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Game Preview: Wednesday (4/5) at Baltimore

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RAYS (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0)
7:05; Oriole Park at Camden Yards
RAYS TV/Ch. 66; RAYS RADIO/1250 AM WHNZ

Baltimore 9, RAYS 6

Pitching Matchup:

RH Seth McClung

LH Erik Bedard

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-at Baltimore, 7:05 (Hendrickson)

Friday-at Toronto, 7:07 (Fossum)

Saturday-at Toronto, 1:07 (Waechter)

5 Days to the Home Opener

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

[editor's note, by Patrick L. Kennedy] Left middle finger, I'd like to introduce you to a double-wide door. Well, this introduction did actually take place, and rather painfully I might add. I have a large blister under my left middle fingernail, and a possible fracture of the tip of that finger, so typing pieces such as this one are a little slower because I can really only make use of one hand. As such, my plans to finish the final two season preview series editions are on hold, and you'll forgive me if my Game Previews are a little half-ass this week as a result of me not wanting to stress out that finger too much. Anyways, with that pleasant thought, Happy Baseball Everyone!

RAYS (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0)
7:05; Oriole Park at Camden Yards
RAYS TV/Ch. 66; RAYS RADIO/1250 AM WHNZ

Baltimore 9, RAYS 6:

Baltimore, MD-Scott Kazmir gave up six runs over four innings and the Rays' steady offense wasn't enough to keep up with the O's in a season opening 9-6 loss to Baltimore. Kazmir, who gave up six runs on eight hits over four innings while walking three and k'ing four, gave up three home runs on the day, his total for the entire 2005 season against Baltimore and 1/4 of his home run total from last year. Miguel Tejada, Luis Matos, and Melvin Mora all connected off of Kazmir, while retirement home resident Jeff Conine added one off of Rays reliever Ruddy Lugo in his major league debut. Lugo gave up two runs on three hits over 1.1 innings of work, while also surrendering a walk. Jason Childers, also making his big league debut, also walked one in an inning of work, while also surrendering one run on two hits. And you know you've had a bad day when Shawn Camp ends up being your best pitcher. He went 1.2 near perfect innings, surrendering only a hit.

But Kazmir was clearly the most concerning factor in the Rays' second straight opening day loss, one that dropped them to 5-4 all-time in openers. He threw a wild pitch among 104 total in just four innings, with an even G:F ratio. His inability to deliver the punch out on 0-2 counts with his slider was troublesome, and was directly the cause of the Matos home run, one of two he gave up in back to back fashion. It continues a disturbing trend for him dating to spring training, where he also struggled, though most of us wrote that off as useless spring stats. And that may be true, but Kazmir's downward trend since the March 13th game against the Indians in Winter Haven has to be at least somewhat concerning. We can only hope he rebounds in his next start, Sunday against Toronto.

Another concern coming out of Monday's loss was the fact that Julio Lugo was removed from the game due to what is being called a "strained oblique". No follow-up on the injury came today, and it is unclear how much time, if any, Lugo will miss. He was 2 for 2 with two runs scored and a double before he departed. Jorge Cantu also had a good day with the bat, going 1 for 3 with 2 RBI. Jonny Gomes connected in the second inning off of Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez, a solo shot that put the Rays up 2-0 at the time. Lopez went seven innings, giving up five earned on seven hits, while walking one and striking out two. After the Rays jumped out to that early 2-0 lead, the O's came thundering back, scoring two to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning. The Rays matched that in the top of the third to take a 4-2 lead, while the O's added their next run in the bottom frame of the third inning. Things really started to fall apart for Kazmir and the Rays in the bottom of the fifth, when Kaz did not retire a batter in giving up four runs to allocate the O's a 7-4 lead. Travis Lee hit a two run shot in the sixth to Pull the Rays to within one, but Ruddy Lugo gave up two runs in the sixth and seventh to doom the Rays. The opening day went largely as planned for the Orioles, though part of batting practice was rained out. Yet that didn't seem to matter to the 46,986 who showed up for opening day in the Inner Harbor, and if there is one thing you can take out of a bad day like this, it was that baseball is finally back.

3 Up
Jonny Gomes, DH: 2-4, HR, 2 RS, 1 RBI
Shawn Camp, RP: 1.2 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs
Travis Lee, 1B: 2 run HR

3 Down
Scott Kazmir, SP: 4 IP, 6 R, 8 H, 3 BB, 3 HR
Aubrey Huff, 3B: 0-4, K, 1 LOB
Ruddy Lugo, RP: 1.1 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 HR

-This season we will be keeping track of how our players did in each particular game by awarding players points on a 3 Up, 3 Down system. Three points are awarded to the first "Up" you see, followed by two, and one. The same goes for the Downs. Three points are taken away from the top down, then two, one, and so on. I will keep track of this data, and post weekly updates in my Who's Hot, Who's Not feature. I think this will be a fun way of keeping track of performance throughout the season.

Rays Reads

-As mentioned earlier, Rays starting SS Julio Lugo left Monday's game in the third inning due to a strained oblique, and is being listed as day to day. He suffered the injury in hitting a foul ball in his second at bat. He remained at the plate, and recorded his second hit of the game on an infield single that, thanks to an errant throw from pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, allowed Joey Gathright to score. Lugo was attended to by team trainers at second base after his hit and scored before being replaced by Luis Ordaz in the bottom of the frame. Later, Ordaz himself sustained an injury, bruising under his left knee cap, which caused the Rays to put him on the 15 Day DL on Tuesday. Ordaz, who went 0-2 in Monday's game and whom many Rays fans felt shouldn't even be on the roster, will certainly be no major loss, considering that the player selected to replace him, Russell Branyan, hit an impressive  .286/.342/.571 during spring training and is known for his great power. He may bring a lot of strikeouts to the table, but this is one injury that may end up benefiting the Rays.

Short Hops-Among the people at Monday's game: Scott Kazmir's parents, Bucs FB Mike Alstott, and Joe Maddon's mother Beanie, down from Hazelton, Pa...The Rays announced that Doug Waechter will not, after all, skip a start and will take the ball Saturday in Toronto.

Pitching Matchup:

RH Seth McClung

LH Erik Bedard

Breakdown

-We'll try this again today as the Rays look to avenge Monday's 9-6 loss as they trot out righty Seth "Big Red" McClung to face Orioles starter Erik Bedard. McClung, despite a poor final start against Cincinnati in spring training, finished with a 4.30 ERA in Grapefruit League action, surrendering 12 walks while striking out 17. Last season, McClung had a 6.59 ERA in 34 games, 17 starts for the Rays, but as anyone who followed the team knows, that was largely due to an ill-advised move to the bullpen to start the season by former manager Lou Pinella. As a starter, McClung wasn't great, as his ERA was still 5.66, but his K:BB improved steadily to 77:43, though he had a problem with control, as he hit five batters and gave up 19 home runs. And there were some days when he made you just want to pull your hair out, such as his seven runs in two innings effort on September 20th of last year against Boston. On the other hand, he had his dazzling moments where you could swear he'd end up an ace, such as his eight shutout innings in his final start on the 28th in Cleveland. Overall, McClung fared poorly against the O's last year, giving up five runs in eight innings, though he did not face the O's as a starter. Surprisingly, looking at the stats, few of the orange and black have had success against McClung over his career, and the ones that did performed in limited sample sizes. Witness...

  1. Jay Gibbons-7 ABs, .786 OPS
  2. Miguel Tejada-5 ABs, HR, 1.4 OPS
And that's all folks. So maybe McClung can get through the O's today without much trouble. I honestly think he will emerge as a leader of the staff at some point this season, putting up even better numbers than Kazmir, and we can get the ball rolling well today in salvaging the second game of this series.

-Meanwhile, going to the mound for the Birds is lefty Erik Bedard. Bedard was, statistically, one of the O's best pitchers in 2005, going 6-8 with an ERA of 4, while walking less than half the number of batters that he struck out. He had no problem with the home runs ball, and his strikeout and walk rates were good. So how do we pinch a hole in this armor? Well, he tends to leave the outcome of most at bats to chance, as he lets hitters put the ball in play a little too much, ala Hendrickson, though he has great command and gets a decent amount of strikeouts to compensate for it. Last spring he went 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA, with an even more impressive K:BB of over 3:1. He has been especially good against the Devil Rays, as evidenced by his 2.08 ERA and K:BB of near 3:1 against the team last year, though again he seemed to luck out on a lot of balls in play, as he gave up more hits (27) than innings pitched (26). A few Rays do have success in their respective careers against Bedard, as you can see...

  1. Julio Lugo-22 ABs, .764 OPS
  2. Toby Hall-18 ABs, 1.167 OPS
  3. Rocco Baldelli-10 ABs, .8 OPS
  4. Nick Green-6 ABs, .833 OPS
  5. Damon Hollins-5 ABs, 1.833 OPS
Obviously Baldelli and Lugo aren't going to help us much today against Bedard, but in the likely scenario that Nick Green fills in at shortstop for Lugo, at least he can hit left-handers, especially Bedard, decently, though. We can only hope for the best from our lefty-hitting lineup today, as we will need it against a Ray-killer to salvage this series.

The Bottom Line

-The bottom line is...it will be interesting to see how this team looks today as it compensates for the absence of Julio Lugo. The easy solution is to put Nick Green in the six hole and just leave him there because he hits lefties, especially Bedard, well. However Joe Maddon's "think outside the box" point of view could completely surprise me. Anyways, here's hoping Hollins wakes up against his specialty-left-handers, but all of the offense in the world won't matter if you've got a terrible pitcher on the mound. Certainly that would not be Seth McClung, but he does indeed have his off days, as do we all, but let's just hope this isn't one of them. And for christ's sake, please, please don't let the bullpen blow any lead we may have, though I may be stretching my hopes on that. In any case, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy some baseball tonight, and remember, win or lose, we come to play.

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-at Baltimore, 7:05 (Hendrickson)

Friday-at Toronto, 7:07 (Fossum)

Saturday-at Toronto, 1:07 (Waechter)

5 Days to the Home Opener

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

-Information from DevilRays.com was used in this report.