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Game Preview: Friday (4/28) vs Boston

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Boston (13-9) at RAYS (9-13)
7:15; Tropicana Field
RAYS TV/PAX; RAYS RADIO/150 WHNZ AM

Pitching Matchup:

RH Matt Clement

LH Casey Fossum

Lineups

Boston
1B Kevin Youkilis
2B Mark Loretta
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
C Jason Varitek
3B Mike Lowell
RF Trot Nixon
CF Willy Mo Pena
SS Alex Gonzalez

RAYS
CF Joey Gathright
LF Carl Crawford
RF Jonny Gomes
2B Ty Wigginton
C Toby Hall
DH Greg Norton
1B Travis Lee
3B Sean Burroughs
SS Tomas Perez

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-vs Boston (Waechter)

Sunday-vs Boston (Kazmir)

Monday-vs Texas (McClung)

I will survive....

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

Boston (13-9) at RAYS (9-13)
7:15; Tropicana Field
RAYS TV/PAX; RAYS RADIO/150 WHNZ AM

Editor's Note-Due to time constraints, the 'Rays News & Notes' piece for yesterday will not appear. It will return today (no, really, it will).

Pitching Matchup

Breakdown

RH Matt Clement:

-The Rays return home to Tropicana Field and the Red Sox come down from Cleveland, where they lost two of three to the Indians. To break their slide, they send former Chicago Cub Matt Clement to the mound to face the Rays. Clement has actually been very decent this year, no matter what his ERA may lead you to believe. He gave up four earned in seven innings in his first start, but struck out seven as opposed to one walk, and his given up three and two earned runs in his last two starts. The only thing inflating his ERA is an April 13th start against Toronto in which he gave up seven earned runs in just four innings. But other than that, he has been very solid for Boston.

He has faced the Rays once this season, last Tuesday in Boston to begin the three game series. He went seven innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, including a home run, while walking two and striking out six. That remains his best start of the season. Last time out Clement faced the Toronto Blue Jays and gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits and two walks, including a home run, while striking out four in 5.1 innings of work.

Clement has had some decent success against the Rays in the past, having pitched to a 2.86 ERA over the life of his career in five games, all starts, and 28.1 IP. In fact, he has never taken the loss against the Rays, and is 3-0 all-time against the team. All but one of his starts against the Rays came as a member of the Boston Red Sox; he made one start against the team in interleague play with Chicago in 2003. He has a 1.31 WHIP and 3:1 K:BB against the Rays all-time. That being said, here are how some of the Rays have done against Clement in the past.......
Russell Branyan-14 ABs, 1.262 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI
Toby Hall-8 ABs, 1.125 OPS, RBI
Jonny Gomes-5 ABs, 1.100 OPS
Splits
Batter v. Pitcher

So for Rays hitters to have success against him isn't a problem. Unfortunately, the player who has done the most, by far, in the most at bats off of Clement is not in the lineup. Figure that one out.

However one aspect that should normally go in the Rays' favor when facing a pitcher like Clement is his home run rate. Clement has struggled with the long ball this year, giving up more than one per nine innings, and Clement's G:F ratio is good, so if the Rays see a pitch up in the zone, they need to pounce on it, because the rare pitches he leaves up tend to leave the ballpark. In 24 fly balls that Clement has given up, three have gone for home runs, a ratio of one for every eight fly balls. Pounce on those fat pitches Jonny! Control isn't a problem for Clement like a lot of the starters we have faced, but plate patience is never a bad thing nonetheless....

LH Casey Fossum:

Opposing Clement on the hill for the Rays and aiming to win his first regular season game since August 26th of last year is southpaw Casey Fossum. Fossum has struggled this season so far, including his last start against Texas, when he absolutely lost it in the finale of the series. In four innings against the Rangers, Fossum gave up eight runs, all earned, on ten hits, including four home runs in just four innings. Ouch, even for Arlington. He too has faced the Boston Red Sox in the past, and, in fact, had his best start of the season when he opposed Clement on the 18th, giving up two runs, both earned, on six hits over 6.1 innings, walking two and striking out one. Yet, he did not pick up the win, as the Rays squandered a 2-1 lead in an eventual 7-4 loss.

