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For their own good
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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Another early lead becomes a defeat
YANKS 7, RAYS 4: Rocco Baldelli's home runs key a big start ... oh, never mind. At least the veterans have some fun afterward.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published September 15, 2006
Rocco Baldelli hits a two-run home run during the fifth to put the Rays up 4-1. He also homered in the third and tripled in the first.
NEW YORK - After giving away another game in Thursday's 7-4 loss and being swept by the Yankees, disguises seemed an appropriate way for the Devil Rays to get out of town.
As part of the annual rookie (and near-rookie) hazing, that's exactly how 13 of them left Yankee Stadium - outfielder Delmon Young in a nurse's dress with white fishnet stockings; starting pitcher James Shields in a police skirt, blouse and handcuffs; relievers Ruddy Lugo and Edwin Jackson as fairies; third baseman B.J. Upton in a sweet powder blue number; shortstop Ben Zobrist as a parochial school girl - signing autographs and posing for pictures then having to parade through LaGuardia Airport and into their Toronto hotel.
At least that gave them something more interesting to talk about than the game, in which they took an early lead thanks to Rocco Baldelli - who tripled and scored then homered twice - only to once again let it get away at the end.
"Just another number on that list of come-from-behind Johnsons," said manager Joe Maddon who, as a rookie, was forced to wear polyester and plaid.
The win left the Rays 57-89, just a half-game ahead of Kansas City for the worst record in the majors and needing six wins in their final 16 games to avoid a 100-loss season.
The Yankees also have a magic number of six, but for the much grander accomplishment of winning the AL East. They have won six straight and look ready to play deep into October.
"They're locked in right now," Baldelli said. "They're ready for the playoffs. I don't see many teams stopping them the way they're swinging the bats."
Baldelli did his part, with his 11 total bases one shy of Jonny Gomes' team record of 12 from his three-homer game on July 30, 2005. He had his reasons too, keeping alive a personal streak of homering on mother Michelle's birthday in each of his big-league seasons. And because he missed all of 2005 with injuries, he responded Thursday with the first multihomer game of his career.
"I had to make up for last year," he said.
But it wasn't enough as the Rays lost for the 52nd time after leading (12 more than any other team) and blew a lead for the major-league-high 82nd time.
Shields gave the Rays a good start, allowing only a homer to Hideki Matsui through the first four innings. But he let a 4-1 lead slip away in the fifth, though having Robinson Cano's drive to left bounce off Carl Crawford's glove for a two-run double didn't help.
Shields was the first Rays starter in six games to make it through the fifth inning, but he could go no further, knocked out by a right hamstring cramp. Shields was sick and throwing up Wednesday, which might have left him dehydrated for his start. He was flat-out frustrated when Maddon took him out after he felt the cramp on his final warmup toss before the sixth.
"I'm a gamer," he said. "I wanted to stay in there."
The Yankees broke it open with three in the seventh. They didn't hit the ball hard off relievers Lugo and Shawn Camp, but they placed it well. Cano knocked in one run with a grounder through the shortstop hole and took second as the ball died in the grass that was wet from an all-day rain that left the game in question until late afternoon. Then Alex Rodriguez singled in two more with a grounder to right.
"It was one of those things," Maddon said.
And for the Rays, it was another one of those nights, even if many left in skirts and dresses.
MAGIC NUMBER: 6
To avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 2002, the Rays need six wins in their final 16 games. Here is where they stand and what they have to do: