Niemann Showed his Good and Bad sides Tonight

 

 
                            Orioles 6,         Rays 0

 
 
              
 

Can I Worry A Wee Bit
 
 

I am not worried about the season, or the aggressive nature, or even the pitching of the Rays right now. But I do have concerns on their attempts to score runs. I mean before tonight, the Rays cored all 8 of their runs off of homers. That is right, no hit-and-runs, no situational hitting of any type, it was just plain slap the ball and hope it hits the holes. now I know that the Rays did manage to get 8 total hits in this game, but  they only got three chances tonight where they either had two hits or a walk and a hit to try and score some meaningful runs without the long ball.

 
 
I am sorry to tell you that Evan Longoria came down to earth a bit tonight and only went 2 for 4, to post a .455 average so far this season. the closest Rays player to him is last seasons team MVP Jason Bartlett with a .333 average.  In the third inning, the Rays did get Gabe Gross to slam a liner past Brian Roberts for the Rays first hit of the night.  Bartlett then did his part by drilling a ball into the gap that one-bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. that put two men into scoring position for the Rays with one out.
 
 

It looked like the Rays might have a chance to get a few runs back on the Orioles, but Akinora Iwamura hit a soft dribbler to Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie. But Gabe Gross guessed wrong on the play and made a break for home plate. Guthrie saw this and spun around and threw to Melvin Mora at third base. With Gross in a run-down, they played the dance for a few seconds before Gross tried to out-smart Baltimore catcher Gregg Zaun. But it was Zaun who got the last laugh. He also did a head fake on Gross to make it seem he was going field-side with his block, then popped his glove to the foul side of the plate and tagged out Gross before he reached the plate.

 
 
That basically made the Rays rally run out of gas, and they went harmlessly down after Carl Crawford popped out to shortstop Cesar Izturis to end the inning. The Rays again tried to mount a rally in the top of the fourth inning when Evan Longoria started off with a single to center. Carlos Pena then tried to keep the rally going by hitting a single down the left field line away from the Oriole shift.  But Guthrie got into a groove and put his pitches in on the Rays hitters and got the first two to pop out before ringing up Dioner Navarro with the strike out to end the inning.

 

 

Longoria then tried again to mount something for the Rays when he hit a double off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field. Longoria has tried to do so much for the Rays this road trip, even getting his 10th hit tonight. But again, the Rays could not figure out Guthrie and stranded Longoria on third base. But one good thing happened in this inning, the Rays moved their first runner of the game over a base when Pena hit a soft liner down to first that Aubrey Huff had to toss to Guthrie to complete the put out.  The in the seventh, Navarro tried to do his part as he hit a looper to right field for a single. Gross then  walked to put two men on base for the Rays again in this game. But the Rays could not convert and stranded both men.
 

Then  in the eighth inning, with the Jamie Walker in for the Orioles Bullpen, Carl Crawford  hit a single to right field to lead-off the inning. It was only the second time tonight the lead-off man got on base for the Rays. The other was Longoria in the fourth inning. But Crawford was quickly erased from the base paths as Longoria hit into a 6-4-3 double play. their last chance in the top of the ninth actually looked like their best opportunity of the night. Matt Joyce walked and then Navarro hit a ball that bounced into the stands for a ground rule double. So with two men in scoring position, both Gross and Bartlett struck out to end the game and the Rays chance to break up the shutout.

 
For the night, the Rays went 0-11 with Runners in Scoring Position. Is this just the effects of a long first road trip for the Rays, or is this offense just feeling a bit anemic right now. Seriously, the team is batting .254 so far this season as a squad, but that might be helped a lot by the hitting of Longoria and Bartlett right now.  Pat Burrell is mired in a bit of a slump, only connecting on 2 of his first 16, or a .125 average. the only other Rays near .300 are Crawford ( .286 ) and Iwamura ( .294).  It is great to know that the four hitter listed above have comprised basically the 1-2-3 hitters for the team. Great to know they are getting their licks, but when is the rest of the team going to catch their winds and contribute nightly…….Hopefully before we head home tomorrow night for a 7-game home stand.

 

 

Tale of Two Pitchers
 

Jeff Niemann might had a bit of nerves welling up in him when Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Navarro met with him to go over the strategy for the first inning and the game tonight. Niemann probably had the situation totally under control and knew what he wanted to do on the mound. But little did he know that even with the best preparation for a game, if your stuff is not there early, it is going to be a long, long night on the mound.  Brian Roberts lead-off the game for the Orioles by watching the first strike go by him before connecting on a screamer into right-center field that skipped once and went over the wall for a Ground Rule Double.

