Close, But No Sweep For Rays
By Erik Erlendsson | Tribune StaffST. PETERSBURG - The microscope of a pennant race magnifies everything about the chase.
Published: August 21, 2008
Published: August 21, 2008
Despite the fact the Rays entered the game with the best record in the American League and have not lost a series since the All-Star break, a 5-4 setback like the one handed to Tampa Bay by the Los Angeles Angels is opened to dissection.
"We have played with a lot of emotion and intensity here lately, and I just love it, I love it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You're not going to win every game, that's just not going to happen.
"Everything is magnified this time of year, and that's great, it's really cool."
Although Tampa Bay rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth on a Carlos Pena double, a one-out line-drive single by Cliff Floyd was hit too hard to allow Pena to score and turned into a wasted chance after Willy Aybar fouled out and Ben Zobrist struck out to end the inning.
Then in the ninth, Justin Ruggiano seemingly had a play on a short fly ball off the bat of Mark Teixeira but pulled up on the play for strategic reasons, putting runners on first and second with one out.
"I saw it fine, I just figured at that point, the time of the game, a diving catch would have been a great play," Ruggiano said. "But it would have been a lot worse if I would have let the ball shoot by and that winning run was on third base and scores.
"I wanted to keep the double play in order."
The go-ahead run reached third anyway after Chone Figgins led a double steal and forced the Rays to intentionally walk Vladimir Guerrero to load the bases. After Torii Hunter grounded into a fielder's choice that forced Figgins out at home, Garret Anderson hit a hard ground ball off Chad Bradford to second that handcuffed Akinori Iwamura, allowing Teixeira - who reached on the single to left - to score the winning run, helping Los Angeles win its first game in six tries at Tropicana Field this season.
"This was a well-played ballgame by both sides, it just wasn't our night," Maddon said. "Now it's about how you answer, it's the bounce after the fall, and this isn't even a fall; that's a good team over there."
Major-league save leader Francisco Rodriguez closed the door in the ninth to record his club-record 48th save of the season in 53 chances.
The Rays struck first in the bottom of the second, jumping out to a three-run lead with a two-out rally off Angels starter Jered Weaver. Eric Hinske singled and stole second before coming home on a single to right by Gabe Gross, who took second on the throw home. Backup catcher Shawn Riggans followed with a base hit to score Gross before Jason Bartlett tripled on a ball that fell between outfielders Hunter and Juan Rivera.
But the Angels answered back quickly to take the lead with four runs in the top half of the third. After Sean Rodriguez walked and Jeff Mathis singled to start the inning, Brandon High graduate Figgins slapped a check-swing double to left that fell just in front of Hinske in left to drive in Rodriguez. Erick Aybar then drove a ball into the right-center field gap for a triple to score two more before he came home on a ground out to first by Teixeira to give the Angels the lead.
Weaver made it stand up, retiring 12 of the next 14 batters he faced before coming out after the sixth following a nine-strikeout performance. He handed it over to the normally reliable Angels relievers.
Jose Arredondo, who entered the game with a 1.10 ERA, breezed through the seventh but was touched up in the eighth before handing things over to Rodriguez for the ninth.
Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.