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For third time, Tampa Bay Rays' walk to Miguel Cabrera works in their favor

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon was shocked Thursday when he found himself in the same seventh-inning situation for the third straight game.

With a one-run lead, two outs and runners on first and second, the Rays again walked Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera to load the bases and put the go-ahead run in scoring position.

"I said to (pitching coach Jim Hickey), 'Do you believe this? Do you absolutely believe we're going through this again today?' " Maddon said.

Maddon had no problem repeating his strategy for a few reasons. First, the Rays had a different pitcher (lefty Randy Choate) in to face left-hand-hitting Brennan Boesch, who had been retired the past two nights by RHP Grant Balfour.

Furthermore, the Rays still weren't going to let Cabrera, a Triple Crown threat, beat them. "Fortunately, there was one base open," Maddon said. "If there's none, then you'd have to go after him. And I was even thinking about it, even if it is 3-2, just walk him and let the score get tied and move on from there."

Choate got Boesch to ground out to first to end the inning.

"All I could think of was that sign (in the clubhouse) that says, 'Fortune favors the bold,' " 1B Carlos Peña said. "So I was like, 'Hey, Joe, let's go with it. That's living the sign.' "

FULL HOUSE: All three Yankees games at Tropicana Field are sold out, marking the first time in club history the team will have three straight regular-season sellouts. "I think it's going to be fun, it's going to be very intense," Peña said. "Who doesn't love playing with big crowds?"

TRADE WINDS: With Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver deals approaching, it seems less likely the Rays will make a deal to add a bat. The two they were most interested in are no longer available as Royals OF David DeJesus was injured and Phillies OF Jayson Werth was taken off the market after an injury to teammate Shane Victorino.

The Rays are open to other options, with Baltimore's Luke Scott and Washington's Josh Willingham among the possibilities. Not so much with Washington's Adam Dunn, who made it clear on cbssports.com that he has no interest in joining an AL team: "If I have to DH, I'll probably go home.''

Adding to the trade deadline intrigue, top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson was pulled from his Thursday Triple-A Durham start after three innings. The Rays said it was just a matter of "monitoring his workload," now at 117⅔ innings. It also could be the start of a transition to a relief role with the Rays.

LESS IS MORE: As expected, Ben Zobrist (lower back stiffness) was out of the lineup, saying he didn't feel much better. He said the injury likely resulted from too many swings in the batting cage. "I just kind of ignored the warning signs of feeling a little bit stiff and just kept trying to push through it," he said. "It just wasn't smart."

Davis on Roll: Rookie RHP Wade Davis enters tonight's start with a lot of confidence, having won three consecutive starts. He said one of the keys has been his offspeed pitches: "I think it's more giving my other pitches a chance to get outs, and have more confidence in those. Now I'm starting to use them more, get outs and keep them off balance."

UPTON UPDATE: CF B.J. Upton (sprained left ankle) hopes to return to the lineup as soon as today. He felt better Thursday, when he ran in the outfield and did agility drills but said the real test will be changing directions.

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price became the first pitcher in three years to strike out Cabrera three times (Rockies' Jason Hirsh, Aug. 3, 2007). … The club record of 14 wins Price matched was previously reached by James Shields (2008), Edwin Jackson (2008) and Rolando Arrojo (1998).

Tribute: There will be a moment of silence tonight for former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died July 13.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

For third time, Tampa Bay Rays' walk to Miguel Cabrera works in their favor 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 9:30pm]

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