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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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So this is what winning feels like
After 11 straight losses, the Rays enjoy a victory.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 7, 2007
Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Delmon Young connects for an RBI double during the third inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Now that wasn't so hard, was it?
All it took for the Devil Rays to snap their 11-game losing streak Friday was a determined start by James Shields, one of their best overall offensive games in weeks, aggressive baserunning, solid execution, steady defense.
And an edge-of-your seat ninth inning by fill-in closer Gary Glover, who fought back to get the final three outs for his first save in five years and admitted the bigger battle was in his head.
The result was a 6-5 win over the Royals, giving the Rays a chance to celebrate for the first time since June 24, ending the longest losing streak in the majors this season.
"That's the way things like this are supposed to end, " manager Joe Maddon said. "It's never 15-1 or anything. It's always a game like that where you have to take it right down to the nubs and then you win it and move on."
The Rays (34-51) played most of the game crisply, featuring many of the elements they'd been lacking during the streak. Even more impressive was the work of Shields, who worked aggressively and efficiently through seven innings as the Rays built a 6-1 lead from a series of contributions, including two RBIs each by Brendan Harris and Delmon Young and persistence and hustle by Jonny Gomes.
"I think the main reason we were successful today was that we played the game of baseball, " Shields said.
But the Royals cut the gap to 6-4 in the eighth as Shields tired and Casey Fossum failed again against a left-handed hitter (.323 average), and it took Jay Witasick getting a huge strikeout to keep it from getting worse.
That's when Glover, whose one previous save came May 1, 2002, for the White Sox, made his first appearance as the substitute for injured Al Reyes.
It didn't start well as John Buck hit a leadoff homer, just inches beyond leaping leftfielder Carl Crawford's reach, and former Rays speedster Joey Gathright turned a bouncer to shortstop into an infield single to represent the tying run.
"When Gathright beat that out, I knew I was up against a little bit of a battle, " Glover said. "That's when it kind of set in. I had to keep kind of clearing my mind to stay focused out there because some things were entering my head with how things had gone over the last week and a half, and I didn't want to keep that thing going."
In falling behind the next batter, Tony Pena, and throwing over to first repeatedly to hold Gathright, he stepped off the rubber several times to refocus.
His biggest pitch was a 3-and-1 strike to Pena, and he got him out on a fly to right. David DeJesus hit a slicing out to left, and Mark Grudzielanek made the final out on a fly to Gomes in right.
But even that wasn't as easy as it looked.
"Actually, I lost it in the lights and panicked to tell you the honest truth, but it came out, and I caught it, " Gomes said. "It definitely wasn't a cookie-cutter ninth inning, but after the third out, a win's a win."
Glover agreed: "It felt great for multiple reasons, obviously. It was a real good feeling - one of those big 'Whews' for getting through it."
Afterward, music blared in the clubhouse, players laughed and Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman, who flew in to show support, smiled.
"A load is always lifted after you've lost 11 games in a row, " Maddon said, "and to say otherwise would be total denial."