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Game Preview: Saturday (4/8) at Toronto

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RAYS (2-2) at Toronto (2-2)
1:07; SkyDome
RAYS TV/PAX; RAYS RADIO/1250 AM WHNZ

RAYS 9, Toronto 8

Pitching Matchup:

RH Doug Waechter

LH Ted Lilly

Lineups

RAYS
LF Carl Crawford
SS Nick Green
DH Jonny Gomes
3B Aubrey Huff
1B Ty Wigginton
RF Damon Hollins
C Josh Paul
2B Tomas Perez
CF Joey Gathright

Toronto
SS Russ Adams
LF Frank Catalanotto
CF Vernon Wells
3B Troy Glaus
1B Lyle Overbay
DH Shea Hillenbrand
RF Eric Hinske
C Gregg Zaun
2B Aaron Hill

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-at Toronto, 1:07 (Kazmir)

Monday-vs Baltimore, 7:15 (McClung)

Tuesday-vs Baltimore, 7:15 (Hendrickson)

2 Days to the Home Opener

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

RAYS (2-2) at Toronto (2-2)
1:07; SkyDome
RAYS TV/PAX; RAYS RADIO/1250 AM WHNZ

RAYS 9, Toronto 8

Toronto-The Devil Rays came back from a 6-0 deficit, and a ninth inning Damon Hollins home run upheld the win as the Rays won their second straight game and evened their record at 2-2 to begin the series north of the border. The Blue Jays used three runs in the first and third innings to stake out an early 6-0 lead off of Devil Rays starter Casey Fossum, and like earlier fast starts by the Orioles an Monday and Wednesday, it seemed as though it was over right then. However some fans, myself included, did not turn their radios off (more out of loyalty to Dave and Andy than loyalty to the team, and plus, turning off the radio would require me to get up) and were pleasantly surprised as the Rays took a bite out of Jays starter Scott Downs to halve and then eliminate the Blue Birds' lead and create one of their own, using an eight run stretch in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, plus a Damon Hollins solo shot in the ninth, to account for all of the runs they needed on the day.

Two Rays recorded three hits and two recorded dos hits, compared to Thursday's game, in which no player recorded more than one hit and the team put up five total. Another difference? In Thursday's game, the Rays left 15 runners stranded on base. Today? Only four. And the fact that the Rays managed to do more than less (the Jays outhit the team) is a sign that this team is maturing and it is executing on its opportunities. Now that may change in the future, most likely it will, but the fact remains that it is an integral piece of a ballclub.

However one troubling aspect came about in this game, and this may shock you....it started with a 'p', ended in a 'g', and its middle was 'itchin'. Well, after this one, Joe Maddon has got to be 'itchin' for more of it, as the bullpen was once again taxed heavily, cancelling out any and all gains of down time when Mark Hendrickson pitched a complete game shutout on Thursday. Casey Fossum was unable to have a start even close to decent, going 4.2 innings while giving up six runs on seven hits, including two home runs, facing 23 batters and throwing 84 pitches in that limited time, while hitting Reed Johnson three times in a continuation of his control problems from last season. His ERA? Right up there with Scott Kazmir and Seth McClung at 11.57. I'm sorry, I hate to be negative to Lurch and the rest of the staff, but when Hendrickson has the most decent outing of anyone on the starting staff, you have serious issues that need to be addressed. And it isn't like there is no hope. Part of the reason I get so frustrated with guys like Kazmir and McClung having bad starts is because they are so talent-laden, and in McClung's case, genuinely nice people (no offense Kaz, but I've never met you). I'm not one of those 'hit the panic button after one start' types, but fool me once, shame on you, Kaz, fool me twice, shame on you, McClung, fool me three times, shame on you, Fossum, fool me four times, and this staff is in serious trouble. One pitcher having a bad day? Fine. Three or four having a bad day in *one turn of the rotation? Uh, either we have a Twilight Zone coincidence, or there needs to be some major changes, not in personnel, but in whatever is keeping the talent of these players from coming to fruition.

Anyways, end rant, back to game. The Rays' bullpen mopped up, using three relievers, with Shawn Camp again leading the way. Camp went 1.2 shutout innings, giving up only a hit in earning his first hold of the year. Also pitching, but less effectively, were Scott Dunn, who gave up four hits and one earned run, a solo home run, while striking out one in his Devil Rays debut. Now, he should not have been brought in to pitch that second inning. I remember thinking to myself as I heard him coming in...oh no, what is he doing? Whether Maddon did this because he felt the team needed to spare some work to another reliever, or whether he just wanted to see more of Dunn...I don't no, but in either case, it was a wrong decision, and cost the Rays. He had done fine in the fifth and sixth, and there was no acceptable reason to bring him back for the fifth inning, an inning in which he did not retire a batter. The other pitcher brought on, Miceli, was decent, taking over for Shawn Camp in getting the last out of the eighth inning, and setting the Jays down after a home run and a few added baserunners in the ninth. He ended up giving up only a solo home run, the baserunner in the ninth reached on a walk, as did Frank Catalanotto in the eighth. A little rough in doing so, but Miceli was able to close it out and earn his, and the Rays', first save of the year.

