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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Storyline worthy of a rerun
RAYS 6, ROYALS 3: A late burst gives Tampa Bay its fifth comeback win.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 16, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Maybe it's the approach, as manager Joe Maddon theorized. Maybe it's the execution, as centerfielder Joey Gathright suggested. Maybe it's the determination, as leftfielder Carl Crawford offered. Or maybe it's just one of those things that happens for no apparent reason, and keeps happening.
Any way you try to explain it, the Devil Rays just like the way it has been turning out.
They did it again Saturday, beating the Royals 6-3. Another late-inning scoring burst. Another come-from-behind victory. And another glimpse of better days at Tropicana Field, complete with an electric crowd of 20,002, postgame fireworks and a shaving cream pie in the face for winning pitcher Seth McClung.
"You're just trying to get the win," Crawford said. "And that's not a bad way to win it."
For the fifth time in 12 games, the Rays came from behind to do it, continuing their run of late-inning runs, scoring three times in the seventh, then adding one in the eighth.
"It doesn't matter when we get them, as long as we get them," Gathright said.
In their first 12 games, the Rays have been outscored 53-24 through the first five innings but have outscored their opponents over the final four 40-19. Of their 32 runs on this homestand, 23 have come from the seventh inning on.
"I just think guys aren't giving up," Maddon said. "I see good mental at-bats. That's one thing we preach. (Hitting coach Steve Henderson) is really good at preparing these guys mentally, and you can just see that they're really into it. That's basically what I'm seeing right now.
"They're not quitting. They know if we get down a couple points we can come back. It's a nice feeling in the dugout. It's a nice feel."
The Rays improved to 6-6, marking their best 12-game start since the 1998 inaugural season, when they were 7-5 (and finished 63-99). More amazingly, it is only the fourth time in their nine seasons they've been at .500 this late into a season.
McClung opened the season with two bad starts, and he raised some eyebrows by insisting he wasn't doing much wrong and it was just a matter of time until the results improved.
They were better Saturday, though he got some help to get his first win.
"I just kept the ball in the park and let the guys behind me make plays," McClung said.
Third baseman Ty Wigginton leapt to snare a line drive to end a bases-loaded threat in the third. Gathright ran down several balls in center. Double plays bailed McClung out two other times.
"McClung was great," Maddon said. "I liked the fact that he bent a little bit but he did not break. That's the whole issue. There was not a big inning to be had for them."
The Rays trailed 3-2 in the seventh, but they were just getting started.
Gathright, who said they seem to need some time to get their bats going, ripped a leadoff double. Crawford placed a bunt so perfectly he got a hit out of it. Jorge Cantu walked to load the bases.
On the night the Rays handed out Jonny Gomes figurines, the powerful slugger, appropriately, made his biggest contribution without swinging the bat. Facing 6-foot-10, 270-pound hard-throwing, bad-aiming lefty Andy Sisco, Gomes drew a four-pitch walk to force in the tying run.
An out later, Wigginton was not nearly as patient, lashing a single to right-center that scored two.
"The whole inning played out well," Maddon said.
Playing without injured starters Rocco Baldelli, Julio Lugo, and Aubrey Huff, the Rays have had to be creative offensively. Crawford, for example, smartly scored in the third on what essentially was a SAC 6: a fly ball to shallow left that shortstop Angel Berroa caught but was unable to make more than off-balance toss toward the plate.
And they've had to be dramatic, winning for the fourth time when trailing after the sixth inning.
"I don't care how it happens, I think it's great," McClung said. "For our guys to be clutch like that, they've got some really good nerves in them to get those hits late in the game."