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For their own good
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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New start, new loss
The Rays open the second half by buckling under a Yanks barrage.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 13, 2007
New York Yankees Derek Jeter (left), Alex Rodriguez (center) and Bobby Abreu (53) celebrate after all three hit home runs in the fourth inning of their 7-3 win over the Devil Rays Thursday.
[Times photo: Brian Cassella]
James Shields reacts to a homer by Derek Jeter, circling the bases, to lead off the fourth.
ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon welcomed his beleaguered Devil Rays back from the All-Star break with a brief meeting in rightfield Thursday afternoon. He reminded them of the good he felt they did before a miserable end to the first half, then asked them to forget what happened and refocus on fundamentals and a one-day-at-a-time approach.
Given that the Rays have the worst record in the majors, and a brutal second-half schedule that started Thursday with the first of 29 games against the Yankees and Red Sox, he felt it was their most realistic chance to survive.
"It's the only way you can dig yourself out of the hole. If you start looking at the big picture too much, all of a sudden it becomes ominous, and I don't want it to be that ... " Maddon said. "Basically that was the message, that we've got to approach this one day, happily, at a time, and tonight's the most important game of the year, and then tomorrow night that game will be."
Then they went out to play.
James Shields gave up three homers - to the Yankees triumvirate of Jeter, Rodriguez & Abreu -in a five-batter span. They booted a ground ball (third baseman Akinori Iwamura, )mishandled a throw on a bunt play (second baseman Josh Wilson) and let a fly ball drop in right-centerfield for a double. They were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, including Ty Wigginton and Dioner Navarro striking out looking after loading the bases with none out in the fourth.
And they started the second half the way they finished 13 of the past 14 times in the first half, by losing, 7-3.
"It's just one game in the second half," Maddon said.
The Yankees are looking for a fresh start after a disappointing first half and -with principal owner George Steinbrenner watching from a Tropicana Field suite - got back to .500 (at 43-43) for the first time in nearly three weeks.
"I feel good about our club as far as the temperature of it and the mood that we're in," said manager Joe Torre, who spoke to Steinbrenner earlier by phone.
"We played a clean game. I think that's the most important thing coming into the second half and understanding this is it for us."
The Rays (34-54) had a problem from the start. Actually, from the day last week when the Yankees decided to have Andy Pettitte pitch. The left-hander has now beaten the Rays 11 straight times since September 1998 and is 12-1 overall.
The score was 1-1 before a Yankee-infused crowd of 21,907, fifth largest of the season at the Trop, but changed in the fourth.
Shields, who's lost five of his past six, said the Yankees "hit my mistakes tonight." He fell behind Derek Jeter 2-0, then gave up a homer to center. He got ahead 0-2 on Alex Rodriguez, let him get back to 2-2 then served up a homer. Two outs later, Shields got ahead of Bobby Abreu 0-2 and gave up another homer. He has allowed 22, second most in the majors.
"I thought we did a lot of good things, stuff we talked about before the game," Maddon said. "They beat us today. Pure and simple, they beat us."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.