Fennelly: In Rays opener, plenty of good, bad and ugly
ST. PETERSBURG -
If B.J.'s here, they win that game.
It was Opening Day — the good, the bad and the ugly, the great and the beautiful as the Rays opened up with a lose-from-ahead 7-4 loss to the Orioles at sold-out, venerable Tropicana Field.
First, a warning: Anyone out there trying to lift Rays reliever Jake McGee's 67.50 ERA over their heads should stop, now, if they are pregnant, have a heart condition or high blood pressure. Or at least use a spotter. And remember it's just one game.
Second: The great Mr. Longoria, no Brooks Robinson, but still a vacuum cleaner at third, reminds children not to try this at home — his four spectacular diving grabs of grounders in the hole, then the throws to first, one while sitting on his backstop. Best of all, none later required an overnight stay at All Hamstrings Hospital, though the laundry has listed Evan Longoria's dirty uniform as day-to-day.
“I thought we did a lot of really good things today,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
And they did some really bad things, too. Consider that Baltimore Opening Day starter Jason Hammel spent three years as a Ray and never won a game at the Trop until Tuesday, against the first of Maddon's 162 different lineups this season. Godspeed, Joseph!
OK, let's start with the beautiful thing.
That would be the entire Rays team on the field to watch baseball treasure Donald William Zimmer, joined by his family, mark the start of his 65th year in professional baseball by helping deliver the ceremonial first pitch to Longoria, who did the catching.
It was an emotional deal. Don Zimmer's son, Tom, threw the ball. Zim is 82 and fighting it, health-wise. He admitted before the game, eyes full, that he doesn't know how many of these he has left. We hope he has a hundred, is what we hope.
There was some good stuff out there Tuesday. Ben Zobrist jumped on the season with two hits, including a solo home run in the fourth inning, and a sacrifice fly that gave the Rays a 3-2 lead in the sixth, just after Desmond Jennings tied it with an RBI double.
Jennings, who needs to step up his game with Upton gone, hit the ball hard all afternoon, driving one to the left-field wall in the first, then: two hits, two runs, a steal and that RBI.
Then there was the not so good. The kind of not so good that tells you nothing about this Rays season, or any season, is certain.
David Price battled but never found his Cy Young form, helping the Orioles take a 2-0 lead in the first when he gave up a two-out double to Adam Jones, followed by Matt Wieters' two-run homer.
It has been a common assumption — by yours truly, included — that Buck Showalter's Orioles have no chance or repeating last season's 93-win playoff turn: too many one-run wins, too many extra-inning wins for it to be mathematically possible ever again. Thing of it is, they have a better lineup than the Rays.
We interrupt this Opening Day column with this news: Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was asked about a new stadium before Tuesday's game.
Hey, call me when the cement is drying.
There was more not so good. Three Rays newcomers, Yunel Escobar, James Loney and Kelly Johnson, expected to add something on offense that majored in subtraction last year, went a combined 0-for-8.
And then there was McGee, who, like most of the rest of the Rays bullpen, was incredibly good last season. That's what made Tuesday startling: He instantly blew that 3-2 lead, allowing four hits and a career-high five runs in just two-thirds of an inning — a fastball Jones crushed for a double and two runs, the key hit, then something Chris Davis hit for a three-run homer. Drive safely, Rays fans. See you back here when the Yankees come in.
Maddon, already in mid-Maddon form, said: “You look at Jake's line and it's not very good, obviously, but he threw the ball well.”
He threw the ball well.
It was just one day. Thing is, there are only 161 left.
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