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.