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Another crazy victory for Rays

RAYS 10, ROCKIES 7: Toby Hall and Tino Martinez hit homers in the seventh as the Rays win their fourth in a row.

By ROGER MILLS
Published June 13, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Years from now, sitting on a stoop somewhere in downtown St. Petersburg, some old geezer is going to talk about Saturday's game between the Rays and the Rockies.

And no one's going to believe one word of it.

By anyone's standards, that was one crazy ride.

The Rays once could not get a hit, then they could not miss. The Rockies fell behind by four and then surged ahead thanks, in part, to a grand slam in the sixth.

At one point, both teams combined for 11 runs on 15 hits and all of this before the seventh inning.

But in the end, the Rays prevailed 10-7 before 11,299 at Tropicana Field for their fourth victory in a row and 15th in their past 21, serving notice that the foibles may be a thing of the past.

"(Games like that) might get away in the past, but now, they are starting to come our way," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "It's good to see that we're starting to win some of these games that in the past would go the other way."

Right-hander Rob Bell fell behind 1-0 in the first inning but quickly settled down to keep the Rockies off the scoreboard through the next four innings.

Bell had good reason to refocus. You see, Rockies lefty Shawn Estes, who had not won since May 18, was strangling the Rays, keeping them hitless through the first four.

But just when Estes seemed to be ready for a special night, the Rays came alive with a five-run fifth.

Toby Hall, whose two-run homer in the seventh gave the Rays a lead they wouldn't surrender, got Tampa Bay's first hit with a line drive to left. Tino Martinez, who also homered in the seventh, was then hit by an Estes pitch. Both moved over on Geoff Blum's sacrifice bunt. Robert Fick was then hit to load the bases.

Rey Sanchez's run-scoring single tied it at 1, Julio Lugo drove in two more on another single and Aubrey Huff's broken bat blooper made it 5-1.

But how short was that celebration? Very.

Before jubilant fans could settle back in their seats, the Rockies had strung together two hits and a walk to load the bases and set up Matt Holliday's grand slam that sent Bell to the showers.

"It's tough to put your team in a situation like that," Bell said. "Emotionally, it's a little difficult for me."

In all, the Rockies scored six on six hits and two walks in the inning.

But these Rays aren't like their predecessors. These Rays seem to be heating up in direct proportion to the temperature outside the Trop.

Fick's run-scoring sacrifice fly cut the Rockies lead to 7-6 after six, paving the way for Hall and Martinez's back-to-back home runs.

"In that situation, you're trying to get a good pitch to hit," Hall said. "We have that feeling that every time we go out there that we're going to get it done and every day someone else is going to pick us up."

For insurance, Carl Crawford added another run-scoring sacrifice fly in the eighth to give the Rays a three-run cushion.

"The past week or so, we're scoring some runs," Piniella said. "We're showing that we can come back from behind, which is good."

And props go to reliever John Halama, who picked up the win and held the Rockies scoreless for the last three innings. After hitting Todd Helton with a pitch with one out, he induced ex-Rays third baseman Vinny Castilla to ground into a double play to end the game.

"The hitters deserve all the credit," Halama said. "It's taken a lot of pressure off the pitchers, knowing that we don't have to go out there and throw shutouts. We have to make pitches and if we give up a run or two, we're able to come back and score."

[Last modified June 13, 2004, 01:00:13]

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