RAYS 5, RED SOX 4: Toby Hall's grand slam stops Boston from sweeping.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 5, 2004
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Toby Hall, center, is greeted by Tino Martinez and trailed by Jose Cruz after his first career grand slam put the Rays ahead.
ST. PETERSBURG - For the Devil Rays, playing the Red Sox this season has been like repeatedly running into a brick wall. Tampa Bay is 49-49 against the rest of the American League but 2-7 against its division rival.
So there was a certain satisfaction in Wednesday night's 5-4 victory over Boston at Tropicana Field. It not only salvaged the final game of the three-game series, but it was done with big-time drama and flair.
Catcher Toby Hall ended an 0-for-18 slump with his first grand slam, a 402-foot shot to leftfield in the seventh inning that wiped out the Red Sox's 4-1 lead. And Rocco Baldelli made a perfect ninth-inning throw from centerfield to nab the potential tying run at the plate and make a loser of Boston starter and former Hernando High star Bronson Arroyo.
Throw in some solid relief work from Travis Harper, Jesus Colome and Danys Baez, who finished up after six innings from starter John Halama, and you really have something to talk about.
"It was good to win tonight," manager Lou Piniella said. "God almighty, it's hard to beat them."
"I'm sure what will sit with us is the loss," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It's a tough loss. We had a chance to have a great series, not a good one."
The victory also took some of the spotlight off Tampa Bay shortstop B.J. Upton, whose inexperience and sloppy defense led to a couple of Boston runs.
Calling on Hall to supply some runs seems a good bet. He is batting .394 with runners in scoring position and has 44 RBIs. Still, Hall hadn't had a hit since July 29 when Arroyo left a sinker up on a 1-and-2 pitch.
"Just trying to get it done," Hall said of his seventh home run. "In those situations I try not to think about it. If I'm leading off or the bases are loaded or someone is on, I just try to take the same approach."
Baldelli can relate. The centerfielder said a good throw is made with enough force to make him lose balance. That is why, he said, he really didn't see the play at the plate when, with none out in the ninth, he fired home as the speedy Dave Roberts tried to score from second on Doug Mientkiewicz's single.
The ball got to Hall on one bounce, and the catcher held on despite a rough collision.
"It felt pretty good out of my hands," said Baldelli, who also had a run-scoring double, "so I thought it might have a chance."
"It was unbelievable," Hall said. "The best throw I've seen all year."
And a bit controversial. Baldelli's second assist in as many games gave him six this season. He led the league last season with 14.
But Boston third-base coach Dale Sveum said he did not hesitate to send Roberts.
"Baldelli hasn't made many good throws, but he pulled one off tonight," Sveum said. "I would do the same thing again with the speed (on the bases) and the closer on the mound."
The Red Sox continued to threaten and had runners on first and third when Baez, whose 12th consecutive save gave him 23, got Johnny Damon to pop out to first baseman Tino Martinez to end the game.
"Toby couldn't have picked a better spot for his home run, and what a throw Rocco had," Piniella said. "An exciting game for the fans."
Who got to finally see the Rays run through that wall.