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Effort, and a lot more, improves
After getting called out, the Rays rally in the ninth, head home happy.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 16, 2007
MINNEAPOLIS - The Devil Rays played harder Sunday.
They also played better.
After following Friday's impressive win with a performance so poor Saturday that veteran outfielder Rocco Baldelli questioned their effort, the Rays rebounded by rallying in the ninth for a 6-4 victory over the Twins.
For Baldelli, manager Joe Maddon and everyone else, it was a welcome rebound as they finished their weeklong trip 4-5, and their challenging season-opening stretch 5-7, heading into an eight-game homestand that starts tonight with the Orioles.
"We played a great game today," Baldelli said. "It was real important after the effort we put out last night to come back and play an all-around game. We did everything today, and we did it well. If we play like this, we're going to win a lot of games."
Jae Seo gave them a good start, though not good enough to win, letting the 4-2 lead they took against St. Petersburg native Boof Bonser get away in the seventh.
Delmon Young, extending his hitting streak to all 12 games, and reserve Brendan Harris homered as the Rays have gone deep in a team-record 12 straight games.
Akinori Iwamura, Dioner Navarro and Carlos Pena strung together quality at-bats, and clutch hits, in the game-deciding ninth against closer Joe Nathan, who gave up his first runs of the season and suffered his first loss since Sept. 6, 2005.
And steady Al Reyes, the stabilizing force in an erratic bullpen, finished again.
"We feel like we can beat anyone," Young said. "We play a hard nine."
They showed some maturity and resiliency Sunday, after losing a 4-2 lead that cost Seo a chance for his second victory in 19 Tampa Bay starts. He pitched relatively well four runs, nine hits, four strikeouts, no walks, giving up the tying run on a ground ball to deep short that became an infield single when Jason Bartlett beat Harris' one-hop throw, but apparently was upset since he refused to speak to the media.
Maddon took no chances after that, turning to the two dependable late-inning relievers he has, rookie Brian Stokes and Reyes, who has converted four straight saves and not allowed a run in five appearances.
"We haven't named a closer yet; we're afraid to do that around here," Maddon said. "We have the amorphic bullpen and to this point we're doing okay at the end. We've just got to build it up a little bit prior to those last two guys, but it's going to keep getting better."
Iwamura started the winning uprising in the ninth with a double to right. Navarro, who seems to be warming up at the plate, doubled him home to put the Rays back ahead. And Pena singled to make it 6-4.
The most consistent thing about the Rays in 12 games has been their inconsistency, which Maddon said is a product of their youth and inexperience.
"I think (Saturday)'s been the anomaly game," Maddon said. "I'd like to believe we're going to be able to do this more often."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays/.