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Rays let Angels escape

Tampa Bay, which led 4-0 after two innings, crumbles in the fifth and sixth in a 8-4 loss.

The Devil Rays were due in around breakfast time this morning for a rare day off at home. But you have to wonder how many will dare show their faces around town today.

The Rays wrapped up one of the most brutal road trips in team history in frustratingly fitting fashion Wednesday, turning an early four-run advantage into an 8-4 loss.

The 11-day journey took them to Cleveland, Oakland and Anaheim, but it might as well have been hell and back. The Rays went 2-8, were outscored 60-22 and hit .187 during a mind-boggling offensive dearth that produced a team-worst 23-inning scoreless streak and an equally disturbing stretch of 45-plus innings without a walk. Their pitchers, meanwhile, posted an ERA of 6.15 and only one starter completed seven innings.

Wednesday's loss, their fifth straight, dropped them to a season-low 24 games under .500 and a season-high 24{ games out of first place. They've all but lost any chance to surpass last year's total of 69 wins, given that they'll have to win nine of their last 16 to do so.

Avoiding 100 losses, which requires two more victories, may be a more realistic, though not guaranteed, goal.

As bad as the games and occasional post-game finger-pointing sessions were, the onfield struggles were only part of the reason for their long trip. There also were disciplinary matters, the suspensions of five players as a result of the Aug. 29 game with Boston along with some unusual name-calling by the Red Sox; legal matters, the dropping of domestic battery charges against pitcher Bryan Rekar; medical matters, the hospitalization of pitcher Ryan Rupe, whose season ended because of the discovery of a blood clot; and personnel matters, with two waves of promotions from the minor leagues.

"This trip's over with," manager Larry Rothschild said. "You can't revise history, as much as you'd like to be able to. We need to get home and regroup a little bit. It's been a long stretch for us and a lot's happened during that stretch."

The Rays broke to a 4-0 lead after two innings, taking advantage of three Anaheim errors and other misdeeds and riding Fred McGriff's two-run homer. But once again they gave it away, this time in a painful fifth inning.

After allowing just one hit and a walk through the first four, Cory Lidle flat-out lost it in the fifth. A one-out walk and a single set up a three-run home run by Adam Kennedy, who is hitting .355 with 13 RBI in 12 games against the Rays. Back-to-back doubles by Benji Gil and Darin Erstad and an Orlando Palmeiro single that bounced up the middle led to two more Anaheim runs and Lidle's immediate departure.

The score was still within reach at 5-4, but the Rays took care of that in the sixth. Tony Fiore allowed a pair of run-scoring singles, with an error by rightfielder Steve Cox aiding the Anaheim effort.

Not to make too big a deal of the Rays' three-run outburst in the first, but it was the first time the team scored as many as three runs in an inning since Thursday.

Two infield singles and some errant Anaheim throws were key to their success. Gerald Williams opened the game with a grounder to third and beat Troy Glaus' throw. Randy Winn did the same after dropping a bunt, and that led to all kinds of action.

Glaus' throw ticked off Mo Vaughn's glove, allowing Williams to go to third. Vaughn compounded the problem, as any Little League coach would say, by throwing unnecessarily back across the diamond, his errant toss allowing Williams to score.

The Rays got two more runs in much simpler fashion when McGriff drove a Ramon Ortiz pitch into the rightfield seats. It was McGriff's 23rd homer, but just his first since Aug. 26 (a span of 51 at-bats) and fifth since the All-Star break.

With one more home run, McGriff will join Frank Robinson as the only players to hit 200 homers in each league. McGriff hit 214 in the National League and has 199 in the American League.

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