We addressed that Scott Kazmir needs to work on two things: his pitch count and working in sliders. He threw 111 pitches in six innings which is better then 111 in five innings (his usual outing last season). Kaz was able to stay ahead of hitters all game and looked sharped a majority of the time. He had his change-up working which allowed him to throw sliders in counts he wanted to and ended up throwing around 20 in all. Although that’s less then 20% of his pitches, he wasn’t in a situation in which he had to force it over.
Also we highlighted the new outfielders to and see how they do. Gabe Kapler played well finishing 1-3 with a walk and a run scored. He also had a tremendous slide into second that allowed him to stretch his hit to a double. Not a good day, however, on the part of Ben Zobrist as he finished 0-4 with a K.
What Went Right:
We mentioned Scotty K earlier so let’s talk about the offense. A day after getting shutdown and limited to only three hits, the Rays bounced back and pounded out 13; eight of which came of starter Jon Lester. They did a great job being patient and ran Lester out of the game after five innings.
It got to a point in which I wondered if Carlos Pena would ever put the ball in play as it took him till his sixth at bat when he grounded out to second. He would atone for all the whiffs when he hammered Lester’s 3-1 offering to dead center, thus looking like the Carlos of old.
Evan Longoria made everyone forget about his two GDP’s with his double and first homer of the season.
The Rays 9-1-2 hitters collected three hits each as Jason Bartlett looked comfortable in the leadoff role. It’s going to be quite a lineup once they get B.J. Upton back as you could essentially restart the batting order in the eighth spot with Bartlett, Aki, B.J. then C.C. Now that will be fun to watch.
Grant Balfour showed everyone that his awful spring doesn’t really matter after bailing out J.P. Howell in the eighth, and retiring four straight hitters to earn the save.
What Went Wrong:
Not much went wrong for the Rays today. The umpiring could have been questionable as home plate umpire Bob Davidson was EXTREMELY generous with the outside corner. However it did go both ways so you can’t complain. While Carl Crawford did pick up three hits, he also showed that he would never last in the National League as he had two very poor bunt attempts in the third inning with runners on first and second. He did get the job done ultimately, and it turned out to be very favorable for the Rays once Kevin Youkilis went to second instead of first which led to the Rays’ first run of the game.
The Rays will play the final game of the opening series with ALCS MVP Matt Garza taking the hill against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka pitched often and well in W.B.C. so the Rays should be ready for a polished pitcher instead of a guy just coming out of spring training. Also look for Mr. Brett Ballard to bring you the post game analysis as I will be in attendance for tomorrow’s 1:30 PM start. Yes Rays fans, be jealous.