Saturday, May 16, 2009
Cheese & Whine: Who is this Homerun Hitting Lead-Off Guy, Part II
Heckuva game, this one. Wish I could've actually watched it on T.V. Unfortunately, I live in New York, and Fox had the Mets-Giants on this afternoon. Hence, even the bars with MLB Extra Innings didn't have it (at least the bar I was at couldn't find it). That's why I watched this game on MLB Gameday and listened to Dave Wills and Andy Freed on my iPod. Frustrating? Yes, especially because even highlight videos were blacked out until the game was over. But getting to watch the pitch speed and location feature for every ball thrown was kind of cool, and it helped me to understand why Garza was upset. Of course, Garza is almost always upset, and his emotions are his Achilles heel. Nevertheless, he definitely had a tighter strike zone than did Pavano. I wish I could bring up the Gameday pitchFX shots to show them here, but I lack the requisite technical ability.
Tomorrow, thankfully, the game will actually be available on T.V. up here, and I'll be watching it at the Courtyard Bar in Sunnyside, Queens. Any Raysheads in the area interested in not being the only Rays fan in the bar oughtta swing by, or let me know if there's some other place in this city to watch a Rays game. I mean, there are pleanty of people from Florida up here. If we can't establish a bar dedicated to us, like Boston fans have, we could at least take one over on certain days and evenings, right? If you're around and tired of being the only person in a Rays hat, let me know.
Enough of that. Now, on with the show. Today's game was enough of a mixed bag that I think I have to break from the "Cheese, Whine, and Crackers" format, and instead go topic-by-topic. I'll start from the unequivocably good and work towards the bad.
Rays Bullpen: Another excellent showing by a bullpen that must be running on fumes by now. They threw 3 shutout innings, thereby keeping the Rays in a position to win. Brian Shouse came in to start the 7th and did a pretty good job, getting Sizemore to ground out, and then catching Cabrera and Choo--the latter after a single from hot-hitting Victor Martinez (186 OPS+ this year and already close to matching his TB totals from last year; not a bad start) looking at third strikes. Grant Balfour looks like he's coming back to form, striking out two while allowing only one baserunner in the 8th on a HBP, and Joe Nelson closed out the game with a 1, 2, 3 performance against the 9, 1, and 2 hitters for the Indians. It's almost enough to get a guy to hoping that the Rays bullpen of '09 is on its way towards looking like the Rays bullpen of '08. We like what we see, but we'll keep our fingers crossed.
Akinori Iwamura: Having struggled some in the field of late, Aki made a couple of very good plays, most notably in the 5th when he snagged a grounder on an awkward hop off Grady Sizemore's bat, helping to keep Garza out of real trouble (this followed another nice snag by Bartlett, who'd made a nice play going to his left). Plus, he accounted for 2 hits, a run, and a stolen base. Even though he left 3 men on with 2 outs, it's hard to complain about Aki tonight.
Carl Crawford: C.C. also went 2-4 with a run scored. He gets points off for having participated in the Rays 1, 2, 3 three-strikeout first inning, but overall, Crawford continues to be a consistent contributor to the Rays offence and defense. It's almost criminal--in fact, it would have been criminal if the they'd lost today--that the Rays wasted his triple in the 4th.
Ben Zobrist: Zorrilla got his 18th RBI today, and though he did not capitalize on his first chance (in which he grounded into a fielder's choice, which would've been a double play if not for a bobbled ball), he came up big in the 8th with a two-out double to score C.C.
Matt Garza: Now, I can't get too down on Garza, as he did manage to get through 6 innings today while giving up only two runs. Given the way Rays' starting pitching has gone of late, that's nothing to sniff at. However, it took him 120 pitches to do it, and only 70 of those were for strikes. It took Matt 40 pitches to get through the fifth, an inning in which he was working from behind to almost everyone he faced. Though he got out of the inning without surrendering the lead, it was close. I'm pretty sure Garza found himself with a full count 6 times today. That's not good. It should be noted that the Rays semi-ace was on the wrong side of a lot of close calls today, but it ought simultaneously be noted that the close calls almost caused him to melt down on several occasions. Garza kept it together today, but it seemed touch-and-go more than once.
Melvin Upton: The player sometimes known as Bossman Junior drew first blood in the game when he launched a solo shot into the left field stands in the 4th. This was good, but it was also the only sign of life from Upton at the plate today. He went 1-4 with 3 K's. That's a respectable showing, but the Rays faithful are looking for more before we call Melvin the Bossman again.
Willy Aybar: Again, I don't mean to get too down on a guy who's doing a pretty good job given the expectations. That said, Willy Aybar is not giving Peña the protection he needs. Thus,
in the 4th, with C.C. on third, the Indians "unintentionally" walked Peña, and Aybar promptly grounded into a double play to end the inning. This was not entirely Aybar's fault. He took a couple of balls that were called strikes, and Longoria lined out, ridiculously, before Peña came up. But the walk to Peña might not have happened if teams had to fear the man behind him. Our own DirtbagFan recently made an interesting argument about what ought to be done with the spot recently vacated by Pat the (what?), and we're beginning to think he's right.
After going down 1, 2, 3 with 3 K's in the first inning, the Rays eventually went 8:4 K:BB's, which, given their recent tendencies, isn't too bad. Pavano faced the minimum through three innings, and it was irritating to see/hear the Rays make that guy look like a legitimate big league pitcher. They seemed to have him figured out by the second time through.
Is Upton breaking through, or has he had a couple of lucky swings? Ought he, or ought he not, remain "On Notice" on this site? Weigh in here.
The Yankees won again today in dramatic fashion, pulling out a walkoff victory in the 11th against the Twins. Let's cross our fingers and hope the Mariners can give us some help in the standings tonight.
at 7:57 PM