Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman spent his offseason looking for offensive upgrades at first base and designated hitter. On Friday, new (old) first baseman Carlos Pena was star, going 3-5 with a home run, five RBI, and a walk-off single. After watching from the bench for most of Opening Day, it was new designated hitter Luke Scott’s turn.
Batting sixth – the same spot as Pena on Friday – Scott came up with the bases loaded in the first inning. And like Pena, he came through with a hit. Although it was not a grand slam, Scott laced the first pitch he saw up the middle for a two-run single to put the Rays up 2-0 after the first inning. He finished the day going 3-4 with two singles and a double.
Scott batting sixth was not the only change made by Joe Maddon in advance of game two. Spawing the term “Who’s your data?” when discussing his information-driven decisions, Maddon moved Pena, the opening day hero, up to the second spot in the order behind Desmond Jennings. With Jennings’ on-base ability, the move is intended to make it difficult for the opposition to use a dramatic shift for Pena with the speedster aboard. Looking at the following two images from Baseball Prospectus, you can see exactly what the Rays were thinking.
Pena went 1-3 in the two-hole with two strikeouts and two walks – including one off a left-hander. His season is just nine plate appearances long, but Los has already seen 53 pitches.
Following a four strikeout game on Opening Day, Matt Joyce moved from ninth in the lineup all the way to fourth. Maddon admitted before the game the move was partly made to pump up his left fielder. That said, Joyce is a noted right-handed masher. The 27-year-old responded by going 2-3 with a home run, a walk, and three runs driven in. He hit the home run off right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda, but his two-rbi single came on a blooper against left-handed reliever Clay Rapada. “Joe has a way of picking the right guy at the right time” Joyce said. After the game, the skipper called Joyce “one of the better left-handed hitters versus a right-handed pitcher in the league right now.”
Joining in on the offensive production, Ben Zobrist, Jose Lobaton, and Evan Longoria each had a double. Longoria’s hit was actually ruled a home run; however, the call was reversed after instant replay. In total, the Rays scored eight runs on 10 hits while reaching base six more times via the walk.
On the mound, Tampa Bay got a much better performance from their starter on Saturday. The 2011 Opening Day starter, David Price went 6.1 innings in game two of the 2012 season. He allowed two runs on five hits and four walks while striking out five. The four walks may look like Price was out of control, but in reality a good chunk of his misses were located on the edges of the strike zone. Maddon echoed a similar sentiment post-game. “He had a lot of close pitches on the inside edge that did not go our way.”
The left-hander came out firing with his fastball, but mixed in his secondary stuff as the game went on. Price started the game with 19-straight fastballs before freezing Mark Teixeira on a cutter to end the first inning. As the Yankees’ lineup turned over, Price incorporated the off-speed stuff and busted out a spike curveball. He threw 12 changeups (10 strikes) and tossed 11 curveballs (six strikes), but relied primarily on the fastball (77 pitches). “I liked my off-speed stuff for the most part” Price said. “My fastball location wasn’t there and I was behind in a lot of counts and that’s tough whenever you are facing those guys. Our defense made some big plays.”
The Rays’ defense turned three double plays and routinely changed formation using various shifts . The bullpen made it interesting late; however, Fernando Rodney’s one-pitch save clinched a series victory for Tampa Bay with the chance for a sweep on Sunday.