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Kennedy can't win it alone

MARLINS 3, RAYS 2: The Tampa Bay starter is solid in a complete game, but the offense sputters.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002


photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Joe Kennedy and Toby Hall have a talk in the sixth after Kennedy gave up a two-run homer to the Marlins' Cliff Floyd.
ST. PETERSBURG -- There wasn't much difference between the Rays' 3-2 loss to the Marlins on Saturday and the victories in their three previous games.

Really, just something like a hit when they had a man in scoring position in the second inning.

Or the third.

Or the fourth.

Or the fifth.

Or the seventh.

"Really, that's all it was," Steve Cox said.

But instead of celebrating what would have been a season high-matching fourth straight win before a lively Tropicana Field crowd of 15,874, the largest since May 9, the Rays were talking about another near miss after wasting another impressive complete game from Joe Kennedy.

Of their 78 games, half have been decided by one or two runs. The problem is they've won just 16 of the 39.

"Good teams win one-run ballgames," Cox said, "so it's kind of discouraging in one sense, and it's a positive thing in the sense that we're almost there, but not quite."

Manager Hal McRae said the best thing about the night was that the Rays continued to play well, that they basically lost because Florida's Julian Tavarez was on his game and the Marlins bullpen did its job.

"Nothing changed," McRae said. "We didn't give anything away, we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot, we didn't spring a leak somewhere. As long as we don't do those things, things are going well."

Kennedy made two mistakes among his 114 pitches, giving up home runs on a 1-0 pitch he didn't get far enough inside to Preston Wilson in the third and an 0-and-2 fastball he mistakenly left over the plate to Cliff Floyd in the sixth.

Otherwise, the 22-year-old prized left-hander impressed both dugouts.

"He threw me 10 fastballs and I only got one hit; he made a mistake and it cost him," Floyd said. "I just read the other day that he was untouchable (in trade talks), and I can see why. He threw the ball good."

Kennedy was disappointed with the loss but satisfied with his performance (6 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts) in his team record-tying fourth complete game this season.

"If you'd have come up to me before this game and said you're going to throw a complete game, six or seven hits, and give up three runs, what do you think the outcome will be? Nine out of 10 times you would say victory."

Unfortunately, four times out of 10 is more accurate. Saturday was the sixth time this season Kennedy allowed three or fewer runs and didn't get a win.

And he's not the only Rays pitcher with reason to be frustrated. Tampa Bay pitchers have made 34 quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer runs) and won only 11 of those games.

"Our pitchers have been giving us some great innings," Aubrey Huff said. "Kennedy gave us another complete game tonight, and you really want to get guys like that some wins when they go out there and pitch their butt off like that, but it just didn't happen tonight."

Even though Kennedy's record dropped to 5-7, he lowered his ERA to 4.16 and continued his impressive development.

"He did a heck of a job and he knows that," McRae said. "Comparing this year to last year, there's no comparison. He was a 100-pitch-count guy, a six-inning kind of guy (last year). Now seven is a given, and that's his fourth complete game. He's made a lot of progress."

The Rays definitely had some chances but went 1-for-11 with men in scoring position and left 10 on, at least one in each inning but the ninth.

They got Huff to third with one out in the second, but Dave McCarty and Chris Gomez left him there. They stranded Brent Abernathy at second in the third. They had the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth, but Randy Winn flied out. They left Ben Grieve at second in the fifth.

And just when it looked like the momentum was theirs in the seventh, with one run in, two men on, one man out and Tavarez off the mound, lefty reliever Armando Almanza got Huff to ground into a double play.

"It was one of those days, I guess," Abernathy said. "We played well the last three days and won, and we played well again today and basically we were one key hit away at any given time from winning the ball game."


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