ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Rocco Baldelli and the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays have broken out of early season slides.
Baldelli hit a go-ahead, three-run homer, and reliever John
Halama threw 3 1-3 scoreless innings to lead the Devil Rays over
the Minnesota Twins 5-4 Thursday.
Baldelli's first homer since May 2 overcame a 4-2 deficit in the
fourth, and Tampa Bay went on to win for the sixth time in seven
games. His drive hit a catwalk support pole approximately 125 feet
above the field. Baldelli has hits in eight straight games and 13
of his last 14.
"Winning is more fun," Baldelli said. "We're beating good
teams now. To come and win a series against a team like this is
Baldelli is hitting .296, up from .195 on April 18.
"He's been swinging the bat very well," Tampa Bay manager Lou
Piniella said. "I think he tried to put on some muscle over the
winter, get a little bigger. Now he's taken 12 pounds or so off,
and he's hitting. He's started to drive it."
Halama (1-1) entered in the fourth and gave up two hits. Jorge
Sosa didn't allow a run over 1 2-3 innings, and Danys Baez pitched
a perfect ninth for his seventh save in seven chances.
Tampa Bay's bullpen has allowed one run over its past 35 2-3
"You start winning these close ballgames, these are the bigger
confidence builders," Piniella said.
Corey Koskie and Jacque Jones homered for Minnesota. Carlos
Silva (5-3) lost his third consecutive start, giving up five runs
and 11 hits in six innings. He has given up 17 runs and 29 hits
over his last three starts, lasting a combined 13 innings.
"It was a disappointing ballgame for us," Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said. "That's a game I feel like we should have won. I
thought we had a lot of poor at-bats as the game went along."
Koskie, activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game,
homered in the second for a 1-0 lead. He had been sidelined since
May 12 by a strained sternum.
Rey Sanchez and Carl Crawford hit run-scoring singles in the
bottom half, when Baldelli hit an inning-ending flyout with the
bases loaded. Sanchez got his first RBI of the season, and it came
in his 73rd at-bat.
Minnesota went ahead 4-2 in the third when Jones hit an
opposite-field, three-run homer down the left-field line off Jason
Standridge. Jones also had a go-ahead, two-run double in the fifth
inning Wednesday night.
Standridge, in his first start and second appearance since
offseason shoulder surgery, allowed four runs and five hits --
including two homers -- in three innings. He has given up 15 homers
over 64 innings in his career and is 0-5 in nine career starts and
11 relief appearances.
Piniella did not rule out that 1B/DH Fred McGriff would
join the Devil Rays this weekend. McGriff, nine homers shy of 500,
is playing for Triple-A Durham. ... Piniella has 1,398 wins, one
from tying Wilbert Robinson for 23rd place. ... Minnesota RHP Joe
Mays (elbow surgery) had his forearm looked at Thursday after
experiencing discomfort. An examination found no tears. ...
Baldelli was among approximately eight Tampa Bay players planning
to attend Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Thursday night
between Calgary and Tampa Bay in nearby Tampa. ... The Twins have
outhomered opponents 30-22 on the road. Minnesota's opposition
holds a 24-18 advantage at the Metrodome. ... The Devil Rays have
allowed 62 homers while hitting 35.