The Rays made up for it with the bats though, as Travis Lee, Ty Wigginton, Jonny Gomes, and Damon Hollins all teed off of Blue Jays pitching. Carl Crawford stole a base and went 3 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI, while Gomes went 3 for 4 with another run scored outside of his two run shot. Wigginton's homer was one of his two hits on the day, as he scored a run in reaching base on his other hit, while Hollins scored a run to be productive in a 2 for 4 day outside of his solo home run in the ninth inning, which put the Rays up 9-7 in the ninth inning. That would turn out to be the winning run, as Vernon Wells connected for his second in two back to back home runs from him in the ninth, the other being off of Dunn in the seventh, to cut the lead to one run. Wells finished the day 4 for 5 with four runs scored and two RBI in a monster game. Alex Rios and Troy Glaus also homered for Toronto, while Aaron Hill, Bengie Molina, and Lyle Overbay each added a two hit game to the effort. The game was witnessed by an announced 15,631 at SkyDome. Oh, and a side note about the game, the comeback from 6-0 tied for the largest comeback in Rays history, tied with three other games, although it did earn the distinction of being the largest comeback on the road.

3 Up
3B Ty Wigginton: 2-4, 3 RBI, 2 RS, 3-run HR
RF Jonny Gomes: 3-4, 2 RS, 2 RBI, 2-run HR
RP Shawn Camp: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K

3 Down
SP Casey Fossum: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 HR
2B Jorge Cantu: 0-3, K, 2 LOB
RP Dan Miceli: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, HR

Rays Reads

-Another day, another injury. Rays 2B Jorge Cantu left the game in a double-substitution with starter Casey Fossum in the fifth, as he fouled a pitch off of his foot in the top of the fifth. He then scampered off of the field in obvious pain during the pitching change. An X-Ray taken later came back negative, and Cantu is listed as Day to Day, though manager Joe Maddon said he would not take the field today. Cantu said "It's hard to walk right now," so the Rays are not going to rush him back in lieu of the already large staple of injuries in the season's first week that have claimed, among others, Julio Lugo, Luis Ordaz, and possibly, Jesus Colome, depending on how you view it.

Short Hop-Kevin Cash and Carlos Hines, both designated for assignment on Wednesday, cleared waivers and will be optioned to Durham.

Minor League Minute

AAA Durham W, 5-4
SS B.J. Upton: 0-4, *E*
RF Delmon Young: 1-4, RS, SB
LF Elijah Dukes: 1-4, RS, RBI, 3B, K
C Shawn Riggans: 1-4, RS, RBI
DH Kevin Cash: 1-4, RS, K
SP Edwin Jackson: 4 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, HR
RP Tim Corcoran: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, W (1-0)

Bulls Up Next-at Norfolk, 7:15 (Shields)

AA Montgomery W, 4-2
2B Elliot Johnson: 0-3, BB, K
CF Jason Pridie: 2-4, RS, 2B, GIDP
3B Wes Bankston: 1-4, RBI, 2 K
1B Gaby Martinez: 1-2, 2 RS, RBI, BB, solo HR (2)
LF Aneudi Cuevas: 0-3, 3 K, E
SP Tony Peguero: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K

Biscuits Up Next-vs Tennessee, 8:05 (Magrane)

A+ Visalia: Game Rained Out

Oaks Up Next-Double-Header at San Jose, 8:00. Two seven inning games, one starting after first ends

A- Southwest Michigan L, 7-3
CF John Matulia: 0-4, E
RF Garrett Groce: 0-2, 2 RS, 2 BB, 1 K, SB
DH Matt Spring: 0-4, 4 Ks SP Jake McGee: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8

M-Rays Up Next-vs Lansing, 2:05(Davis)

Pitching Matchup:

RH Doug Waechter

LH Ted Lilly

Breakdown

-The Rays aim to take the second game of this three game series and set up a possible sweep tomorrow north of the border in Toronto. To bridge the gap to the rubber game, the Rays send St. Petersburg native righty Doug Waechter to the mound today. Overall, this stretch of games is a mixed bag. The Rays are playing 15 of their first 22 away from Tropicana Field, but their first 13 games are against teams that finished below .500 last year (Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals). The Rays are aiming to get off to a good start in the season's first two months for the first time in franchise history, as April and May are the only two months in team history in which the Rays have not finished with a winning record. The Rays are also trying to gain ground in the all-time series against Toronto, with the Blue Jays leading 71-61, including 41-27 at SkyDome. The Rays went 20-17 against the Jays in 2003 and 2004, but went 8-11 last year, with that mostly being because of a 3-6 at Tropicana Field last season, they went 5-5 at SkyDome.

