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Extra innings forced when Rays' Riggans drops throw

CHICAGO — One inning before the controversial interference call, the Rays were tantalizingly close to sealing a sweep-clinching victory over the White Sox.

But, as backup C Shawn Riggans said, "I just dropped (the ball)."

Reliever Dan Wheeler, who has filled in admirably for injured closer Troy Percival, entered the ninth with a one-run lead. Wheeler got Alexei Ramirez to pop out, and after giving up a double to Ken Griffey, he struck out Nick Swisher before a showdown with pinch-hitter Paul Konerko.

On a 3-and-2 pitch, Konerko hit a single sharply to leftfield. Ben Zobrist charged, and his throw bounced twice and beat pinch-runner Brian Anderson by several feet.

But as Riggans shifted to his left and fell to his knees to accept the throw, it bounced off his glove, allowing Anderson to slide in safely.

"Perfect throw," Riggans said. "And the ball came out of my mitt."

Manager Joe Maddon has praised Riggans in recent days for making the most of his rare starts; he has 21 RBIs in just 109 at-bats. Riggans started Sunday because Maddon wanted to give C Dioner Navarro back-to-back days off, and he thought Riggans was a good matchup against LHP Mark Buehrle, having gone 3-for-5 lifetime against him.

Riggans made a nice block on a pitch in the dirt in the first inning, which likely saved a run with a runner on third. But he couldn't come up with what Wheeler called "not an easy play for a catcher to make."

"We had our chances to win that game and we didn't," Maddon said. "They beat us today."

A CALCULATED RISK: Although CF B.J. Upton has one of the strongest outfield arms in the American League, White Sox C A.J. Pierzynski didn't appear to feel as if he were tempting fate when he advanced to second on Carlos Quentin's long flyout to center in the 10th.

"Quentin hit the ball and I thought it had a chance to get over (Upton's) head and then I saw the way he was going after it and I knew the wind was kind of knocking balls down," Pierzynski said. "I watched the way he caught it, kind of going back, so I figured I might as well try to get to second and it worked out."

Upton had to turn his body before tossing the ball back to the infield. He said he wasn't surprised Pierzynski tagged up.

"Long fly ball and I got turned around," Upton said. "Obviously, there was a chance he might tag. I just didn't get my feet under me to get the ball in. … The fly ball started out toward left-center and started to come back, that's why I got turned around. I couldn't get my feet set under me to make a strong throw."

CLOSE CALL: RHP Andy Sonnanstine's outing may not have ended in tying the club record with his 14th win, but he was pleased with how he pitched. Sonnanstine said he made a few mistakes on the homers in the fourth by Quentin and Jim Thome, when Chicago took the lead, but in giving up four runs in 61/3 innings he, as Riggans said, "gave us a chance to win."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Two injured stalwarts, Percival (cartilage damage in right knee) and All-Star 3B Evan Longoria (fractured right wrist), are expecting to take the next step in their rehab today during the team's off day. Percival, on the disabled list, is planning on playing catch, and Longoria will get another X-ray. Percival said last week he hoped to be ready when he's eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, and the Rays have previously estimated Longoria would be back on or around Sept. 1.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have won five of their past seven and 11 of their past 15. They have won 11 of their past 15 road games. … Rocco Baldelli hit his second homer in three games.

Extra innings forced when Rays' Riggans drops throw 08/24/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 6:19pm]
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