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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001


GOING DEEP: Greg Vaughn hit 50 homers for the Padres in 1998, but even he can't relate to what his good friend, Barry Bonds, has accomplished in hitting 60. "Fifty took everything I had," Vaughn said. "Last game of the season, last at-bat, two outs, two strikes."

Bonds needs 10 more homers in the Giants' final 19 games to tie Mark McGwire's record of 70. Vaughn thinks he has a chance: "If they pitch to him."

LIKE DEJA VU: There's a chance history could repeat itself, or at least come close, this week at the Trop.

Last year, the Rays swept a three-game series from the Yankees, forcing an irritating delay in their clinching of the AL East championship. "I didn't want anybody to celebrate in here," former manager Larry Rothschild said. "I hope the first team that celebrates in here is us."

The next night, the Rays gave the Yankees the title by eliminating the Red Sox. "They're going home," closer Roberto Hernandez said, waving goodbye to the Sox from the mound. "They don't have to worry about any playoffs now. They can stop watching now. Scoreboard's over. Goodbye."

This week, the Sox come to town on the brink of elimination, followed by the Yankees, who could clinch.

AND A ONE, AND A TWO: It's well known that manager Hal McRae favors the running game. Turns out, he likes it even more in the offseason.

McRae wants players to spend more time this winter getting into shape the old-fashioned way -- by exercising. "I think players have a tendency to put more emphasis on swinging the bat and throwing during the winter, and they're wasting time," McRae said. "The lower half of your body is the more important part of the equation. Get the lower half in shape and the throwing will come and the bat will come. ... But it's more fun just to throw and say, 'Well, I'm working at it.' And it's more fun to hit and say, 'Well, I'm working at it.' But for me, you're not really working at it, you're entertaining yourself."

Record watch

A look at some team records that could be set or furthered:

INFIELD HITS, Record: 30, Jason Tyner. Old mark: 28, Randy Winn, 1998.

BUNT SINGLES, Record: 11, Jason Tyner. Old mark: 7, Dave Martinez, 1999.

STRIKEOUTS, Record: 139, Ben Grieve. Old mark: 135, Jose Canseco, 1999.

STOLEN BASES, Record: 28, Miguel Cairo, 2000. Challenge: 22, Jason Tyner.

RELIEF WINS, Record: 7, Jim Mecir, 1998, 2000; Albie Lopez, 1998. Challenge: 6, Victor Zambrano.

MOST LOSSES, Record: 15, Tony Saunders, 1998; Bobby Witt, 1999. Challenge: 13, Bryan Rekar.

MOST HOME RUNS ALLOWED, Record: 26, Esteban Yan, 2000. Challenge: 26, Ryan Rupe.

MOST DOUBLE PLAYS GROUNDED INTO, Record: 16, Fred McGriff, 2000. Challenge: 15, Aubrey Huff.

What they're saying

Gregg Bell, writing in the Sacramento Bee: "Imagine going from Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory to a coal mine. Now you know what has happened to kid-at-heart Ben Grieve. ... In one day, Grieve went from a playoff team to baseball's dark underbelly."

Quote of the week

"It's been proven that if you don't swing, you won't get a hit. Somebody figured that one out a long time ago." -- HAL McRAE, Rays manager on hitting philosophy

By the numbers

.405: winning percentage against first-place teams.

.333: winning percentage against other teams.

13: wins needed to avoid 100 losses.

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