Rays manager is tossed after questioning an umpire about Friday's final at-bat in Cleveland.
By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001
CLEVELAND -- Hal McRae was ejected before Saturday's game began.
Some guys have all the luck.
The rest of the Devil Rays actually had to stick around and face the Indians. Which, by definition, means they were severely beaten.
In the last nine days, the Rays have lost five in a row to the Indians by a combined score of 45-19. The final tally in this latest episode was 8-0.
Now you might be tempted to say Saturday's game was a replay of Friday's, but then you would be missing the nuances of major-league baseball.
For instance, the Indians had a 5-0 lead after six batters on Friday.
On Saturday, they did not go up 5-0 until seven batters had come up.
It could be argued that is a sign of improvement for the Rays. Unfortunately, that would be the only evidence in that argument.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays batter Russ Johnson reacts after being struck out by Cleveland Indians pitcher Chuch Finley on Saturday.
Because otherwise, the Rays were pretty ineffectual Saturday. Indians pitcher Chuck Finley continued his mastery of Tampa Bay, pitching seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts.
"It's kind of demoralizing to go down 5-0 like that," Rays leftfielder Ben Grieve said. "Finley had his usual stuff. When he gets ahead in the count, he uses his split-finger and it makes it hard to get at him."
Finley is 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his career against the Rays. That ties him with Aaron Sele for the most wins against Tampa Bay, and his ERA is the best among pitchers with at least 30 innings.
McRae had to watch all of this on television in the manager's office because he was ejected by third-base umpire Mike Winters while Finley was on the mound taking his warmup pitches before the game.
McRae was unhappy that Winters ended Friday night's game by calling Grieve out on strike three and walking quickly off the field. McRae said he asked Winters why he left the field so fast because he was unsure whether it was a called strike three or on Grieve's checked swing.
Television replays indicated McRae was neither shouting nor drawing attention to his conversation, yet Winters ejected him without most of the announced crowd of 40,399 even aware of it.
"I didn't question the call. He left so quickly, so I wanted some clarification whether it was on the pitch or the swing," McRae said. "I didn't think he was serious (about the ejection). There was nothing to be serious about. I asked a simple question.
"I was very surprised. I guess I shouldn't have asked. I regret I did it. I shouldn't have done it. I won't do it again."
The way Brian Rose was pitching, it looked like he was seeking a quick exit as well. Making his first start for the Rays, Rose gave up back-to-back home runs to Ellis Burks and Marty Cordova in the first.
"I took the life out of this team," Rose said. "I killed us. I killed the team. Now I can sit here and dwell on it and screw myself for my next start, but I'm not going to do that. The next time is going to be a hell of a lot better than that because that was awful."
Burks continued to do most of the pounding for the Indians. After driving in six runs on Friday, he had four RBI on Saturday. In four games against Tampa Bay this season, Burks is 8-for-15 with three home runs and 16 RBI. His 10 RBI the past two games is a record for runs driven in by an opponent in a series against the Rays, and he still has today's game.
The Rays offense showed some signs of life Friday night, but that has since been buried in an avalanche of strikeouts. The Rays struck out 28 times Friday and Saturday and, in a span of nine consecutive innings between the two games, had 19 strikeouts in nine innings.
The only bright spot for Tampa Bay was catcher John Flaherty's four consecutive singles. The four hits tied his career high.
"They were better than us tonight," McRae said. "Much better."
If the Rays have proven anything in the past two weeks it is that former manager Larry Rothschild was not at fault for the team's poor performance. The Rays had a .286 winning percentage under Rothschild (4-10) and are .273 (6-16) under McRae.
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