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A fun week for the Devil Rays
06/26/2004  1:19 AM ET
ST. PETERSBURG -- It started with a game in which they were so strapped for relievers that their ace had to come in on his "throw day" and pitch an inning.

The Devil Rays won that game.

It ended with a game in which the Rays knew if they won, it would be their first time ever at .500 after June 1.

The Rays won that one, too. And it came just four outs from being their first-ever no-hitter.

What a week the Devil Rays are having.

"It's the best atmosphere I've felt since I've been here," said left fielder Carl Crawford.

The Rays completed a sweep of their 1998 expansion brothers, the Diamondbacks, in Phoenix on Sunday, went on to Toronto, where they beat longtime nemesis Pat Hentgen on Tuesday and scored a team-record 19 runs on Friday, and finished up with a 2-0 victory against the reigning World Series champs, the Marlins, on Friday night.

   Aubrey Huff  /   DH
Born: 12/20/76
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

"It shows what kind of corner we have turned," said slugger Aubrey Huff. "It's a totally different team. Every time we come to the field, it feels like we have a good chance to win a ballgame. It hasn't been that way in my three years here."

The Rays were 10-28 when their hot streak started on May 20. On Friday night, they became the first team since the Louisville Colonels in 1899 to rebound from 18 games under .500 to an even record in the same season.

"Being at .500 just means we can play at that level," said shortstop Julio Lugo. "But it doesn't mean anything if we don't play that way at the end of the year."

The Rays (35-35) have won 14 of their last 15 games and are 25-7 since May 20, the best record in baseball during that stretch.

   Dewon Brazelton  /   P
Born: 06/16/80
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"No longer are we outclassed by everybody," said starter Dewon Brazelton, who pitched 7 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball before giving up a double to Mike Lowell on Friday night.

The Rays have won 12 Interleague games in a row and are a Major League-best 12-1 overall. The Rays are 12-20 overall against the Marlins, but 8-7 against them at Tropicana Field.

Maybe there can be a home-field advantage in a dome where there usually is a fair-sized group of transplants rooting for the Rays' opposition. On Saturday, the Rays noticed that the entire crowd of 25,157 seemed to be backing them against the Marlins.

"That was the most enthusiastic crowd we've had since I've been here," manager Lou Piniella said. "And they rooted completely for the home team."

The fans are starting to get into it. Even the local newspapers have starting running the Wild Card standings. The Rays are five games back.

Let's not settle for third place in the AL East, Piniella said before the game.

"Truthfully, if you are asking me, I'd like to make a run at Boston," Piniella said. "But that's just me. That's the fun of [playing well]. It would be fun for everybody. I think the whole area would enjoy it."

Will the Rays be able to sustain the pace? Piniella would rather not think about it.

"We have been playing good baseball," Piniella said. "And good things happen when you play good baseball."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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