tampabay.com

Newcomer Borowski puts end to eighth-inning nightmares

RAYS 6, JAYS 5: Tampa Bay holds on to a late lead for one of the few times this season.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 17, 2005


TORONTO - There were a lot of things that worked out for the Devil Rays in Saturday's 6-5 win over the Blue Jays.

There was the revamped lineup, with Joey Gathright getting three hits and scoring a run in the leadoff slot, Carl Crawford hitting a key two-run homer and singling in another run from the No. 2 spot and Aubrey Huff homering from the No. 5 spot.

There was Mark Hendrickson surviving a shaky third inning with some key "advice" from manager Lou Piniella, then pitching into the sixth and picking up his fourth win.

There was All-Star Danys Baez zipping through a 1-2-3 ninth against the middle of the Toronto order to convert his eighth straight save opportunity and 15th overall.

But what worked out the best was the job new reliever Joe Borowski did in the usually troublesome eighth inning, coming in with the tying run on base and keeping it there.

"That's what we need," Huff said. "The eighth inning has been a snake-bit inning for us all year long. That's what he was signed for, to come in here and be there so Danys doesn't have to try to get five or six outs instead of three. So that's a good sign, and hopefully he can continue to do that the rest of the year."

Ten times this season, the Rays lost after taking a lead into the eighth.

But that was before Borowski, the former Cubs closer who has experience and a tendency to be around the plate.

With the tying run on second, one out and two of Toronto's top hitters due up, Borowski did just that. He got Alex Rios to fly to right, and after Russ Adams moved to third on the out, he got dangerous Vernon Wells on a popout to short.

"That was a good job of pitching," Piniella said. "Isn't it nice to see a strike thrower? He comes right at you, and that's exactly what we were told. ... Let's hope this thing works out."

Borowski, who signed Monday after being released by the Cubs, said he was just doing his usual job: "It's worked out well so far.

Piniella was hoping the new-look lineup would work, figuring the Rays could create more scoring chances by bunching their speed at the top of the order, that Crawford would be more productive in the No. 2 hole and that Huff, who was been struggling all season, would relax lower in the order.

"We put six runs on the board; if we can do that every night I think that's the lineup that we'll keep using," Piniella said.

Hendrickson's spot in the rotation seemed to be in jeopardy, and he didn't help himself with a poor third inning when he gave up four consecutive extra-base hits that led to three runs and nearly erased the Rays' 4-0 lead.

Piniella, who has wanted Hendrickson to be tougher on the mound, came out for a brief, but pointed, visit.

"It's been the same message from the pitching coach, so I figured we'd change the message a little bit," Piniella said. "It was a simple one: "What are they hitting?' He said this. I said, "Well, try something different.' It's simple."

Whatever it was, it worked.

The Rays have won two out of three for the first time in nearly a month, and Piniella hopes it's catching.

"It feels good to win two out of three; it's been a while," he said. "Let's see if these kids get in a little habit of winning with a little more consistency and we have a little more fun than we did in the first half."