GIANTS 7, RAYS 3: Mesmerized by baseball's best, Rays mistakes help lead to two early runs and a loss.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 9, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - Barry Bonds was supposed to be the primary attraction at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night. He proved to be a prime distraction for the Devil Rays.
Bonds didn't do all that much in his first game at the Trop, walking twice, striking out once, getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and singling in an extraneous ninth-inning run.
But he was a big reason the Rays lost their interleague opener 7-3 to the Giants before a paid crowd of only 13,275 and looked so bad in doing so.
"I think we were watching Bonds and forgot to play ball there in the first inning," manager Lou Piniella said. "It wasn't a good game."
All Bonds did was walk on a full-count pitch from Rays rookie starter Doug Waechter, who left after two innings due to a sprained right middle finger but hopes to make his next start. But all kinds of bad stuff happened around Bonds as the Giants took a tone-setting 2-0 lead.
"A disaster," catcher Toby Hall said.
The first blunder came with a man on, a man out and Bonds in the on-deck circle.
Michael Tucker went from first to third on Marquis Grissom's bloop single, and when Carl Crawford, playing center for the ill Rocco Baldelli, casually tossed the ball to shortstop Julio Lugo, Tucker broke for home.
"I've seen Willie Mays do that a few times," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "Not too many people can do that."
Then with Bonds at the plate, the Rays went to a dramatic shift. Aubrey Huff moved from third to shortstop. Lugo went from shortstop to the right side of second. Second baseman Rey Sanchez went to short rightfield.
They seemed a little unsure of their alignment with Grissom on first, and he made them pay. Grissom was running on Waechter's 3-and-2 pitch to Bonds, which was Ball 4, and when Huff broke toward second to cover, Grissom quickly turned the corner and went straight to third. He later scored on an infield single.
"I don't think Huff is going to win a footrace with too many people," Piniella said. "I think we're going to leave Huff at third base and forget about our shift."
The Rays couldn't do much against Giants starter Jerome Williams, not even after Piniella complained and the umpires made him take off the puka shell necklace that he received from his mother before she died of breast cancer.
Williams threw the necklace nearly over the Giants dugout, and then he threw some good pitches at the Rays, allowing one run on four hits over seven inning.
"It was a pretty good chuck," he said. "I will get fired up, but I will not show it on the mound."
Aside from Hall's two-run homer in the ninth, the only Rays highlight was the season debut of Dewon Brazelton, who followed Waechter with a solid 42/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out Bonds on a nasty 1-and-2 changeup.
"It was all right I guess. He didn't hit it, thank God," Brazelton said.
Bonds did drive in two. He was hit by Trever Miller's first and only pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh, and he singled in a run in the ninth after Lance Carter's 1-and-2 pitch just missed the strike zone.
"It was the other guys we didn't get it done against," Hall said.