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Rays squander another late-inning lead, fall 6-5

The loss in 11 innings is nearly a carbon copy of Friday's extra-inning defeat to the Rockies.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002

[AP photo]
Starting pitcher Wilson Alvarez, right, is consoled by pitching coach Jackie Brown after giving up three consecutive solo home runs in the fifth inning Saturday.
DENVER -- The Rays staged a repeat performance of their rocky horror pitcher show.

Friday, they blew a four-run ninth-inning lead and lost in 10 innings. Saturday was only slightly less dramatic, as they blew a two-run eighth-inning lead and lost 6-5 in 11 innings.

Todd Hollandsworth played the star, singling in the winning run with one out in the 11th.

Doug Creek played the first villain, giving up two runs in the eighth after walking the bases loaded. Steve Kent was the second bad guy, giving up the winning run in the 11th.

"The last two (losses) were not about the Rockies," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "We took leads late into the ballgames and were not able to hold on. It's something we have to overcome. ... We were an inning short. We've been an inning short all year."

The winning rally started when Todd Helton drew a one-out walk. Todd Zeile singled to left-center, sending Helton to third. Hollandsworth followed with the winner, a smash past diving first baseman Steve Cox.

The Rays led 5-3 going to the eighth, but the Rockies tied it. Creek walked the bases loaded with one out, then gave up run-scoring singles to Mark Little and Brent Butler, the second on an 0-and-2 pitch. Only a tremendous throw by Jason Conti to nail Gary Bennett at the plate kept it from being worse.

The Rockies had a shot to win in the 10th when they got a man to second with one out, but Travis Harper retired Greg Norton and Butler. The Rays had a chance when Jared Sandberg opened the 11th with a single, but got no farther than third.

Pitching continues to be a problem for the Rays, who have set or matched a dubious team mark each of the last four days. Wednesday, Ryan Rupe hit three batters. Thursday, Tanyon Sturtze allowed 13 hits. Friday, Victor Zambrano and Esteban Yan allowed five extra-base hits in an inning. And Saturday, Wilson Alvarez allowed back-to-back-to-back homers in the fifth.

In addition, the Rays gave up three key hits on 0-and-2 counts: homers by Butler and Larry Walker in the fifth, and Butler's single that tied the score in the eighth.

The Rays suffered another loss when Greg Vaughn had to leave the game with a bruised right shoulder after crashing into the fence chasing what was a home run by Walker in the fifth.

Vaughn could not lift his right arm after the game, and is not likely to play today. He will be further evaluated today.

Alvarez basically cruised through the through the first four innings, surviving a based-loaded situation in the first and allowing a single baserunner in each of the next three innings.

He took a 1-0 lead into the fifth on Chris Gomez's homer, but it changed quickly with one out.

Alvarez gave up three consecutive home runs in a 10-pitch span, all on pitches with two strikes.

Butler hit an 0-and-2 pitch over the leftfield wall. Walker, who ended Friday's epic with a run-scoring single at 2:38 Saturday morning, hit an 0-and-2 pitch just over the leftfield fence. Helton then drove a 3-and-2 pitch over the centerfield wall to make it 3-1.

It was the third time a Rays pitchers had given up three home runs in an inning. Bobby Witt did in May 19, 1999, in a 7-6 loss at Texas, and Rupe did it July 26 in a 5-3 loss at Anaheim.

The Rays, still smarting from Friday's loss, came back to take the lead.

They scratched out one run in the sixth, converting a leadoff walk by Conti (who replaced Vaughn), a single by Cox, a right-side grounder by Ben Grieve and a sacrifice fly by John Flaherty.

They got three more and took the lead back in the seventh, with some help from Rockies starter Denny Neagle, who had pitched well until then.

First Neagle walked Sandberg. Then he threw wildly past first on a pickoff, sending Sandberg to third. He threw a wild pitch, which allowed Sandberg to score and pinch-hitter Russ Johnson to walk to first.

Dennys Reyes wasn't much of a replacement, giving up a triple to Randy Winn that scored Johnson with the go-ahead run, then a double to Brent Abernathy that chased Winn home.

Abernathy moved to third on a bunt, but the Rays were unable to get him home as Cox walked, and Grieve (who was ahead 3-and-0 in the count) and Flaherty struck out.

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