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Rays lose in sloppy effort, but Garza looks sharp

Ben Zobrist passes Tigers third baseman Jeff Larish after hitting a solo homer in the fifth that put the Rays up 3-1. Zobrist has 11 home runs this season after entering with three in his career.

Associated Press

Ben Zobrist passes Tigers third baseman Jeff Larish after hitting a solo homer in the fifth that put the Rays up 3-1. Zobrist has 11 home runs this season after entering with three in his career.

DETROIT — As much as the Rays enjoy celebrating, they don't do too well the day after.

Saturday night, that meant a sloppy effort by a team of mostly reserves and a 4-3 defeat to the Tigers, their third straight loss. It was similar to their shaky performance after the Sept. 20 playoffs-clinching.

"We made some mistakes that we just can't make … some mental mistakes and some physical mistakes," manager Joe Maddon said. "We didn't play as well as we should."

The Rays (96-65) were pleased with the work of RHP Matt Garza, who, having skipped his last turn, looked sharp in a five-inning tuneup (three runs, four hits) for a likely Game 3 playoffs start next Sunday.

"His stuff was fantastic," Maddon said. "It looked like there was a lot of life in his arm. That was physically as good a stuff as you're going to see out of him."

Garza, who threw 75 pitches, was also pleased. "I felt good, my arm felt live, it felt like the ball was jumping out of my hand," he said.

Ben Zobrist hit his third homer of the series and 11th of the season. Jeff Niemann had three solid innings in relief.

C.C. "NORMAL:" LF Carl Crawford's chances to return to the lineup for the division series seemed to increase Saturday when he looked good — and felt great — in his first live batting practice session since Aug. 14 right hand surgery.

"There was no hesitation, I didn't see any flinching, I didn't see him favoring it one time," Maddon said. "It looked absolutely normal."

The Rays want to see how Crawford feels this morning, then want to see him hit again. With their opener on Thursday, they could send him to the instructional league for a few days of additional evaluation before deciding.

"There was no pain at all. I turned on a few balls good. I'm just trying to get my stroke down now," Crawford said. "I knew it wasn't going to hurt. They were more worried about it than me. I know how my hand feels; it's fine."

Maddon said the chance to have Crawford back in the lineup was very intriguing.

"This is one of those things we did not expect," he said. "This would be a pleasant surprise."

TICKET TALES: E-mail notifications are being sent out to fans who won the right to participate in Monday's Internet presale of tickets to a potential division series Game 5 on Oct. 8. If tickets remain, they will be sold on starting Tuesday at 9 a.m. and at regular outlets Wednesday.

PARTY POOPERS: While most of the Rays who left when the Yankees-Red Sox game was delayed returned to Comerica Park for the wild celebration that went past 2 a.m., a few missed the party due to bad communication lapses, apparently not getting a call or text message as others did. The absent included Jason Bartlett, Eric Hinske, Akinori Iwamura and Zobrist.

Hinske and Zobrist were back at the team hotel in their rooms when they saw clips of the celebration on ESPN. Bartlett said he wasn't feeling well; Iwamura declined to talk to the media.

"I actually thought it was a replay of when we were celebrating at home and then I saw the clubhouse manager sign and then I realized, 'Damn, they're back on the field,' " said Hinske, who instead celebrated with his wife, infant daughter and a glass of Johnnie Walker scotch. "I didn't have any idea."

Zobrist was disappointed to miss it. "I was ticked," he said. "Hopefully we'll celebrate a few more times."

MISCELLANY: RHP Troy Percival and LHP David Price, who both have to show something to get a spot on the postseason roster, are expected to pitch today. … Most of the regulars will get at least an at-bat or two. … Former Ray Dwight Gooden was on hand to watch nephew Gary Sheffield pursue his 500th homer. … Maddon will meet with the players today to discuss postseason logistics.

Rays lose in sloppy effort, but Garza looks sharp 09/27/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 27, 2008 11:13pm]
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