Too Much Too Early (Anaheim), Too Little, Too Late (Rays) Tampa Bay Drop To 0-4

The Rays will have their work cut out for them if they want to stop their three game losing streak, as Jeff Niemann faces off against Jered Weaver at 6:40 PM tonight.

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Too Much Too Early (Anaheim), Too Little Too Late (Rays): Tampa Bay Drops To 0-4

Jeff Niemann came into this game with a 0.00 ERA this season (with 0 IP) and it stayed that way for about 3 seconds. If you hadn’t been told that the game was starting at 6:40 then by the time you tuned in at 7 the Angels already had a 3-0 lead. Those runs came off of 4 hits including a Hank Conger 3 run home run off of Niemann in the top of the first. They also stole 2 bases that inning off of the tall right-hander (they stole 4 on the night.) A Leadoff triple from Howie Kendrick in the second inning led to the Angels’ fourth run. I’m sure they felt pretty secure in their lead at that point because they had their ace, Jered Weaver, on the mound, and because the Rays had scored 3 runs in their first 3 games combined to that point.

Despite a dreadful opening to the game, Niemann did a good job of steadying the ship and saving the Rays bullpen some, going 6 innings allowing 9 hits, 5 runs (all earned), 1 BB, 4 Ks and 1 HR allowed.

Sean Rodriguez gave the 13,173 fans present something to root for in the third with a solo homer, a good sign coming against a top-notch right-handed pitcher. BJ Upton would give beleaguered fans some hope in the 8th, hitting a 2-run shot to cut the deficit to 2. But the Rays didn’t have the benefit of facing punching-bag “closer” Fernando Rodney as he was demoted this afternoon. Instead they got to face hard-throwing right-hander Jordan Walden, who earned his second Major League save, recording the final out of a 5-3 Angels win.

The Rays are now 0-4 with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson taking the bump tomorrow to try to stymie the hemorrhaging against Dan Haren in the 2-game series finale. The Rays offense needs to prove that they have a pulse tomorrow to get the team in the mythical “WIN” column. That affair will begin at 1:10, in an early-season attempt by Major League Baseball to feed the flames of Rays attendance talk.

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Upton Homers, Draws Rays To Within 2

It looked like Ben Zobrist’s leadoff walk would be for naught after Manny Ramirez struck out and Dan Johnson flied out. Mr. B. J. Upton had other plans for that baseball, being the charitible type he deposited a souvenir into the left-field seats to break the trend of one-run-scored games for the Rays. If nothing else, the Rays have matched their runs scored total for the year in this game. The fact that that total was 3 is still a tad depressing.

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Sean Rodriguez Homers, Angels Add Another. 5-1 Angels Middle Of The 5th

Sean Rodriguez gave the degenerates in the DRaysBay Game Day Thread something to cheer about cutting the defecit to 4-1 in the third. A lead-off triple from Howie Kendrick in the top of the fifth would lead to another Angels run and Rays have 15 outs to make up 4 runs.

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Rough First For Niemann, Rays Trailing 3-0

Anyone who didn’t get the memo about the earlier start time will be sorely disappointed when they get to the Trop this evening. By 7:05 the Rays were just out of the top of the first, Jeff Niemann had given up 4 hits, 3 runs and had thrown 35 pitches. His ERA is currently 27.00. Heading into the bottom of the first, Angels 3 Rays 0

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Rays To Face Angels At Home, Hope To End Three Game Skid

After a disappointing series against the Orioles, the Rays could really use an easy series to help them get back on track. Sadly, that's not about to happen. The Angels are coming to town for a two-game stand and will be throwing their two aces against the Rays - Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

Weaver takes the hill tonight, and he was one of the best pitchers in the American League last season, posting a 3.01 ERA and 3.06 FIP while striking out over a batter per inning. He had a solid first outing this season against the Kansas City Royals, allowing no runs over 6.1 innings while striking out six.

Facing him tonight will be Jeff Niemann. This will be Niemann's first outing of the season, and he hopes to do better against the Angels than he did at the tale end of last season. After returning from an injury late in the year, Niemann allowed 15 runs in only 7.2 innings in two starts against the Angels. Niemann had issues against every team after coming back from that injury, though, so he should be back to his normal dependable, inning-eater self. He's possibly the world's tallest junkball pitcher, as he doesn't have overpowering velocity and instead thrives by mixing his six different pitches.

Tonight's game is scheduled for 6:40 PM.

Players To Watch

  • Ben Zobrist may be slotted into the three hole on a regular basis now that Longoria is injured. He swung a hot bat in the first few games and made the most solid contact of any player on the Rays. It's far too early to say if Zobrist's power has returned after his back injury last season, but these early signs are certainly encouraging.
  • Joe Maddon has hinted that he might do an Elliot Johnson / Felipe Lopez platoon at third base until Longoria returns. If that's the case, Lopez would get the starts these next two nights against the righties Weaver and Haren.

For discussion and coverage of tonight's game, follow SB Nation's blog on the Rays: DRaysBay.

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