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Hole just deep enough to swallow Rays
Boston figures out Sonnanstine early, holds on.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published August 22, 2007
Andy Sonnanstine allowed two runs in the first inning and five in an ugly fourth. "It was just one bad inning, and it cost us," said manager Joe Maddon.
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Boston's David Ortiz beats Andy Sonnanstine's toss to first baseman Carlos Pena (left) during the Red Sox's five-run fourth inning.
ST. PETERSBURG - It may have been too much to ask rookie Andy Sonnanstine to be able to tame the mighty Red Sox twice in a week. And it was definitely too much to expect the Devil Rays to overcome the rough start against the best team in baseball.
Sonnanstine couldn't, and the Rays didn't, losing 8-6.
The Rays got a two-run homer from Carlos Pena, his career-high 28th; they got a three-run homer from Akinori Iwamura, his first in 51 games since June 23; and they got another strong effort from Scott Dohmann and other relievers; but they couldn't come back all the way after Sonnanstine allowed two runs in the first and five in an ugly fourth.
"He did some things pretty good out there," manager Joe Maddon said. "It was just one bad inning, and it cost us."
It was something of an odd game, too, as the Rays 47-78 had more runs than hits (four) for just the fourth time this season; as David Ortiz, for whom lumbering is a kind description of his running style, had a triple and beat out a grounder to the mound for a single; and as a first-day-of-school night crowd of only 16,393 showed up, though thousands more throughout downtown St. Petersburg could well have been listening to the unnecessarily blaring PA system.
When he beat the Sox last Wednesday at Fenway Park, Sonnanstine used his fastball as his primary weapon.
But Tuesday, despite being prepped by pitching coach Jim Hickey to stick with the plan, the 24-year-old, in his 15th big-league game, wavered and relied too often on his slider and made several mistakes. Most damaging was a 2-and-2 pitch to ex-Ray Julio Lugo that became a two-run double in Boston's big-bang fourth.
"I think if he had stayed closer to the plan he had in Boston it might have been a different result," Maddon said. "I do. He had a good fastball tonight, more 90(-mph readings) than I had seen and he was getting some swings and misses on it. The breaking ball in the zone hurt him tonight, but by the same token I thought he threw some better breaking balls tonight also.
"He's learning, and he's a battler and he doesn't cave in. He definitely does not cave, and I appreciate that about him. They had some big hits and they put them in the right spots."
Sonnanstine is somewhat cerebral and acknowledged he may have out-thought himself by trying to change what worked so well the last time. He also said he was not aggressive enough.
"It's tough when you face a team in back-to-back starts, let alone the Boston Red Sox," he said. "I tried to vary the plan a little bit instead of staying along the same lines."
Maddon said it's a common - and understandable - rookie mistake.
"I think that's the temptation all the time with young players when they come to the league they feel as though you may have to do something differently once you arrive," he said. "And if you play a team twice within a week or so, of course you have to do something different once again."
Sonnanstine has won only twice in 15 starts since being promoted in early June, and Tuesday was the third time he allowed seven runs, and the seventh time five or more, pushing his ERA to 6.53.
"There's no secret he's facing one of the best lineups in the game if not the best lineup in the game, and they're going to make some adjustments on him," Pena said. "They came out on top this time, but we'll see them again, and I'm pretty sure Sonny's going to check them out and counter attack."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.