Win Probability table courtesy of Fan Graphs.
St. Petersburg-Sometimes you win games that the opposing team gives to you on a platter. Friday night looked like one of those games. The Oakland Athletics had committed three errors and ended up doubling the Rays' hit total in a rare show of offensive productivity. They had their ace, Dan Haren, on the hill against Casey Fossum, who had surrendered 15 runs over his previous two starts, nine of which came in his last start against the very same Oakland A's. Yet despite all of that, the Devil Rays headed into the top of the seventh inning holding a 2-1 lead and were nine outs away from winning the ballgame. But with Fossum out of the game, the Rays went to their stretched thin bullpen, and the lead was quickly gone. The A's would tie the game in the top of the seventh, and would win it on a three run shot in the top of the ninth by Nick Swisher for a 5-2 final in front of an estimated 11,546.
Rays starter Casey Fossum turned in a surprisingly effective outing after struggling last Saturday against the A's out in Oakland. After allowing a run in the first inning, Fossum would proceed to abstain from surrendering another for the remainder of his start; he pitched a total of six innings and allowed one run on five hits and three walks, while striking out four. The outing lowered his ERA to 7.34 on the season, and for a time allowed the Rays to win a ballgame that should have been entirely out of their reach. The A's had runners on base in every inning of the ballgame but the second, and put at least one runner in scoring position in every inning of the ballgame but the second and third innings.
The Rays, meanwhile, gave Fossum the lead before he departed. 2B B.J. Upton singled to lead off the second inning, one of his two hits on the day, before being stranded at third. But, LF Carl Crawford came home in the fourth inning on a Ty Wigginton sacrifice fly. He had tripled his way aboard, the second triple of the year for Crawford, and the run tied the ballgame at 1. The Rays took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, after Fossum had pitched his final half-inning of work, when CF Elijah Dukes hit a solo home run into the left field seats. The blast, Dukes' fourth of the year, would end up being Dukes' second home run of the week and the Rays' last hit of the ballgame. Oakland starter Dan Haren turned in a spectacular ballgame, surrendering just those two runs on four hits in seven innings of work. He walked none and struck out nine, throwing 70 of his 102 pitches for strikes and was mainly victimized by poor run support and an Oakland defense that turned in three errors on the evening. He was relieved by Justin Duchscherer, who pitched a scoreless eighth and got the win, as well as A's closer Huston Street, who pitched a perfect ninth and got the save.
Meanwhile, all hell broke loose for Tampa Bay when the team went to the bullpen for the seventh. Because Rays manager Joe Maddon was predisposed not to use closer Al Reyes in the ninth inning of the ballgame and because Juan Salas pitched in all three games of the Minnesota series, the Rays ended up using the back end of their bullpen to hold a key lead, and that predictably didn't turn out too well. Jae Kuk Ryu started the seventh and walked two of the three batters he faced before being yanked, while Shawn Camp relieved him and got a groundball out before being yanked in favor of Ruddy Lugo. Lugo would immediately give up the tying base hit to Eric Chavez, who singled in Chris Snelling to knot the game at two apiece. Lugo would get the final out of the inning before being brought on for the eighth inning, however that was short-lived, as he walked the first two batters he faced before being chased. Gary Glover relieved him and induced a double play from Travis Buck before getting Jason Kendall to pop out to retire the side. However after failing to get a runner home from scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, the Rays went into the ninth in a tie ballgame.
Maddon would try his hand in bringing Gary Glover out for the top of the ninth, however after delivering a walk and a single, he was removed in favor of Brian Stokes. Things started well for the Rays' rookie, as he struck out Eric Chavez for the second out of the inning. He wouldn't be nearly as lucky with Nick Swisher, who smashed a fastball offering from Stokes on a 2-2 count deep into the rightfield seats, a three run shot that effectively sealed a 5-2 Oakland win. It evoked memories dating back two weeks, when Stokes surrendered a grand slam in the ninth inning to Travis Hafner of the Indians in turning a brilliant outing from Jamie Shields into a loss. Though he would get the final out of the inning, the Rays went quickly in the bottom of the ninth as Oakland finished off the game.
