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Devil Rays Fly Over Expos

It was the kind of play normally seen on a Little League diamond.

"It was one of those crazy plays," Tampa Bay's Mike Kelly said. "It wasn't pretty, but we'll take any weird play as long as it means a win."

Kelly scored from first when Montreal threw the ball all over Tropicana Field in the bottom of the 11th inning, giving the Devil Rays a 4-3 win over the Expos.

"Teams need some plays like that sometimes to break out of a slump," said Tampa Bay manager Larry Rothschild after his team ended a five-game losing streak. "We needed a jolt. This team has never stopped hustling. Plays like that and hustle like that can determine the outcome of games."

After drawing a one-out walk from Steve Kline (1-3), Kelly broke for second when Dave Martinez hit a slow hopper to third baseman Shane Andrews. Andrews' throw got Martinez at first, but Kelly never stopped on the play and headed toward third base.

With third uncovered, catcher Chris Widger hustled down the line to take first baseman Ryan McGuire's return throw. Kelly was safe at third and when the ball got away from Widger, and he broke for home.

"It was confusing at first," Kelly said. "When I got to third, I had a feeling the ball might have gotten away from him. I saw the catcher flying over me. It was pure instinct then, pure reaction and I guessed right."

Left fielder Robert Perez finally tracked down the ball but his throw to Kline, covering the plate, was too late to get Kelly.

The loss ended the Expos' four-game winning streak and gave them a 6-6 record on a four-city road trip.

"I don't know who ... somebody didn't go to third base on time," Montreal manager Felipe Alou said. "A throw was made that we didn't have to make. Widger did make a great play running down the line to stop the ball. I'm tired. This is the longest road trip ever since I've been here with the team."

Albie Lopez (2-1) struck out four in two perfect innings for the win.

The Expos tied it 3-3 in the ninth against Roberto Hernandez, who blew his second straight save.

Tampa Bay starter Rookie Jason Johnson, who had allowed 11 runs and 10 hits in his last two starts, limited the Expos to two runs and three hits in six innings.

"I felt better and more comfortable," Johnson said. "Anytime you feel strong late in the game and want to go out there, that's a good feeling. I was just a lot sharper today and kept the ball low."

Quinton McCracken homered and drove in three runs for Tampa Bay.

Mark Grudzielanek drove in two runs for Montreal, which had its four-game road winning streak snapped. The Expos haven't won five straight on the road since August 5-10, 1994.

Expos starter Javier Vazquez is winless in his past sven starts. He gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings.

`It was a tough way to lose, especially in the 11th inning," Vazquez said. "We've been playing pretty good baseball, so it's a tough way to end it."

Notes: The first interleague series at Tropicana Field drew only 76,860, the smallest three-game series in Tampa Bay's brief history. Sunday's crowd was 26,334. ... An unusual injury will keep Tampa pitcher Tony Saunders from making his scheduled start Monday against the Mets in New York. The left-hander developed pitching elbow inflammation after sleeping on his left-side during the team flight after Thursday's game against the Yankees. Saunders, who will be replaced by Dennis Springer, is expected to miss just one start. ... Rothschild said left-hander Wilson Alvarez will be sidelined at least another 10 days with shoulder inflammation. Alvarez, who hasn't pitched since May 20, threw in the outfield for the second time in three days but still is not pain free. ... McCracken had his 11th three-hit game, going 3-for-5. ... Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy conducted the player's pre-game chapel service.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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