View Full Version : Baby steps: Rays won't finish last for first time

10-02-2004, 01:28 PM
Baby steps: Rays won't finish last for first time
DETROIT (AP) -- Lou Piniella sprayed champagne after World Series victories as a player and a manager. He wanted some to celebrate a smaller achievement Friday night: For the first time in their history, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays won't finish last.Rob Bell came within an out of his first career shutout before Ivan Rodriguez doubled for his 1,000th career RBI, and the Devil Rays beat the Detroit Tigers 4-1 to clinch fourth place in the AL East.

"It's a small step, yes, but it is a step in the right direction," Piniella said. "If there had been some champagne around, I would have let the kids have at it. We didn't make the playoffs, but I want them to taste success."

Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, improved to 69-90 and cannot be overtaken by last-place Toronto (66-93). The Devil Rays need one victory in their final two games to reach 70 for the first time.

"This is something for us to build on," said Carl Crawford, who hit his major league-leading 19th triple. "It's just enough to show people that we are getting better."

Bell (8-8) pitched a four-hitter for his second complete game in 105 major league starts. The other was a six-hitter for Cincinnati against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 13, 2000.

"That game against the Cubs was a long time ago," he said. "I feel like I've had a good year, and this was a nice way to finish it."

Omar Infante reached with one out in the ninth on an error by third baseman B.J. Upton. After Bobby Higginson grounded out to first, Rodriguez doubled down the left-field line.

"I'm not going to complain, because I wouldn't have gotten to the ninth inning without some great plays by my defense," Bell said. "They gave me the fuel to do this."

Bell didn't share the enthusiasm over a fourth-place finish. Tampa Bay was 40-38 on July 4, then lost 15 of 20.

"We had a point where we were on the edge of the wild-card race," he said. "It might have been far-fetched to expect that to come to fruition, but fourth place wasn't where we wanted to end up."

The crowd of 20,612 gave a standing ovation to Rodriguez, who reached the milestone one day after hitting his 250th homer.

"I'm glad I could get this here," he said.

Rodriguez appeared to get into a screaming match with Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck after the top of the eighth inning, but did not want to discuss it.

"It happened in the dugout and it will stay there," he said. "We've already talked about it. Cluckie and I are fine."

Mike Maroth (11-13) gave up four runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings, ending his hope to finish at .500 after a 21-loss season last year.

"I'm disappointed we lost tonight," Maroth said. "It would have been nice to finish .500, but toward the end of the year, things just haven't gone my way."

Tampa Bay went ahead in the seventh when Higginson lost Upton's liner to right in the lights and the ball dropped for an RBI double. Crawford followed with his triple to make it 2-0. Higginson was loudly booed when he led off the bottom of the inning.

Rocco Baldelli homered leading off the eighth, and pinch-hitter Midre Cummings doubled in a run later in the inning.

Game notes
The Tigers claimed OF Alexis Gomez off waivers from Kansas City but he will not report to Detroit this season. Gomez hit .276 in 13 games for the Royals, spending most of the season in Triple-A. ... Baldelli rejoined the Devil Rays after missing three games for a family illness. ... Rondell White (hip) did not play. He needs a home run against Tampa Bay to become the ninth player to homer against all 30 teams.