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Crawford 4-for-five for Devil Rays

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Take a look at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays now.

The worst team in the majors less than a month ago, the Devil
Rays set a franchise record with their seventh straight win,
beating the San Diego Padres 9-6 Wednesday night behind leadoff
batter Carl Crawford, who went 4-for-5 with three runs and two
RBI.

Jose Cruz Jr. hit a two-run, two-out homer to cap a four-run
rally in the seventh inning for the Devil Rays, who have the
longest current winning streak in the majors.

"It's more fun than it was maybe a month ago or so," Cruz
said. "We're just going to keep it going. We're a bunch of
happy-go-lucky guys anyway. Everybody's chipping in."

The good news didn't stop there. Coupled with Baltimore's loss
at Los Angeles, the Devil Rays took sole possession of third place
in the AL East for the first time since May 24, 1999.

Cruz wasn't aware of the big move in the standings.

"Noooo," he said in disbelief.

Turning to Tino Martinez in the clubhouse, he said: "Tino,
we're in third place, dude!"

Martinez, who won four World Series titles with the New York
Yankees, replied: "That's not our goal."

In the big picture, the Devil Rays still have a ways to go --
they're eight games behind second-place Boston, which in turn is 5{
behind the Yankees.

Manager Lou Piniella cautioned before the game that no one
should make too big a deal of the winning streak. But it really is
something, considering both the Devil Rays' miserable seven-year
history and that they had bottomed out on May 19 with a 10-28
record, the worst in the majors.

Piniella remained low-key after the record win.

"Let's just come out here tomorrow and play another good
ballgame and see what happens," Piniella said.

The Devil Rays have gone 18-6 since May 20. During that stretch,
they've had 12 come-from-behind wins, including this one.

"We were struggling so bad early," Crawford said. "We said we
hoped we could get it going because we don't have a bad team."

Until Wednesday night, Tampa Bay had won six straight games just
four times in its history.

San Diego took a 4-3 lead in the third on Phil Nevin's RBI
infield single, a lead that held for three innings before the Devil
Rays rallied in the seventh to go ahead 7-4.

Julio Lugo started the rally with a double to left and took
third on Rey Sanchez's infield single. With one out, Fred McGriff
hit a chopper in front of the plate for an infield single and Lugo
came racing in to score the tying run. Reliever Scott Linebrink
(2-1) tried to flip the ball to catcher Miguel Ojeda with his
glove, but the throw was wide.

Crawford hit an RBI single, to right, advancing McGriff to
second, where he was replaced by pinch-runner Gaudin. Gaudin was
thrown out trying to steal third for the second out, but Cruz
homered off the top of the center-field fence on a 2-2 pitch, his
ninth.

"Those guys were just putting their bats on the ball and
hitting it just in the right spot," Linebrink said. "Nothing I
would take back except the buzzard luck."

Tampa Bay made it 8-4 on Sanchez's single in the eighth before
the Padres scored two runs in their half, including Miguel Ojeda's
solo homer.

Crawford's ninth-inning triple, his second of the game, pushed
Tampa Bay's lead back to three runs.

Victor Zambrano (7-4) held the Padres to three runs and six hits
in six innings, with two strikeouts and no walks. Zambrano improved
to 9-1 for his career in interleague play. Danys Baez pitched the
final 1 1-3 innings for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Rocco Baldelli had three hits for the Devil Rays, who handed the
Padres their fourth straight loss.

Tampa Bay took an early lead for the second straight game
against the Padres, jumping on Ismael Valdez for two runs in the
first, on a single by Baldelli and a double by Aubrey Huff.

Brian Giles hit an RBI single in the first for the Padres, who
then went ahead 3-2 in the second on Khalil Greene's RBI double and
Ojeda's sacrifice fly.

Tampa Bay tied it in the third on an RBI triple by Baldelli, who
was then thrown out trying to score on Huff's grounder to first.

Game notes
Piniella tied Al Lopez for 21st on the all-time win list
for managers with 1,410. ... Padres left fielder Ryan Klesko was
activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game.