There’s a whole lot of people picking the Rays over the Red Sox in the AL East. I wonder how many of them have taken a gander at Tampa Bay’s Opening Day lineup against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia:
CF Desmond Jennings
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
DH Jeff Keppinger
SS Sean Rodriguez
2B Elliot Johnson
1B Carlos Pena
C Jose Molina
LF Matt Joyce
Obviously, there are a couple of caveats here, the first one being that B.J. Upton is sidelined. With Upton healthy, Zobrist would be playing second base and Johnson would be on the bench. The other is that manager Joe Maddon has really jumbled the lineup with the lefty on the mound for the Yankees. Keppinger actually makes some sense in the cleanup spot versus a southpaw, while Pena and Joyce will obviously move up in the lineup against right-handers. Luke Scott will also be starting against righties.
All that said… this is one hideous lineup after the top three. The cleanup hitter’s career high for homers in seven. The No. 6 hitter is a 27-year-old with a .190/.247/.318 line in 179 major league at-bats. And Pena and Joyce were flat-out terrible against lefties last season. Pena came in at .133/.260/.333 in 120 at-bats for the Cubs, while Joyce hit .217/.287/.370 despite usually sitting against the tougher ones for the Rays (he was benched in all four of Sabathia’s starts against Tampa Bay last season).
The Rays have some of the league’s best pitching, so they’ll almost certainly hang in the race this year. Still, their lineup against left-handers leaves much to be desired. As I wrote a couple of months ago, they hurt their chances by not bringing in additional right-handed help beyond Keppinger over the winter.
As expected, Major League Baseball’s league-wide home run record, set in 2000, was tied and surpassed on Tuesday night, both by players named Alex who play for AL Central teams.
Tigers outfielder Alex Presley tied the record at 5,693, per MLB.com’s David Adler, with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning against Athletics starter Daniel Gossett. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon broke the record roughly 12 minutes later with a solo home run to lead off the top of the eighth inning against Blue Jays reliever Ryan Tepera.
Major League Baseball saw the record nearly broken last year, when 5,610 home runs were hit. The only other season above 5,500 was 1999 at 5,528.
Earlier this month, Yankees starter CC Sabathia jawed at the Red Sox after Eduardo Nunez laid down a bunt. Sabathia fielded it fine, but threw the ball away for an error. After the game, he called Nunez’s bunt “weak” and said the Red Sox should “swing the bat.” Sabathia, of course, is not that limber these days. Along with being 37 years old, the lefty has also battled knee and hamstring issues this season.
The Twins apparently didn’t hear what Sabathia had to say about bunting. After Brian Dozier singled off of Sabathia to lead off the top of the first inning on Tuesday, Joe Mauer laid down a bunt on the third base side and reached safely. Jorge Polanco then laid down a bunt of his own, also on the third base side, and was initially ruled out, but after replay review was ruled safe to load the bases with no outs.
Fortunately for Sabathia, he was able to limit the damage, getting Eduardo Escobar to ground into a run-scoring 6-4-3 double play and inducing an inning-ending ground out from Byron Buxton. It’ll be interesting, though, to see if the Twins continue to bunt against Sabathia throughout the night.