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Huff caps assault on club record book

By TOM JONES
Published September 29, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - Aubrey Huff banged out two more hits and drove in another run Sunday to put the appropriate finishing touches on what might be the best season ever by a Devil Ray.

He finished with a sort of Rays all-time Triple Crown with a .311 average, 34 homers and 107 RBIs.

Huff set the season record for RBIs, breaking the mark of 106 set by Fred McGriff in 2000, and finished with the best average in team history, one point better than McGriff in 1999. His homers tied Jose Canseco (1999) for most by a Ray.

"Aubrey has really had an all-star year is what it amounts to," manager Lou Piniella said. "He should get serious consideration for some all-star teams. ... Those are solid, solid numbers for anybody."

Perhaps if Huff had "Yankees" or "Red Sox" stitched across his jersey, he might sneak in on a few MVP ballots.

"You can say they are MVP numbers," Huff said, "but when you play on a last-place team, it's probably not that big of a deal."

Still, Huff was happy.

"I'm pleased with my season," Huff said. "I feel like I've been consistent and coming out of last season, that's what I wanted to do."

KING OF STEALS: Leftfielder Carl Crawford stole another base and finished with 55 to win the AL stolen base crown. Crawford, 22, is the fourth youngest to win the crown, and only Tim Raines in 1981 and Rickey Henderson in 1980 stole more bases in a season at a younger age.

Crawford turned his season around at the All-Star break, changing his stance, and ended up hitting .281, which by comparison was only eight points lower than Rocco Baldelli.

"About the time we went into the All-Star break, that's when they opened up my stance," Crawford said. "I started to feel real comfortable. It seemed like from then on, things started to click for me."

CLASSY MOVE: Piniella showed some class Sunday by using veteran Terry Shumpert, 37, at designated hitter. It likely was Shumpert's last game with the Rays and possibly his last game in the majors after playing parts of 14 seasons with six teams.

"What a classy young man, what a pro," Piniella said. "It has been a pleasure having him here all year. He has helped our younger kids. He has helped bring some professionalism to our clubhouse."

Piniella said the same of veteran Al Martin.

"A manager is blessed to manage these type of men," Piniella said.

TOP GUN: Catcher Toby Hall threw out 31 of 75 would-be basestealers this season. His percentage of 41.3 was best in the American League.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Typically, the Rays finished the season by playing another game decided by one or two runs. They played 90, most in the majors, and went 39-51 in those games.

HITTING A MARK: The Rays batting average this season was .265, while opponents batted .264 against them. That makes the Rays the second team in modern history to lose as many games as they did and still outhit their opponents.

The 1954 Orioles lost 100 while outhitting opponents .251 to .250.

The Rays are the 14th team to outhit their opponents and finish last.

IN THE SEATS: The Rays home attendance declined for the fifth consecutive season. Sunday's crowd of 24,138 gave the Rays a season home crowd of 1,058,677, an average of 13,070.

MISCELLANY: Victor Zambrano tied Esteban Yan and Albie Lopez for the most victories in franchise history with 26. ... Zambrano led the AL in walks (106), hit batters (20) and wild pitches (15). ... Boston's Bill Mueller went 0-for-1 in a pinch-hitting appearance but won the AL batting title with a .326 average. Teammate Manny Ramirez, who did not play, finished second at .325. The Yankees' Derek Jeter went 0-for-3 Sunday and finished third at .324. ... Lance Carter picked up his 26th save, becoming the eighth rookie in history to do so. With seven victories, Carter got a win or save in 52.3 percent of the Rays' victories.

[Last modified September 29, 2003, 02:04:24]

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