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Game Thread 04/02/07; RAYS at New York

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at New York
RAYS LH Scott Kazmir
NYY RH Carl Pavano
1:05; FSN Florida/ESPN

STARTING LINEUPS:

RAYS
1. LF Carl Crawford
2. SS Ben Zobrist
3. DH Rocco Baldelli
4. 1B Ty Wigginton
5. RF Delmon Young
6. 3B Akinori Iwamura
7. C Dioner Navarro
8. CF Elijah Dukes
9. 2B B.J. Upton

NEW YORK
1. CF Johnny Damon
2. SS Derek Jeter
3. RF Bobby Abreu
4. 3B Alex Rodriguez
5. DH Jason Giambi
6. LF Hideki Matsui
7. C Jorge Posada
8. 2B Robinson Cano
9. 1B Josh Phelps

[editor's note, by R.J. Anderson]So opening day 2007, Yankee Stadium, Rays - Yankees. Hey if you're going to have a special year, or at the very least an exciting one, why not start in a place with such rich history? Some speculate about the possibility of an intimidation factor when it comes to the 11 players making their first opening day roster appearances, yes Babe Ruth and the rest of monument park will be watching and in John Madden's mind talking , but last time I checked they aren't playing.

Looking at the Rays' lineup it replicates the one that produced 8 runs Saturday against the Mets, with the exception of B.J. Upton being slotted back into his slot at second and apparently ninth. The decision to put Dukes and Upton so low in the order may perturb some, however it makes sense considering Upton and Dukes will likely be amongst the team's leader in walks and OBP, allowing Carl Crawford to become a clean up hitter of sorts. Zobrist in the two slot allows for a nice grinder, pace setter, and yes insert the obligatory Jay Bell comparisons here. You know the rest so I'll save the text space.

The Yankees' lineup is quite formidable, but again you know all of this, perhaps the most interesting part of this game would be the pitching match up. Carl Pavano, nearing all of 40 innings against the Rays has a 2.92 career ERA, and will face a lineup that patience has been preached to for the entirety of spring. Pavano throws first pitch strikes 64% of the time, and won't walk all that many, averaging 2.91 walks per nine in his Major League career. Can the Rays turn perseverance into an extra free pass that winds up in a run, or will Pavano’s sturdiness shake the team from it’s lesson and back to it’s impatient ways?

Onto the guy who will be pitching the bottom half of the innings, Scott Kazmir. The key for success will be exactly how economical Kazmir can make his at-bats and innings. Last year Kazmir fell into holes early on by simply throwing too many pitches, which is a common symptom associated with strikeout pitchers, however 3.97 pitches per plate appearance is well above league average (3.75) as well as other power pitchers, take for example Francisco Liriano, the only other pitcher to have more K/9 than Kazmir if you take away or at least lower the minimum innings requirement number, averaged 3.8 pitches per plate appearance. If Kazmir can replicate what he did in his final spring start, 29 pitches through three innings, or just more than nine pitches per inning, the Yankees could be in for a very long day.

[editor's note, by Patrick L. Kennedy]: I hate to half-ass the Game Thread for Opening Day, but I have run into a lot of work tonight that has impeded my plans to work harder at the Game Threads. I need to work on a template for the regular season, and I do not have time to do so this evening, and thus you get this story. I tried to include all the necessary info, but I admit it is not my best work and once I get some time to formulate a new template, things will look better. As it is, I just don't have time to work on that tonight.

I will also not have time to complete my sidebar overhaul and continue the DRB Top 30 Prospects series, both activities should resume tomorrow assuming all goes well. I also will miss out on the chance to do a "Series Preview" that I had planned for this series, that will have to pick up for the Toronto series this weekend. I further regret that I will not be able to do a live blog of the game tomorrow, damn afternoon games and all. I apologize for these issues, and I appreciate your understanding. Still, GO RAYS!

Update [2007-4-1 21:24:51 by R.J. Anderson]: The live blog has indeed been rescheduled, meaning we'll likely do the projected Kazmir - Santana matchup that comes next week, along with the homer opener on Friday.