The Rays were part of history last night – but not the kind of history that some would be proud of as last night’s attendance at Camden Yards was a mere 9,129. That total was the lowest attendance figure in the history of the ballpark which came just days after the park set a new record high attendance figure for opening day. Say what you will about the Rays fanbase but that is just downright pathetic. The Orioles have a very nice core of young talent and exciting players to watch such as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nick Markakis and only 9,129 could be bothered to come out? Good thing Baseball Prospectus hosted an event at the ballpark last night, otherwise they might have struggled to break 9,000. I was listening to Dave and Andy call the game on the radio and they were joking about a guy sitting in the upper deck down the left-field line painting on a canvas. Unreal.
The first game of a road trip always worries me, particularly in Baltimore where the Rays went just 4-5 last season. The Rays are one of the best teams in baseball, but on the road, it is is a different story. Since the start of the 2008 season, the club is 73-90 in road contests and they had the biggest differential in the league last season between their home (.642) and road (.247) winning percentages. This is also the start of a 10 game/11 day road trip that also goes to Chicago and Boston which are never easy places to play and have been the scene of some rather weird games for the Rays that include that idiot A.J. Pierzynski flopping into the defender to get a safe call and the epic Game 5 meltdown for the Rays in the 2008 ALCS.
Some notes on the game last night:
- If we ever deal Reid Brignac, I hope it is not to the Orioles. He has two career homers – both in Baltimore
- Matt Garza is now 20-9 against AL East teams in his career and already 2-0 this season with both wins coming against the Orioles. He was particularly nasty last night allowing just the lead-off homer to Felix Pie. After that, he gave the Orioles very little to hit and had a run of retiring 10 straight in the middle innings including striking out the side in the 4th. He threw just 103 pitches in 8 innings, 64 of which went for strikes. He is now 8-1 with a 2.48 ERA career against the Orioles.
- Carl Crawford has somehow never won a gold glove but his defense early on this season shows just how silly that oversight has been. He makes at least one “wow!” catch a game but last night’s effort was easily the catch of the year for any outfielder. Of course, Mark Buerhle already has the play of the year award wrapped up with his opening day masterpiece unless someone climbs on top of the outfield wall and snares a home run away and sticks the landing with a perfect score from the judges.
- Rafael Soriano had his best appearance yet as he hit 93-94 on the gun and was finally able to throw his slider for strikes. He threw five consecutive sliders to end the game and all of them were in the strike zone and either resulted in called strikes or swings and misses by the batters.
Tonight it is Niemann vs Matusz again and hopefully, Niemann can make it out of the second inning while avoiding any more line drives from Miguel Tejada. Niemann has not been sharp against the Orioles in his career as he has a 5.66 ERA in six decisions against the club. Last season, he went 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA against Baltimore but not having Roberts in there will help Niemann since the big guy’s slow delivery to home plate has allowed Brian Roberts to do set up scoring opportunities by swiping second base every chance he gets. With Rays-killer Roberts on the DL, the Rays have a nice advantage in this series and it would be nice to hit a lefty well tonight. Matusz hung in there nicely against the Rays last time out and earned the only win the Orioles have scraped together on this young season. The Rays have faced Matusz and Sabathia so far this season and the lefties have neutered the offense compared to what they have done against righties this season.