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Win belongs to the 'old' man

Tanyon Sturtze, a relative veteran in this bunch, pitches a career-high eight innings in a 3-2 win over the first-place Yankees.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 8, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- It's easy to get wrapped up in the kids, the ever-growing band of 20-somethings who clearly are the future of Tampa Bay's franchise.

But they're not the only Rays with something to prove.

[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Catcher Toby Hall tries to pacify starting pitcher Tanyon Sturtze after the Yankees' David Justice homered in the fourth inning. Sturtze settled down to pitch eight strong innings for the win.

Tanyon Sturtze is one of the old men, a 30-year-old with his fifth organization still trying to establish himself as a major-league starting pitcher.

And though he might not have the promise of a Joe Kennedy or the potential of a Nick Bierbrodt or the power arm of a Jesus Colome, he does have something they don't yet have: success.

Sturtze allowed one earned run over a career-high eight innings Tuesday, leading the Rays to an entertaining 3-2 victory over the AL East-leading Yankees before an announced 22,429 at Tropicana Field, and furthering his belief he is worthy of a place in the rotation.

"I feel that way, and I hope a lot of other people feel that way," Sturtze said. "I definitely have the confidence that I feel that I belong as a starter in the big leagues right now, and hopefully some other people here feel the same way.

"If I keep putting up outings like tonight, it would be hard for anybody to argue."

Sturtze was on his game from the start, and he got help when he needed it. The Rays turned three double plays and logged a pivotal fourth when Sturtze struck out Derek Jeter in the eighth and rookie catcher Toby Hall caught Chuck Knoblauch trying to steal second.

photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Rookie Jared Sandberg endures some ribbing from his Rays teammates after picking up his first major-league hit, a run-scoring single in the second inning.
Third baseman Jared Sandberg, summoned from Triple A Tuesday morning, made a smashing big-league debut, singling in a run in his first at-bat and scoring the winner after opening the seventh with a hit.

"He got two hits and he looked very comfortable at third," manager Hal McRae said. "He's a player that we think can handle the position and if he swings the bat well has a chance to be a pretty decent player, a nice player."

Sandberg, the 23-year-old nephew of former Cubs star Ryne Sandberg, said the key to his success was to keep things simple.

"I took a couple deep breaths and tried to forget where I was," he said. "I was trying to see the ball and hit it. I know it's not that easy, but that's what I was trying to do."

After Sandberg singled to open the seventh, Chris Gomez followed with a bunt that Yankees catcher Jorge Posada fielded and threw wildly, allowing Sandberg to third. Jason Tyner, whose throwing error led to the Yankees tying the score at 2 in the sixth, made amends with a run-scoring single to right.

"It was exciting beating them tonight," Tyner said. "I had chills at the end of the game."

Sturtze, who leads the team with seven wins, kept it pretty simple as well, relying heavily on a sinker that led to 10 groundball outs. David Justice's opposite-field homer was the only true blemish.

"Sturtze threw one of his better games," McRae said. "For the most part, he kept the ball out of the middle of the plate. He got ground balls when runners were on base. He mixed some pitches. He worked the inner part of the plate. He did all the things that were necessary to win a ballgame."

"Sturtze was amazing," Hall said. "He utilized every pitch he had, and he kept them off-balance."

Not bad for a guy who has bounced around for years and who started this season in the bullpen, moving back to the rotation May 8. He has had a few rough outings but has won four of his past six.

"I feel pretty comfortable in the rotation; I think it fits me well." Sturtze said. "I feel like I'm throwing the ball well as a starter and hopefully I'll keep getting the ball every five days."

The Yankees, who have lost three straight, weren't that impressed.

"I really didn't see anything special about the guy," said Posada, who was 0-for-3. "But he kept us in check and we only scored two runs. The game is funny sometimes. Sometimes you face the toughest guy and you beat him up and sometimes you get a young guy and he comes out and beats you. You just got to keep playing."

Funny game indeed. The Rays lost 17 of their first 18 to the Yankees but are 12-14 since. They're 8-14 against the Yankees at the Trop but have won five of the past seven. They're 38-75 overall, but 9-13 against first-place teams, with seven wins in their past 12 games.

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