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Winning is not the only streak

BOB HARIG
Published May 24, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Travis Harper didn't know about the streak, and didn't much care. All that mattered was a 5-4 win in 10 innings over the Indians on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

That Harper got his first victory of the year was nice. That he pitched three scoreless innings and kept his team in the game was better. That he helped the Rays bullpen run its streak to 22 innings without allowing a run is simply the product of doing the job, he said.

"The important thing is another win," said Harper, who allowed just one hit in his three innings. "You go out there, play hard, execute and try to get wins. The other stuff doesn't matter. The bottom line is another win."

The 22 scoreless innings extended a club record. During that stretch, the bullpen has allowed 12 hits and four walks, struck out 16 and held opposing hitters to a .147 average.

"He gave us three really good innings," Rays manager Lou Piniella said of Harper. "These kids in the bullpen ... we're spacing them out a little bit, and they're nice and rested. And they're throwing the ball well. It's a little contagious."

KNOCKED OUT: For Damian Rolls, the result was better than it looked. Rolls left the game in the seventh after colliding with rightfielder Jose Cruz, who caught Ronnie Belliard 's fly ball. Rolls lay on the ground for several minutes while being attended to, and a neck harness was brought onto the field. But Rolls left the field on his own.

Rolls wanted to stay in the game because "I'm not getting enough at-bats," he told Piniella. But Piniella said, "I'll get you a few more next week. He was a little groggy."

Rays officials later said that Rolls has a contusion on his sternum and cheek and would have further tests, if necessary.

Rolls, who was making his fifth start since returning from Triple-A Durham on May 11, scored the Rays' first run in the first after a walk but went 0-for-3. He was replaced by Geoff Blum , who made two nice defensive plays in the seventh, including one that led to a force at second and kept the go-ahead run from scoring.

LIGHTNING FEVER: After Saturday's 6-3 victory, Piniella got to watch "the fourth period" of the Lightning's 2-1 win against the Flyers, which clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup final against Calgary. Piniella quickly caught his slip and corrected it to the "third period."

"I stayed here (Saturday night) and watched," he said. "Exciting. It's great for the bay area, it really is. We wish them well. And we're rooting for them." Catcher Toby Hall, the biggest Lightning fan among the Rays, said: "They're going to do it. This is their year. The Bucs had their year, and this is their year."

SITTING BACK: He described it as "strange" to be watching the game from the dugout and said he preferred to play every day, but shortstop Julio Lugo said he didn't mind a day off Sunday.

"It is a good day for me to be off, a day game after a night game," said Lugo, who had played in all 41 previous. Lugo leads the Rays with 25 RBIs.

"He's played every game. He needs a day off," Piniella said. "It's really like three days off, playing Saturday night and not again until Tuesday night."

Rey Sanchez started in Lugo's place and went 0-for-4.

PITCHING SHAKEUP: Piniella has hinted for a few days that he will juggle his pitching rotation, and he didn't back off Sunday. "We're going to tweak it a little bit," he said. "We have it figured out. Tuesday we'll let you know what the tweaking is all about."

The Rays announced that Victor Zambrano would move up a spot in the rotation and pitch Tuesday night against the Twins, followed by Rob Bell. Paul Abbott, who has struggled in recent outings, would normally follow on Thursday, but the Rays said they are undecided about who will take the mound.

DAY OFF: The Rays have a rare early-season day off in town today. Piniella planned to use the time to go tarpon fishing. Asked if he had a tough decision between that and playing golf, Piniella said it was no contest. "I enjoy the water more than I do the golf course," he said. For Rocco Baldelli, there was no hesitation when asked what he would do: "Sleep."

ODDS AND ENDS: Cleveland's Alex Escobar hit a 453-foot fourth-inning home run that was the longest at Tropicana Field this season and the 11th-longest in Trop history. ... During the bottom of the inning, Hall tied the score with a home run, his first extra-base hit since an April 25 homer at Chicago. ... The Rays finished the season 3-3 against the Indians, going .500 against them for the first time. ... It was the 15th sweep of a series in Rays history, the first since winning three in a row against Baltimore Aug. 11-13. ... Cleveland's eight extra-inning games lead the league. The Indians are 3-5. The Rays improved to 2-2. ... After singling and scoring in the first, Cleveland's Matt Lawton left with a right hip strain. He was replaced by Jody Gerut, who went 0-for-4.

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