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Rays home opener

Less than hoped for

ST. PETERSBURG — There was a lot going on in the Rays' home opener Tuesday.

Starter Matt Garza walked off the field with a nerve problem in his arm that landed him on the disabled list. Manager Joe Maddon was kicked out for arguing a call about B.J. Upton being called out after running the bases with one shoe. And that was after Upton had already stolen home.

There was the usual pomp and unusual circumstance, with smoke and fire accompanying the pregame introductions and retired Bucs star Mike Alstott and Gov. Charlie Crist making first pitches. The lively Tropicana Field sellout crowd of 36,048 provided loud cheers and long boos.

"You saw some things today that you don't normally see," Upton said.

But the difference in the 6-5 loss to the Mariners came down to what happened when nothing was supposed to happen.

The Rays were leading 5-4 in the sixth, the Mariners had men on first and third and Adrian Beltre popped a ball up behind the plate that rookie catcher Shawn Riggans made an easy play on and asked for timeout.

Time, though, wasn't out, and the Rays soon were as Riggans' admitted "mental lapse" was key to the sequence that put the Mariners ahead to stay.

Jose Lopez, the runner on first, made a heads-up play and broke for second, in theory daring Riggans to throw down, knowing Ichiro Suzuki could score from third before a return throw. In theory, shortstop Jason Bartlett or second baseman Akinori Iwamura is supposed to head to the mound, and Riggans is supposed to throw the ball there, freezing both runners.

In reality, Riggans, in his 12th big-league start, did nothing. With Lopez on second, the Rays walked Raul Ibanez to load the bases and pitch to Richie Sexson (a strategy that had already backfired in the third), and Sexson delivered a two-run single that gave Seattle the 6-5 lead.

"I just have to chalk it up to being a mental letdown on my half," Riggans said. "I turned my back to pick up my mask and thought I had timeout, but he didn't grant me timeout. It's not the umpire's fault; it's my fault. I have to be more aware of what's going on. &

"It's a one-run loss and I feel really (bad) about that. I feel like I let us down for a minute there. One little mental lapse and there goes two runs and those are the last runs that were scored."

They didn't have to be. In the seventh, Upton came in to third seemingly ahead of Lopez's relay throw for what would have been a one-out triple, even more impressive because his right shoe fell off in the batter's box. But umpire Hunter Wendelstedt didn't see it that way and sent Maddon on his way for disagreeing.

"I thought I was safe," Upton said. "I knew where the ball was. I wouldn't have gone if I didn't know I was going to get there. I took a chance, and he called me out."

There was even more, as Riggans hit his first major-league home run and Carlos Pena his team-high third, and as the bullpen worked 61/3 impressive innings and will get help today with the recall of Jae Kuk Ryu.

"It was a great effort," Maddon said.

But it wasn't enough.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Mariners 6

Rays 5

Less than hoped for 04/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 10:59am]
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