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Fan gives Rays a helping hand

Published September 28, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - The Rays' Carl Crawford thought he was going to catch it. Umpire Joe West was sure of it.

That's why West called Boston's David McCarty out when a fan reached over the leftfield fence and interfered with a ball while Crawford jumped with one out in the ninth inning.

West's controversial call helped the Rays hang on for a 5-4 victory against the Red Sox.

"It was spectator interference," West, the crew chief and Saturday's second-base umpire, said. "If you can catch the ball and it's spectator interference, then it's an out. It's an unusual play because it doesn't happen very often."

West said if he felt Crawford could not catch the ball and the ball would not have gone over the fence, he could have awarded McCarty a base.

"But I thought he could've caught the ball and that's what I ruled," West said.

Crawford agreed: "I thought I had it pretty much the whole way."

The Red Sox didn't agree. Manager Grady Little said he thought the ball was several feet beyond the fence.

"It's just another one of those occasions where many millions of people saw it differently than the guy who counted," Little said.

Little argued with West and returned to the dugout. But then West walked toward the Red Sox dugout.

"Because there were a couple of players who looked like they were directing a symphony," West said. "One of them in particular probably called for the wrong instrument at the time."

That was Doug Mirabelli, who was ejected from the game.

SAVING GRACE: Rays closer Lance Carter became the ninth rookie to record 25 saves in a season and the fifth to do it in the American League.

"It's a good milestone," Carter said. "It's one of the goals I set for myself if I was in this role. It's a number I was hoping to reach."

With 25 saves and seven victories, Carter has figured in 51.6 percent of the Rays' victories.

FAN-TASTIC: Hey, at least the Rays won't finish last in the majors in attendance. By drawing 25,635 Saturday night, the Rays moved past Montreal for 29th place in the 30-team league.

The Rays have drawn 1,034,539 with today's game left. The Expos drew 1,025,639 in splitting their home games between Montreal and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Saturday's crowd was the fourth largest of the season at Tropicana Field.

The Rays' attendance has gone down every season, and it's likely to drop for the sixth consecutive season. The Rays would have to draw 31,033 today, which would be the largest crowd since opening day, to equal last year's attendance of 1,065,572.

COMEBACK KID: Before this season, Rays starter Jeremi Gonzalez hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 1998 with the Cubs. Since then he had two major arms surgeries and a knee surgery, and his career seemed over.

But Gonzalez fought his way back with the Rays this season and is the team's nominee for the 2003 Tony Conigliaro Award given annually to a major-league player who has overcome adversity through spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of the late Red Sox slugger.

The Rays' Tony Saunders won the award in 2000.

Gonzalez closed out his season Friday night and finished with a 3.91 ERA. He was 52/3 innings shy of qualifying for the ERA leaders. If he had qualified, he would have entered play Saturday ranked 14th between Bartolo Colon and Roger Clemens.

FACES IN THE CROWD: How's this for a horror hat trick? Seen at Saturday's game were former Lightning executive Tony Esposito, former Lightning goalie Daren Puppa and, here's the horror part, author Stephen King, a huge Red Sox fan.

MISCELLANY: Aubrey Huff drove in his 106th run, tying him with Fred McGriff (2000) for most RBIs in a season by a Ray. ... Rocco Baldelli set the club record for rookies with his 27th stolen base. Miguel Cairo stole 26 in 1998.

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