By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
ANGELS 7, RAYS 3: It's the same story of being up early and fading late.
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Angels don't get as many hits as the Red Sox or crush as many homers as the Yankees. But, as the Devil Rays are finding out, they have a relentlessness about them that might be second to none.
For the second straight night Saturday, the Rays took an early lead. And for the second straight night, the Angels grinded, pounded and battled their way back and won, this time 7-3.
The final score was what mattered most as the Angels maintained a four-game American League West lead over Oakland. But it was how they did it that was most impressive.
After the Rays went up 2-0 in the first, the Angels responded with four runs in the second and then kept adding on to their lead, tacking on single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
"Obviously the big inning hurt me tonight," Rays starter Doug Waechter said. "Then I settled in and was throwing the ball where I wanted, but as soon as they got a guy on it seemed they found a way to get him over and get him in. That's one of the reasons they're in first place, I guess."
With the loss the Rays, at 64-91, have to win their final seven games to break the team record of 70 victories and to have a chance, albeit slim, at not finishing last in the AL East.
But it could have been worse. Top RBI man Jorge Cantu, who extended his team record to 112, had his left hand jammed against second base when Vladimir Guerrero slid in hard on a close play. Cantu writed in pain for a few moments but stayed in the game and said afterward he was okay.
The season series with the Angels is 4-4 heading into today's finale, but the Rays chances for their first winning season against the Angels don't look good since they are 0-8 in 12 games against starter Bartolo Colon.
Saturday, the Rays looked like they were going to have their way with Jarrod Washburn, making his first start in more than two weeks due to tendinitis in his forearm.
They scored twice in the first, thanks in part to Washburn's throwing error, and had the bases loaded when Toby Hall flied to shallow right for the final out.
But Washburn quickly got in a groove, retiring 12 straight in one stretch, and allowing only two Rays to get as far as second base over the next five innings.
The Angels, meanwhile, showed how quickly they can strike back against Waechter, who has had a problem with big innings, scoring four in the second.
"You look at his starts and there's almost always one big crooked number," manager Lou Piniella said.
Vladimir Guerrero hit a leadoff homer to right that, according to the umpires, hit just above the rightfield wall and bounced onto the field.
Piniella protested briefly, saying "I told them if it hit a fan the guy must have been made of steel because it bounced up around 15 feet."
After Darin Erstad and Bengie Molina singled, slumping Steve Finley, who was hitting .201 since the All-Star break, hit a three-run homer to right.
"I thought they were both good pitches but they were the wrong pitches," Waechter said.
Waechter has generally pitched better than his 5-11 record, leaving a major-league high seven games in position to get a win and ending up without one. But Saturday's loss was his own doing as he allowed six runs on eight hits over six innings, and gave up his 27th and 28th home runs, eighth most in the league despite missing a month.