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Rays vs. Yankees, game 1: Rays batter Sabathia in Soriano's return

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The Rays bullpen failed to mop up the game, and Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney were called upon to shut the door.

Not quite right. Lots of meatballs.
Not quite right. Lots of meatballs.
J. Meric

A certain man had a second baseman. And he said to his second baseman, here take the portion of the goods that falleth to you. And he gave unto him his living. But not many years after, the man sent his second baseman on a journey into a far country, and instead gave unto a shortstop who became a third baseman. And there at third base he wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

And when the man came to his senses he said, how many hired servants have I who cannot hit a lick? I will bring back my second baseman so that he may play left field. And the man said to his servants, Bring forth the best pinstriped robe, and put it on him; and put shoes on his feet, though coolstandings says I only have a 15% chance of competing for a ring to put on his finger.

And the Rays saw what was happening and said bring hither the fatted calf, and we will hit it; and let us eat and be merry.

Ben Zobrist started off the slaughter with a line drive double into the alley off of a CC Sabathia fastball that stayed up in the zone. Sean Rodriguez flew out , but Yunel Escobar doubled on a hanging slider right in the middle of the plate to bring home the first run of the game. James Loney popped out, but the Rays really went to work with two outs. Jose Lobaton worked a seven pitch at bat to finally draw a walk, and when Sam Fuld saw the first pitch of his at bat to be a grooved fastball, he slapped it into left field.

Desmond Jennings, as many of the Rays have tried to do recently, bunted for a base hit. He and Fuld were able to advance to second and third when the Yankee catcher Austin Romine missed first base with his throw. Two pitches into his at bat, Evan Longoria got his chance, a hanging slider out over the plate, and hit it hard into center field for a double of his own. The nightmare inning for Sabathia finally ended when Wil Myers turned on a belt-high inner third fastball and lined it hard into left. He made the mistake of running on the prodigal son, Alfonso Soriano, who still has one of the best arms in left field. CC escaped.

For the rest of the game, Sabathia was actually pretty sharp, featuring a good changeup, cutter, and breaking ball.

Jeremy Hellickson, for his part, seemed determined to play an elaborate game of chicken. "You can't possibly throw another changeup at the bottom of the zone," said the Yankee batters. "You're right. I wouldn't do that in this count. That would be foolish," said Hellickson. Then Hellickson would throw another changeup at the bottom of the zone.

All in all, Hellickson threw a changeup for 31 of his 102 pitches tonight. He tallied eight of his twelve swinging strikes with the pitch, and he was able to throw it for a strike 77% of the time. Every other pitch of his he threw for a strike only 46% of the time.

In the third inning, Helly got himself into a bit of trouble. With two out and two on, he had an especially ugly sequence to Robinson Cano. After a called first strike from a curveball, he threw four straight curveballs in the dirt. This may help explain why he so completely relied on his changeup for the rest of the game. He rebounded to put together a pretty decent sequence against Alfonso Soriano with the bases loaded, culminating in a fly out to right field off a changeup at the bottom of the zone.

The fourth inning started off shakily as well. Lyle Overbay pulled the fifth pitch he saw (the fourth changeup) over the first base bag for a single. Eduardo Nunez walked on five pitches. Jim Hickey came to the mound and seemed to have said something right, as Hellickson struck out Travis Hafner on another changeup, this one preceded by five fastballs. From that point on, Hellickson was efficient, ending his night after six innings in which he gave up only four hits and two walks while striking out three.

I think that James Loney heard the rumblings starting in these parts about his lack of power recently. In the seventh inning, Adam Warren threw him a fastball on the inside corner and up above the strike zone. Lightning quick, Loney pulled his hands in and muscled it well over the rightfield wall.

Kyle Farnsworth had worked a no nonsense top of the seventh inning, but with the game essentially in mopup time after Loney's homer made it 10-1, the other pitchers at the bottom of the Rays bullpen totem pole did not make compelling cases for retaining their spots when the bullpen is reinforced. Cesar Ramos gave up two runs in the eighth, and Jamey Wright was pulled with two runs in already and the bases loaded after only getting one out.

At this point, Joe Maddon brought in Jake McGee to face Soriano (who hit a ground ball that couldn't be turned into a double play) and Fernando Rodney in to face Chris Stewart (who grounded to third). It was a disappointing end to what was otherwise a cakewalk of a game.

Some other notes:

  • The Yankees broadcast talked about the Yankees being rumored to be inquiring after Michael Young (with the Phillies maintaining that they're still in it and not selling). Please, please, please. Philly, you are out of it. Sell Young. Strip the Yankee's farm system for a mediocre piece that won't get them to the playoffs.
  • In the bottom of the sixth, Lyle Overbay hit a hard grounder to first. James Loney dove and knocked it down. Ben Zobrist picked it up and threw to Hellickson, who never gave up on the play and was covering first in plenty of time.
  • Hellickson, gold glover, had a good fielding game overall. He looked slick catching one hard comebacker, and looked lucky catching another very hard comebacker with what was more of a protective fling of the mitt than anything else.
  • The Yankees reliever, Adam Warren, seems to have a pretty decent changeup, too. It didn't help him much tonight, but Rays batters were struggling with it.

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