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Winning feeling fades


Winning feeling fades
Rays can't extend winning streak as Boston unloads on Niemann for 10-6 victory.

By TONY FABRIZIO

afabrizio@tampatrib.com

ST. PETERSBURG - Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke before Saturday night's game about getting that "loving feeling" back after beating the rival Red Sox convincingly in back-to-back games.

How fleeting that feeling has been for the Rays so far in 2009.

It faded again before a near Tropicana Field full house of 34,910, with the Red Sox chewing up Jeff Niemann and some of his relief help for a 10-6 victory.

Now the Rays will have to win today's finale in the four-game series to avoid a seventh consecutive non-winning series.

"We love being in love, but we're just not staying in love," Maddon said after a game in which pitching coach Jim Hickey was ejected and the Red Sox got at least one hit from every starter except designated hitter David Ortiz

"Tonight's game, we had a chance to win that. I thought there was a lot of fight in us tonight."

The feel-good didn't disappear without some drama. The Rays (10-15) rallied from an early 6-1 deficit with a solo home run from Carlos Pena in the fourth - his major league-leading 11th homer - and three runs in the fourth against old nemesis Tim Wakefield (3-1).

One run behind was as close as the Rays would get, though.

While the Red Sox were able to keep the pressure on, extracting four runs in the sixth and seventh innings from the Tampa Bay bullpen, the Rays couldn't take advantage of their scoring chances.

B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford and Akinori Iwamura left runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings. The Rays finally pushed through one more in the ninth on a single by Pat Burrell for his second RBI of the night.

Evan Longoria continued his torrid start by going 2-for-5 with his 29th and 30th RBIs and 12th double, but leadoff man Upton continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 and seeing his batting average fall to .174.

The season's sixth meeting between the 2008 American League Championship Series combatants - the Rays had won four of the previous five - had its moments of levity.

Nick Green fell down on a base-stealing attempt in the second, and Green and Dustin Pedroia collided after Green caught a high infield pop-up by Longoria in the third.

There was also a scary moment in the fourth inning when Pedroia, the reigning AL Most Valuable Player, stayed down for a few moments after being hit by a throw from Crawford while coming into third base. He got up and finished a game in which he reached base five times.

Niemann (2-3), who won a tight battle for the fifth starter job during the spring, had pitched well since a rough first inning in his season debut. But his first start against the Red Sox unraveled quickly.

He created his own trouble in the first by walking Pedroia and hitting Kevin Youkilis, and the Red Sox made him pay when J.D. Drew doubled to deep right to drive in both runs.

Boston's three-run second inning included a two-run single by Green that skipped off Iwamura's glove, and Iwamura's third error in three nights, committed while trying to field a chopper from the fleet Jacoby Ellsbury.

Green added an RBI single in the third, and Niemann, with his team trailing 6-1, didn't return for the fourth.

"I was missing with the fastball and wasn't able to get it back down in the zone, and I paid the price for it," Niemann said. "You can't make that many mistakes against this team."

Photo credit: Tribune photo by JULIE BUSCH

Photo: Boston's Mike Lowell, right, congratulates Kevin Youkilis after he scored a run in the first inning at Tropicana Field.

Photo credit: Tribune photo by JULIE BUSCH

Photo: Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury scores a run while Rays catcher Dioner Navarro gets ready for the throw.

Copyright ? 2009, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

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