RAYS 8, Rangers 4 (boxscore)
THE GOOD: Sending a Message. You hate to ever say one game in April against a non-divisional foe is benchmark, but the Rays and Rangers are probably the two best teams in the AL right now, and the Rays came out and punched the Rangers right in the nose in the first inning with 4 runs, 3 coming on a big blast by Evan Longoria…Longo’s Big Swing. Longoria hit a 3-run home run. It happens. But this one was different. It was a changeup that Longo was fooled on a bit. But he kept his hands back, and despite his front side opening up too soon, he still muscled the ball over the center field wall. And even that was more impressive considering how high hit the ball. The wind was blowing in, but at Rangers Ballpark, that only affects balls hit high. So Longo had a bad swing, and the wind was blowing in, and he still hit it 410 feet…Joe Magic. With a lefty on the mound, Joe Maddon went with Jeff Keppinger at DH, Chris Gimenez at C and Elliot Johnson at 2B. Those three combined for 7 hits. And when the Rangers went to the bullpen, Maddon replaced Keppinger with Luke Scott, who promptly hit his 5th home run.
THE BAD: Bossman’s Baserunning. C’mon BJ, you can’t try to tag up from second on a flyball to left field with 2 outs. The play itself is fine. In fact we like the idea. But with two outs, the risk is too big considering there would be little reward. And when you are running home later and the catcher has the front of the plate blocked, you have to try to slide around. And yes, sliding head first is typically a no-no at home. But that is one situation where it works. Now if BJ could have just gotten thrown out stealing second and picked off first, he would have had the bizarro cycle…Wade Davis. OK, nice job getting out of the 8th inning. But going 3-0 to Elvis Andrus with the bases loaded and Josh Hamilton on deck is not ideal. Two called strikes and 5 foul balls later, Andrus was still at bat when he lined out to BJ Upton in center field to end the inning. And yes, this was a huge out and is probably good. But Big Dub gets bumped to the Bad because he nearly gave us a heart attack. And that’s not cool!
THE TELLING: Rays hitters had 16 hits and just 4 strikeouts…The Rays have won 6 in a row, and 8 of their last 9. The Rays are now alone atop the AL East at 13-7, 1 game ahead of the Orioles…The Hideki Matsui signing is still not official.
THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Over at BI we broke down the 9th inning of Brandon Allen’s heroic walk-off home run. We can’t emphasize enough how important BJ Upton was to the rally. Just as important as Allen. [BI Sports]
- Here is a fun look at how Evan Longoria’s home run (5.05 seconds) took 53.5% longer to leave the park than Josh Hamilton’s home run (3.29 seconds). [@CorkGaines]
- We all knew the pitching would be good, but the amount of power the offense has generated has been a pleasant surprise (thanks Thad). [ESPN]
- Here’s a picture of Jeff Niemann’s dog Sadie, who was a guest in the clubhouse. [Lockerz]
- Rocco Baldelli can empathize with what Carl Crawford is going through right now. [ESPN]
- Jeff Niemann has struggled against the Rangers. [TBO.com]
- Chris Gimenez is enjoying his new-found playing time. [TampaBay.com]
- The Bucs finally got their linebacker and Joe is geeked. [JoeBucsFan]
DOWN ON THE FARM…