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Game Report 04/29/07; RAYS at Oakland

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RAYS 5, Oakland 3

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
DEVIL RAYS 0 0 0 3 2 0 0 0 0 5 8 0
Oakland 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 9 0


Win Probability table courtesy of Fan Graphs.
Upton, Rays Battle Past Oakland for Series Win

Oakland-Scott Kazmir wasn't at his best in Sunday's game against the Oakland Athletics. Luckily, the same wasn't true for Rays 2B B.J. Upton, who responded to a move up in the batting order to a move up on his already torrid April production. Upton had two hits, including the go-ahead three run home run, and the Rays overcome a shaky seven innings from Kazmir to best the Oakland Athletics, 5-3. The Rays won their second straight series out in the Bay Area after having not won one in their first eight seasons.

That said, it didn't always seem like it was going to be that way. The Rays' lineup coaxed two walks out of Oakland starter Dallas Braden, making the first home start of his young career, in the top of the first inning, but stranded those two runners on base. The Athletics responded with a strong bottom of the first inning, as Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez hit back to back home runs for Oakland to give them a 2-0 lead. Mike Piazza and Bobby Crosby were feet away from making it four straight home runs, however both were retired on warning track fly balls. Those would ultimately be the only two runs Kazmir surrendered all day, as he settled down to pitch six scoreless innings immediately after that shaky first inning. Still, he struck out just one and walked two, while giving up six hits, and left having thrown 104 pitches. The deep Oakland Coliseum dimensions likely saved Kazmir from a few gopher balls on the day, as he retired 10 batters via the fly out, whereas just eight on ground balls.

The Rays would get on board in the top of the fourth inning, when Carl Crawford coaxed a leadoff walk out of the A's rookie and Ty Wigginton singled. Two batters later, Upton strolled to the plate and blasted the first pitch he saw from Braden far over the high left-center field fence to turn a 2-0 Rays deficit into a 3-2 lead. Upton hit a home run for the second straight day, and his fifth blast of the year put him in sole possession of the team lead. He finished the game 2 for 4.

The Rays would extend their lead in the next inning, when Braden served up back to back home runs to Rocco Baldelli and Elijah Dukes, and was removed after Carl Crawford subsequently grounded out. Baldelli, playing his first game this series after bruising his leg in Thursday afternoon's game, was the Designated Hitter for the game, however Dukes continued to hit near the top of the order and played the field. The home run was his first since the early April Yankees series, in which he homered in the season's first two games. And though Crawford committed an out in that at bat, he still managed to draw three walks on the day, tying his career high set in May 2003 against Texas. The removal of Braden ultimately marked the termination of the Rays' scoring on the day, as Kiko Calero, Jay Witasick, Justin Duchscherer, and Huston Street collectively pitched four scoreless innings to keep Oakland in the ballgame. Braden ended up suffering his first career major league loss, having surrendered all five runs on six hits (three home runs) and three walks.

Oakland would attempt to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning off of Rays reliever Shawn Camp, and they nearly succeeded. After back to back singled by Marco Scutaro and Shannon Stewart, Camp managed to get Mark Ellis to fly out before being lifted in favor of Brian Stokes. Stokes was able to get Eric Chavez to pop out for the second out of the inning before Mike Piazza lined a single through the hole on the left side of the infield. The run, charged to Camp, would be the only one of the inning, as Camp was able to get Bobby Crosby to fly out with two men on base. Oakland would pose no threat in the ninth inning, as Al Reyes retired the Athletics in order for his ninth save of the season.

RAYS at Oakland
4:05; RAYS TV
RAYS RADIO/WHNZ 1250 AM

PITCHING MATCHUP:

IP ERA K/9 BB/9 K/BB H/9 OPS HR/9 WHIP G/F P/IP
RAYS LH Scott Kazmir 30.2 4.40 8.51 3.52 2.42 8.51 .735 1.47 1.34 1.08 17.64
OAK LH Dallas Braden 6.0 1.50 9.00 1.50 6.00 4.50 .540 0.00 0.67 1.00 14.33

LH Scott Kazmir, DEVIL RAYS:

