Eric Hinske or Gabe Gross?
On May 11th, Cliff Floyd came off the DL and rejoined the Rays for the first time in over a month. As long as Floyd is healthy (and the Rays are playing in an AL park) he will be the Rays starting DH against right-handers. What isn’t clear is who will be the starting right fielder in those same games. Eric Hinske has been with the Rays all season and he has been one of the Rays most consistent offensive contributors hitting .250/.343/.508 with 7 home runs in only 120 at bats. Gross was added to the roster on April 23rd and has hit .229/.333/.396 in 22 games (14 starts). Gross’ contribution is his glove and his patience. He is a better glove and has a far superior arm to Hinske. We have seen Hinske make several bad plays in the outfield including two instances in the last week in which he played outs or singles into triples. And while Hinske is the bigger offensive threat, Gross has shown a level of patience at the plate not seen often in the Rays lineup.
In 5 games since Floyd came back off the DL (not including the Cardinals series without the DH), Hinske has made 5 starts in right field while Gross has started twice and subbed for Hinske in a 3rd game.
Which one should be the regular right fielder versus righties? At times the offense has sputtered. in the last 10 games the Rays have scored less than 3 runs 4 times. But they have also shown they are hitting the ball well, with 41 hits in the Cardinals series despite no DH. With solid defense everywhere else on the diamond, the Rays can afford one below-average fielder in the lineup on most nights. The bat is too good and Joe Maddon should continue to ride the extra base hit threat as long as possible. HINSKE
2 runs allowed by James Shields tonight:
In Shields last 4 starts he has allowed 0,7,0,2 runs. The Red Sox outing (7 runs) really seemed to get under Shields’ skin and he has been outstanding since. He will be facing a mediocre offense with the A’s that is coming off a long road trip in which they went 2-7. Not to mention, Shields will be taking the mound in a pitcher-friendly park. Last year in his only start in Oakland, Shields went 8 innings and allowed only 1 run on 4 hits and 1 walk. In his other start versus the A’s he allowed 2 runs in 8.1 innings. UNDER
1.5 Wins for the Rays in this series against the A’s:
Oakland is returning home from a 9-game road trip in which they lost 7 games. They now sit 24-21, 1.5 games behind the Angels in the AL West and 1.5 games behind the Rays in the Wild Card race. The A’s are 12-9 at home but they are only 7-10 against lefties which bodes well for the Rays tomorrow when Scott Kazmir takes the mound. The A’s do lead the AL with a +31 run differential, but that is due in large part to their pitching staff which has the 2nd best ERA in the AL at 3.38. They are also 2nd with 320 Ks and have allowed the 5th fewest walks. However, with James Shields on the mound tonight and the 6-1 Andy Sonnanstine on the hill for getaway day on Wednesday, look for the Rays to take at least 2 of 3. OVER
What are the chances of James Shields throwing a no-hitter this season?
If the question was “for the Rays in any season?” the number would be close to 25%. His stuff is that good. Shields has shown on a number of occasions that he is capable of no-hit stuff. But the question is “this season”. So far, in 9 starts he has a 2-hit shutout and a 1-hit shutout. Last year he threw 9 3-hit innings against the O’s and against the Indians he had a start in which he only allowed 2 hits in 8 innings. The problem is, Shields only has 23-24 starts left in ’08 and we have to assume that 4-5 of those will come against the Yankees or the Sox. 5%