I was working on Monday night so I missed the Cubs' season opener, though I was happy to see that they won. Also, the Rays' opener was canceled on Monday and moved to Tuesday. My first look at both of my favorite teams did not give me what I wanted to see, as they both lost for the first time of 2009.
First I'll discuss the Rays game. Josh Beckett completely dominated the Rays. The same pitcher that was knocked around in game 2 of last year's ALCS held the Rays to 1 run, only 2 hits, and struck out 10 batters in 7 innings of work. He did walk 3, but Beckett still dominated and looked like the ace of old. He especially dominated Carlos Pena, who he struck out 3 times. Pena also struck out a fourth time in the 8th inning when he came up as the tying run against Justin Masterson in what was a poor opening day performance for him. The only hitters he did not strike out were Jason Bartlett and newcomer Pat Burrell.
James Shields, on the other hand, struggled and looked nothing like the ace of last year during a 3 run third inning for the Red Sox right after the Rays had evened the game for him. In the third alone he gave up 4 hits, that's double the total of hits that Beckett gave up in 7 innings. In just 5 1/3 innings of work, Shields gave up 9 hits, 5 runs, walked 3, and only struck out 2. That is not the kind of performance you expect from your ace, especially when you have one of the best young rotations in baseball. I know it was only one game, but it was not a good start to the season by any measure.
The only real positive I can take from this game, is the performance of the two newcomers out of the bullpen. Lance Cormier, and Joe Nelson combined to pitch 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief only allowing 1 baserunner on a walk between them. Nelson looked dominant in his first performance as a Ray sending the Sox down 1-2-3 and keeping alive the Rays chances.
Aside from that it was a poor opening day performance for the Rays, hopefully they can rebound today. If they get swept in this season opening series it could set a negative tone for the season. The offense also needs to wake up, no reason they couldn't manage more than 2 hits against Josh Beckett with one of the best young lineups in baseball. Yeah, B.J. Upton was out but that isn't an excuse.
Now for the Cubs game, as I mentioned before I missed the opener but I was happy to see that they won and that Carlos Zambrano had a strong performance after struggling at times last year. However, last night in my first opportunity to watch the Cubs in 2009 I didn't really like what I saw. Yeah, Ryan Dempster put in a quality start with 6 innings, allowing 2 runs, striking out 5, giving up 6 hits. Angel Guzman looked solid in his 1 inning alert, which makes me a lot happier that we kept him. Alfonso Soriano belted his second home run of the season in the 8th inning to tie the game back up, it was good to see Soriano perform in the clutch.
However, the Cubs still lost the game. A game in which they clearly had the advantage in starting pitchers. Wandy Rodriguez? Okay, so he had a pretty good year last year, but he did not have good control at all walking 3 batters and he even hit Geovany Soto. He also gave up 4 hits in his 6 innings of work. Why weren't the Cubs able to take advantage of these opportunities? They had plenty of opportunities to put up runs on the board against Rodriguez but simply could not get it done, as they were only able to plate 1. Then, aside from Latroy Hawkins, Houston's bullpen completely shut the Cubs down. Tim Byrdak, a guy that couldn't crack a Major League roster from 2000-2004 absolutely dominated the two hitters he faced, striking both out.
Ryan Dempster didn't pitch great, but he gave the Cubs a chance to win and the offense couldn't get it done. The Cubs bullpen did get hit around a bit though giving up 4 hits in 3.1 innings and the Cubs bullpen also waked 3 Astros batters.
Again it was just one game for both of these teams, but I didn't like what I saw. Hopefully both teams put together better performances tonight.