As Rays sink, Sox continue their rise



The recent Tampa Bay Devil Rays horror show started with an appearance at Tropicana Field by none other than Stephen King.

As the consecutive losses mounted -- 10, 12 ... 15 -- one of the Devil Rays' radio broadcasters tried sticking pins into one of King's novels, hoping the voodoo might work.

But the streak didn't die until last night, falling six games short of the Orioles' infamous run of 21 consecutive losses in 1988.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the American League East standings, the Boston Red Sox were reeling off their longest winning streak since winning 12 in 1995. The streaking was so out of control, one male fan in Oakland interrupted a Red Sox game by taking off his clothes and running across the field.

Somehow back in Baltimore, mediocrity never felt so right.

Granted, the Red Sox have dug the Orioles into a 7 1/2 -game hole, but the Orioles are sitting comfortably in third place, six games ahead of Toronto and 7 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay, which started the season looking like it might release its death grip on last place.

The Devil Rays blew ninth-inning leads to lose on three consecutive days, becoming the first AL team to do that since the 1929 Chicago White Sox.

"Games have lasted a bit too long," Devil Rays manager Hal McRae told The Tampa Tribune. "About a minute too long."

There is, of course, no clock in baseball, except the one that says it's the second week in May, and the Red Sox are off to their best start since 1946 (25-6).

Despite losing Friday night at Seattle to end their nine-game winning streak and falling again last night to the Mariners, they are a remarkable 16-4 away from Fenway Park.

Pedro Martinez has the highest ERA among Red Sox starters at 3.49. Derek Lowe is 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA. Manny Ramirez is batting .372.

And Nomar Garciaparra, batting .310 with 28 RBIs, told the Boston Herald, "I haven't felt right all year. It's a constant battle. That's what baseball is."

Giambi update

As the sun gets brighter, the New York magnifying glass is heating up around Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, who went 0-for-3 last night. He leads the team in none of the offensive categories, and is batting .273 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.

It wasn't the slowest of starts (see Tampa Bay's Greg Vaughn), but it was slow considering Giambi's past history and his $120 million contract.

"Reggie [Jackson] told me he didn't feel comfortable [as a Yankee] until after the All-Star Game," Giambi told The Record of Hackensack, N.J. "He told me, `You're way ahead of my schedule and pace.' "

By all accounts, Giambi has remained his jovial self amid the crush of reporters seeking his attention every day. But the experience has been eye-opening.

"New York's New York," Giambi said. "There's no other place on earth like it. It's the ultimate place to play. It's the media capital of the world, and they love their sports. I honestly believe if we don't win, some of the fans don't sleep."

Toronto's blues

The Orioles went 7-12 against the Blue Jays last year but can hardly wait to face them this year. Toronto is just 1 1/2 games ahead of lowly Tampa Bay, but the Orioles won't face them until July 17.

The Blue Jays' disabled list now includes Shannon Stewart, Darrin Fletcher, Chris Carpenter, Esteban Loaiza, Steve Parris, Mike Sirotka and Bob File, so it's little wonder their season has been a shambles.

On Wednesday, the Blue Jays reached the breaking point with one-time prized second base prospect Homer Bush, placing him on waivers. Toronto received Bush, David Wells and Graeme Lloyd in their trade for Roger Clemens three years ago.

After hitting .320 in 1999, the often-injured Bush slipped to .215 in 2000. He rebounded to .306 last year but hit .231 in 78 at-bats this season, prompting the club to make the move.

"I don't think I had a fair shot this season," Bush told The Toronto Star. "But I had a fair shot the previous two seasons, and I didn't make the most of it."

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