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5/23: BAL (24-22) at RAYS (27-20)

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Baltimore at RAYS

7:10; RAYS TV/ION
RAYS RADIO/1250 AM

Pitching Matchup:

IP ERA + K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 OPS WHIP G/F P/IP
BAL RH J. Guthrie 63.0 3.86 108 5.57 2.86 1.95 1.29 .709 1.27 1.06 16.33
RAYS RH M. Garza 37.0 4.86 84 3.65 3.89 0.94 0.97 .754 1.54 1.00 17.24

RH Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore-Guthrie has continued a strong 2007 campaign into the start of the 2008 season, giving Baltimore a reliable top of the rotation starter in their surprising start to the season. The folks over at Camden Chat got a laugh over my insinuation earlier in the year that Guthrie was a No. 4 starter, or a No. 3 at best, and so far their incredulity has proven to be correct. However, will Guthrie sustain his present numbers? His present value in the front of the Baltimore rotation is predicated upon him maintaining that 3.86 ERA, irrespective of the peripheral stats upon which that ERA is founded.

However those peripherals would seem to indicate that Guthrie is due for a regression. While Guthrie has no doubt benefited from an Oriole defense that currently ranks first in Defensive Efficiency, there are other elements of his game that are likely to fall back regardless of whether Baltimore keeps up their defensive prowess. Considering the Orioles were middle of the pack last season with similar personnel, they are likely to regress, but more concerning for Guthrie should be strikeout numbers that are lower, walk numbers that are higher, and a home run rate that has remained virtually stagnant from a year ago.

Ultimately, this merely re-stating a point I made in another Game Thread awhile back using virtually the same numbers. Such is the pitfall of an unbalanced schedule, that you don't get to analyze as diverse a sampling of pitchers as you'd like. He's been hit or miss in two starts thus far in 2008 against the Rays, including Opening Day, but he does have a 3.68 career ERA in 14.2 innings inside Tropicana Field. Hopefully the dome won't be so friendly tonight.

RH Matt Garza, RAYS-Garza looked to be on the mend going into last Saturday's outing in St. Louis, having given up three earned runs over his previous 19.2 innings of work prior to that game. Unfortunately, the Cardinals plated seven at Garza's expense in a 4.1 inning outing, and the Rays went on to lose the game 9-8 in 10 innings. The game only exposed a more troubling undercurrent prevalent in Garza's previous outings. The simple fact is that the centerpiece of this off-season's Delmon Young trade is not going to go very far walking more batters than he strikes out.

Really, his luck is about as normalized as it ever will be, so there are no excuses for the preponderance of poor starts he has turned in so far. He's allowing too many baserunners to reach, either through hits or walks, and he isn't striking out enough batters to compensate. That his G:F is an even one doesn't help either, but his control problems worry me more in the immediate.

The good news for the Rays is that Garza did turn in a decent start against the Orioles in Baltimore on the 1st, pretty much cancelling out a previous poor outing in Camden Yards. Though he only struck out three and walked two in six innings, he surrendered just three hits to do a good job overall at keeping runners off the basepaths.

The standard caveats with Garza do apply of course. He is a very talented young pitcher who deserves the benefit of the doubt and enough time to grow comfortable as a member of the Rays rotation. I'm not surprised at all by his struggles, but they don't necessarily portend anything for his long-term value as a member of the team. Regardless of the ups and downs he sees, I look forward to watching Garza develop this year.

Starting Lineups:

Baltimore
2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
RF Nick Markakis
DH Aubrey Huff
1B Kevin Millar
LF Luke Scott
C Ramón Hernández
CF Adam Jones
SS Freddie Bynum
RAYS
2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
CF B.J. Upton
1B Carlos Peña
3B Evan Longoria
DH Cliff Floyd
C Dioner Navarro
RF Eric Hinske
SS Jason Bartlett

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