Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wheeler Blows It In 9th; Longoria Debuts

It was his first base runner of the season, but it was a costly one. He had been perfect through 5 1/3 innings this season but Ramon Hernandez took Dan Wheeler's 2-0 pitch deep to left in the top of the 9th inning to give Baltimore a 3-2 lead and the eventual victory. Wheeler acknowledged his mistake saying that Trevor Miller, who had retired the first two batters of the inning, did his job "and I didn't." It was a pretty packed house for Tropicana Field standards(Over 19k), mostly because it was the weekend but also because of Evan Longoria's debut. The rookie third basemen held his own, and we'll have pictures and video of his at bats later today.

On The Mound: Jason Hammel pitched very well in his second start of the season. After giving up a run apiece in the first and second innings Hammel threw up zeros in the rest of his career high 7IP. Hammel also struck out six. J.P Howell came into the game and pitched a perfect 8th with two strike outs. Trevor Miller entered in the 9th and quickly retired the two lefties he faced. The usually reliable Dan Wheeler was called on to get the last out, but after running the count to 2-0 he left a pitch right over the plate and Hernandez crushed it. It was disappointing, but the way he's been pitching I think that's one of the few times this season that we'll see that.

At The Plate: It was a quiet day at the plate for the Rays with only BJ Upton getting more than one hit. However the two biggest hits of the night were made by Carlos "I can hit game tying homers at will" Pena and Evan Longoria. In his first big league game Longoria came through with a key RBI in the 7th inning to cut the lead to one. Overall he was 1-3 with that RBI and a BB, he also reached on an error and showed smooth defensive skills. Carlos Pena came up in the 8th inning and battled with Jamie Walker, who he had hit a game tying 3-run homer off of the previous night. Pena emerged victorious again as he sent one into the right field stands to even the game at 2-2.

As mentioned earlier B.J. Upton had a multi hit game , but again was the center of a controversial call. B.J. has had a bad week with umpires. On opening day he was called out at third when he was safe on a game changing play. Then after Carlos Pena tied the game last night B.J laid down a beautiful bunt single. B.J was then caught stealing on a pickoff move by Chad Bradford that was really a balk. Rays announcer and former Major League pitcher, Joe Magrane, was very vocal in the booth about the balk and Manager Joe Maddon agreed after the game that it was a balk. I think B.J. should just forget about bunts and start hitting home runs like his brother Justin, who already has five.

Erik's Take: For the third straight game the pitching was impressive. Hammel had a great outing, and Howell and Miller were perfect. The only blip was Wheeler, but he'll be fine. It was great being in the stands for Longoria's first game. The rookie got a standing ovation during his first at bat, which I hope will be the first of many. He didn't look nervous at the plate and looked very good in the field, making several nice plays with the glove. I took video of his second, third and fourth at bats, I couldn't get video of the first.

Tommy's Take: Evan wasn't almighty, but even God took a day off. Longoria still reached base three times and had a big hit in a clutch situation. He's defense was impressive and he didn't look nervous at all. Carlos Pena is never nervous if you couldn't already tell. Los tied up the game for the second straight night on a monster home run. This guy is truly amazing to watch and with six home runs in 11 games, it looks like the extension Friedman signed him to is an absolute steal. That was the best game I've seen from Jason Hammel. I'm cautiously excited by the two games we've seen from Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel this week. If those two have turned it around that just adds more depth to the organizations pitching. Dan Wheeler's one pitch screwed up another comeback, but he's still of our top two relievers.

One thing I've noticed with the Rays is their slow starts to the game. As a team they are hitting .236/.317/.390 in innings 1-6, but heat up once the 7th inning rolls around where are much better .281/.360/.446. Even the pitching staff is better having a 4.36 ERA and 1.39 WHIP 1-6, but dips down to a 3.30ERA and 0.90 WHIP over the final three frames. I don't know if they need to set the alarms earlier or drink some more coffee, but it's something to keep an eye on.

In other news Scott Kazmir will pitch a simulated game Tuesday. Matt Garza is feeling good after playing catch and continue with his rehab. JK Ryu had a short stay with the Rays this time. Ryu was optioned back to AAA Durham in order to make room for Jeff Niemann, who makes his major league debut this afternoon.

Again, We will have pics and videos of Longoria's first game later.


Davey Gross said...

Longoria is an All-Star. The guy has turned into a real player.

Rays Fan said...

True dat, Longoria rules.