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Yan coughs one up

Rays take a lead to the ninth, but Esteban Yan falters with two out in a 7-4 loss. Now Yan might head to the disabled list.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 22, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- The season's already gone down the drain.

Hopefully, the pipes won't back up now.

After watching his team make a stirring bid to win Thursday's game and then a stupefying effort to lose, again, Rays manager Hal McRae figured his only solace would come when he turned on the shower and stayed under the steaming water long enough to forget the specifics of the agonizing 7-4 defeat to Boston.

[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Devil Rays closer Esteban Yan loaded the bases, allowed the tying run to score on a wild pitch, then gave up a three-run double to Manny Ramirez.
"This one I'm going to leave at the ballpark," McRae said. "I'm going to wash this one down the drain. I'm not going to carry this one with me. Somehow, I have to survive. I'm going to go into my survival mode and I'm going to leave this one at the ballpark."

The loss hurt badly enough, the Rays blowing a 4-3 lead with two outs in the ninth when closer Esteban Yan loaded the bases, allowed the tying run to score on a wild pitch, then gave up a three-run double to Manny Ramirez. But it could be even more painful today, when Yan is expected to be placed on the disabled list because of stiffness in his right shoulder.

"I felt a little pinch," Yan said, "and I didn't want to push it."

The loss was the Rays' ninth in as many tries against Boston this season, and their sixth in a row overall, one shy of their season high and not exactly the desired way to prepare for tonight's invasion of the Yankees and their Hillsborough County fan base.

"We're used to losing every possible way you can," Ben Grieve said.

For the first 82/3 innings, things didn't look too bad before an announced Tropicana Field crowd of 15,603.

The Rays battled Boston ace Pedro Martinez to a 1-1 tie through his five innings. They got a superb seven-inning outing from starter Tanyon Sturtze, who allowed five hits. They overcame a two-run mistake by rookie reliever Victor Zambrano with an impressive three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth, tying the score on Grieve's two-run homer and taking a 4-3 lead when John Flaherty doubled in Aubrey Huff. They got the first two men out to open the ninth, and were one out from what would have been an impressive victory.

"Sturtze did a fine job, Grieve swung the bat well and we played a crisp game for 26 outs or so," McRae said.

Yan's demise began with pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary's broken-bat single to center. Then Jose Offerman singled. Then Trot Nixon walked to load the bases. Then Yan really got into trouble.

With a 2-2 count on pinch-hitter Mike Lansing, Flaherty set up for a fastball outside. Yan's pitch sailed inside and went to the backstop, allowing O'Leary to score the tying run on the Rays major-league leading 46th wild pitch.

"I'm setting up about two feet on the outside and the ball came up and in. You're going to have trouble getting to that ball," Flaherty said.

"It didn't go where it was supposed to go," said Yan, who also complained that umpire Laz Diaz wasn't calling any low strikes.

Flaherty said Yan's problem wasn't isolated to the one wild pitch, that he was struggling with his mechanics the entire night. "He just got in that rhythm where he was fast and out of control," Flaherty said. "He's been so good for such a long time, it was strange to see him that way."

The blown save was the fourth in 12 tries for Yan, but he didn't stop there. Yan went on to walk Lansing, before Ramirez, who'd been in a 6-for-42 slump, drilled a ball into the leftfield corner, sending all three runners home and saddling Yan with his third loss.

Yan threw two pitches to Dante Bichette, then motioned to Flaherty, who summoned trainer Jamie Reed, who said Yan has tightness in the shoulder and will be reevaluated today.

"The shoulder started bothering him," Flaherty said. "Bad mechanics will make that happen."

Having seen a 2-2 tie turn into an 8-2 loss Wednesday when the relievers gave up six runs in the eighth, the Rays tried to address the problem Thursday by calling up Jesus Colome and Zambrano.

Instead, as has been the case for the Rays much of this horrid season, things only got worse. They gave up two in the eighth and four more in the ninth, and they may have lost Yan for two weeks. And Fred McGriff left the game with a tight left hamstring and will be reevaluated on a daily basis.

"After that loss," McRae said, "I'm day-to-day."

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