tampabay.com

Patience is rewarded

With help from his defense, Edwin Jackson wins his first as a Ray.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published June 25, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Even though he hadn't won a major-league baseball game in nearly 21 months, Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson rarely offered a hint that he was frustrated.

Though he is only 23, Jackson knows winning even one game takes a bunch of variables coming together, but he also knows that at the end of the day, every player is judged on results.

Jackson's best friend on the team, leftfielder Carl Crawford, saw he wasn't happy about his 0-8 record entering Sunday, and he offered some veteran advice.

"He didn't make no excuses, " Crawford said. "He just kind of dealt with it. I was trying to tell him that this is the lowest you can go. The only way you can go now is up."

Everything came together for Jackson in Sunday's 9-4 Rays win over the Dodgers at Tropicana Field. He escaped an early jam and settled down. He received help from his defense and bullpen, while his opportunistic offense delivered some timely hits to give Jackson his first win in a Tampa Bay uniform and first in the majors since Sept. 26, 2005.

"To get a win, it takes a lot of things, a little bit of luck, a little bit of skills and a great defense, " Jackson said.

The victory, a major-league-high 22nd comeback win of the season, gave the Rays a series win over the Dodgers, a team that couldn't capitalize on countless opportunities all series long.

The Rays (33-40) did otherwise. After a first inning in which he allowed a two-run homer to Tampa native Luis Gonzalez, Jackson faced one batter over the minimum for his next five innings.

"I think the real tenor of the game was that Jack did not cave in, " manager Joe Maddon said. "He kept going after them."

The Rays turned four double plays, three while Jackson was pitching, two of which ended innings. Catcher Dioner Navarro threw out two baserunners.

"It makes you just want to put the ball in play, " said Jackson, acquired in a trade with the Dodgers last year. "When you have confidence in your defense, it makes your job a little easier. "

The Rays took advantage of Dodger mistakes. They broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth when Ty Wigginton's single over shortstop scored Brendan Harris, whose slide at home dislodged the ball from Mike Lieberthal's mitt and sent it to the backstop, allowing Wigginton to reach third. Wigginton scored two batters later on a wild pitch.

Seldom-used second baseman Josh Wilson then made a critical play in the seventh. Wilson Betemit's bouncer off reliever Jay Witasick hit off the glove of a diving Wigginton at first, but Wilson was able to barehand the deflection from his knees and toss to Witasick, who made a nice play by scooping a low throw while beating Betemit to the bag.

"The way Edwin pitched today was awesome, " Wilson said. "For us to make a couple plays behind him to keep that game in order for him to get that 'W' was great."

The next half-inning, the Rays batted around and scored five, tallying five hits and taking advantage of a throwing error by reliever and former Ray Joe Beimel.

"A team like that comes in here, a team that's solid all around, but little things win the game, " Witasick said. "It was a great win, but I think it also had some justification inside the locker room because it said that no matter who comes in they have to play all nine to beat us."

Rays 9, Dodgers 4