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A historical home run binge


A historical home run binge
By MARC TOPKIN

Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK - The immediate impact of Thursday's dramatic 8-6 victory was evident throughout the Rays clubhouse as they spoke not only of the accomplishment of winning three straight for the first time this season, but of battling back the way they did so often last season.

"Our guys," manager Joe Maddon said, "are starting to believe again."

The historical significance was pretty good, too. Carl Crawford and Evan Lon?goria hit the first back-to-back home runs Yankees relief ace Mariano Rivera allowed in 863 career appearances and just the first pair of home runs he allowed in the same game in 11 years.

"That never happens," Crawford said. "We picked a good time to do it."

The Rays hit a team-record-tying six home runs on the night, including Carlos Pe?a's major-league leading 13th and two from Longoria, who extended his major-league leading RBI total to 38. Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist also went deep.

But they also blew 4-0 and 6-4 leads, which as frustrating as it was at the time made the victory more gratifying and made the 14-16 Rays more convincing that, with six wins in their past eight games, they have things turned around as they head to Boston for a weekend showdown with the Red Sox.

"It's a huge step forward," Longoria said. "We saw a lot of good things on our last homestand as far as a come-from-behind win and playing into tie ball games and able to come out on top. Those are things we did last year that made us so successful. And I think if we continue to do that, we're going to see a pretty drastic turnaround in the win-loss column."

As much as Maddon wants to avoid comparisons to last season, he raved about the intensity in the dugout and acknowledged the vibe is starting to feel the same as they battled back twice after giving up the lead.

"We have to win games like that," he said. "I like the fact when we play with that type of intensity, it brings out the best in all of us. It's like any other team that's doing well. You start feeding off of one another. It's a good feeling. We like that kind of game. And it's good to get back close to being on track."

The Rays had a 4-0 lead after three innings, but starter Jeff Niemann wasn't sharp. Maddon had him on a short leash and pulled him in the fourth. Lance Cormier gave it all back by the fifth. Then the Rays went ahead again when Zobrist homered in the sixth - the career-high fourth in a game allowed by Yankees starter Andy Pettitte - and added another when Pat Burrell singled in Lon?goria in the seventh.

But another call to the bullpen went awry as Dan Wheeler, who hadn't allowed even a hit in his previous five outings and no runs over his past six, gave up a two-out single to Derek Jeter and a two-run home run to Johnny Damon.

The Yankees summoned Rivera, whose velocity is down after offseason shoulder surgery. Crawford worked a tremendous nine-pitch at-bat, falling behind 0-and-2, fouling off three pitches, working the count full and connecting for his first home run of the season.

"You see what Carl did against maybe the best closer of all time right there," Maddon said. "To have that kind of at-bat in that type of situation to get us back on top was huge."

Crawford's streak of consecutive games with a stolen base ended at nine, but he wasn't too disappointed.

"I was real excited to hit a home run," he said.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 8, 2009

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