Monday, 7 April 2008

(Opening) week in review

But first, yesterday's game:

Tampa Bay Rays 0 - New York Yankees 2

And while its obviously a shame to see even a mini winning streak snapped, you can't help but admire the way it happened. A pitching duel between a couple of the best starters that the American League has to offer. Ok, so James Shields didn't have his best stuff, and scattered 8 hits in 5+ innings of work, but he kept on working, and aside from a solitary mistake that Hideki Matsui belted for a two-run shot, could easily have shutdown the Yanks completely.

Unfortunately for the Rays, those two runs were all New York needed thanks to an outstanding effort from Chien-ming Wang, doing exactly what a staff ace is meant to. He held the Rays hitless for 4 1/3 innings, and left two batters into the seventh, with a line of 6IP, 4H, 0R, 2BB and 6Ks. And as if that wasn't enough, in relief they sent in Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera. Its the first time I've seen Chamberlain pitch, and wow. He is very impressive.

There really was nothing doing for the Rays on offense, a blown safety squeeze play aside, but in a game like that, you've just got to accept that the opposition pitchers have their best stuff, and get your swing back for the next game.

SO, one week down in 2008, and the Rays sit with a 3-2 record. Which, but for a disastrous Al Reyes inning on Wednesday, could easily be 4-1. So plenty of positives all round. Here's just a quick selection:

Cliff Floyd - Early days I know, but the signs are good that Floyd is going to be just what we were hoping for - a good presence in the clubhouse, and a big bat in the DH slot. A .333 start with a couple of homers and 5 RBI is definitely a welcome return, and hopefully not having to play the field will allow him to keep it going throughout the season.

Eric Hinske - A non-roster invitee coming into spring, Hinske made the team, and the opening day start. He's hitting 4-10 through the first week, with two 2Bs and a homer, and has played some nice defence as well.

Jason Bartlett - Ok, so Jason has had a slow start with the bat, but I am already a convert thanks to some superb play at shortstop. The difference in range and sure-handedness is already there for everyone to see compared with previous incumbents, and he's already saved the pitching staff a hit or two.

The Rotation - Speaking of which, while the returns haven't been spectacular the starters have begun the season nicely. Only Matt Garza really had any major problems; Shields and Sonnanstine didn't have their best stuff but battled fantastically to keep the team in the games. Star of the four though is Edwin Jackson, who pitched like we've all been hoping he can in giving up just a single run in 6 innings against the Yanks.

Dan Wheeler - I've saved the best till last though, as Dan Wheeler has simply been the star of the early going. Four relief appearances, 4 innings, and not a single run, hit, walk, or anything much else given up. The Rays gave him a pretty big new contract just before the season, and he's already putting the work in to show that he deserved it.

I write all of that, of course, safe in the knowledge that I have now jinxed everybody mentioned and that they will immediately fall to pieces. I know how it works, but I shall just have to cross my fingers and hope. First test will be the series finale in New York tonight, where Jason Hammel will make his first start of the season. He's likely to be the odd man out when Kaz returns, so he needs to make a good impression while he can - which won't be easy considering he hasn't pitched for well over a week now.


Michael Norton said...

Love the new digs!

Michael Norton - Some Clubhouse

John said...

Thanks, so do I! I'd forgotten how nice it is to be able to customise the way things look ;)