An offensive outburst like this was exactly what the Rays needed in the final game of the road trip. Let’s just hope they didn’t use up all their hits for the week.
We said to look for a bounce back game from James Shields and sure enough we were on the money. After a disappointing opener last week, Shields’ line looked tremendous: 7IP, 0R, 3H, 3K, 1BB, and all on only 88 pitches. He could of easily gone back out but it was not necessary this early in the year and with that big of a lead.
Our other player to watch was Ben Zobrist. Once again, we guessed right as Zorilla had a big day at the plate going 2-5 with three RBI’s and a homer. Could be a nice statement to get some more playing time in right, which could be the plan seeing how he moved over there in the eighth and with the struggling Gabe’s.
What Went Right:
Just about everything was clicking today for the Rays. We mentioned Shields and Zobrist and is anyone surprised to see Evan Longoria in this section again? Longo continues his tear going 3-5 including another bomb and a double. One thing we want to point out with Longoria is he has much better pitch recognition so far this year. Towards the end of last season, it was pretty evident that any breaking pitch low and away was his kryptonite and in the first inning, starter Adam Eaton tried it twice. Both times, Longo started his swing but both times he was able to lay off. We take this as a sign that he is picking that pitch up earlier which should cut down his strikeouts.
How about some love for Jason Bartlett? Mr. Consistent is only hitting .391 so far and got his first homerun out of the way extremely earlier then last season. Oh, and it wasn’t a little dinker down the line, it was a shot to straight away center. J.B. is definitely locked in right now.
Carl Crawford quelled all our concerns about hitting with RISP early with his first triple of the season, a triple which resulted in three runs. Longoria, Aki, and J.B. also added RBI hits and all four did it with two outs. Good signs.
What Went Wrong:
One could expect that Gabe Gross‘ baserunning would make this list again but it wasn’t entirely his bad read as it was a great play by Adam Jones and Chad Moeller. You could make the argument that Gross should have gone halfway since the ball was a shallow fly to center thus making it impossible for him to tag, but Jones did a great job with the quick fake and Moeller blocked the plate perfectly to trip up Gross. However, there’s no reason for a guy the size of Gross to not drop a shoulder and take Moeller out, or even attempt a slide since the throw took a high bounce.
Also Grant Balfour could easily fall under here, but we all know Balfour is a high intensity pitcher and is at his best with his adrenaline pumping. However, with an 11 run lead, there’s no reason to be missing the plate and issuing three walks.
Crawford turned in another awful bunt attempt in the first, but once again was let off the hook thanks to a wild pitch from Eaton.
The Rays come to the Trop for the first time since the World Series (man that feels good to type) and will welcome the Yankees. Let’s see if we can get an encore performance from Scott Kazmir and the Rays hitters as they face Chien-Ming Wang. Wang was absolutely shelled in his first outing so look for the Rays to be patient and take advantage of any mistakes. Also the both of us will be in attendance tomorrow so our post game will be a bit delayed but we look forward to seeing that AL Championship banner raise up!