 

But Niemann might have just thought he had just hit a good pitch and went about his usual pitching style. But little did he know he was about to implode on the mound by throwing B P balls to the Orioles in the first inning. Adam Jones came up and was hit by a pitch to but two men on quickly in the contest. Nick Markakis then hit a long drive over the head of Matt Joyce that also skipped once and scampered over the wall for an RBI Ground Rule Double. But the inning was far from over at this point. Huff then came up and walked on 5 pitches to again load the bases full of birds.
 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon went to the mound, with the entire infield also in on the group conversation, but he was the only one chatting in the circle. You know that must have been quite an intense conversation, with Maddon pointing out they needed this game to pull out the series against the up-start Orioles. Maddon can be a great communicator and is well respected for his mind and situational guesswork. But tonight, for at least two more pitches, his magic did not work at all. For on the second pitch to Mora, he drilled the ball into the left-center field stands for a Grand Slam and all Joyce could do is look up at the ball.

 
                 
 

Niemann gave up a single to right to former Rays/Astro Ty Wiggington  two pitches later, then I think the light bulb went off in Niemann’s head. He then  seemed to turn into a different pitcher and got three quick put outs to get out of the inning, but the Orioles were spotted a 5-0 lead.  From the bottom of the second inning until he left in the sixth inning, he shut down the Baltimore hitters. In those innings, he only allowed two hits, a single to Markakis and a single against the Rays shift by Huff in the fifth inning.

 
Neimann threw a total of  25 pitches in that first inning. But in the next 4.1 innings he threw on 69 total pitches. He showed the promise again that the Rays had in him when they traded Jason Hammel and handed the fifth slot to him last weekend. I wonder if Maddon verbally questioned his manhood, or just brought up Hammel’s name as a motivator?  Either way, Niemann was a completely different pitcher after Mora’s homer. He did get charged with another run after walking Zaun before he exited, and Rays reliever Brain Shouse could not shut down the Orioles But at that point, he was looking like a completely different pitcher. If you subtract his first inning stats of 4 hits and 5 runs, with a single walk and a hit batsmen, his final stats would be a pretty good night on the mound. Without to implosive inning, he would have only given up 2 hits and a single run, with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. A completely Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde kind of night.

 
               
 

Brian Shouse’s Website 
 

I had heard before Brian Shouse signed with the Rays that he had a wild cult following since he broke into the major leagues. Little did I know just what kind of following it truly was until I went out and checked out his website. I mean you have to go to www.brianshousefanclub.com and see it for yourself. The photos totally cracked me up, but if you really want to see some magical moments, click on the links near the right bottom of the page and see what else his followers have in store for fellow Shouse sect.
 

I mean the guy has his own Brian Shouse fan Myspace page and also they have included links to articles and stories based on their head guy throughout his MLB career. I am beginning to become a bit of a follower, but not like these people. I love the fact that he was basically signed as a leftie specials like Trever Miller had been in 2008 for the Rays. But he threw 2/3rd of an inning tonight on 12 pitches. His sidearm delivery can make you question his ability, but the guy has the stuff. I am curious to see if a Rays fan will redesign or even start their own Brian Shouse online shrine this season. If I ever get down about his abilities,  I can always go to his website and again click on the Shousegandi photo and all will again be right in the world. Well, at least in Brian Shouse’s world.

 

 
 

Hairless Birds on the Field

 

No I am not implying that the Orioles have lost their hair or their feathers tonight, but I am noticing a certain different look to them this season. I mean Huff has always seemed to have a bit of a goatee and beard going his entire career, but tonight he did not have a stitch of hair on his chin or face. I also noticed the usually  mousy moustached  Jamie Walker also was missing his signature hair follicles under his nose.
 
 

Could Orioles Manager Dave Trembley have instituted a clean shaven look, or was this maybe a bonding agreement by the entire team to get some confidence and karma going their way. Either way, it seems to be working for the Orioles who are currently half a game back of the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League East lead. I know it is too early to make remarks about the AL East leader board, but the Orioles have been famous for making fast runs at the top in April in years past. Could this hairless look be a great indicator th
at they are all about business this year?

 

David Price Short-changed in Durham Debut
 

For the last month or so people have been harping and complaining about the Rays sending their budding star David Price back down to Durham for a bit to start the season. I am thinking after tonight performance, they will be a bit more understanding of what the Rays might have saw this spring, and maybe they do know what they are doing with the young pitcher. Price did not get to make his debut on Friday night as originally planned since the game was rained-out, but the Bulls let the leftie take the mound today and he showed why he was there.
 
 

Price ended up only going 3.2 innings and was taken out after reaching his pre-determined pitch count for the outing.  In his short time on the mound, Price gave up 4 hits and 2 runs, but did get 4 strikeouts today. He did not have a chance for the win, but the Bulls did pull out a 8-5 victory over the Norfolk Tides today.  Rays Olmedo and Justin Ruggiano both homered for the Bulls. A early surprise is the low average of Jon Weber ( .125 ). Weber was tied with Pat Burrell as the Rays RBI leader this spring with  15 RBIs.
 
