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Exhausting trip ahead, Rays already look tired
By MARC TOPKIN
Published August 13, 2007
Rays pitcher Jason Hammel wipes his face after walking Texas Rangers' Michael Young to load the bases in the third inning.
ARLINGTON, Texas - What was already going to be a long night had to be even longer the way the Devil Rays played Sunday.
All the good feelings from Saturday's win vanished quickly as the Rays were beaten 9-1 by the Rangers and played poorly and excruciatingly slowly in doing so, then left for an all-night flight to Boston and a quick turnaround for tonight's game against the Red Sox.
Jason Hammel didn't pitch well, allowing five runs in four innings, and Jon Switzer provided little relief. Outfielders B.J. Upton and Delmon Young each had balls drop behind them for extra-base hits. Despite getting into the Texas bullpen in the second (when starter Kason Gabbard left with forearm stiffness), the Rays were shut out until the eighth and left 13 men on.
Plus, Carl Crawford finally cooled off, an 0-for-5 night ending his season-high 12-game hitting streak, as well as his eight-game string of multihit games. "That's how it goes," he said.
The Rays (45-72) were expecting to land in Boston around 5:30 this morning and hoped to be in their hotel rooms - with the curtains pulled tight, no doubt - by 6:30. They have to play again at 7 tonight, and against the majors' best team, at always troubling Fenway Park (where they are 21-57 on normal rest), and against knuckleballing nemesis Tim Wakefield, who has beaten them 17 times.
Though manager Joe Maddon refused to complain about the rigorous itinerary, he acknowledged "it's not a very good situation." Some players - while admitting it wasn't a much better alternative to play in the Texas heat Sunday afternoon and arrive at a normal hour - were a little more blunt.
"In the big leagues it really doesn't get much worse than this," said Jonny Gomes, who had three hits in the leadoff spot.
The Rays played Sunday's game - which had a first-pitch temperature of 98 degrees - as if they didn't want to be there.
Maddon hoped Edwin Jackson's dazzling complete game shutout the night before would have a carryover benefit for Hammel, but it proved to be only a pleasant thought.
"Hammel's velocity was there but overall command of his pitches was not," Maddon said. "He had a hard time throwing the ball where he wanted to. ... That got us in trouble."
Hammel did little of what of Jackson did; he wasn't aggressive, wasn't ahead in the count and wasn't effective. Hammel allowed seven hits (four for extra bases, plus a couple long outs) and four walks, meaning 11 of the 22 hitters he faced reached base.
"I just wasn't throwing strikes," Hammel said. "It's that simple."
As much as Jackson seems to be progressing and increasing his chances of a spot in next season's rotation, Hammel is raising questions. He is 0-2 with a 6.64 ERA in five starts this season, 0-8, 7.41 in 14 over two, and has been equally ineffective in relief.
Hammel said his arm felt good and he'd worked with pitching coach Jim Hickey to correct some mechanical flaws but couldn't repeat his delivery consistently.
"It's definitely frustrating," Hammel said. So much so, he figured he had to change something else and shaved his beard postgame.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.