Devil Rays end seven-game skid
Cantu blasts first career grand slam in fourth inning
ST. PETERSBURG -- Runs have been sparse for the Devil Rays since the All-Star break and wins have been non-existent.
On Friday night, one led to the other to break a seven-game losing streak with a 14-7 Rays victory over the Orioles in front of a crowd of 17,759 at Tropicana Field.
Casey Fossum started for the Rays and couldn't find the strike zone with his first 10 pitches of the game, but the Orioles couldn't put away the left-hander, mounting just a 2-0 lead.
Unlike the previous seven games of the second half, the Rays got busy early. Carl Crawford's two-run homer triggered a six-run first that saw Tampa Bay chase Baltimore starter Russ Ortiz, who didn't retire a batter.
Ortiz was making an emergency start for Erik Bedard, who had a stomach ailment, but it was O's manager Sam Perlozzo who weathered a weaker stomach after watching the Devil Rays cobble together 15 hits.
"I was working on four Tums," Perlozzo said. "It was a four Tums game. I really could've used two more, but I toughed it out."
Fossum returned to the mound a new pitcher in the second -- one who could throw strikes -- and promptly struck out the side.
"The main thing I was worried about after that first inning was I'd been sitting down for about 30 minutes," Fossum said. "I didn't want to tighten up. I knew what I had to do, when you jump out ahead like that. As a pitcher, the next inning you want to go back out there and get the guys in the dugout as quickly as you can. It was almost like I fed off the hitters in that second inning."
Holding a 6-3 lead after four innings, the Rays needed some insurance runs, and the hitters once again responded. Ty Wigginton doubled home one with his second two-bagger of the game. The Rays then loaded the bases with two outs to bring up Jorge Cantu.
Cantu had been mired in funk on the seven-game road trip that saw him get just three hits in 23 at-bats, which he attributed largely to a mechanical flaw in his swing. Cantu identified the flaw after watching video, and his seventh home run of the season Thursday provided evidence he was about to break loose.
Further evidence came when he perfectly met a pitch from Adam Loewen and deposited the ball into the left-field stands for his first career grand slam.
"It's my first one -- I think it's the first one ever," Cantu said. "It's a good feel. ... I need to keep thinking positive. I've been in a month-long slump and I'm battling. [I need to] just keep swinging and get out of it, and right now, it's going at a good pace. I'm very patient at the plate, very relaxed, and that helps a lot. It's going to help the team."
Cantu's blast put the Rays up, 11-3, but they hardly checked their bats at the door.
Catcher Dioner Navarro added his first Rays home run since coming to the team from the Dodgers, along with right-hander Jae Seo, in a trade that sent catcher Toby Hall and left-hander Mark Hendrickson to Los Angeles. Navarro's blast made it 12-3.
But what would a Rays offensive show be without a contribution from Julio Lugo, who, despite fending off daily questions about trade rumors, has been an offensive force. The Rays shortstop hit .345 on the road trip and carried over his road work onto his home turf with a two-run homer in the seventh to put the Rays up, 14-5.
Fossum has been the master of no-decisions. He started and finished his previous three starts with a 3-3 mark, while seemingly deserving a better fate after allowing just eight earned runs in July. He took advantage of the cushion provided by his teammates and allowed just two earned runs in five innings to pick up his first win since defeating the Marlins on June 28.
"We've lost seven in a row, and I came out and maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself that first inning, but I knew we'd score some runs -- and sure enough, we did," Fossum said. "It's just nice to get a win finally."
Bill Chastain is reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.