 

Some people seem to forget just how fast and easy he came through  the Rays system last year. He mad the leap from the Class-A Florida State League all the way up to the major leagues last season.  He did post impressive numbers, but did not get the repetition and game experience he needed before taking over the reins in the fifth slot for the Rays. It is always better to be careful and nurture a young pitcher than to try and force feed him at the major league level. In the minors he can tinker with his pitches without destroying his confidence in himself and his pitching.  The Rays made the right choice.

 
 
Photo Credits:          1)  Gail Burton / AP
                                  2)  Gail Burton / AP
                                  3)  Gail Burton / AP
                                  4)  Gail Burton / AP
                                  5) www.brianshousefanclub.com
                                  6) Gail Burton / AP

14 Comments

Heya, what a well-written blog, great work. I’m loving your page. How long do think it will be before Price gets called up? Ashhttp://ashleymarshall.mlblogs.com

Burrell was streaky in Philly too, which I think is why they did not bring him back; plus he is adjusting to the DH role. The good news is, he usually does well in April so, hopefully, he will pick it up soon!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Thank you for that compliment.
I try to do the best I can with the information thrown at me.
I know there is another Rays blog on the Internet that is doing a contest to select the correct date.
I will pop out a guess of June 21st.
Last night was a great example of him having to learn a bit more control and pitch selection.
It is better to give him more tome, and not have him have to go back down and learn, than to rush him and make him uncomfortable and streaky up in the majors.
He will be here soon enough.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Unfortunately, we in the Rays fandom know all about “streaky” players. I loved watching Greg Vaughn play when he was here, but during his last season his average popped so far below the Mendoza line he was in fear of throwing his career down the toilet.
Then he got hurt running into a wall in Coors field, and he went into a batting average freefall.
I am not calling out the medics yet for Burrell. It is too early, he has shown some light, but we all know that some hitters have to adjust to the league first, then they get rolling.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rays – the Red Sox seem to be stuck on getting all their runs from hitting the long ball. I’m not comfortable with that! And today? We couldn’t buy a run when men in scoring position! I missed most of the game – had the family all over for Easter – so I missed seeing the 4 Angles get ejected. Oh well – at least the Yankees lost! ;-)

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I’m sure today’s game made you as happy as it discouraged me. But, I’m really looking forward to seeing Adam Jones blossom into a star this year!
Longoria must have been laughing all the way around the bases after he hit a homer while some O’s fans were chanting, “EVA!”
I know that he helped two of my fantasy teams!
ken
http://brooksrobinsonrules.mlblogs.com

I was amazed that during that fiasco that Josh Beckett did not get tossed also because he came forward towards the plate from the mound after throwing near Abreu.
There was a bit of double standard there that he could throw at him after the Home Plate Umpire gave him “time”, then make some verbal comments and come forward towards the plate.
If Abreu had done that from the plate at all, he is tossed period.
I do not care if Beckett is a pitcher that throw with emotion. It is a no-brainer that he also be tossed from the game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I like Adam Jones.
I still can not see how Seattle let that kid go.
Of course he kind of ruined the trade announcement by telling the media he was going to Baltimore for a physical, even before most of the media knew about the deal, but he was up front and honest.
The kid is going to be the center of that outfield for a long, long time.
The people laughing more are Akinora Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, and maybe Carl Crawford. All three had a great series, with all three having a fantastic Sunday game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade/mlblogs.com

I was happy to see that the Rays could solve the O’s! The Yanks had a hard time against them too.
Also happy to hear that Upton is back tonight for the home opener! That’s is great news!
Canuck
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

Great win yesterday to at least salvage a split. Now we need to bring it back home and show the Yankees what they’re in for (again) in 2009.And hopefully Niemann gets the message soon. He needs to step his game up or he knows who is right there to replace him.Brentonhttp://braverays.mlblogs.com

Great win yesterday to at least salvage a split. Now we need to bring it back home and show the Yankees what they’re in for (again) in 2009.And hopefully Niemann gets the message soon. He needs to step his game up or he knows who is right there to replace him.Brentonhttp://braverays.mlblogs.com

Brooks,
I hate to say it, but they Rays were stuck on that formula themselves until that final game on Sunday.
They were riding on the back of their power hitters and 8 and 9 hitters to get them RBI’s and the needed runs to win. We know how that turned out. 3-3 record after 6 games.

I like Adam Jones, I am still curious on why Seattle gave up on him, or even packaged him knowing Raul Ibanez might have not resigned in the end of 2008. He has a quick gun on him to throw guys out, and a keen eye at the plate……..Great combos for a center fielder.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Watercooler,
The win yesterday was a group effort, and that is the first time this season that all cylinders of the Rays engine were turning at the same time.
A bit of a hiccup in the relief group, but all in all, it was a great effort by everyone on the team.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Brenton,
How is life at the University of Tampa?
I know you wrote a while back about working on a great story. I hope it all came together for you.
Niemann got the message, and he showed he was listening by getting his control and placement back in line before Joe Maddon blew a gasket.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers

%d bloggers like this: