Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jackson delivers and Rays win

Trever Miller walked in from the bullpen to start the ninth inning and was booed. He was booed again when he was announced as the pitcher.

That should tell you what kind of game Edwin Jackson had.

Perhaps Jackson deserved a chance at a complete game. Why not? He threw just 99 pitches (the total on the scorebaord was incorrect).

Jackson has allowed just one run in 14 innings this season.

Perhaps he turned the corner and is about to be the pitcher everyone expects him to be.

Anyway, Miller allowed a leadoff single to Adrian Beltre and was booed again.

Al Reyes is throwing in the bullpen.

Wait. Raul Ibanez just bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. Nice play by Bartlett. He went into the hole between short and third to get the ball then turned to start the double play.

Miller gets Richie Sexson looking at a fastball for strike three and that's your ball game.

Rays win 70 to snap a four-game losing streak.

Rays up 7-0 after seven

The Rays exploded for five runs in the seventh for a 7-0 lead. With the way Jackson is pitching -- two hits, six Ks through seven innings -- it appears the Rays have this game in hand, but they are the Rays, so you never know.

The Rays sent 10 batters to the plate in the seventh and had four hits. It was the first time since the fifth inning Saturday at Yankee Stadium that the Rays had more than two hits in one inning.

A two-run single by B.J. Upton with the bases-loaded scored two runs. Another run came home when pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano walked with the bases loaded.

Mike DiFelice scored two more runs with a bloop single to right-center field.

Jackson just set the Mariners down in order in the eighth. He's thrown just 101 pitches and receives a big hand as he heads to the dugout.

Not sure if Jackson will work the ninth. Trever Miller is throwing in the Rays bullpen.

Hinske homers; no more no-no for Batista

Eric Hinske breaks up Batista's no-hitter with a home run into the right-center field seats with one out in the fourth.

Rays 1, Mariners 0

That was Hinske's second home run of the year. He also homered on Opening Day in Baltimore.

Gomes follows with a single over the head of Mariner first baseman Richie Sexson.

That's the first time the Rays have had back-to-back hits since Aki and C.C. singled to start the first inning Tuesday night, a span of 20 innings.

that's all the hitting for the Rays this innning.

You want a sad stat? The Rays haven't had more than two hits in any inning during this homestand, and they've played 21 innings.

Beltre breaks up Jackson's no-hitter

We have a hit.

Adrian Beltre just smashed one to first and Carlos Pena got his glove on the ball but couldn't hold one. The ball ended up in short right field.

We waited a few minutes for the decision by the official scorer, who reqiested a replay, and the decision: H.

The game is only being televised in Seattle. Breakfast with the Mariners?

raul Ibanez followed the hit with a walk but was erased on a double play.

Carl Crawford preserves the shutout with a diving catch on Jose Vidro's line drive to end the inning.

Still no score.

And Tampa bay is looking for its first hit.

No-No through three

Batista walked Aki with one out in the bottom of the third but did not allow a hit. He set the Rays down by getting three ground outs, two to second and one to first.

Double no-no at the Trop

A little late getting started from my end, but here is what's happening at the Trop on this Thursday afternoon game between the Rays and the Seattle Mariners: Nothing.

As in no hits.

We're through 2 1/2 innings and neither team has a hit.

Rays started Edwin Jackson is outstanding, with just a pair of walks and five strikeouts through three innings.

Mariner starter Miguel Batista has walked two in his first two innings.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bottom of the 9th

Best part of the Rays being down?

The video screen pump-up, stuffed with blood-boiling clips from Animal House, Rocky II, Hoosiers, Independence Day and Rudy.

It's awesome. I'm a better blogger for watching it.

The Trop is rocking, and the top of the lineup will face Rowland-Smith. Seattle's closer, J.J. Putz, is hurt, so the Rays should take advantage.

Aki goes down looking, however, so now it's Crawford - who promptly pops out.

All up to Pena, whose third-inning home run just landed in Bradenton. The Rays could use another one now, and this place will explode if he does.

He doesn't - Pena whiffs on an 0-2 pitch, and the Rays lose their third straight, 6-5.

They are now 3-4. Same ol' Rays.