7:10; FSN Florida
RAYS RADIO/WHNZ 1250 AM
|OAK||RH Dan Haren||39.1||1.60||5.49||2.06||2.67||6.86||.572||0.69||0.99||0.84||15.46|
|RAYS||LH Casey Fossum||28.1||8.58||5.08||1.91||2.67||12.07||.940||1.91||1.55||1.53||15.42|
RH Dan Haren, Oakland:
Overview-Oakland sends their ace Dan Haren to the hill to face the Rays tonight as Oakland makes their first swing through Tropicana Field this season; the two ballclubs will not meet for another three and a half months. Haren comes into this start off of a good outing last Saturday against these very same Devil Rays, and he comes in with excellent numbers on the season. Originally drafted by St. Louis in the second round of the 2001 draft, Haren was traded to the Athletics after the 2004 season in the deal which sent Oakland ace Mark Mulder to the Gateway City. He has been a staple in the Oakland rotation ever since, making 34 starts in each of the past two seasons and providing needed stability to the Athletics' rotation. He slipped slightly last year with Oakland, as his ERA rose slightly to 4.12, but he still managed to strike out 7.10 batters per nine innings while walking less than two. This season he has improved upon those numbers going into his seventh start of the year, posting a 1.60 ERA as part of an excellent Oakland rotation. Still, his strikeout and walk numbers are actually worse than they were last year, and he is relying far more on balls in play to get his outs. His home run rate is far below his career average, despite a horrible G:F ratio. All of that means that Haren will regress back to the mean at some point, the matter of when and how much is yet to be determined. However based on his past track record, Haren is a bona fide top of the rotation starter, and will likely still put together an excellent campaign for the Athletics as they make a run for the AL West crown.
Recent Starts-As mentioned before, Haren comes to St. Pete directly off of a start last Saturday at the Coliseum against the Rays, and he turned in a beauty in that outing in adding to his career track record of success against the Rays. This will be Haren's fourth start of the year against the AL East, as the other three came against intra-divisional rivals. Incidentally, Haren's spectacular outing against the Rays was actually his second-worst start of the season in terms of runs given up, as the other four outings in which he pitched resulted in earned run totals of either one or no runs, though he did give up four unearned runs in an Opening Day loss to the Seattle Mariners. Haren has started three of his last four games against AL East competition, and his worst start of the year is among them. He gave up three earned runs on four hits and four walks in five innings of work on April 13th against New York, though he improved markedly in giving up just one run over seven innings against the Baltimore Orioles. In between was his best start of the season, in which he shut out the Anaheim Angels over seven innings of work, a start in which he did not walk a batter.
vs RAYS-Haren has had a spectacular degree of success in the five starts he has made against the Rays all-time, and that trend continued with his last start against the Rays on Saturday. Pitching within the friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum, Haren surrendered three runs (but just two earned) on seven hits in 7.1 innings of work to Tampa Bay, walking none while striking out seven. This contributed to a 2.48 career ERA in 36.1 innings of work against the Rays, he has walked just one Devil Ray batter all-time while striking out 25 and putting up a 0.88 WHIP. Among Devil Ray batters, Jorge Cantu has had the most successful at bats against him against him, going 3 for 11 with a solo home run and a walk against the A's righty. B.J. Upton, on the other hand, trails Cantu in at bats, but with his home run on Saturday is 4 for 9 all-time against him. The trio of Rocco Baldelli, Jonny Gomes, and Carlos Peña has had success against Haren in limited experience, as the three are a combined 10 for 20 with three doubles and four home runs against him.
