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Blum bounces back at plate

Slumping and frustrated, Geoff Blum figured nothing else could wrong for him this year.

And then came the ninth inning Saturday.

With the Rays trying to protect a one-run lead and avoid the complications of the MLB-imposed 9:15 p.m. hurricane curfew, all Blum had to do was field Gabe Gross' grounder and throw to first for the final out.

Then the ball hit the lip where the FieldTurf meets the dirt infield and took a wicked hop, bouncing away for a tough error as the Blue Jays tied the score.

"An impossible play to make," manager Lou Piniella said. "In my two years here I've never seen that."

Blum, though, got redemption as the Rays rallied back. After Midre Cummings walked, Rocco Baldelli dropped a nice bunt, Toronto pitcher Miguel Batista threw wildly past first and Julio Lugo grounded out, Blum drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.

"It's been a pretty rough year, to say the least, on and off the field, let alone for me but for the state of Florida," Blum said. "For that hop to happen I was just in disbelief. That's the first time I've ever been in straight shock on the field. Not only did I see the game slip away I saw the season in a nutshell on that hop.

"To come back and have the opportunity to win it was probably a blessing because I don't think anybody wanted to play a tie ballgame into the 12th hour or whatever it was."

DEBO A GO: Dewon Brazelton had an impressive outing, holding the Jays to three hit while working into the eighth, and keeping his pitch count down (to 86) by throwing lots of strikes.

"I try to go out there every game and do this, some games I get bombed and some games I don't," he said. "I wanted to go out there and throw strikes early and often."

He said the key Saturday was following pitching coach Chuck Hernandez's game plan and catcher Toby Hall's signals.

PITCHING IN: Today's cancellation caused more changes in the Rays' already fluid pitching plans.

Rob Bell, who was scheduled to start today, will lose his turn and won't pitch until Friday. Left-handers Scott Kazmir and John Halama will pitch the first two games against the Red Sox, with Wednesday's starter undecided. Mark Hendrickson and Brazelton are scheduled for Thursday's doubleheader.

Rookie John Webb is expected to rejoin the team after attending Monday funeral services for his brother, James, 18, who died Wednesday as the result of brain cancer.

ROOKIE MISTAKE: B.J. Upton and Kazmir got a talking-to from Piniella and some abuse from their teammates after showing up late (around 4:30 p.m.) Saturday and missing their season-ticket holder appreciation day autograph session. Kazmir also skipped an autograph session at Walker Ford.

Their excuse? "They didn't have any," Piniella said.

The players weren't fined, but Piniella said they will sign pictures for season-ticket holders and will sign autographs for Wednesday's rescheduled Fan Appreciation Day.

DOME RULE: Today's game is the fourth postponed or canceled at the Rays' domed home for weather-related reasons, the third this season. The other was Sept. 17, 2000, with Hurricane Gordon approaching. That has happened only twice at other domes. A June 15, 1976, game at Houston's Astrodome was postponed due to heavy rains that made travel unsafe, and an April 14, 1983, game at Minnesota's Metrodome was postponed when snow caused the roof to collapse.

MISCELLANY: Danys Baez's streak of consecutive saves ended at 18. It was his third blown save (in 32 chances) and he has picked up the win each time. The 38 wins at Tropicana Field are a Rays record. Baldelli turned 23 on Saturday.

_ MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer


NEXT GAME: 7:15 p.m. Monday, vs. Red Sox, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

NOTES: Tickets for today's game can be exchanged for any of the four remaining home dates, including Thursday's doubleheader against Detroit, in the same price category, subject to availability.

RAYS TICKETS: Available at the Tropicana Field box office, through all Ticketmaster outlets, online at or and at the Devil Rays Dugout store at WestShore Plaza in Tampa.

INFORMATION: Call toll free 1-888-326-7297 (FAN-RAYS).


Playing under a curfew Saturday was an unusual experience for many of the Rays. Centerfielder Rocco Baldelli, however, was used to playing hurryup style. "My high school didn't have lights," he said.