This John Lembo, signing off.

Top of the 9th

Troy Percival makes his St. Petersburg debut, looking to keep the Rays deficit at one run.

I can't believe all the empty seats. The Rays are down ONE RUN, and this isn't spring training. Wow - the more things change...Where did you all go, and I don't want to hear about work tomorrow.

Percival does his part - as did Wheeler and Reyes.

Can the Rays win their home-opener in walk-off fashion for a second straight year?

We'll see.

6-5 Seattle.

Bottom of the 8th

Down by a run, eighth inning - so Willie Aybar swings at the first pitch and grounds out.

Good baseball, guy.

Riggans, however, uses some baseball acumen and walks. Eric Hinske is pinch hitting for Elliot Johnson.

Hinske looks like a Cobra-Kai. Remember the Cobra-Kais, the bad boy karate students from The Karate Kid? Hinske looks like he'd fit right in, raising hell with Johnny, Bobby and Dutch, and harassing Daniel Larusso at every turn.

Now, will he harass Ryan Rowland-Smith, the M's new pitcher?

No. He pops out.

Bartlett grounds out. It's 6-5 Seattle.

Top of the 8th

These fans are still angry. They just booed the eHarmony kiss cam.

But new pitcher Al Reyes fires a pair of strikes at Ichiro. But the booing persists. Are the Yankees in town?

Ichiro beats out an infield hit, further irritating the raw-nerved fans. (They got the call right, guys...he was safe.)

Lopez singles, and this thing is about to spiral out of control. The Rays choose to pitch to Ibanez this time - they intentionally walked him twice - and he bounces into a double play.

Good thing they pitched around him, huh?

6-5 Seattle.

Bottom of the 7th

Pet peeves:

1. People who look at my cart at the grocery store.
2. People who refer to the pitching circle in softball as a "mound."
3. People who say Cracker JackS. It's singular, folks. Cracker Jack.

Roy Corcoran has come in to spell Bedard, and he whiffs Pena.

Upton grounds a rug-burner up the first-base line, but his out trying to stretch it into a triple. He looked safe on the replay. Hell, he was safe. Manager Joe Maddon knows it - and he's ejected for doing so.

And the crowd is full force, peppering the field with boos.

(Even the fans have heart this year.)

Gomes goes down looking. More good news for the boo-birds.

6-5 Seattle.

Top of the 7th

Wonder how much fight the Rays have left? They've battled back from a pair of deficit tonight, only to see their pen waste away.

Between innings, an ad for the proposed Rays stadium showed on the video screen.

Note to the team: ask for votes when you're WINNING, guys. OK?

Wheeler looks locked in - he cruises through a perfect seventh, notching a pair of strikeouts, along the way.

Seattle still leads 6-5.

Bottom of the sixth

Bedard hasn't pitched bad - the two runs he allowed last inning were unearned. He's allowed five hits, and has thrown 62 of his 96 pitches for strikes.

He hasn't been THAT good - but good enough. The Rays have played comeback all night, and need yet another, thanks to their leaky bullpen.

Aki works a two-out walk, a good omen for the Rays, who scored twice in the fifth thanks in part to a pair of two-out walks.

Well, so much for omens...Crawford grounds out.

6-5 Seattle.

Top of the 6th

Hey, Bartlett can play. He makes another nice grab at short...the Rays don't look half bad...I am impressed.

The Mariners ain't bad, either. Suzuki singles, and on a textbook hit-and-run, he heads to third on Lopez's hit.

Now Glover is in trouble. But Beltre helps him, swinging at the first pitch and fouling out to Riggans. Lopez tags up, however, putting runnerson second and third with two outs. The Rays appeal Lopez's tag, but the umpires wave him safe, much to the chagrin of the crowd.

Once again, the Rays are intenionally loading the bases, issuing Ibanez his second intentional walk of the game. The last ttime they tried this, Garza walked Sexson with the bases loaded. How will Glove fair?

With the crowd roaring to its feet, Glover winds, deals...and serves up a two-run single. The Mariners are back on top, 6-5, and all the air is let out of the Trop.

Glover goes with it - Dan Wheeler comes in, and gets Wilkerson to pop out.

