ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are putting
together a momentum-building homestand.
Josh Phelps hit a two-run homer to lead Tampa Bay to a 5-4
victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, the Devil Rays'
fourth straight win.The victories, all at home, followed a road trip where Tampa Bay
lost eight of 10 and fell to 3-18 away from Tropicana Field. The
Devil Rays, at 16-12, are off to their best start ever at home."It's great for morale," Phelps said. "You get a taste of
success. That's what every club needs, especially around here where
there hasn't been a whole lot of success in the past. If the young
players can get a taste of that, and get an idea of how they
accomplished it, and recreate it over and over."Phelps' fourth homer in his last seven games put the Devil Rays
ahead 5-2 in the seventh. He homered just once in his first 29
games this season.Jorge Cantu and Alex Sanchez had run-scoring singles during a
two-run fifth for the Devil Rays.Tampa Bay starter Mark Hendrickson (2-2) gave up two runs and
six hits in 5 2/3 innings.Raul Ibanez had a two-run double in the eighth for the Mariners,
who have lost four straight overall and seven in a row on the road."It was a bad game ... it was a good game," Seattle manager
Mike Hargrove said. "It was one of those games where you didn't
know whether to strangle people or kiss them."Ibanez's double got Seattle within 5-4. He advanced to third on
shortstop Julio Lugo's throwing error on the play, but was left
stranded when Bret Boone flied out against closer Danys Baez."When things aren't going good, you don't get breaks," Boone
said. "But I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. I believe
that good teams make breaks. You've got to pull yourself out it and
make your own breaks."Baez went 1 1/3 innings for his seventh save in 10
opportunities."Another exciting game ... another tough game," Baez said.
"We got the win. We've got four wins in a row. That's important
for the team. We're playing great baseball right now and we're
going to be better."Boone put Seattle up 1-0 with a run-scoring grounder in the
second. The Devil Rays tied it in the fourth on Carl Crawford's
bases loaded sacrifice fly.Mariners starter Gil Meche (4-3) lasted just 4 1/3 innings,
allowing three runs and four hits. He struck out two and walked
five in his 104-pitch outing.Julio Mateo replaced Meche with runners on the corners and
allowed a first-pitch run-scoring single to Cantu. Sanchez made it
3-1 with his RBI single.Seattle scored just once -- on Richie Sexson's RBI single to pull
within 3-2 -- despite getting four hits and a walk in the sixth.
After Miguel Olivo and Ichiro Suzuki started the inning with
singles, Randy Winn's hard liner to second was turned into a double
play. Hendrickson was lifted after Adrian Beltre and Sexson
singled, and Ibanez walked. Seth McClung entered and retired Boone
on a bases loaded flyball."I left 52 people on base tonight," Boone said. "I'm not
playing like I can play and that's very frustrating."Travis Lee tripled off an overhanging catwalk approximately 155
feet above the playing surface to open the seventh. Phelps followed
with his homer off Mateo, who allowed two runs and six hits in 1
Suzuki went 1-for-5 in the teams' first meeting this year.
He is hitting .291 (44-for-151) in his career against Tampa Bay.
The outfielder led the majors with .372 batting average last
season, but hit just .281 against the Devil Rays. ... Suzuki didn't
run out a third-inning grounder to first because he thought it was
a foul ball. A television replay showed the ball might have bounced
up and hit the bat a second time, which would make it a foul ball.
... Devil Rays RF Aubrey Huff has gone 32 games and 113 at-bats
without homering. He has two this season after hitting 29 in 2004.
... Boone went 0-for-4 and is hitless in 15 at-bats. ... The
Mariners (18-29) are 1-10 when the opponent starts a left-hander.