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A loss, maybe worse

Albie Lopez hurts groin, Ryan Rupe struggles again in Rays' 8-6 loss to Orioles.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- It was painful enough for the Rays to see ace Albie Lopez limp off the mound in the middle of the fourth inning Wednesday after retiring the first 10 batters.

But what really hurt in the 8-6 loss to Baltimore was watching Ryan Rupe give the game away in a brutal seventh inning, turning what had been a somewhat comfortable 4-2 lead into an anguished defeat.

"We need to pitch better, especially late," manager Hal McRae said. "It's tough to let one get away, and we did."

rays photo
[AP photo]
Tampa Bay Devil Rays starting pitcher Albie Lopez leaves the mound with a strained right groin in the fourth inning Wednesday.
When the night was over, the Rays weren't sure when Lopez, who strained his groin, would pitch again or where Rupe, who has been horrible in consecutive relief appearances, would pitch again.

Lopez was in fine form, having worked 3 1/3 hitless innings, when he felt a sharp pain in his right leg after two pitches to Mike Bordick.

"I thought at first it was a cramp," Lopez said, "then I realized it was a little more than that." He hobbled around briefly, then tried to throw a practice pitch. "I threw that ball and I had no idea where it was going," he said. "I was in too much pain."

The Rays immediately began treatments on their prized right-hander, who is considered both their best pitcher and most valuable trade commodity, but they won't know the severity of the injury until today or Friday.

"Typical Albie, he thinks he can make his next start (Tuesday in Kansas City)," trainer Jamie Reed said. "You've got to like that attitude. It's not out of the realm of possibility."

Even with Lopez out, the Rays had a chance, a good chance, to win the game, which would have given them their third two-game winning streak of the season and second series win.

Greg Vaughn gave them a 2-0 lead in the fourth when he sent a 1-and-2 pitch on a towering 419-foot ride into the leftfield seats. Five of his six homers have come against Baltimore.

Mike Judd, who replaced Lopez, couldn't handle the prosperity. He seemed to have survived Chris Richard's leadoff single by getting two outs, but he walked Melvin Mora and Brook Fordyce to load the bases, then gave up the lead on a two-run single to No. 9 hitter Jerry Hairston.

The Rays, though, came right back. Rookie Damian Rolls led off with a single, the first of his three hits, and stole second. Neither Felix Martinez nor Gerald Williams put the ball in play, but spunky Russ Johnson delivered a run-scoring single, and Ben Grieve followed with a sharp single to right, making it 4-2.

"We can't use the fact that we lost (Lopez) early in the ballgame as an excuse to lose the ballgame," McRae said. "We were in good shape going into the seventh."

With Rupe having struggled mightily Sunday in his first relief outing since losing his spot in the rotation to Tanyon Sturtze, McRae was hoping to bring him in to start an inning, and he thought Wednesday's situation, with a two-run lead and the bottom of the O's order due up, was close to perfect.

After Mora led off with a bunt single, Rupe got two outs. But he walked Brady Anderson and hit Bordick to load the bases, then gave up a two-run single to Delino DeShields that tied the score.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he hit Richard to reload the bases, then gave up two more runs when Cal Ripken singled hard to left.

Doug Creek came on and struggled, too, giving up a walk and a two-run double to make it 8-4.

In two relief outings, Rupe has allowed 12 runs on 10 hits, two walks and four hit batters. McRae is concerned, especially about the lack of command evidenced by the hit batters, and admitted he wasn't sure what the Rays would do. A likely possibility is to send Rupe to Triple A and recall a reliever.

"I have a message from my boss (general manager Chuck LaMar), so maybe he has some answers," McRae said, "I don't have any answers."

The Rays got within 8-6 when Fred McGriff homered in the eighth, his second in two nights, but baserunning blunders by Rolls, who was thrown out at third trying to stretch a leadoff double in the seventh, and Jose Guillen, who was tagged out after turning toward second after reaching on an error in the eighth, cost them.

"We had chances to win the ballgame, we just didn't get it done," McGriff said. "We just let it slip away from us."

When you have the worst record in the majors (10-23), that really hurts.

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