tampabay.com

Pen gives bats time to come through

Brendan Harris drives in the winner in the 12th after some sharp Rays relief work.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 6, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG -- The battered bullpen has been a cause of considerable agony for the Devil Rays. Saturday, it was a big reason they ran off the field in joyous celebration.

Brendan Harris' two-out single scored the winning run in the 12th inning, but the 3-2 victory over Oakland was the product of some unlikely contributions.

All it took was a second game-tying homer by Ty Wigginton that was the first allowed by Oakland closer Huston Street since June. A 12th-inning rally started with Ben Zobrist's first hit in two weeks. And six innings of stout one-run work by the beleaguered relievers.

"What can you say? manager Joe Maddon said. "They battled through difficult moments. I loved the resiliency, and just the way they went about their business. I knew our guys believed they could get it done."

It was the major-league-high 12th time the tied-for-second-place Rays 14-16 came from behind to win, and the third on their final pitch.

"We finished it," Maddon said. "I was thinking that as the game was in progress that if you don't win a game like that, then we have the same conversation that we've had a zillion times. ... But we did finish it."

The biggest out may have been the last one they got.

Ruddy Lugo had struggled the most of all the relievers, and when he allowed a two-out double in the top of the 12th it looked as if the game might end up as so many others. But after intentionally walking Dan Johnson, Lugo got Bobby Crosby to ground back to the mound, and a few minutes later he got his second win and a much-needed dose of confidence.

"It's great feeling like part of the team," Lugo said.

The winning rally started when Zobrist, whose last hit was April 21, hit a grounder that shortstop Crosby couldn't get out of his glove. He went to second on a wild pitch by Oakland reliever Jay Marshall, the 24-year-old sidearmer who pitched last season at Class A, then scored when Harris, with two outs, took an outside pitch and lined it right, then got mobbed on the basepaths.

"It was great," Harris said. "I would have been happy if anyone else got it after 12 innings and us ending up on top."

The Rays were in position to do so because they got a strong outing from Scott Kazmir, who was limited to six innings because he threw 105 pitches. And because, though much of their lineup was shut down by ex-Ray Joe Kennedy, Wigginton hit a pair of tying homers.

The first came off Kennedy with one out in the seventh; the second, when he led off the ninth against Street, who hadn't given one up since June 24, a stretch of 51 games, 52 innings and 215 batters. It was also the first run he had given up in 13 appearances against the Rays.

Wigginton said he was just looking for a good pitch off a closer he considers "as nasty as they come." Street said it was a slider in such a bad spot he thought "it was almost too bad of a pitch."

But the biggest development was the overall work of the bullpen, Gary Glover to Shawn Camp to Jae Kuk Ryu to Al Reyes to Brian Stokes to Lugo.

"The bullpen really stuck together tonight, " Lugo said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801.