ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Instead of ranting about Tampa Bay’s lack of offensive production in crucial situations, Lou Piniella used a calm approach to coax the Devil Rays out of their hitting woes.
Crawford hit a three-run homer and Travis Lee and Josh Phelps also drove in three runs apiece, leading a season-high 14-hit attack in support of Rob Bell (1-0), who allowed nine hits and four earned runs in six innings.
The Devil Rays snapped a three-game losing streak that featured poor hitting with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-11 in those situations and stranded 14 men in a 5-1 loss to Baltimore on Wednesday night.
“We got them on tonight, and we got them in, too,” Piniella said. “I told them to relax. I told them to swing the bat—if you get it done this time, you’ll get it done next time.”
Crawford’s second homer of the season was the big blow in a seven-run fourth inning against Sidney Ponson (1-1). The rally opened a 12-3 lead that Baltimore cut into with two runs in the fifth and Miguel Tejada’s two-run homer off Seth McClung in the seventh.
Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer off Bell and went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for the Orioles, falling a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. Sammy Sosa drove in a run for the third straight game, contributing a RBI double in the fifth.
Alex Sanchez, the first player disciplined for violating baseball’s new policy on performance-enhancing drugs, returned from a 10-day suspension and had two hits and scored a run for Tampa Bay.
Catcher Charles Johnson, who missed three games last weekend after requesting a leave to handle a personal matter, also made his first start for the Devil Rays. He began the seven-run fourth with a double and finished it with a RBI single.
“We are the last team that needs suspensions or players taking a leave of absence,” Piniella said, though he added that he couldn’t blame the team’s hitting woes on Sanchez and Johnson being away.
“All in all,” the manager said, “if we hit a little better and pitched a little better we could have won a few more games.”
Even before Crawford’s homer made it 8-3, the Devil Rays were threatening to chase Ponson.
Aubrey Huff set the tone for the big night with a RBI single in the first. Two batters later, Lee drove in two with another single off Ponson, who surrendered nine runs and seven hits in three-plus innings.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Ponson said. “I couldn’t throw strikes. … That’s a formula for disaster.”
Lee’s third RBI came on a force play in the third. Phelps had a run-scoring single in the third and two-run single off reliever Rick Bauer in the fourth.
Tampa Bay reliever Jesus Colome left the game because of tendinitis in his pitching shoulder after throwing just six pitches in the seventh. McClung replaced him and gave up the two-run homer to Tejada on his second pitch.
Colome was put on the 15-day disabled list after the game. Right-hander Doug Waechter will be recalled from Triple-A Durham. … The Devil Rays finished a nine-game, season-opening homestand in which they went 4-5. Their first road trip takes them to Boston and New York for five games. They’re 29-82 all-time at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. … Devil Rays SS Julio Lugo has four errors in his last six games. … Brian Roberts led off the game with a single, making him the only player with a hit in each of Baltimore’s nine games.