tampabay.com

Another happy ending

The Rays take control with a six-run fifth to win their second straight at Disney.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 17, 2007


LAKE BUENA VISTA - Principal owner Stuart Sternberg was only joking Tuesday when he said if the Devil Rays won all three games in their home-away-from-home series, they might just stay at Disney.

They might want to at least check out one of those annoying timeshares.

The Rays made it two-for-two in what has been their Magic Kingdom, outlasting the Rangers 11-8 Wednesday in a long, back-and-forth contest before another not-quite-sold-out crowd announced at 8,839.

"When you have Mickey on your side," Rays DH Jonny Gomes said, "you're unstoppable."

The second game at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex came with less hype than Tuesday's debut but with a similarly splendid evening without a roof and an enthusiastic crowd. As on Tuesday, which drew 8,443, the lawn and bleachers were packed and there were chunks of empty seats in the top half of the upper level.

"We're big in Orlando," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's been good. There's been a buzz."

Texas' Sammy Sosa had the most historically significant hit of the night, a fourth-inning homer off unimpressive Casey Fossum that was the 597th of Sosa's controversial career. And the Rays scored a season-high 11 runs and logged a season-high-matching 15 hits before hanging on for their own thrill ride that is staffed by the bullpen.

But the biggest play came on a popup that ended the seventh. Second baseman B.J. Upton, who'd already had an eventful night with an errant behind-the-back toss and an impressively patient at-bat that ended with a bases-loaded walk, raced across the diamond into shallow left-center, reaching out on the run to make a dazzling catch. If he doesn't, the Rangers pull within 10-8 with runners on the corners.

"That to me was the play," Maddon said. "That balls falls, the momentum shifts entirely to their favor at that point."

Upton said he thought the wind might hold the ball up so, "I just put my head down and went for it."

The behind-the-back toss, which resulted in his major-league-most 10th error at second, was something that happened because he was rushed and, he promised, won't happen again.

"Wiggy's been calling me Magic Johnson ever since," Upton said.

Sosa's opposite-field homer left him three shy of becoming the fifth player to hit 600 and extended his major-league record of having gone deep in 45 major-league stadiums. It was the second he'd hit off Fossum (No. 585, on July 24, 2005), but seemed more a product of the prevailing wind. Fossum got the win for five innings of work that saw his ERA rise from 7.43 to 7.80.

The victory gave the Rays (17-22) their first three-game winning streak since August, having played a major-league-most games (73) without one. Tonight, they can make it a sweep in their adopted home.

"That's great," Carl Crawford said, "because everyone thought it would be so terrible playing home games away from home."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.

Fast Facts:

Watch for ...

A Kazmir comeback: Rays starter Scott Kazmir had one of his most frustrating starts Friday, allowing a season-high nine hits and five runs, four earned, over 61/3 innings in a 5-1 loss to Toronto. Before, Kazmir had a quality start in four of his past five.

Walking away: Rangers starter Kameron Loe has lost his past three decisions, allowing 22 runs over those four starts.

Sammy vs. Kaz: Rangers DH Sammy Sosa has had success against Kazmir, going 4-for-6 with one triple, one homer and three walks.