Today's game wasn't as exciting or compelling as the games of the past two nights. There were no interesting managerial decisions and no heart pounding late game situations, thankfully. And that's perfectly all right. A break was needed, both for the players and for the fans, and Matt Garza obliged.
In his best game of this young season Garza pitched eight brilliant innings for the third consecutive start, allowing zero runs and four hits while striking out five. He even took a no hitter into the 6th until Adrian Beltre crashed the party. He wasn't as dominant this game as he was in his April 7th start against Baltimore where he generated 13 swinging strikes, but he wasn't far off. Although he only got four swing and misses today, the level of competition was the best he's faced yet, and one of the best he'll face all year. The Rays defense was again stellar, converting eight ground balls into outs, turning double plays, and gunning down base runners. Speaking more on the latter part of that sentence, no player currently plays left field at Fenway better than Carl Crawford. He always seems to be perfectly positioned for balls hit off of the Green Monster, his throw to second base to gun down Beltre after a shot off the wall being a perfect example.
Pitching and defense weren't the only stars of the afternoon, however. The Rays offense made it easy for Garza, giving him run support he rarely received last season. Leading the charge were Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton, who each had two run homers to dead center field. We know Pena is going to get his share of home runs, but it's so encouraging to see Upton hitting like this. The home run he hit was his third; last season he didn't record his third home run until June 4th.
After an early day game tomorrow the team travels to Chicago to face the White Sox for three games. Winning five of ten games on this road trip would have been considered a success. They won their sixth today, and should be able to win at least two of the remaining four games left on this trip. They can then come home and feast on the relatively weak trip of Oakland, Toronto and Kansas City. The Rays got off to a slow start last April and it cost them. It looks like they took that to heart and are focused on doing the exact opposite this season.
More notes from the game:
-With his stolen base today, Carl Crawford has now successfully stolen 30 bases in a row against the Red Sox.
-The Red Sox didn't get a runner in scoring position until the 7th inning.
-The victory was the Rays' third victory in Boston in a 24 hour span.
-Gabe Kapler worked some really good at bats. He had only one hit, but he drove in a run and walked twice, both on full counts. Also, I'm really hoping he keeps the beard he seems to be growing.
-It's April 18th, but dammit, the Rays share the best record in baseball at 9-3.