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Rays run streak to 10 wins

RAYS 11, D'BACKS 4: Victory comes at a price for Tampa Bay. Tino Martinez homers and doubles, but he ends up hurting his hamstring.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 20, 2004

[AP photo]
Members of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays including Julio Lugo (23) celebrate their 10th straight victory Saturday.

PHOENIX - After a few games, it just seemed like the odds were evening out following a rough start. After a few more, it seemed like a good run against some teams playing badly.

But after Saturday night, it seems like the Devil Rays have something special.

The 11-4 win over the Diamondbacks extended their franchise-best winning streak to 10, matching the longest in the majors this season.

"That's hard to do, win 10 games in a row," Aubrey Huff said. "The way we started out, winning 10 in a row, that's special."

The win, though, came with a price. Tino Martinez, who sparked the victory with a two-run homer and a bases-loaded double, left the game in the seventh inning with what the Rays said was tightness in his left hamstring and is listed as day to day.

The only other team to win 10 straight this season was San Francisco, which did so from May 20-31. An AL team hasn't won 10 in a row since Minnesota won 11 in September.

The Rays also have the best record in the majors over the past month, going 21-6, one game better than the Yankees, since May 20. Their 31-34 record is their best after 65 games, and the closest they've ever been to .500 this late in a season.

"Let's enjoy this, but let's not get too carried away with it," manager Lou Piniella said.

They secured their hold on third place, moving 31/2 games ahead of Toronto and Baltimore. And - yes, it is a little early for this kind of thing - moved to within seven games of wild-card leading Boston.

The Rays scored a season-high 11 runs, but the night didn't start well, with Dewon Brazelton struggling and the Diamondbacks taking a 3-0 first-inning lead. The Rays, though, came back in a big way - with their biggest inning in nearly a year. They scored seven runs on seven hits, including Martinez's home run, and made Arizona starter Lance Cormier's big-league debut a night to forget.

"These kids don't quit," Piniella said. "They play hard. They play nine innings. They go all out."

The uprising started with Huff's leadoff double and Martinez's team-high 12th homer. By the time they were done, Rey Sanchez (executing a perfect hit-and-run) and Toby Hall had singled and scored, Carl Crawford had doubled and scored, and Jose Cruz had tripled and scored.

It was their biggest inning since July 24, 2003, when they scored seven at Boston.

As impressive as Brazelton was in his first start last Sunday, he was unimpressive Saturday.

He gave up four hits and a walk in Arizona's three-run third, and once his teammates handed him a 7-3 lead, he looked like he was going to give it right back. He opened the third by allowing a single, a walk and a run-scoring single, and his night was over.

But Brazelton's struggles led to Rob Bell's success.

Bell, idle since being dumped from the rotation June 12, was dazzling, allowing four hits (and no walks) over seven scoreless innings, retiring nine straight at one point, saving an already thin bullpen, and picking up the win.

"Bell did a heck of a job," Piniella said.

Bell got double plays in each of his first three innings, and a diving stop by Martinez to end his fourth.

Martinez, 36, has been a key part of their success, on the field and in the clubhouse, and the Rays hope he will be okay in a few days.

"His hamstring was real tight ... it grabbed him," Piniella said. "Let's just hope he's okay."

[Last modified June 20, 2004, 01:41:04]

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