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Rays rally is enough to tie, not win

ANGELS 6, RAYS 5 (10): An early 3-0 lead goes away and late runs only extend Tampa Bay's struggle.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 6, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Battling back and being scrappy might build character, but it doesn't do much for the bottom line.

Continuing to lose games they should win, the Rays let another one get away Friday, losing 6-5 to Anaheim in 10 innings.

The outcome wasn't much different from Thursday's meltdown in Texas, when they turned a six-run lead into an 11-8 loss.

This time, they took an early 3-0 lead, gave it all back to trail 5-3 after seven innings, tied it with two runs in the eighth, wasted several opportunities, then lost it in the 10th when former Florida Gator David Eckstein singled in the winning run off Esteban Yan.

The Anaheim rally started when Scott Spiezio lined a double that rightfielder Ben Grieve couldn't catch up with. With one out, Orlando Palmeiro, pinch hitting for Benji Gil, dropped a single into short left, sending Spiezio to third. Jorge Fabregas walked and Eckstein hit a slow grounder that went off the glove of third baseman Jared Sandberg.

"It's a tough loss like they all have been the past few days but we've just got to keep battling," Rays manager Hal McRae said.

It was the Rays' American League-high 11th extra-inning game of the season, and their third of the past four Friday nights. It was also their 43rd game (and 26th loss) to be decided by one or two runs.

While Joe Kennedy has to take some blame for losing the lead, Tampa Bay hitters were just as much to blame for repeatedly squandering opportunities, getting just five runs from 15 hits, three walks and a hit batter. The Rays left eight in scoring position, including two in the eighth inning and one each in the ninth and 10th.

The loss was their team-record ninth straight on the road.

The Rays took a 2-0 lead in the third against Aaron Sele, who was 6-0 against them in seven starts. Randy Winn, who earlier became the quickest Ray to 100 hits, led off with his second double, Brent Abernathy flared a single to right and Steve Cox delivered a sacrifice fly. Singles by Grieve and Aubrey Huff loaded the bases, and a bloop single to right by Toby Hall made it 2-0. But that was all they got as Jason Conti flied to left and Chris Gomez grounded into a force out.

The Rays extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Grieve and Huff singled, Hall hit into a double play and Conti singled.

Kennedy, a Southern California product pitching in front of about 70 friends and relatives, had done a good job of avoiding trouble, but that changed.

The Angels got one in the fifth when Eckstein was hit by a pitch, went to second on an out and scored on Tim Salmon's single. They got another in the sixth, when No.8 hitter Gil, who had 29 homers in 1,421 big-league at-bats, knocked Kennedy's pitch over the centerfield fence.

The Angels went ahead in the seventh and knocked out Kennedy. Eckstein singled and Darin Erstad doubled him home to tie it at 3. Salmon reached on an infield dribbler that Sandberg was unable to make a play on. Angels All-Star Garret Anderson followed with a two-run double to right-center.

The Rays tied it in the eighth, with some help. Conti, who had three hits, singled, Sandberg walked and Winn, who also had three hits, knocked in Conti. Abernathy's infield single loaded the bases, and Sandberg scored on Ben Weber's wild 1-and-0 pitch to Cox.

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