Crawford helps Rays halt 3-game losing streak

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Instead of ranting about Tampa Bay's
lack of offensive production in crucial situations, Lou Piniella
used a calm approach to coax the Devil Rays out of their hitting

"He didn't hold a meeting or nothing," All-Star Carl Crawford
said after Thursday night's 12-7 victory over the Baltimore
Orioles. "He just came up to us one by one and told us to kind of

Crawford hit a three-run homer and Travis Lee and Josh Phelps
also drove in three runs apiece, leading a season-high 14-hit
attack in support of Rob Bell (1-0), who allowed nine hits and four
earned runs in six innings.

The Devil Rays snapped a three-game losing streak that featured
poor hitting with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-11
in those situations and stranded 14 men in a 5-1 loss to Baltimore
on Wednesday night.

"We got them on tonight, and we got them in, too," Piniella
said. "I told them to relax. I told them to swing the bat -- if you
get it done this time, you'll get it done next time."

Crawford's second homer of the season was the big blow in a
seven-run fourth inning against Sidney Ponson (1-1). The rally
opened a 12-3 lead that Baltimore cut into with two runs in the
fifth and Miguel Tejada's two-run homer off Seth McClung in the

Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer off Bell and went 3-for-5 with
three RBI for the Orioles, falling a triple shy of hitting for the
cycle. Sammy Sosa drove in a run for the third straight game,
contributing a RBI double in the fifth.

Alex Sanchez, the first player disciplined for violating
baseball's new policy on performance-enhancing drugs, returned from
a 10-day suspension and had two hits and scored a run for Tampa

Catcher Charles Johnson, who missed three games last weekend
after requesting a leave to handle a personal matter, also made his
first start for the Devil Rays. He began the seven-run fourth with
a double and finished it with a RBI single.

"We are the last team that needs suspensions or players taking
a leave of absence," Piniella said, though he added that he
couldn't blame the team's hitting woes on Sanchez and Johnson being

"All in all," the manager said, "if we hit a little better
and pitched a little better we could have won a few more games."

Even before Crawford's homer made it 8-3, the Devil Rays were
threatening to chase Ponson.

Aubrey Huff set the tone for the big night with a RBI single in
the first. Two batters later, Lee drove in two with another single
off Ponson, who surrendered nine runs and seven hits in three-plus

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Ponson said. "I couldn't
throw strikes. ... That's a formula for disaster."

Lee's third RBI came on a force play in the third. Phelps had a
run-scoring single in the third and two-run single off reliever
Rick Bauer in the fourth.

Tampa Bay reliever Jesus Colome left the game because of
tendinitis in his pitching shoulder after throwing just six pitches
in the seventh. McClung replaced him and gave up the two-run homer
to Tejada on his second pitch.

Game notes
Colome was put on the 15-day disabled list after the game.
Right-hander Doug Waechter will be recalled from Triple-A Durham.
... The Devil Rays finished a nine-game, season-opening homestand
in which they went 4-5. Their first road trip takes them to Boston
and New York for five games. They're 29-82 all-time at Fenway Park
and Yankee Stadium. ... Devil Rays SS Julio Lugo has four errors in
his last six games. ... Brian Roberts led off the game with a
single, making him the only player with a hit in each of
Baltimore's nine games.