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Tampa Bay Rays aim to exorcise ghastly winless-in-Cleveland skid

All you need to know about how long it has been since the Rays won a game in Cleveland is that when they last did, Seth McClung pitched.

And well.

McClung's eight shutout innings, Toby Hall's double and Julio Lugo's sac fly gave them a 1-0 win over Cliff Lee in what was Lou Piniella's final victory as manager of the Devil Rays — Sept. 28, 2005.

Since then, the Rays have played 17 games in Cleveland — and lost them all.

It's the longest current losing streak by any team at another's home — though well short of the record of 27 by the 1952-54 Browns/Orioles at Cleveland — as well as the longest in Rays history at any ballpark.

It has been ugly, with the Rays outscored 107-47 and held to two or fewer runs 11 times. And somewhat inexplicable, as the Rays in the same span are 13-9 against the Indians at the Trop.

After the Rays were swept in a four-game series at Progressive Field in May 2009, manager Joe Maddon sought creative solutions, suggesting the nearby Gothic-looking Tower City mall/transit station was haunted.

"I'm sure there's some sort of negative spiritual influence that's been cast upon us," he said, contemplating resorting to candles, holy water and the like. "We're going to look for the paranormal kind of activity, we'll get … the ghost meters out the next time we come here, and we'll see if we can eradicate it somehow."

But talking this week, he didn't find nearly as much humor in it.

"I'm telling you, it's frustrating," he said. "I don't have any answers. I'm really adrift on this one. I don't know why. They've always played well against us, and when I was with the Angels they played well against us then (including a 1996 four-game series when he was interim manager). So I believe in some perverse way it's my fault."

WELCOME BACK: The series marks the return to Cleveland of C Kelly Shoppach, who spent the previous four seasons there, and hitting coach Derek Shelton, who had been there 4½.

Even though they've faced the Indians twice at the Trop already this season, both are looking forward to seeing old friends, team employees and stadium workers they'd gotten to know over the years, and the new experience of being in the visitors' dugout.

"I think it's going to be a little different," Shelton said. "But it'll be different good."

C.C. REPORT: LF Carl Crawford, who sustained a testicular bruise Tuesday, is hopeful of returning to the lineup tonight. When he does return, he has two targets before his Aug. 5 birthday: He needs one triple to become the 12th player with 100 before turning 29, and five steals to become the seventh player with 400 before turning 29.

MISCELLANY: Rocco Baldelli went 1-for-4 with a double that one-hopped the right-centerfield wall in the second game of his comeback for Class A Charlotte on Thursday in Clearwater. He'll DH again Saturday. … LHP Randy Choate leads the AL with 49 relief appearances. … After six games with the Gulf Coast League team, LHP Brian Shouse moved up to Charlotte.

fast facts

Tough towns

The longest losing streaks for one team visiting another:

Games Years Teams

27 1952-54 Browns/Orioles at Indians

25 1929-31 Reds at Cardinals

22 1949-50 A's at Red Sox

22 1930-32 Phillies at Cardinals

21 1936-38 Reds at Pirates

22 2007-10 Pirates at Brewers

20 1889-91 Alleghenies at Giants

20 1903-04 Senators at Americans

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Tampa Bay Rays aim to exorcise ghastly winless-in-Cleveland skid 07/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 22, 2010 11:22pm]

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