Devil Rays 6, Mariners 5
Huff drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI groundout in the ninth inning and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays completed their first series sweep of the Mariners with a 6-5 victory Wednesday night.
It was Tampa Bay’s first series sweep against the Mariners, a team Piniella managed for 10 years before leaving after the 2002 season.
“Whoever you sweep, it makes anybody feel good,” Huff said. “But I’m sure it adds a little extra coming in here and playing well. Any time you play Seattle, you know he and his full staff really want to win.”
Piniella brought three coaches from Seattle—Lee Elia, Matt Sinatro and John McLaren—to Tampa Bay.
“It’s nice to win whether it’s Seattle or anybody else,” said Piniella, who’ll celebrate his 61st birthday on Saturday. “It’s good to come in here and win. It really is.”
With the game tied at 5 in the ninth, Geoff Blum drew a leadoff walk and went to second on Rey Sanchez’s sacrifice. Scott Atchison (1-2) intentionally walked Carl Crawford, and Julio Lugo followed with a single to load the bases.
Huff, who leads the Devil Rays with 81 RBIs, was pinch hitting for B.J. Upton after missing three games with back spasms. Huff came out of Saturday’s game in the first inning and had played in a club-record 398 consecutive games.
Before the game, Piniella said he didn’t expect to use Huff until Friday. During the game, the highly competitive Piniella changed his mind.
Huff didn’t even take batting practice before Wednesday night’s game.
“He came up to me during BP and asked me how I felt,” Huff said. “I said, `I can go if you need me to. If you want me to pinch hit, I’m there.’ He told me, `Don’t worry about it. Why don’t you just relax.”’
With the score tied at 5 in the seventh, Piniella asked Huff if he was prepared to hit. Huff said he was.
“So I swung for the first time below the dugout,” Huff said. “When it came down to where it was the tie game, to be honest with you, I didn’t feel it. The adrenaline and the situation and everything.”
Piniella said he knew Huff would deliver for him.
“We didn’t want to play him if he had to run,” Piniella said. “I told him, `Look, we’ll save you for an opportune spot.’ That’s exactly what we did there in the ninth inning. I hated to hit for the young kid, but we tried to get the best matchup we could.”
The Devil Rays won the season series from Seattle 5-2. Tampa Bay is 10-6 against the Mariners in two seasons under Piniella.
Ichiro Suzuki remained one hit shy of 200 for the season after going 0-for-4 for the Mariners, who fell a season-low 33 games under .500 and were swept for the 10th time.
Tampa Bay tied it at 5 in the seventh on Lugo’s sacrifice fly. Blum walked, Sanchez singled and Crawford sacrificed the runners over before Lugo’s fly to center drove in a run.
In the sixth, Bucky Jacobsen put the Mariners ahead 5-4 with a three-run homer to cap a five-run inning. Randy Winn singled in the first run and Edgar Martinez added a sacrifice fly before Jacobsen’s 421-foot shot to left.
Four of Seattle’s runs in the sixth were unearned because of a throwing error by third baseman Jorge Cantu.
The Devil Rays bunched five hits in the second for four runs. Blum had a two-run single and Sanchez and Lugo added RBI singles.
Devil Rays starter Jorge Sosa pitched 6 1-3 innings, allowing five runs— four unearned—and six hits.
Seattle’s Ron Villone went seven innings and gave up five runs on t hits and three walks, with three strikeouts.
Mariners manager Bob Melvin, Piniella’s replacement, is beginning to feel the effect of all the losses this season.
“It is getting a little bit frustrating,” he said.
Jacobsen leads AL rookies in homers since the All-Star break. He hit his eighth homer in 32 games since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma on July 15. … In four career starts against Seattle, Sosa has an ERA of 0.64. His career ERA is 5.11. … Tampa Bay swept its fourth series of the season and second on the road. The Devil Rays came into Seattle after losing six straight and 15 of 16 on the road.
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