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New foe but same script for Rays

A'S 9, RAYS 5: For the third straight game, Tampa Bay digs a six-run hole that a late comeback attempt can't erase.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 21, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - You know, if the Devil Rays stopped falling behind by such large scores, they might have a chance to win some of these games.

Tampa Bay fell 9-5 to the Athletics on Friday night at Tropicana Field. It was the third consecutive game in which the Rays trailed by at least six (this time 8-2) and an energetic comeback fell short.

"It has a tendency to beat you down," third baseman Geoff Blum said.

"To be constantly battling back, it makes it kind of tough. Everybody is giving their all out there. But the situations we're getting into are really tough."

The situation is this: Tampa Bay has lost three straight games and nine of its past 10. Its pitching, so good for so much of the summer, has gone south. And though it's nice the team is scoring more, it's a one step forward, two steps back kind of thing.

"It just goes to show you how much further we have to go. That's all it shows," manager Lou Piniella said. "We get a reminder of it, a taste of it."

Actually, the Rays got a little taste of something good. After consecutive games in which they made three errors, the players fielded cleanly. But they could do nothing but watch Oakland's four home runs, three of which were leadoff.

Third baseman Eric Chavez hit two and has 23 for the season. Catcher Adam Melhuse had one, as did shortstop Bobby Crosby, who also had two doubles to snap a 3-for-40 slump.

The Rays answered with three home runs. Carl Crawford hit one to lead off the first, and B.J. Upton's homer and Tino Martinez's two-run shot were part of a three-run sixth that made the score 8-5.

The uphill climb began with starter Jorge Sosa's rough outing. The right-hander lasted 51/3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and five walks. In his past three starts, all losses, Sosa has an 8.84 ERA and allowed 18 runs and 19 hits and walked 10 in 181/3 innings.

Not that he got much help from reliever Trever Miller in the sixth inning.

Crosby led off with a home run for a 5-2 Oakland lead. An out later and with a runner on first, Miller came in and gave up a single, hit a batter, gave up a two-run single to Erubiel Durazo, struck out a batter and gave up a run-scoring single to Eric Byrnes.

Miller allowed three runs, one of them an inherited runner, on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.

"Our pitching the last couple of weeks has not been very good," Piniella said.

Compare that to Oakland.

After Upton and Martinez teed off in the sixth, starter Rich Harden left with a runner on first and one out. Relievers Justin Duchscherer, Arthur Rhodes and Jim Mecir combined to retire 10 of the next 11 batters. Only Crawford reached on an error.

Mecir got into a bit of trouble in the ninth, but Octavio Dotel struck out Upton with runners on first and second to end the game. It was the fourth consecutive victory for the A's, who stayed a half-game ahead of the victorious Rangers in the West.

"We have a tough division," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "Everybody's got to be intense every day. Every out counts. Every at-bat counts. It's tough looking up at the scoreboard and seeing those guys win every night."

About as tough for the Rays to look up and see they are again behind.

[Last modified August 21, 2004, 01:01:16]

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