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Rays triumph by being less sloppy

A 7-3 win over the Tigers is marred by seven walks, three errors and several other defensive and baserunning miscues. "I'll take it,'' manager Hal McRae says.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


DETROIT -- On some matters, Hal McRae has discriminating tastes.

But not when it comes to victories.

Especially not when they've been so hard to come by.

"A win is a win regardless, and I'll take it," McRae said after his Rays outlasted the Tigers 7-3 Saturday. "There's no ugly wins as far as I see it. I hope I win enough games so I can be really p----- off when we win a game like this."

All Tampa Bay did was walk seven batters, make three errors, allow two more unearned runs, get two runners thrown out on the bases, hit a batter and throw a wild pitch.

And the Rays won.

"All in all, the only thing pretty about that game was the end result," catcher John Flaherty said. "We didn't do many things right."

Basically, they did less wrong than the Tigers.

photo
[AP photo]
From left, Gerald Williams, Randy Winn and Jose Guillen celebrate as the Rays rise out of the major-league cellar.
The Rays took advantage of nine walks by Detroit pitchers and a costly error by centerfielder Juan Encarnacion and got some much-needed clutch hitting to grab an early lead, then hung on as the Tigers got the tying run to the plate against Tanyon Sturtze in the ninth.

Mike Judd labored through five innings, throwing 94 pitches, but got his first American League victory.

"It just seemed like I was struggling, but I was able to battle and get some outs when I had to," said Judd, who pitched with a painful blister on his right index finger. "Sometimes you just have to take it where you can get it."

For the Rays, this is the time to get all they can. They are in the midst of a 12-game stretch against three of the other weakest teams in the league -- Baltimore, Kansas City and Detroit -- but even after Saturday's win are just 4-4.

"We've been playing teams that are struggling for about a week now and I don't think we've won our share of ballgames," McRae said. "We're not doing a good job consistently. We have a stretch where we're playing struggling ballclubs and we continue to struggle with this schedule.

"There are no easy wins on our schedule."

The Rays got off to a good start Saturday when Gerald Williams, 0-for-10 in his previous three games, ripped a leadoff double, the first of his three hits. Russ Johnson moved him to third with a right-side grounder and Fred McGriff drove him in with another.

The Tigers came right back to get one run when Judd walked two of the first three batters after Vinny Castilla and Flaherty teamed to misplay a foul pop, then allowed a single and a sacrifice fly. They loaded the bases when Encarnacion was hit by a pitch, but Judd escaped when Deivi Cruz flied to center.

The Rays added to the lead in the third. Detroit starter Matt Perisho issued back-to-back walks with two outs, and both runners scored when McGriff's opposite-field blooper dropped in and Encarnacion mishandled it.

Judd got in trouble again when the Tigers had two on with two outs in their third, but he got a break when first-base umpire Charlie Reliford called out Encarnacion on a check swing.

"He didn't have his best command, but he pitched well enough," McRae said.

The Rays finally broke the game open in the fourth. The rally starting with a leadoff walk to Ben Grieve and consecutive singles by Castilla, who extended his hitting streak to six games, Jose Guillen and Flaherty.

An out later, Williams had the big hit, a double down the rightfield line that scored all three runners.

"I was trying to drive the ball to the outfield, making sure I execute to get the run home," Williams said. "My job is to get at least one run home."

Leading 7-1, the Rays didn't exactly put the game away. The Tigers got another unearned run in the fifth thanks to shortstop Felix Martinez's second error of the game and eighth of the season, had runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth and had a shot to tie in the ninth.

Sturtze allowed a leadoff single, then walked three of the next five batters. That cut the lead to 7-3 with the bases loaded, but he retired Cruz on a ground ball for the final out.

The victory allowed the Rays, at 8-16, to once again shed the title of having the worst record in the majors, though it wasn't anything they even acknowledged.

"I knew we weren't on top," McRae said, "and what else matters?"

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