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Should-have-beens frustrate McRae

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 5, 2001


SEATTLE -- As frustrating and disappointing as it was to lose Monday's game 3-2 in the 11th inning, manager Hal McRae seemed more concerned with how the Rays failed to win it in the 10th.

"It was a tough loss that we let get away," McRae said. "I think it's a learning process, and we're going to have to learn to close them out. We're struggling closing them out. But it's a game we should have won."

Having battled the best-in-baseball Mariners to a tie at 1 through nine innings, the Rays indeed appeared on their way to an impressive victory when Ben Grieve homered off Jeff Nelson to open the 10th.

That put the Rays ahead 2-1 and put the game in the hands of embattled closer Esteban Yan.

And that meant more trouble.

Yan struck out Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez and was a strike from victory with a 1-and-2 count on Mike Cameron. But Cameron hit a broken-bat single to left, then swiped second on the next pitch. Yan then made his most grievous mistake, leaving a pitch over the plate that Mark McLemore lined hard to right for the tying run. Yan ended the inning by striking out Dan Wilson.

The problem, McRae said, stems from inexperience and Yan's inability to control his emotions.

"Once you gain that experience you learn to close those games out," McRae said. "Maybe a better focus, a longer focus. Peak concentration at the right time. All those kind of things you have to learn.

"You've got to do it to learn it. I know Yan's stuff is good enough. But he continues to not have success. He has to figure some things out for himself. He goes from making a bad pitch to burying the next guy. He consistently does that. ...

"And it's not the quality of the hitter that's a concern. He hasn't figured out how to get the guy out before he screws up. He can get the guy out easily after he screws up. He has to figure that one out."

Making the night even worse, the Mariners won by scratching out another run in the 11th with more help from the Rays.

Centerfielder Jason Tyner and second baseman Brent Abernathy collided as John Olerud's blooper to short center fell untouched for a leadoff single. "It was in the air a long time, so somebody should have caught it," McRae said.

Pinch-runner Al Martin stole second, avoiding Chris Gomez's tag. The Rays declined to intentionally walk Ichiro Suzuki, as they had in the ninth, and he legged out another infield hit, sending Martin to third. Stan Javier then scored Martin with an infield chopper that went about 20 feet.

"It's a game we let get away," McRae said. "Somehow we have to learn to win those games."

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