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Hope taunts Rays in frustrating loss

A blood blister.

The Rays have that to thank for the bitterness of a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Angels on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.

For if it weren't for the blister on the right middle finger of Angels starting pitcher Ismael Valdes, Tampa Bay might not have made a game of it in the end.

Valdes was dominant, retiring the first nine Rays and allowing two hits in six innings. But when he was pulled while warming up for the seventh before an announced 12,234, the outcome wasn't such a lock.

The Rays scored one on a double by Steve Cox in the seventh and had the bases loaded with two outs in the eighth when Cox struck out against closer Troy Percival to end the inning and the threat.

Tampa Bay starter Joe Kennedy was just as impressive as Valdes.

The rookie left-hander allowed one run on eight hits in six innings. Though he struck out a career-high six, Kennedy lost for the third straight time.

The Angels, who have won five straight on the road, scored in the first inning.

Rookie shortstop David Eckstein, who played at the University of Florida and won a state championship at Sanford-Seminole High, hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on Troy Glaus' single to rightfield.

Eckstein scored on a grounder by Darin Erstad that Rays shortstop Andy Sheets fielded and threw to Brent Abernathy for the force, but Abernathy's relay wasn't in time to complete the double play.

Kennedy wriggled out of the inning when Erstad was caught stealing and leftfielder Garret Anderson flied out to center, and he wouldn't get in trouble again until the fourth.

After a double by designated hitter Shawn Wooten and single by Scott Spiezio, Kennedy struck out the next two to end the inning.

The dramatics seemed to wake the Rays offense.

After three hitless innings by Valdes, leftfielder Jason Tyner started the fourth with a single to center, followed by a single by Ben Grieve.

But Tampa Bay failed to score as Valdes retired the next three batters.

Kennedy allowed two runners in the fifth but got a double play and struck out Erstad to end the inning. He was replaced by right-hander Travis Phelps before the start of the seventh inning.

The first batter Phelps saw, Benji Gil, ripped the first pitch off the centerfield wall. Randy Winn jumped but missed, and the ball ricocheted toward the infield.

Gil scored when catcher Bengie Molina hit a sacrifice fly to rightfield to make it 2-0. Adam Kennedy, the third batter of the inning, struck out but made it to first on a wild pitch.

Eckstein then singled up the middle for his fourth hit of the game. Glaus walked to load the bases, and Phelps was pulled in favor of lefty Doug Creek.

Creek, making his 40th relief appearance this season, struck out the two batters he faced and left the mound pumping his left fist.

Valdes took the mound for the seventh and began warming up, but he stopped and was taken out by manager Mike Scioscia.

Ben Weber replaced Valdes and gave up a pair of doubles, one to designated hitter Greg Vaughn and another by Cox that scored Vaughn from second to make it 2-1.

That was all the Rays could manage.

Weber retired three straight with the tying run, Cox, on base.

Creek struck out two more in the eighth and the Rays loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning but failed to score.

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