Again this season I will be providing a Monday Wrap Up to take a look at some of the highlights from the games of the past week and taking a look at the week ahead. As every baseball game begins with the playing and signing of the National Anthem I'd like to take a moment to kick off this years Wrap Up with B.K. Jackson's performance on Opening Day (link here).
The energy and anticipation for Rays baseball seemed to reach a fervor pitch in September as the Rays completed the improbable comeback culminating with an incredible comeback in Game 162 over the New York Yankees which in conjunction with a Robert Andino RBI single off Carl Crawford's glove catapulted the Rays into the post-season for the 3rd time in 4 years. A first round exit versus the Texas Rangers did nothing to dampen the fans spirit and over the winter the Rays did not trade any of its regular players nor did they have any Rays player with high fan attachment depart via free agency. Not only did the Rays maintain the integrity of the 2011 roster (sans Juan Cruz, Casey Kotchman, Kelly Shoppach, John Jaso, Johnny Damon,etc.) they went out and brought back fan favorite Carlos Pena, DH Luke Scott, and veteran relief pitcher Fernando Rodney. This past offseason was nearly the exact opposite of the 2011 offseason. The fans responded by selling out the home opener before the Rays even played a Grapefruit League game. Two observations that show me a really improving Rays fan base.
- I couldn't help but smile as I walked through Ferg's and the area surrounding Tropicana Field during the Opening Day festivities and saw the massive amounts of Rays gear and the noticeable lack of Yankees gear.
- Rays fans were extremely loud and boisterous during the game as well. Every time the Yankee fans did attempt to get the "Let's Go Yankees" chant going their efforts were immediately negated by the loudest "Yankees Suck" chant that I have ever heard at Tropicana Field
The short week ended with the Rays sweeping the New York Yankees for their first 3-0 start since 2002 (swept the Tigers). This was the third sweep of the Yankees - the other two cam at the end of 2011 and again on September 26-28, 2000. The victory also pushed the Rays record to 43-15 in front of home crowds of greater than 30,000 since 2008.
The Rays head out for a 10 game road trip that includes 3 games against the Tigers 4 games against the Red Sox, and 3 games against the Blue Jays. The schedule makers reached back into the pre-1950's baseball and including yesterday's Rays-Yankees game, the Rays will play 8 straight day games.
The Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: Matt Moore vs Rick Porcello
Wednesday: James Shields vs Justin Verlander
Thursday: Jeff Niemann vs Drew Smyly
Friday: David Price vs Josh Beckett
Saturday: Jeremy Hellickson vs Clay Buchholz
Sunday: Matt Moore vs Daniel Bard
The Yankees head to Baltimore to take on the quick start Orioles for 3 games and then return to Yankee Stadium to welcome Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels. The Red Sox will travel to Canada to take on the Blue Jays before welcoming the Rays to Fenway for their home opener.
Injury Notes: B.J. Upton is set to begin his rehab assignment Monday in Port Charlotte. The hope is to have him get 20-25 plate appearances and return to the Rays on April 20th against the Twins. Luke Scott had to leave the game Sunday due to a tight hamstring and his status is day to day.
Rays Announcements: Evan Longoria along with Brighthouse Networks will donate $100 to the Pet Pal Animal Shelter, a no-kill, nonprofit shelter in St. Petersburg.
Sternfan1's Introduction 2012:
G'morning Rays fans.
What a great Monday morning it is. A three game sweep of the New York Yankees along with the Tigers sweeping the Sawx and things are looking up.
For those that may not know me, I'm sternfan1 a DRB blogger since 2008 whose glass is sometimes half empty, especially during a game. I'll be adding a weekly recap of the Rays as I see it and what's ahead. So sit back and enjoy what promises to be an exciting season of Rays baseball.
Go Rays! Let's sweep the Tigers, we owe them.
