tampabay.com

All Rays' gains are erased by Jays

JAYS 7, RAYS 4: After a good start, Tampa Bay falls apart in the sixth to cap a three-game sweep.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 29, 2005


TORONTO - Whatever momentum the Devil Rays generated by winning two of three from the Red Sox last weekend has clearly deserted them.

Rather than build on their success, the Rays stumbled and bumbled their way to a three-game sweep by the Blue Jays, capped by an uninspired effort in Thursday's 7-4 loss.

"It's sad that we come in here and get swept like that," shortstop Julio Lugo said. "It's not a good thing. We just came from our house and we were playing some good ball, then we come on the road and lose three. It's not a good feeling."

The Rays know they are overmatched when they play the division heavyweight Red Sox and Yankees, though they do tend to rise to the occasion. But it is the games against teams that are more comparable, such as the Blue Jays, that they have to win or it is going to be an even longer season than usual.

"It gets frustrating," Lugo said. "When you're here and you care about winning, it wears you down. ... It's only the beginning of the season and that builds on you, and by halfway through the season you're already dead; you're tired mentally and physically."

Having lost the first two games here and navigated the distractions of Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's comments and manager Lou Piniella's stinging rebuke, the Rays got off to a good start in Thursday's 12:37 matinee.

They grabbed a 3-0 first-inning lead on singles by Carl Crawford and Lugo and doubles by Travis Lee and Jonny Gomes, and Doug Waechter, the St. Petersburg native trying to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation, was giving them a strong start, carrying a shutout into the sixth.

But that was about the end of that.

Waechter got a quick out, then gave up four straight hits: singles to Corey Koskie and Shea Hillenbrand (who upped his average to .402), a two-run double to Eric Hinske and a single by Alex Rios that glanced off Lugo's glove.

"I felt like I made some good pitches, they just had some good timely hitting," Waechter said. "I really felt like I should have gotten out of that inning, and I'm not happy with what happened that inning, but overall I felt like I threw all right."

Piniella liked what he saw in the first five innings, but he, too, wondered why things change so dramatically in the sixth. The same happened to Dewon Brazelton on Tuesday, and Scott Kazmir had a similar experience Wednesday.

"These kids just have to learn how to get through the third and fourth time through the lineups," Piniella said. "That's been a problem. I don't know what it's a question of. If I had that answer, I'd whisper in their ear. I don't know if it's the hitters adjusting or our pitchers not (showing) a different look. I just don't know."

Casey Fossum, still adjusting to his middle relief role, came on but didn't help much, falling behind Gregg Zaun, then giving up a three-run homer that broke the game open.

"I fell behind him and didn't have anywhere to put him with men on first and third," Fossum said. "It's something I'm going to have to get used to, coming in with guys on base and making sure I get ahead of that first hitter. ... Maybe I have to change my approach going in there with men on base."

Scoring has been a monthlong problem for the Rays, who went in second in the American League in hitting but ninth in runs. Though the 3-0 lead was good, the Rays had to know it probably wasn't going to be enough.

"It's good to come out and get the lead right away, but you've got to keep it," Lugo said. "You've got to keep scoring. They battled, and their bullpen is good. They shut us down.

"I think we let our guard down today, and it shouldn't happen."