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For once, Rays win a laugher

The second half starts flawlessly for Tampa Bay, winning 10-0 behind Tanyon Sturtze on the mound.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 13, 2001


MONTREAL -- They gathered on the couches in the players lounge Thursday afternoon, ostensibly to talk about the specifics of hitting. But coach Wade Boggs had another message to deliver.

"Boggsy just said, "You know what, whatever happened is done.' There's an old cliche in this game, that they don't remember how you start, they remember how you finish. Obviously we would like to finish on a more positive note than we did in the first half," catcher John Flaherty said. "And tonight was a good start."

Actually, it hardly could have been better as the Rays clubbed the Expos 10-0 before an announced 4,877 at Olympic Stadium.

Tanyon Sturtze was dominating through seven innings, Brent Abernathy had four hits and a hand in two key double plays, Flaherty delivered a two-run double that sealed the win. Overall, the Rays played one of their most crisp and complete games.

"A good way to start the second half," manager Hal McRae said.

Sturtze, who hadn't won in more than a month, was in command from the very start. Well, actually even before that.

"I had a good bullpen before the game and I knew that had a fastball to both sides of the plate," Sturtze said. "That's what I kept doing, just kept moving it in and out and hitting my spots."

Sturtze allowed five singles and struck out six, and what made him more effective was that he worked the hitters on the outside part of the plate the first time through the order and inside the second time around.

"By the third time, they didn't know what to expect," Flaherty said. "It was a big start for him confidence-wise on being able to throw the ball to the inside part of the plate."

When Sturtze did get in a bit of a jam, the defense got him out of it. Abernathy turned a 5-4-3 double play with Expos All-Star Vladimir Guerrero on deck in the third. And he made an even more impressive play the next inning, when Andy Sheets made a backhand stop behind the bag and Abernathy grabbed his soft toss barehanded and threw to first.

"The biggest play of the game," Sturtze said.

The Rays built their lead slowly, with an Abernathy homer in the first and a two-run single by Sheets, who had three hits, in the fourth. Flaherty then delivered a two-out double in the fifth that expanded the lead to 5-0.

"A big hit," McRae said.

Having been hit by a pitch in his previous at-bat, Flaherty figured Expos starter Troy Mattes, a product of Sarasota's Riverview High, would try to work him outside, and he guessed right. "It's nice when things work out," Flaherty said.

Overall, it was a night that worked out pretty well for the Rays, who tied their team record for margin of victory in a shutout.

"We wanted to try and come out and get off to a good start this second half and put the first half behind us," Abernathy said. "We talked about how everything was washed so far this season, to come out and start fresh and play aggressive and see what happens, to try to take something positive out of this season.

"Everything tonight was great."

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