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Winn moves atop the Rays' hit list

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 29, 2002

BOSTON -- Randy Winn already has had an impressive season.

Now he has a hit record.

Winn's eighth-inning single to leftfield was his 180th of the season, surpassing Quinton McCracken's 1998 team record.

Winn, as is his nature, was underwhelmed by the accomplishment. "It's nice," he said. "I really hadn't thought about it too much. It's a cap on a good season."

Manager Hal McRae said the record added to an "unbelievable" season.

Winn leads the team in hits (180), doubles (39), triples (9), RBIs (73) and stolen bases (27), pretty good for a guy McRae told at the start of spring training that he considered him a part-time player.

"I think he can do better, but it's been a tremendous year," McRae said. "He thought he could do it; I didn't think he could do it. He put me in my place."

Winn could add another achievement today: hitting .300 for the season. Winn goes into play with a .299033 average, and two hits would just about assure it.

"It's a nice number to say you hit .300," Winn said.

OTHER PURSUITS: The Rays are on the verge of a different kind of hit record.

With one more hit batter, they will tie the major-league record of 93 set by Boston last season.

"That's not a good thing," pitching coach Jackie Brown said. "That's not a record as a pitching staff that you go after, I can tell you that."

Actually, the high number of hit batters is a sign that the pitchers have taken Brown's directive to pitch inside more often.

"It's a positive of something we're trying to do," Brown said. "But it's a negative that we didn't do it better."

In other statistical pursuits:

-- Tanyon Sturtze looks as if he will become the first American League pitcher, and fourth overall, to lead his league in losses (18), hits allowed (271), runs allowed (141) and walks (89). Phil Niekro, a knuckleballer, did it for Atlanta in 1977 and 1979. Before that, it was Stoney McGlinn for St. Louis in 1907 and Togey Pittinger for St. Louis in 1903.

-- Aubrey Huff is 13 plate appearances shy of qualifying for the AL batting race. His .314 average would have ranked sixth Saturday.

PLAYOFF FEVER: If the Rays have to play a makeup game Monday against the Yankees to determine homefield advantage in the AL playoffs, the game probably will start at 1:05 p.m.

The game will be played only if the Yankees are a half-game behind the A's after play today; the Yankees currently are a half-game ahead. If the A's lose or the Yankees win today, the Yankees will have the best record and homefield advantage and the Monday game won't be necessary.

The Rays continued making contingency plans Saturday, deciding they'll check out of their Boston hotel this morning, wait until this afternoon's games are completed, then either fly home or check back into their hotel and fly to New York on Monday morning.

ON THE MARK: Reliever Lance Carter ran his scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings (and actually got two more outs that don't count in that compilation) before giving up a two-run home run to Nomar Garciaparra.

Carter, whose Aug. 31 promotion after a stellar performance for Triple-A Durham capped his comeback from a second major elbow surgery, finished the season with two wins, two saves and a 1.33 ERA in eight appearances.

More important, he would appear to have put himself in the running for a spot in the bullpen next season.

"It's gratifying, to be honest with you," Carter said. "I put in a lot of hard work to try to come back, and I really don't know how to put it into words."

DELVIN DEALING: Delvin James is starting today to get a head start on determining if he'll be starting for the Rays next season. James, whose early season stint with the Rays was cut short by shoulder problems, earned the start with a strong five-inning relief outing in New York on Tuesday.

"He was impressive in New York," McRae said. "He was kind of forgotten, but now he's back on the radar screen."

MISCELLANY: Jared Sandberg and Brent Abernathy were the seventh and eighth Rays to get two hits in an inning. ... Toby Hall is hitting .300 over his past 29 games. ... Felix Escalona and second baseman Brent Abernathy are expected to start again today.

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