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Change for better helps Rupe's cause

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- John Flaherty was one of the first to realize that Ryan Rupe was on top of his game Saturday afternoon.

The key was a changeup that brought back visions of Rupe two seasons ago when he was the team's Most Outstanding Rookie. The giveaway was some Rangers batters who looked like they were swinging at invisible curveballs.

Rupe pitched seven innings, allowed one run on six hits, walked one and struck out eight on the way to his second consecutive no-decision despite putting up numbers good enough to earn his fifth win of the year.

"That's the way the game is," said Rupe, who lowered his ERA to 6.68. "If you give your team the chance to win 30 times, you're going to win 20 games."

Perhaps more important is the fact Rupe lasted through the seventh inning for the first time since June 20.

"In the seventh he didn't have a whole lot left but (Rays manager) Hal (McRae) left him in there to get through it," Flaherty said. "He threw some good changeups and got out of it. His changeup is back to where is used to be two years ago. You're starting to see the funky swings again."

Rupe's performance was the latest in a warming trend by Tampa Bay pitchers.

In the past seven games Rays pitchers have a 2.32 ERA, led by the bullpen which has a 1.13 ERA in that stretch.

MINOR INJURIES: Several of the Rays top prospects have been hit with injuries.

Top prospect and No. 1 overall pick in 1999 Josh Hamilton has not played since hitting a home run Tuesday night because of sore quadriceps and a rainout Friday night. Hamilton has played four games since April 29 because of a combination of sore back and quadriceps while rehabbing with Charleston.

Rocco Baldelli, the Rays' first-round choice in 2000, has missed several games with back spasms in Charleston, while in Princeton, Toe Nash's much-anticipated professional career has been put on hold for the past week as he battles a knee injury.

Josh Pressley, the Rays first draft pick (fourth round) in 1998, has a broken wrist and will be re-evaluated in August.

ALBIE'S GOOD: Albie Lopez left Friday night's game with a twisted ankle but is scheduled to throw on the side today and should not miss his next scheduled start.

BULL SESSION: Wilson Alvarez is scheduled to throw in the bullpen before today's game. Alvarez was a couple of minor-league starts from returning to the team when he developed soreness in a muscle in his left forearm.

THANK A COP: As part of Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the Rays donated $24,452 to the Gold Shield Foundation, which provides scholarships to children and spouses of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

The team also donated more than 23,000 tickets to law enforcement agencies from a six-county area and held a special pregame tribute to honor slain Tampa officer Lois Marrero.

"Anytime a law enforcement officer pays the ultimate price it touches every adult or at least any person with any sensitivity and the natural tendency is to want to do something to help," Rays Chief Operating Officer John McHale said. "I'm glad that we are in a position to help the Gold Shield Foundation. I just regret that we have to make this gift in memory of Officer Marrero."

RAYS BITS: The one runner the Rays left on base ties a team record set April 19, 1999 at Toronto, and the three hits in a win ties a team mark accomplished four times, the last coming April 13 at Baltimore.

Today: Rangers at Rays, 1:15 p.m.

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

TV/RADIO: Ch. 10; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

TODAY'S PROMOTIONS: Back-to-School Notebook day. The first 7,500 fans 14 and under will receive a Rays notebook. Children can run the bases after the game. It is St. Petersburg Times Family Funday. Present a coupon from the Times to receive a lower deck outfield ticket and hot dog for $12 or an upper general admission ticket for $3.

TICKETS: Available at stadium box office; through Ticketmaster phone and retail outlets; and at team stores in WestShore Plaza, Brandon Town Center and BayWalk.

INFO: Call 1-888-FAN-RAYS.

The pitchers

TANYON STURTZE: Sturtze has proven effective in 14 appearances since entering the rotation May 2. Eleven of his starts have lasted more than six innings and he has gone seven innings six times. The Rays are 11-8 in his 19 career starts, 6-8 this year.

ROB BELL: Bell beat San Francisco in his last start, pitching 8 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits with five walks and five strikeouts. He has won his past two starts and is 3-0 with a 5.04 ERA since being acquired from Cincinnati on June 15.

You don't say

"It was a good crowd. Hopefully some of the people will come back." Rays manager Hal McRae, noting the 37,070 people packed into the Trop on Saturday, the second largest crowd this season, trailing only Opening Day's 41,546.

Attendance report

SATURDAY'S CROWD: 37,070

TROPICANA FIELD CAPACITY: 44,445

SEASON TOTAL: 787,011

PER-GAME AVERAGE: 15,740

2001 LARGEST CROWD: 41,546

2001 SMALLEST CROWD: 10,539

2000 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,368

1999 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,296

1998 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 30,939

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