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This win packs some punch

A seventh-inning brawl and a 4-3 victory could add up to a defining moment for the Devil Rays.

The day begins in the Devil Rays clubhouse with a bunch of grown men rubbing Rick White's bald head for luck. Later, the teams brawl on the field and some nutty Mariners reliever says he wants a piece of Jose Canseco. By nightfall, the opposing managers are enjoying each other's company over dinner.

All in all, it was a very good day for a very needy team.

The Devil Rays snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday afternoon, beating the Mariners 4-3 to avoid replacing Detroit as the team with the worst record in the majors.

In the process, the Rays hope they might have accomplished something even larger. Perhaps a defining moment for a team in need of an identity.

"I think this can be good. It lets you know where everybody stands, that all 25 guys are on the same page," catcher Mike DiFelice said. "I think you saw that out there today."

What people saw at Safeco Field is open to conjecture, although the basic facts are:

Mariners second baseman Mark McLemore called time while at the plate and stepped out of the batter's box. Rays pitcher Esteban Yan continued his delivery and threw a pitch in the direction of McLemore's legs. McLemore charged the mound, throwing his helmet at Yan and starting a ruckus that took 15 minutes to clear up.

McLemore said Yan intentionally threw at him and he had no choice but to charge the mound. Umpire Bruce Froemming did not agree. Froemming said Yan was already in his windup when time was called and the pitch was accidental. McLemore was ejected and Yan was allowed to continue. When McLemore incited tempers again by screaming at Yan, Rays manager Larry Rothschild decided to take his pitcher out.

"For him to go out and try to end somebody's career when they're not looking? There's no room for that kind of c--- in baseball," Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. "He has too good an arm to be doing that kind of stuff."

Yan proclaimed innocence. He said he had begun his windup and continued throwing to avoid injury.

"He called timeout and I tried to throw the pitch to the ground," Yan said. "I don't want to hit any batters. I got no reason, it's a close game. When he said timeout, I didn't want to stop and hurt my shoulder. I threw it 81 mph."

The consensus in the clubhouse was that Yan was not throwing at McLemore but, if he did, he had some justification. The Mariners were continually stepping out of the batter's box in an attempt to disrupt Yan's timing.

As brawls go, it was a tame affair, although Mariners reliever Arthur Rhodes did his best to spice it up.

Rhodes was pushed aside by Canseco and had to be restrained by several players from attacking the 250-pound slugger. Rhodes continued to struggle to get at Canseco and was eventually ejected after mouthing off to Froemming.

"If you can't push me in front of my face, don't push me," Rhodes said. "I'm not going to take that."

During the pitcher's on-field tirade, the muscular Canseco stood nearby and calmly suggested a one-on-one conflict might be an unwise move on Rhodes' part.

Canseco said he was merely acting as a peacekeeper. He was in the clubhouse when the brawl began and by the time he got on the field, the players were in a scrum.

"When I came out, there were a bunch of people on Yan. So I started going through the pile, separating people. I guess Rhodes was one of the guys I pushed," Canseco said. "I didn't realize it, but he probably took offense to it."

Tension escalated again an inning later when DiFelice squared to bunt and former Rays reliever Jose Paniagua threw a pitch high and tight. The ball struck DiFelice on his thumb as he attempted to bunt and he took several steps toward the mound.

Players ran on the field, but order was quickly restored.

While a brawl is nothing to be proud of, the Rays at least were pleased to have a chance to show some solidarity after enduring a difficult seven weeks.

"Different things bring teams together," Rothschild said. "We're not out looking for fights. But I've said all along we're going to protect our hitters and our pitchers are going to protect their territory on the mound.

"It doesn't hurt to establish that."

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