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Rays show fight but lose again

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- It never seems to fail.

Bring the Rays and Red Sox together for a series and something likely will transpire to further an on-going drama, be it real or perceived, to the next series.

The 2000 season featured a brawl that resulted in fines and suspensions for both teams. A series in May was marred by actions and retaliations that got two Red Sox players suspended and fined while one Rays pitcher was fined.

The latest installment unfolded throughout Tampa Bay's 4-3 loss Thursday before 22,012, the second-largest crowd this year at Tropicana Field.

"It's always the same thing when we play these guys," Red Sox second baseman Lou Merloni said. "If somebody is swinging the bat well or if somebody burns them the night before, that guy gets hit the next day. That's just the way it's going to be with these guys. Unfortunately that brings some bad blood."

Rays second baseman Brent Abernathy, at the center of May's festivities, and Red Sox designated hitter Manny Ramirez, who homered during Wednesday's game, each were hit twice Thursday. Both benches were warned before Rays closer Esteban Yan and manager Hal McRae were ejected in the ninth inning.

"People keep saying all this stuff about what's going on between the two teams," said Rays starting pitcher Tanyon Sturtze, who hit Ramirez with a two-seam fastball in the second inning. "It's ridiculous. How you can you have a rivalry with a team you lose to? It doesn't make sense."

The loss dropped the Rays to 0-8 against the second-place Red Sox this season. Eleven games between the teams remain, including a four-game set starting Tuesday at Fenway Park.

Boston has outscored the Rays 41-16 this season.

"They're trying to win a division. We're just trying to win a game," Abernathy said. "We're trying to make a difference somehow in the (pennant) race and intensity is high. But I think you need that to play good baseball."

The Rays, who have a worse record after 94 games than last year, took a 3-0 lead by the third inning with home runs by first baseman Steve Cox and catcher Toby Hall, who added a sacrifice fly.

Sturtze and Yan combined to allow four runs in the final five innings, including a two-out single by Trot Nixon that put the Red Sox ahead 4-3 in the eighth. Boston relievers Tim Wakefield, Chris Haney and Ugueth Urbina allowed two hits and struck out seven from the fifth to ninth innings.

"We competed and I can live with a loss where we compete," McRae said. "We mixed it up today. (Wednesday) we didn't mix it at all. We're going to have to mix it to win our share of games."

The Rays were 1-7 on the homestand. They have lost five in a row, 13 of their past 14, 21 by one run this season and have scored three runs or fewer 48 times this season.

Thursday's extracurriculars began after Sturtze hit Ramirez in the second inning.

"I have no problems with Manny," Sturtze said. "There's nothing between the two teams. Everybody just blows everything out of proportion because of what happened before. I mean, that was two months ago."

Both benches were warned by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez in the third after Abernathy was hit by Boston starter Frank Castillo, who was suspended in May.

Abernathy was hit again in the seventh, this time by Wakefield, the knuckleballer, and didn't think it was intentional. Nobody was ejected until Yan's 95 mph fastball struck Ramirez in the left shoulder.

"I don't think he was trying to hit me," Ramirez said.

Sturtze and Yan said they wanted to pitch Ramirez and the entire Red Sox lineup inside.

"If we wanted to put (Ramirez) on we would've put him on," McRae said. "We're not going to put him on by hitting him in the head. He was trying to pitch him inside. There was no reason for us to retaliate."

Tim Welke, first-base umpire and crew chief, said the decision to warn both teams was made as much based on past happenings as anything else.

"These teams have history," he said. "Absolutely (we were aware with that) and that goes into the decision. You want to stop anything before it starts. The last thing you want to do is have a brawl on the field."

Stay tuned ... again.

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