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A super day for the Rays
RAYS 8, D'BACKS 5: Ruddy Lugo hurts his back in the ninth, putting a damper on a strong all-around effort.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 21, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - It's always something with the Devil Rays.
Take Tuesday night's 8-5 victory over the Diamondbacks. Nice, right?
Tampa Bay had 16 hits, got major contributions from Aubrey Huff, Rocco Baldelli and Jorge Cantu, won for the fourth time in six games and, at 15-15, reached .500 at Tropicana Field.
It was all good ... except the Rays' battered bullpen took another hit when Ruddy Lugo, trying for his first major-league save, left the game with one out in the ninth inning with what he called a lower-back strain.
"I can barely walk right now," Lugo said. "I felt it pull real hard, but I'll be all right. I'll just get a hot shower."
"It's kind of a day-to-day situation," manager Joe Maddon said.
Maddon wouldn't mind if that were the case with his lineup.
With Baldelli healed from more than a year of injuries, Cantu over his broken foot and Huff breaking out of a season-long slump, the Rays are starting to show the consistent pop many expected.
Huff, though batting .219, had four hits to tie a career high and upped his hitting streak to five games.
Cantu had three hits and two RBIs and Baldelli had two hits, including a homer, to raise his average to .370 in 12 games since overcoming the strained hamstring that put him on the bench at season's start.
He also stretched what should have been a single into a double and made a terrific running catch in centerfield.
"It's probably the lineup everybody envisioned," he said. "Good hitters up and down the line. It breeds confidence."
"It definitely is a different feel," designated hitter Jonny Gomes said. "We're going to start putting some pressure on other teams."
That pressure helped the Rays (30-41) build a 6-0 lead after four innings against starter Miguel Batista.
Gomes' two-run double was the big blow of a four-run third inning. Baldelli led off the fourth with his second home run.
Add solid pitching by left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who allowed four runs in seven innings while snapping a four-decision losing streak, and things fell nicely into place.
Granted Arizona, on a 2-13 streak, has been a chew-toy lately. But, hey, those are the teams you have to beat.
"Tampa Bay has a young, aggressive team," said Diamondbacks leftfielder Luis Gonzalez, a Tampa native. "We tried to make a comeback, but they just kept firing on all cylinders."
That is, until Lugo tweaked his back.
The right-hander said he felt the pull on his second pitch to Craig Counsell. One more and Lugo flinched in pain.
Not exactly what the bullpen needs considering it is without closer Tyler Walker, Dan Miceli and Shinji Mori.
But Maddon refused to see the dark side.
"The game is played one way," he said. "Injuries occur. I would prefer him not being injured, but if that were the case, it's just part of the game."
As are the good at-bats that forced Batista to throw 98 pitches in five innings, and hitting pitchers' mistakes, something the Rays have done to reach double-digit hits the past four games and score 30 runs.
"I like what we're doing," Maddon said. "I think it will keep getting better."
How nice if it could happen without getting worse.