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Rays heading south with bats on ice

ORIOLES 4, RAYS 0: Tampa Bay wins two of nine on a frigid road trip thanks to an offense that averages 3.4 runs.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2003

BALTIMORE -- The temperature will be more comfortable tonight inside Tropicana Field, the standard, if stagnant, 72 degrees. The Devil Rays can only hope their offense warms up.

The Rays were shut down and shut out again Monday night, losing 4-0 to the Orioles to wrap up their cold-weather tour of the Northeast 2-7 and head home to play Toronto in last place at 6-13.

"Hopefully we can get home, snap out of it a little bit and get something rolling," losing pitcher Steve Parris said. "We haven't really had anything good rolling yet, and hopefully it will be our time."

Whether it was playing outside or playing without Travis Lee (out since Sunday) and Ben Grieve (sidelined since Friday), the Rays weren't the same team on the road as they were at the Trop.

In 10 games at home against the Red Sox, Yankees and Orioles, the Rays hit .297, averaged 5.8 runs and scored fewer than five only twice.

In nine games on the road against the Red Sox, Yankees and Orioles, the Rays hit .240, averaged 3.4 runs and were shut out twice, held to one run once and scored fewer than five three other times.

"We're just not getting anything going right now," catcher Toby Hall said. "People are hitting the ball hard, but we're not getting those big innings right now. It seems like the games are going really quick."

Lee, on the disabled list until April 29 with a right oblique strain, was a big part of the offense, hitting .347. Grieve had a .244 average but was among the team leaders in on-base percentage.

"We're not deep enough here to lose two of our middle-of-the-lineup bats, we're just not," manager Lou Piniella said. "Not many teams are, and we're certainly not one of them."

Compounding the problem is that several other hitters went cold, too. Leadoff man Carl Crawford went 4-for-42 on the road trip. Damion Easley was 6-for-32. Hall 5-for-27. Damian Rolls 1-for-16.

"We ran into some good pitching and we're not hitting mistakes when we get them," Aubrey Huff said.

A decision on Grieve, who had an infected left hand, is expected today, but Piniella doesn't have a lot of options to shake things up.

They were held to five hits Sunday by Omar Daal and two Orioles relievers and did the same Monday against journeymen Rick Helling and Buddy Groom.

The first three times they got the leadoff man on, the next batter grounded into a double play. Three other times they went 1-2-3. Only three runners got past first base.

"Just no heroes," Hall said.

Parris, the 35-year-old veteran of the otherwise young staff, had another decent outing, allowing the four runs on nine hits. As he has done each time out, he kept the Rays in the game. But, as also has happened, he made a few mistakes at crucial times.

Most damaging was the 1-and-1 changeup he left over the plate with two outs in the sixth that Jerry Hairston knocked into the leftfield seats for a two-run homer, making a 2-0 game 4-0.

"That was kind of a killer," Parris said. "Two runs is a big difference when there's only three innings left."

At least there weren't many to see it. The paid crowd of 18,017 was the smallest in the 12-season history of Camden Yards. The Orioles had never had a paid crowd of under 30,000 until early in the 2001 season and had not been under 20,000 until this year.

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