Angels win, but fans are show
Chants and debris fill stadium in last game before today's strike deadline, a 6-1 Rays loss.
By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels were playing for the wild card.
The Rays just looked like a team for which the strike deadline couldn't come soon enough Thursday at Edison Field.
In what had the potential to be remembered as the final game before a ninth work stoppage in major-league history, but will be remembered anyway for the passionate appeals by fans, Anaheim didn't waste the chance to regain the lead in the American League wild-card standings.
Rays starter Tanyon Sturtze allowed four runs in the first inning as the Angels cruised to a 6-1 win before 18,820. Tampa Bay remains on pace to lose 108 games and become the first team since the 1977-79 Blue Jays to lose 100 in consecutive seasons.
But that's only if the full season is played.
If players go on strike today and the rest of the season is canceled, the Rays would be the worst strike season team ever with a 44-89 record and .331 winning percentage.
To top it off, the Rays have gone 17 consecutive series without winning one. The 1997 Phillies, who went 23 straight without a series win, were the last to experience such a drought.
Because of its status as last call of the major leagues, Thursday's game was accompanied by a buzz not normally experienced when the Rays are in town.
Agent Scott Boras was spotted in the seats directly behind home plate chatting on a cellular phone. Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda milled about on the field during batting practice. Actor David Lander (Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley) kept score in the press box.
And while negotiators for the union and owners met into the morning in New York, the Angels had Sturtze figured from the beginning.
Six weeks earlier, the right-hander held Anaheim to one run over nine yet got a no-decision. This time Sturtze didn't make it out of the first without allowing a run, and the Angels had a 5-0 lead on nine hits through five.
"I don't think they were more aggressive, but they definitely came out attacking," Sturtze said.
The Rays offense, which had 26 hits combined in the first two games of the series, managed little against right-hander Kevin Appier. He held Tampa Bay to two hits through six and retired 12 straight until first baseman Aubrey Huff singled to rightfield with one out in the seventh.
"We didn't pick him up, we didn't get very good at-bats and we didn't generate anything offensively," Rays manager Hal McRae said.
Two pitches before the hit, some fans in the rightfield bleachers threw beach balls and debris onto the outfield grass and chanted for players not to strike.
Two batters later, designated hitter Steve Cox fouled off a pitch behind home plate. A fan grabbed the ball, threw it back onto the field and was immediately ejected.
Then during the seventh-inning stretch, fans booed during Take Me Out to the Ballgame before resuming their chant before the first pitch of the bottom half.
"They were angry; that's understandable," McRae said. "It reminded me a lot of playing New York in the playoffs."
Rays rightfielder Ben Grieve hit his fifth homer of the road trip to lead off the eighth and make it 5-1. It snapped Appier's consecutive scoreless innings streak at 18. Appier came out after allowing a single to shortstop Chris Gomez.
Sturtze was relieved before the bottom of the eighth. He allowed five runs on 11 hits, striking out three and walking one.
The game was delayed about five minutes in the ninth as fans threw more debris onto the field while Rays rookie leftfielder Carl Crawford batted.
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