Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kaz is back! Rays win 1st game of the season.

It seems like it was just a year ago when the Rays couldn't buy a game at Fenway. Now, it seems like they just go up there and take a workman's approach to grinding out a win against the Red Sox in their own crib.  Scott Kazmir looked like the ace from 2007.  He easily out dueled Jon Lester giving up 5 hits with only 2 of them being legitimate.  It was nice to see him go without worrying about pitch count from the 2nd inning on.

On the offensive side of the ball, a little small ball and a little long ball was all the Rays need to keep the Sox at bay and win their first game of the 2009 season.  Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria both went deep.  The Aki/Bartlett show proved once again the genius that is Joe Maddon.

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Here are some of my post-game observations:

  • Scott Kazmir is the ace of this team. If you had any doubts, tonight's performance shows it. He went into hostile territory and put the game on his shoulders.  It seemed like he wasn't pressing as much for strikeouts tonight as he was last year.  That's a good sign. Get the outs and the "K's" will come.
  • Carlos Pena's 2 out home run was huge for a number reasons.  It knocked Lester out of the game (more on that later), it took almost all the energy out of Fenway and the Sox, it got Pena out of his 0-6 slump to start the season, and it pretty much put the game out of the Red Sox reach.
  • Maddon continues to show his managing genius.  The safety squeeze to score Kapler in the 5th was a perfect way to really get that rally going.  But, it was the hit and run with Kapler on 1st and Aki at the plate that was key to that inning.  Aki was able to punch the ball into left field in the spot Jed Lowrie had just vacated to cover 2nd.  Great way to manage base runners in a game where runs could be at a premium.
  • On the other side, Francona's decision to keep Lester in to face Pena came back to haunt him.  I can see the reasons why Francona wanted to keep Lester in, but he probably should've pulled the plug.  It just goes to show that Francona's still concerned about early middle relief against the Rays lineup (their achilles heal last year). 
  • The Red Sox/Rays match-up is still one of the best in baseball right now.  These teams have truly become rivals over the past year.  It's good to see that the Rays didn't forget how to win at Fenway over the winter.

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