Aaron Ledesma had no special plans when he stepped to the plate with two outs in the sixth inning Saturday.
He was aware Cleveland's Chad Ogea was working on a no-hitter _ "When you don't have any hits against a guy it's pretty obvious," he said _ but didn't want to change his approach.
"I just wanted to put a quality at-bat together," said Ledesma, who made his first start at third base. The result was a hard single to left, just under the dive of Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel, ending Ogea's bid for glory.
"I almost got him," Vizquel said. "He was lucky."
Ogea was strong from the start, but Tampa Bay manager Larry Rothschild said he was never concerned the Rays were going to be no-hit.
"It never entered my mind," he said.
Miguel Cairo had an infield single in the seventh, and Paul Sorrento homered to lead off the eighth.
LEATHER WORKS: Vizquel did "get" Ledesma earlier. With two outs in the third, Ledesma blooped a ball to short left-center. Vizquel raced for it, his back to the infield, and made a spectacular sliding catch on his knees.
"I'm thinking, "Come on, man, give me a break. I've played once in the last seven days,' " Ledesma said.
"It's a hard play," said Vizquel, who has won five straight Gold Gloves. "I just happen to make it more."
One the previous play, third baseman Travis Fryman made a backhand grab and a long throw to rob catcher John Flaherty of a double. In the fourth, centerfielder Kenny Lofton raced to deepest right-centerfield to snare Dave Martinez's line drive.
The Rays, meanwhile, made two errors that)led to runs. Cairo misplayed what should have been a ground ball for the third out in the second, and Vizquel followed with a run-scoring double. In the fourth, Flaherty made an errant pickoff throw to second, allowing Sandy Alomar to advance to third, from where he scored on a sacrifice fly.
"The big difference in this game was defense," Rothschild said.
JUST RELAX: Rookie Jason Johnson admitted adrenaline got the best of him in his first two starts, resulting in shaky hands, sweaty palms and a lack of control on the mound. Such excitement is natural for a 24-year-old making his first major-league starts, Rothschild said, but "it's important that you don't let it affect your performance, and obviously it did." The Rays talked to Johnson about some relaxation techniques. "There's some things, like breathing, taking deep breathes, to control the body a little bit," Rothschild said. But what will help Johnson most is experience. "I think it's just getting out there," Rothschild said. Johnson's situation is complicated because he is a diabetic and sometimes has trouble controlling his blood sugar levels.
FILL IN THE BLANK: Rothschild said he does not expect to get suspended for his ejection last week, but he will get fined, which is standard procedure. The fine is likely to be $250 or $500. "I don't know what it is, but I have my checkbook with me," Rothschild said.
MEDICAL REPORT: OF Rich Butler, struck on the right hand by a pitch Thursday, improved enough that he was available to pinch-hit Saturday. Martinez, who sprained his left shoulder Wednesday, returned to the outfield. 1B Fred McGriff, sidelined Friday after a test for an ulcer, was back in the lineup. Injured RHP Rick Gorecki has thrown off the mound for two days without pain but is not ready to come off the disabled list. He is eligible today.
RAYS WRAP-UP: Right-hander Julio Santana made his Devil Rays debut with a scoreless eighth. Rookie 3B Bobby Smith, in a 1-for-21 slump, was out of the starting lineup for the first time since April 16.
- MARC TOPKIN