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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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Rays offer little resistance
Red Sox find footing for a day even as Scott Kazmir and the bullpen strike out 17.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 22, 2007
Rays starter Scott Kazmir, outspoken about the abundance of Red Sox fans at the Trop, gave the Rays rooters something to cheer about, keeping the score close and striking out nine to temporarily take over the major-league strikeout lead with 229.
[EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times]
[EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times]
Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury tumbles into the Boston bullpen to make a catch in the 5th inning.
ST. PETERSBURG - Omens didn't help, such as the two dead mice in the Boston dugout. Neither did gimmickry, like the animated black cat and full moon scrolling across the video board, or the smart-alecky message crawl about the Yankees' ninth-inning comeback.
As much as the Devil Rays wanted to take advantage of their rare chance to directly impact the American League East's dramatic duel, they came out of Friday's 8-1 loss to the Red Sox acknowledging they still have a few things to learn.
"They're definitely playing to go somewhere, and that matters," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "When you talk about teams that know how to win, that's what we're talking about. You have to suffer to a certain extent before you arrive at that point, and we're suffering to a certain extent.
"As we get beyond these moments and learn how to win, it's going to be us playing the role of the Red Sox in the future."
For now, they're getting a serious lesson of what it's like when the stakes are so high. The Rays 63-91 have lost four straight to division leaders Anaheim and Boston, and they have been held to one run in each of the last three games. (Also reinforcing how valuable injured Carl Crawford is, as well as Brendan Harris.)
Having lost four straight and seven of 11 as their once-comfortable AL East lead had shrunk to 1 1/2 games, the Sox (91-63) would take any win. But they were even more satisfied with their strong overall performance: a solid outing by AL Cy Young favorite Josh Beckett, who won his major-league-leading 20th game; early small ball (scoring on an errant throw by catcher Dioner Navarro and a wild pitch) to take a lead and three late homers to expand it; quality relief work that even included a zero by Eric Gagne; and an inspiring, rumbling, stumbling catch on the bullpen mound by rookie leftfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
"I think we all just needed to pick each other up," Beckett said.
Rays starter Scott Kazmir, outspoken about the abundance of Red Sox fans at the Trop, gave the Rays rooters among the 27,369 something to cheer about, keeping the score close and striking out nine to temporarily take over the major-league strikeout lead with 229. (Minnesota's Johan Santana fanned 11 later Friday to go ahead at 231.)
But Kazmir, who surpassed 200 innings for the first time, was on a strict 100-pitch limit. So when he needed 91 to get through five innings - due to four walks - he was done. He did, however, finish with a flourish, striking out Jason Varitek and Coco Crisp with the bases loaded on 95-mph fastballs.
Not that he didn't try to get Maddon to reconsider, "I literally got on my knees and begged him."
By the end of the night, after the Yankees lost, the Red Sox had a 2 1/2-game division lead and a magic number of two - meaning they need to win and have Detroit lose - to clinch a playoff spot of some kind. What they haven't decided yet is whether that accomplishment is worthy of a champagne celebration after having a 12-game lead on July 5 dwindle so much.