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, Fla., where a flying saucer landed, let Jeff Niemann(notes) out and he just started throwing strikes for the Rays of Sunshine.
Game of the Day: Rays 9, Royals 0
Higher five: This space had been reserved for Randy Johnson(notes) on the probable occasion of his 300th career victory, but his game was rained out. So, we lose an inch but gain several pounds with Jeff Niemann.
Niemann — or was it Klaatu's robot friend, Gort? — pitched like the 6-foot-9, 280-pound beast he always figured he could be. Two singles allowed, with only one walk, and nine strikeouts. And he did it throwing 100 pitches — even — for the reigning AL champions.
"I've always felt that I can do that," Niemann said. "To come out here and do it, it was awesome. You get that confidence boost that you really can do it."
Niemann, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft, had been stuck at Triple-A for most the past two seasons — though he was a presence in the Rays clubhouse in September. Turn around, and there Niemann was, present. Shoulder trouble also has held him back, but now, he feels like he can take over the world. With his death ray!
Klaatu, Longoria, Navarro!
Way to defend the Will Harridge Trophy, boys! Don't give it up in a yard sale!
KC Mousterpiece: Wasn't it about 48 hours ago the Royals were playing respectable ball? Nowadays, they just look like the Royals. Dropping 11 of 13 will do that.
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Feelin' Rundown (sometimes it rains):
Giants at Nationals, ppd. (rain): The bad news: After a rain delay of nearly three hours, the game never started. Big Unit Johnson has to wait until this afternoon, in Game 1 of a doubleheader, to go after 300. The good news: The President is out of town and the First Lady said the Lincoln Bedroom is available just for the Big Unit's asking. Yes, bring the kids. They can ride in the submarine. Or maybe that's at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Mets at Pirates, ppd. (rain): It's also the last rainout, for now, in the Pirates career of Nate McLouth, who was traded to the Braves for prospects. It's not like saying good-bye to Andy Van Slyke, but it's still bittersweet for the Pirates, whose identity continues shifting its shape. Freddy Sanchez(notes) and Jack Wilson(notes) might be next. Do Pirates fans, who are enduring a 17th straight losing season, mind?
Dodgers 1, D-backs 0: Good, if not old-fashioned, pitchers duel. Chad Billingsley(notes) and Jon Garland(notes) each allowed four hits, and Billingsley left with a 1-0 lead — after the sixth inning — because he needed 111 pitches to get that far. How excited can anyone get about a 1-0 game where neither starter sees the seventh inning?
The Dodgers, who lead the NL West by 106 games, are definitely close to Baseball Boogying right here.
Some of you guys might remember the Clay Zavada story. So far, he has allowed four hits in 6 1/3 innings. No walks, seven strikeouts. Looks like he's here to stay.
Take away the seventh, actually, and the final score of this game is 4-0 Red Sox. But if you did take away the seventh, people would be, like, hey, where'd he seventh inning go?
Here's what Beckett said about the uneven visitor's pen:
"The bullpen's mound had an off-center plate."
What? He might as well have said, "Do the chickens have large talons?" I don't understand a word he just said.
And, about Youkilis getting kicked in the right ankle? It's only a bruise, Francona says.
The Cardinals could. The Brewers. Maybe the White Sox. The Phillies. If a number of dominoes fall, the Red Sox. Let's get Adrian Beltre traded!
Athletics 5, White Sox 3: As I've mentioned, Josh Outman(notes) has too good of a pitcher's name (and I don't mean "Josh") to be ineffective. He also wears his socks with force. I want a T-shirt with some kind of "Outman" superhero image on it. Bay Area, get crackin'.
Brewers 9, Marlins 6: In what had to be a deeply uncomfortable chapter in his life, right-hander Hayden Penn(notes) forced in three consecutive runs with bases on balls in the fifth inning. Penn, who has a 7.77 ERA, walks nearly a batter per inning and whose opponents hit .319 against him, might be the worst pitcher in the league. It's not all his fault; the Orioles, stupefyingly, rushed him to the majors a few years ago at age 20, and he had elbow surgery in '07. But he's not good right now.
"Sentimentally, it stinks," Jones said. "But optimistically, looking into the future, it's a step in the right direction."
I'd say Dickie Dunn couldn't capture the spirit of the thing any better than that.
Glavine's agent tells Buster Olney that he looks forward to pitching in 2009. So take that, Frank Wren.
Rangers 4, Yankees 2: Not only did Feldman from legal escape from the Bronx while giving up only one home run, he notched his fifth victory against no defeats. Nice job, boychick!
Angels 8, Blue Jays 1: Some birthday party for the Rogers Centre, which was called SkyDome when it opened 20 years ago this week. Neither Avril Lavigne or Casey Janssen(notes) could match the Angels lineup and Jered Weaver(notes). I think Janssen should be in the bullpen, where he was very effective last season, but I'm not Cito.
Indians 10, Twins 1: I like my Cliff Lee(notes) with an edge, so his barking at Carlos Gomez(notes) over unsavory bunts doesn't bother me. It's better for Lee if he gets mad at an opponent rather than his own team, which usually doesn't offer as much run support as it gave him in this game.
"I'm probably never going to have a season statistically like I did last year, but I feel like I am giving the team a chance to win every time I go out there," Lee said, adding: "I don't hit and I don't score runs, so I'm not going to worry about that."
"I was disappointed with my outing, but I'm glad it's over and done with," said Romero, who allowed an unearned run, two hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
Reds 9, Cardinals 3: It's a great morning for those who own Brandon Phillips, the Taco Man. Three hits — including a homer — three runs, three RBIs and two thefts. That line is art. Phillips said his favorite parts were the steals against right-hander Blaine Boyer(notes) and strong-armed catcher Yadier Molina(notes).
"That was the highlight of my day, honestly," Phillips said. "You don't run off that dude. I was so glad [Boyer] had a nice little leg kick, and I made it."