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4/3/11 GDT: Rays vs. Orioles, Avoid the Sweep!

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 02:  Infielder Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 2, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 02: Infielder Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on April 2, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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  • Longoria does not believe he will need any longer than three weeks to recover from the injury and is confident Rodriguez and Lopez can fill in for him until then.
  • Upton's caught-stealing was on his own. Maddon said that he believes in a Republican-style of governing the running game and that the players have a lot of self-government with those types of situations. (Maddon on Upton's caught stealing)
  • Joyce had some good looking at bats against Britton which was a nice sign as Maddon stated Joyce has not looked good against lefties since he's been with the team nor did he have great at bats against them in the spring. He stated he will continue to let him earn more time against lefties. (Maddon on Joyce vs LHP)
  • Wade Davis admitted it was not fatigue that led to his demise today but bad location and bad choices on the pitches he threw.
  • Maddon is confident the club will exceed their current pace of 162 runs for the season to make the pool of reporters laugh on an otherwise depressing opening weekend.

4:30 Update: Make that 29 for 215 (.135) -- Zach Britton wins his major league debut and the Rays open up season 0-3 for the first time in team history. Ugh

4:15 Update: Except for the 50 or so Britton family members, this place is as quiet as a Sunday church service as the Rays trail 5-1. Someone get a live chicken or a slumpbuster for this team tomorrow so they can start the Angels series anew. Over their last seven games, the Rays have scored just 5 runs and are 29 for their last 212 during that stretch (.137). Assuming this game finishes as it does, the Rays will have been held to four or less hits in four consecutive regular season games - all against the Orioles. The last time this happened to an AL team was August 20-22, 2007 whe the Rays were held to that total in each of a four game series against Boston.

4:00 Update: So much for saving grace; Berken promptly came in and struck out the side on just 14 pitches. The Orioles writers are having fun laughing at our offense's inability to hit in this series, with good reason. The starting pitchers gave up just one run this series while striking out 15 batters. Sure, there were some early liners right to people, but the rest of the plays have been rather routine after Britton made his second and third turns through the lineup. The Rays have struck out nine time so far while walking just three times and have nearly twice as many strikeouts (17) as they do hits on the season (9).

3:30 Update: The seventh inning began with three hard hit balls by Wieters, Jones, and Reynolds as the Orioles took the lead. This third time through the lineup has not been too kind to Davis after that nice streak earlier in the game. The hard hits kept coming as J.J. Hardy laced a double plating two more Orioles as the Rays fell behind 4-1. The only saving grace here may be the fact that Jason Bergen is coming in for relief. Davis is done for the day - 6.1 IP, 8 hits, 4 ER (so far), 1 walk, 3 strikeouts. Until this inning, his only run was the bloop single in the first but everything this inning has been hit hard despite the fact Davis was only at 78 pitches coming into this inning. This was not a fatigue problem - this was a location issue and when Davis missed, the Orioles made him pay.

3:15 Update: Britton is at 83 pitches through five innings meaning the 6th should be his last inning. Upton did him a huge favor with a 1st pitch groundout rather than work the count, especially since Britton's command has been wavering a bit in the last two innings. Davis continues to look impressive as he has retired 11 straight batters before allowing a lead-off single to Markakis to start the sixth inning but was erased after a fly out and then a sharp inning-ending double play off Vladimir Guerrero's bat. Davis has now retired 13 of his last 14 batters and is at just 79 pitches after a 23 pitch first inning.

2:45 Update: The Rays have DFA'd Mike Ekstrom to make room for Felipe Lopez on the 40-man roster. This second time through, Britton started using more of his secondary pitches to Manny and Shoppach who both hit rockets off his fastball the first time around. Felix Pie has helped the Rays out today with two sub-par reads on balls to the gap; Sam Fuld would have caught Rodriguez's double in stride me thinks. The Rays are making better contact with Britton's pitches now as Britton is up to 69 pitches through four innings.

2:30 Update: Matt Joyce wants to face more lefties so he gets a baptism by fire today with Britton. Britton quickly got up on him 0-2 until Joyce fought his way through the at bat and earned a walk. Having three lefties in a row in the lineup was a curious move on paper, but it seems to have paid off so far as Britton walked both Joyce and Fuld as his sharp location from the first two innings left him as he continually missed low in the zone. Unfortunately, Fuld got caught in no-man's land on a broken bat single by Upton and got forced out at second base spoiling what would have been bases loaded an nobody out.

