Starting Lineup 5/26/12:
After some delay, the starting lineup (below) has finally been released. There was some doubt whether Luke Scott would be in the lineup or not, after taking a 97 MPH fastball in the knee last night. Low and behold, he will be in the lineup tonight. Note: we weren’t sure where he’d be hitting, so we threw him in the five hole. If something changes, we’ll let you know. We’re expecting the umps to offer up warnings at the first inclination of trouble on either side. Tonight should be a doozy.
Allow me to take you back to May 16th when Tampa Bay took on Boston under the big top. Will Rhymes came up to bat in the Rays half of the eighth with one out, and a man at third. Franklin Morales was on the mound. With a 2-2 count, Morales came way inside with a 95 MPH fastball, plunking Rhymes on the forearm. Will’s arm instantly swelled up, but thankfully (read: surprisingly) there wasn’t a fracture. Following a fainting spell, Rhymes had to be carried off of the field. Tampa Bay inevitably won that game by a score of 2-1.
Following a Babe Ruth like promise to hit a home run at some point on the 17th, Matt Moore hit Dante Hicks, urm…Adrian Gonzalez with a pitch to load the bases the following night. In kind, Félix Doubront plunked Luke Scott with a pitch. Yet beyond the two “unintentional” hit batters on the 17th, any extra curricular fireworks were held to a minimum.
Fast forward to last night with Luke Scott at the plate in the Rays half of the ninth. Franklin Morales’ on the mound (I know, the scenario sounds redundant) with a 3-0 count, following three very inside pitches. On the very next pitch, Morales let go of a 97 MPH fastball into the back of Luke Scott’s right knee. And with that, we were instantly transported back to the 2008 season; A season where the bad blood between the Rays and the Sox could not be contained. Flashbacks of Coco Crisp charging the mound flashed through the minds of Rays fans everywhere.
With the frustration of one team that’s trying to play the game cleanly, and the frustration of the other team who’s under .500 to start the season for the second year in a row (among other things) being palpable, both benches cleared. Some fairly inappropriate grabbing of Rays players by members of the Sox coaching staff and team, and some pretty vehement jaw jacking from both sides followed.
The massholes in the stands also took it upon themselves to let their Cro-magnon like voices be heard following the melee on the field. Red Sox fans, reportedly, shouted racial slurs at BJ Upton while also throwing things at the Rays center fielder. This guy here seems to trying rise above all of last nights events, yet he can’t quite break the grip of gravity. I digress…
One thing is certain: there is no love lost between these two AL East rivals. Buckle up ladies and gents, we’re in for a drama filled season.
In the end, we can’t definitively say whether Morales took it upon himself to pay retribution for anything…for Scott’s comments about Fenway Park, for the May 17th game, or for the unintentional plunking of Dustin Pedroia earlier in the game. However, Maddon and Co. felt as though the dirty play came from somewhere, going as far as to implicate Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox coaching staff. “I’m kind of curious regarding who put out the hit, because I know it wasn’t one of their players,” said Rays skipper, Joe Maddon. “Truly, watch the video. The people that were incensed, obviously they’re the ones that were probably behind the effort, the really weak, cowardly effort on their part. Did I say that strongly enough? Did I make my point?” Maddon went on to say, “It reeks of intent.”
Bobby Valentine did nothing to quell any questions of culpability. Rather, Valentine went on to stoke the flames by saying, “Emotions boiling over at that point? Frustration mounting? I don’t know,” Valentine said. “It seemed like it was with both teams on the field. But with the guy getting hit? Maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering that he bad-mouthed all our fans and stadium, or something, just directing the ball at his leg.”
Today is another day, and there is more baseball to be played. With last night’s events fresh in the minds of the Rays players, David Price (6-3, 2.88 ERA) takes the mound against RHP Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.38 ERA). Price pitched a gem of a game in his last start, posting a 7 IP/6 H/1 ER/3 BB/7 K line. Yet he took the 2-0 loss to the Braves. Chalk it to a lack of run support. Price is 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA in his career against the Red Sox, however he hasn’t been great in his last two starts against the Sox. Going a combined seven innings, Price has given up five earned runs on seven hits, while earning a 5.72 FIP.
On the flip side of things, Josh Beckett really hasn’t had a stellar 2012, which can be attributed to two things: the velocity on all of his pitches has dropped, and his pitches are flat. Beckett’s once over powering 95 MPH fastball with a lot of movement has become a 91 MPH meatball out over the plate. Beckett tends to lean on those three pitches a lot. Below are a couple of graphs: A pitch usage graph from his May 10th start against the Indians, and a spin direction/angle graph from the same game. Incidentally, Beckett posted a 2.1 IP/7 H/7 ER/2 BB/2 K/1 HR line in that game. Both graphs give you a good idea that he leans primarily on his flat cutter, fastball, and changeup. To his credit, Beckett has a 10-4 record with a 2.94 and a 1.005 WHIP in his 20 starts against the Rays, including his last start against Tampa Bay where he posted a 8 IP/1 H/1 ER/1 BB/1 K/0 HR line. Who knows which Beckett will show up today? Here’s to hope it’s the Josh Beckett of May 10th.
We’ll post tonight’s starting lineup when it becomes available.