On the day he is honored by Tampa Bay's fans, baseball's newest member of the 3,000-hit club starts the winning rally in a 2-1 victory over the Royals.
By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 23, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays made Sunday a day for Wade Boggs, and then Boggs made the day for the Rays.
Boggs' eighth-inning single launched the winning rally as the Rays beat Kansas City 2-1, completing a three-game sweep and running their record since Aug. 4 to an American League-best 12-5.
While Boggs was the featured attraction for the announced 27,864 at Tropicana Field, he had some impressive co-stars. Rolando Arrojo pitched a complete game six-hitter for his first home win of the year and Mike DiFelice drove in both runs with a homer and a two-out double.
"The whole day was scripted pretty well," manager Larry Rothschild said. "We won the game, it was a great ceremony for him, and he got the hit to start the inning. Good things happened all around."
For a while, it looked as if Kansas City's Jose Rosado was going to steal the show. The All-Star left-hander was dominating from the start, and DiFelice's one-out homer in the third was the only hit he allowed through seven innings.
But Arrojo, seeking back-to-back wins for the first time since Aug. 30-Sept. 4, was nearly as stingy, zooming through the first four innings. He got out of a fifth-inning jam with only one run scoring, survived another threat in the sixth and finished strong, recording his first complete game since May 8, 1998.
"I felt good and the way the game was going, I felt like I could finish," Arrojo said through a team interpreter.
Arrojo mixed his deliveries, release points and location, making a concerted effort to use both sides of the plate and conserve pitches, needing only 102 to get the 27 outs.
"He was outstanding," Rothschild said. "He threw a lot of good cut fastballs, he had good velocity, and he turned it up when he had to. He threw the ball as well as I've seen him in a long, long time."
Rightfielder Jose Guillen made a pretty good toss himself, preserving the tie with a strike to home plate to nail Joe Randa for the final out of the seventh.
"It was a heck of a throw," Rothschild said. "You couldn't make a better throw than that.
Randa was on first with two outs when Tim Spehr blooped a double that tucked inside the rightfield line and bounced behind the bullpen mound. Guillen made a cautious play on the ball, then unleashed a one-hop laser that beat Randa by close to 10 feet.
"There was two outs, I knew he was going to be running," Guillen said. "I was right there when the ball dropped and I got it and made a good throw. Even if you don't get good at-bats and good hits, you can still play defense and help your pitcher."
Arrojo was most appreciative. "That," he said, "was the game."
Just about, anyway.
Boggs led off the eighth with a single to right. Pinch-runner Miguel Cairo went to second on Bobby Smith's bunt, catching a break when first baseman Mike Sweeney fumbled the ball, and to third when Rosado knocked down Aaron Ledesma's line drive and second baseman Jed Hansen threw him out.
That brought up DiFelice, and he brought the crowd to its feet with a hard double down the rightfield line. The Rays had never won with only three hits.
DiFelice continues to make the best of limited playing time -- 15 of his 35 hits have been for extra bases.
"I keep repeating the same thing but that's just the philosophy I'm living by right now -- when I get the chance to get in there I just try to do something good," he said.
Just about everything the Rays have done lately has turned out pretty good. They have won four straight, seven of eight and are one victory from their best month.
"I think that's the biggest thing, that it's August and we're not packing it in," DiFelice said. "Guys are coming out and playing real hard and that's the brightest spot, what I'm more excited about than anything. We got a win and we're playing good baseball and if we can just ride it out to the end of the year we'll make some kind of progression for this organization."
Boggs was showered with compliments and presents throughout a touching pregame ceremony, but said the victory was special too.
"I thank Rolando for that -- he gave me the game ball afterwards -- and I thank Mike DiFelice for getting the home run and the key double in the eighth," Boggs said. "That just capped a wonderful day to get a victory."