Rays stop Angels for eighth win in 10 games
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—B.J. Upton slipped away from Tropicana Field without speaking to reporters, leaving others to answer questions about another baserunning gaffe that overshadowed a big Tampa Bay victory.
The first-place Rays beat the Los Angeles Angels 6-4 Monday night, but the postgame buzz was more about Upton getting caught jogging on the bases again instead of the AL East leaders improving to 5-2 against the team with the top record in the majors.
“I’ll tell you one thing about tonight, he’s hurting,” said designated hitter Cliff Floyd, who hit a two-run homer to help right-hander Andy Sonnanstine get his team-leading 13th win. “He’s hurting bad.”
The speedy center fielder, who has been benched three times in the last two weeks for not hustling, was thrown out at second base on what should have been a routine double in the fourth inning.
But unlike last Friday at Texas, Upton wasn’t removed from the game by manager Joe Maddon.
“That’s a mental mistake he made right there. It’s not a lack of effort,” Maddon said, explaining why he didn’t take action.
“It’s one of those situations where he assumed. We’ve talked about assumptions. That’s an assumption on his part. That’s part of his game we’ve got to get rid of.”
Floyd, whose locker is three cubicles away from Upton’s in the clubhouse, said that will be done.
“I think everybody in here will do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s not in Joe’s hands any more. It’s in nobody’s hands but ours,” the 14-year veteran said.
“It bothers me. You get choked up a little bit because it’s like, ‘Man, we’ve got something real special here.’ We don’t need to be talking about this stuff.”
Eric Hinske also hit a two-run homer and Sonnanstine (13-6) allowed three runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings to pull within one victory of the Rays’ single-season record. Rolando Arrojo won 14 in 1998, and Sonnanstine’s total matches the 13 Scott Kazmir won a year ago.
Dan Wheeler, the sixth Tampa Bay pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save in seven opportunities, enabling the Rays to maintain their 4 1/2 -game lead over Boston in the division.
Hinske hit his 19th homer in the second and Floyd added his ninth in the third, both coming off right-hander Jon Garland (11-8), who allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings.
Back at Tropicana Field after going 7-3 on a season-high 10-game trip in which they thrived despite the benching of Upton and losing Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Troy Percival to injuries, the Rays improved the best home record in the majors to 46-17.
The Angels have the best road mark in baseball (39-24) but are 0-4 in the Rays’ ballpark this season.
Juan Rivera homered and Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to a season-best 21 games with a sixth-inning RBI double for Los Angeles. Guerrero added an RBI single off Grant Balfour in the seventh, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to 5-4.
“What’s hurt us here is what’s happened in the batter’s box. We just haven’t swung the bats well in what’s invariably a hitter’s park,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Upton drew a mixed reaction from fans in his first plate appearance after hitting a fourth-inning drive to left off Garland and breaking into a trot out of the batter’s box, apparently thinking it would be a home run.
Instead, the ball hit the fence on a hop.
Upton casually rounded first and jogged toward second with Angels first baseman Mark Teixeira following up the line to meet left fielder Rivera’s throw to an uncovered base. Teixeira fielded the ball on a bounce and made the tag just before a surprised Upton touched the bag.
With the inning over, Upton dropped his head and bent over at second base for a few moments before taking his position on defense.
Upton was benched for one game on Aug. 6, the day after he failed to run hard on a grounder back to the mound against Cleveland. Maddon removed him in the middle of an inning at Texas for not hustling on a double-play grounder Friday, then left him out of the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Rangers.
“He’s going to get it right, trust me,” Floyd said. “He’s going to be, in my mind, one of the best players to play the game. You don’t want anybody looking at you like you really don’t want it.”
The game drew an announced crowd of 15,896, despite the approach of Tropical Storm Fay, which is expected to make landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast—south of the Tampa Bay area—on Tuesday.
Tuesday night’s game between the division leaders is still scheduled, however Rays president Matt Silverman said that could change if the storm deviates from its projected path. If there’s a postponement, it likely will be rescheduled as part of a Wednesday doubleheader.
Hinske has three homers in his last seven games. … Angels OF Reggie Willits, on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 9 because of a mild concussion, could start a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday or Thursday at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. … Percival, Tampa Bay’s closer, opted not to have surgery on his injured right knee and hopes to resume throwing off a mound in four or five days.
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