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It's early, but little going right
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 6, 2006
ORIOLES 16, RAYS 6: The offense livens up but Tampa Bay's pitching performance leaves too deep a hole.
BALTIMORE - All that's been said and written about the Devil Rays being different appears to be true.
Because two games into the season, they may have never looked this bad.
Their pitching has been horrible, their lineup in disarray due to injuries, their lack of depth exposed, and their resolve to be positive - as well as patient - severely tested.
If Monday's season-opening loss to the Orioles could be shrugged off as just one of 162 games, Wednesday's 16-6 beating on a frigid night had to be of legitimate concern.
"We put up the offense, like always. We're just getting caught in our pitching," said second baseman Jorge Cantu, who homered. "We just can't keep losing like that. We have to do something, and quick. Not let it get that late into the season. Everyone wants a winning record.
"We're trying everything we can offensively to get us going, but we didn't have that support so far in these two games from our pitching. It needs to get better. Sooner or later it needs to get better."
Starter Seth McClung, who insisted all spring he was poised for a big season, showed little presence and less control, walking a personal-high seven batters and failing to get through the fourth inning.
"I just had a bad day. That's all that happened," McClung said. "A bad day at work. No panic button. I'm not worried about it."
McClung threw 95 pitches to get nine outs and 14 of the 21 batters he faced reached base, with seven scoring. That after Scott Kazmir threw 104 pitches in just more than four innings on Monday, giving the starters a two-game line of 0-2, 16.71 ERA.
The bullpen actually might be in worse shape.
Jesus Colome left Wednesday's game with a sore right shoulder after throwing four pitches, and Brian Meadows, signed last week to add a veteran influence, had his own problems.
Meadows was flat out battered over 12/3 innings, allowing eight hits, including two home runs and several others that were well-clubbed. That forced the Rays to further deplete their relief corps by also having to use Travis Harper, Ruddy Lugo and Dan Miceli in a game long lost.
Overall, the pitchers in two games have allowed 25 runs, 30 hits and seven home runs.
Meanwhile, with backup infielder Luis Ordaz out for what could be an extended period, shortstop and leadoff hitter Julio Lugo appears headed to the disabled list.
That leaves Nick Green as the unlikely starter and the Rays in the market for a backup as manager Joe Maddon insisted they not bring up top prospect B.J. Upton, remaining committed to the future and refusing to risk damaging the 21-year-old's development.
With Lugo and injured centerfielder Rocco Baldelli missing, Maddon has been forced to alter his planned lineup, with Ty Wigginton starting at third base against Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard and Aubrey Huff moving to designated hitter. Tonight, he is likely to use Russell Branyan in rightfield, with Huff back at third and Jonny Gomes as the DH.
The game started promisingly, with the Rays taking a 1-0 lead and leaving the bases loaded in the first. But the Orioles - the one team in the AL East the Rays have at least a chance to finish ahead of - responded by sending nine men to the plate against McClung and scoring five runs.
If that wasn't bad enough, the Orioles scored three to start the fourth - and three more after the inning appeared to be over and the Rays started running off the field.
But home plate umpire Jerry Layne's late catcher's interference call against Toby Hall negated Corey Patterson's apparent inning ending forceout, and when the Rays retook their positions, Brian Roberts ripped a double to right-center that scored three more runs as the Orioles batted around again.
They scored four more in the fifth, turning a 5-1 lead into a 15-3 blowout.
"Hopefully, we'll get it figured out," said leftfielder Carl Crawford, who made a spectacular diving catch. "Right now it's definitely tough. For everybody really. It's one of those things where we have to come ready for the next day and hope we can figure it out."