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Rays go down, but not quietly

Jeff Sparks loses his control and Mike DiFelice loses his temper in 11-6 loss to the Rangers.

For all you frustrated Devil Rays fans, Mike DiFelice feels your pain. He shares your pain. And on Wednesday, he articulated your pain in front of God and television.

Faced with the prospect of another game slipping away, DiFelice screamed at reliever Jeff Sparks on the mound before manager Larry Rothschild could step between them and send Sparks to the showers.

The Rays catcher was unhappy that Sparks continued to throw screwballs instead of fastballs while walking three straight hitters in a three-run seventh inning.

Tampa Bay went on to drop an 11-6 game to the Rangers, its fifth loss in a row.

Misfortune continued after the game when the Rays' charter was grounded by mechanical problems and the players had to wait around the ballpark for more than an hour until another plane could be dispatched to take them to Seattle.

"I'm not the most politically correct person. Maybe I do things spur of the moment sometimes," DiFelice said. "The thing is, I believe in Jeff Sparks and I believe in our entire pitching staff. I hope they believe that I and John Flaherty are going to do the best job we can for them.

"Whatever anger shows in situations doesn't mean anything. That just shows how much you care."

Rothschild cared enough to meet privately with Sparks in his office after the game. The rookie right-hander has walked seven of 12 batters in his past two appearances. Of 14 pitches he threw Wednesday, only two were strikes.

Although he did not condone DiFelice's outburst, Rothschild also did not appear too disturbed by it.

"I don't think we need to fight amongst ourselves, but I think we need to get some things done," Rothschild said. "It's time for us to do the right thing fundamentally on the mound. Make the right pitches and go after people."

Television cameras clearly showed DiFelice's diatribe, but Sparks said he was unaware of it. He did, however, take blame for his own misfortune.

"I'm not going to make any excuses, I just s----- today," Sparks said.

It is customary to bring a broom to the ballpark in anticipation of a series sweep. In the case of the Rays, a plunger may soon be in order because the season is rapidly going down the drain.

The script in Texas followed a painfully precise order during the three-game sweep. The Rays would fall behind early, scratch their way back, then watch the bullpen give it away.

After Steve Trachsel put Tampa Bay in a 5-0 hole in the first inning Tuesday, Bryan Rekar dug a 4-0 hole Wednesday. Trachsel managed to gut it out through six innings, but Rekar was bounced in the third as the Rays fell behind 8-1.

"When I had to make real good pitches, I didn't," Rekar said. "I left them up in the zone. When you jam guys or break their bats, the balls seemed to find a hole or a gap. That's the way the game goes."

As he did the night before, Fred McGriff got the comeback effort started with a home run to lead off the second.

His teammates accomplished little else in between, so McGriff continued the charge with a grand slam in the fifth. It was the seventh grand slam of his career and his second of the season.

"Fred's been swinging pretty good all along," Rothschild said. "He's hit some balls hard. Even the line drive he hit against Toronto, if he got under it the ball is gone and it ends the game."

Vinny Castilla snapped an 0-for-11 skid with a run-scoring single in the sixth to get Tampa Bay within 8-6. The Rays put their first two hitters on in the seventh, but Jose Guillen hit into a force play and DiFelice grounded into a double play.

That turned out to be the last legitimate shot at winning because the Rangers scored three in the bottom of the inning off Rick White, Sparks and Mark Guthrie.

The Rays (13-26) have a franchise-worst record beyond the first week of the season.

"It doesn't get less frustrating, it gets more," Rothschild said. "But I'm not the only one frustrated."

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