- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. When the ball left his bat, Randy Winn couldn't be sure that baseball's longest losing streak in 14 years was over.
"I was praying, hoping it would go out," Winn said last night after his two-out, three-run homer in the ninth inning beat Baltimore 6-4 and ended the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' 15-game skid in startling fashion.
"I honestly haven't hit enough home runs to know whether they're going out or not," Winn said. "I've never hit a game-winning home run. It's different."
The Devil Rays were one out away from becoming the third team to lose 16 in a row in the last 25 years. Their skid was the longest in the majors since 1988, when the Orioles opened the season with an American League-record 21-game losing streak.
"It was nice to get some relief. But for me, it's on to tomorrow," Tampa Bay manager Hal McRae said. "We're going to try to put something together and show people what we're made of. Everybody knew what we were about when we were losing because we were all over TV and all over the newspapers. This is our moment to show people what we're really made of."
Tampa Bay had not scored a run in the ninth all season before rallying to score four times with two outs against Orioles closer Jorge Julio (2-1).
The Devil Rays trailed 4-2 before Jason Tyner and Chris Gomez started the winning rally with singles. Two outs later, Brent Abernathy singled to drive in his second run of the game.
Winn followed with his third homer of the season, hitting a 2-2 pitch over the center-field fence. The crowd of 10,811 at Tropicana Field kept cheering, and Winn took a curtain call.
"I'm not a home run hitter. For me, they come few and far between," said Winn, who has 13 homers in five big league seasons. "I was just trying to get a hit."
Tony Batista, Mike Bordick, Geronimo Gil and Jay Gibbons drove in one run apiece for the Orioles, who scored three times in the fourth and once in the fifth to build a 4-0 lead against Tanyon Sturtze.
Tampa Bay had been 0-8 on a 10-game homestand that ends today. The loss dropped Baltimore's record to 18-18.
The Devil Rays' bullpen had blown four ninth-inning leads during its losing streak, including three straight when Tampa Bay was within one out of victory.
"This is exactly the opposite of what's happened to us the whole time. Every game we're in it, and then something like this would happen," Tyner said. "So it's great, most importantly, to take the weight off our shoulders. Now we can just go out and relax and play the way we know we can."
Tampa Bay stranded runners in each of the first five innings against Calvin Maduro and was 0-for-7 with men in scoring position before Abernathy delivered a RBI triple with one out in the fifth.
Jared Sandberg drove in Tampa Bay's second run when he grounded out in the seventh, trimming Baltimore's lead to 4-2.
Julio had converted seven of eight previous save opportunities for the Orioles.
"You play this game long enough and you pitch long enough, those things are going to happen," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "Winn is a good hitter. He just got a big part of the bat on it. It was good timing for them."
The Orioles said the Devil Rays are better than the long skid would indicate.
"Look at all the scores of their losses in this losing streak," Baltimore's Jeff Conine said. "A lot of two-run games, a lot of one-run games. Obviously, they haven't played that poorly."


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