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Tampa Bay Rays III: The Thunder From Down Under
Posted By Cliff Corcoran On June 6, 2009 @ 11:47 am In Cliff Corcoran,Game Thread,Series Preview | Comments Disabled
Coming off their World Series appearance last year, the Rays were expected to be one of the best teams in baseball yet again in 2009, but two months into the season, they have yet to be a factor in the AL East race. It’s not for lack of trying. The Rays have the second-best Pythagorean record in all of baseball (behind the Dodgers). They are second only to the Yankees with 5.57 runs scored per game, and have been better than average at keeping runs off the board, ranking sixth in the AL in least runs allowed per game.
What’s gone wrong is some bad luck in one-run games (they’re 6-11 in such contests), and some bad luck in April. Since the beginning of May, the Rays gone 19-14, winning at a .576 clip. That despite the litany of other things that have gone wrong for them.
Expected to be a boon to the offense, designated hitter Pat Burrell landed on the DL in early May with a neck problem having hit just one home run and slugged .315 to that point. Second baseman Akinori Iwamura was lost for the season two weeks ago after tearing his anterior and medial collateral ligaments on a collision at the keystone. Slick-fielding shortstop Jason Bartlett was off to a fluky start, hitting .373/.418/.596, but he sprained his ankle in the same game, landing on the DL.
The Rays new and improved right-field platoon of lefty Matt Joyce, acquired from the Tigers in the offseason, and righty Fernando Perez never got off the ground when Perez dislocated his wrist in spring training, ending his season. The Rays then inexplicably kept Joyce in Triple-A for most of the first two months of the season while persisting with the unexceptional Gabe Gross (.256/.362/.400) as the strong side of that platoon.
The Rays have finally called up Joyce, who hit .315/.408/.530 for Durham, as well as his Triple-A teammate David Price, who was supposed to fill the rotation spot vacated by the man the Rays traded for Joyce, Edwin Jackson. Price was kept down because of arbitration and innings limit concerns, but now that he’s here, he’s replacing the injured Scott Kazmir (quad), not Jackson or Jackson’s early-season replacement, rookie Jeff Niemann. Then again, maybe that’s just as well. Kazmir posted a 7.69 ERA before hitting the DL, and Andy Sonnanstine, who will start Monday, has posted a 7.07 mark.
As for Price, after a shaky, abbreviated first outing, he dominated the Twins for 5 2/3 innings his last time out, striking out 11 against just two walks while allowing just one run on five hits. He takes on CC Sabathia this afternoon in what should be a thrilling pitchers duel. Over his last five starts, Sabathia has gone 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. In those five starts he’s averaged nearly eight innings per start, and held opponents to a .187/.242/.259 line.
Francisco Cervelli will continue to catch Sabathia this afternoon. Jorge Posada will DH. Evan Longoria, who leads the majors with 55 RBIs, is expected to return to the Rays lineup after missing a couple of games with a tight left hamstring.
Tampa Bay Rays
2009 Record: 28-28 (.500)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 32-24 (.571)
Manager: Joe Maddon
General Manager: Andrew Friedman
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Tropicana Field (102/103)
Who’s Replaced Whom:
1B – Carlos Peña (L)
2B – Willy Aybar (S)
SS – Ben Zobrist (S)
3B – Evan Longoria (R)
C – Dioner Navarro (S)
RF – Matt Joyce (L)
CF – B.J. Upton (R)
LF – Carl Crawford (L)
DH – Joe Dillon (R)
L – Gabe Gross (OF)
R – Gabe Kapler (OF)
L – Reid Brignac (SS)
R – Michel Hernandez (C)
R – James Shields
L – David Price
R – Matt Garza
R – Andy Sonnanstine
R – Jeff Niemann
R – Joe Nelson
L – J.P. Howell
R – Grant Balfour
L – Randy Choate
R – Dan Wheeler
R – Lance Cormier
R – Jason Isringhausen
SS – Jason Bartlett (sprained ankle)
DH – Pat Burrell (neck inflammation)
C – Shawn Riggans (shoulder tendonitis)
LHP – Scott Kazmir (quadriceps strain)
RHP – Troy Percival (shoulder tendonitis)
RHP – Chad Bradford (elbow surgery)
LHP – Brian Shouse (strained elbow)
2B – Akinori Iwamura (ACL, MCL, and ankle)
OF – Fernando Perez (dislocated wrist)
R – B.J. Upton (CF)
L – Carl Crawford (LF)
R – Evan Longoria (3B)
L – Carlos Peña (1B)
S – Willy Aybar (2B)
S – Ben Zobrist (SS)
L – Matt Joyce (RF)
R – Joe Dillon (DH)
S – Dioner Navarro (C)
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