tampabay.com

Rays lose 2-run lead in ninth, fall in 10th

Closer Al Reyes gives up the tying, then winning home run.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 20, 2007


PHOENIX -- Tuesday's game couldn't have started any better for the Devil Rays, as Akinori Iwamura hit the first pitch for a home run and they quickly built a six-run lead.

And it couldn't have ended any worse, at nearly 1:45 this morning Tampa Bay time, when Chris Young hit a two-run walkoff homer in the 10th off previously perfect Al Reyes to give Arizona a 10-8 win.

"Another huge lead goes away," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the third one over the last 10 days or two weeks, and that's hard. That's hard. When you lose those kinds of leads it's difficult. We have to stop doing that."

Reyes, the Rays closer, came on in the ninth with an 8-6 lead and an unblemished record of converting 16 straight saves, but blew both, giving up a one-out walk then a two-run home run to pinch-hitter Tony Clark on a hanging changeup.

Despite throwing 33 pitches in the ninth, Reyes returned for the 10th the other option was Brian Stokes, making his first appearance of more than one inning this season, as the Rays have treated him with care following his return from a second Tommy John elbow surgery.

"I asked him if he was okay," Maddon said. "I was not looking for that number of pitches, but he assured me he that he was all right."

The winning rally started with a leadoff broken bat single by Conor Jackson and -- one out later -- was followed by Young's homer to left on a 2-and-2 slider, capping the six-run comeback that matched the largest in their history. It was the first time in eight games the Diamondbacks beat the Rays.

"It was one of those nights where I made a couple mistakes and I paid," Reyes said.

The 16 straight saves were a Rays record for the start of a season, and three shy of the overall team market. Though the odds were against him, Reyes said he didn't accept the it-had-to-happen-sometime theory.

"You try to stay positive and you don't think you're going to blow a save," Reyes said. "I just tried to stay positive, but it happened tonight. I'll come back ... and try to get another one."

Iwamura sliced Doug Davis' first pitch into the leftfield seats for his second homer, and later made a spectacular snatch-and-throw play to end the third. Ty Wigginton, extending his career-high hitting streak to 13 games, hit a two-run shot in fourth as the Rays tied the Tigers with an American League-high 85 homers.

Plus, Jonny Gomes extended his red-hot return with two more hits, making him 12-for-24 with nine RBIs in six games back.

The Rays scored five in the first two innings and held a 7-1 lead in the fourth with a good-enough start from J.P. Howell.

Maddon has been eagerly trying to establish a "formulaic" bullpen for games the Rays lead, with newcomer Jay Witasick working the seventh, Gary Glover the eighth and Reyes the ninth.

Tuesday, it was a formula for defeat. Witasick, who looked very impressive on Sunday in Colorado, came down to earth in the desert. Witasick started the seventh with an 8-4 lead, but by the time he left -- after three walks and two two-out broken-bat singles -- it was 8-6 and the D'backs had the bases loaded.

Glover came on to strike out Orlando Hudson to end the seventh, then zipped through a 1-2-3 eighth.

Earlier this month, the Rays blew two slightly larger leads: On June 5 they were up 8-1 in the fourth at Toronto (and 11-6 in the ninth) and lost 12-11, and four days later at Florida led 8-2 in the fourth and lost 14-8.

Howell, who made his major-league debut at Arizona on June 11, 2005, for Kansas City, wasn't particularly sharp Tuesday, but pitched well enough to win. The lefty worked into the sixth, allowing four runs while scattering nine hits and walking four, throwing 107 pitches. And, like the other Rays pitchers before him, he helped himself at the plate. Howell singled, and came around to score, in the second.

With one game remaining today under NL rules, Rays pitchers are 7-for-20, tying the 1997 Rangers' interleague record for hits. Rays pitchers have four RBIs, one shy of the interleague record (shared by the '97 Rangers and '99 Orioles).

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