Evan Longoria's dream of a perfect season is over as the Tampa Bay Rays dropped their first game of the season, a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. It wasn't a particularly impressive game for the team in any way, shape, or form, but they managed to head into the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead. It all fell apart from there.
The damage began with two outs in the bottom of the frame, with Matt Moore facing Austin Jackson for a fourth time. Jackson's previous three plate appearances had ended in a strikeout and two walks, although Moore had been squeezed quite a bit by home plate umpire Ed Rapuano in Jackson's third at bat. This at bat was no different as Moore seemed to get robbed on a strike call that would have ended the inning, which you can see below. Instead, on the seventh pitch, Moore grooved a fastball that Jackson took deep to left field, tying the game at two apiece. There's no saying the Rays would have won the game had Jackson been called out on strikes, but it was still a major turning point in the game.
While he wasn't dominant, or even very sharp at times, Moore had a successful season debut. He walked four batters unintentionally but wasn't missing horribly with his pitches. His velocity was great, sitting at 93 and reaching 95 in the cold Detroit air, though he only had a 55% strike percentage on the day with his fastball. His change up worked nicely, recording eight strikes in 11 attempts. He wasn't the Matt Moore we saw blowing away the Texas Rangers in the playoffs last season, but it's a start.
After Jackson's home run, the final damage was done by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder against Jake McGee. After having retired Brennan Boesch to finish the seventh inning, the southpaw McGee was left in to face the right handed Cabrera. That didn't work out well, as Cabrera laced a double and was then singled in by Fielder to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead. After the game, Joe Maddon said he wanted McGee to face Cabrera due to his powerful velocity, thinking that out-weighed the righty/lefty matchup. He was right about McGee's velocity -- he averaged 95mph -- but McGee unfortunately left one up in the zone against Cabrera. Again, there's no way to say the Tigers wouldn't have taken the lead even if Cabrera was retired, but things certainly went downhill from there. Burke Badenhop relieved McGee, but was equally as bad. You know the rest of the story.
The offense recorded eight hits, which is good, but only one extra base hit, which is bad. They also only walked one time, which isn't going to cut it most days. Hats off to Rick Porcello for seven strong innings.
Tomorrow doesn't get any easier as James Shields squares off against American League MVP Justin Verlander.