Split With Baltimore, Off to New York

The Rays’ brief homestand ended with a two–game split with the Baltimore Orioles, who nearly ran away with a sweep to knock Tampa Bay back into last place.  But we are thankful that they saved themselves in that second game.

The first game, however, was a disaster from the first pitch forward.  Literally — Scott Kazmir’s first pitch bounced about 10 feet behind Brian Roberts.  He and Adam Jones walked, setting up a home run from the always dangerous Nick Markakis.  It was 3–0 before the Rays even got one hitter out.  But I do have to say that Markakis is easily one of the league’s best hitters right now, yet he usually gets overlooked.  The Rays should be a bit more cautious with him.  They did manage to tie the game later on, but Baltimore stormed right back and a Roberts home run sealed an 8–4 defeat.

Game two, played on a Tuesday afternoon for a rather small crowd (combination of time, opposing team and economic state), started out well but then turned as disastrous as game one.  Carl Crawford’s leadoff hit led to a steal of second base, and this is where The Benny Hill Show started.  Gregg Zaun short–hopped the throw into center field, where Adam Jones vainly tried throwing Crawford out and ended up launching it into the third base dugout.  Crawford scored to give the Rays the lead.  Roberts then hit another home run, this time on a high fastball as opposed to a low changeup, to give the Orioles a 2–1 lead.  Zaun hit a fifth inning home run to double that margin.  It was his first of the year and only his second RBI.  Dating back to the walk–off grand slam last season against Troy Percival, he has given Rays fans nightmares.

Matt Garza ended up with a good outing (8 IP, 3 R, 2 ER), but Koji Uehara was like a Japanese Greg Maddux.  He allowed no hits after the first inning Crawford single.  That is, until inning number six.  This began another episode of…

Baltimore’s Funniest Road Videos!

A leadoff single by Gabe Kapler and a double from Dioner Navarro started it.  Those guys, at the bottom of the order in this game, needed a boost after their weak starts.  Evan Longoria then tied the game with a double following a Crawford RBI groundout.  The next inning was even better for the Rays, as they took the lead and held it for good.  B.J. Upton had managed to top his previous 0–for–19 fiasco with a 20 at–bat hitless streak.  That is, until an RBI double on an 0–2 pitch gave his team the lead and lifted some weight off of his bat.  Longoria, who had a home run in the previous game, made this game’s RBI total three with a two–run single.  Brian Shouse and Troy Percival closed out Garza and the Rays’ 6–3 win.

I would like to point out that Crawford has now stolen 19 consecutive bases to start the 2009 season.  Added to a successful attempt last year, he now has 20 in a row, a new franchise record that breaks the one he himself set in 2003.  Congratulations again, Carl, and I want to see this thing go as far as it can be pushed.

Now it’s off to new Yankee Stadium for the first time.  Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann are pitching for the Rays, so hopefully they get at least a split if not the sweep we all so desperately want and need.  Until next time, go Rays.

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