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Good karma fading for Rays

Marlins score five unearned runs in the second and one-hit Tampa Bay in an 11-0 romp.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 17, 2001


MIAMI -- It started with the four-hour bus ride from St. Petersburg on Thursday afternoon and has proceeded to get worse.

The optimism and momentum the Rays gained during a 5-1 homestead has done nothing but wilt after two straight losses against the Marlins.

"We were playing pretty good when we came down," manager Hal McRae said. "I don't think that we've lost that momentum, but the last couple of the days we haven't been able to put anything together offensively or pitching-wise."

Behind another big second inning and sensational starting pitching -- much like the night before -- the Marlins beat Tampa Bay 11-0 before 16,877 at Pro Player Stadium on Saturday.

It matched the Rays' worst shutout loss in team history.

"I'm not going to give them credit two nights in a row," McRae said. "That's not my nature."

The Rays managed one hit off Marlins starter Brad Penny and reliever Ricky Bones while Albie Lopez's pitching woes continued in his eighth straight loss.

At Lopez's expense, it was a productive night for the first three batters in the Marlins lineup.

Second baseman Luis Castillo, centerfielder Eric Owens and leftfielder Cliff Floyd combined to go 9-for-13 with six runs, one home run and seven RBI.

"I had good stuff tonight. I had real good stuff tonight," said Lopez, who gave up eight runs in five innings and now carries a 5.59 ERA. "I went out and did what I had to do. I made some bad pitches, but wouldn't change anything."

The Rays didn't register a hit until catcher John Flaherty singled to center with two outs in the fifth inning, and a throwing error by Aubrey Huff started a five-run second inning for the Marlins.

Huff fielded Charles Johnson's grounder cleanly, but his throw to first pulled Fred McGriff off the bag.

"That's an easy throw," Huff said. "I just held on to it for too long. It was an easy throw. I just let it go a little bit late. I guess those things happen."

Lopez got the next two batters out but would face six more before the inning was over. Floyd and third baseman Mike Lowell each hit two-run singles as the Marlins took a 6-0 lead.

"We played shoddy defense behind him and he didn't make pitches after we made mistakes," McRae said. "We have to pick each other up. It hurts when you should be on offense and you're on defense."

The Marlins added two runs in the fourth to make it 8-0. Lopez made it through the fifth but was taken out before the next inning.

He had given up 10 hits, but only three of the eight runs the Marlins scored during his stint were earned.

Frustration continues to mount.

Lopez hasn't won since he pitched seven strong innings in a 4-2 win against Kansas City on April 24. In that game, he gave up two runs on four hits in the first two innings before settling down and coming out with an ERA of 1.66.

"He's going through a little rut right now," Flaherty said. "What he needs is one of those games where he gets momentum, he gets confidence, puts it on cruise control and just starts pitching."

In other words, like Penny did for seven innings and Bones for two.

Penny, 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in his past two starts, finished with seven strikeouts. His performance came one night after A.J. Burnett pitched eight solid innings in a 7-4 win.

"They've got good fastballs and they're proud of them," Flaherty said. "There's really no messing around over there. ... From a hitting standpoint, you almost feel like you're on your heels a little bit, a little defensive and you're not going to be as successful that way."

Huff almost prevented a shutout in the second inning when he ripped a ball to straightaway centerfield. Owens, however, positioned himself perfectly and reached over the fence to snag the ball.

It was the first of two impressive efforts by Owens, who in the eighth inning sprinted into the wall to catch McGriff's flyball.

"We all have to keep our chin up and keep plugging away," McRae said. "The games are going to be played and they're going to last nine innings and we're going to have to play better in order to win."

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