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Rays: record lows

In their latest loss, 18-2 to Detroit, Tampa Bay gives up the most runs at home and tie mark for runs, hits given up in an inning.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 19, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The trendy thing to say, among those who still care, is that it can't get any worse for the Rays.

But if they keep playing -- and we use that word loosely -- the way they did Friday night, it can.

And it will.

The Rays continued to reach new depths, losing to Detroit 18-2, the eighth defeat in their last nine outings.

The numbing game -- played before an announced 12,131 at Tropicana Field -- matched the largest margin of defeat in Rays history, marked the most runs given up in a home game and second-most overall, and tied team marks for runs (nine) and hits (nine) allowed in an inning.

And given the circumstances, an abominable game after a terrible road trip that followed a horrible first six weeks, it just may have been the worst of the team's 314 losses.

"There's really not much to say. We got our heads handed to us. An old-fashioned whupping is what we got," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "There's no way to dissect getting your butt kicked."

McRae, for the first time since he took over April 18, shared his thoughts in a forceful post-game address that left several players with dazed expressions.

And as if the 16-run loss wasn't bad enough, McRae said what really disturbed him was the way things had gone leading up to Friday.

"The frustrating part is how we've gone about our business," McRae said. "We're very unprofessional in the way that we've done things."

He was asked if he had any message for the fans. His answer sounded more like a message to his players.

"Fans don't want messages, they want performances," McRae said. "We're in the entertainment business. They want to enjoy themselves when they come to the ballpark. Winning is important, but I think the fans want to see effort. I think the fans want to feel the players care. Naturally, you've got to win some. But I think they know if you care. I think they know if you respect the game. And you show that through your play, through your hustle."

The Rays didn't show much of anything good during the disenchanted evening.

They fell behind as the Tigers scored three runs in the first, combining three singles, a walk, a sacrifice fly and a throwing error by catcher Mike DiFelice -- on ball four to No. 2 hitter Jose Macias.

Worse was the fifth, when the Tigers racked up nine runs on nine hits, with most of the damage against Tanyon Sturtze, who looked nothing like he did Sunday in beating Cleveland. After Sturtze got the first out, five straight Tigers reached base, and after another out, Juan Encarnacion hit a three-run homer.

Having been held to one hit through five innings by Detroit rookie Victor Santos and trailing 12-2 after seven, the Rays made things even worse.

They gave up six unearned runs in the eighth, with a botched throw by rookie second baseman Damian Rolls prolonging the inning enough for the Tigers to bat around again.

In the middle of all that, DiFelice went to the mound and started screaming at Detroit's Brandon Inge, accusing the rookie catcher of stealing signs.

"I'm sure he's just frustrated," said a bewildered Inge. "I would have been if I had to sit in the box for that long."

The Rays began the night desperate for something good to happen at the start of a 10-gamehomestand. "This was not what we needed as a team right now," Sturtze said. "We needed to put up a good outing and have a good game and it didn't happen tonight."

With the season one-fourth over, the Rays are 11-30, the worst start by an American League team since the 1994 A's.

With little help, and the likely trades of some veterans, on the horizon, it's not hard to wonder where it will lead. And how ugly it could be at the end.

Do the math: At their current rate, the Rays would finish 43-119. That would be the most losses by an AL club, surpassing the 117 by the 1916 Philadelphia A's, and just shy of the big-league record of 120 losses by the bumbling 1962 Mets.

"I've talked enough, everyone's talked enough," Greg Vaughn said. "All of us in here, we have to go out and play and want it more than the other team. It's that simple."

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