him out of action. He will likely be on a pitch count or some sort of restraint today, as there has been talk of him starting on short rest against the A's on Thursday. But regardless, there is no question that he will be making the start today. And that is bad news for the Rays, as he is a Wakefield-like 8-0 all-time against the Rays, while holding them to a 2.45 ERA. He has faced the Rays once this season, coincidentally in the other Sunday game in Anaheim. In that start, Colon was dominant, going sedven innings while gving up just two runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out six. He did, however, surrender two home runs.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is, despite how poor we played yesterday and how demoralizing that blown two run lead was on Friday, the Rays still have a chance to take the season series by winning today. The same is true for Anaheim. The Angels will be looking to win this game more than they normally would, as the Halos have a four game set in Oakland to look forward to after the conclusion of this game. So the Rays should expect the Angels' best, and if they don't play with theirs, this could get ugly. The Rays need to be prepared for this kind of effort, as they themselves have a three game set coming up in Cleveland, another team on the cusp of the division title. Anyways, the Rays hitters today are not going to be able to bank on erratic control. Colon has a K:BB of almost 4:1. The Rays, instead, should be looking for pitches up in the zone, as Colon's problems have been with the home run ball, he has served up 22 of them. As for Lurch, if he isn't goin to strike out a lot of batters, he doesn't need to walk a lot of hitters either. He needs to stop ballet dancing around the strike zone. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, granted, but his problem has been putting the wrong pitch in the wrong place at the wrong time. He needs to better that if the Rays want any chance of victory today, because for as bad as the Halos offense is, they will light up Lurch if he pitches like he has at some points previously.

KEYS TO THE GAME:
Hitters-Look for pitches up in the zone
Lurch-Stop tiptoeing around the strike zone

RAYS UP NEXT:
Tuesday-Cleveland (Kazmir)
Wednesday-Cleveland (McClung)
Thursday-Cleveland (Fossum)

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