Maddon wastes little time to break out his favorite safety squeeze play as Elliot Johnson laid down a gorgeous bunt plating Joyce and in turn beat out the throw as well. Just as I was telling Tommy that I bet a double-steal situation was coming, it indeed did and Wieters made a strong throw to nail him and then Zobrist struck out stranding Johnson in scoring position.

For those scoring at home, Upton has now been picked off, caught stealing, and thrown at home in this series although only the first event is one he can be faulted for. The throws on the other two were simply better than the baserunner.

2:15 Update: BJ, Manny, and Shoppach have all hit some lasers, but right to defenders. Both Johnsons and Rodriguez have struck out and none of them looked good doing it. It will be interesting to see how the hitters adjust to him the second time around now that they've gotten a look at his stuff.

2:00 Update: It is one thing to see a scouting report on Zach Britton but to see him in person is impressive. He has some serious movement on his two-seam fastball with terrific arm-side movement. I'll let the pitch f/x guys break it down but it's rather dramatic and he's going to break a few bats in his major league career as that pitch moves in on a lefty that thinks he has him centered.

Ben Zobrist continues to swing a hot bat as he laced a double to the gap in left-center. If Markakis does not rob him of his birthright, Zobrist would be the talk of this series.

1:45 Update: If Zach Britton goes with the same plan of attack as Jeremy Guthrie did Friday night, he could have a very strong game. You'll recall Guthrie pounded outside corner to righties and stayed out there against lefties. Today, Laz Diaz is behind the plate who is infamous for his liberal strikezone on that outer half of the plate to lefties. In fact, a guy like Mark Buehrle has his fourth best numbers when Diaz is behind the plate (minimum 100 plate appearances).

The attendance talk will likely kick up in full gear tomorrow as the crowd here is at least half of what it was on opening night if not more.

1:15 Update: The club just announced that Felipe Lopez's contract has been selected and he will be here for the game today. The corresponding 40 man roster move has not yet been announced.

1:00 Update: Longoria is indeed going to the disabled list, but "the player" that will replace him has not been decided on just yet. In conversing here with Rancel, the point was brought up that if either Felipe Lopez or Kotchman are recalled, it requires a 40 man roster move AND those guys would have to expose those guys to waivers to move them back down to AAA once Longoria comes back. Thus, the cleanest roster move would be to recall Desmond Jennings and work him into the player rotation and maybe give Damon some more time at first base to help that sore calf that kept him out of the starting lineup today. Maddon said that Damon is available to play today, if needed. Along that line, Robinson Chirinos could fit if the club decided to use Kelly Shoppach at 1st to spell Johnson against tough lefties and let Chirinos catch those games.

Originally from SBN TB.

Rays hope to bounce back today in the rubber game against the Baltimore Orioles. Wade Davis takes the mound today for the Rays in his first start since signing a 7 year, $35.1 million contract extension. The Rays have high hopes for Davis this year, as he pitched well in his rookie season (4.07 ERA, 4.79 FIP) and improved as the season went along.

The Rays have struggled on offense over the past two nights, and today's match-up may not be much easier. Brian Matusz was originally scheduled to pitch yesterday, but missed the start due to a back injury that placed him on the disabled list, so Zach Britton was called up from Triple-A to start today's game. Britton is widely considered to be the Orioles' top prospect and he impressed last season in Triple-A, posting a 2.98 ERA / 3.18 FIP while striking out 7.6 batters per nine. Britton is a left-handed pitcher and throws a sinking 94 MPH fastball, a slider, and a changeup.

Players To Watch

  • Evan Longoria is not in today's lineup due to his sore oblique muscle, and he could end up on the 15-day DL and miss at least three weeks. Sean Rodriguez is expected to be the primary third baseman in his place, and he's starting there today.
  • Ben Zobrist is hitting third in today's lineup, and based solely on his performance these last few games, he deserves it. Zobrist has the Rays lone homerun of the season, and he nearly tied the game in the ninth inning last night with a deep drive to right field. Nick Markakis made an impressive leaping catch to rob Zobrist, but regardless, Zobrist is hitting the ball hard right now. He's also made some spectacular defensive plays at second base.