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Rays end run drought, but not win drought

First run in three days isn't enough as Oakland wins 5-1.

At least they scored a run this time.

Having seen their scoreless streak extend to a mind-boggling 23 innings, the Devil Rays finally got a run in the sixth inning Monday night, Gerald Williams knocking in Felix Martinez.

Unfortunately for the Rays, the A's scored four more and went on to a 5-1 victory.

"We got a run to break a long drought, but one run's not going to do it," manager Larry Rothschild said.

The Rays have lost three straight, and are 2-9 in a September that nobody wants to remember. They open a two-game series in Anaheim tonight, hoping to stop the slide that makes it seem more and more unlikely they will be able to surpass last season's total of 69 wins. To do so, they will need to win nine of their final 18 games.

While the Rays snapped their scoreless streak, not even halfway to the major-league record of 48 consecutive innings, they did extend another mark of futility.

They managed to go nine more innings without drawing a walk, extending that streak to an amazing 40 innings without taking ball four (eight against Kevin Appier, who leads the American League in batters walked).

Monday's score was 1-1 going into the eighth, but the A's took the lead with consecutive singles by Randy Velarde, Jason Giambi and Ben Grieve off reliever Doug Creek.

"He didn't make bad pitches, it's just the way luck went for him," Rothschild said.

Two wild pitches by Esteban Yan and a double by Matt Stairs led to two more runs, and a single by Eric Chavez made it 5-1.

The A's have gone against of baseball's main theories by assembling a contending team with a modest payroll of approximately $32-million, about half of the Rays' Opening Day tab.

But the San Francisco Bay Area fans have disproved another, that winning attracts crowds. With the A's going into play Monday just two games behind Seattle in the American League West and two behind Cleveland for the wild-card spot, an announced crowd of just 9,109 turned out at Network Associates Coliseum.

The A's struck first, with a run in the second. Adam Piatt was hit by a pitch, went to third on Stair's single to right-center (with Williams making a diving stop to keep the ball from going to the wall), and scored on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Miguel Tejada, who posted his 98th RBI.

The Rays tied the score in the sixth off Appier, but could have had more except for yet another unusual call. Martinez snapped an 0-for-17 streak by lashing a triple into the right-centerfield gap, and Williams brought him home by bouncing a ball just over the head of third baseman Chavez.

Williams went to second on the play, and he dashed home with what appeared to be Tampa Bay's second run when Randy Winn struck out and the ball bounced far away from the plate.

However, home plate umpire Ed Rapuano ruled the ball was dead because it struck Winn's left foot after he had swung, and sent Williams back to second. He got no further when Steve Cox flied to right.

Rookie starter Travis Harper was a little shaky early, but held the A's to one run and two hits through five innings. He walked four and hit another.

His most impressive work came in the third after a single and two walks had left him in a difficult predicament. Grieve was at the plate with the count full and none out when manager Rothschild went to the mound, and it must have been one heck of a pep talk.

Harper, a 24-year-old in his third major-league game, retired Grieve on a fly to shallow left, caught Piatt looking at strike three and got Stairs to fly to left, escaping without giving up a run.

He actually retired eight in a row, and nine of his final 10.

Harper moved quickly through the Rays system this season, going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in nine starts at Double-A Orlando, and 7-4 with a 4.24 ERA at Triple-A Durham.

He made one start for the Rays on Aug. 4 during a week-long call-up, and was hit hard by Baltimore. He was better Wednesday in Cleveland when he held Cleveland to two runs and seven hits over 3 innings in relief of Ryan Rupe.

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