This and every weekday a.m. during baseball season, let's rise and shine together to recap the most recent diamond doings. Roll Call starts in St. Petersburg, home of the
Tsar defending American League champions. The Rays hosted the Evil Empire's Nick Swisher, who came into the game leading the league in OPS and ended it on the mound.
Game of the Day: Rays 15, Yankees 5
Raise the banners, shield your eyes: The AL's best met the AL's priciest and celebrated its amazing 2008 season by busting out the whoopin' stick against the Yankees. Answer Man Carlos Pena hit a grand slam and drove in six, B.J. Upton made like Willie Mays in center field and Scott Kazmir edged ever closer to mastering his seventh-inning phobia.
"We showed everything," Carl Crawford said.
The Yankees were at such a loss, Swisher switched from first base to pitcher for the eighth inning.
Ace in the hole: The Bronx wrote $423 million worth of checks in the off-season and it was not enough, apparently, to cover the tab for a full pitching staff. Unlike the other Yankees hurlers — Chien-Ming "28.93 ERA" Wang, Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar(d) Ramirez and Phil "Smile and A" Coke — Swisher was able to keep the Rays off the scoreboard. Here's how the eighth went for Swisher, batter by batter:
— B.J. Upton walked
— W. Aybar singled to left, B.J. Upton to second
— G. Kapler struck out swinging
— C. Pena popped out to second
— P. Burrell flied out to center
UPDATE: We compiled some data by checking MLB.com's gameday account and Swisher threw 22 pitches (12 strikes) an average of 75.1 mph. He reached a high of 80 once (his final pitch, on Burrell's fly out) and a low of 71 (twice) to Upton early in the inning.
Kapler struck out on a 78-mph straight ball (even though it was called a change-up in the box score).
Swisher, as usual, took it all with a sense of humor. He's been a godsend, or at least a Kenny Williams-send, since coming over from the White Sox in an off-season trade. Little went right for Swisher in Chicago, but he's ahead in the Yankees' Quadruple Crown race: batting average (.450), home runs (three), RBI (10) and ERA (0.00). Is he the greatest Yankee ever?
Swisher, who hadn't pitched since he was a high-school freshman, says:
"I had fun with it. When am I ever going to have a chance to do that again? Probably never. We know we didn't play very well. Got to find something to laugh about in that moment. I just happened to be the guy."
Here's a video recap.
* * *
Feelin Rundown (non-Yankees bashing from Monday):
Dodgers 11, Giants 1: Not since Greg Brady mentor Wes Parker did it 39 seasons ago has a Dodgers player hit for the cycle. What a way for Orlando Hudson to introduce Chavez Ravine fans to himself after languishing on the free-agent market for most of the off-season. After working over the Big Unit to start, Hudson completed the cycle against reliever Brandon Medders in the coolest way possible: with a triple. After he slid into third, he pointed skyward.
"My man, Mr. Jackie Robinson, took care of me," Hudson said, "It's a heck of a day. I didn't know I had the cycle going on."
Hey, it's Jackie Robinson day tomorrow!
Pirates 7, Astros 0: Long about that time, the Duke Boy was leading the fellas from Houston on a chase all through Hazzard County. They never could catch up and wouldn't you know it? He pitched the first shutout at a home opener for the Pirates since John Candelaria did it 31 years ago. Candelaria never appeared on the "Brady Bunch." ... Houston held a postgame meeting with manager Cecil Cooper and general manager Ed Wade, who pretended to be choked by Shawn Chacon to illustrate how upset he was at the 'Stros worst start since 1984 — the Dickie Thon Era.
Phillies 9, Nationals 8: Out of respect for Philles broadcaster Harry Kalas, who died at age 73, we'll suspend making fun of the winless Nats for 24 hours. But tomorrow gets here fast.
Padres 6, Mets 5: Jody Gerut opens the new place with a boom-boom, and nobody bails out the Mets in their first opening day at Citi Field — which looks very sweet on TV. ... Is this cat (right) like the inverted-reverse-opposite black one that ran across Ron Santo's path during the Cubs collapse in '69? Are the Padres are going to win the World Series?
Orioles 10, Rangers 9: Ian Kinsler doesn't tag up from second base on ball hit into the gap in the ninth and it probably costs the Rangers a tie score. To all you Little Leaguers out there, do as the big leaguers say, not as they do. ... The O's are 1-0 in their new road jerseys, which say "Baltimore" on them instead of "Orioles Magic" as they should read.
Blue Jays 8, Twins 6: Snider-man, Snider-man, homered twice he's Snider-man...
Royals 4, Indians 2: Greinke struggled but persevered, and has accumulated 25 consecutive scoreless innings going back to last season. Remember when Jimmy Rollins had the 38-game hitting streak that spanned the end of the 2005 and start of 2006 season? Yeah, I dunno about this streak, either. Seems kind of dubious. Not Rich Dubee-ous. And yet, with Greinke: 33 more starts and the Cy Young is his, I'm tellin' ya'.
Athletics 8, Red Sox 2: Nomahhhh home run against the Olde Towne Teame. ... Jed Lowrie on the DL with a sprained left wrist. If the Red Sox lose any more shortstops, Rick Burleson will have to be called. If he goes, does anyone know the number for Jackie Gutierrez?
* * *
Words of Mouth
"It was fabulous, fabulous. We're playing hard and getting some results." — Pirates' outfielder Nyjer Morgan, whose team is 4-3.