RAYS 6, JAYS 5: Lou Piniella pulls Jorge Sosa, putting Delgado's HR streak on hold at 5-for-5.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published August 1, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - There was a lot that went into the Devil Rays' 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday night, big hits by Robert Fick and Aubrey Huff, a sensational catch by Carl Crawford and some thrilling relief work.
But the key moment may have been the decision to take Jorge Sosa out of the game.
Sosa did well replacing the traded Victor Zambrano in the Tampa Bay rotation, working five solid innings in his first start of the season as the Rays built a 6-2 lead. He allowed only four hits, but two were home runs by Carlos Delgado, and there was a pattern developing - five homers for Delgado in his last five at-bats over three games against Sosa.
"Notice he didn't get the sixth time," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "We were smart enough to figure that out. We highlight the hitters that hit our pitchers and we have (a printout) on the bench. We highlight them in different colors, and Delgado was in red - for caliente."
Travis Harper replaced Sosa and struck out Delgado in the sixth.
But Harper ran into trouble in the eighth, giving up a two-run home run to Eric Hinske that made it 6-4. Vernon Wells singled to bring - who else? - Delgado to the plate as the tying run.
The Rays switched to left-hander Trever Miller, and he delivered, striking out Delgado then getting Gregg Zaun to hit into an inning-ending and rally-killing double play.
"Miller came in and got us two big outs - three big outs actually," Piniella said.
The Tropicana Field crowd of 17,418 couldn't relax yet. The Jays - who had beaten the Rays five straight - rallied in the ninth against closer Danys Baez. A couple of singles and a couple of ground balls made it 6-5 with the tying run on second, but Baez struck out Alex Rios on a 97 mph fastball to end the game.
"I prefer 1-2-3, but that situation is fine," said Baez, who has 21 saves in 23 chances. "Everyone's standing up, everyone's a little bit nervous. You've got to stay relaxed, you've got to stay in control, because you're the guy who pays for the mistakes. That's something I learned this year."
The Rays built their lead early against David Bush, a rookie they drafted in 2001 but didn't sign and who beat them on Sunday for his first big-league win.
Fick hit a two-run homer in the second - "It felt good to contribute for once," he said - and Huff's two-run double keyed a four-run third. After that, the Rays didn't get another hit.
"I've told you if we can score five or six runs a game, I've said that all year, we can piece (together) our pitching, these kids compete and get the job done," Piniella said.
Sosa earned the chance to stay in the rotation as the Rays wait for Doug Waechter to get healthy.
"This kid here, even though he gave up the two solo shots, he pitched good," Piniella said. "He had a good fastball, a good slider, good composure out there. It was good to see."
Crawford made the most exciting play of the night, an all-out diving catch in left-centerfield to rob buddy Orlando Hudson of an extra-base hit in the seventh.
"(Friday) night he went high up against the left-centerfield wall to take a double away and (Saturday) he went headlong into left-centerfield," Piniella said. "Just two great plays. I told him it reminded me of the way I used to play. He got a laugh out of that. He's never seen me play, so he doesn't know if I'm lying."