Sunday, 3 August 2008

The rookie marches on

Detroit Tigers 2 - Tampa Bay Rays 5
Detroit Tigers 3 - Tampa Bay Rays 9

So, the Tigers have had to wait until August to get a firsthand look at Evan Longoria. Two games into the series, and I think that it is fair to say that they now believe the hype. He followed up a homerun on Friday night with a 3-5, 3 RBI effort last night, including his team-high 21st homerun of the season, a number that ties Jonny Gomes' team rookie record. He obviously continued his sharp play in the field as well, and swiped his seventh base of the season to boot. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, then seriously, whats stopping you?!

That steal came on the back-end of a double steal, led by Carl Crawford - his first stolen base for 18 games. But while he hasn't been swiping much of late, CC has found his bat stroke a bit more, not to mention his wheels out of the batters box. He tripled on friday night, to make it 5 three-baggers in 6 games, and move his AL-high mark to 10. I've said it before, but there is no play in baseball that is more fun to watch than CC flying around the bases on his way to a triple.

Truth be told, its been a bit of a funny series so far. We've looked reasonably comfortable in winning the first two, thanks largely to some nice, timely hitting. Having said that, the number of runs that we've scored is somewhat down to some slightly wild Detroit pitching. Indeed, Ivan Rodriguez apparently couldn't have picked a better time to get traded, judging by the tough time that Brandon Inge has had behind the plate. So far, we've scored twice on wild pitches, and once on a passed ball - and even with those stats, I'd rate Inge as their best player so far. Without his excellent effort behind the plate, we could easily have scored 4 or 5 more over the two games without ever swinging the bat.

Kenny Rogers yesterday was the picture of wildness. He struck out 8, but threw 109 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings, giving up 6 hits, 4 walks and 7 runs.

It was a performance, actually, that somewhat mirrored Scott Kazmir's start on Friday. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, thanks largely to 6 walks - four of which came in the first inning, letting the Tigers on the board early without the benefit of a hit. He did settle down, and struck out five, only allowing 3 hits, but his pitch count was already out of control by that point. He was though picked up superbly by the bullpen - Grant Balfour, JP Howell, Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival allowing just one hit between them over the last 4 1/3.

Yesterday's start from Andy Sonnanstine was much better. He's struggled a little bit of late (and not been helped by a lack of run support) but was solid yesterday. He scattered 7 hits over 6 innings, but allowed just two runs, and struck out 6, thanks mainly to an absolutely awesome curveball that he had working. I think it is the best I have ever seen him throw the breaking stuff - he was making the Detroit hitters look simply awful much of the time - Matt Joyce almost swung himself off his feet trying to make contact, while veteran Edgar Renteria took such a wild swing that his bat ended up being fielded at short.

The well deserved W moves Sonny's record on the year to 11-6, and was preserved by Al Reyes and Jason Hammel. Reyes was very shaky indeed, giving up a run on three hits in one inning, but Hammel, making a somewhat rare appearance, was excellent, giving up a solitary single in his two innings.

As of right now, the Rays are 21 games over .500 at 65-44, and are sat 3 games ahead of Boston and 5.5 ahead of New York. James Shields is on the hill this afternoon trying to wrap up a sweep of the Tigers.

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