-As for Waechter himself, the big righty takes the mound today for the first time in 2006 as the Rays complete their first turn of the rotation. Waechter was originally slated to skip a start, but manager Joe Maddon decided better of it and slotted him in for today's game. Waechter's main problem, as anyone even knowing any little tidbit about the Rays knows, is the home runs. He gave up 29 last year in ranking among the league leaders in that category, finishing with a 5.62 ERA in a season in which he doubled his previous innings pitched high. He also had a decent K:BB, striking out over two times as many as he walked. In spring training, Waechter was the most impressive starter on the staff in beating out Edwin Jackson for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, making three starts and appearing in two games out of the bullpen in pitching to a 1.76 ERA, registering an unimpressive K:BB ratio, but only giving up one home run. He hasn't had much success against Toronto since his 2003 debut, as he is 2-3 with a 5.97 ERA against the Jays all-time, giving up four home runs and putting up a K:BB just a shade off of 2:1. A few Jays, as a result of Waechter's unimpressive numbers, have good track records against him, and here they are...
1) Reed Johnson-8 ABs, .875 OPS
2) Bengie Molins-6 ABs, 2.000 OPS
3) Shea Hillenbrand-5 ABs, .800 OPS
So let's see if Waechter can keep the ball out of the outfield and handicap the bat birds, as the Rays absolutely have to get six or seven innings out of Waechter, or their chances of winning decrease immensely.

-Going to the mound for Toronto is left-hander Ted Lilly. The former A's and Yankee pitcher struggled last season, going 10-11 with a 5.56 ERA and was relegated to the No. 5 spot in the rotation with the signing of A.J. Burnett in the offseason. He gave up 23 home runs and couldn't reach a K:BB of 2:1 in struggling mightily. He didn't really show any signs of a good comeback in the spring, pitching to a 5.21 ERA, giving up *six home runs*, though he improved his K:BB to 1.67:1. The bad news is he has had success at SkyDome, posting an 8-3 record with a 4.14 ERA in 2005. He has also had success against the Rays in the past, as in the last three years, he has pitched to a 3.79 ERA in 40.1 innings against the team. He has also given up four home runs and the number of strikeouts is over double that of his walks. That being said, a few Rays have success against him in the past, and here they are...
1) Carl Crawford-20 ABs, .868 OPS
2) Toby Hall-19 ABs, .981 OPS
3) Travis Lee-12 ABs, .750 OPS
Lilly is easily prone to the home run, and let's hope that all of our players who end up not injured during the course of the game are bale to take advantage of that today.

The Bottom Line

-The bottom line is...let's set ourselves up for a sweep. If you think that there were a lot of home runs yesterday, just look out today, as you have two extreme home run pitchers taking the mound. With the Blue Jays' revamped power-hitting lineup, Waechter needs to be extra careful in keeping the ball down and he needs to show the ability to go deep into ballgames, which has often been one of his key problems. With a tired bullpen, we will need a quality start today, as we do not have an off day until the 17th, with a long travel trek ahead of us after Sunday's game.

Lineups

RAYS
LF Carl Crawford
SS Nick Green
DH Jonny Gomes
3B Aubrey Huff
1B Ty Wigginton
RF Damon Hollins
C Josh Paul
2B Tomas Perez
CF Joey Gathright

-You have your normal lefty-killers in today, though Toby Hall gets a day off, Perez is in for Cantu, and Gathright is slotted in. The changes are in the order. I'm sorry, but even if Cantu got injured, there is no excuse for Nick Green ever to be that high in the order. I'd rather see Hollins, Gathright, Wigginton, anyone but Green, Perez, and Paul in that No. 2 hole. Crawford leading off? I can look over that, but there is no excuse for Green to be that high, even if he does hit lefties well, which he did not do last night. The rest of the lineup is a little funky, but nothing compares to the injustice that is Green in the No. 2 hole.

Toronto
SS Russ Adams
LF Frank Catalanotto
CF Vernon Wells
3B Troy Glaus
1B Lyle Overbay
DH Shea Hillenbrand
RF Eric Hinske
C Gregg Zaun
2B Aaron Hill

-The Jays bring in their RHP lineup today, though Russ Adams leading off is a little questionable. The high-OBP Catalanotto is in the No. 2 hole, while the Nos. 3-6 continue to be a fearsome foursome. Eric Hinske starts at his new position in RF, so that will be a blessing for the Rays, while Gregg Zaun comes off of the DL and relieves Bengie Molina for a day. He can hit the ball just as well. Aaron Hill is at the bottom of the order, mainly for defence.(hee hee hee, defence)

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-at Toronto, 1:07 (Kazmir)

Monday-vs Baltimore, 7:15 (McClung)

Tuesday-vs Baltimore, 7:15 (Hendrickson)

2 Days to the Home Opener

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

-Information and a quote from DevilRays.com was used in this report.