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Offense is there but isn't enough

A day after Rays are one-hit, Joe Kennedy blows 5-0 lead in 8-6 loss.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 5, 2001


CHICAGO -- Brent Abernathy knew the significance of the moment as soon as the ground ball whizzed past him into the outfield.

The Rays second baseman turned, dropped his head and tightened every muscle in his body out of frustration.

"One play," Abernathy said. "That's stuff that we've got to take care of. We've got to make those plays. And I didn't do it tonight."

But he wasn't the only Rays player who shouldered responsibility for the meltdown in the fourth inning of the Rays' 8-6 loss to Chicago on Saturday. Pitcher Joe Kennedy brushed off his teammate's error on that potential inning-ending double play ball.

Kennedy was the one, after all, who threw the two pitches that landed in the outfield seats and allowed the White Sox to erase a 5-0 deficit by scoring six in the inning. It marked the second time this season the Rays have blown a five-run lead.

"(Brent) probably thinks worse about it than I do," Kennedy said. "It's my job if that happens to pick him up. And I couldn't do that. It should've only cost us a run. I should've come back and got out of that inning instead of giving up six runs."

Abernathy and Kennedy weren't as bad as they let on, though.

After making a slight adjustment to his batting stance before the game, Abernathy had the third four-hit game of his career. Kennedy, who has lost his past six starts, retired eight of the first 11 batters before the White Sox keyed in on him.

But that wasn't what the youngest team in baseball was thinking about after the game. It was too busy digesting another lesson, realizing how one play and the reaction to it can change the course of a winnable ballgame.

"Who knows what would've happened if we would've been in the dugout," manager Hal McRae said.

One night after being held to one hit, the Rays generated 15. They came alive in the first at-bats, when leftfielder Jason Tyner and Abernathy started the game with singles off Sean Lowe.

They then doubled to lead off the five-run third inning. Tyner finished 4-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to nine games.

"Offensively the both of us are clicking on all cylinders," Abernathy said of Tyner and him. "We were both being aggressive, both hitting the ball well."

Ben Grieve followed in the third with a walk, and Steve Cox was hit by a pitch. Lowe then hit Randy Winn, which scored Abernathy. Aubrey Huff hit a two-run single and Chris Gomez hit a sacrifice fly to rightfield, allowing Winn to score and making it 5-0.

Kennedy, who walked four and struck out one, retired the White Sox in order in the third.

He got Magglio Ordonez to fly out to start the fourth but gave up singles to Jose Canseco and Paul Konerko. With runners on first and third, former Ray Herbert Perry hit the one-hopper to Abernathy.

"He didn't get in front, No. 1," McRae said, "and that's where the problem started."

Canseco scored on the error to make it 5-1. Then Aaron Rowand hit a two-run homer to right centerfield. Finally, Ray Durham hit a 403-foot homer to leftfield to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead.

"There's no reason for him (Kennedy) not to be able to come back and make all his pitches," McRae said. "We know we could've been in the dugout hitting as opposed to trying to defend, and in our attempt to defend, the White Sox scored six runs."

Lowe lasted only three innings and gave up five runs, but four relievers held Tampa Bay to six hits and one run the rest of the way. Rocky Biddle got the win and Keith Foulke got his 26th save.

The Rays bullpen was just as solid.

Travis Phelps, who relieved Kennedy after the White Sox scored two more in the fifth, allowed one hit in 12/3 innings, as did Jesus Colome. Doug Creek walked two but Victor Zambrano came on with bases loaded in the eighth and got a strikeout to end the inning.

The right-hander has pitched 142/3 scoreless innings since the All-Star break, best among American League relievers.

"This is a tough game to lose when you come out and score quickly and put up that many runs," McRae said. "It sort of magnifies what's going on."

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