LH Casey Fossum, DEVIL RAYS:
Overview-While Dan Haren comes into today's game off of a good outing for Oakland against the Rays, Casey Fossum takes to the hill tonight hoping for the complete opposite of the result handed to him in his previous matchup against Haren out in Oakland. It was just the latest dive on a roller coaster season for Fossum that ultimately has seen his ERA skyrocket to 8.58. Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 1st round of the 1999 draft, Fossum came to the Rays via Arizona, where he was traded after a couple seasons of starting and relieving for the Red Sox. Sent to the Diamondbacks in the deal that brought Curt Schilling to Boston, he had an unsuccessful 2004 with Arizona before being dealt to the Rays for Jose Cruz Jr. that offseason. After originally starting 2005 in the bullpen for Tampa Bay, he was moved into the starting rotation, where he made 25 starts that year and has been ever since. He made the same number of starts last year for the Rays in an injury-plagued year that saw him struggle with control, as he posted a 5.33 ERA along with high walk numbers and lower strikeout numbers. These trends have continued into a disappointing 2007, in which Fossum has actually managed to keep a walk rate under two batters per nine innings, which would be a career low. Still, his strikeout rate has again dropped by one whole batter per nine innings, and he has struggled with the long ball. Still, Fossum is likely to improve to at least a level of mediocrity for three reasons. Number one, despite allowing about two home runs per nine innings, a horrible rate, he has managed a career high G:F ratio of 1.53, meaning that the flyballs he does give up are going out at an abnormally high rate of 18.8% per fly ball. Secondly, he has walked just six batters all season in 28.1 innings of work, an excellent distinction which as yet has not paid dividends in the amount that would be expected. Lastly, his fate is being dictated based on balls in play, which as well all know is a crapshoot subject to fluctuations over the course of the season. While inherently some pitchers manage to get most of their outs on balls in play and can manipulate this method well, others do not rely on this method as much, and when they do, it can sometimes end up for the worse. When Fossum is not striking out batters, he does rely on balls in play and this can either lead to exceedingly great results (see the first several starts by Oakland's Chad Gaudin) or it can lead to Jae Seo-type results. Fossum will remain hittable as he is prone to, however he likely will see a regression back on the other end of the pendulum and will see better results.
Recent Starts-Fossum comes into today's outing on a roller coaster of a season, one in which the negatives have outweighed the positives, to be sure, however one in which he has seen several upswings. After giving up seven runs in 3.2 innings in his first start at home against Toronto, Fossum posted two consecutive quality outings in which he went a combined 14 innings and surrendered only five runs. He has regressed back to the poor Fossum in his past two outings, giving up 14 runs in his previous two starts, a total of 10.2 innings of work. He has pitched primarily against AL East foes, though in his five starts he has made one against Minnesota and one against Oakland, his last start on Saturday.
vs OAK-Fossum continued his career-long struggles against the Athletics in his last start against the team on Saturday. Facing off against Haren, Fossum surrendered a grand total of nine runs, all earned, on nine hits and two home runs. He walked three batters in five innings, and the only reason he lasted that long is because removing him would have strained an already-stretched thin bullpen. Fossum has a higher ERA against Oakland than he does against any major league team that he has faced over more than four innings of work, posting a 10.42 ERA all-time against the Athletics in 19 innings of work. However individually, Oakland's present batters have not had as much success facing Fossum as that statistic would lead you to believe. While on the whole, the A's are still hitting .373/.459/.578 against him, most of that comes from players who have faced Fossum five times or less, a sample size subject to corruption. In fact, the only player that has faced Fossum more than five times and has any distinguishable success against him is OF Milton Bradley, and he (like a lot of Oakland's starting offense) is injured. If there were ever a time for Fossum to have success against the A's, this might be it, as Oakland has by far the lowest team OPS in the American League at .664, a total which puts them just .005 points ahead of having the second lowest total in all of baseball. As it is, they are worse at the moment than most NL teams who bat pitchers 1/9 of the time. They have mostly injuries to thank for that, however regardless of the cause, now would be about the best chance Fossum has to best the Oakland nine.