Rays vs. Angels, w/Upton back, Zobrist at 1st
UPDATE, 6:44: Manager Joe Maddon hinted Monday that there might be a surprise in the lineup tonight, and there was - Ben Zobrist is playing first base with struggling Carlos Pena (in a 1-for-40 swoon) getting the night off. From what it looks like, Maddon opted for Zobrist at first and Sean Rodriguez at second with Willy Aybar DHing, rather than Aybar at first, Zobrist at second and Pat Burrell (or, in theory, Rodriguez) DHing vs. Scott Kazmir.
Also, B.J. Upton is back and is in the lineup tonight.
DEVELOPING: The Rays are getting to ready to again try to change things up in Anaheim, where they have lost 14 of their 15 games under Joe Maddon, and their last six. RHP Jeff Niemann will start for the Rays, but most of the focus will be on Angels starter Scott Kazmir, the former Rays making his first start against his old mates.
Overall the Rays are on a season-high three-game losing streak, but still have the best record in the majors and a 1/2-game AL East lead over the Yankees.
CF B.J. Upton is expected to rejoin the Rays today after a whirlwind trip back to Tampa overnight Sunday for the birth of his first child and then back to Los Angeles this morning. No official word yet.
Here are a couple of tidbits from the Rays game notes:
* The Rays have allowed only 99 runs, the fewest runs allowed by a major league through the first 32 games of the season since the 1989 Angels who allowed 98 runs.
Fewest Runs Allowed, AL Since 1975
1981 Oakland A’s 85
1978 Oakland A’s 96
1989 California Angels 98
2010 Tampa Bay Rays 99
* Rays lead the AL with a 2.83 ERA (3rd in the majors), lowest on this date by an AL team since the 1991 Red Sox (2.81)… Rays starters are 18-5 with a 2.58 ERA (IP-209.1, H-172, ER-60, BB-69, SO-177)…Rays starters lead the majors in ERA and wins and are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the major league high with an avg of 6.2 innings per start:
--In 32 games, Rays starters have allowed 2 ER or less 21 times and 3 ER or less 27 times.
--In the last 24 games (since April 14 at BAL), the Rays bullpen is 3-3 with a 1.81 ERA (59.2-IP, 12-ER).
* Each of the five Rays starters have posted the five lowest ERAs at this point of the season of any pitchers in franchise history…the previous low was 3.30 by Rolando Arrojo in 1998…presently the Rays 5 starters are all ranked in the AL’s top 16: David Price (4th, 1.91); Jeff Niemann (7th, 2.23); Maatt Garza (9th 2.49); James Shields (15th, 3.13) and Wade Davis (16th, 3.18).
* Last night Matt Garza’s 7.2 inning outing was the 17th time Rays starters have pitched 7.0 or more innings…in the 2000’s only 4 teams have had more thru the first 32 games: 2000 Atlanta Braves (22), 2003 New York Yankees (19), 2001 Minnesota twins (18) and 2005 Chicago White Sox (18).
* Rays lead the majors with a .317 (91-287) average with runners in scoring position… likewise, Rays opponents are hitting just .177 (42-237), lowest in the majors…overall, the Rays are 18th in the majors in hitting at .252…Rays rookies Reid Brignac and John Jason are a combined 14-for-36 (.389) with runners in scoring position.
* The Rays have made at least one error in four straight games for the first time since last Aug 4-8.
* After hitting .270 with 25 home runs in April, the Rays are hitting .204 in May (28th in the majors) and have hit only 4 home runs – in the AL, only Seattle (3) and Cleveland (2) have hit fewer.
* Rays loss last night was their first when they out-hit an opponent (they had been 18-0).
* Tonight is the 6th left-handed starter the Rays have seen on this 9-game trip…they’re 4-1 so far with the lone loss Dallas Braden’s perfect game at Oakland on Sunday.