Monday, 14 April 2008

Score one for the farm

Baltimore Orioles 3 - Tampa Bay Rays 2
Baltimore Orioles 2 - Tampa Bay Rays 6

A couple of weeks into the season, and the offense that we know the top of the Rays' order is capable of is still yet to appear. Saying that, there have been some isolated sightings.

Saturday night, and Daniel Cabrera did a nice job for the O's in stifling the bats. Evan Longoria, making his much anticipated debut, was the only player to drive home a run against the ever-entertaining righty. Carlos Pena tied the game for the Rays with a homer in the 8th, only to see Dan Wheeler give up his first hit of the year - a homerun - in the ninth to give the Orioles the win.

Fast-forward to Sunday afternoon. On the mound is former top pick Jeff Niemann, making his debut. He loads the bases in the first, but works out of the jam, and settles down, holding the O's scoreless through the first five. Unfortunately, its the middle of the fifth, and the Rays haven't even registered a hit yet. Still, never fear, the farms all here! Longoria (who for the second consecutive game batted 1-3, and showed some excellent defense) led off with a walk. Justin Ruggiano, getting the start in right, and Mike DiFelice followed up with singles, loading the bases. Follow that with a single by Aki, scoring one, and another by CC, scoring two, and suddenly the Rays are in command. One out later, BJ Upton drives a pitch out of the park to left, his first homer of the year, a three-run shot, and its 6-0 Rays, and we're coasting.

Niemann put the only blemish on his afternoon in the sixth, giving up a solo-shot to Nick Markakis, but finished with a great line of 6IP, 6H, 1ER, 1BB and 5K's. He is the first Ray to get the win on their debut since Scott Kazmir did it three years ago. Lets hope the similarities don't end there! Getting the final three outs took a combination of JP Howell, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller, Al Reyes and Troy Percival, which I guess means it would be nice if tonight's starter could last a few innings.

Speaking of whom, it is now Andy Sonnanstine who is suddenly under a bit more pressure to perform. With Kaz and Garza not too far away from returning, there are in very short order going to be two men losing out in the battle for rotation spots. Edwin Jackson has been the star so far and James Shields is the number one right now. Niemann was excellent yesterday, and while he will have to do a fair bit to stick around, its certainly possible. Add to that Jason Hammel's excellent outing on Saturday (7IP, 5H, 2R, 1BB, 6Ks), and its now Sonnanstine who needs to step up. I just love the situation, where suddenly its about who's going to miss out on the rotation, rather than who on earth is going to fill in. Its a good place to be.

Its the Yanks in town tonight, 7.05pm EST, though I expect that I will be watching tomorrow evening sometime - so don't tell me what happens in the meantime!

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