St. Petersburg, Fla., March 7 — The anticipated showers unfortunately did develop, but we enjoyed our day at Al Lang Stadium (for us, the non-Yankee Jewel in the Florida Baseball Crown) anyway, largely based on the exploits of Brandon number one, the lefty Brandon Claussen. The Rocket started and he was good, but the pesky Rays were taking his hard stuff the other way enough to scratch out single runs in all three of his innngs. (FYI, the Rays dealt Roger two of his three 2001 losses, and they would have won a third if not for a late Luis Sojo miracle double that preserved Clemens’s drive to 20-1.)
At the same time, Rays starter Joe Kennedy was not good and reliever Zambrano gave up singleton dingers in the third and fourth. It seemed the hitters would dominate all day; that is, until Mr. Claussen took the mound. He held them scoreless for three innings, throwing 33 strikes in his total of 56 pitches. Surrendering four hits and two walks, but notching three K’s, and keeping the Rays constantly off balance, he genuinely seemed in control, great news for a team that plays its home games in a friendly-to-lefties ballpark.
Which thankfully makes the unfortunate Brandon Knight (number two) meltdown a little easier to take. It took him only 12 pitches to surrender five runs, four base hits and a walk. Other disappointments on the day were the absence of the expected Giambi and another day’s delay (at least) in Jorge’s 2002 debut behind the plate, though the latter blow was softened somewhat by the continued impressive performance of Alberto Castillo (3 for 3 with another assist on a throw). Jorge and Shane went deep, but the offensive star was Bernie, with rbi base hits from each side of the plate.
We pick a nephew up at the airport and do one more road game tomorrow, then back to Legends Field for the weekend.