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Hit Show returns for one game

RAYS 13, ROYALS 6: Tampa Bay emerges with the long ball, setting a team record with six homers.

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 11, 2002


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Nobody had an explanation or a reason for what had transpired.

But the Rays certainly weren't complaining Saturday.

One night after squandering a ninth-inning lead and losing in 12, Tampa Bay set a club record by hitting six homers in a 13-6 blitzing of Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium.

"This team has got to break out sometime," said third baseman Jared Sandberg, who contributed two homers to take the team lead. "But this team is not going to go out there and try to hit home runs every day. We just can't do it. But that's exciting.

"I don't know how to explain it. I guess it's just one of those times when a team breaks out."

The power binge also set up Victor Zambrano's first major-league win as a starter, and long reliever Wilson Alvarez picked up his first save in more than 10 years before 18,213 fans.

For a team that ranks at or near the bottom in virtually every important American League offensive category -- the Rays had the fewest homers in the majors entering but passed Milwaukee after the outburst -- the offensive highlights were unusually plentiful.

"You just enjoy it," manager Hal McRae said. "Don't try to identify it. Just try to enjoy it."

The 13 runs were a season-best and the most the Rays have scored in a game in more than two years. All but one Rays player, centerfielder Jason Conti, got at least one of the 16 total hits.

"I was aggravated and frustrated out there because I look up at the scoreboard and we have 16 hits and I don't have one of them," Conti said. "But, hey, not everybody can get them.

"I'd rather go 0-for-5 and win than go 0-for-5 and lose."

Sandberg and rookie Carl Crawford, who hit his first major-league homer in the second, contributed three RBIs, and designated hitter Aubrey Huff went 4-for-5, including a homer, to extend his hitting streak to a career-high eight games. He is batting .371 during the stretch.

After nearly winning Friday's game with an eighth-inning homer, Andy Sheets hit a three-run shot that put the Rays ahead 9-3 in the third. Steve Cox added the fifth homer of the game in the seventh to put the Rays ahead by five.

"The guys had their hitting shoes on tonight," McRae said.

Zambrano was making his second start since being plucked from the bullpen in an attempt to boost his shaken confidence. Though the right-hander wasn't as sharp as in his major-league starting debut, Zambrano prevented the Royals from threatening.

He allowed five runs on seven hits over five innings, walking three and striking out three. He is 1-0 with 4.91 ERA since taking the starting role.

"We had scored so many runs that I tried to throw more fastballs, try to make the hitters swing at the ball," Zambrano said.

Kansas City took a 2-1 lead in the first on a two-run homer by Raul Ibanez, scored another in the second and two more in the fifth before Zambrano was pulled.

He allowed three doubles, including consecutive doubles that drove in runs, in the fifth.

But that was far better than what Royals rookie starter Shawn Sedlacek experienced. Tampa Bay hit four homers and scored nine on eight hits in three innings off the right-hander.

The Rays homered in the first three innings and scored four each in the second and third. To put that in perspective, Tampa Bay has scored three or fewer in 55 games this season. The Rays are 33-28 when they score four or more.

After pitching three scoreless innings against the Indians on Tuesday, Alvarez worked out of the stretch and picked up his first save since April 7, 1992, by allowing one run on two hits over four innings against the Royals. Alvarez has a 1.29 ERA as a reliever.

"Alvarez is going to be a valuable guy out of the pen because he knows how to pitch and he throws strikes and he's able to shut the opposition down," McRae said. "He's motivated and I like that."


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