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Fan wearing Rays cap has hand in loss
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 11, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays haven't had that many fans coming to their games.
One who did Sunday may have had a hand in the 6-1 loss to Oakland.
The man, who was wearing a green Rays cap, disrupted third baseman Nick Green 's efforts to catch a foul ball that could have ended a sixth-inning Oakland rally.
Instead, DH Erubiel Durazo continued his at-bat and delivered a two-out, two-run single that expanded Oakland's lead from 3-0 to 5-0.
The fan technically didn't do anything wrong because the ball was on his side of the low wall behind third base. But several Rays were surprised one of their fans would battle one of their players rather than give way.
"That was a big play in that game," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "I think you let the hometown guy catch it. If it's the opposition, you bump the hell out of them."
"The guy hit into his glove," shortstop Julio Lugo said. "I would think you do that when we're hitting not when they're hitting. I think he had a chance to catch it."
Green said he wasn't sure what happened except that he expected to end up with the ball and didn't.
"I thought I was going to catch it," Green said. "It felt like something was in my glove."
DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE: Leftfielder Carl Crawford and Green both made sensational defensive plays for the Rays.
But Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez made the play of the game, snaring a rocket blast off Josh Phelps ' bat and starting a sixth-inning double play that prevented the Rays from closing the lead.
"I don't know how he made it, but he made it," Phelps said. "He didn't have a lot of time to react on that ball."
Said Oakland manager Ken Macha : "That's why Chavez has a Gold Glove. That was probably the biggest play of the game."
SPEED DEMONS: The Rays were successful on their first nine stolen-base attempts of the season until Joey Gathright was thrown out trying to swipe second in the fifth. ... The Rays lead the majors with 10 steals. ... With 127 career steals, Crawford moved past Frankie Frisch and has the 11th most by players before turning 24. Crawford's birthday is Aug. 24.
"WORST" ENOUGH: Despite his team being held to one hit over six innings, Chavez was clearly unimpressed with Hideo Nomo 's performance Saturday, saying afterward, "That was probably the worst stuff I've ever seen to be honest with you. The guy was throwing like 83-84 (mph). Come on. You'd think we could get 20 hits off a guy like that."
But Piniella said Nomo's stuff looked just fine to him.
"I liked his location a lot, and from listening to him talk to (reporters) this spring, to me that seemed like his most important priority," Piniella said Sunday. "He was about to pitch to both sides of the plate. He was able to pitch down in the zone, up in the zone. It was impressive. (He had) enough velocity and enough change of speed with his split-finger."
MINOR MATTERS: Top draft pick Jeff Niemann 's pro debut with Class A Visalia (Calif.) was pushed back until Wednesday when he experienced tightness in a muscle in his right leg. ... Delmon Young is hitting .545 in three games at Double-A Montgomery with five RBIs. ... The Class A Southwest Michigan Devil Rays played before a crowd of 8,239 on Saturday at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich.
MISCELLANY: Aubrey Huff had three hits, including two doubles, and raised his average to .333. Jorge Cantu has hits in each of the Rays' six games, and Josh Phelps has four doubles. ... The three-game winning streak was the Rays' longest during April since 2002. ... Gathright walked on a 10-pitch at-bat in the fifth. ... Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez , head groundskeeper Dan Moeller and other staff volunteers were to spend this morning working to improve the baseball field at St. Joseph's School in Tampa (220 N Gomez Ave.).