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Rays peck away to top Texas

Down 4-1, Tampa Bay strings together a four-run rally in the seventh en route to a 7-4 win.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Devil Rays' home run hitters command the biggest salaries, drive the fanciest cars and get the best seats in the trainer's room.

But the singles hitters are winning the games.

The Rays came from behind to beat Texas 7-4 at the Ballpark on Friday, cobbling a winning rally that was impressive more for its substance than its style.

Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, the Rays scored four runs without hitting a ball out of the park. They hit only one that even reached the wall. Instead, they killed the Rangers softly: five singles, a double and a sacrifice fly.

Cory Lidle pitched six innings for his first major-league win as a starter, and relievers Mark Guthrie, Jim Mecir and Roberto Hernandez took it from there.

Mecir was especially impressive in the eighth, facing the meat of the Texas lineup with men on second and third and setting down Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and David Segui in order.

Hernandez then pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save. Bobby Smith was in the middle of the offense with two singles and a two-run homer, marking his third three-hit game since being called up 10 days ago. Gerald Williams had a leadoff homer and knocked in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.

The victory kept the Rays from their first three-game losing streak of the month, and it kept them tied with Toronto for the AL East's best June record at 11-8. The Rays have won six of their past nine, 11 of 17 and 13 of 21 during their best streak of the season.

The Rangers were up 4-1 after a three-run fourth that was most memorable for an odd bounce. Luis Alicea lined a ball into the rightfield corner that struck an angled wall and caromed back 150 feet across the outfield. As rightfielder Bubba Trammell ran disgustedly after the ball, Alicea raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

Before then, the game had a certain symmetry. Both teams scored a run in the first, then both pitchers reeled off impressive streaks, the Rangers' Rick Helling retiring 14 straight and Lidle 12.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead when Williams hit Helling's second pitch into the leftfield seats, his third leadoff home run of the season.

The Rangers answered with a run off Lidle in the bottom half. Alicea and Rusty Greer singled, and both runners moved up on Palmeiro's infield out. With first base open, the Rays elected to pitch to Rodriguez, and, as is often the case with him, the results weren't good.

Rodriguez delivered a run-scoring single to left, extending his hitting streak against the Rays to 27 games. In that span, he has a .451 average with 51 hits, eight homers and 28 RBI.

After Williams' homer, the Rays went down rapidly.

They didn't get another baserunner until Smith singled with two outs in the fifth. They didn't get another runner into scoring position until the sixth, when Williams walked and Trammell smacked a two-out single, but Helling struck out Fred McGriff to end the inning.

And they didn't score another run until the seventh, when John Flaherty led off with a single and rookie Steve Cox followed with a double into the left-centerfield gap. By the time they were done, they had four runs and a 5-4 lead.

Smith followed Cox with a single, and Ozzie Guillen followed with a single, and Felix Martinez did the same. Williams drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly that carried to the leftfield wall.

The Rangers had their own quiet stretch, but they scraped together a rally with two outs in the fifth. It started innocently enough, with a two-out single to left by Gabe Kapler.

Lidle got ahead of No. 9 hitter Royce Clayton, but he left a pitch over the plate that Clayton drove 415 feet and over the leftfield fence.

The Rangers ran the lead to 4-1 when Alicea drilled a full-count pitch into the rightfield corner and didn't stop running until he slid across the plate. It was the third inside-the-park homer in stadium history and the first by a Rangers player. It also was the second allowed by the Rays; Minnesota's Todd Walker did it Sept. 5, 1999, at Tropicana Field.

The Rangers had an excellent shot to get even in the eighth when they had runners on second and third with no outs and the heart of their order up. But Mecir was equal to the challenge, getting Palmeiro on a fly to short center, Rodriguez -- yes, Rodriguez -- on a popup and Segui on a grounder.

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