tampabay.com

Early start forces Rays to forget fast

By MARC TOPKIN, DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 22, 2005


NEW YORK - The best thing about the worst loss many of the Rays have endured is that they get to play again today.

Early.

"It's fortunate we have a 1 o'clock game (today)," catcher Kevin Cash said. "We have to forget about this pretty quickly. If we win (today), we couldn't care less about (Tuesday night)."

For most of the Rays, and Yankees, Tuesday night was hard to believe.

"I've never seen anything like that," New York's Gary Sheffield said. "I've seen games similar, but not like this."

Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, however, didn't seem as surprised.

"You hope for the best, but we've been through things for this to take a hold on us," he said. "This wasn't the first time, and the way things are going it might not be the last."

RECORD SETTER: Travis Harper became the 25th pitcher to allow four homers in an inning, the 11th American Leaguer. The last to do so was Cincinnati's Jose Acevedo on Sept. 8, 2004.

The three consecutive homers Harper allowed were one shy of the AL record, set by Los Angeles' Paul Foytack on July 21, 1963.

Sheffield said he felt for Harper.

"You'd think they'd get him out of there, but we have to come back at 1 o'clock and I'm sure they don't want to waste a lot of pitchers, so there's always that one guy who has to suck it up for the team."

The four homers tied a Yankees franchise record for an inning. The last time they did it was June 30, 1977, at Toronto, also in the eighth inning, when Cliff Johnson hit two, Thurman Munson hit one and an outfielder named Lou Piniella hit the other.

CRAWFORD IS BEST: Rays manager Lou Piniella said Crawford is the best he has seen at hitting triples. Tampa Bay's leftfielder led the majors last season with 19. He has four in his past 11 games and through Monday was tied for the major-league lead with seven.

"I think he likes hitting triples," Piniella said. "You have to like hitting triples. You have to motor right out of the box, and as you round first you have to be thinking third base instead of second.

"He's the best I've seen. He reminds me of Willie Wilson when he was with the Royals."

The Kansas City speedster hit 147 career triples, 21 in 1985.

SNEAKY FAST: Known primarily for a powerful bat, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Gomes surprised some in the ninth inning Monday when he stole second.

"If you don't pay attention to him, yeah, he can steal a base," Piniella said.

Entering Tuesday, Gomes was batting .333 (14-for-42) in 14 games with three home runs and seven RBIs. But unlike his first callup from Triple-A Durham, April 21 to May 9, he said he does not feel as if he is biding time until his demotion.

"With all the moves that were made, it's kind of opened a spot for me to play every day or a couple of times a week," Gomes said. "It's good job security. You're not just here waiting for someone to get off the disabled list or waiting to see what's going to happen."

Piniella has been generous with praise and said he likes Gomes' confidence, calling it a swagger.

"It really does help out," Gomes said of Piniella's endorsement. "It's not like every day is a tryout."

SIGNINGS: The Rays announced they signed six selections from this year's draft: right-handers Matt Fisher (15th round) and Matthew Falk (28th), shortstops Neil Walton (16th) and Ryan Bethel (32nd), left-hander Chad Pendarvis (29th) and outfielder Carnell Parker (37th).

MISCELLANY: Right-hander Dewon Brazelton, in his first start since his demotion to the minors May 11, pitched three shutout innings for Double-A Montgomery, allowing two hits and no walks and striking out six. ... New general partner Stu Sternberg watched from the stands. ... ... Class A Hudson Valley, with first-round pick Wade Townsend, and rookie league Princeton opened their seasons Tuesday. ... Tiger Woods attended the game.

DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times staff writers