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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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A little drama but a lot of relief
Rays 4, Orioles 2: Despite another blown lead, Tampa Bay comes through in the clutch at bat and in the field.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published September 21, 2006
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Ty Wiginton begins his home run trot after ripping a tiebreaking two-run shot in the eighth, his 15th tying or go-ahead homer this season.
ST. PETERSBURG - See, it wasn't that hard for the Devil Rays to snap their season-high, nine-game losing streak.
All they had to do to beat the Orioles 4-2 on Wednesday was rap four singles to score the go-ahead run in the seventh, come back after blowing that lead with a two-run homer in the eighth by Mr. Clutch Ty Wigginton, survive another Seth McClung drama in the ninth, then seal the deal with an infield play that seemed straight off the playground, with B.J. Upton making a diving stop at third, then flipping the ball straight from his glove to shortstop Tomas Perez, who relayed it to first for the 26th out.
"I'd made that play in Venezuela ... three or four times," Perez said. "But it's the first time I did it with the third baseman. And it's the first time I've seen it in the big leagues. Hopefully, we'll make the Web Gems with that."
As long as it had been since the Rays last won - heck, on Sept. 9, the Bucs were still undefeated and Chris Simms was considered good - they deserved the full Sports- Center treatment.
They still have the worst record in the majors and they still have to win five of their final 10 - with four against the Yankees starting Friday - to avoid 100 losses, but at least they showed that not all over the final three weeks would be lost.
Jae Seo, who has been pitching better than his record showed, looked to be in line for a well-deserved win after Rocco Baldelli's bases-loaded single scored Wigginton to put the Rays up 2-1 in the seventh.
But these are the Rays (58-94), which means nothing comes easy.
The leadoff double in the eighth by Corey Patterson (who improved his career average against the Rays to .377) was bad, the two-out walk to Brian Roberts seemed worse. But when manager Joe Maddon asked, Seo said he wanted to continue, and he deserved better than the bloop single by ex-Ray Chris Gomez, which marked the Rays' major-league-high 90th blown lead.
Fortunately for the Rays, Wigginton's turn in the order came up again in the eighth. After Greg Norton drew a one-out walk, Wigginton muscled the first pitch he got from reliever Rodrigo Lopez over the right-centerfield fence.
It was Wigginton's team-high 21st homer, but more important it was his 15th that either tied a game or put the Rays ahead. Of the 67 runs he has driven in, 26 have done the same.
"The knack is that he likes to be there. He wants to be there in that moment. And he doesn't cower to that moment," Maddon said.
"He's the kind of guy you don't have to try to inspire or baby or anything. He's a man's man. He comes out and he plays. He knows what to do and he knows how to do it and he takes full responsibility for when he doesn't do it. He's a pleasure. He's the kind of guy we need more people like that."
Wigginton said he couldn't imagine it any other way.
"I've been that way my whole career," he said. "I want to come up in that situation."
McClung walked Miguel Tejada to start the ninth and fell behind Jay Gibbons 2-and-0 but got him to pop out to center. The ground ball that Kevin Millar hit next was the key.
As impromptu as it looked, and as improbable as it seems, Perez insisted he discussed that exact possibility with Upton.
"Every time he's playing third base and I'm playing shortstop, I know his shoulder is bothering him a little bit." Perez said. "We talk about what we can do."
Maddon said he didn't know "if anyone else could have made that play athletically" but Upton. Wigginton joked that Perez was probably calling for the ball as soon as it was hit.
McClung was just glad Perez pulled it off.
"I don't know if he has a crystal ball over there or what," McClung said, "but he's been around the game long enough and he definitely feels the situations."