Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's not your Daddy's AL East anymore!

I know. It's only the first series of the season. But, wasn't there something real satisfying about the way the Rays took it to the Red Sox at Fenway? We're only three games into the season and these guys are already playing like it's the ALCS all over again.  That, my friends, is what winning will do to a franchise.

To be honest, there are still some problems The Rays had some issues knocking runners in. And the bullpen gave a little bit. But, overall two great performances after the Game 1 loss.  The Rays put the Red Sox and their fans on notice that last year wasn't a fluke and any team that wants to win the AL East is going to have to scratch and claw its way all year.

Maddon Quote of the Day on Troy Percival:

 "It doesn't always have to be an oil painting to be successful," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's probably amped up, man, and I don't blame him. It's a Fenway moment."

Here are some of the things I noticed in Game 3:

  • Matt Garza continued his domination of the Red Sox. The way he handled Dustin Pedroia in the 3rd inning was masterful. He got two called strikes, threw a brushback pitch, then got swinging. Filthy.  Except for Youk, none of the Red Sox had an answer for Garza.
  • The Rays have really figured out how to play defense at Fenway Park. One of the reasons they struggled there last year was defensive miscues common at Fenway.  But, over this series, the Rays outfield really looked like they knew what they were doing out there.  Carl Crawford looked more comfortable than he ever has effortlessly playing balls off the wall, throwing out runners at third, and getting good jumps on liners in the gap.  Kaplar and Joyce also played some solid center field for the most part.
  • I know Troy Percival makes many people sweat out there, but he got the job done.  A closer is not always going to be pretty. They're not always going to strike out the side. Right now, Percy is the best closer on the roster.  Balfour is needed in his setup roll and I'm not sure Wheeler can handle all the pressure with the game on the line. The Rays and Maddon will have a short leash with Percy once Izzy is completely healthy. Just be patient and celebrate any time Percy gets a save.
  • The Baltimore Orioles are next on the schedule.  They're coming off a thumping by the New York Yankees following 2 straight wins.  We'll see the 2009 version of Andy Sonnanstine for the first time along with new #5 starter Jeff Niemann.

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