Welcome Rays fans and all other interested parties to my Opening Day celebration. This day is very much cause for one. The Tampa Bay Rays looked like that…”Devil” word…early before returning to new form and soundly defeating the Baltimore Orioles, 6-2. Kevin Millar’s two-run double put James Shields in an early 2-0 hole, but much like Tim Hudson for the Braves in last night’s game, adjusted and found himself afterwards. Meanwhile, the offense took the lead in the presence of owner Stuart Sternberg with three third inning runs, which came in part on the strength of Carl Crawford’s first stolen base of the season and a B.J. Upton two-run single. Eric Hinske led off the fourth inning with the Rays’ first home run of 2008, a solo blast to right field. (He played right field for the suspended Jonny Gomes, and as I’ve predicted, he delivered.) Willy Aybar was 1-for-4 at third base as I now hope he proves me dead wrong about him from my preseason predictions. Dioner Navarro and Jason Bartlett added RBI singles in the sixth inning. As much as it’s important for the big bats to produce, it’s always rewarding to see the bottom of the lineup contributing. In the eighth inning, Baltimore looked to rip into the lead with Brian Roberts stealing his second base of the game off Al Reyes, but a controversial interference call against Melvin Mora ended the threat, and the Rays won easily.
Shields had a nice day overall (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 2 K), with Trever Miller, Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler closing it out well with no runs on just one hit. The defense turned three difficult double plays, and only one hitter (Akinori Iwamura, at 0-for-5 but with a walk and run scored) was hitless. All around, this game showcased a lot of the Rays’ potential and put them in the win column. They did a bit of everything, and already began to look like a well-oiled machine on the field. They hit, ran, played defense, pitched, and came back from early trouble very effectively. It could not have gone much better. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Braves and Pirates are, as I’m writing this, deadlocked at 9-9 in the 12th inning. Atlanta made a five-run comeback in the ninth inning just to tie it. I’m seeing very strong late-inning heroics out of them so far in terms of bailing out their pitchers and keeping games alive. Now it’s just time to close the deal and win. More on those results and other news as they filter in. Until next time, go Braves and Rays.
UPDATE (4/1/08): Hey, a front page featured post, thanks MLBlogs. This marks my second trip into the top headline, the first coming in August 2007 after Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run.