6-5 Seattle.

Bottom of the 5th

The Aquafina bottle takes a big lead, but is tackled by the Pepsi bottle. In a scene reminscient of "Rocky II," both fall to the floor, and Sierra Mist wins the first bottle race of the year.

Inspried by Sierra Mist's thrilling win, Crawford has a long at bat against Bedard - but breaks his bat and lines out to second. Kinda like the first "Rocky."

(I wonder if Bedard is Russian? That way, we could get some kind of "Rocky IV" reference in here.)

Crawford and Upton walk, and up steps Mr. Ray himself, Gomes. Wonder if he'll actually earn his cheers here.

He does - kind of. His slow roller is fielded by Beltre at third, but his throw to second in an attempt to force Upton goes into right field. The Rays, without the benefit of a hit, have drawn even.

And checl this out - Gomes swipes second, allowing Upton to steal home. The Rays are manufacturing runs, looking like a real baseball team.

And a winning team - they lead 5-4 after five.

Top of the 5th

Gary Glover is the new Ray pitcher, one piece of bullpen that was vomit-inducing last season, posting one of the worst ERAs for a relief corps.

Just heard that Garza left the game with "radial nerve irritation." According to Wikipedia, the radial nerve is pretty important. So that ain't good.

Bartlett's radial nerve seems fine - his diving stab takes a sure hit away from Johjima, and the Rays still trail 4-3.

Bottom of the 4th

In the time it takes the average Ray fan to buy a pretzel and some brew, Dohmann gave Seattle the lead back.

Now the Rays, who have beat on Bedard, need to summon some more moxie. But it's only the fourth inning...though this game is nearing two hours old.

The Rays cooperated here, going down quickly and quietly.

4-3 after four.

Top of the 4th

With Garza out of comission, the Rays have put this tie game in the hands of their bullpen, beginning with Dohmann.

Hey, these still are the Rays, so of course, Dohmann allows a leadoff double to Betancourt, batting ninth.

Ichiro grounds out, and the Rays pull the infield in with one out and Betancourt on third. Lopez, however, lifts a sacrifice fly to left, allowing Betancourt to crawl home.

All that hard work is now moot. Thanks, Dohmann!

Upton runs down Ibanez's liner to center, but Seattle is back on top, 4-3.

Bottom of the 3rd

The Comeback Player of the Year is starting the combeack tonight.

Pena, who blasted 46 dingers last year, mashes a Bedard offering about 10 rows up in the right field bleachers. It's a colossal blast, and just what the Rays need after suffering through a sloppy top of the third.

Upton walks, and thwarts Bedard's pickoff attempt by stealing second. Gomes is hit by a pitch, setting off a near riot. (Hey, that's what happens when you plunk a diety).

Willie Aybar lofts a single to left, plating Upton. These Rays have some fight! We are tied at 3.

Top of the 3rd

All right, Garza - you got a lead.

What'cha gonna do with it? Why, serve up a lead off single to Yuniesky Betancourt, of course!

(I swear - the Mariners may have the hardest lineup to type in the entire American League. Makes me long for the days of blogging about Jason Bay and Jack Wilson).

Garza ain't fooling anyone. Suzuki lines a single to center, and the Mariners have two on and none out. Garza has allowed five hits and is nearing 50 pitches - but he makes a nice play on Lopez's swinging bunt, though the M's now have runners on second and third and one out.

After striking out Beltre, Garza intentionally walks Ibanez, loading the bases for Sexson. Uh, they do know Sexson is approaching 300 career home runs, right?

Garza does - he walks Sexson, tying the game at 1. Then Wilkerson, hitting a robust .056, singles in two more runs, and it's 3-1 Seattle. The good vibes buzzing through the Trop have evaporated - as has Garza's control, as he walks Vidro, hitting .158.

Better news? Garza just motioned for the Rays' trainer. Seconds later, he walks off the mound, replaced by Scott Dohmann.

And the Rays are flopping like it's 1999. They trail 3-1.

Bottom of the 2nd

High. Far. Gone.

Shawn Riggans, in the lineup after starting catcher Dioner Navarro nearly sliced his fingers off at Yankee Stadium, lifts a fly ball over the wall in left field.

