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Rays keep sinking, McRae pulled along

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001


CLEVELAND -- The Rays continue to sink into the abyss. And they are dragging manager Hal McRae down with them.

CLEVELAND -- The Rays continue to sink into the abyss. And they are dragging manager Hal McRae down with them.

Tampa Bay lost again Friday. Nothing new about that. It was the ninth loss in 11 games and gives the Rays their third three-game losing streak in less than two weeks.

This debacle -- a 10-6 loss to Cleveland -- varied only in the swiftness of execution. After six hitters, the Indians had a 5-0 lead.

It also was notable for its affect on McRae's heretofore winning managerial record. In his previous stint as a manager, McRae worked from 1991-94 in Kansas City, had three winning seasons, and left with a 286-277 mark.

After three weeks with Tampa Bay, McRae is a winning manager no more. His career record stands at 292-292.

If you are inclined to look for bright spots, Rays relievers Dan Wheeler and Travis Phelps were impressive. Called up from Triple-A Durham a day earlier, the right-handers combined for four hitless innings.

Starter Bryan Rekar, plagued by poor run support all season, finally got some help from his teammates. It mattered not a bit.

After sitting through a 45-minute rain delay before the game began, Rekar lasted only four innings. Even so, that was enough to give up a team-record 13 hits.

The Indians may have the strongest lineup from top to bottom in the American League, but Rekar had particular trouble with Ellis Burks, the No. 6 hitter. Burks hit a three-run homer in the first, had a sacrifice fly in the second and a two-run single in the fourth.

Rekar, who pitched brilliantly against the Indians on Sunday at Tropicana Field in what turned out to be a 10-3 loss, dropped his fifth decision in a row.

What made it more infuriating is the Rays' bats were briefly alive in this game. Greg Vaughn hit a homer in the second and Fred McGriff had a three-run shot in the third. The Rays chased starter Tim Drew and had a chance to feast on Cleveland's bullpen. Instead, they fell silent.

At one point, Indians relievers struck out nine of 13 Rays.

The night began with some optimism for Tampa Bay. At least until the game began. Scheduled Indians starter Chuck Finley was scratched early in the afternoon because of a stiff neck. With his 5-0 career record against Tampa Bay, Finley may be the pitcher the Rays least like to face.

In his place was Drew, who has yet to win a game this season and came in with a 5.89 ERA.

Cleveland's first six hitters got three singles, a triple and a homer. They scored five runs.

Tampa Bay's first six hitters got three singles and a homer. They scored one run.

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