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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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Positives scarce in double blowout
Other than a solid start by Jason Hammel, the Rays do little right vs. Yanks.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 22, 2007
The New York Yankees celebrate after their 7-3 win in the first half of the doubleheader sweep. The Yankees defeated the Rays 17-5 in the second game.
J.P. Howell began the nightcap by allowing a walk, a single and two doubles in what became a three-run first inning, allowed seven runs in the first three innings and lasted only five.
NEW YORK - Saturday's split doubleheader at Yankee Stadium turned out to be rather one-sided.
The Devil Rays lost the matinee 7-3 and the nightcap 17-5. All-Star Carl Crawford is sidelined for at least a couple of days with a sprained left ankle, and reliever Jay Witasick appears headed to the disabled list with a potentially serious elbow injury. J.P. Howell and Jae Kuk Ryu pitched poorly in their returns to the majors. Their hitters left 13 men on and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the opener, and their pitchers allowed a team-record eight doubles and a season-high 17 runs in the second game.
It was so bad, even always upbeat manager Joe Maddon couldn't find much good in the long day's work.
"It's disappointing," he said. "We've just got to forget about this and move it along today."
On the plus side?
Jason Hammel looked sharp enough in an abbreviated four-inning outing in the opener to be shifted back to starting, but was unexpectedly sent to Triple-A Durham to do so. B.J. Upton continued to make up for lost time, going 4-for-9 with three RBIs. You-can-only-hope-to-contain-him Josh Wilson had three more big hits.
And ... well ... because it's New York, there were still plenty of places open to get something to eat when the second game ended close to 11 p.m., 10 hours after the first started.
Maddon anticipated good work from Howell, who had been dropped to the fifth spot in the rotation and sent to the minors for a pair of tuneup starts, but didn't get it.
"They just weren't missing it," Maddon said.
Howell began the nightcap by allowing a walk, a single and two doubles in what became a three-run first, allowed seven runs in the first three innings and lasted only five because he threw 100 pitches (42 balls). At least he made the Hammel move look more logical.
"It's all about me getting in a groove, man, and catching it early," Howell said. "Catching it in the fourth is too late."
Despite the poor start, the Rays (38-59) closed a 7-2 deficit to 7-5 by the sixth, but a throwing error by Witasick, who was hurt early in what became a 47-pitch inning; a bloop double by Johnny Damon, who made a pair of run-saving catches in left; and Alex Rodriguez's 497th career homer made it 12-5, and it was over. Brian Stokes still managed to make it worse, allowing five more runs in the eighth, bumping his ERA to 7.54.
The Rays made what seemed a curious move in the matinee to start Hammel, who'd been used in middle and even short relief since a mid June promotion, but it turned out they had something in mind. After his four solid innings (under a 70-pitch count limit), they said he will return to starting but, unfortunately for Hammel, at Durham, at least for now.
Hammel acknowledged that he's more comfortable starting and welcomed the chance to do so but was caught off guard by the demotion.
"I didn't see it coming," Hammel said. "It's bittersweet. Hopefully I'll be back real soon."
By saying the move is best for Hammel and the team, Maddon admitted the experiment to convert Hammel to a reliever failed. "I didn't see it happening," Maddon said. "It's not his fault. He's just a young man and we'd given him a new assignment."
The opener was a classic example of missed opportunities by the Rays on both sides.
They scored three on solo homers by Upton, Ty Wigginton and Raul Casanova but loaded the bases three times (in the third, fifth and ninth) and had nothing to show for it.
Hammel pitched well, allowing only a two-run homer to Hideki Matsui, and said he probably could have gone longer but the Rays had him on a strict limit.
Ryu came on and worked a quick fifth but failed miserably in the sixth, allowing five runs on three consecutive two-out hits, including Shelley Duncan's first major-league homer. Still, and seemingly to his own surprise, he'll stick around to work out of the bullpen.
"We definitely had a pretty good shot in that first game," Maddon said. "The second game got away from us fast."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays."