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Rare, and well done: Sosa gets steak for winning start

RAYS 8, ORIOLES 7: Piniella to reward pitcher for ending team's starting drought.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 20, 2003

BALTIMORE -- Lou Piniella planned to buy Jorge Sosa a steak dinner for getting the first win by a Devil Rays starting pitcher this season.

He might want to pick up some antacid for himself.

The Rays snapped a four-game losing streak with an 8-7 victory over Baltimore on a warmer Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't easy to watch. They led 7-0 and 8-3, but had to survive a four-run Orioles rally in the ninth, Lance Carter getting the final three outs with the tying run on base, to preserve Sosa's win, and Piniella's stomach lining.

"I know one thing," Piniella said of his pitching staff, "it's an adventure."

Sosa did well enough, three hits (and three walks) over five shutout innings, to earn another start in what is now officially a revamped rotation. Dewon Brazelton will be promoted from Triple-A Durham in the next few days, Piniella said, and likely start Wednesday or Thursday against Toronto.

Nick Bierbrodt will get another start today, but appears headed to the bullpen unless he shows significant improvement. Victor Zambrano, who has struggled all season, could end up there too. And it's possible Seth McClung and/or Travis Harper will get a chance at the rotation.

"We will get this right, hopefully sooner than later, and we'll put these people exactly where they belong and where they can function," Piniella said.

"For us to win any games with any consistency, we've got to start pitching a whole lot better. Not better, a whole lot better. I hope that the combination of pitchers that we have here are the ones that can do it for us, but if not we'll try almost anybody."

Sosa got his opportunity because Jim Parque went on the disabled list. And he took advantage, allowing only three singles and getting a double play to get out of the only trouble he had, bases loaded with one out in the fourth.

"I felt comfortable on the mound," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "The next start will be even better."

Piniella said when the team got home he'd get Sosa a gift certificate to Fleming's, the high-end steakhouse in the Outback family, for ending the longest such winless streak since 1992. Sosa was ready to enjoy the prize Saturday night: "I'll ask the guy at the hotel for the best steak place in town."

For most of the game it appeared all the Rays would be eating well. George Lombard, called up from Triple A on Saturday morning, homered in his first Tampa Bay at-bat, Aubrey Huff hit a two-run shot in the second, a big sixth inning made it 7-0, and when the Orioles showed some life Damion Easley homered in the eighth to make it 8-3.

But the Orioles rallied with the same resolve the Rays have, taking advantage of some untimely walks (again) and delivering a few clutch hits off Harper, Bobby Seay and Al Levine. They started the ninth with a homer and a double off Levine, then greeted Carter with three more hits.

With the tying run on first, Carter got Jay Gibbons to fly to center, came back from 2-and-0 to get Tony Batista looking on a fastball on the outside corner, then struck out Marty Cordova on three pitches.

"I got them out and we won," Carter said. "That's all that matters."

Piniella was equally philosophical.

"You want wins and as long as they're in the win column, that's really all that matters," he said. "When he had to get three outs, he got them -- thank God."

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