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Rays' slide hits six

Starter Ryan Rupe leaves early with tightness in his right bicep, then game gets away in 6-2 loss to Indians.


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000

CLEVELAND -- All the good the Devil Rays thought they'd accomplished with three months of plus-.500 play disappeared Wednesday night.

The 6-2 loss to Cleveland ran their losing streak to six games, matching their longest of the season, and dropped them to a season-low 21 games worse than .500 at 59-80.

Adding to their woes, starter Ryan Rupe left the game after three innings because of what was described as tightness in his right bicep, forcing interim manager Bill Russell, who was filling in as Larry Rothschild began his three-game suspension, to scramble an already fried pitching staff.

"We're laboring right now," catcher John Flaherty said. "It's every facet of the game. We're not hitting, the strength of the club now is probably starting pitching and one of our starters had to leave tonight after the third inning with a sore arm, and our bullpen, it's no secret, has been beat up and overworked. It's a bad combination."

The score was tied after an exchange of two-run home runs by Roberto Alomar and Steve Cox, but the Indians took a 3-2 lead in the fifth and built from there, tagging rookie Travis Harper, who had been scheduled to start Friday, and Doug Creek for two runs apiece.

It was the 16th time in 22 games the Rays have scored three or fewer runs, and it certainly didn't help that Chuck Finley was on the mound for the Indians.

Finley, the former Angels ace, clearly has their number, and some pretty impressive ones of his own. In five starts against Tampa Bay, he has a 4-0 record, a 1.31 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 341/3 innings.

"I got the impression from the paper that he was struggling," Flaherty said, "but we didn't see that tonight."

"He went through us pretty good," said Rothschild, who watched the game on television from an undisclosed location.

Finley, who is 11-10 overall, refused to make too much of his success against the Rays.

"I don't look at them any different than anyone else," he said. "If you start thinking about having good success against a certain team, you'll ease up and run into trouble."

Rupe was being examined at a Cleveland doctor's office late Wednesday, with the Rays unsure of his status. Rupe missed nearly six weeks with biceps tendinitis after being sent down to Durham in early May, but had not complained of discomfort since rejoining the big-league team in July, Rothschild said.

"I had a conversation with him about two weeks ago and said, "If you are hurt, if there's any signs of anything, we need to know it right away,' " Rothschild said. "But he said the only sign he had was that he fatigued in the fourth or fifth inning the last couple times, but he just figured it was normal wear and tear and everything."

The injury is the latest downturn in what has been a brutal sophomore season for the 25-year-old right-hander.

Coming off an 8-9 performance as a rookie, Rupe struggled at the start of the season and was sent down after posting an 0-4 record and 9.68 ERA in six starts. He pitched two innings for Durham on May 8 before leaving with the bicep problem, came back in mid-June and rejoined the Rays on July 9. In 12 starts since, he has a 5-2 record but a 5.15 ERA.

With the Indians up 3-2, the Rays had what looked to be a good chance to tie in the seventh. Cox, who isn't known for his speed, led off with an infield single, then bagged his first big-league stolen base. He made it look good when Bobby Smith pulled back on a bunt attempt, sliding to the inside of the base as Omar Vizquel jumped for the high throw, but the reality was that he missed a sign.

"I thought it was a hit-and-run, but it was a bunt," Cox said.

The way the night was going, the Rays couldn't even take advantage of the good fortune. Smith struck out for the third time in the game and the eighth time in a 10 at-bat stretch, Flaherty flied to left and Jose Guillen was caught looking at a curveball.

"Right now, we're beat-up pitching-wise and, especially against a team like Cleveland, that's not a good thing to be," Flaherty said. "We better get it going soon, because this isn't a good way to finish up. We were trying to finish up on a positive note and we were playing good baseball. Right now, we definitely have to regroup."

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