Devil Rays 6, Angels 4
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are starting to get the hang of winning on the road.
The Devil Rays have seven wins away from home since the All-Star break— only one fewer than they had over the first three months.
“We’ve been playing better baseball since the All-Star break,” manager Lou Piniella said. “We had only one winning road trip prior to this, in Toronto and Boston, and we’re in the midst of a long one now. We’ve got two more cities to go after this one, so we’ll see what happens. It’s not easy.”
Mark Hendrickson (6-7) allowed four runs and nine hits in five-plus innings after being staked to a 6-1 lead. The 6-foot-9 former NBA player has won consecutive starts for the first time since June of last season.
Jose Molina led off the Angels’ third inning with his fifth home run. The AL West leaders narrowed the gap to 6-4 in the sixth on consecutive RBI doubles by Juan Rivera and Vladimir Guerrero and a sacrifice fly by Bengie Molina. But Trever Miller retired Chone Figgins on a flyball with the bases loaded.
“Our bullpen had a tough time early in the season, but the addition of Joe Borowski really shored up our pen. Now we have guys in situations that they’re comfortable in,” Miller said. “We’re starting to reel off some stretches where we’re getting some scoreless innings and getting the ball to Danys, like we’re supposed to. He’s had a lot more save opportunities in the second half, and he’s converting them.”
Tampa Bay remained the only team in the majors without a complete game. Devil Rays starters have gone the distance only three times in the team’s last 292 games—twice by Hendrickson in a span of 11 days July 2004. The other was Rob Bell’s 4-1 win at Detroit on Oct. 1.
“I don’t think we really have a complete-game pitcher here. For us, a complete game right now is seven innings,” Piniella said before the game. “So if we get seven innings from one of our young pitchers here, we feel very good about it.”
Piniella started his three fastest players—Joey Gathright, Carl Crawford and Lugo—at the top of the batting order against rookie Chris Bootcheck (0-1) and the Devil Rays scored in each of the first four innings to build a 6-1 lead.
“When we bunch our speed with Gathright, Crawford and Lugo in the three top spots, we’re as quick as anybody in baseball,” Piniella said. “Our speed played big early in the ballgame.”
Lugo opened the scoring with an RBI single, Toby Hall singled home a run in the second, and Aubry Huff added a sacrifice fly in the third after Lugo and Jorge Cantu singled and advanced on a wild pitch. The RBI was Huff’s 24th in 20 games.
The Devil Rays added three more with two outs in the fourth on an RBI triple by Gathright, a run-scoring double by Crawford that chased Bootcheck, and Lugo’s RBI single against Kevin Gregg, who combined with Brendan Donnelly to hold Tampa Bay hitless the rest of the way.
“Lugo’s been doing a very professional job for us,” Piniella added. “He’s hitting over .300 now and he’s second on our team in stolen bases. He hasn’t been running lately because he’s had a little strain in his left knee, but he’s been hitting well with men in scoring position.”
Crawford’s second double of the game came at the end of a 13-pitch at-bat in which he hit eight foul balls with two strikes.
“We’re playing hard every day and it’s starting to pay off for us on the field,” Crawford said. “With this lineup, we’re not going to try to just hit home runs. We’re trying to keep everybody in motion, and I think that’s tougher to defend sometimes than just hitting the long ball all the time.”
Bootcheck, making his third career start and second in six days while filling in for the injured Jarrod Washburn, threw 76 pitches in only 3 2-3 innings. He allowed with six runs on 10 hits. No Angels starting pitcher had allowed more than three earned runs in any of the previous nine games.
“With a team like this, you’re got to make them beat you,” Bootcheck said. “Every inning was a lengthy inning. Some of the pitches were elevated and they had some timely hits. Speed can definitely hurt you, and they use it well—not only offensively. They also took away a lot of hits that could have led to a lot of runs.”
Tampa Bay’s pitchers have gone at least seven innings in 28 of their first 111 games. … The Angels have thrown 55 wild pitches, the most in the majors and just six fewer than all of last season. … The Devil Rays ended a streak of seven consecutive losses at Angel Stadium, and 17 straight defeats on the road against AL teams based in California. … Gregg retired 12 straight batters after Lugo’s second RBI single. His six strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings tied a career high.