THE GOOD: Your starting third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria (how good does that sound?). Dirtbag got off to a good start, making plays in the field and driving in the Rays first run with a groundball single to left. He also drew a walk and reached on an error…Jason Hammel was the hard-luck starting pitcher for the Rays. Hammel gave what the Rays needed, going 7 innings and allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk. He struck out 6. Only once in 2007 did Hammel work more than 6 innings and ironicaly, that was in relief on June 13, after Edwin Jackson had to be pulled after giving up 5 runs and failed to get out of the first inning…Carlos Pena hit his 6th home run. Would love to hear what all those prognosticators are saying now after predicting that Pena would not come close to replicating his 46-home run performance of a year ago…JP Howell continues to pitch well in relief. He struck out 2 in the 8th inning, allowing only 1 base runner on a hit batter.
THE BAD: Dan Wheeler. You absolutely cannot let one pitch beat you in that situation. With 2 outs and the bases empty, Wheeler eased up a bit. A starting pitcher can do that in the first half of the game. But in the 9th inning of a tie game, every pitch counts. There is no reason to throw anything anywhere close to the batter’s wheelhouse. If he doesn’t bite, a walk does not hurt the ballclub. With two outs and the bases empty, you basically have at least two batters to try and get somebody to swing at a bad pitch…Why is Wheeler in the game anyway? It is the 9th inning of a tie game at home and the Rays had just tied the game. Momentum is on the side of the Rays. Joe Maddon has no reason not to have Troy Percival in the game. Why save him? At this point a save is impossible for the home team. At this point Maddon should be working his bullpen in reverse. Percy in the 9th. Reyes in the 10th, Wheeler in the 11th.
THE TELLING: If the Rays could ever rattle off a 6-2 or 8-3 stretch, the crowds will start to grow. There is a buzz about this team and an excitement in the stands we have never seen before outside of opening day or a Red Sox or Yankees series. And after seeing how the crowd responded to Evan Longoria it is hard for us to believe that the front office can send him back to Durham.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Jeff Niemann will make his major league debut today, four years after being the Rays first pick in the June draft. [MLB]
- Scott Kazmir will throw about 30 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday. He will then make a rehab start for Vero Beach on Friday in which he will throw 3 innings or 35-40 pitches…Matt Garza threw yesterday and felt great. He will play catch again tomorrow. [MLB]
- If all goes well, Scott Kazmir could make his first start of 2008 at Fenway Park against the Red Sox on May 3. [Tampa Tribune]
- With Evan Longoria arriving to a Trop full of hype, Roger Mooney notes that the Rays already have a superstar in Carl Crawford. [Bradenton Herald]