Scott Kazmir is barely 22 years old, but has been pitching like a well-seasoned veteran this year.
Kazmir can match his 2005 win total and become the youngest 10-game winner in nearly 20 years when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays continue their series against the Florida Marlins, who are looking for their eighth straight home win.
Kazmir (9-4, 3.21 ERA) needs one win to match Detroit’s Kenny Rogers for the AL lead. The Devil Rays’ left-hander also can become the youngest 10-game winner since Greg Maddux did it at 22 years, two months old for the Chicago Cubs in 1988.
Kazmir won five straight starts from April 30-May 21, capped by a 3-0 home win over Florida (33-40) in which he allowed just three hits over eight innings and matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts.
“I felt in a groove the whole game,” Kazmir said. “This is the best I’ve felt, by far, definitely. I’m a whole new pitcher. I’m more comfortable with all of my pitches.”
Against Arizona on Thursday, Kazmir went 7 2-3 innings, allowing a run and three hits with eight strikeouts in Tampa Bay’s 4-1 win.
The Devil Rays (33-44) are 11-5 when Kazmir takes the mound. He has given up just two runs over 10 innings in his last two road starts, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
Florida has not won eight straight at Dolphin Stadium since July 21-30, 2003 — the season it last won the World Series. To try and match the streak, Ricky Nolasco (5-4, 3.15) will get the start.
The rookie has alternated wins and losses in his last six starts. In his first career interleague start Wednesday against Baltimore, the right-hander allowed four runs and eight hits over seven innings in a 4-0 loss, ending a nine-game winning streak.
“Ricky pitched a great game,” Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. “And Ricky battled. He drew a short straw tonight.”
Florida took the series opener and extended its home winning streak with an 8-5 win on Monday. Rookie shortstop Hanley Ramirez beat out an infield single to ignite a five-run fifth inning keyed by Jeremy Hermida’s two-run double.
“Guys scored five runs with two outs because Hanley hustled. Our guys jumped back and J.J. (starter Josh Johnson) held it down for the most part,” Girardi said after his team improved to 22-9 since May 22.
Johnson, a 6-foot-7 rookie, gave up three runs and eight hits with five strikeouts over 6 2-3 innings.
Rocco Baldelli hit a 402-foot homer off Johnson in the first inning for Tampa Bay.
The Marlins are still without rookie second baseman Dan Uggla who has not played since Tuesday after suffering a hamstring injury, and may be placed on the disabled list.