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Chased away without a fight

YANKEES 7, RAYS 2: For the third day in a row, dominant New York pitching silences Tampa Bay.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002


NEW YORK -- Baltimore has never looked so good.

Having been taken down with barely a fight for a third straight day by a dominant Yankees team, the Rays filed out after Sunday's 7-2 loss eager to face an opponent more in their class.

"This is an aberration and we sort of throw this series out," manager Hal McRae said. "I think the next series will be a test of where we are and how we're playing.

photo
[AP photo]
Jason Tyner swipes second in the sixth as Derek Jeter lunges for a wide throw. The play set up the Rays' first run of the series.
"We were sort of overmatched here. We match up and stack up better against the next club that we play, the next two clubs that we play (Baltimore and Toronto). That'll give us an indication of where we are."

The Rays are 3-3 after the first six games of the season, a pace they would be delighted to maintain over the next 25 weeks. But it's hard to say just what that says. It could mean the Yankees are very, very good. Or it could mean the Tigers, whom the Rays swept, are very, very bad.

"Detroit's no slouches, they have tough pitchers, and we were able to put stuff together and get it going," first baseman Steve Cox said. "It just happened we weren't able to do it this series. It's not the end of the world. It's one of those things, and hopefully no one in here lost confidence over this series. It was a bad series, but it wasn't a series that should stick with you."

Second baseman Brent Abernathy, one of the Rays' more spirited young players, seemed more concerned about the approach his team took into the game.

"I think with the effort we gave here, especially today, we were probably better off not even showing up," said Abernathy, a 24-year-old starting his first full season in the majors. "We were playing one of the best teams in the league, facing a Hall of Fame pitcher, and I don't think we gave ourselves even a chance to win. We didn't do what we needed to do in every aspect of the game, and you can take that however you want to. ...

"We've got some guys out here day in, day out, busting their tails trying to win as many games as we possibly can, trying to fight through the lack of talent and the lack of experience, and sometimes we just aren't putting ourselves in position to win games."

As Andy Pettitte did on Friday and Orlando Hernandez did on Saturday, Yankees starter Roger Clemens simply shut the Rays down on Sunday. Relying on a lively split-finger fastball, Clemens didn't allow a hit until Ben Grieve's liner bounced just beyond diving centerfielder Bernie Williams' glove with one out in the fifth. He gave up four through 71/3 innings to a Rays lineup that included two players, Jason Smith and Felix Escalona, making their first major-league starts, and didn't include leading hitter Toby Hall, who had the day off.

"I wasn't thinking no-hitter, but we weren't getting good swings, we weren't getting hits and we weren't getting baserunners," McRae said. "So it sort of followed the script from the other two outings ... just shutting us down and not allowing us to do things."

With a not-sharp Tanyon Sturtze allowing three first-inning runs, the Rays never really were in the game.

"I didn't give our team a chance today," Sturtze said. "They go out and score three runs in the first inning with Roger Clemens pitching, you can't do that. It was ridiculous. A horrible start by me."

Just scoring a run, which the Rays did in the sixth when Randy Winn's bloop single was ruled to have bounced just in front of rightfielder John Vander Wal, proved to be an accomplishment.

It ended a team-record 26-inning scoreless streak, which started in the sixth inning Thursday, as well as a 23-inning shutout streak by New York's pitchers.

"I knew we didn't have any, but I don't tend to keep up with the blow-by-blow description," McRae said. "It doesn't make it any better; it makes it worse. It doesn't mean anything.

In the three chilly games here, the Rays scored two runs, got 12 hits and drew two walks.

"The next series is what's important, not what happened here," McRae said. "We were just completely dominated by the Yankees. It doesn't deter us at all. It just happened. If they play like they did the last few days, they're going to beat a whole lot of people. And I guess that's what they set out to do when they spent $130-million (on payroll). They didn't spend that to lose."

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