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Rays waste spectacular pitching by rookie

ANGELS 4, RAYS 3: Jorge Sosa keeps hot-hitting Anaheim in check, but Jesus Colome and Tampa Bay falter again on opponent's final at-bat.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 7, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The specifics are starting to blur. Suffice to say, the Rays managed to blow another game in the late innings Saturday, losing 4-3 to Anaheim.

This time, Jesus Colome was the primary culprit, giving up two runs in the eighth after the Rays fought back to tie and salvage a spectacular pitching performance by rookie Jorge Sosa.

Colome lost Wednesday's game by giving up a ninth-inning homer to Texas' Ivan Rodriguez. Saturday's outing wasn't as dramatic.

He walked No. 9 hitter Orlando Palmeiro to start the inning and gave up a single to David Eckstein. A pitch that popped out of catcher John Flaherty's glove allowed the runners to move up, and Darin Erstad's broken-bat single scored both when rightfielder Ben Grieve's throw to the plate was off target.

The loss was the third straight for the Rays in their opponent's final at-bat, fifth in a row, 10th consecutive on the road, and major-league high 56th overall.

At least they may have salvaged something in defeat with Sosa's effort.

Making his third and possibly final start with Ryan Rupe scheduled to come off the disabled list next weekend, the 24-year-old right-hander was outstanding over a career-high seven innings.

Sosa held the Angels, who came into the game with the second-best team batting average in the majors (.279), to two hits.

The first, unfortunately, was a two-run home run by Tim Salmon in the first inning, following a leadoff walk to Eckstein. Sosa retired 10 straight after that, and 18 of 21 while walking three, until he gave up a single to Adam Kennedy with two outs in the seventh.

Sosa was effective and impressive, throwing a fastball that was clocked as high as 94 mph in his final inning and looking remarkably poised.

Remember, he was an outfielder until the Mariners moved him to the mound for the 2001 season, and he hadn't pitched above the low Single-A level until the Rays claimed him on waivers from Milwaukee this spring.

Since Sosa is a Rule 5 draft pick, the Rays can't send him to the minors. With Rupe coming back, they may have to consider a six-man rotation, or another alternative.

The Rays didn't hit a lot of balls hard off John Lackey, the 23-year-old right-hander who was a second-round pick in 1999, the same year the Rays took Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford.

Their first run was the product of two singles and a gutsy two-out bunt by Brent Abernathy.

The Rays got a couple of better swings in the seventh to tie the score, but couldn't get ahead. Chris Gomez lined a 1-and-2 pitch down the leftfield line that just cleared the four-foot fence at the 330-foot mark.

Jared Sandberg followed with a double to left, but he was stranded as Winn grounded out and Abernathy flied to left.

They rallied in the ninth when Flaherty doubled and Gomez and Jared Sandberg singled off closer Troy Percival to make it 4-3, but Percival retired Winn on a fly out and Abernathy on a grounder to end the game.

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