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A home letdown for Rays' Kennedy

In front of more than 100 friends and relatives, the rookie has one of his worst outings in a 9-6 loss to the Angels.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 25, 2001


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- This is the land of fairy tales and dreams come true, but Joe Kennedy didn't get to have too happy of a homecoming Tuesday against the Disney-owned Angels.

Kennedy grew up about 90 minutes south in El Cajon, Calif., and had more than 100 friends and relatives making themselves heard in the Edison Field stands, but the rookie left-hander didn't put on much of a show in the Rays' 9-6 loss.

He lasted five innings, matching the second-shortest outing of his 10-game big-league career, and gave up six runs, equaling the most he has allowed.

"It was a little bit of everything," Kennedy said. "I was excited to be back in southern California. I haven't been in California for a summer in three years and I love the summers here. And I was disappointed that my family and friends and people who were seeing me pitch for the first time, that I went out there and only threw five innings and gave up six runs."

The game was the Rays' 100th of the season, putting them on pace to finish 52-110. It also was the seventh time in eight chances they were unable to win a third consecutive game.

At least they didn't go down without making it interesting for those among the announced 16,131 who stuck around. The Rays, who led 3-1 early, were down 7-3 after Garret Anderson's three-run homer in the fifth, but they came back, pulling to within 7-6 when new shortstop Chris Gomez made a smashing Tampa Bay debut, hitting a three-run homer in the eighth.

But that was as close as they got because Scott Spiezio led off the Anaheim eighth with a home run off reliever Jesus Colome, the second he allowed on the night.

For all the good that has been spread about Kennedy, it is clear he still has more to learn, especially as opponents learn more about him. Since winning his first two starts, Kennedy has gone 1-5 with a 5.48 ERA.

"I don't feel like I need to make any adjustments," Kennedy said. "The home run to Anderson was just a curveball over the middle of the plate; I wanted to throw it away. A couple base hits were ground balls up the middle. Balls are falling, that's basically it."

The Rays took a 2-0 lead in the first off lefty Jarrod Washburn, who hasn't lost since May 8, but ran themselves out of a chance for more.

Singles by Brent Abernathy, Ben Grieve and Fred McGriff got them one run with one out, and a single by Randy Winn produced another. But Spiezio, the first baseman, cut off the throw home and caught McGriff between second and third. McGriff didn't stay in the rundown very long, and the Angels caught Winn trying to go to second for an unusual double play.

"We sore of ran ourselves out of the inning," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "Fred made a good play and Winn made a bad play."

The Angels seemed to get good swings off Kennedy from the start, getting one run back when rookie sensation David Eckstein, 13-for-27 against the Rays, doubled high off the leftfield wall to start the inning and came around on a fly to deep center and a groundout.

A two-out homer by Greg Vaughn in the third extended the Tampa Bay lead to 3-1, but Kennedy couldn't hold it.

He gave up one in the fourth, when Darin Erstad stroked a leadoff double and Winn misplayed the hard single to right that followed.

He gave up the lead in the fifth. Three consecutive singles produced the tying run, and Anderson's home run netted three more.

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