ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The Devil Rays offense’ has come alive at the wrong for the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
The Devil Rays have scored a franchise-best 35 runs over the past four games, including 18 in two days against Los Angeles.
“It’s contagious,” Laforest said. “When everybody hits, you want to hit. You’re more relaxed at the plate. You’re having fun.”
Casey Kotchman homered for the Angels, who had their division lead cut to a half-game over Oakland, which won 12-3 at Baltimore. Los Angeles has scored three runs or fewer in seven of the past 11 games.
“We’d better do a little better with our offense on a consistent basis,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Tonight was a night where I thought we had some real good looks and some pitches to hit and we weren’t able to get it done.”
Cantu hit a two-run homer and Jonny Gomes had a two-run triple that put the Devil Rays ahead 4-1 in the third. Cantu, who had a career-high five RBIs in Tampa Bay’s 12-8 win Friday, has a team-best 22 homers and 90 RBIs.
LaForest made it 6-1 with his first major league homer, a two-run drive off Paul Byrd (9-9) in the sixth. Tampa Bay is 26-15 since the All-Star break.
“These kids are swinging the bats,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “They’re not getting cheated up there.”
Byrd gave up six runs and 11 hits in six innings. He is 0-4 in his last seven starts.
“I think it’s a character test,” Byrd said. “The A’s aren’t going anywhere, that’s been apparent for two months. It’s an exciting race that will come down to the end.”
Kotchman, a St. Petersburg native, homered in his first pro at-bat at Tropicana Field to put the Angels up 1-0 in the second. Four of his six homers this season have come against the Devil Rays, including a pair off fellow St. Petersburg product Waechter.
“It looks like he sees that Devil Rays jersey and starts going crazy,” Scioscia said. “He’s an exciting young kid and we hope he keeps developing.”
Chone Figgins hit an RBI triple and Orlando Cabrera had a sacrifice fly in the eighth off Waechter as Los Angeles closed to 6-3. Joe Borowski relieved with one on and two outs, and retired Vladimir Guerrero on a first-pitch grounder.
Borowski extended his scoreless streak to 21 1-3 innings. Guerrero went 0-for-4, and has 10 hits in his last 42 at-bats with no homers and one RBI.
Angels center fielder Steve Finley had his first career two-error game— coming in his 2,314 career game defensively—after misplaying a pair of balls. He entered with two errors this season.
Finley, who is hitting .215 with nine homer and 48 RBIs, went 0-for-4 and has nine hits in his last 63 at-bats.
“We’re all frustrated with the year that Fin’s having, but nobody feels it more than Steve,” Scioscia said. “This is a tough grind this season and part of this test is to be able to find your game and play your game, and that’s what Steve’s searching for.”
Cantu has seven homers in his past 14 games. … The Devil Rays remain inclined not to call up 19-year old OF Delmon Young from Triple-A Durham in September when active rosters expand Thursday. … Los Angeles has hit four homers in the past 11 games. … Waechter has allowed 32 homers in 138 innings at Tropicana Field in his career. … Laforest got his first home run ball back, which came on his 86th career at-bat. “I ran after the guy who got it,” Laforest joked.