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Boggs on mound caps meltdown

17-1 loss to O's winds up with newest member of 3,000-hit club going 1 innings.

Wade Boggs was the hero Saturday night when he delivered his 3,000th career hit to cap the greatest moment in Devil Rays history.

Tuesday, he was the featured attraction in one their lowest moments, pitching the final 1 innings of a franchise-worst 17-1 loss to Baltimore.

"Boy," Boggs said, "has this been an eventful week."

Boggs gave up three hits but just one run, working out of a bases-loaded jam to end the eighth and striking out Delino DeShields to open the ninth. It was the second pitching appearance of his 18-year major-league career.

"I told the guys Boggs got out, "Don't let it bother you,' " Baltimore manager Ray Miller said. " "You can tell people you faced a Hall of Famer. Just don't tell them he was a hitter.' "

Boggs' appearance on the mound highlighted what was otherwise an ugly night, and the sad truth was that his dancing knuckleball made him the most effective of the four Tampa Bay pitchers.

Starter Dave Eiland didn't survive the second, giving up six runs, and relievers Mickey Callaway and Mike Duvall weren't much better as the Orioles totaled 20 hits, none of them homers. "I had nothing," Eiland said. "My mechanics were a little off and I wasn't able to make my pitches and as a result, I got my a-- kicked, plain and simple."

The Rays committed four errors, their most, and rapped only six hits off Baltimore starter Sidney Ponson.

"When you pitch badly, the game looks awful," Rays manager Larry Rothschild said. "That's all there is to it."

The Rays trailed 6-0 before they got their first hit and 8-0 when they got their run. Until Boggs sprinted in with the bases loaded in the eighth, there wasn't much to entertain the Tropicana Field fans _ some suspense when Mike Bordick's second-inning double stuck in the padding on the leftfield wall, and some amusement trying to determine how many of the announced 17,848 really were at the stadium.

Boggs learned a knuckleball as a 7-year-old growing up in Georgia following Phil Niekro. He made the Plant High varsity as a sophomore because of his pitching skills.

He threw a scoreless inning for the Yankees at the end of a 12-4 loss at Anaheim on Aug. 19, 1997, and has been volunteering for similar duty with the Rays, throwing the knuckleball during pregame warmups every day.

Rothschild refused to use Boggs until he reached the 3,000-hit milestone, but with the bullpen depleted from two long nights he decided Tuesday was the right time. "I hate to do those things," Rothschild said. "There wasn't much choice."

"He picked us up, but as a pitching staff it's kind of embarrassing," Eiland said. "It's our own fault. It's my fault, I set the tone."

Boggs, who didn't start Tuesday, said he had an inkling he might be called upon about the fifth. "It started shaping up and the palms started getting a little sweaty and Bobby Witt kept saying, "Dude, you're in the game.' I didn't expect to come in with the bases loaded though. Not your ideal situation."

Boggs went 3-and-2 on Charles Johnson but retired him on a fly to right to end the inning. "It was kind of weird having to face him, especially after seeing him get his 3,000th hit," Johnson said.

Boggs caught DeShields looking to open the ninth and got Ryan Minor on a groundout. "I haven't faced too many knuckleballers, but he wasn't bad," Minor said. "It looked like he knew what he was doing. Maybe he has another career ahead of him."

Rich Amaral hit a soft double to center and went to third on an outfield error. Bordick and Jeff Conine followed with singles, but Boggs got the final out by retiring menacing slugger Albert Belle on a routine fly to center after slipping a fastball by him for a strike.

"I don't think he was too pleased with that," Boggs said. "The only thing going through my mind when he walked up to the plate, I said, "Albert, just don't hit one right back at me.' I can take it at 90 feet, but 60 is a little close."

The sight of Boggs on the mound was novel enough, but it was really something coming three nights after he made history with the 3,000th hit.

"I think he should have to do it over again," Conine said. "What did he give up, three hits? He should have to go back to 2,998."

Remember, knuckleballers never age

Rich Amaral has the honor of being the first player to get a hit off Wade Boggs. In his only previous appearance as a pitcher, Boggs threw one hitless inning for the Yankees in 1997. After giving up a run Tuesday night, his career ERA jumped to 3.86. Here is a batter-by-batter look at Boggs' performance Tuesday.

Batter Inning Result

Charles Johnson 8 Flyout to right

Delino DeShields 9 Strikeout looking

Ryan Minor 9 Groundout to short

Rich Amaral 9 Double to center

Mike Bordick 9 RBI single to right

Jeff Conine 9 Single to center

Albert Belle 9 Flyout to center

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