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Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh

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Tampa Bay (49-32) «0001010204121
Pittsburgh (38-43)000101010372

Rays top Pirates to finish remarkable half-point turnaround

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- What a first half the Tampa Bay Rays enjoyed as the majors' surprise team of the season. Their goal now? To make the second half just as stunningly good.

Backup catcher Shawn Riggans homered among his three hits and drove in two runs and the first-place Rays completed a remarkable first-half turnaround, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 Sunday behind Andy Sonnanstine's seven effective innings.

Tampa Bay regained first place in the AL East for the first time since June 3 when the Boston Red Sox lost at Houston 3-2. The Red Sox and Rays open a three-game series at Tropicana Field on Monday night.

The Rays are 49-32, the most victories midway through a season by a team that had the majors' worst record the season before, according to Stats, Inc. They went 5-1 on a road trip to Florida and Pittsburgh and finished 12-6 in interleague play.

All this by a team that has never had a winning season or won more than 70 games since joining the AL as an expansion team in 1998.

"We went 5-1 on the trip and I felt we let one slip away," said closer Troy Percival, who pitched the ninth inning for his 18th save in 20 opportunities. "You get to that point, you've got a team that's doing something special."

The Rays' .605 winning percentage has been bettered at midseason by a team that was the worst overall the previous season only by the 1903 New York Giants (.643, 45-25).

"This is great, but it's only the first half," said Riggans, who has 15 RBI in 73 at-bats. "Nobody remembers the first half, everybody remembers the second half and the last day of the season. We've got a lot of work ahead of us. Interleague play is done now."

All the qualities that led to Tampa Bay's strong first half were visible: effective starting pitching, power from a fast-improving offense and timely hitting.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I expected us to be at this particular place in the standings," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's been an anonymous first half ... there's no one guy having a killer season, which makes it more appealing to me that we're at this juncture, knowing somebody's going to turn into a beast in the second half."

Sonnanstine (9-3) limited Pittsburgh to two runs, one earned, and is 6-0 after a Rays loss. Tampa Bay was a 4-3, 13-inning loser on Jason Bay's game-ending home run Saturday night.

Riggans and Willy Aybar hit solo home runs, the only runs allowed by Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny in six innings, and Riggans' run-scoring single capped a go-ahead two-run eighth inning.

Carlos Pena singled to start the eighth against Tyler Yates (3-1). Right fielder Xavier Nady overthrew third on Aybar's single, allowing Pena to score, and Aybar wound up at third. Riggans' single -- his career-high third hit -- made it 4-2.

"We talk about it all the time, going from first to third, but I tell you not everybody on this team would have tried that," Maddon said.

Nady leads NL outfielders with nine assists, and manager John Russell hopes he doesn't become too cautious based on one misplay.

"It hurts when you make that kind of mistake at that part of the game," Russell said. "The throw got away from him and at an inopportune time."

Interleague play hurt the Pirates again. They are 38-43 at the break, a three-game improvement from their 35-46 of last season, but were 5-9 against the AL. They are a major league-worst 62-103 in interleague play.

"Interleague was a challenge, and it will be good to get back into the division," Jack Wilson said. "But we still have the feeling we can roll off five, six, seven (victories) in a row ... maybe we haven't had that feeling the last few years."

In the fourth, Freddy Sanchez doubled and advanced to third when center fielder B.J. Upton casually tried to backhand the ball and it eluded him. Sanchez scored on Bay's sacrifice fly.

Wilson doubled leading off the Pirates' sixth and moved up on Sanchez's sacrifice bunt. Catcher Riggans then left home plate unoccupied while trying to field Nate McLouth's slowly hit ball between the plate and the mound, so Sonnanstine's only option was to throw to first as Wilson scored from third to tie it at 2.

Ryan Doumit's pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth off reliever Dan Wheeler made it 4-3.