Fossum is a former member of the Boston Red Sox, so while he probably knows the team well, last year was his first season that he faced the Sox, and has made all five appearances, three starts, against Boston with the Rays. He has had a decent track record against Boston though, pitching to a 3.80 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over the last two years against the Sox. He has struck out 16 to just seven walks, and Sox hitters have batted .236 against him. Yet some of his former Sox teammates are happy to see him on the mound today, and here are a few of them................
David Ortiz-15 ABs, .913 OPS, 1 HR, 3 RBI, BB
Manny Ramirez-10 ABs, 1.117 OPS, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Alex Gonzalez-8 ABs, .900 OPS, RBI, 2 BB
Dustan Mohr-8 ABs, .875 OPS
Willy Mo Pena-4 ABs, 3 BB, .875 OPS
Splits
Batter v. Pitcher

So as you can see, your typical big guns (Ortiz, Ramirez) are in this list, to no one's surprise, and a few scrub outfielders and Alex Gonzalez, formerly of the Marlins, are up there.

For Fossum to have success today, he must do many, many things better than last time out against the Rangers. Let's start with the home runs. He cannot give up four home runs and expect to win the ballgame. It just isn't going to happen. He already has a third of his 21 home runs from last year, and we're not even done with April! Fossum could be skating on thin ice with a poor start today. Another issue? Control. Besides his well-documented hit batsman problem, he just is surrendering too many walks thus far, six, to only eight strikeouts. If he has no control again, the Sox will just crowd the plate and assert their dominance over it, because they know that Fossum can't pitch them inside because of his control issues. It is integral for Casey to establish that he can find the strikezone early, or else we could be in for a long night.

Lineups

Boston
1B Kevin Youkilis
2B Mark Loretta
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
C Jason Varitek
3B Mike Lowell
RF Trot Nixon
CF Willy Mo Pena
SS Alex Gonzalez

-The Sox bring out a pretty decent lineup today, although Kevin Youkilis in the leadoff spot shows just how badly they need Coco Crisp to come back. But otherwise, the 'A' team is out on the field, and so it won't be an easy win for the Rays.

RAYS
CF Joey Gathright
LF Carl Crawford
RF Jonny Gomes
2B Ty Wigginton
C Toby Hall
DH Greg Norton
1B Travis Lee
3B Sean Burroughs
SS Tomas Perez

-What the hell is this? The first mistake, a lot of you may think, is putting Gathright in the leadoff spot, but that isn't the problem. I like Gathright there. Sure, he has struggled this year with a .639 OPS, but his OBP is .362, very impressive, and that makes for an IsoOBP of .121. That means that Gathright reaches base almost two of every five at bats. And when Gathright gets on, that means trouble for the pitcher. He is a distracting prescence, and with Carl Crawford behind him, the pitcher cannot afford to keep his attention on Gathright. The lethal speed at the top is something that only a slect few lineups in the history of baseball can replicate, very few, and because Crawford wasn't improving on plate discipline, slipping Gathright in front of him and moving him down to the two hole is just fine with me. So it is a good start, however once you get past that, there are plenty of problems.

  1. Why is Russell Branyan not starting? Look at my breakdown of Clement to see why. He has a 1.262 OPS in 14 ABs against Clement, as well as three home runs and eight RBI. We finally found a pitcher that Branyan is successful against, and he isn't starting. Unbelieveable.
  2. Aside from flipping Gomes and Wigginton in the order, which I suggest every day, there is no reason for Toby Hall to be batting fifth in the order. You can say 'well Hall has been hitting well this season', and you'd be right, but he has only one home run, and that came during garbage time at the home opener. Put Travis Lee there, he has three more home runs, albeit a lower OPS, but more home runs, and if you must, put Hall in Greg Norton's place, and put Norton seventh, with the rest of the order rounding out as so.
I assume this was a "shake it up" type attempt by Maddon to get the offense going, but not starting Branyan and playing oddball with the five through seven hitters is not helping this team.

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-vs Boston (Waechter)

Sunday-vs Boston (Kazmir)

Monday-vs Texas (McClung)

I will survive....

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