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It's all bad in Rays loss

YANKEES 5, RAYS 4: Tampa Bay commits two bad errors, then Lou Piniella fires off some bad words.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003


NEW YORK -- From the first day of spring training, manager Lou Piniella said the Devil Rays were going to stress defense.

Less than two weeks into the season, it is a glaring lack of defense that is stressing him out.

As they have been doing frequently, the Rays battled back from an early deficit and were tied with the Yankees going into the ninth. And as they have been doing too frequently, they made a key mistake which cost them the game, this time 5-4 on Hideki Matsui's bases-loaded single.

Piniella, more so than at any time this young season, made it clear in his postgame words and actions he wasn't happy about what he saw.

"What I don't like are the three errors that we put up on the damn E column every g-- d--- game," he said in a tense and terse media session. "That's one thing I don't like. That's for G-- d--- sure. And I'm getting f------ tired of it."

Despite Piniella's intentions and lineup juggling, changing three of the eight opening-day starters, the Rays have been the worst fielding team in majors. Two more errors Saturday (a third was changed to a hit after the game) give them an American League-high 16, along with a handful of other misplays.

Saturday, having overcome a 4-0 deficit and having escaped a serious Yankees threat in the seventh, it was the second error of the day by Damion Easley, who replaced Aubrey Huff at third base because of Huff's poor defense.

With one out in the ninth and the score tied at 4, Easley misplayed a sharp grounder by Todd Zeile, giving the Yankees all the opening they needed to run their record to 9-1, matching the best start in their storied history.

"It tipped off my glove; I thought I had it in there but when I went to turn it dropped right down," Easley said. "You can't give any team extra outs. Especially the Yankees at home. ... It hurts, but it's over with."

Travis Harper got Jason Giambi to hit a ground ball, but it went through the infield despite a strong shift. Harper pitched around Bernie Williams to load the bases and bring Matsui -- who had grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the seventh -- to the plate for a chance at his third game-winning hit of the week.

Piniella went to the mound to remind Harper what to do, and the first pitch was a strike. The next pitch was down too, but the left-handed Matsui slapped it through a hole between Easley and shortstop Rey Ordonez.

"I told him to get the guy out, that's all, and he didn't," Piniella said. "What the hell else am I supposed to say? What else can you say? You try to get a ground ball and he did. It just found a hole."

Said Matsui: "I'm happy I'm placed in that kind of situation with a lot of pressure to make something happen. Maybe if I don't make that hit I wouldn't have come back alive."

The frustrating ending erased an inspiring comeback. Down 4-0 on a two-run double by ex-Ray Bubba Trammell and a two-run home run by Zeile off Joe Kennedy in the second, the Rays scrapped back. Rookie Rocco Baldelli was in the middle of most of it, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI in his Yankee Stadium debut and raising his average to .400.

"We battled to come back but we still ended up on the losing end," outfielder Carl Crawford said in the silent clubhouse. "I guess that's why we're all so disappointed because we felt like we should have won that game."

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