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Tampa Bay Rays' Peña, Upton reach rare part of Fenway with long home runs

BOSTON — Carlos Peña studied engineering, but trying to do the math of the home runs he and B.J. Upton hit Sunday was too complicated as the balls struck about 35 feet high on the back wall of the stadium, above the camera platform that sits over the left-centerfield fence marked at 379 feet.

Words were much easier.

"That," he said, "was fun."

It's rare for balls to hit there at Fenway, and manager Joe Maddon was equally in awe but slightly more descriptive.

"Those balls were mangled," he said. "They were well struck."

The Rays expect Peña to hit home runs, and that was his fourth of the season and 120th with the team, eight shy of Aubrey Huff's franchise mark. (It also was his fifth off Boston LHP Jon Lester, his most among the 154 pitchers he has taken deep, with Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte next at four.)

They're pleasantly surprised at Upton, who has hit three in the past four games and continues to show signs of a bounceback after hitting only 20 the past two regular seasons combined. "Starting to get there," Upton said.

Good enough, RHP Matt Garza said: "It only speaks to how deep we are when your 6-hole guy is hitting balls 500 feet on a laser beam."

On the run: LF Carl Crawford extended his streak of successful stolen bases against the Sox to 30, dating to September 2005, with a fifth-inning swipe of third. With two more steals by Ben Zobrist, the Rays have now swiped 40 in 44 attempts against the Sox in 21 games since the start of last season.

On a run: The Rays had won more than two straight at Fenway once, when they won four during the 1999 season over two trips: April 18-19 (which was also Patriots' Day) and June 30-July 1. … The June 30-July 1 two-game series stands as their only sweep.

Early riser: Today's 11:05 a.m. start obviously forces some changes in routine, especially for Rays starter Jeff Niemann, who makes his first start at Fenway this morning. To stay on schedule best he can, Niemann plans to wake up between 5-6, have breakfast, check out of the hotel and arrive at Fenway between 7-8. The team bus leaves at 9.

"It's going to be weird," Niemann said. "I'll try to keep the hours the same. It might not be the same time, but as far as timeline for a start, we should be okay. … I've got to get up and get out of bed, that's the biggest thing."

Sori story: Rafael Soriano's double-dip of saving both games completed Saturday night/Sunday morning was the first of his 12-year pitching career. He was also the first Ray to do so.

Minor matters: Top OF prospect Desmond Jennings, sidelined since spring training with a left wrist sprain, was activated and went 1-for-3 in Triple-A Durham's 10-1 win. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson improved to 3-0, 1.42 with a four-hit, eight-strikeout 72/3-inning outing.

Miscellany: Sunday's game was delayed 31 minutes at the start because of more rain; first-pitch temperature was 47. … The Rays have actually won seven straight road games, going back to last season, matching the team record. … Due to weather and scheduling, the Rays haven't taken batting practice on the field since Monday. … The Rays should know after C Kelly Shoppach sees Dr. Koco Eaton today if right knee surgery is required and how long he'll be out.

Fast facts

Road warriors

The Rays' start is among the best since 2000:

Year Team W-L

2002 Mariners 10-0

2002 Red Sox 8-0

2003 Giants 8-0

2010 Rays 6-0

2009 Marlins 6-0

2004 Cards 6-0

Tampa Bay Rays' Peña, Upton reach rare part of Fenway with long home runs 04/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 10:03pm]
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