Last Weeks Game Highlights After The Jump
Friday, April 6, 2012: Rays defeat Yankees 7-6 in thrilling walk-off victory
The Rays became the first team since the 1970-1971 Oakland Athletic's to win both their season final and season opener via a walk-off hit but that was not the story of the game. The story of the game was Carlos Pena and what happened between his first inning grand slam and 9th inning walk-off single was both frustrating and entertaining but secondary to the Pena show.
Yankee's manager Joe Girardi elected to have CC Sabathia walk Sean Rodriguez intentionally to load the bases to bring up Carlos Pena. Of course, the move was made based on Sabathia's dominance over Carlos Pena holding him hitless over the last 14 plate appearances including striking him out 11 times. Pena worked the count full before lining a Grand Slam to give the Rays a 4-0 lead. The Yankees rallied off an ineffective James Shields to take a 6-4 lead which was cut to 6-5 thanks to a Evan Longoria solo homer. The score remained 6-5 until the ninth when the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera who had previously closed 27 straight games against the Rays.
Desmond Jennings greeted Rivera with a leadoff single and Ben Zobrist tripled to the gap in right center scoring Jennings to tie the game at 6-6. Girardi opted to issue intentional walks to Evan Longoria and Luke Scott which brought Sean Rodriguez to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. Girardi removed Nick Swisher from right field and inserted Eduardo Nunez into the game as the fifth infielder. Rivera struck Rodriguez out to bring Carlos Pena to the plate. Pena fell behind in the count 1-2 before lining a ball to the wall in left to give the Rays the walk-off 7-6 victory.
Carlos Pena on Opening Day - "I felt like I was going to explode, it was just like a kid; I felt like a kid out there," Pena said. "This is why I love this game, when things like this happen. ... You should enjoy it to the max. And I sure did, and my teammates were right there to celebrate with me. This is something I'm never going to forget." - mlb.com
Saturday April 7, 2012: Rays hold on to defeat the Yankees 8-6
The Rays followed up the dramatic home opener victory with a solid 8-6 victory. The loss dropped the Yankees to 0-2 on the season and paired with Detroit's victory over the Red Sox both the Yankees and Red Sox were 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 1980.
The Rays jumped on Hiroki Kuroda scoring twice in the first inning on a Luke Scott single, added a third run on a Carlos Pena single in the second inning, and made it a 4-0 lead on a Matt Joyce solo homer in the third inning. The Yankees cut the lead in half with 2 runs in the top of the fourth. The Rays extended the lead to 6-2 thanks to a Luke Scott RBI double and a RBI single by Desmond Jennings in the bottom of the 6th. The Rays extended the lead to 8-2 in the bottom of the seventh on a 2-run single by Matt Joyce. The Yankees nearly rallied in the 9th inning scoring 4 times and bring the tying run to home plate but Fernando Rodney who was the winning pitcher on Opening Day came in and got Alex Rodriguez to ground out on 1-pitch for the save.
Luke Scott on facing Kuroda: "With a guy like [Kuroda], you sit either pitch or location. You can't really try to do too much. Take any aggressiveness out of your swing, because it's not going to match up too well with his kind of stuff and his ability to command his offspeed and put some run on his fastball. I just try to stay up the middle of the field the whole game and stay on pitches -- not try and launch, not try and take real aggressive hacks. Just take what he gives me." - mlb.com
Sunday: Hellickson Shuts Down Yankees 3-0 on his 25th Birthday
Jeremy Hellickson was trying to become the first pitcher since Doug Drabek in 1990 to throw a complete game shutout on his birthday but a 2-out walk to Nick Swisher ended Hellickson's day and Fernando Rodney retired Raul Ibanez to end the game. The Rays are 3-0 for the first time since sweeping the Detroit Tigers in 2002 and have now swept the Yankees 3 times (September 26-28, 2000 and 2011). The Rays runs scored on a Joyce triple in the first and homers by Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger in the 3rd and 6th innings respectively.