Notes

  • Gorzelanny allowed fewer than three earned runs for the first time in seven starts.
  • Rays 3B Evan Longoria failed to drive in a run for the first time during a seven-game hitting streak (14-33, .424).
  • Riggans played for only the ninth time in 49 games.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Shawn Riggans enjoys a career day with three hits as the Rays take over first place.  (AP)
Shawn Riggans enjoys a career day with three hits as the Rays take over first place. (AP)

Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

S. Riggans
AB 4
R 1
H 3
HR 1
RBI 2
Pittsburgh

J. Wilson
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
 
Tampa Bay Rays
B.J. Upton, CF5020025 .286
Carl Crawford, LF5000034 .278
Evan Longoria, 3B4010110 .270
Carlos Pena, 1B5120004 .227
Willy Aybar, 2B4221113 .257
Jonny Gomes, RF3000011 .206
   a- Eric Hinske, PH1000001 .267
    Dan Wheeler, P0000000 .000
   b- Dioner Navarro, PH1000002 .317
    Troy Percival, P0000000 .000
Shawn Riggans, C4132000 .274
Jason Bartlett, SS4020001 .252
Andy Sonnanstine, P2000121 .400
   c- Gabe Gross, PH-RF0000100 .226
Totals384123410  
a-grounded out for Gomes in the 8th
b-grounded out for Wheeler in the 9th
c-walked for Sonnanstine in the 8th
Batting
HR - Willy Aybar (3, Gorzelanny), Shawn Riggans (4, Gorzelanny)
RBI - Willy Aybar (8), Shawn Riggans 2 (15)
SB - B.J. Upton (23, 2nd base off Gorzelanny/Chavez), Evan Longoria (4, 2nd base off Burnett/Chavez)
CS - B.J. Upton (10, 2nd base by Gorzelanny/Chavez)
Team LOB - 11
Fielding
DP - Longoria-Aybar-Pena
E - B.J. Upton (7, Misplayed grounder)
Tampa Bay Rays
Andy Sonnanstine (W,9-3) 7521140 4.60
Dan Wheeler (H,19) 1211000 1.93
Troy Percival (S,19) 1000120 2.96
WP - Dan Wheeler (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Andy Sonnanstine 98-70, Dan Wheeler 18-12, Troy Percival 22-14
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Andy Sonnanstine 8-8, Dan Wheeler 1-2
Batters Faced - Andy Sonnanstine 26, Dan Wheeler 5, Troy Percival 4
Pittsburgh Pirates
Jack Wilson, SS4220000 .311
Freddy Sanchez, 2B3110001 .233
Nate McLouth, CF3001011 .280
    Tyler Yates, P0000000 .000
   a- Ryan Doumit, PH1011000 .346
    Luis Rivas, PR0000000 .231
    Sean Burnett, P0000000 .000
Jason Bay, LF3011001 .285
Xavier Nady, RF3010111 .316
Adam LaRoche, 1B3010101 .221
Jose Bautista, 3B4000012 .259
Raul Chavez, C4000022 .222
Tom Gorzelanny, P2000011 .136
    Jason Michaels, CF1000000 .238
Totals3137326  
a-singled for Yates in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jack Wilson (5, Sonnanstine), Freddy Sanchez (13, Sonnanstine), Jason Bay (20, Sonnanstine)
SF - Jason Bay (3)
SH - Freddy Sanchez (5)
RBI - Nate McLouth (52), Ryan Doumit (25), Jason Bay (43)
2-OUT RBI - Ryan Doumit (9)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - F. Sanchez-J. Wilson-LaRoche
E - Jose Bautista (8, Throwing), Xavier Nady (2, Throwing)
Pittsburgh Pirates
Tom Gorzelanny 6822282 6.18
Tyler Yates (L,3-1) 2322110 3.79
Sean Burnett 1100110 5.48
WP - Tyler Yates (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Tom Gorzelanny 111-70, Tyler Yates 48-28, Sean Burnett 12-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tom Gorzelanny 8-1, Tyler Yates 2-3, Sean Burnett 1-1
Batters Faced - Tom Gorzelanny 27, Tyler Yates 10, Sean Burnett 5
Game Information
Attendance - 15828
Game Time - 2:59
Temperature - 75
Umpires - Home - Ed Rapuano, First Base - Ed Hickox, Second Base - C.B. Bucknor, Third Base - Joe West