Rays hope to stay alive with new-look lineup

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The Rays lost to a pair of left-handed starters over the first two games of the series — Cliff Lee in Game 1 and C.J. Wilson in Game 2 — so they have a bit of a different look against right-hander Colby Lewis for Game 3 this afternoon (via Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times).

John Jaso, C
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Matt Joyce, RF
Dan Johnson, DH
Carlos Pena, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
Jason Bartlett, SS

Jaso, Johnson and Joyce will start for the first time in the series. Pena was benched in Game 2 after going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk in Game 1. Including Wednesday’s 0-fer, Pena is batting just .112 with 35 strikeouts in his last 89 at-bats.

With the Rays on the brink of elimination, I’m a little surprised to see Bartlett in there over Reid Brignac. Keep in mind, Lewis held right-handed batters to a meager .216 batting average and 627 OPS during the regular season. Bartlett batted just .244 with a 647 OPS against righties this season while Brignac batted .261 with all eight of his home runs and a 706 OPS. Minor quibble, but something to look out for.  

Pirates pitcher Steven Brault sang the National Anthem last night

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Pittsburgh Pirates swingman Steven Brault has a 4.38 ERA in 19 games this year. He also has a music degree and is a professional singer on the side of his baseball gig. He didn’t get into last night’s game against the Brewers as a pitcher, but he did get to use his singing skills.

Specifically, Brault got to sing the National Anthem. And he did an OK job of it too. He’s not Whitney Houston or anything, but he did what all Anthem singers who are not as gifted as Whitney Houston was should do: he kept it straight and businesslike, avoiding unnecessary flourishes:

It’s march, dang it, not a ballad, and it should be treated as such. Unless of course you’re Whitney Houston.