RAYS 7, Blue Jays 2 (boxscore)
THE GOOD: Big Tree. A very nice start to the season for Chris Archer who struck out 7 and walked 2 in 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. He seemed to have all of his pitches working and even looked to get stronger as the game went along. He hit 97 mph a couple of times early on, but was mostly 94-95. But later in the game he was 95-96 on a regular basis and got a lot of swing-and-misses with the slider (8)…Ryan Hanigan. The Rays’ new catcher is never going to wow anybody with his bat, but he showed last night that he is more than just a defensive catcher. In the second inning with two outs, Matt Joyce on second, and the team 0-forever with runners in scoring position, Hanigan fell behind 0-2 before he showed why he can be an OBP machine. He was patient and worked the count back to 3-2 before slapping a ball back up the middle to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. It was a gorgeous at bat…Desmond Jennings. Flash drove in the second run in the third inning with a double and later scored. But not before his beautiful slide at second base to avoid a tag (see above). You can see a GIF of the slide at this link.
THE BAD: David DeJesus. He was clearly favoring his foot as he ran the bases and it is easy to wonder if the injury is worse than he is willing to admit. When he was hit by the pitch, the ball caught the top of the foot and there is not a lot of padding in that area and there are a lot of fragile bones…Desmond Jennings. Jennings did miss a flyball in the game. The bad part was the landing on his dive. He appeared to come down hard on his left hip and was grimacing afterwards…Attendance. Yes, school is in session. Yes, it was a weeknight. Yes, it was the Blue Jays. Yes, attendance will be strong this weekend. Yes, St. Pete, corporate support, season tickets, hockey game, and everything else. But to draw just 9,531 is bad. Period. It was the smallest crowd since April, 2012 when the Rays drew just 9,458 against Seattle. Since the start of the 2008 season that was one of just 3 games with a crowd smaller than last night. The other 2 were against the Blue Jays.
THE TELLING: Brandon Gomes was used in the 7th inning with a 2-run lead. If that seems unusual, that’s because it is. It was the first time since 2011 that he was used in innings 7-9 with a lead of 3 or fewer runs suggesting he is going to get some more high-leverage outs this season…Sean Rodriguez was placed on the 3-day paternity leave list. His wife gave birth to their fourth child last night. He is expected back for tonight’s game. Vince Belnome was called up for Thursday’s game and arrived in the middle of the game. He was then optioned back to Durham after the game. It was his first call-up and will go down as one of the shortest big league stints ever, less than one game.
MINORS: [Boxscores] Last night was opening night for the Rays’ four full-season minor league affiliates. Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Betemit, and Jerry Sands homered for the Bulls. Sands went 3-3. Nate Karns struggled with his control, walking 7 and striking out just 1 in 2.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (5 earned)…In double-A, Willie Argo hit a home run and made a spectacular catch (see below).
THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Interestingly, the Rays have had “serious extension talks” with Yunel Escobar. Clearly Escobar has been a valuable member of the infield. But what does this say about the future of Hak-Ju Lee? Is he not healthy? Is his bat not big league caliber? Is he destined to play second base or center field? [Marc Topkin]
- Here is a Q&A with Dick Vitale. The best quote is when asked if he gets tired of being hounded for autographs and photos at Rays games: “Are you serious? If they don’t recognize me I’ll put a sign on my back that says, ‘Hey, I’m Dickie V! Ask me for an autograph!’ ” [LostLetterman]
- The “perfect beer” for the Tampa Bay Rays is apparently Green Bench Brewing Co’s Saison Banc Vert. I guess Cigar City Beer will have to wait until the team moves to Tampa. [Thrillist]
- Here are the pro teams that sell the most expensive concession food and drinks. [BI Sports]
- Sam Fuld is still making great catches in an A’s uniform. [@RaysIndex]
Rays prospect Willie Argo made a ridiculous catch at the wall in the season opener.