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Rays Sweep Cubs in Sweet Lou's Return to Tampa

Surprisingly enough 31,607 fans were at the Trop to take in Lou Piniella’s anticipated return to Tampa. They saw a great game between two of the top teams in baseball believe it or not as the Rays (41-29) and Cubs (45-26) battled Tuesday night with the Rays winning 3-2. Tampa Bay Rays hats The Rays had their ace lefty Scott Kazmir (6-2) on the mound and the Cubs countered with Ryan Dempster (8-2) who has pitched extremely well this season. Kazmir pitched pretty well but not well enough for the win as he only pitched four and a third innings on 110 pitches, giving up three hits and one earned run as he struck out seven and walked five in the no decision. Dempster also put in a solid outing as he gave up one earned run on six hits and striking out six in six innings of work as he also picked up the no decision. The game was an interesting one after Evan Longoria and Cliff Floyd hit solo homers and Eric Hinske drove in a run, the Cubs were threatening in the ninth facing Rays closer Troy Percival. With runners on first and third and leadoff man Reed Johnson at the plate, Johnson laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line, Longoria who was playing too deep barehanded the ball and nailed Johnson at first to end the game on a very very close play. Percival picked up his 16 th save of the year and the Rays took the first game of the four game set.

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In the second game of this three game set, the Cubs (45-27) and the Rays (42-29) battled on ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball as Carlos Zambrano (8-3) pitched for the Cubs and Andy Sonnanstine (8-3) got the ball for the Rays. Turns out all the Rays needed against Zambrano were some timely hits and they got them. It took only one inning to give the Rays a lead they would not surrender as they got 4 singles in a row and 2 walks off of Zambrano in a four run third inning to get the win 5-4. The Rays bullpen held on to the win and Troy Percival picked up his 17 th save in 19 chances. A Geovany Soto home run changed the mood in the ninth inning and brought the Cubs within one but Percival settled down and nailed down the game. Soto went 2-4 with a home run to lead the Cubs. Zambrano was lifted in the seventh inning due to shoulder stiffness. He finished the game with four earned runs off of seven hits in seven and two thirds innings and only striking out two. Sonnanstine got the win while pitching five solid innings and only giving up three earned.

In the final game of the series the Rays (43-29) got seven runs in the seventh inning to knock off the Cubs (45-28) 8-3. After Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol walked the bases loaded, Carl Crawford came up and belted a grand slam to right field for his fifth home run of the year as he went 3-5 with a home run and four runs batted in to lead the Rays. Solid pitching has carried the Rays all year long and did not disappoint in this one. Lack of run support gave James Shields (4-5) a no decision but he pitched a great ballgame going six and a third of an inning while giving up three earned and striking out nine. Derek Lee had three hits for the Cubs but it was not enough as the team with the best record in baseball gets swept by the red hot Tampa Bay Rays.

Next up the Rays face the struggling Houston Astros (33-40) at home. The Astros come in losers of eight in a row. Ty Wigginton returns to face the team that traded him away last season. The Rays have won 25 of their last 29 at home and come into this game after a sweep of the best team in baseball. The pitching probables are as follows:

  • R. Oswalt (5-7) 5.04 ERA vs. M. Garza (5-3) 4.06 ERA
  • W. Rodriguez (2-3) 2.76 ERA vs. E. Jackson (4-6) 4.46 ERA
  • B. Backe (4-8) 4.99 ERA vs. S. Kazmir (6-2) 1.76 ERA


By Andrew Nuscis
Philadelphia Phillies & Tampa Bay Rays Correspondent

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