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A new streak starts

After losing 11 straight to the Red Sox, the Rays win their second in a row, 4-3.

[AP photo]
The Rays' Ben Grieve is congratulated by Fred McGriff after his two-run homer in the top of the second inning.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2001

BOSTON -- The idea is to let the kids play now so they'll all be better in the years to come.

But some nights, like Thursday night, the present can look pretty good, too.

The Rays beat the Red Sox for a second straight night, the adventurous 4-3 win pushing their 11-game losing streak to Boston further into the past. Even better, the key to the victory was the pitching of Joe Kennedy and Jesus Colome, a pair of 22-year-olds the Rays expect to be huge parts of that future.

"The young guys threw the ball well tonight," manager Hal McRae said. "It's a plus, not only winning the game, but getting a win with two young men on the mound who are part of the future of the ballclub."

Kennedy went six strong innings in his fifth big-league start, allowing just two singles and a run Boston scored without a hit over the final four. And Colome blazed through the final three, allowing just a nerve-wracking bloop double in the ninth, for his first big-league win.

"It's exciting watching Kennedy pitch and Colome pitch," third baseman Aubrey Huff said. "And the thing is, they're only going to get better."

The game didn't go exactly according to plan, unless you were reviewing the scripts of the past three games.

For the fourth straight night, the Rays took the early lead, scoring on a Ben Grieve home run and a single by sizzling Fred McGriff. And for the fourth straight night, the Sox caught up. They did it twice, and the score was tied at 3 going to the ninth.

[AP photo]
Red Sox runner Brian Daubach makes it to second in the ninth inning just ahead of Brent Abernathy's tag. He was stranded after his two-out bloop double as Rays reliever Jesus Colome struck out Lou Merloni to end the game and earn his first win.

But the Rays rallied, and two other promising young prospects, second baseman Brent Abernathy and Huff, were in the middle of it.

Huff opened the ninth with a single to left off closer Derek Lowe, the only hit of the inning to leave the infield. "I'm just thinking I've got get on base somehow there," Huff said.

Mike DiFelice's broken-bat bouncer allowed pinch-runner Damian Rolls to get to second, and he went to third when Abernathy bounced a ball slowly up the middle, then beat the throw to first.

McRae then called on Russ Johnson, and he delivered just his second pinch-hit in eight tries, pulling the ball hard down the third-base line, so hard that Shea Hillenbrand could make only a weak throw home that was wide of the plate.

"To me, that's the toughest thing to do in this game, to come in to hit against a guy like Lowe with the game on the line cold off the bench," Johnson said. "I hit it in a good spot."

The Rays were up one with three outs to go, but there weren't many among the 33,433 at Fenway Park who thought the game was over. Colome struck out Dante Bichette and got pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg on a fly, making it eight straight outs.

But, as tends to be the case when the Rays play the Red Sox, something happened. This time it was a shallow fly by Brian Daubach that somehow dropped between leftfielder Greg Vaughn and shortstop Felix Martinez.

But with trouble lurking, Colome went to a 2-and-2 count on Lou Merloni and struck him out with a 97-mph fastball to end it.

"After that hit fell in I was like, "Please . . . please . . .,' Vaughn said. "But he picked us up."

Colome, who threw four consecutive pitches that registered 99 mph on Monday and has been clocked at 100 mph in the minor leagues, said he actually held back a little bit Thursday to help his control.

"I felt very relaxed, very good," Colome said through an interpreter. "I had a lot of confidence."

The win was Colome's first, and his teammates greeted him the customary beer shower. "I don't drink beer," Colome said. "It was cold, but good."

Kennedy, who started the year in Double A, wobbled a bit in the first few innings. The Sox scored twice off him in the second with a double, a fielder's choice and three straight singles, and Kennedy was clearly upset.

Bill Fischer, the wise 70-year-old pitching coach, went to the mound to make sure Kennedy was all right, but his true purpose was to calm him down.

"I told him to keep the ball down and try to get a double play," Fischer said. "I didn't know he'd strike out the next two batters."

From that point on, Kennedy didn't do much of anything wrong, allowing just two singles and giving up a run on a walk, a wild pitch (that probably should have been a passed ball), a ground out and a sacrifice fly."

Kennedy had the added weapon of a good changeup, and he mixed it liberally with his fastball and curve.

"There's light down in the tunnel," Fischer said.

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