Coming into the game, Carlos Pena was struggling a bit. He was hitting .217/.308/.478. Small sample size, but a mini slump by Pena's standards nonetheless. However, last night it seems that Pena found his stroke at the Trop. Pena had his first multi-hit game of the 2009 season and also hit his first two doubles(yes, the ball dropped by Cody Ransom counts as a double). By the second inning, Pena had his fourth career game with six or more RBI and had his third grand slam as a Rays player, which is the most all time.
Pena's season got off to a bad start. He struck out in his first five plate appearances and didn't look the same. However, he rediscovered his "eye" and has struck out just three times in the past five games(24 PAs). With Evan Longoria mashing, the return of B.J. Upton, and Pat Burrell breaking out of his own slump, the Rays offense has looked fantastic the past two games. 34 hits, 26 runs and two Jason Barlett home runs classify as an offensive explosion. Let's hope they carry some of those runs over to tonight.
Back to Burrell for a minute. The Bat got off to a slow start in Boston and Baltimore. He reached base just three times(two singles and a walk) in his first 17 plate appearances. It was a little unrealistic to expect him to switch leagues, switch "positions" and be the same Burrell he's been for the past 9 years, but after the past two contests, it looks like Burrell is getting pretty comfortable in his new role and surroundings.
On Sunday, Burrell registered his first multi-hit game as a Ray and also collected his first extra base hit(a double) of the season. Burrell added a walk and scored a run. Last night, Burrell made it back to back multi-hit games with another double and his first home run as a Ray. So, after reaching base just three times in those first 17 PAs, he has reached base six of the last 11 and is starting to show that .500 slugging power. I guess watching Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist hit home runs with ease can do wonders for the ego of a power hitter.
Quick hits from the opener:
- I went to the game with my wife, Erik and some guy who's writing a book about the Rays. His best line of the night after the Carlos Pena grand slam was OMG WTF BBQ.
- Matt Garza received the biggest ovation from the crowd during the introductions. Game 7, we remember.
- B.J. Upton is special. Three walks, a perfectly placed bunt, two steals and one of the best catches we are going to see all year in centerfield. And that was just the first game
- The Rays are 8 for 8 in steals. Run, boys, run.
- The smart analytical fan in me says pulling Scott Kazmir when Joe Maddon did is the right thing. No need to push Kazmir any more when the team is up huge. However, the emotional fan in me was just begging Joe to leave him in for one more out. Kaz has made 13 straight starts without registering 7.0 IP in the boxscore. Mentally, I think it would've been nice for him to get that 7th inning in there, but maybe just knowing he could've is good enough. The radar gun was off all night, but Kaz seemed to have a really good change-up from where we were sitting.
- Fernando Perez, Jason Isringhausen and Chad Bradford all worked out during pre-game warm-ups. Isringhausen doesn't look like the most friendly guy.
- Some highlights from the stands included a loud Rays fan calling all of his Yankee buddies and leaving long messages about the demise of the Yankees and the rise of the Rays. He also decided to sing "everybody wang chung tonight" as Chien Ming Wang was lifted.
- All in all it was a night filled with the banners be raised, Kazmir pitching well, home runs flying in the stands, the Rays winning, and the Yankees and Red Sox losing. Basically, it was the perfect night.