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Tampa Bay produces first three-game win streak under Piniella

7/6/2003

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Lou Piniella is going blond.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager pledged last month to dye his
hair if his young, last-place team won three in a row at any point
this season. Just about the time he was ready to rescind his offer,
they got the job done.

Saturday night's 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox gave
Tampa Bay its first three-game winning streak since last Sept.
19-21. Piniella will be sporting a new hairdo by the time they take
the field again Sunday.

The players picked the color, which will replace the manager's
salt-and-pepper look.

"The guy will be here tomorrow morning and by game time I'll be
a blond. That's what they want. That's what they'll get," Piniella
said.

"I'm happy to do it, believe me. It took to the middle of July
to win three in a row, and that's with spring training included.
So, I'm happy to do it. I really am. I'm happier for them than
anything else."

Piniella said before and after the game that he was giving
serious consideration to going back on his word because he feared
his pledge could become a distraction for a young, inexperienced
team that's still learning how to win.

"The color of my hair has nothing to do with wins and losses,"
he said.

"If we hadn't won tonight I was going to call off the deal
because I don't want that to take away from the attention and the
importance of what takes place on the field. At the same time, I
don't want to put any undue pressure on them at all to win a
baseball game."

Saturday night's win didn't come easy. Lance Carter nearly blew
a three-run lead in the ninth, allowing a solo homer to
pinch-hitter Magglio Ordonez and a one-out RBI double to Frank
Thomas.

Carter recovered to strike out Brian Daubach and retire Carl
Everett on a flyout for his 14th save in 20 opportunities.

Javier Valentin, the younger brother of White Sox shortstop Jose
Valentin, snapped a scoreless tie with a fifth-inning solo homer
off Esteban Loaiza (11-4).

Meanwhile, Jorge Sosa (2-6) pitched 5 1-3 innings to win for the
first time since beating Baltimore on April 19.

The Devil Rays added two runs in the seventh on Julio Lugo's RBI
single and Rocco Baldelli's sacrifice fly.

Loaiza has already matched his career high for wins in a season,
but has been unable to get No. 12 in his last two starts. He
allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings.

The White Sox had men reach base in every inning, but went
2-for-14 with runners in scoring position -- the first hit being
Brian Daubach's infield single that advanced Thomas to third with
two outs in the seventh.

Al Levine, the third Tampa Bay pitcher, got out of the inning
when he retired Everett, who was 2-for-4, on a fly ball to deep
center.

"We beat ourselves. We had a lot of opportunities to score and
we didn't get it done," Thomas said.

Sosa, coming off a solid six-inning performance in a loss to
Atlanta on June 29, allowed six hits, walked five and struck out
five, including Thomas with runners in scoring position to end
Chicago threats in the third and fifth innings.

Sosa also escaped a jam with help from reliever Brandon Backe
after the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs on a single and
two walks in the sixth. Sosa got Jose Valentin to pop to shallow
center before Backe came on to strike out Tony Graffanino and
Miguel Olivo to get out of the inning.

Loaiza, meanwhile, limited the Devil Rays to four singles before
Javier Valentin hit his first homer since April 6 off Roger
Clemens. Tampa Bay also got a homer from an unlikely power source
to beat the White Sox Friday night, when Carl Crawford hit his
first since opening day.

Piniella joked that his new hairdo will give him the look of Jon
Gruden. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach was in the stands Saturday
night.

"I took a look at him up there on the scoreboard," Piniella
said. "I saw that blond hair and I said: `Well, there you go."

Game notes
Loaiza's loss leaves New York's David Wells as the only
regular AL starting pitcher who is unbeaten on the road this
season. ... When the Devil Rays beat the White Sox 4-3 Friday night
on Crawford's three-run, ninth-inning homer it was their third
"walk-off" win in four days. Over the last 30 years, only three
teams -- this year's Pittsburgh Pirates, the 2000 Kansas City Royals
and 1976 Oakland Athletics -- have had three over such a short span.
... Everett doubled with one out in the fourth for his first hit
since joining the White Sox on Wednesday. He was 0-for-8 up to that
point.