Tampa Bay Baseball started at 3:10 today inside Tropicana Field in front of a sellout crowd; the best part was the fact that majority of the fans were actually Tampa Bay Rays’ fans. Little did we all know that the video clip about Game 162 shown before the game started would foreshadow Game 1 of the 2012 baseball season.
In the bottom of the first, CC Sabathia looked rattled, something rarely seen. He walked Desmond Jennings, allowed Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria to single, and after getting Jeff Keppinger to ground out, Sabathia was told to walk Sean Rodriguez. That’s right, he walked Rodriguez to take on power hitter Carlos Pena; this move by Yankees’ Coach Joe Girardi would prove to be a mistake after Pena hits a Grand Slam. Welcome Back, Carlos Pena!!!
The next few innings the Rays gave up the lead due to James Shields’ poor outing and poor defense; Evan Longoria even committed an error. The fact that Joe West, an umpire known for making bad calls against the Rays, was behind home plate didn’t help. The television replays showed that several strikes were called balls, thus favoring the Yankees (because the team with the biggest payroll in baseball needs help to win?). The whole crew seemed to be against the Rays since the umpire covering second called Jennings out when he was indeed safe. But somehow the Rays managed to keep their cool and did not let the Yankees score after the third inning.
The Rays finally had a threat brewing in the bottom of the eighth after having a man at first-and-third with no outs, but the bottom of the line-up failed to get a man in. Due to B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld being injured, Coach Joe Maddon had Stephen Vogt pitch hitting for Elliot Johnson… Matt Joyce went 0-4 in the ninth spot today.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Rays showed the Yankees once more that baseball is played in nine innings. Jennings singled and Zobrist followed him with a triple; the game was now tied 6-6. Longoria and Luke Scott were walked, brining up Rodriquez. The Yankees at this point had five infielders – the game felt as if it was the American League Championship Series. Rodriguez struck out to bring up Pena. Pena singled, Zorbist scored, and the Rays’ celebrated their first win of the season. As the man in front of me said at the end of the game, “That was an amazing game #163.” There are seventeen games left between the Rays and Yankees, seventeen guaranteed exciting games of baseball.
Player of the Game: Carlos Pena. Pena went 3-for-5, hit a grand slam, singled in the opposite direction, and overcame a lefty pitching. He showed why all the Rays’ fans gave him a standing ovation when his name was announced.
What I Liked:
- Bull Pen: The Bull Pen did not let one runner score after Sheilds left after pitching five innings. J.P. Howell looked amazing, a great sign after his horrible year last year. Wade Davis was only so-so, but not worries. Burke Badenhop almost had a batter out, but Longoria made an error. Jake McGee and Joel Peralta survived after walking a few pitchers, but Fernando Rodney looked great out there. There was no threat in the ninth inning and he kept his composure after Ump West ripped him off; he better get used to it.
- Top of the Line-Up was Hitting: Longoria reached base every at-bat, Jennings and Keppinger each had 2 hits, and Zobrist hit the ball when he needed to hit the ball. The top of the line-up showed that they are able to get on base, they just need the bottom of the line-up to get them in.
- Carlos Pena not batting .196.
- Rays’ Fans chanting “Yankees Suck” in the stadium because it showed that 1) there are more Rays fans in Tampa and that 2) my opinion of the Yankees sucking is shared among fellow Rays’ Fans.
What I Didn’t Like:
- James Shields’ Outing. Shields is coming off his best year and is once again the Rays’ number one pitcher, so maybe he felt pressured to be the best pitcher. There were some words exchanged in the Rays’ dugout today between Shields and catcher Jose Molina. (Remember Matt Garza and Dioner Navvaro?) Hopefully Shields and Molina work on their communication and Sheilds goes back to being the best pitcher on the team.
- Evan Longoria looking sleepy and making defense mistakes, Pena going for the out at home and not the guaranteed out at first (guy was safe at home), Zobrist and Jennings almost colliding with each other in center field; the small mistakes that need to be addressed quickly since spring training is now over.
- GTMI: Two years ago, Rays’ outfielder Carl Crawford said “Get The
MotherfuckerMan In.” Sadly, the Rays still don’t know how to do that. They had several scoring chances but failed to get a man from third twice today. Every year its the same problem. Grr.
- Joe West and his crew. Did Major League Baseball purposely pick the one umpire who hates the Rays with a passion to start the first game of the season against the Yankees? Is MLB worried that their poor Yankees/Red Sox might not make it to the play-offs because of the Rays, so the Rays must be taken cared of as soon as possible? Why is Joe West so mean to the underdogs? The world may never know…