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Same losing ending for Rays

(ran SPORTS FINAL edition)

Vaughn homers twice but bullpen blows lead in 7-6 defeat at Seattle.

One of these days, the Devil Rays will stop losing. Maybe even before this season ends.

Seemingly poised to snap a five-game losing streak, the Devil Rays blew another late-inning lead and lost to the Mariners 7-6 Friday night. It was the 11th time this season the Rays have given up the winning run in the eighth inning or later.

Their creed has been whatever it takes to lose and Billy Taylor bought right into it.

The former Oakland closer flew across the country Thursday after being called up from Triple-A Durham and it took him just minutes to blow an eighth-inning lead.

Better yet, he did it with former Oakland teammate Rickey Henderson scoring the tying run.

Henderson, signed by the Mariners after being released by the Mets, made his Seattle debut as a pinch-runner after Jay Buhner led off the eighth with a walk.

Stan Javier drilled a double over Gerald Williams' head in center and Henderson came around to score standing up, narrowly escaping the sweep tag by catcher John Flaherty.

That was it for Taylor, who was replaced by closer Roberto Hernandez who promptly walked pinch-hitter Tom Lampkin. After Mike Cameron moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt, the Mariners took the lead on a Mark McLemore sacrifice fly.

The bullpen collapse wasted another brilliant effort from Greg Vaughn, who would be an MVP candidate if he played on a team that won more than once a week.

Vaughn gave the Rays their first lead with a two-out homer in the second. After Dwight Gooden let that slight advantage slip away, Vaughn put the Rays up again in the seventh.

With two out and two on, Vaughn cranked a Jose Mesa fastball into the upper deck in leftfield to put Tampa Bay up 6-4.

Vaughn was hitless in the last series in Texas and had not homered in 10 games.

Not only was the timing right for Vaughn on Friday, so was the setting. The home runs were his first at Safeco Field, making it the 34th major-league stadium he has homered in. Only Fred McGriff (36) and Mark McGwire (35) have gone long in more parks.

Sandwiched between Vaughn's home runs was a solo shot by Williams in the fifth.

Vinny Castilla set the stage for Vaughn's second shot with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly that cut Seattle's lead to 4-3.

Larry Rothschild spared no one in the bullpen while trying to nail down the victory.

Albie Lopez, who normally does not pitch before the seventh inning, came in to start the sixth. And, even then, Rothschild kept him on a short leash.

After Alex Rodriguez homered with one out in the seventh, Rothschild turned to lefty Mark Guthrie. Guthrie struck out John Olerud and Rothschild immediately went to Taylor.

Gooden left after five innings trailing 4-2. Considering he gave up 10 hits, three walks and threw a season-high 107 pitches, he was fortunate to make it that far.

After giving up 11 home runs in his past four starts, Gooden had mixed results avoiding the long ball. He surrendered homers to Javier and Edgar Martinez, but both came with no one on.

Gooden was also capably backed by his defense. Vaughn bailed him out in the first inning, making a leaping catch at the leftfield wall and later throwing out John Olerud trying to score from second on a single.

Gooden caught another break in the fourth when, after surrendering four straight singles, he got Rodriguez to hit into an inning-ending double-play.

The Rays got a break when Mariners starter Brett Tomko left in the fourth inning with stiffness in his right shoulder.

Tomko had given up 20 runs in his past 23 innings, but looked like an All-Star in his first three innings Friday.

Tomko had five strikeouts and was cruising with a 2-1 lead before walking Jose Canseco to lead off the fourth. Jose Guillen followed with a single and Tomko went 3-1 on John Flaherty before manager Lou Piniella removed him.

Reliever Frankie Rodriguez got Flaherty to fly out and Kevin Stocker hit into a double-play.