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'Two games,' one defeat
The bullpen gets hammered in the ninth, allowing nine runs to turn a close game into a rout.
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published June 3, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Appalling. Catastrophic. Disastrous. Horrifying. Shocking.
Describing the Devil Rays' ninth-inning performance Friday with any of these words would have been appropriate. But perhaps Rays manager Joe Maddon summed up his team's performance best when, sitting at the desk in his office following a humbling 13-4 loss to Toronto, he simply said, "Ouch."
Folks, this one was ugly.
Even by this franchise's standards.
When the top half of the ninth began, the Rays (22-33) had a chance. Twenty-six minutes, 70 pitches, seven hits and nine runs later, most of the announced 9,463 in attendance at Tropicana Field had long since departed for the parking lot and the Rays were headed to their seventh loss in eight games.
"Two games," Maddon said. "One pretty good. One not so good. I was fine there (after eight). We had played a really good game until that point. We just imploded there in the ninth."
The Blue Jays' ninth-inning total was two more than the Rays had allowed in any inning this year. And it was three more than the Blue Jays' best inning. Every Toronto player reached base in the ninth.
"It just turned into a disaster," Maddon said.
Significantly better at home this season, the Rays hoped their return from a humbling, season-high 11-day road trip, in which they went 2-8, would reverse their fortunes.
Instead, it produced more frustration.
And many of the same problems.
The offense, which has struggled much of the season, managed just six hits, three against rookie starter Casey Janssen. It didn't help that outfielder Carl Crawford, by far the team's hottest hitter, sat out with a minor knee injury. (He could return tonight.) Rays pitcher Seth McClung, for the third straight start, was not on top of his game, though in fairness it should be noted he had his moments. He lasted just five innings after throwing 102 pitches and allowing four earned runs. But after being touched for solo homers in the first and second innings, McClung (2-7) settled down and pitched rather well.
Until the sixth.
After blanking the Blue Jays in the third, fourth and fifth, McClung ran into trouble after Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay started the inning with singles. Shea Hillenbrand followed with a double deep to right to bring in a run, which put Toronto ahead 3-1 and sent McClung to the dugout.
Down 4-1, the Rays rallied in their half of the sixth thanks to a two-run blast to right from Russell Branyan.
After that, it began looking like a game in which the outcome wouldn't be decided until the end.
The Rays bullpen changed that.
For three innings, it actually wasn't bad as Brian Meadows and Shawn Camp kept the Rays in it.
But in the ninth, Camp, Chad Harville and Chad Orvella had no success whatsoever, each giving up hits to all parts of the park. It got so bad that at one point, nine straight Blue Jays reached base. Toward the end, the crowd mockingly cheered Toronto outs.
"I'm not giving up," McClung said.
"None of these guys are giving up. Joe's not giving up. Sometimes, another team is just better than you on a given night."