A'S 8, RAYS 3: Tampa Bay (0-4) never has beaten Oakland's young starter, Barry Zito.
|[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Joe Kennedy's pickoff throw gets away from first baseman Jared Sandberg as the ball hits A's runner Randy Velarde in the head.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays haven't been consistently good. And they haven't been consistently bad. About the only thing they've consistently been lately is inconsistent.
Win a series at Seattle, get swept at Oakland. Win a crisp game Tuesday from the Mariners, lose a messy one the next night. Beat the A's in extra innings Thursday, lose an ugly slugfest Friday, then go down 8-3 Saturday without much of a fight.
"It's been kind of like a roller coaster," centerfielder Randy Winn said. "It seems that's how the season is. You have your good stretches and you have your bad stretches. Play some crazy games where you get a lot of hits, and the next night it's a pitchers duel. When you're striving to become a good team you have to be able to win all types of games, the slugfests and the close games."
Manager Hal McRae said the inconsistency is a concern, and the Rays are trying to address it, but wouldn't get into specifics.
"We're going to try to fix it," he said. "That's what our job is, to fix it, not identify it. It's been identified. The peanut vendor can identify it. We've got to fix it. And we're working to fix it."
The Rays are 9-10 since ending their 15-game losing streak, and 2-3 on the homestand that ends today.
"Why show up if you don't think you can get better and win games," McRae said. "If we win (today) we split the series. If we can play about even, that's the trick. And we could catch fire from even. We can't catch fire from way below the surface. We're trying to stay on the surface, and anything can happen. If we win (today), it's a good homestand against first-division clubs."
Saturday, the Rays didn't provide much competition before an announced 14,073. "We didn't do our jobs tonight," Brent Abernathy said. "We pretty much got beat pretty easily and pretty handily. We just didn't play well."
Barry Zito dominated the Rays again, improving his record against them to 4-0 (and raising his ERA to 0.90) by striking out 11 in eight innings and allowing one run, a seventh-inning home run to John Flaherty.
And Joe Kennedy made a few too many mistakes again, first allowing three runs, and then a three-run home run to Scott Hatteberg in the eighth that put the game out of reach.
"They were better tonight and they beat us," McRae said. "They pitched better and they hit better."
Having been held to two hits by Zito Sunday, the Rays had an idea what to expect from the gangly and somewhat goofy left-hander, who was selected eight picks after Tampa Bay outfield prospect Josh Hamilton in the 1999 draft. But the prior exposure didn't help them when it mattered, as Zito used his changeup and curveball to set up his fastball and kept them off balance.
"We got better swings tonight, we didn't chase as many bad pitches and we got much better looks tonight," McRae said. "I thought we should have done a better job."
The Rays had only a couple of chances, but Zito didn't let them capitalize. He got Aubrey Huff on a fly out with two on and two outs in the first; set the Rays down in order on two strikeouts and a popup when they got the first two men on in the fourth; and struck out Jared Sandberg and Abernathy when the Rays had Russ Johnson on third after Flaherty brought the Rays to within 3-1.
"What a performance," Oakland manager Art Howe said.
Kennedy allowed a career-high matching six runs for the second straight start against the A's, but was more upset about the 1-and-1 fastball he left over the plate for Hatteberg than any of his other 115 pitches.
"I pitched seven strong innings and one bad inning, and that one bad inning hurt us," Kennedy said. "If you leave the ball over the plate, they're going to hit it, and hit a long way."
Unhappy with his team's performance, McRae said he had no choice but to look forward to today.
"If we beat them (today), they fly out of here very angry, feeling they left a couple wins in Tampa Bay," he said. "And that's a feeling we like for them to have when they leave."
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