A tough loss today for the Rays as they were stifled by great pitching from the Mariners. When a guy like Felix Hernandez has his stuff working, one can expect to be in for a long day (or a short one from the pitcher’s perspective). Follow that with some more flame-throwers out of the bullpen, and the Rays finished with nine strikeouts. The Rays were able to scrap up four hits on the day, and of course none came with runners in scoring position. Let’s get to it.
We were curious about how Carl Crawford would follow his 4-5 night, and sure enough he tacked on two more hits today. C.C. bumped his average 60 points in the last two games.
James Shields needed to have a big game today and he delivered. Minus his second pitch of the game to Ichiro and Big Game threw 7.1 allowing three hits and no runs. It’s a shame he had to take the loss as the offense was unable to get him off the hook. It’s great, however, to see vintage Shields on the road as that was a bit of a question mark coming into the season.
Ben Zobrist continues to receive playing time over the Gabe brigade, but he went 0-3, drawing a walk and grounding into a double play.
Even though he got a hit in the books, Dioner Navarro is still in a bit of a funk. Navi was able to squeeze out a hit past Jose Lopez but he did make more solid contact today then he did he past few games. He also put together better at-bats, which is where to start when trying to get out of a slump.
What Went Right:
Because we don’t have much to put here, let’s talk a bit more about James Shields. Although he did get away with leaving his change-up up in the zone a few times, he had it working today keeping it low and away to the righties. Shields picked up five K’s and gave up only one walk. Had it not been for an Evan Longoria fielding error in the eighth, Shields would have more then likely wrap up that inning even though he was at 102 pitches at that point. It’s good he performed the way he did today as he had commented earlier about possible dead-arm issues. Issue resolved.
Pat Burrell is slowly but surely starting to come around at the plate. The Bat was 1-1 and drew three walks. Not only was he signed for his pop, but Burrell is also a guy that should draw around 100 base on balls a season. It’s about time we started seeing that plate discipline.
What Went Wrong:
The constant story surrounding the Rays for the past few seasons has been hitting with RISP. Once again the Rays struggled finishing 0-7. The biggest contributors to that stat today? Akinori Iwamura and Navarro who combined to strand 10 runners on base.
Those that follow the Rays on a daily basis know that B.J. Upton is always up for the challenge when a pitcher tries to blow a fastball past him. This year though, the pitchers have been succeeding. I know Upton is still working out his timing and is still in the late stages of spring training mode, but let’s look at his at bat in the eighth. David Aardsma came in relief of Hernandez and started Upton with a heater a bit up and in the zone at 93. Swung on and missed. Next pitch hit the same spot at 94. Swung on and missed. Now at this point a pitcher will go out of the zone and get the hitter to chase right? Not Aardsma who knew Upton would not catch up to a third fastball, which he buried down the middle of the plate at 96. Naturally Upton swung again and whiffed. Let’s hope it’s just his timing still being off, and not the start of a trend.
After winning the opening series in Boston, the Rays have now dropped four in a row. They’ll look to break that streak in Oakland as Scott Kazmir (2-1) will be on the hill looking for his 50th career victory. He will be facing Trevor Cahill (0-1) who, I just learned two seconds ago, is 13 months older then I am. So let’s see if the Rays can get to this 21-year-old and provide Kaz some run support. First pitch 10:05PM EST.