06/23/2004 11:35 PM ET
Rays' win streak stopped at 12
By Bob Matuszak / Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- Sooner or later it had to end for the upstart Devil Rays.
|Victor Zambrano delivers a pitch during the second inning Wednesday. (Aaron Harris/ap)
Reed Johnson singled home Chris Woodward in the 10th inning as the Toronto Blue Jays snapped Tampa Bay's 12-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night in the middle game of a three-game series.
Still, the Rays have won 15 of their last 18 games, 18 of their last 22 and are 23-7 since May 20, the best record in the Majors during that span.
"What are you going to do?" manager Lou Piniella said. "It was good and it should give us confidence for the rest of our schedule. We've played good baseball and have turned our season around."
The Devil Rays were 10-28 when they began their surge, and are now just two games below .500. Only one team in Major League history, the 1899 Louisville Colonels, reached .500 after being that far below the break-even mark at any point of the season.
"We knew we were going to lose sooner or later but the way we lost is tough," said Carl Crawford, who scored the Devil Rays' lone run, going 2-for-4.
The loss marred a strong outing by Tampa Bay starter Victor Zambrano, who set a new season-high by going eight innings. Zambrano, who threw 128 pitches, allowed a run on four hits, but the run turned out to be costly.
The Devil Rays (33-35) took a 1-0 lead off 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, reaching last year's 22-game winner for a run in the third on Robert Fick's single to center field, which scored Crawford, who had doubled to lead off the inning.
The Blue Jays (31-40) tied the game in the eighth after Alex Rios singled to lead off the frame, eventually coming around to score on Zambrano's ball-four wild pitch to Howie Clark.
Zambrano led the Majors in wild pitches last year, and his slider to Clark on a full count went barely halfway to the backstop before catcher Brook Fordyce was able to retrieve it. Fordyce's throw back to Zambrano, who was covering the plate, wasn't in time.
"I thought it was a close play," Zambrano said.
Zambrano, who was making his American League-leading 16th start of the year and first since pitching an inning of scoreless relief on Sunday against Arizona, was helped by three ground-out double plays to get him out of jams in the first, third and fifth innings.
Prior to the game Piniella stressed the importance of his starters being able to pitch more innings, especially after Tuesday night's starter, 21-year-old Chad Gaudin, lasted just two-thirds of an inning in the 5-1 win. A day later, the manager got his wish at least for one game.
Zambrano's counterpart, Halladay, struck out eight in seven innings of work, allowing five hits and walking two.
"I think it was a really good game and we competed really good against him," Zambrano said.
In the 10th, Dave Berg led off with a single off reliever Jesus Colome (1-1), and was lifted from the game in favor of pinch-runner Woodward. After a walk to Frank Menechino, Clark laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position.
Johnson then laced a broken-bat single up the middle.
"(Johnson) had faced Colome a couple of times before and he struck out twice," Piniella said about his decision to pitch to Johnson rather than intentionally walk him to bring up the light-hitting Eric Hinske. "Hinske's a fly-ball hitter. It turned out it was a broken bat and it found a hole."
Piniella was again without the services of closer Danys Baez for the third straight game. Baez left the team early Sunday morning to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple's first child later that day. He is expected to return to the team on Friday, when the Devil Rays begin a seven-game homestand against Florida, but the Devil Rays certainly could have used his services late in this contest.
"We need to get our closer back," Piniella said.
Jason Frasor (3-2) picked up the win in relief for Toronto, striking out one in one inning.
The last American League team to win more than 12 straight was the 2002 Oakland A's, winning an AL-record 20 consecutive games. The 1916 New York Giants hold the all-time record, stringing together 26 wins in a row just a year after finishing in last.
The streak was the second-longest in Piniella's career. He was also involved in a 15-game win streak while managing the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who ended up winning an AL-record 116 games that season.
"It was a good run," Piniella said. "I'm proud of our team. You knew it couldn't go on forever."
Bob Matuszak is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.