05/16/07 11:20 PM ET
Rays top Rangers with parade of hits
Pena, Harris each collect three in victory at Disney
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Carl Crawford reigns as the Major Leagues' maestro of the triple, so when he hit a triple in the fifth inning, it wasn't a strange sight -- it was the 68th time he has done so in his career. The significance of the blow came in the fact the bases were loaded when he did it.
Just the night before, the Rays stranded a season-high 14 runners while going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Texas left-hander A.J. Murray -- who made his Major League debut in relief Wednesday night -- got ahead of Crawford 0-2. But the Rays speedster did not give in and ripped a shot into right-center field to give the Rays a four-run cushion at 10-6.
"He threw two fastballs, then on the third pitch, he threw a slider or a curveball, or something that was up, and I just took a good swing at it and ended up hitting it," Crawford said. "He left the ball up where I could handle it, and I was able to get a base hit off of it."
Elijah Dukes provided an early indicator that the Rays' hitters would make a better showing on Wednesday night when he ripped the first pitch by Rangers starter Vicente Padilla deep onto the grassy knoll past the left-field fence.
"The first hit of the game absolutely punctured the wind in left field," Rays manager Joe Maddon observed. "That ball was absolutely crushed."
Casey Fossum started for the Rays and breezed through the first three innings, during which he struck out four and faced just 10 Rangers batters. The Rangers then unloaded on the Rays left-hander with home runs by Sammy Sosa, Victor Diaz and Mark Teixiera accounting for six runs in the fourth and fifth innings to build a 6-3 lead. In fairness to Fossum, a strong wind blowing to right field seemed to help on all of the home runs.
"To me, it looked like they were trying to go away and get it up in the wind," Fossum said. "I didn't change my pitching plan. You know, usually, the two-seamer down and away, they're trying to pull the ball. But I guess they saw how the ball was flying out to right and it wasn't flying out to left. ... If I had to do it all over again, I might have pounded them all inside with fastballs. But what I've been working on this year has been my sinker down and away, and I was going with it."
However, once Fossum faltered, Rays hitters began to flourish.
Ty Wigginton, Carlos Pena, Brendan Harris and Delmon Young produced four consecutive singles to start the fifth and chase Padilla. Jonny Gomes and B.J. Upton walked to finish setting the table for Crawford's heroics.
"Tonight, I don't know, guys were swinging the bat better, trying to go the other way, trying to not overswing," said Crawford, trying to explain the difference in the Rays' hitting Wednesday night. "We were able to get good pitches to hit and guys took their walks when they had to and so on and so forth.
"We know we have to score a lot of runs, and tonight was one of those nights we came swinging the bat well. Nobody was giving up their at-bats. Everybody was giving everything they could. It turned out where everything looked fine for us."
The Rangers mounted a threat in the seventh, pushing across a run on Sosa's bad-hop single that darted past Wigginton at third. Upton then saved the day with an amazingly athletic play on Hank Blalock's Texas Leaguer to center field. Sprinting toward left-center field with his back to home plate, Upton seemed to find an extra gear before hauling in the ball with a basket catch.
"He was in left-center," Crawford said. "That was a great catch. They were about to start a little rally there, so the situation was great for it. It was one of those catches from a second baseman -- I don't think too many second basemen are going to make that play."
Al Reyes pitched the ninth to close out the win and earn his 12th save in 12 save opportunities on the season. Meanwhile, Fossum became the beneficiary of the offensive outburst and gained his third win of the season, despite giving up six earned runs.
"Our offense did a great job today," Fossum said. "They just answered back every inning. And the bullpen, they just came in and closed the door."
Bill Chastain is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.