tampabay.com

Close call throws wrench into rally

Melvin Mora is called safe. Ty Wigginton is ejected. And the Orioles pull away.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 11, 2007


BALTIMORE - Considering the uphill climb the Rays have faced after the first inning all too often, the frustration has to build.

"It can get unpleasant at times," manager Joe Maddon said.

But these Rays have showed their resilience - 12 of their 14 wins, to be exact, have been come-from-behind. But Thursday night, in a game Tampa Bay had little business being back in, the frustration boiled over in an eventual 11-6 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards.

And as the Rays left for Toronto, they could only stew over their season-high fourth straight loss after being swept out of Baltimore, where they have lost 10 of their past 12.

The Rays had come back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-2 with help from a three-run homer by Elijah Dukes and solo homer by B.J. Upton in the fifth - both off starter Daniel Cabrera - to trail by one.

And in the bottom half of the inning, Rays centerfielder Rocco Baldelli had robbed Kevin Millar of his second homer run of the night, which would have put Baltimore up by three.

But on the next batter, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora tried to steal second. Catcher Dioner Navarro's throw skipped past the bag.

Upton made an incredible play to recover the ball from short centerfield and make a pinpoint, offbalance throw to third base as Mora tried to advance.

The throw took third baseman Ty Wigginton to his knees. He believed Mora's hand was on his thigh as he applied the tag.

He believed Mora was out.

Third-base umpire Jim Hoye disagreed.

And Wigginton flipped his lid, literally.

Wigginton emphatically argued the call, going face to face with Hoye. Manager Joe Maddon sped out of the dugout to save his third baseman. As Wigginton turned around, Hoye ejected him.

"I got out there, and it was just that much too late," Maddon said, spanning his fingers. "My legs are bad.

"If I had a bicycle, I would have gotten there in time."

Said Wigginton: "I was just saying I blocked the bag. He told me to back off. I walked away. I didn't even know I was ejected from the game."

After more discussion, Wigginton walked toward the Rays dugout, untucked his jersey and tossed his cap into the stands. Moments later, the cap came flying back onto the field.

"We were one run away," Wigginton said. "Fifth inning, one run down, we still have four innings left. When I felt his hand touch my thigh, I felt there was no way he touched the base. That was the whole reason."

Two batters later, the Orioles extended their lead to 8-6 on Corey Patterson's single.

The Rays (14-20) fought back after starter Casey Fossum allowed five runs in the first inning. He allowed five of the first seven batters to reach base, capped by Millar's two-out, three-run homer. This season, the Rays have been outscored 36-4 in the first inning.

"That's difficult to come back from," Maddon said. "I don't think you can necessarily put your finger on one item and say you have to throw 10 more pitches in the bullpen. I just think you have to execute your pitches."

Carlos Pena's RBI single and Brendan Harris' run-scoring double made the score 5-2, but the Orioles scored two in the fourth when Jay Payton's sharp grounder to third went through Wigginton's legs.