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Rays lose 7th straight as Wilson fades again

After being held hitless for three innings, A's score three in the fourth inning of a 5-2 victory.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Can there be a silver lining in a storm cloud?

The Devil Rays played the A's again Saturday, which means they lost again 5-2.

At least this one was close, and the way things had been going, with the A's winning the previous four games by a combined 43-4, that was something of an accomplishment. Heck, the Rays even got the tying run to the plate in the seventh inning, stirring what was left of a Tropicana Field crowd that looked to be about half the 17,154 who bought tickets.

"We had a couple chances anyway, and I guess that's somewhat of an improvement," manager Larry Rothschild said. "But we're trying to win games, not just look for the silver lining. That's not good enough."

The Rays have lost a season-high seven straight, are 2-13 in September, and, at 61-87, are challenging the Cubs and Phillies for the worst record in the majors.

Surpassing last season's total of 69 victories appears to be a lost cause . Their chances of avoiding 100 losses may have improved, however, with today's postponement. Unless they have to make it up, they need one win to avoid triple-digit losses.

Starter Paul Wilson sailed through the first three innings Saturday, much like he cruised through the first three innings Sunday and the first three innings Sept. 5.

But just like in those outings, the deeper he got into the game, the deeper trouble he got into. Saturday, he didn't allow a hit in the first three innings, then gave up three that led to three Oakland runs in the fourth. He was finished after allowing two more hits in the fifth, still in search of his first big-league win Sept. 20, 1996, before shoulder and elbow surgeries.

"It's been the last couple times and I don't know if it's just that point in the year with him," Rothschild said. "He said he still felt good, but I felt it like it was time to get him out just to make sure he stays healthy. I just need to watch him, which I have all along."

As frustrating as it has been, Wilson appreciates the special handling.

"I didn't feel tired, I didn't feel like I lost my stuff," Wilson said. "I've just got to stay away from the big innings. They hurt me in runs, they hurt me in pitch count. It isn't anything mechanical; I think it's just baseball."

Mired in an offensive slump, the Rays have averaged just 2.5 runs for nearly a month and have seen their overall batting average drop to a team-record low .255.

But despite the 5-0 deficit and the presence on the mound of Oakland ace Tim Hudson, against whom they hadn't scored an earned run in 222/3 innings, the Rays rallied in the seventh.

With Miguel Cairo on second after a walk and a stolen base, Gerald Williams dropped a two-out double into left-center. Randy Winn walked, ending Hudson's night. Steve Cox knocked in Williams, to make it 5-2, with a single off left-handed reliever Mike Magnante. That brought Fred McGriff to the plate as the tying run, but he popped to shortstop.

"Nobody's really swinging it the way they can," Cox said. "It's a battle every day."

As bad as things have been, the Rays were hoping the storm generated some good news.

"What it does for me is it gets the Oakland A's out of here," catcher John Flaherty said. "They're on a roll right now offensively. They took it to us in Oakland and here obviously. Maybe them leaving a day early is a good thing."

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