The Trop is rocking. And buzzing.

Riggans' blast is the extent of the scoring, but it's off to arm the Rays with a 1-0 lead after two.

Top of the 2nd

Richie Sexson is so tall that prior to the game, the Rays asked him to reset the clock on the scoreboard.

He obliged. Nice guy.

He singles off Garza's glove, but Brad Wilkerson bounces into a double play, started by Aki, who looks like a natural playing second after spending last summer manning third.

Jose Vidro singles, but Kenji Johjima flies out.

No score.

Bottom of the 1st

Chieng-Ming Wang. Mike Mussina. And now, Erik Bedard.

The Rays have faced their share of hurlers thus far, but Iwamura uses his greatest asset - speed - to leg out a slow roller for an infield hit.

Crawford bounces a single uo the middle. Meanwhile, the outfield seats that were empty moments ago are beginning to fill.

Know what? Trpoicana Field feels like a - GASP!- real baseball stadium! And Aki and Crawford are exciting - both move up 90 feet on Pena's flyout to center.

Alas, however, these still are the RAYS: Upton strikes out on a pitch that was so high it breezed the catwalk, and Gomes, Mr. Ray himself, grounds out.

Aki and Crawford are stranded. And we're scoreless after one.

Top of the 1st

First pitch from Garza is at 7:12. It's a ball.

Well, 2008 is shot. Sorry, Rays fans.


Garza fans Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibanez's fly ball dies at the warning track.

No score after a half inning.

And the biggest cheer goes to...

...Carlos Pena. I guess that's what happens when you swat a franchise-record 46 home runs a year ago. People tend to like you.

Just like if you win a Super Bowl. Actually, the loudest yells are reserved for Mike Alstott, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who threw out the first pitch, along with Gov. Charlie Crist.

First pitch is coming...

Starting lineups

Here are the lineups for the Rays' home-opener with the Mariners:

1. Ichiro Suzuki, cf
2. Jose Lopez, 2b
3. Adrian Beltre, 3b
4. Raul Ibanez, lf
5. Richie Sexson, 1b
6. Brad Wilkerson, rf
7. Jose Vidr, dh
8. Kenji Johjima, c
9. Yuniesky Betancourt, ss
Erik Bedard, p

Hard to believe, but Ibanez has had three 100-plus RBI seasons, including the last two. Sandwhiching him between Beltre and Sexson could do wonders for the Mariners. Keep an eye on Bedard - it took a gaggle of young players, such as Adam Jones, to pry him away from the Baltimore Orioles. Consequently, the Mariners think he has the stuff to get them back to the postseason for the first time since 2001.

1. Akinori Iwamura, 2b
2. Carl Crawford, lf
3. Carlos Pena, 1b
4. B.J. Upton, cf
5. Jonny Gomes, dh
6. Willy Aybar, 3b
7. Shawn Riggans, c
8. Elliot Johnson, rf
9. Jason Bartlett, ss
Matt Garza, p

None of the Rays' first four hitters are batting above .227, and Iwamura and Crawford are swimming below the Mendoza line. Despite that, Tampa Bay went 3-3 through Balitmore and New York - a good sign. Johnson is already the third Ray to man right field this season, joining Gomes and Eric Hinske. We'll see if he does better than those two, both of whom turned routine flyballs into adventures during the four-game series at New York.

Miss the spring, but...

Hey, I love spring training. But I'm so much happier to be blogging from a regular-season game, where the stats count and the starters stay in past, oh, the fifth inning.

I imagine a meaningful game will up the fodder quotient. We'll see.

We're less than four hours from first pitch.

Opening Day

Well, here we are, live at the the second-most anticipated home-opener in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays, who went 3-3 on their trip through Baltimore and New York.

This is John Lembo, staff writer for the Bradenton Herald, and I will be with you as the Rays open their home season against the Seattle Mariners. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m.

A pair of newly-acquired hurlers face off, as Matt Garza (0-0, 8.44 ERA) goes for the Rays and Erik Bedard (0-0, 1.80) goes for the Mariners.

No use coming if you don't have tickets - the Trop is sold out.