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No gem, or even a win

ATHLETICS 3, RAYS 1: Jeremi Gonzalez can't continue his team's recent pitching success.

MARC TOPKIN
Published September 6, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - The pitching had been so good at Tropicana Field lately, nine zeros by Doug Waechter on Wednesday and another ne by Jorge Sosa on Thursday, that Jeremi Gonzalez was practically at a disadvantage going into his Friday start against Oakland.

"If Jeremi gives up one run," manager Lou Piniella joked before the game, "he had a bad day."

As it turned out, he gave up three. And that was two too many as the A's continued their perplexing mastery of the Rays with a 3-1 victory.

The A's have won the past six of seven from Tampa Bay this season, 11 of the past 12, 18 of the past 20, 42 of 55 overall.

The Rays are at a loss to explain the losses.

"I don't know," Toby Hall said. "We're going to have to figure it out."

"They've got good pitching, start with that," Piniella said. "And they throw strikes."

As a result, the Rays didn't get a lot of chances against Ted Lilly and three relievers, managing four hits. And they didn't take advantage of what they had.

Three times they had a man on second with no outs, and three times they failed to score.

In the first, they got Carl Crawford to third but stranded him when Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff couldn't get the ball out of the infield.

In the fifth, Antonio Perez followed Jared Sandberg's double with a walk, but made a costly baserunning mistake, running into an out on the way to second, rather than delaying the play, allowing the A's to double up speedy Crawford. "Antonio can't just run into the tag," Piniella said. "There's no way they're going to double up Crawford."

In the eighth, Crawford drew a leadoff walk and stole his AL-leading 46th base, but Julio Lugo struck out and Baldelli grounded out.

AL saves leader Keith Foulke came on to get the game's biggest out, getting Rays RBIs leader Huff to swing at a high fastball for strike three, ending his 13-game hitting streak and their last real chance.

"I was sitting changeup the whole at-bat," Huff said. "I actually got a 1-and-1 cookie, fastball right down the middle. And then he climbed the ladder on me with two strikes. He's got all those saves for a reason."

Lilly continues to dominate the Rays. He beat them for the second time in seven days, allowing two runs and seven hits over 122/3 innings while striking out 14.

In seven career games against the Rays, he is 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA. In 85 other major-league outings he is 15-23 with a 5.09 ERA.

The A's went on top 2-0, scratching out one run in the second by stringing together a walk and two singles, and another in the third with a walk, a single and - after Lugo failed on an attempt at an acrobatic double-play attempt - a sacrifice fly by Terrence Long.

The Rays cut the gap to 2-1 when Lugo homered with two outs in the third. It was his career-high 11th and also a franchise high for a shortstop. Lugo has 21 RBIs in his past 38 games, 41 since joining the Rays on May 16. The team record for RBIs in a season by a shortstop is 46, by Chris Gomez last season.

Gonzalez, pitching for the first time with platinum blond hair, labored a bit through 61/3 innings, throwing 125 pitches while allowing nine hits, but it wasn't that bad.

"He pitched great," Hall said. "He got a lot of ground balls. They just didn't hit them where we had players."

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