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Opening Day GDT: Rays vs Orioles

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In-game Twitter updates will be on @RaysESPN1040 from Jason who is working the game tonight with ESPN 1040.

Update 9:20: Thankfully, an opening day shut out was avoided as Ben Zobrist crushed a home run down the right field line but that was the only action of the ninth as both Johnny Damon and Evan Longoria struck out and Manny Ramirez grounded out to end the game. A full write-up after a trip down to the clubhouse.

Update 9:15: The human element rears its ugly head once again. B.J. Upton (again) is picked off trying to steal third base but in the process of the run down, was pushed down by J.J. Hardy. Somehow, pushing a baserunner down is now an acceptable play which should really piss off A.J. Pierzynski. Maddon's long argument did nothing to convince the umpires of their error, and Jaso flied out to end the inning leaving the Rays scoreless. The fans respond by leaving the place in droves to beat traffic.

Cesar Ramos got his first work as a LOOGY in the 9th inning coming on to face Luke Scott who he easily retired on two pitches. The PA guys are breaking out Cotton Eye Joe to rally the troops, but unless Cotton Eye Joe knows how to hit, the outlook is bleak. Jeremy Guthrie has been pulled and Jim Johnson is in the game to finish it up with the top of the lineup due up.

Update 9:00: McGee and Russell made their 2011 debuts in the top of the 8th and they did their job retiring Roberts, Markakis, and Lee in order with the help of a great ranging defensive play by Ben Zobrist to end the inning. Guthrie is back out for the 8th and there is no sign of action in the Orioles' pen as Guthrie is only at 79 pitches at this point.

Update 8:45: Maddon said several times this off-season that Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta would get first crack at the closing-by-committee as McGee was not "there" yet. True to his word, McGee will be the first bullpen guy to appear in 2011 as Price will likely done as he is at 102 pitches through seven innings. Final line: 7 IP, 5 hits, one walk, 4 earned runs, 7 strikeouts.

Update 8:30: Guthrie's sharp outing tonight should not come as a surprise to those who have followed closely the last two seasons. He is 3-3 in six starts against the Rays with a 2.52 ERA, a 3.4 strikeout to walk rate, and just a .284 opponents' OBP. Tonight, Dan Johnson is the only man to reach base through five innings.

Update 8:15: Price lost the strike zone in the 5th inning. After quickly retiring Mark Reynolds, he gave up a "hit" to Matt Wieters. Wieters scalded a low liner to Brignac who got caught in between on the ball and wasn't able to come up with it. Price then quickly walked Hardy on just five pitches and setting up Brian Roberts for an RBI triple as he worked Price to six pitches until he raked a hanging curveball to the wall and Nick Markakis knocked him in with a sac fly one pitch later. Price needed 25 pitches to get through the fifth inning.

Update 8:00: Jeremy Guthrie has been extremely impressive tonight. He has thrown just 40 pitches, and 30 of them have been for strikes. Johnson is the only player to hit the ball hard in this contest as Upton, Brignac, and Zobrist have all struck out so far. Guthrie has hit his spots and stayed ahead in the count with every batter.Price now has six strikeouts through four innings and is at 55 pitches (30 for strikes).

Update 7:45: Price retired Wieters on yet another nasty slider but J.J. Hardy crushed a fastball off the wall in right-center and Price botched a pick-off play advancing Hardy to third base. Maddon spoke before the game on Markakis' effectiveness against left-handed pitching and it showed up in the third as he laced a single to left-center to plate Hardy before shattering Derrek Lee's bat to end the inning.

Update 7:30: Price's slider looks quite sharp from this vantage point - something opposing hitters cannot be happy about. After allowing a lead-off single to Vladimir Guerrero, he came back to strike out Adam Jones, Luke Scott, and Mark Reynolds in order.

Manny Ramirez's first at bat as a Ray ended with a routine 6-3 grounder after working the count full. The Great Pumpkin flexed some of that power and hit a deep double off the wall to the Geico sign. If he hits in the fifth spot most of the season, he is going to have a lot of RBI opportunities. The plan of attack on Upton tonight is clear - breaking stuff away and fastballs in. The Upton boos take just one at bat to come out as he went down looking at a fastball after swinging at two breaking balls off the plate.

Update 7:00: It still amazes me that Don Zimmer gets one of the loudest pre-game applauses when he is introduced. Then again, he was dwarfed by the applause level Manny Ramirez got. Laz Diaz is on this crew and might have the plate on Sunday - that might be a factor if there is a lefty-starter for the Orioles on Sunday given Diaz's tendencies to widen his plate to lefties when throwing to lefties.

B.K. Jackson still does an amazing job with the National Anthem - always a pleasure to hear him play. He was as popular tonight as Rick Scott was unpopular.

Over the past three seasons, the Rays are 158-85 at home, tied for Boston for the best home record over that span.

Update 6:45: The place is filling up nicely but traffic is awful on the outside. I have 4 friends who are still stuck on the other side of the bridge and they left Orlando at 4:30.

Rick Scott just threw out the first pitch and the boos definitely were louder than the cheers.

Audio of First Pitch

Update 6:15: The new turf looks fantastic now from press row (#humblebrag) and the AstroTurf rep told us before the game the players have been very happy with how it feels and plays during workouts.

Brian Matusz has been scratched from his start tomorrow. Word is, Chris Tillman will replace him and the Orioles will call someone else up to work the game on Sunday (unlikely to be Britton).