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Two Rays escape major injuries after hit by pitches

ST. PETERSBURG — A potentially devastating two-pitch sequence in the 10th inning apparently will not be as costly to the Rays as it was frightening.

SS Jason Bartlett does not expect to be able to throw for two days after being hit on the right index finger while trying to bunt. X-rays revealed no break, and he should avoid the disabled list.

C Shawn Riggans, who finished the at-bat, has an imprint of a baseball on his right pectoral muscle but was otherwise unharmed when he was struck by a 97-mph pitch from the same reliever, Fernando Rodney. Riggans collapsed and was momentarily unable to breathe as trainers rushed to his aid, but he remained in the game and eventually scored the winner on Carlos Pena's bases-loaded walk.

"It wasn't the prettiest way, but I got the job done, didn't I?," Riggans said. "(The pitch) just kept coming at me. I'm not the best at getting out of the way of the ball anyway, but it kept on chasing me and with the velocity that guy is throwing at, you're not getting out of the way of it unless you turn out very early and spin the opposite direction."

Riggans said he likely would have been hit in the face had he been bunting.

"You could hear the percussion of his chest getting hit. I was hoping it wasn't his heart because obviously that's bad news. You're talking about death there," reliever Trever Miller said.

The Rays already had a succession plan from when Bartlett missed time in June for the birth of his son. 3B Evan Longoria will play SS with Willy Aybar at 3B. But it will be a lessened infield, manager Joe Maddon said.

"When (Bartlett)'s out there, it's a totally different vibe, feel, scene," he said.

MY TURN: Things were to be different around Miller's house Sunday night. After recording two outs in the 10th and standing as the pitcher of record when the Rays scored, he snapped his major-league record streak of 121 appearances without a decision, dating to Sept. 30, 2006.

"I'm going to go home tonight and make some decisions, because I've told my wife, 'Don't ask me anything. I haven't had a decision in a year and a half. It's all you,' " Miller quipped. " 'You decide where we're going, what vacations we're taking.' Now I'm going to take control, so she should be happy with that."

Miller assumed the record from ex-Ray Bobby Seay, who would have won for the Tigers had Rodney completed the save.

STRETCHED: Otherwise, it was a pedestrian night for a bullpen that has been one of the best. Troy Percival blew his third save in 27 chances after facing a season-high eight batters, matching a season high with 31 pitches and working more than one inning (11/3) for the first time this season. He allowed two homers and two walks. Percival, who said he would be available tonight anyway, lobbied to pitch the extra inning. "Might have had better ideas in my career, but it worked out," he said.

Percival has allowed multiple homers five times in his 13-year career, none since June 14, 2000, at Tropicana Field with the Angels. Curtis Granderson homered on the first pitch of the ninth to tie it at 4 on a grooved get-ahead fastball, Percival said, and Miguel Cabrera clobbered a "changeup gone awry" for a 5-4 lead in the 10th.

The bullpen allowed three earned runs after giving up four in its previous 12 games, but the Rays are 3-0 when Percival blows a save. "The thing about this team is this bullpen has been so good, it's like every time we do stink it up it's like (the hitters) feel obligated to go out there and so something, and they do," Percival said.

Grant Balfour had not allowed a home run this season until Gary Sheffield's two-out clout in the eighth.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Two Rays escape major injuries after hit by pitches 08/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 4, 2008 3:07pm]
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