The Tampa Bay Rays rebounded from an Opening Day mishap to take two out of their first three games of the year in Fenway Park.
Evan Longoria came up huge in the second and third games with a home run in each game and three hits in the finale. He also had two RBI in the first game. After an atrocious start, Carlos Pena took the muchhyped Jon Lester 420 feet out to dead center field to assure victory in game two. Jason Bartlett continued striking out too much, but getting hits whenever he did make contact. That safety squeeze play by him and Gabe Kapler made Lester completely clueless. Matt Joyce and Shawn Riggans also hit home runs in that third game, each one critical as the Rays edged out a 43 win.
Pitching was also effective in this series, despite the rocky start by James Shields. Shields’ career home ERA was 3.21 and his road ERA was 4.82 entering this season. He can just never find a routine away from Tropicana Field. Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza were each excellent in their own ways en route to victory. How they held the Red Sox to one run apiece is almost beyond me, but they are great pitchers, so they can figure out even the best of lineups. Joe Nelson was good, though a little scary. Lance Cormier held the fort down well in the first game. Grant Balfour was looking strong, especially with the changes to his style he is now painting 9495 mile an hour fastballs on the corners as opposed to firing 97 MPH over peoples’ heads and drawing futile swings. He also mixes in an occasional curveball, which was actually called a “plus pitch” by people who worked with him at Durham. Troy Percival still scares me, but he did manage to earn the save in the final game despite Jason Varitek’s home run.
A good start for Tampa Bay, indeed, but a tragic start on the West Coast. 22yearold Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, hours after pitching six scoreless innings against the Oakland A’s, died in a hitandrun traffic accident in Fullerton, California. Adenhart had been projected as a top prospect for the Angels and could have been great within a short time. But now the team and his family have lost him to a senseless drunk driving crash. Hopefully there is justice for all when the ensuing case wraps up, but the pitcher and the man lost, as well as the lives of two others, can never be replaced. R.I.P. Nick Adenhart.
As life and baseball move forward, the Rays travel to Baltimore to face the Orioles three times before coming home for the first time in 2009. Baltimore just won their opening series against the Yankees, so they should be taken seriously. If the Rays do that, they are in good shape. Until next time, go Rays.