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More of the same for Rays in 60th loss

Ryan Rupe strikes out nine Blue Jays, but Tampa Bay puts together little offense in 7-4 loss.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 6, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Manager Hal McRae steps between Greg Vaughn and umpire John Shulock after a fan interference call was reversed on Blue Jay Luis Lopez's homer in the fifth inning.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Summer is the season of television reruns, and because they were playing on TV on Thursday night, the Rays figured they would join the action.

In a game similar to most of their 59 previous losses this season, Tampa Bay got decent starting pitching but was unable to come up with much offense, losing 7-4 to Toronto in front of an announced 10,706 at Tropicana Field.

The loss, the Rays' sixth in their past seven games and 16th over the past 20, prevented Tampa Bay from winning its fourth series of the season. The Rays have yet to win a series against an American League East opponent, are 3-22-2 in series play and have not won a series since June 14.

Tampa Bay is the first team since 1962 to lose 60 games by an All-Star break. The New York Mets (24-66) and Chicago Cubs (35-61) of 1962 lost 60 games before the second break that summer. Baseball held two All-Star games each season from 1959-62.The Rays are 35 games below .500 with three to go before the All-Star break. Thursday night, at least, they could blame no one but themselves.

Toronto starter Joey Hamilton was not overpowering, striking out four in five innings before leaving with a bruise on his left wrist, but the Rays failed to put the ball in play. Randy Winn's single in the fifth was their first hit since Jason Tyner led off the bottom of the first with a double, and the Rays managed to ground out or fly out 13 times in the first five innings.

"It seems like there's a leak someplace always," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "You spring a leak, and when you patch it here, you spring one there."

Rays starter Ryan Rupe, who fell to 4-8, was either really on or really off.

The 26-year-old set a career high by striking out nine and tied a club record with five consecutive strikeouts during the third, fourth and fifth innings. In the third he picked Luis Lopez off second, wheeling and hitting shortstop Andy Sheets on the run with a perfect throw.

In between those strikeouts, Rupe surrendered a two-run home run to Jose Cruz Jr. and a controversial shot to Lopez, and allowed the Jays to build a 5-0 lead in the fifth. The Jays had a single, double, triple and homer to score three.

Lopez "earned" his second homer of the season and broke Rupe's strikeout streak with a liner to leftfield. He finished the series, his first in the major leagues with his father in attendance, with eight hits.

As leftfielder Greg Vaughn started to position himself near the wall, a fan appeared to reach over the fence and knock down the would-be souvenir. Vaughn immediately raised both arms, signaling fan interference to the umpires, and Lopez was stopped at second and awarded a ground-rule double.

"I saw the fan reach over the fence and touch the ball," Vaughn said. "I thought I was pretty close, and I saw him reach over."

That brought out manager Buck Martinez, causing the umpires to confer for four minutes before outvoting third base umpire Rocky Roe and allowing Lopez to head home with Toronto's third run. McRae came out of the dugout and Vaughn trotted in from leftfield and joined the argument by the pitcher's mound before he was physically removed by McRae.

The delay seemed to bother Rupe, who got the next batter to ground to second for the second out but gave up a double, triple and single to the next three hitters. After a 1-2-3 sixth, Rupe, who allowed five runs on eight hits, was relieved by Jesus Colome.

"Sometimes you give up runs, even with your good stuff. Unfortunately I did tonight," Rupe said. "After (crew chief John) Shulock missed that call, on that home run, after that it just tumbled. My goal is to go six or seven innings, three runs or less. That was the third run so, oh well. I got back in the windup, deep breath and it all went to h--- again."

The Rays couldn't get much started offensively, despite Tyner reaching base each of the first three times he batted.

One bright spot came in the fifth inning when Brent Abernathy, making his Tropicana Field debut, reached on a fielder's choice, and Mike DiFelice had a single. Tyner lined a single off Hamilton's wrist to load the bases for Steve Cox.

Cox hit Hamilton's next pitch for a single to center, scoring two, but Vaughn, the team's All-Star, flew out to left to end the inning.

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