tampabay.com

Just unspeakable

After leading 7-1 and 10-2, the Rays surrender 13 in a demoralizing eighth inning.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 22, 2005


NEW YORK - One by one, the Devil Rays players tried to find words for what they had just been through. One by one, they admitted they failed to do it justice.

"I don't even know what to say," shortstop Julio Lugo said. "I got nothing."

Said second baseman Jorge Cantu: "It's tough to even think right now."

Can you blame him?

Tampa Bay lost 20-11 to the Yankees Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Rays couldn't hold leads of 7-1 in the third inning, 10-2 in the fourth and 11-7 in the eighth.

That was the inning that sent the crowd of 40,241 into a frenzy as New York scored 13 on 12 hits (the most Tampa Bay has ever allowed in an inning) with four home runs, including three in a row by Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui.

The damage was heaped on relievers Franklin Nunez, who went the first third of an inning and gave up four runs on four hits, all singles, and Travis Harper, who was bludgeoned for the rest and took the loss.

The whole frightening, depressing episode took 35 minutes and 28 seconds.

"I was like, "Wow, man, when is this going to end?' " Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams said. "It was a great thing to see."

For New York, it was the second time this season they scored 13 in an inning; the first time was in April in a 19-8 victory over, you guessed it, Tampa Bay.

For the Rays, it was the second time in their history they led by eight runs and lost by nine. The first time was May 7, 1999, to the Indians. The score: also 20-11.

No other team has ever fumbled such a big lead and lost by so much. And the Rays have done it twice.

"I don't even remember what happened," Rays rightfielder Aubrey Huff said. "Everything happened so fast. The damndest season I've ever seen, I'll tell you that."

"No words, man," Cantu said. "Shocking. I never want to see it again. You don't even want that to happen to other people."

The Rays started strong against starter Randy Johnson, who had lost his three previous decisions to Tampa Bay.

Damon Hollins and Kevin Cash hit the Rays' first back-to-back home runs of the season as part of a second consecutive five-run second inning that gave Tampa Bay a 5-0 lead.

Jonny Gomes' two-run shot in the third made the score 7-1 and chased Johnson, who had his shortest outing since August 2000 with the Diamondbacks.

The lead grew to 10-2 in the fourth with the help of players such as Carl Crawford, who had four hits, including a triple, and Hollins, who had four RBIs.

The Rays' 18 hits are a season high. The 41 hits, with New York's 23, are a record for a nine-inning Tampa Bay game.

But Rays starter Hideo Nomo wasn't much better than Johnson, allowing six runs on 10 hits in 42/3 innings.

Reliever Chad Orvella quieted New York's four-run, fifth-inning comeback that made the score 10-6 and went 21/3 innings and allowed one run on one hit with two walks and a strikeout.

The one run came on Derek Jeter's home run to lead off the sixth that made the score 10-7. Tampa Bay even added what seemed an insurance run in the seventh on Cantu's forceout.

Nunez entered in the eighth to begin the end. He lasted five batters. The four singles scored two and left runners on first and second with one out.

Harper came in and allowed Matsui's run-scoring double that made the score 11-10. After an intentional walk to Jason Giambi loaded the bases, Williams tripled to give the Yankees a 13-11 lead.

Jorge Posada followed with a two-run home run. Sheffield hit a three-run shot, and Rodriguez and Matsui simply piled on.

"I got the balls over the plate, but they were flat," Harper said. "They've got a lot of power in the lineup. I can't break it down any better than that."

"It's unbelievable the way they feed off each other," Cash said. "That's a tough thing to do to hit so many balls right on the nose, so many consecutive times."