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Rays waste chances, lot of time

RED SOX 9, RAYS 8 (16): Tampa Bay keeps up, but Kevin Millar's homer breaks the tie.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 2, 2003


photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Rays starter Victor Zambrano looks to the dugout for support after giving up a two-run home run in the fifth.
ST. PETERSBURG -- This time, the Devil Rays couldn't pull it out in the ninth.

Or the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th or 15th.

And when they wasted a week's worth of opportunities, the Red Sox rallied to win it in the 16th, Kevin Millar hitting a one-out home run off Jorge Sosa to give the Red Sox a 9-8 victory at 12:30 this morning.

The second game of the Lou Piniella era had a lot more drama -- including 566 pitches from 14 pitchers, 125 at-bats, 34 men left on base, 32 hits -- than Monday's opener but didn't have the happy ending.

The game was the longest by innings in Rays history, surpassing a 15-inning 10-9 loss to Baltimore on Aug. 4, 2000 and at 5 hours and 15 minutes was one minute shy of the longest by time. A smattering of the paid crowd of 11,524, less than one-third of what they had for the opener, was left at the end.

"That was a weird one," said Ben Grieve, who made the final out. "It was a big waste of 5 1/2 hours, that's what it was."

Sosa, the seventh and last scheduled available Rays pitcher, got Nomar Garciaparra out to open the 16th, but gave up the homer to Millar -- the player the Red Sox went to extraordinary lengths to obtain after he initially agreed to play in Japan -- on a 1-and-2 pitch.

"When you get in long battles like that, everyone comes up with amazing plays and it seems like a home run or a bloop hit wins it," Travis Lee said. "It was a great game."

After tying the game at 8 in the eighth in the most unlikely fashion -- a two-run home run by light-hitting Rey Ordonez -- the Rays had chances to win in six of the next eight innings.

They had one runner thrown out at home, another thrown out at third, and left 11 others on -- part of a team-record 21 for the night (12 in scoring position) -- including Rocco Baldelli at second in the 16th.

"We had chances and so did they," Piniella said, "but I think we had a few more than they did."

Like in the ninth, when they had a man on with one out and two with two, but Baldelli popped up.

Like in the 10th, when Aubrey Huff led off with a double, but got caught trying to get to third on Lee's bouncer back to the mound ("A tough play to read," Piniella said). And when they got two more on, Brent Abernathy flied to center.

Like in the 12th, when Lee reached with two outs when his fly ball bounced out of Damian Jackson's glove, but he was thrown out trying to score on Toby Hall's single, with catcher Doug Mirabelli hanging on to the ball despite a violent collision that forced him from the game with a sprained ankle. "I saw he had the ball and had his head down and I tried to get him, but it was a great play," Lee said.

Like in the 13th, when they had Damian Rolls on second with one out, but Ordonez struck out, and then when they loaded the bases with two outs and Huff flied out.

Like in the 14th, when Hall was on second after a two-out double but Abernathy popped out.

And like in the 16th, when Baldelli (who set a team record with nine at-bats) beat out a chopper -- the Rays' seventh infield hit of the night -- but got only to second on Lee's infield out, a close call that Piniella protested to no avail. Grieve grounded to second for the final out.

"We battled and we played hard," Piniella said. "We just didn't get the base hit when we needed it."

The Rays would not have gotten as deep into the game as they did without an outstanding relief effort by Lance Carter, who threw three perfect innings then got out a tough jam -- a man on third and one out -- in the 12th.

The Sox looked to have taken the lead in the 15th, but Sosa got a huge assist from Baldelli.

Trot Nixon, on second after a walk and a bunt, was headed home after Johnny Damon singled to center, but Baldelli -- who got a bad break on an earlier fly ball that led to two Boston runs -- made a tremendous throw to the plate, going head-over-heels in the process, and Hall hung on to the ball in another collision.

"That play, you have to give absolutely everything you have," Baldelli said. "You've got to throw that guy out."

Much earlier, the Rays had more than their usual success against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, scoring five in five innings, but blew two early leads as Victor Zambrano had neither the crispness nor the control he showed in spring training.

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