Overview-The Rays send Scott Kazmir to the hill for the rubber game of their series against Oakland, and Kazmir looks to get the series win in his sixth start of the season. Originally drafted by the New York Mets with the 15th overall pick in 2002, Kazmir was dealt to the Rays in the middle of the 2004 season in the deadline deal that sent Victor Zambrano to New York. He made his major league debut late that year with the Rays, and pitched his first full season with the ball club the following year, posting a 3.77 ERA in 32 starts. He suffered through injury problems last year in making just 24 starts; however he continued to show improvement with his peripheral stats in posting a 3.24 ERA over 24 starts. This year has been somewhat of a mixed bag for the lefty. While he has posted a respectable 4.40 ERA over his first five starts, he just hasn't seemed as "on" as he did last year and has had a few rather poor starts. So far, his strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up, and he has been giving up more hits and home runs thus far. He has made a few very good starts, but even those have seemed off his best efforts of 2006. Hopefully a pitcher's park and a weak Oakland lineup are exactly what Kazmir needs to deliver the Rays a series win in the Bay Area.

Recent Starts-Kazmir pitched a very good 6.2 innings of work in his last outing against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field, surrendering just one earned run on five hits and two walks in the outing. He had previously struggled against Baltimore on the 18th, lasting just four innings while walking four and giving up three runs. His best start of the season thus far came on April 13th against Minnesota, when he bested Twins ace Johan Santana at the Metrodome, Santana's first home loss in over a year and a half, by striking out ten over eight innings of work. He allowed just two runs and did not walk a batter in the outing. His first two starts were somewhat of a disappointment, as he gave up nine runs total in the first week of the season to the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees over 12 innings of work. So far this season Kazmir has been worked like a No. 1 starter, throwing under 107 pitches just once all year, when he threw 102 against the Orioles.

vs OAK-Kazmir has made five starts against the Oakland Athletics over his career, four of which have come at the Oakland Coliseum. He has posted a 3.71 ERA all-time against the A's, though that ERA jumps up to 4.35 in Oakland. Last year Kazmir made two starts against the A's, both of which came in Oakland, posting a 3.38 ERA over 10.2 innings of work in those two outings. Among A's hitters, OF Bobby Kielty has had the most success all-time against the Rays ace, as he is 7 for 13 with two home runs against Kazmir. C Jason Kendall is 4 for 10 with two walks against Kazmir, while Mark Ellis is 2 for 8 with three walks over his experiences against the Rays' lefty.

LH Dallas Braden, Oakland:

Overview-Left-hander Dallas Braden makes his second career major league start for Oakland in the wrap-up game of this series. Called up when A's ace Rich Harden was placed on the DL last week, he pitched an impressive six innings of work against Baltimore in his first major league start on Tuesday. He began his season with Oakland's AA Midland affiliate before being promoted to AAA Sacramento after just two starts. He made just one with the RiverCats before being called up to the major league club. Originally drafted by the A's in the 24th round of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft out of Texas Tech, he was on the fast track to the major leagues before being de-railed last year. He had reached Midland at the end of 2005 and made 16 starts with the Rock Hounds, good ones at that, though he appeared to suffer through injury last year and was never able to put together an effective string of appearances at any affiliate for the A's in 2006. Apparently that has all changed this year, and he stands on the Coliseum mound prepared for his first home start today against the Rays.

Recent Starts-In his only major league start thus far on Tuesday against the Orioles, Braden pitched six innings of one run baseball, striking out six while giving up just three hits and one walk. He made three minor league starts before that, the last of which came for AAA Sacramento when he shut out the Portland Beavers over six innings of work, giving up three hits while walking just one and striking out seven. He gave up three runs over two starts for AA Midland before his promotion, striking out 13 batters over 12 innings of work. He had a 1.50 total ERA in the minor leagues.

STARTING LINEUPS:

DEVIL RAYS
DH Rocco Baldelli
CF Elijah Dukes
LF Carl Crawford
3B Ty Wigginton
RF Delmon Young
2B B.J. Upton
1B Jorge Cantu
SS Brendan Harris
C Josh Paul
Oakland
CF Shannon Stewart
2B Mark Ellis
3B Eric Chavez
DH Mike Piazza
SS Bobby Crosby
1B Dan Johnson
RF Travis Buck
C Jason Kendall
LF Marco Scutaro

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

[editor's note, by Patrick L. Kennedy]: On a side note, I would like to pass on my condolences to the family of Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock, who died in a car crash early this morning. Today's scheduled Sunday Night Baseball contest between the Cubs and Cardinals has been delayed as a result of his passing. Hancock pitched for the last time yesterday, throwing three innings against Chicago before his untimely death this morning. He was just three weeks removed from his 29th birthday. May Hancock rest in peace, and may this tragic loss of life be an incident not repeated in Major League Baseball for some time.