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Tough loss has Lou speechless

O'S 10, RAYS 6 (12): Blown chances doom Tampa Bay.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published September 1, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella didn't want to talk much about Tuesday night's 10-6 loss to the Orioles.

Missed opportunities, questionable pitching and a baserunning mistake at a crucial time will do that. But what really stuck in Piniella's craw was despite all that, Tampa Bay had chances to win.

Instead, the Rays lost their fourth straight in 12 innings at Tropicana Field before an announced 8,620, second fewest this season, to fall a half-game behind Baltimore in the AL East.

"No losses are fun," Piniella said. "This one was just ... come back and play tomorrow. That's all."

The Orioles, who had lost nine of 10, won with a four-run rally off Lance Carter. Melvin Mora's homer to start the inning was the winner. B.J. Surhoff had a run-scoring double, and Jay Gibbons' two-run homer was his fourth hit of the game and second homer.

But give it up for Rays leftfielder Aubrey Huff, who had three hits and four RBIs and whose 25th home run, his second of the game, tied the score at 5 with two outs in the ninth. His two-out single in the 11th tied it at 6 after Surhoff's single off Jesus Colome gave Baltimore the lead.

The Rays had a few other moments.

Huff's first homer, a two-run shot, made the score 3-2 in the fifth inning. Jorge Cantu had two doubles to give him 14 among his 29 hits. And Jose Cruz's 20th home run made it 5-4 in the seventh.

But that was little consolation when considering the scoring chances Tampa Bay squandered, the continued inconsistency of starter Rob Bell, who allowed four runs and seven hits in 51/3 innings, and Brook Fordyce's baserunning mistake that ended the 11th.

Huff's single to right scored Julio Lugo from second with the tying run. But Gibbons threw out Fordyce, who tried to go from first to third.

"I just messed up," Fordyce said. "I should have stayed at second. I was trying to be too aggressive."

Tampa Bay stumbled at other times as well.

It had the bases loaded with one out in the third. But B.J. Upton struck out and Huff popped out to second. The Rays had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth. But Geoff Blum grounded out to third and Toby Hall grounded out to first.

Just as disappointing were the seven strikeouts in the first two spots in the batting order. Lugo, in the leadoff spot, went down three times, as did Upton, who also hit into a double play. Pinch-hitter Randall Simon struck out once.

Huff picked up the slack.

His ninth-inning homer came after closer Jorge Julio had struck out Lugo and Simon. Julio also struck out Cruz to end the inning. Huff even said he swung late, but Julio throws so hard, "You get it and you're going to go."

The 11th-inning hit off Buddy Groom was as impressive given the circumstances.

"I haven't had a whole lot of opportunities late in a game this season," Huff said. "When you get it, you really want to take advantage of it."

Still, "Any time you go into extra innings, you feel like you wasted some innings when you lose. You want to know you battled for how many extra innings you had and got a win. It didn't happen. It seems lately we're playing just good enough to lose."

Not the best topic of conversation.

[Last modified September 1, 2004, 01:10:40]

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