I started writing this in the middle of the 4th inning with the Rays leading 4-0, partly because I was tired but mostly because I was supremely confident the Mariners' offense couldn't score four runs if the life of the Mariner Moose depended on it.
There's really not too much to say about this one. The Rays pitched well and the Mariners didn't hit well. Those two things have been a constant for each team this season, regardless of opponent. Jeff Niemann was very effective once again, aside from the second inning. In that inning he struck out the first batter, then allowed a single followed by 11 straight balls, which loaded the bases and nearly let a run walk home.
After that Niemann calmed down, giving up just three singles over his next five innings of work. Niemann is never going to generate a lot of swinging strikes, the way Shields and Garza do, because his stuff obviously isn't as dominant. The pitch that's most likely to get a batter to whiff, and that I wish was thrown more, is Niemann's curveball.
Last night he threw the pitch 13 times and got 3 swing and misses, or 23%. Compare that with his fastball, which he threw 74 times last night and got only 3 swinging strikes. It wasn't a dominant performance like those of Shields and Garza in the two previous games, but Niemann was pretty much in control all night.
The big lead gave Joaquin Benoit an opportunity to continue his comeback. The righty relieved Niemann in the 8th inning and pitched a perfect frame, striking out two of the three men he faced. He threw 12 fastballs and averaged 94.45mph on them. I know it's early, and he hasn't pitched in any high leverage situations yet, but thus far Benoit has been extremely impressive. What did the Rays pay for him again? Friedman'd
-Evan Longoria extended his hit streak to 12 games with a run scoring double.
-So far in this MLB season we've seen a no hitter, we've seen walk off home runs and amazing catches, but the most impressive play to date may be Carl Crawford hitting a home run to deep center at Safeco Field.
-I don't see the Rays setting the Major League record in this category, but according to LoneStarBall, no team since 1961 has had a better run differential after 28 games than the 2010 Rays who are at +83. The '84 Tigers were also +83. Impressive.
On to Oakland...