tampabay.com

Lou's last loss

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published October 2, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - In some ways the Devil Rays' final three games were their toughest.

A series against the Orioles, another team playing out the string. The emotion of manager Lou Piniella's announcement he is stepping down.

It all added up to a Baltimore sweep capped by Sunday's lethargic 6-2 season-ending loss before a crowd of 17,450 at Tropicana Field.

"It all hit (Sunday)," catcher Toby Hall said. "When you have to say goodbye and your manager says good luck, it sets in. It's not, "Good luck see you next season,' it's, "Good luck for the rest of your career.' "'

Piniella said he hoped his situation wouldn't be a distraction.

"But I had a feeling once it was announced Friday it would take a little bit off the playing situation," he said. "That's the way it is. Our tanks have been on empty."

It showed against the Orioles.

The Rays had 10 hits Sunday but only three after the third inning in which Damon Hollins' home run gave them a 2-0 lead.

The lack of hitting and a terrible eighth from reliever Joe Borowski, who allowed three runs on homers by Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons as the Orioles expanded a 3-2 lead, sapped even more energy from the game.

Still, the Rays' fourth straight loss did not cloud the bigger picture.

At 39-34, the franchise earned its first winning record before or after an All-Star Break, and at 67-95 finished with its fourth-best record. Quite an accomplishment after a 28-61 start.

"The kids got a taste of winning," Piniella said.

But they also are relieved the season is over.

"I'm emotionally drained," reliever Trever Miller said. "I felt it in my whole body. A lot of things have to do with it. The emotion that comes with Lou's departure, and a lot of players are here that don't know where they will be next season."

"I feel the same," infielder Jorge Cantu said. "But I'm so happy we finished well. Now other teams will be aware of the Devil Rays. We played our hearts out."