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Way to snap out of it
Dioner Navarro's first homer is a tiebreaking shot off his ex-team.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published June 24, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Considering the way Dioner Navarro's season has derailed, he's welcoming any change that might help him get back on track.
The Rays' 23-year-old catcher entered Saturday's game against his former team, the Dodgers, with just two hits in his past 32 at-bats. His .170 season average was well below the Mendoza line. To find his last RBI, he would have to go back 17 games.
But there was something about the pinstriped, baggy flannel threads of the 1955 minor-league St. Pete Saints - which the Rays wore as part of Saturday's Turn Back the Clock Night at Tropicana Field - that suited Navarro well.
"I've got my blue socks, " Navarro said. "I've told them already to put them in my locker."
Navarro's full-count solo homer, his first since Sept. 4, gave the Rays or Saints a 4-3 win over the Dodgers, the team that traded Navarro to Tampa Bay last June and that wore its old Brooklyn road uniforms Saturday night.
"It definitely makes him feel better about himself, " Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Navi has hit a lot of balls with bad luck this year. ... He's going to be very good. He needs more time. He's battling through adversity at the major-league level, which eventually is going to make him a better major-league player."
Navarro's homer stood as the winning run in a game dictated by the Rays' bend-but-don't-break pitching.
"They gave us the opportunity to stay in the game, " Navarro said of pitchers. "They made the pitches when they had to make them."
The Rays (32-40) walked nine batters, but only one of those runners scored. Starter Scott Kazmir walked five and battled his control all night but left after six innings - and 116 pitches - with the score tied.
"For the most part I battled out there and got some tough outs, " Kazmir said.
Tampa Bay worked out of bases-loaded jams in three separate innings, including cleaning up a critical seventh-inning mess, when reliever Jay Witasick induced a grounder to third for a third-to-catcher-to-first double play with no outs. Two batters later, Casey Fossum ended the threat on Tony Abreu's flyout to right.
With the score tied at 3 in the seventh, Navarro fell behind Dodgers starter Randy Wolf 0-and-2 but worked the count full, then connected with Wolf's next delivery and sent it over the fence in left-centerfield. For Navarro, it was his first homer in 216 at-bats. Wolf, who entered the game having allowed just one homer in nine starts, allowed two Saturday.
"It's been tough for me the last couple weeks, it's been tough the whole season, " Navarro said. "I've been feeling better the last couple days, and hopefully this is the push I needed to be where I want to be."
With slight prodding, Navarro admitted it was special to hit a homer against his old team.
"I was pretty excited, not just because I was playing against my old team but just because I haven't hit one. I think that's one of the best ways to get out of a slump."